It’s easy to forget, but there are a lot more ways to stream movies and TV besides Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Here are some of the best—sometimes free—legal alternatives out there.
When you sit down to watch something, what you pick is largely dependent on your mood. Because of that, this guide is organized by what you might be looking to watch. Whether you feel like catching something light, like cartoons, or something dark, like an old horror movie, or something new, like a fresh TV show, there are plenty of services to choose from.
For When You Miss Saturday Morning Cartoons
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If you ever long for the good ol’ days, when all you needed for a good Saturday was a bowl of cereal and some cartoons, there are some great options out there. It just depends on what your preference is.
If you’re like me, you long for the Nickelodeon of yesteryear. Nick Reboot is a non-commercial, non-profit web site dedicated to bringing you classic Nick shows like Rocko’s Modern Life, Are You Afraid of the Dark, Rugrats, and Hey Arnold! 24 hours a day. It’s completely free to watch, but you don’t have any control of what you watch, since it’s all cued up like a real TV network. There are ads, but they’re all old toy commercials from the 90s and early 2000s, to add to the nostalgia factor.
Nick Reboot has scheduled programming that’s free to watch on PC, Mac, Roku, Chromecast, and Plex or XBMC setups.
Nick.com and Nick Jr. App on iOS
If you have kids that aren’t interested in the old stuff, Nickelodeon does make some of their newer shows and episodes available for free streaming on their web site. There is also the Nick Jr. app available for iPad, which lets kids play games and watch some Nick Jr. shows for free. Nickelodeon is also planning a subscription based video streaming service for later this year.
Nick.com and the Nick Jr. app offer select episodes that are free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, and iPad.
Cartoon Network Reboot
In the same vein as Nick Reboot, Cartoon Network Reboot provides classic cartoons like Johnny Bravo, Teen Titans, Looney Tunes, and Dexter’s Laboratory. Everything works the same: scheduled programming, old-school commercials, and completely free.
Cartoon Network Reboot has scheduled programming that’s free to watch on PC, Mac, Roku, Chromecast, and Plex or XBMC setups.
Watch CN is Cartoon Network’s own web site that lets you watch current shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Uncle Grandpa for free, no login required. Everything is ad-supported and the selection is fairly limited, but hey, free is free. If you happen to have cable, you can stream the channel live with your cable credentials.
Watch CN offers select episodes that are free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
Toonami After math works in a similar way as Nick Reboot and Cartoon Network Reboot. There is scheduled programming that you don’t have any control of, but you get to watch classic cartoons like Digimon, Monster Rancher, Johnny Quest, Batman Beyond, and The Tick.
Toonami Aftermath has scheduled programming that’s free to watch on PC and Mac.
Disney Movies Anywhere and Watch Disney Channel
Disney’s options are a bit more limited, and none of them are really free. The Disney Movies Anywhere app is free to download on iOS and Android, but you have to buy or already own the movies you want to stream. Watch Disney Channel lets you watch episodes of current Disney shows, as well as live programming, but it requires a cable subscription.
Disney Movies Anywhere and Watch Disney are both free apps, but movie purchases or a cable subscription are required.
For When You Want Some Oldies but Goodies
The big streaming services have some classics, but there are plenty of old movies and TV shows you can stream elsewhere—and a lot of them for free. If you have a hankerin’ for some black and white cinema or want to explore the fascinating history of filmmaking, there are a few choices.
Internet Archive Movies
The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization that tries to archive as much content as they can, including movies. You can browse a massive collection of nearly 4,000 feature films, free to view, as well as movies people shot at home on a zero dollar budget. There are even some older cartoons available. All in all, there’s no way you could ever get through everything they’ve made available. There are no ads and no gimmicks, just free movies. A lot of the movies here are from the 60s or earlier, but there are plenty of gems. You can watch Charlie Chaplin, classic kung fu films, westerns, film noir, and even the original Night of the Living Dead. They’re coming to get you, Barbara!
Internet Archive Movies are free to watch on PC and Mac.
