Stream movies, TV shows for free on these sites
After three months at home, have you reached your limit scrolling through screen after screen on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, maybe even HBO Max looking for something — anything — new to watch?
Or maybe you’ve decided to cut back on household expenses because, really, do you need half a dozen or more video streaming services dinging your credit card every month?
The good news is, there are plenty of services offering hundreds, even thousands of movies, TV shows, documentaries and more, usually for the low, low price of watching commercials — just like broadcast TV.
Of course, many of these movies were straight-to-video pulp. And the TV shows have been in reruns since before Marge met Homer. But every once in a while you’ll find a movie or TV show that you either never got around to watching, or that watching again will be just the thing to ease those coronavirus jitters.
Most of these services can be watched on smart TVs, via streaming devices like Amazon Fire, Roku and Apple TV, or on mobile devices and the Internet.
Many paid services also offer free trial periods, including Criterion Channel (two weeks) Apple TV+ (seven days) and Hulu (from one week to one month, depending on the plan). So if you get your binge on you can watch a lot of great stuff without paying a dime. Just be sure to cancel before the trial expires.
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Here’s a rundown on half a dozen free, add-supported streaming services. (Lineups change frequently, so movies, TV shows and other titles listed here may no longer be available.):
Crackle (Crackle.com): Click-and-play platform has hundreds of full-length films and TV series sorted into idiosyncratic categories (The Godzilla Channel, Summer Kickback Channel). It’s ad supported, which is great or not, depending whether you think six commercial breaks is worth it to see Richard Pryor’s semi-autobiographic “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.”
Hidden gems include “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” with Tina Fey, Terry Gilliam’s decades-in-the-making “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” Baby Einstein educational videos for kids, and classic TV series like “Barney Miller,” “Bewitched” and “What’s Happening!!” You may not want to dig for “Cops and Robbersons” starring Chevy Chase and Jack Palance, Lindsay Lohan’s “Labor Pains” or the SNL skit-based film “The Ladies Man,” but they are here, too.
Pluto TV (Pluto.tv): Watching the live TV part of this ad-supported platform is a lot like watching broadcast television circa 1985: lots of late-night type commercials (“If you’ve been hit by an 18-wheeler, call 1-800…”), and you can’t rewind, pause or fast forward through commercials. There are dozens of channels; some are themed — like Horror, “Baywatch, even the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders — while others are linked to cable channels such as MTV and BET.
Pluto’s on-demand side operates more like a traditional streaming service.
There doesn’t appear to be any search function on the site, so looking for a specific title is like the theme from “Rawhide”: scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Still, you may stumble on long-forgotten gems such as “Minority Report,” “Black Rain” and “Last Action Hero.”
Popcornflix (Popcornflix.com): Remember those bins of used CDs and VHS tapes near the front of your neighborhood video store — back when there were neighborhood video stores? That’s Popcornflix. Rummaging through the ad-supported platform will turn up lots of long-forgotten, never-heard-of titles.
But wade through enough dreck like “Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles” and oddities such as “Staying Alive,” the Sly Stallone-directed sequel to “Saturday Night Fever,” and you’ll find diamonds like the original “Roseanne” series, Steve Martin’s 1980 NBC special “Comedy is Not Pretty” and the Shout! Factory TV category, which has cult favorites like the original “Black Christmas” and “A Boy and His Dog” with a young Don Johnson.
San Antonio Public Library (mysapl.org): Using the Overdrive app downloaded to your phone, tablet or computer, you can borrow almost 1,500 video titles for three days. A library card, available on the public library website mysapl.org, is needed to download videos
In addition to critically acclaimed films and documentaries (“Melancholia,” “Heathers” “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Intermezzo”), there are also plenty of children’s videos, in English and Spanish, including “Dragons Love Tacos” and “Mi Papi Tiene Una Moto”
YouTube (bit.ly/3dOTDcM): The super popular online video site has a surprising (350-plus) number of full length films and TV shows free for the clicking — if you don’t mind watching some ads.
There are some acclaimed titles here, such as “The September Issue,” the catty documentary about Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour, “The Usual Suspects,” “Super Size Me” and “All is Lost” with Robert Redford. For so-bad-it’s-good laughs, try “She Devil” (it stars Ed Begley Jr., Linda Hunt, Roseanne Barr, Sylvia Miles and Meryl Streep) or “Slam Dunk Ernest.”
Vudu (Vudu.com): While most of this site is dedicated TV shows and recent films (“Jumanji: The Next Level,” “The Invisible Man”) for rent or purchase, there’s a fairly robust selection of free, ad-supported stuff, too. You do need to sign in to watch, but Vudu is owned by Walmart, so you can use your Walmart.com account, if you’ve got one.
You might end up watching something you’ve heard of but never seen, such as the Robin Williams drama “World’s Greatest Dad,” Tony Curtis as a sleazy movie publicist in “The Sweet Smell of Success” or the original “La Cage aux Folles.” Or maybe something will just catch your eye, like “My 5 Wives” with Rodney Dangerfield or the Dutch comedy“Too Fat, Too Furious.”
Richard A. Marini is a features writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Richard A., become a subscriber. email@example.com | Twitter: @RichardMarini