Here are our favorite lesser-known sites for streaming movies, old and new.
Netflix has now become its own verb (we netflixed that last night), and everyone knows about Amazon and Vudu. Even Hulu has become a force to be reckoned with. But those are not the only options for streaming movies and other content. We searched the web for other services that show everything from mainstream releases to off-the-wall material, sometimes without costing a penny.
Note: You’ll encounter dozens of shady-but-free sites on the web offering large collections of movies (including films that are still in theaters). The services listed here are all legitimate and legal.
This amazing resource is absolutely huge, with billions of sound files, ebooks, and video files, all of it free and in the public domain. There are an astounding number of both cheesy and quality movies available, ranging from the Ed Wood classic Plan 9 from Outer Space to the Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn thriller Charade.
The Feature Film section alone promises nearly 4000 titles. Because of the sheer number of files, searching for things can be headache-inducing, but patience pays off. All files can be downloaded and saved in various formats.
Big Five Glories (free)
Big Five Glories is another public domain site, but a little better organized, focusing mainly on feature films. Highlights on the homepage include F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise and Jame Whale’s The Old Dark House. Viewers can search by any number of criteria (including silent-era films and color films), and the site has a clean, simple design that gives screenshots of the movies as well as opportunities to buy the actual DVDs if the need arises.
The videos are powered by YouTube, plus there’s no need to sign up or log in. It’s all free.www.bigfiveglories.com/
Owned by Sony, Crackle is free, and you don’t even need to register, unless you’d like to keep a queue. There are ads every so often during streaming, which is annoying, but depending on your pocketbook, it can be a worthy exchange.
Crackle’s selection isn’t huge, but what they have is fairly high-profile, and the ratio of good to bad movies is pretty favorable. They are growing day-by-day and producing more and more original content, like the Jerry Seinfeld series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee or the original movie Joe Dirt 2 (not that anyone needed the latter).www.crackle.com
Epix (free trial)
Epix has an impressive selection of movies from studios Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM—Selma, Interstellar, and The Hunger Games are available—but users must sign in with their cable account (in other words, it's not a good choice for cord cutters). In other bad news, the service does not cater to Comcast subscribers.
The good news is that anyone can sign up for a free 14-day trial to check it out. Epix appears to have some original content, and there are even sections for LGBT and erotic films.www.epixhd.com
Fandor (free trial)
Based in San Francisco and launched in 2011, Fandor is for hardcore cinema buffs. It specializes in arthouse films, weird cult and horror flicks, indie cinema, and foreign titles, as well as a massive silent era library, but nothing mainstream. It allows users to write their own reviews and keep and share movie lists, and it also includes the highly knowledgeable online movie magazine Keyframe.
As a bonus, if you’re not already a Hulu subscriber, the site offers various Hulu films every couple of weeks for a limited time. Viewers can buy a yearly plan that averages $7.50 per month, or pay $10 per month on a monthly basis.www.fandor.com
With offices in San Francisco, London, Munich and Istanbul, MUBI is one of the most acclaimed of movie sites—for serious cinephiles. It operates on a subscription-based service, either $4.99 per month or a discounted yearly rate of $39.99.
MUBI’s content is comparable to Fandor, with classics, cult movies, and art-house movies, as well as current items like Paul Thomas Anderson’s brand-new documentary Junun. The MUBI staff offers a film of the day each day, and the site also carries an online magazine called The Notebook.www.mubi.com
Open Culture (free)
Yet another site that curates public domain movies, Open Culture simply has a long list of free movies with links and descriptions; many of the links go back to Archive.org, but there are others.
If you’re up for browsing through the list, there are some surprising picks, such as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s wonderful A Matter of Life and Death, or one of Natalie Portman’s best recent efforts, Free Zone.www.openculture.com
The Paramount Vault (free)
Who knows how long this will last, but hidden deep within YouTube, Paramount has a channel filled with free clips and free movies, many fairly recent, many terrific. You’ll have to comb through the clips to find the feature-length films, but among them are a mix of A and B titles like Bound, Margot at the Wedding, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Revenge of the Ninja, Seven Men from Now, and more.www.youtube.com
Shudder (free trial)
For horror hounds only, Shudder has a selection of high-quality horror films, some well-known, some classic, many obscure. It has cheesy gore classics (Basket Case, Blood Feast), films by masters (Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero), and acclaimed chillers ( Let the Right One In, Pulse).
Recently launched, the ad-free site costs $4.99 per month after a 14-day free trial, or $50 for a year. No slapdash effort, Shudder is curated by Colin Geddes, who conjures up the Midnight Madness section at the Toronto International Film Festival.www.shudder.com/
A free service with ads, SnagFilms is a little out of the mainstream, and contains a large number of documentaries. Categories include science and environment, African films, LGBT, Sports, Bollywood, Health & Food, Politics, and Faith and Spirituality.
SnagFilms has a pretty disparate selection, with not much you’ve heard of, but adventurous viewers, or those searching for a specific subject, will find a home here. Users can sign in with their Facebook or social media accounts, but the site requires a birthday check for more mature content.
For hardcore documentary enthusiasts only, TopDocumentaryFilms doesn’t feature any Oscar winners or anything that might have caused a stir at the box office. (No Errol Morris or Michael Moore.) But it does have a few hundred free documentaries on all kinds of subjects, from shark attacks to sex to 9/11.
The site is set up like a blog, with newest docs featured first, though it’s easy to browse by subject. It’s powered by YouTube, so films are subject to YouTube-style ads, but otherwise, it’s free.
TubiTV has a cute little logo advertising free TV and movies. Viewers have to sign up to view anything with mature content, but signup is free (you use your Facebook account). Ads play every so often throughout the movie.
The selection contains a lot of content you’ve never heard of, some content you’ve heard of that’s not very good, but a few gems that are very much worth watching. (The comedy/drama Jeff, Who Lives at Home is worth checking out.) They even have a specific channel for Not on Netflix movies.
WeAreColony (pay per view)
WeAreColony is still getting going, and they only have a small selection of films. Moreover, they are priced at a pay-as-you-go platform, with prices ranging from $1.99 for one of the shorts to $12.99 to own a feature.
Most features come with bonuses, like on a DVD. But Anglophiles will find plenty here to drool over, including some early Benedict Cumberbatch titles.