Free Legal Movies Online
Free Legal Movies?
Disclaimer: I'm not here to tell you how to download the latest DVD releases for free. That's known as stealing. This is about finding free, LEGAL movies online. Fortunately, there are now many great options for doing this.
Yes, free and legal is possible. There are basically two ways that a movie can legally be offered online for free:
1. Public domain movies - films that are not protected by copyright. The copyright may have expired due to age or because it was never renewed properly.
In a few unfortunate instances, films were accidentally released without the proper copyright notice and entered the public domain immediately upon release. George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is probably the most famous example of this. US Copyright law has since been rewritten to prevent this from happening again.
Films produced by the US government (which include many surprisingly good documentaries and historical films) are also not protected by copyright. NASA, in particular, has produced many high-quality documentaries.
The public domain is obviously great if you love old movies (as I do), but there are plenty of options for people who want to watch something a little more current.
2. Ad-supported sites - there are now several online sites that offer free streaming movies, including popular recent releases. These sites support themselves with advertising revenue, either by placing ads in the video itself (usually at the beginning) or by having clickable ads on the site. Some sites also have a larger selection of movies available that you can view for either a one-time pay-per-view fee or a monthly subscription. Even on these sites, the list of free selections is usually extensive.
So where do you get all of these terrific movies? Read on:
Sources for Free Public Domain Movies
The Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org) - quite possibly the best repository of public domain materials on the internet. This site contains thousands of public domain films and other media, including sound recordings, images, and texts. If it's in the public domain and available online, the Internet Archive probably has it.
Movies on this site can be streamed or downloaded. They even have a collection of old drive-in theater ads (intermission, snack bar, etc) that you could use to make a fun double-feature DVD. And unlike many sites, the Internet Archive is very conscientious about verifying the public domain status of items it makes available.
Ad-Supported Movie Sites
There are several good ad-supported online movie sites, and the number seems to be growing. Many of these sites have an excellent selection of recent and classic TV shows in addition to their movie offerings. Here are some of the best online movie sites:
- Hulu - also has TV shows, movie trailers, and short clips. The selection is large, and a subscription service, Hulu Plus, permits access to even more content.
- Flixter - movies and TV, plus news and reviews of current and upcoming DVD and theatrical releases.
- Indie Movies Online - just what the name says: independent movies, documentaries and short films.
- YouTube OpenFlix has a large collection of classic films, and you can find a good selection of recent releases at YouTube Movies. Many of them are pay-to-view, but you can filter your search to show only free movies and still turn up plenty of options.
- Open Culture (thanks to fellow hubber theclevercat for the tip) - a wonderful site, featuring free movies, science videos, online college courses, audio books and more. Check it out!
Good Public Domain Movies
In case you need some help selecting from the thousands of films available, here are some reviews I've written of public domain movies that I think are worth watching:
- Good Public Domain Movies: McLintock!
- Good Public Domain Movies: Little Shop Of Horrors
- Good Public Domain Movies: The Last Man On Earth
I'll be adding to this list regularly, so check back often and see what films have been added. Happy viewing!