Warner Brothers is one of the oldest movie studios in the business, getting started way back in the early 1900s. Because of that, they have a pretty massive library of film and television to offer. Warner Archive is a subscription based service that gives you access to almost every classic they’ve ever produced. It’ll cost you $10 a month—or $85 a year if you go that route—but you get the first month free. Everything is in 1080p HD, but the downside is you only get to watch their movies.
Warner Archive is available on PC, Mac, Roku, or AppleTV with AirPlay for $10 a month.
If classic TV is more your thing, TV Land has a selection of shows you can stream for free with ads. You can watch select episodes of The Golden Girls, Bonanza, and I Love Lucy, as well as some more recent shows like Everybody Loves Raymond and Hot in Cleveland. The collection isn’t very large, but they add episodes daily to keep you checking back.
TV Land offers select episodes that are free to watch with ads on PC and Mac.
Crackle, the Sony-owned and operated streaming service, has a pretty decent variety of older movies and TV shows as well. Most of them aren’t nearly as old as what you’ll find in the Internet Archive, but they aren’t really that new either. You probably won’t find many complete TV series to binge watch either. Still, everything is free to watch with ads, and there are some gems, like Seinfeld, Air Force One, Drive, Hot Fuzz, and The Shield.
Crackle offers select movies and TV episodes that are free to watch with ads on a wide variety of devices: PC, Mac, phones, tablets, Smart TVs, Roku, Chromecast, AppleTV, Amazon FireTV, and current game consoles.
For When You Need Your Anime Fix
If you’re a fan of anime, there are some really great options for streaming. Whether you prefer subtitles or English dubs, you have two major options to choose from.
Funimation boasts having the most Anime with English dubs anywhere online. You can watch for free, but the shows are in standard definition and will have ads. You’ll also only be able to watch so many episodes of a series. If you pay for their subscription service, though, you can stream in 720p and 1080p (when available), all with no ads.
Funimation is free to watch with ads on PC and Mac. If you subscribe for $5 a month (best deal), you can watch on PC, Mac, phones, tablets, Roku, Xbox, and Playstation.
For the largest lineup of streaming Anime, CrunchyRoll has the hookup. You can also watch brand-spankin’ new shows only one hour after they air in Japan, which is pretty neat. Because of that, most of their content is English subtitled only. They are given translations by some distributors and the rest of the subbing is done by translators they have on staff. If you can’t get past having to read, though, you might want to look elsewhere. You can watch for free with ads, but you’ll be watching in standard definition and you won’t be able to catch any of the new shows for a few weeks. If you spring for a subscription, you get access to everything they have in their collection in 1080p HD.
CrunchyRoll has select episodes that are free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Playstation or Xbox consoles. A $7 a month subscription removes ads, allows HD streaming, and makes their entire library available.
For When You Want to Watch New TV
Finding brand new TV show episodes can be a little tougher, but there are still some options out there.
Sling is a new subscription based service that lets you stream ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Travel Channel, and the Disney Channel for $20 a month. You can cancel your sub at any time and they plan on adding more channels in the future, each being a $5 a month upgrade.
Sling TV offers cable channel programming for $20 a month that can be streamed on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku, and Amazon Fire.
Many of the major network sites let you stream recent episodes for free with ads as well. There’s NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, and AMC. Unfortunately, to really take full advantage of these kind of sites you’ll need a cable subscription, but there’s still some things you can watch for free.
For Your Cult Classics and Indies
Some movies don’t quite fit into other categories. They aren’t big blockbusters, but they are still highly enjoyable. If you enjoy cult classics or indie films just as much as the big flicks, you’re in luck with these services.
Shout! Factory TV
If you want to catch shows like The Twilight Zone and Mystery Science 3000, Shout! Factory TV is free to watch with ads. They also have a large collection of Horror and Sci-Fi movies to browse through.
Shout! Factory TV is free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, mobile browsers that support HTML5, and Roku.
Popcornflix has a wide selection of movies, most of them indie films, that you can stream for free with ads. You won’t find any big blockbusters here at all, but there’s some decent action flicks and plenty of indie horror.
Popcornflix is free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku, Xbox, Kindle, Samsung Smart TVs, and Blackberries.
