Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion in movie streaming sites. Many of them are at least $5 per month and, if you are subscribed to a lot of them, that money can add up quickly.
However, there is a way to watch quality art house, classic, and independent films for free. Below is a list of all the free sites that I know of. I wanted to compile this list in case it’s helpful to other people. I’ve used most of them myself, and I provide some recommendations in case you’re wondering where to start.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a nonprofit channel in the United States that is free to the public. Each state has its own local PBS station that airs both national and local programs. PBS airs many shows, including American Masters, American Experience, Nova, Independent Lens, POV, and more. Right now, shows air live on television and are available to stream for free on the PBS website and app, usually for around 30 days. PBS has introduced the Passport service that is similar to an additional paid subscription that gives you exclusive access to the vast PBS catalog. You have to donate around $60 per year to get Passport. You can even break that up into monthly $5 payments.
Tubi TV is a site that offers a huge array of films. It’s an ad-supported site. So, commercials do play during the videos. You’ll find everything on here, from television movies to art house cinema. It’s one of my favorite sites because of that diversity.
My recommendations: Check out the documentary LIGHT YEARS, which is about the making of Lucrecia Martel’s ZAMA or explore Sarah Polley’s STORIES WE TELL or watch Jessica Hausner’s AMOUR FOU. Give the foreign language category a good look. You might also like Dick Cavett’s interviews with famous directors, including Ingmar Bergman. You’ll find those interviews in Season 12. You also shouldn’t miss Hou Hsiao-hsien’s MILLENNIUM MAMBO.
Le Cinema Club has one film available to stream for free for one week. The site spotlights both short and feature films, and primarily focuses on art house.
Mosfilm is a legendary Russian film studio that’s been around since 1920! Many of its films are available on its Youtube channel and do include English subtitles.
This is a great resource for lovers of old Russian and Soviet cinema. Many of the films have English subtitles.
With Bong Joon-ho’s recent wins at the Oscars, people are even more interested in Korean cinema. The Korean Film Archive has made over 100 films available for free on YouTube, and many of them have English subtitles.
Festival Scope is a site that offers access to film festivals online. Often, the films are free and available for a set period of time.
Vudu is a video on demand site created by Wal-Mart. Films are available for purchase and rent. In addition, they have a section of free films that you can stream with commercials.
IMDB TV is a service provided by the popular Internet Database website. All the films are free with ads. You can also search for the titles on Amazon Prime and add them to your wishlist there, or you can create an IMDB account to watch the films. They change the films each month, and also offer television shows. The films tend to be more commercial and mainstream, but you never know what you might find.
My recommendation: Check out Niki Caro’s WHALE RIDER
You don’t have to use the Roku app in order to watch the films and shows on The Roku Channel. It’s a stand-alone website that allows you to stream things for free with commercials.
Crackle has been around for a while. It offers both movies and television shows, many of which are mainstream, Hollywood hits. The selection usually changes every month.
Many films on the website of The National Film Board of Canada are available to residents in the United States. I urge anyone to take advantage of this and explore the NFB’s vast catalog of documentaries, feature films, and shorts. NFB also has the films on its YouTube channel.
My recommendations: Check out THE LOST GARDEN: THE LIFE AND CINEMA OF ALICE GUY-BLACHE or MARGARET ATWOOD: ONCE IN AUGUST
Popcorn Flix has a selection of films and shows that you can watch for free with commercials. The content is not always the highest quality but occasionally you can find some hidden gems.
Snag Films has a large catalog. Many of the films tend to be documentaries that focus on social issues and people’s lives around the world. I think if you like documentaries, this is an excellent site for you to explore.
My recommendation: Heddy Honigmann’s FOREVER
I’d give anything for the regular Arte channel to be available here in the United States. They do offer a version of it in English with some free programs. There isn’t a huge selection and many of the items are short, but it’s worth a look.
Most people know about the Internet Archive. It’s been around for a long time. You can often find films on there that are in the public domain.
If experimental film is more your thing, Ubu Web has a good variety of short films and documentaries, often focusing on artists and writers.
The Library of Congress has a YouTube channel where you can find some old films, including many short silent films.
Midnight Pulp has both a free and paid version. Look for “Pulp+” in the top left corner of the thumbnails to know which films you have to subscribe to see. The site has a surprisingly good selection of art house movies.
Asian Crush is very similar to Midnight Pulp. They share an almost identical website design, but obviously Asian Crush focuses on films from across Asia. There are free films on the site while others can only be accessed by purchasing a subscription. There is an “A+” in the top left corner of a film’s thumbnail to indicate that it’s only for subscribers. The films include English subtitles.
My recommendations: Check out MY LOVE, DON’T CROSS THAT RIVER or the documentary about New Taiwanese Cinema FLOWERS OF TAIPEI. There is also Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s HAPPY HOUR and Anthony Chen’s ILO ILO, as well as Hou Hsiao-hsien’s THE TIME TO LIVE AND THE TIME TO DIE and DUST IN THE WIND.
YuYu TV has a similar layout as Asian Crush and Midnight Pulp. It too has films for subscribers and films that are free. The “YY+” in the top left hand corner indicates which films are exclusively for subscribers.
Kinet is a website that offers free access to experimental and avant-garde cinema. Filmmakers can also submit their films to the site.
Disclaimer: The catalogs on these websites are subject to change. Many of them replenish and replace their offerings on a monthly basis. What is available today might expire tomorrow. I will recommend a film or two from each site, but by the time you read this post those films might not be available anymore. Also, I am located in the United States. I don’t know if these sites are free outside of my own country. Some of the sites require you to create an account using your email address, others do not. None of them require your credit card or any other financial information. Some of these sites do contain ads and commercials.
Have I left out a website? Let me know in the comments.