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Free Legal Movies Online

Updated on March 7, 2012
Save your money. Thousands of movies are available for free online viewing.
Save your money. Thousands of movies are available for free online viewing. | Source

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:

I'll be adding to this list regularly, so check back often and see what films have been added. Happy viewing!

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    • Doc Sonic profile image
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      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Thanks for the votes and the tweet, KrisL. I'm glad you found the hub helpful.

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 5 years ago from S. Florida

      Great hub! I know of Hulu & Open Culture, but not the others.

      Voted up, useful, and tweeted.

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Thanks cardelean! I appreciate it!

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Who knew??? Well apparently many others but not me! What a GREAT resource. I can't wait to check out those sites. Thanks for the information and I'll be sharing this with others!

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Jared, I hope you find something you like at one of those sites. I'm sure you will. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Jared Zane Kessie profile image

      Jared Zane Kessie 5 years ago from Richland, Washington

      Awesome and useful! Thanks! I am glad archive.org made it on here as I have used that one myself. A few of these I have never heard of and will now have the pleasure of checking out. Many thanks!

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Thanks Teresa!

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Valuable hub for the frugal movie buff! Well done.

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Those late fees were a killer. I bet video stores used to make as much from late fees as they did from the actual rentals. PBS also looks like a good source, thanks for the tip, nifwlseirff. It's amazing what's out there.

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, thanks! That's really nice of you. :-) To borrow from K9, HubHugs!

      Yeah, there's all kinds of great categories on there... lots of great writings and interviews, etc. Really good stuff.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      The beauty of PD movies - no late fees. A useful collection of links! PBS also has a lot of content (TV episodes, shorts, documentaries, independent films) available at video.pbs.org

    • Doc Sonic profile image
      Author

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Wow, clevercat, what a seriously, insanely awesome site! I love it! I added it to the list of links - with credit to you for the tip, and a link to your profile. Thanks for the tip!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Oops! Openculture.com. (I was focusing on the archive.org and I guess my fingers got away from me!)

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey Doc, what about openculture.org? The movies on there are not all full features, but still worth mentioning, in my opinion.

      Great Hub! Useful vote from me!

    • ithabise profile image

      Michael S. 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Very informative, Doc Sonic. I've learned something. Thanks so much.