When it comes to streaming services, the first names that come to mind probably include Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO, Hulu, and Netflix. They offer hundreds of titles, including recent releases and original movies and TV series.
One thing these subscription services have in common is that you have to pay—and just about all of them have been raising prices.
But budget-conscious consumers can also stream movies free from services that are supported by ads. The best bets among these services include Crackle, Kanopy, Pluto TV, the Roku Channel, 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 smart TV, streaming media player, laptop, or tablet.
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.
Youtube Movies & Shows
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.
Plex Movies & TV Shows
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.
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.
The Roku Channel
A recent deal with Blue Ant Media to bring three family-friendly channels—Love Nature, Love Nature Espanol, ZooMoo, a kids’ channel dedicated to animal programming—expands Roku’s free lineup to more than 100 channels.
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), which includes a new, easier-to-use channel guide. It also has 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.