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When it comes to streaming services, the first names that come to mind probably include Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Hulu, and Netflix. They offer hundreds of titles, including recent releases and original movies and TV series.
But consumers can also stream movies free from services that are—in most cases—supported by ads. The best bets among these services include Kanopy, Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi TV, Vudu, and Xumo.
Like Netflix and Hulu, these free services are available on most streaming devices, making it easy to watch on your TV, laptop, or tablet.
In addition to making you sit through ads, these services require other trade-offs. You’re out of luck if you want Ultra High Definition, or 4K, shows. Instead, they provide regular HD video, just like cable TV companies.
You’re not likely to find recently released movies. And, of course, you won’t be able to watch original shows, such as HBO’s “Watchmen,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid's Tale,” or Netflix’s “Glow.”
But in a world of $1,300 smartphones and $5 salted caramel mochas, it’s nice to know you can still see “Teen Wolf” or “Lethal Weapon” free of charge. (Another path to free content is to get a TV antenna.)
Here’s where you can stream movies free.
Crackle, which used to be Sony’s ad-supported streaming service, hosts a library of mainstream titles including popular older TV shows and movies such as “Lethal Weapon,” “Big Fish,” and “Pineapple Express.” It's now mainly owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul, a company that also operates the free Popcornflix and Frightpix streaming services.
The same company also has a service called Crackle Plus. Here's the difference: Crackle is the company's free film and TV service. Crackle Plus is a larger group of channels that includes Crackle, Popcornflix, Truli (faith-based content), and Pivotshare (a subscription video-on-demand service).
Crackle will still offer the popular TV shows (“Seinfeld,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Who’s the Boss?”) and older movies (“Lethal Weapon,” “Big Fish,” “Pineapple Express”) that were available earlier. It also has a smaller collection of somewhat more recent movies, including “Spider-Man 3” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
Like Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, Crackle has been developing some of its own content. These series include “Snatch,” a drama based on the movie of the same name, and “StartUp,” which is essentially a darker version of HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” It also has a few original movies, including “Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser,” starring a mulleted David Spade, and “In the Cloud,” about a London terrorist.
During the pandemic, Crackle has launched the Homeschool Channel, which provides parents and others who are taking on the role of home schooling a variety of teaching tools focusing on students up to 8 years old. Some of the content includes episodes of series such as "Baby Einstein" and "Bailey's Backyard."
Fawesome.tv is a newer ad-supported free streaming service that offers more than 10,000 movies and series across a variety of genres, including action, comedy, family, horror, and thriller.
It's owned by FutureToday, which operates more than 1,000 streaming channels, including HappyKids.tv and FilmRise.
You can get Fawesome.tv on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku streaming players, as well as on some LG smart TVs, Windows computers (requires an app), and on mobile devices.
If you have a library card, Hoopla might be your ticket to free movies, music, audiobooks, comics, and more. Getting started is pretty simple: Just go to the site, create an account, then find your local library.
Once you’ve signed up, you can browse by title or genre, or get recommendations based on what you’ve previously borrowed and what’s popular. When you check out a movie, you have 72 hours to watch it. (Your library sets the limit on how many movies you can borrow each month; in my case, it’s four.) Your movie will start streaming once you’ve made a selection.
You can access Hoopla on a computer, on Android and iOS mobile apps, and via streaming players such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. If you’re using the mobile app, there’s a download option for offline viewing.
Amazon’s free, ad-supported streaming service is powered by the IMDb movie and TV show database, IMDb TV—formerly called IMDb Freedive—which Amazon owns. The service is very similar to the free Roku Channel available on Roku TVs and streaming players.
Unlike Amazon’s premium video offerings, the service focuses on older movies and TV shows, plus IMDb programs such as celebrity interviews, documentaries, and coverage of film festivals and award shows.
For example, the service hosted a live-streaming Academy Awards show viewing party that included celebrity interviews, winner updates, and a broadcast from inside Elton John's Oscars party.
