We have a saying around here: You can’t beat free—and it’s true! Who doesn’t like free stuff? Free is the ultimate money saver. Plus, you just feel a bit smarter than the average Joe when you get something for nothing. And believe it or not, there are even ways to watch movies and TV online for free.
That’s right! If you’re tired of paying those ever-increasing streaming subscription prices or you just want more options to go along with your Netflix or Disney+ subscriptions (without paying extra), there’s good news: You can find plenty of totally free streaming services that come with thousands of hours of content to enjoy. Some of them are so free they don’t even make you create an account! Just go to the site or download the app and enjoy some free TV.
But just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s good. That goes for food, tires, underwear and streaming services. Some of the content is good while some is, well . . . not. Since price isn’t a factor, it’s all about what you think is worth watching.
So, here are a few free streaming services that might be worth your time.
The Best Free Streaming Services
The Roku Channel
Online Network Channels
Sure, YouTube is known for hosting millions of short viral videos (like all those cute cat videos you watch at work). But did you know you can watch a ton of nostalgic TV shows and movies there too? It’s true! YouTube actually has a great variety of movies and TV shows like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and 21 Jump Street—all completely free to watch. There’s no sign-up necessary, but you can create a free account to make playlists and like (or dislike) something you watched.
When major studios like Disney and Warner Bros. started dipping their toes into the streaming market, NBCUniversal decided to jump right in after them with Peacock. The only difference between Peacock and those other guys is that it comes with a free tier. Just create an account and you’ll have access to lots of movies and TV shows.
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The bummer is that Peacock teases you by placing the free content side by side with the stuff behind the paywall—and there’s no way to filter out the free movies when you search. Want to watch The Office? Nope, paywall. If there’s a purple feather icon in the top-left corner of the movie or show title on the menu, it’s off-limits to the free folks.
With over 100 channels to choose from (some of them with live TV feeds), there’s something for everybody on Pluto TV. And we do mean everybody.
Do you like cats? There’s a Cats 24/7 channel. Into retro TV classics? Kick back with the Classic TV Comedy channel and Johnny Carson TV (for the youngsters, he was the guy that hosted The Tonight Show before Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon). And since Pluto is owned by Paramount Global, there are lots of shows and movies from Paramount and its many brands.
But here’s the rub: Like many of the free streaming services we’re highlighting here, Pluto TV only gives you a season or two of the most popular shows or the sequels of a film series. They’re hoping you’ll be hooked enough to pay money to subscribe to another service (like Paramount+) or purchase or rent the other films or seasons.
Pluto TV is fully free (no sign-in needed). All you need is a computer, smart TV or a device like Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV or Chromecast to get it. But if you want more personalized recommendations and perks, you can also create a free account.
Amazon seems to be doing everything these days, including free streaming. Its Freevee streaming service, which was originally known as IMDb TV, has a ton of free content thanks to deals with third-party studios like Lionsgate and Universal (when you’ve got Amazon money behind you, studio execs listen). Plus, Freevee adds new and classic films and TV shows all the time. Freevee also has original content, such as Judy Justice—a continuation of the popular Judge Judy show.
Freevee requires an Amazon sign-in to use. So if you already use Amazon to deliver all your goodies to your door, you’re all set for some free movies and TV!
You know those codes on slips of paper you get when you buy a new DVD or Blu-ray? Well, you can redeem them for digital copies of the movie you just bought through a service like Vudu. Now owned by Fandango (which itself is majority owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal), Vudu is mainly known as a content hub for your digital movie library. But it also has its share of free movies and TV shows to watch—though the catalog isn’t as strong as other platforms.
All it takes to get started on Vudu is to sign up with a free account. And if you’re not taking advantage of those digital codes in your DVDs, you really should. They’re super convenient . . . and totally free with your disk purchase!
In this era of growing digital content distribution, Redbox is bucking the trend by continuing to offer rentals of physical disks at those red kiosks you’ve probably seen at the grocery store. But Redbox not only does disks but also has a digital platform on its website and an app that streams free movies and live TV with thousands of titles frequently rotating in and out.
You don’t have to sign up to enjoy Redbox’s free on-demand movies, but you may want to create a free account anyway. Why? Well, you’ll be able to use more features on the platform (like a wish list), and every once in a while, Redbox emails promo codes to customers for free disk rentals at their kiosks. So there are even more free movies to be had! And who doesn’t like to get more free stuff?
The Roku Channel
A Roku device is one of the many media players that people use to stream content from Netflix, Amazon or Disney+. But did you know Roku has its own streaming service? And guess what. It’s free and you don’t need to buy a Roku player to get it! Just hop on its website or download the app on your phone. You can even get it on other streaming devices like Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV (unfortunately, there’s no Roku app on Apple TV—boo!).
Roku boasts a pretty amazing lineup of free shows and movies, including original shows from Roku’s purchase of the Quibi streaming library. (Remember Quibi? Neither do we.) Plus, you’ll find a newly released biopic of “Weird Al” Yankovic starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe (it’s true, look it up!). There are also plenty of live TV channels to watch.
You don’t need to create an account to start watching on The Roku Channel, but if you already have a Roku player, you can create an account to link your player across all your other devices.
One of the few drawbacks to Roku is that because it’s a content hub, there are shows and movies from other streaming services featured on the platform (you can add these services on for a fee), and it can be confusing. If it has a dollar sign in the lower-right corner, it’s not free TV.
