5 Places to Watch Movies Online Legally — and Free

    by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo
    January 11, 2008

    The spread of broadband Internet access has made online video a much better experience, allowing movie fans to catch a flick on the Net without having to rent a DVD. Depending on the kind of system and monitor you have, watching films on a computer can become almost as enjoyable as watching them on your television.

    For instance, with a new 20-inch iMac and a high-quality video you can get a full-screen experience that — depending on how comfortable your seat is –- might even make you forget you’re at your computer (complete with remote control). Windows users with widescreen monitors made for media or gaming can also enjoy the best of what both digital video and computers have to offer. And if you want to go even further you can pretend you are in a movie theater by viewing films within virtual worlds.

    And although there are now more places online such as YouTube to view clips of your favorite movies and television shows, it’s not always easy to see full-length movies without paying for them. Downloading a movie from a service like iTunes, for instance, costs between $12.99 and $14.99, a price many of us aren’t willing to pay. And some complain that even with all that money spent, the media is never truly ours, making movie downloads less than a bargain.


    There are, of course, other options. Many sites offer full-length films for download or viewing, but their legality is questionable. So if you want to watch full-length films but don’t want to pay, are there other choices? Frugal movie lovers are in luck, as there are several sites that offer online movie viewing — legally — without spending a dime.

    1. Archive.org
    The Internet Archive, also home to the popular website archive Wayback Machine, is perhaps the best totally legal source for watching full-length movies online. The archive is especially good for finding classic films, since many of them are public domain as their copyrights have expired. Here you can watch classics from the bad to the iconic. The most viewed movie on the archive is the original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead). You can also find foreign films and independently produced documentaries. In addition to movies, the Internet Archive also features an excellent selection of other types of moving images, such as vintage educational films and commercials.


    Archive.org Viewing Options

    2. Documantis
    As a documentary fan, I was especially interested in this documentary film repository, and it also happens to have a good user interface and a wonderful selection of movies, all of which can be seen in their full-length form on the site. Categories range from politics to religion, the latter being highly emphasized. The documentaries with religious subject matter represent filmmakers of all stripes, so watch with a grain of salt. A standout is the award-winning documentary Jesus Camp, but there are also films of lesser production value, as well as TV news magazine segments.

    3. Emol.org
    This site, also called Entertainment Magazine, hosts a number of films online, from vintage cartoons to classic sports movies. Much smaller than the catalog at Archive.org, Entertainment Magazine has many of the same type of films, such as classic B-movie horror films and educational documentaries. This site also allows for downloading and burning of all content.

    4. Google Video
    Not YouTube, but “regular” Google Video has a slew of full-length films you can watch for free. They may not be the newest or the most critically acclaimed movies (a popular title is Santa Claus Conquers the Martians) but there are a few interesting flicks in the collection. For instance, I found a really great documentary about graffiti artists in New York City in the early 1980s. (Search tip: from Google Video, try “advanced search” and select “long” in the duration dropdown menu. That will yield over 4.5 million videos over 20 minutes long, many of them mainstream movies.)

    5. Hulu
    Still in private beta, Hulu is NBC and Fox’s YouTube killer. In truth, the site is nothing like YouTube and is mostly stocked with clips from TV shows, but there is the occasional feature film, such as the 2003 epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Of course, the catch with Hulu is that you have to watch “limited commercial interruptions” a few times during each video — something not required at the other sites mentioned. Another snag with Hulu is that it is only available to U.S. users.


    The Man Who Knew Too Much on Google Video

    Of course, there are several more sites which enjoy a lot of popularity among users, but probably aren’t very popular with the RIAA’s lawyers. These sites, such as QuickSilverScreen and Peekvid, are basically file-sharing services which allow users to upload whatever content they like without checking whether the person providing the video has the right to do so. Not surprisingly, these sites have a much larger selection of full-length movies than the sites above, often featuring new releases (that’s theatrical releases, not DVD releases) the week they come out. However, you might also see someone walk in front of the screen right during the movie.

    More Ways to See for Free

    If you’re interested in downloading movies for watching in the player of your choice on your computer, a site called PublicDomainTorrents is a good source. Like some of the other sites I’ve listed, most of the catalog is made up of classic films. But the great thing about this site is that you can download the movies in a format ready for whatever device you’re going to use to watch them, such as an iPod or a PDA, or for various types of media players such as DivX or QuickTime. This service is totally free.

    Another way to watch movies online for free is to go directly to the source. There are several films that have been released under Creative Commons licenses or whose authors have simply stated that they are public domain, like in the case of the much talked-about Steal This Film. This documentary’s makers have encouraged free distribution and use of the movie, which explores the lives of those fighting against intellectual property rights.