And according to the company, it has recently signed deals with studios such as MGM, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Warner Bros. that will triple the amount of content available on the service this year.
For example, relatively recent movies include the Oscar winner "La La Land," plus older ones such as “Memento” and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and TV series like “Fringe” and “Heroes."
In addition, Amazon has created its first original scripted animated series, "You're Not a Monster," for the service. All 10 episodes are now available.
You can watch IMDb TV via the IMDb website as well as on Fire TV devices or through Amazon Prime Video apps on smart TVs, mobile devices, tablets, Echo screen devices, and Apple TV. You’ll need to sign in using your IMDb or Amazon account, or create one. You can also sign in with your Google or Facebook account.
IMDb TV videos include advertisements that run before and/or during playback, and—no surprise—they can’t be skipped.
Unlike the other streaming services on this list, Kanopy doesn’t show ads. But to use the service you’ll need a membership at a participating library, university, or other learning institution.
Kanopy says it has a catalog of 30,000 films from sources including the Criterion Collection, the Great Courses, New Day Films, and PBS. If that sounds like a cerebral list, it is. Kanopy’s selection leans away from Michael Bay blockbusters and toward art-house films. Indie flicks include “Under the Silver Lake” and “Lady Bird.” Available documentary titles include “Meru,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” and “I Am Not Your Negro.”
The service is currently showcasing more than 200 top titles previously featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.
If you access Kanopy through a library membership, you may be able to watch a limited number of titles per month; members of educational institutions get unlimited access.
Kanopy maintains a list of participating institutions. The same page lets you request access for your library if it doesn’t participate.
LG Channels/Channel Plus
LG Channel Plus—also called LG Channels—is a free streaming service powered by Xumo, which is described in greater detail below. Basically, it offers more than 160 live and on-demand news, sports, and entertainment channels from the internet, which you can access using a program guide.
If you’re using an antenna to get free over-the-air channels, both of those stations and the Channel Plus channels will appear in the same program guide.
Channel Plus is included in LG’s webOS smart TV system on newer TVs, and it can be added via firmware to select older TVs going back to 2012. You can access the Channel Plus feature from the main menu bar that runs along the bottom of newer LG webOS TVs.
Plex is best known as a service that lets you access movies and videos you've stored on one computer from a different device. But the company also has its own ad-supported free streaming service, with thousands of free movies, TV shows, extreme sports films, music documentaries, Bollywood musicals, and more.
If you already have a Plex account, the streaming service selections will appear in a sidebar alongside your personal content collections.
Since its launch, Plex has been adding major studios—including Legendary, Lionsgate, MGM, and Warner Bros.—to its list of content partners. That means you'll be able to see movies including "Apocalypse Now" and "The Terminator."
The company also just added thousands of shows and movies from the Crackle streaming service.
The Plex streaming service is available on a wide array of devices, including Android and iOs devices, Android TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players, and Xbox and PlayStation game systems.
Pluto TV, owned by ViacomCBS, has a redesigned, updated user interface that makes it easier to find content. One improvement is that you can now select from categories such as Movies, News, or Sports rather than wading through the service's 250-odd channels. And there's a preview mode that shows trailers and more info about the program or movie.
Also new is the ability to designate most-watched channels as favorites so they appear at the top of the channel guide. Plus, you can add programs and movies to a watchlist for viewing on demand later.
Although Pluto TV started mainly with video content curated from around the web, including online newscasts from Cheddar and comedy content from “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” the service has expanding its repertory since being acquired by Viacom/CBS last year.
In addition to some more conventional streaming-service content, including modern movies (“True Grit,” “Shutter Island”) and earlier-era classics (“Clue,” “Clear and Present Danger,” “The Way of the Dragon”), Pluto TV is home to new versions of 13 channels based on existing Viacom networks. These curated channels draw content from Viacom networks such as BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, Spike, CMT, MTV, and Paramount.
