Where to Watch Free Movies and TV Online

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This post comes from Simon Hill at partner site DealNews.

The spread of broadband Internet is changing the way we watch TV and movies. A lot of people are cutting the cable company cord or dropping that satellite service in favor of online streaming. If you’ve been wondering where you can find movies and TV shows to watch for free online without breaking the law, then we’ve got you covered.

Best sites to watch free movies and TV online

YouTube. Over 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube every single month. Most of them are music videos, funny cats, parodies and pranks, but you can find free full-length movies and TV shows on there as well. The vast majority are older films or B-movies, but you’ll discover the odd gem if you look hard enough. Videos may be split into multiple chapters, and you’ll have to put up with ads.

Hulu. You can find an impressive selection of TV shows and movies on Hulu for free, and the content is supported by ads. Hulu is backed by NBC Universal, Fox and Disney, and it has struck agreements with a wide variety of networks and partners.

There is also an optional subscription service called Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month) that offers a much wider library of content and support for mobile devices, although it still includes ads.

Crackle. Owned by Sony and available for free, Crackle is a good place to check for TV shows and movies. The service is supported by ads and it offers a mixture of older content and B-movies with the odd blockbuster or top TV show. You can also get a free Crackle app for all the major mobile platforms. The content changes quite frequently, and big titles tend to be available for a limited time only.

Internet Movie Archive. This is a great resource for full-length movies, TV footage, and all kinds of videos that are in the public domain. Most of the movies are older, but you’ll find some real classics on offer. The archive is also packed with curiosities and oddities, including sporting events, old news broadcasts and propaganda films.

Viewster. Here’s another collection of relatively obscure movies and TV shows that you can stream for free. Viewster is an ad-supported service with an interesting mixture of content and apps for various platforms.

SnagFilms. You can find documentaries, cult classics and film festival favorites at SnagFilms. Everything is neatly categorized, so you can dip into the strange mixture and identify something worth watching. The content is ad-supported, and it’s available as an app for all the major platforms.

Vimeo. This is a creative hub for a lot of amateur and indie filmmakers, and you’ll find a wide variety of videos divided into lots of different categories. Most of the content is short form, and you aren’t going to find big-name shows or movies, but there’s still some very interesting content on there.

Honorable mentions

There are a few other locations worth mentioning, although the first two are mostly curated lists that point to content on YouTube or the Internet Movie Archive.

First, there’s Top Documentary Films, which is nothing but documentaries divided into various categories and ready to stream for free. Then there’s the Open Culture free online movies list, which will direct you to some really interesting classics and short works by famous filmmakers.

If you like anime and Asian shows, then check out Crunchyroll.

Free TV network websites

A lot of the big networks also offer free TV show episodes to stream online. There may be limitations in certain regions, and you may need to be registered with a particular TV provider or cable service in order to access many networks’ online streaming services, but there are a few that seem to be completely free:

  • ABC Family — TV show episodes a day after they air.
  • CBS – free TV show episodes of recent series and classics.
  • CW TV – full recently aired episodes of TV shows.
  • Fox – a range of full episodes of recent shows.
  • History Channel — some episodes of selected shows, mostly clips and recaps.
  • Lifetime – TV series and movies from the network.
  • NBC – full episodes of current TV shows.
  • PBS – free episodes of recently aired TV shows.

If you have an eligible TV provider or relevant cable service, then you can also stream content from ABC, Disney, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, TBS, TLC, TNT and USA Now.

Worth paying for

If you do decide that you can afford a monthly subscription service, then we recommend Netflix, currently $8.99 per month, as the best bang for your buck in terms of TV shows and movies. You may also consider an Amazon Prime account at $99 for the year. It offers access to a wide range of streaming TV shows and movies, as well as other benefits.

What are your favorite free (or cheap) and legal streaming services? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Don Lowery

    I got a Roku 1 I bought when I gave my buddy my old Roku XD player. Even have an Android mini-PC with XBMC…which is more versatile than my Roku boxes…but when many of the mini-PC’s don’t have a remote other than a mouse…the Roku wins hands down in terms of controlling the unit. Then…if you do a search in a search engine for Roku Private Channels…you can get much of the same type of programming as the mini-PC with XBMC. The biggest drawback with a Roku is that they require a credit card to register the unit. This way…if you order a movie or programming which costs money…you don’t need to drag out your credit card to get the programming. The way around this…use your credit/debit card to register it. When it’s registered…you go back into the Roku website and delete the credit card information. Can’t get premium content on the Roku…but with Netflix streaming…I can watch about anything I want for $8…since Netfilx locked in the old price for two years for those who were subscribed before the rate increase.

  • Shamoor

    I looked into Graboid, but not sure if it’s legal. The legit side is that you can stream movies and tv shows, but the non-legit is that the content can be downloaded to watch later. I tried for free but my internet service provider kept interrupting the streaming (which I hear also occurs with Netflix and other legit sites — I heard the FCC is looking into the allegations). The free option offers minimum bandwidth, the $10 plan higher bandwidth, or $20 for unlimited bandwidth.

  • speaksthetruth

    Great list MN! Thanks!