    There is at least one movie that plans to be free from the very start. A film project called A Swarm of Angels is being totally funded by donations over the Internet, and will release two movies — currently being prepped for production — completely free online.

    What do you think? Do you enjoy watching movies online? Do you pay for movie downloads or access only free content? Where do you go to find free movies? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Jennifer Woodard Maderazo is the associate editor of PBS MediaShift. She is a San Francisco-based writer, blogger and marketer, who covers Latino marketing at Latin-Know and Latino cultural issues at VivirLatino.

    Photo of movie watching by pinprick on Flickr

    Tagged: copyright law film video websites

    54 responses to “5 Places to Watch Movies Online Legally — and Free”

    1. Bill says:

      You failed to report about the SUBSTANTIAL amount of full length TV shows on Hulu from FOX, NBC, and their associated properties.

      Commercial breaks? Yeah, Hulu has them. ONE commercial during each break. Hardly an inconvience. Where else can I view the complete first season of “Hill Street Blues”, “all of the current episodes of “Chuck”, “Bionic Woman”, and “Life” for no cost. “The Bob Newhart Show”, “The Starter Wife”, and “The Pretender” are there as well.

      Hundreds of full length TV shows reside on Hulu’s servers with more being added regularly.

    2. Bill,

      You’re right, Hulu has a pretty impressive collection of full-length television shows available for free. But the story is about sites offering full-length movies — not TV shows — free to users, and I covered Hulu in that context. Do you work for Hulu?

    3. Bill says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      No, I don’t work for them. Just an individual….I’ve had access to the beta for about two months. My apologies for not clearly connecting the dots between TV shows and movies on Hulu.

      My larger point is that the ad supported model Hulu employs has legs. They also offer content for purchase via download or DVD. When Hulu emerges from beta status, I believe they will attract a wide audience. As the audience grows, it would be a small step for FOX, NBC, and frankly other studios to stock Hulu’s servers with movies. This content could be monetized by ad supported streams, downloads for rent or sale, or sale of physical media.

      Seems to me ad supported streaming can become a dominate platform for legally watching movies on the web. Hulu can lead the market if FOX and NBC open their movie vaults.


    4. Jackie says:

      Thanks for this article, great information. I’ve bookmarked the sites mentioned and will be checking them all out. I was disappointed, though, that I’m unable to use the Hulu site immediately. Instead, I’ve been added to their “private beta waiting list”.

    5. Ryan Dorr says:

      I don’t watch muck tv but I do watch alot of movies. :)

    6. inkart says:

      More movies online for free!
      Be Happy!

    7. Hi Jennifer,

      I liked this article and your reviews. Many of the tips you offered will prove beneficial to our visitors as we continue to add more channels to our video sites guide.



      Guide To Online Video
      750+ websites and growing!


    8. mouseinacoffeecup says:

      You mean to say that only these 5 websites are “legal” and all other way to watch movies online are illegal. Bravo. Nice way of fooling people. How about quicksilverscreen.com? Or vreel.net or watch-movies.net… well, the list is endless. Divx versions of almost all the new/old movies are available to watch for free, they’re just scattered around the web. But there’s absolutely no full length movie on any of the 5 websites mentioned above.


    9. D Daugherty says:

      Please comment on the question asked by mousinacoffeecup posted on 6/30/08. We are interested in learning more about the legality and source of movies available on the watch-movies.net site. Thank you!

    10. Beta Ray Bill says:

      I just watched THE INCREDIBLE HULK on Watch-Movies.net, and had no problems with sound or picture. You can even pause it. I rank the movie a ten out of ten, by the way. I doubt if many of these sites are going to be around much longer, so better hurry.

    11. Jake says:

      Go to:
      Watch newly released movies online free

    12. joker says:

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    13. rachel says:

      i love this site because you can watch movies for free and illegelyi go to this site like everyday and watch movies with my children when i get a chance and they love but i only go to the site when i get a chance but even if i dont have a chance i still go to the site and watch movies i am so happy they have this site and i watch movies on tthis site because it is free and so i dont have to go buy a movie because when u buy a movie it is so expencive thanks a lot rachel

    14. Great article. I saw Jesus Camp recently too. It was pretty powerful. Also, I wanted to let you know that http://www.fancast.com also has free movies online along with tv shows, blogs and entertainment news. Hope you’ll check it out.

