We live in a golden age of streaming, with virtually endless options for what to watch. Disney Plus was launched last November and the launch of HBO Max is fast approaching. And with the COVID-19 pandemic closing cinemas, many new films are arriving early in digital libraries. Between Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, premium cable channels, and rental of new movies, entertainment costs can quickly add up.
But even if you don’t have the budget to sign up for each streaming service, there are plenty of free options if you know where to look. Many companies are adopting ad-supported models to offer free programming, including NBC’s next Peacock service, which would offer a free tier. Below we bring together all of your free streaming options.
YouTube movies and shows
The OG online video platform, YouTube offers many ways to watch TV and movies. You can rent and buy movies directly from YouTube, or even sign up for its live TV service. But YouTube also offers a lot of free content – not just videos submitted by users. The free YouTube Movies playlist includes 400 movies that you can watch with ads.
What to watch: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The usual suspects, the Bloom brothers
Look here: Youtube
Tubi, recently acquired by Fox TV in March, claims the title of “the world’s largest completely free advertising-supported streaming service”, with more than 20,000 titles on the advertising-supported platform. The only downside is that Tubi limits the streaming resolution of all movies to 720p, which means you won’t get the 4K experience offered by premium plans or Netflix physical media.
What to watch: Spy Kids, Chicago, Merlin, The Big Short, Thelma and Louise, The Bachelor
Look here: Tubi
For string cutters who lack the experience of surfing on channels, Pluto TV offers a neat solution. In addition to a library of free on-demand titles, Pluto TV offers hundreds of channels that broadcast 24/7. There are channels dedicated to sports, news, comedy, cult films, MTV dating programs and even channels that broadcast specific programs for the marathon, in particular Doctor Who, The walking dead in Spanish, and Criss Angel: Mindfreak.
What to watch: whatever you like when browsing channels
Look here: Pluto TV
If you only know Redbox in its movie rental boxes lined up in front of your supermarket or pharmacy, you may be surprised to learn that it recently launched a free, ad-supported digital streaming platform. Its dozens of channels include Fuse, Funny or Die, Food52 and TMZ, as well as channels dedicated to specific programs like Forensic files, America’s funniest videos, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.
What to watch: MST3K marathons
Look here: Redbox
Public libraries are going digital with services like Hoopla and Kanopy (see below). You can borrow movies and TV shows from your local library directly from the Hoopla platform, as well as e-books, audiobooks, music and digital comics.
What to watch: 13 In progress 30, What we do behind the scenes, The Great British Pastry Shop
Look here: Hoopla
Yes, the Internet movie database now has its own streaming service. IMDbTV offers a library of “Hollywood hits and TV favorites” that are free to watch with commercials.
What to watch: Lost, Schitt’s Creek, Plane, Memento, Donnie Darko
Look here: IMDb TV
Another public library service (also available in many universities), Kanopy focuses specifically on films. The platform offers free access to a collection of thousands of films ranging from classic cinema to award-winning HBO documentaries, and even to a selection of The Criterion Collection.
What to watch: Moonlight, eighth grade, Rashomon, Lady Bird
Look here: Kanopy
Plex aims to be a one stop shop for content, with a platform that stores all your media, including videos, photos, music, podcasts and even VR. In addition to the personal storage library, Plex includes a selection of free movies and TV shows through partnerships with Warner Bros., MGM, Lionsgate, Legendary Pictures, Magnolia Pictures and Crackle.
What to watch: Young adult, Snatch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Raging Bull
Look here: Plex
Those with Roku devices (either a Roku streaming key or a smart TV with built-in Roku) also have access to the Roku channel. A bunch of movies and TV shows are broadcast for free, including blockbuster HBO shows, with the ability to switch to premium cable channels directly through the Roku platform.
What to watch: You have an email, Veep, The Sopranos, The Iron Giant, Crafts
Look here: Roku
Vudu is primarily known as a platform for buying and renting digital movies, but it also offers a selection of free and ad-supported titles to watch.
What to watch: Train to Busan, O brother, where are you ?, The Royal Tenenbaums
Look here: Vudu
Unlike services like Pluto TV and Redbox, which offer an on-demand library in addition to live channels, WatchYour.TV focuses only on the latter. In addition to watching live, WatchYour.TV has a digital DVR service, allowing you to record the programming to watch within seven days. Unlike other services, it does not require you to open an account.
What to watch: classic sports, hollywood history, westerns
Look here: WatchYour.TV