Netflix has changed the way we think about watching movies and shows, but that monthly subscription isn’t as essential as you might think it is—a growing number of alternatives are appearing on the scene, and some of them are free to use. Here are the best Netflix-esque services that you don’t have to pay to use.
Plex has long offered a way of creating your own personal Netflix from videos stored on your computer, but now it’s upping its game to offer free, ad-supported streaming of movies too. The service just shows up in the Plex interface across all your devices, alongside your existing content (you can hide this new interface element if you want).
While you don’t get the latest and greatest blockbusters out there, the selection of titles is better than you might think: The Terminator, Rain Main, Raging Bull, Leaving Las Vegas, and Thelma & Louise are all available now, for example, with Plex promising more to come. Add in your own movies and shows, and it’s an impressive all-round package.
Crackle is a well-established Netflix competitor, with a strong selection of titles—you’ll find the likes of Alien, Die Hard, Adaptation, Groundhog Day, Whiplash, and Captain Phillips here, ready to stream for free. You don’t even have to sign up for an account if you don’t want to, though it’s easier to sync your watching across multiple devices if you do.
Speaking of devices, you can get Crackle up and running on just about every modern platform, as well as through your web browser: It works on mobile devices, the Apple TV, Roku devices, the Xbox One and the PS4, Amazon Fire Sticks, and selected smart TVs too.
The Amazon-owned IMDB TV was previously known as FreeDrive, but has now been rebadged to match the movie database, and it works independently of Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Video. You can find it in the Prime Video app on various platforms though, which means the list of supported devices is a lengthy one.
Movies like Patriot’s Day, Southpaw, Tintin, Fury, Whiplash, La La Land, and The Social Network sit alongside shows such as Chicago Fire, Columbo, The A-Team, Fringe, and The Following. As long as you don’t expect the very best and the very newest content, then IMDB TV has enough in its library to make sure you’ve always got something to watch.
Tubi ticks all the boxes for a free Netflix alternative: A decent selection of movie and TV show content, ads that aren’t too long or too intrusive, and easy access to the service from a variety of apps. There’s even a dedicated kids section with material for younger viewers, if you need something to keep the children quiet while they’re at home or on the road.
In terms of movies, you’ve got titles such as The Running Man, Oldboy, True Grit, Mulholland Drive, Monster, and Kill Bill. The selection of TV show content isn’t quite as impressive, with most of your choices from the older and more obscure end of the spectrum – classic Brit comedy The IT Crowd is here though, which we’re pleased to see.
In the movie streaming game since way back in 2004, the Walmart-owned Vudu offers digital movies to rent and buy, plus a growing number of free-with-ads titles that you can watch without paying. You can stick to the free stuff and then maybe buy one or two rentals as and when needed, if you want to watch something newer or more high profile.
In terms of what you can get for free, the following movies can be streamed at no cost, with ads: JFK, The Rock, The Conversation, Seven, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and 1984. In fact, it’s one of the best free film selections we’ve come across on the web. There’s some free TV on offer here as well, including 3rd Rock From The Sun and Roseanne.
If you’ve got a library card, then you can use Hoopla—provided that your library has actually partnered with the streaming service. Your library sets how many movies you can ‘borrow’ per month, and once you’ve picked one, you’ve got 72 hours to watch it. Apps for all the major device platforms are available, or you can watch movies in a web browser.
It’s not quite the same as the other services here, and the content selection is a little bit better—stuff like The Illusionist, Ex Machina, Good Will Hunting, The Sting, Zodiac, and Pan’s Labyrinth should keep you busy for quite a while. There are some TV shows here too, but like the other services we’ve mentioned, the selection isn’t the most compelling.