Also new is Pluto TV Latino, which has 11 curated Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels covering categories including comedy, movies, music, reality TV, sports, telenovelas, and true crime.
Recently, Pluto TV added several new channels powered by content from AMC Networks, IFC, and All Reality WeTV. You can also watch "The Walking Dead en Español." A channel called Stories by AMC will bring past seasons of "The Walking Dead," "Into the Badlands," and some seasons of "Ride with Norman Reedus" to the service. Additional AMC series coming to the service will include "Fear the Walking Dead" and "Preacher."
In addition, some recent reports suggest that Viacom could add a more robust paid tier to Pluto TV, plus the ability to add additional services and content, such as the company's CBS All Access paid service. The company hasn't commented on its plans.
Pluto now powers Vizio's WatchFree Wednesdays streaming service, which provides about 100 free, ad-supported channels on its SmartCast TVs.
The company also announced a deal with the BBC that will add shows such as “Doctor Who” and “Antiques Roadshow” to the mix.
Best known for its rental kiosks at grocery stores and shopping centers, plus a newer video-on-demand streaming rental and purchase service, Redbox has quietly rolled out a free, ad-based live service that it intends to broaden in the coming months.
Accessible via a "Free Live TV" link at the top of its website, the new service is still relatively light on content. Right now you can watch celebrity and entertainment news from TMZ, national and world news from USA Today, viral videos from FailArmy, plus movies, TV shows, and comedy specials from various providers.
The service, which is partly powered by Xumo (see below), will also have several of its own Redbox channels and could eventually include free on-demand movies.
The Roku Channel
But Roku is moving beyond its own players and Roku TVs with The Roku Channel for the Web, which lets you access that free programming from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In addition, there will be a Roku Channel app on Samsung smart TVs. Using any of these devices, you simply go to therokuchannel.com and log in or create a Roku account to start streaming.
Roku recently updated the Roku operating system software (Roku OS 9.2) to include better discovery and updates to its 4K Spotlight channel. An earlier update lets you use the voice search function to begin playback on movies and TV shows on The Roku Channel, as well as more than 25 of the premium subscription services available via The Roku Channel.
To make free content easier to find, the company has added an option called Featured Free to the Roku home screen. In that section, you’ll find links to content from not only The Roku Channel but also from other content providers, including ABC, the CW, Fox, and streaming services such as Crackle, Pluto TV, and Tubi TV.
More recently, the company rolled out a new "Kids & Family" area in the Roku Channel that will feature more than 7,000 ad-supported movies and TV episodes from partners including All Spark (Hasbro Studios), Lionsgate, and Mattel. It also includes parental controls that will allow parents to monitor and limit the content their kids can watch via The Roku Channel.
Samsung TV Plus
Just like some other major TV brands, including LG and Vizio, Samsung smart TVs have their own free TV service, called Samsung TV Plus. It has more than 90 ad-supported channels that feature news, sports, and entertainment.
All Samsung smart TVs as far back as 2016 are able to access TV Plus, which includes channels such as CBSN (CBS’ 24/7 live digital news channel), Yahoo Finance, A&E's Lively Place, Bon Appétit, VEVO, Outside TV+, and others.
Samsung TVs also have an app for Tubi TV, which is described below.
Designed for those who might be interested in programming that’s outside the mainstream, SnagFilms offers more than 2,000 on-demand movies, TV show episodes, documentaries, and original comedy shorts.
Categories include Climate Change & the Environment, Refugee & Immigrant Stories, Celebrate Pride, and Before They Were Stars.
Like other free services, SnagFilms is supported by ads. You can access the service via a computer; Android and iOS smartphones and tablets; Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Roku streaming players; and PlayStation and Xbox game consoles.
Stirr is an ad-supported streaming service launched last year by local TV broadcaster Sinclair. Although not as well-known as many other free streaming services, Stirr offers local content plus a mix of national news, sports, entertainment, and digital-first channels, as well as a library of on-demand video titles.