On the surface, Crackle may seem like all the other free streaming services (with just as weird of a name), but Crackle actually offers a super wide variety of programming you can’t find anywhere else.
The platform is owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (which also owns Redbox), so the titles are a little more thoughtful. There are classic sitcoms, engaging documentaries, mouth-watering cooking shows, and lots and lots of shows from the BBC. So if you want to see what kind of entertainment the Brits offer beyond Downton Abbey and Doctor Who, look no further than Crackle.
Crackle is completely free to watch without a sign-up, but you can create an account to use a watch list or pick back up where you left off on a show. An account also gives parents the ability to manage content for kids.
The FOX-owned Tubi is another exceptional free streamer with a wide range of content in all genres. There are old classics and newer favorites—along with news, originals and sports. Speaking of sports, during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Tubi broadcast replays of matches. Just goes to show that even a free platform can host some cool stuff.
You can watch Tubi without a login, but creating an account will let you save your progress on a show and give you access to more features, like all that free World Cup action.
Travel shows, cooking shows, kids’ shows, reality TV, sitcoms, news, classics and lots of movies make up Xumo’s library of free TV. But what makes Xumo stand out from the pack is the amount of coverage of sports and other organized competition. While it doesn’t carry live coverage of the mainstream leagues like the MLB, NBA or NFL (you have to pay for that, of course), there are channels for things like golf, poker, boxing, MMA, billiards—even cornhole!
And unlike the other streaming services, there’s no option to sign in or sign up for an account on Xumo. Just go to the site or open the app and you’ve got the full experience.
Got a library card? Currently a college student? Then you may be able to access a free streaming service called Kanopy. Completely funded by libraries and universities across the country, Kanopy is a curated streaming service that prides itself on providing “quality, thoughtful entertainment.” You’ll find an interesting mix of educational, arthouse, classic and mainstream films. You know, the kind of stuff you’d find in a library. They also have an entire section dedicated to kids’ programming.
We say you “might” have access because not all libraries and universities support Kanopy. You’ll need to go to Kanopy’s website and look to see if your local library is part of its network.
Online Network Channels
Most major over-the-air networks post new episodes to their websites and apps. If you own a smart TV or other streaming device, you can download a lot of network apps straight to your device and watch some free TV shows. These episodes are usually from the most recent season (gotta get those current ratings!), and for the most part, you don’t need a login to access the content. There might also be a few episodes of older shows hanging around.
But these episodes usually have a limited run on the free side. Once the episodes are locked behind the paywall, you’ll need a cable TV provider login to watch. Or the case of NBC and CBS, you’ll need either the cable login or a paid subscription to the network or the network’s streaming service (which you might want to consider if it’s in your budget). There are exceptions though—The CW has no paywall whatsoever.
Things to Keep in Mind
Remember how we said that just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s good? Well, because the streaming services we’ve mentioned above are free, there are some drawbacks to using them. There’s no such thing as a free lunch after all!
Free = Lots of Ads
Welcome to the world of free ad-supported streaming television (FAST). Streaming services cost a lot of money to start and maintain (just ask Disney about the $1.5 billion it lost on paid streaming in 2022!).1 The reason why these FAST services are given to you at no charge is because advertisers are picking up the bill.
For those born before the days of on-demand content, commercials on TV were a way of life. Sounds awful, right? Maybe a little, but we survived. For some free TV, sitting through a few commercials isn’t that big a deal (you Gen Z and younger folks will just have to be patient—you’ll survive too). Still, there’s a risk that a boring ad featuring a prescription drug with a laundry list of side effects could interrupt your movie-watching mojo. So there’s that..
These ads can be anything from a little annoying to rip-your-hair-out frustrating. The length, frequency and position of the ads depend on the streaming service—and some are more content-conscious than others. Most ads during TV shows are done at the typical rate (about six or seven minutes total spread out in a half hour). Crackle has breaks every 15 minutes on a movie while Peacock shows all its ads before the movie starts. And Kanopy doesn’t have any ads at all (yay!).
A Word About Content
Like their paid-for siblings, FAST streaming services change up their content all the time (except for original programming). So just because something is on there now doesn’t mean it will be there in a month or even a week. And even though some titles come and go, there are shows and movies that don’t ever seem to leave.
We’ll be straight with you: Sometimes you’ll need to pan for gold on some of these free movie sites—sifting (or swiping) through a pile of crummy content to find a shiny nugget. The FAST services that are backed by the big studios like Freevee and Peacock have better libraries.
But you might see some of the same stinkers across several platforms because they’re cheaper to license. This includes lots of “mockbusters”—poorly made movies that take advantage of the popularity of mainstream movies (Transmorphers, anyone?). Vudu is probably the worst offender, but there’s still some gold in there if you’re willing to dig.
Basically, you get what you pay for. So happy hunting!
Free Up Your Budget
Even though the content on free streaming services might not always be the best quality (and is sometimes downright sketchy—have you seen Jurassic Shark?), there’s something you can get for free that’s pretty awesome and can impact your life far more than free TV shows or movies. It’s called EveryDollar.
The EveryDollar app makes it easy to plan, spend and track your money with a helpful zero-based budget system. That way, you can tell your money where to go every month instead of wondering where it went. And with the premium features, you can link the app directly to you bank account and feed EveryDollar your transaction info in real time.