    15. mike valkov says:

      (some HTML OK)

    16. winiwn says:

      hey guys,,, can u give me website for free online movies


    17. Hulu really is a good one, but whatever they have to offer you can always find on other sites such as moviesplanet, watch-movies.net, sreel, tvshack and others. They usually have all of hulu’s links along with many others :)

    18. movies says:

      Thanks for this post, great and very useful information. I love to watch movies online and winiwn moviesmeter.com is one to try.

    19. Dizzy says:

      well I know there is some full length movies on hulu aol tv and I did find a large collection on tvlinks.co.uk but I’m not a 100% on if their all legal, considering some of the links went to foreign sites. and I would like to know if it’s illegal to watch them if they are or is it just illegal to have or host them? thanks

    20. JimBo says:

      Documantis no longer exists it seems. It’s too bad, I felt this one be one of the more interesting resources. As of this moment archive.org also seems to be down, and as a non-US resident Hulu is unavailable for me. Emol sounds a bit uninteresting to me, and I question the legality of Google videos content. I’ve watched a number of MST3000 videos there, is there any word on whether that content is distributed legally?

      Thanks for the article, I just wish the sites you had provided were more universal (not to mention sustained efforts – not your fault though). I watch anime online (illegally I presume), movies being a line more objectionable to me, considering the likely-hood that the content wasn’t intended to be distributed for free at release (not that TV is truly free distribution).


    21. movie2009 says:

      I am afraid we will watch full movies @ http://watch-movies.net.in/ from now on.:::NO MORE watch-movie-links.net ::: =( Because it is dead now.

    22. Angel says:

      I use this page http://www.yomero.me/ most movies than tv. it has a lot of websites and blogs for movies, oh yeah! lol

    23. Dancan says:

      I prefer to just save whatever I want to watch, for my personal later enjoyment.Much more convenient for me this way.

    24. i just watch on http://www.kino.pecetowiec.pl – i like them coz they also add polish subtitles.

    25. alex ndichu says:


    26. Faith says:

      Hi Jennifer
      I´m looking for a good site to watch tv series. Hulu and Surfthechannel don’t work for me ’cause I moved to Europe last year and the both aren’t able to show here.Since then I’ve been watching few series on japanese site but with bad quality.
      So, I’ll be thankfull if you could help me. My regards Faith

    27. anh04tai says:

      top 100 websites Watch movies online for free at http://www.topvideositesontheweb.com

    28. anh00tai says:


    29. totheend says:

      great sites.
      i would add movies.clipta.com in this list.
      it’s also a great place to watch movies online =)

    30. old movies says:

      For old movies the best source is http://www.bnwmovies.com because you can both watch and download free, there’s no annoying ads, etc. and everything is very well organized. Give it a try!

    31. FreeMovies says:

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    32. jeff says:

      Finally we have some good links to watch Iron Man 2 online. http://fullmovielinks.tv/movies/view/iron-man-2-2010

    33. one says:

      you can also watch free movies @ http://www.watch-movies.ph

    34. I prefer to use Netflix or free movies. Just my two cents. Good post though…

    35. film izle says:

      Great article. I saw Jesus Camp recently too. It was pretty powerful. Also, I wanted to let you know that

    36. A great post, there are now lots more legal online movies websites available. It looks like things will change in a short amount of time.

    37. James says:

      Very nice blog post, I really love it. Thank you.

    38. Richard Buchanan says:


    39. Zim says:

      I prefer to use Netflix or moviewebby Just my two cents. Good post though.

    40. Mac Byrd says:

      MovieZoot is a free, live-streaming website delivering fast, free movies to anyone with access to cellular or Internet capability. Recently launched, it has 11 movie categories including Romance, Horror and Drama, plus binge watching Mystery and Comedy shows, and all are readily available for mobile phones, tablets and computers. Visit us at http://moviezoot.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

      Please consider adding MovieZoot to your Free Online Movie

    41. Ivan Vardaj says:

      Free movies online (dot) net is a new but ambitious site based on free public property.

      We want to collect a base of public domain commodity, especially old movies but also free old books, photos, MP3 music etc.
      We publish only and exclusively Public Domain goods. All material on our site is free to copy and distribute,
      redistribute, sell, resell in private or commercial purpose.

      For now, we have published about 80 old movies.
      You can watch free old movies online from our sites at no cost, and no registration or personal information is required.

      For the future, we will publish Public Domain commoditys such as free online books, photos, software, games etc.

      Visit us to enjoy!


    42. SWAKD says:

      perfect link i hope u did lots of research before the post but i also want to mention few in comment box like “http://download-free-movie.org/”

    43. Mickey says:

      For old public domain movies I prefer Fox Archive – watch classic movies online

    44. Amir Zuka says:

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