You start by selecting a state and city near you so that you can receive local news and other content on the 24-hour Stirr City channel. Many of the channels aren't that well-known, but they include Cheddar, FailArmy, NASA TV, Stadium, and World Poker Tour. You can also watch the chef Gordon Ramsay on "Hell’s Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," as well as some classic movies on an American Classic channel.
Recently, the service added several new channels, which include shows such as "The Greatest American Hero," "Hunter," "The Commish," and "21 Jump Street." And for those who'd like to add a few happy trees to their environment, the service has a deal to add a channel devoted to the show "The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross."
Stirr is available on Apple TV and Roku streaming players, Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, and computers. You can download the Stirr TV app from Google Play or the Apple App Store, add it as a channel on Roku, or watch it on the Stirr website.
TiVo+ is a new ad-supported streaming service from TiVo, which was announced late last year when the company unveiled its new TiVo Edge DVRs. Unlike most other ad-supported services on this list, TiVo+ is available only through one hardware platform—you have to own a TiVo device.
The new service is powered in part by Xumo (see below), as well as several other services, and will include some older TV shows, such as "3rd Rock From the Sun," "America's Funniest Home Videos," and "21 Jump Street," as well as content from other partners including Cheddar, Hell's Kitchen, TMZ, Outside TV, PowerNation, and FailArmy.
TiVo says it will soon be launching a streaming player, called the TiVo Stream 4K, to compete with players such as Apple TV and Roku. Also, the company is merging with another CE company called Xperi, which is the parent to brands including DTS and IMAX Enhanced.
This ad-supported service has more than 20,000 titles, including selections from the libraries of Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., as well as Starz Digital.
These range from old (and probably best forgotten) Chuck Norris films to classic indie titles (“Bagdad Cafe”) and somewhat more recent acclaimed movies such as “The Hurt Locker.” Seasons of TV shows such as “Pokémon,” “Merlin,” and “Blue Bloods” are also available.
The latest news is that Tubi, which is being acquired by the Fox Corp. (a separate company from 21st Century Fox, which is now owned by Disney), is being preloaded on new smartphones from LG, as well as on some 2020 Hisense smart TVs. The service also recently acquired the rights to stream Fox's popular show "Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back." The first two seasons are now available, and season three episodes will hit the service after they air on Fox.
Fairly new to the service is Tubi Kids, a new family-focused area of Tubi that features a free library of children’s content, more than 1,200 age-appropriate movies and television shows, according to the company.
Also, thanks to a deal with MGM Television, Tubi TV is the exclusive home for all 15 seasons of "The Apprentice." A new partnership with NBCUniversal brings almost 400 new TV shows, including classics such as "The A-Team" and "Battlestar Galactica," to the service.
Tubi TV is also now available in hotels from 20 major brands, including Crowne Plaza, Hyatt, Hilton, Renaissance Hotels, and Omni Hotels & Resorts. The company says it will be adding more hotel and resort brands in the future.
You don’t have to register for Tubi TV, but if you do you get some perks, such as being able to resume play from where you left off and keep track of what you’ve watched.
The company says it will spend more than $100 million in 2020 to expand its current library of movies and TV series.
In much the same way that LG has partnered with Xumo for its Channel Plus service, Vizio has teamed up with Pluto TV for its free, ad-supported WatchFree streaming service.
To give those now stuck at home more options, Vizio has added 30 new channels, including news and lifestyle content from USA Today and CBC News, as well as sports action from the Fubo Sports Network. Other additions include celebrity and entertainment news from TMZ, cooking shows from Hungry and Food52, sci-fi content from Dust, and documentaries on Magellan TVNow.
The free streaming channels can be found under a “Free Channels” row on the SmartCast home screen, and they complement the content already available via WatchFree, which is included as part of Vizio’s SmartCast smart TV service. It offers access to about 150 news, sports, movies, and TV channels. (See Pluto TV, above, for more details.) WatchFree is treated as its own input on SmartCast TVs, so you can find it by pressing the Input button on the Vizio TV remote control.
The big news for Vudu, which had been Walmart’s online video site, is that it's being acquired by Fandango. There had been reports going back to last fall that Walmart was shopping the service. The companies say there will be no immediate changes to the service.
Vudu is best known as a place to buy or rent a wide range of movies and TV shows. The service recently expanded its free, ad-supported content lineup to include more movies and full seasons of TV programs, which you can find under the Vudu: Free Movies & TV page.
The rotating collection includes hundreds of popular older movies, such as “The Matrix,” “Stargate,” and “Up in the Air,” and TV shows such as “Roseanne,” “3rd Rock From the Sun,” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”
The company recently unveiled a slate of original ad-supported programming, including a sci-fi series starring Evangeline Lilly (who appeared in “Lost” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp”), a travel/comedy show produced by Queen Latifah, a reboot of the kids' show "Blue's Clues" done with Nickelodeon, and a documentary-style interview series with Randy Jackson.
Also new is a recommendation tool that helps you find shows and movies based on what you've watched.
To access the free content, you need a Vudu account, but you don’t have to provide payment information.
Fans of classic TV shows and movies might want to check out Watchyour.tv, a free, ad-supported service from TVS Television Network, which claims to be the fourth oldest commercial TV network in the country.
The site is organized by "networks" based on interests and genres, such as sports, movies, entertainment, and kids and family, and then subcategories.
For example, there are six sports channels, including TVS Sports Network, TVS Classic Sports, TVS Women’s Sports Network, TVS Boxing Network, and five movie channels, including TVS Classic Movies, TVS Drive In Movie, and TVS Nostalgia Movies (a Fred Astaire movie was playing recently).
The service also has a “DVR," but it's more like a catch-up feature that lets you scroll through each channel’s offerings over the past seven days, and then stream.
When we checked, you could watch older movies ("Zulu") as well as classic TV shows, including "Andy Griffith," "Bonanza," "My Favorite Martian," and "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Watchyour.tv is available on a number of devices, inside or outside of the home, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Amazon Fire TV and Roku players and televisions, Apple TVs, and Android TVs.
Xumo is a free, ad-powered streaming video platform that offers live and on-demand content from more than 190 channels. There have been rumors that Comcast is interested in buying Xumo, though no deal has been announced.
Unlike other free services, Xumo focuses on premium branded channels, and you’ll find a lot of short-form content across a wide array of entertainment, lifestyle, news, pop culture, and technology content providers. That includes everything from The Onion and Funny or Die to TMZ, GQ, Vogue, NBC News, and Sports Illustrated.
After you’ve used the service, it can start making program recommendations based on your interests.
Xumo continues to expand its channel lineup. In addition to content from the History Channel, it also recently signed a deal to bring the Fubo Sports Network plus 13 other genre-based channels to the service. Also, the PGA Tour’s first ad-supported streaming channel is now on Xumo. It will include live coverage of matches as well as highlights and interviews.
You can watch Xumo on some smart TVs, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Apple TVs (via AirPlay), and Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and televisions.
You might think of YouTube mainly as the home of user-created content, but the site also has some free movies in the Free to Watch section under Movies & Shows. This offering is something different from YouTube Premium (formerly known as YouTube Red), which bundles videos, original movies, TV shows, and music as part of an ad-free plan that costs $12 per month.
When we checked, there were about 360 titles available—about three times as many as last fall—all of them free with ads. The mix is pretty far-ranging, so you get everything from older, bigger-budget Hollywood fare (“Legally Blonde,” “Bull Durham”) to animated movies (“Igor”) and documentaries (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”).
The lineup changes periodically. A few months ago, we were able to watch several of the “Rocky” movies, but they’re no longer listed. So be sure to check back to see which new movies have appeared.
YouTube is now available on Amazon Fire TV; it hadn't been in the past because of a dispute between Google and Amazon.
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