Just like Popcornflix, SnagFilms offers a pretty large selection of indie films. SnagFilms is different, however, in that it has a pretty large collection of documentaries, old and new. All in all, SnagFilms has more than 5,000 movies and TV shows to watch for free. The site is also regularly curated and updated so you know that what you’re watching will be something interesting. They also have four sub-sites: KiddoVid with movies for kids, ¡Vaya!Film for Spanish-speaking films, FunnyForFree which is all comedy, and SnagXtreme for horror and action films .
SnagFilms is free to watch with ads on 21 different platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku, Kindle, Xbox, Playstation, Amazon Fire TV, TiVo, Opera, Apple TV with AirPlay, and select Smart TVs.
If you want to take your indie film viewing to the next level, Fandor offers a subscription service for $7.50 a month that allows you to watch a wide variety of award-winning films. Fandor is another curated service that has a lot of documentaries, cult films, and a very large selection of foreign films.
Fandor is available on PC, Roku, Kindle, phone, or tablet, with no ads, for $7.50 a month.
For When You Want the Brand New-ish Blockbusters
If you want the newly-released stuff legally, you’ll have to pay for it. There are a number of streaming services that let you buy and rent movies out there.
MGO has a collection of over 30,000 movies and TV shows to browse through. Movie rentals can cost as little as a dollar, but you can also purchase movies and TV shows to download to your devices for offline viewing. There are no subscriptions, but they do have a rewards program to try and keep you around. They have a pretty large selection of newly released movies, including the occasional pre-DVD release and movie that is still in theaters. There is also usually a deals section where you can rent and buy some movies and shows for less than normal.
MGO lets you rent and buy movies and TV shows for streaming and offline viewing on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku, Google TV, Ultra High Def Content 4K TVs, and select Smart TVs.
CinemaNow also allows you to rent and buy from a massive collection of movies and TV shows. There are a couple things that make it different than the other similar services, however. Only certain movies can be rented and most new releases are only available to purchase. If you buy a Blu-ray or DVD with an UltraViolet code, though, you can redeem it through CinemaNow and make the movie available to stream on any of your supported devices.
CinemaNow lets you buy and rent movies and TV shows for streaming and offline viewing on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku, Xbox, Playstation, and a wide variety of Smart TVs.
VUDU offers movies and TV shows to rent and buy just like CinemaNow and MGO, but there are a few differences. While Vudu will redeem UltraViolet Blu-ray and DVD codes, they also have a program called Disc to Digital. Disc to Digital lets you convert the DVDs and Blu-rays you already own into movies you can stream from your Vudu collection in the cloud. It costs $2 to convert a standard DVD or Blu-ray, and all you need is a PC or Mac with an appropriate disc drive. VUDU also lets you connect your Disney Movies Anywhere account so you can watch your Disney collection from the cloud.
VUDU lets you rent and buy movies and TV shows for streaming and offline viewing on PC, Mac, Roku, Chromecast, Playstation, Xbox, select Smart TVs, and their own device, the VUDU Spark.
For When You’re Feeling Worldly
It’s fun to see what kind of TV and movies people watch in the rest of the world. If you feel like broadening your horizons and watching things from somewhere outside of the US, there are some cool services that allow for that.
Viki lets you watch TV shows and movies from China, the Philippines, Venezuela, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, France, Indonesia, Vietnam, the UK, and a huge selection from Korea. English subtitles are available for most shows.
Viki is free to watch with ads on PC and Mac, but there is a $4 subscription option that lets you watch in HD, remove ads, and watch on the Viki app on iOS, Android, Kindle, Chromecast, Xbox, and select Smart TVs.
Spuul works the same way Viki does, but is entirely dedicated to Bollywood TV shows, movies, and cartoons. There are some things you can watch for free with ads, but a subscription for $5 a month gives you complete access to their entire library. English subtitles are available for most titles.
Spuul offers select episodes and movies that are free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, AppleTV with AirPlay, and select Smart TVs.
For a good selection of Telenovelas, Viewster offers free ad-supported viewing to a number of shows. They also have a pretty decent selection of Anime, less popular American TV shows, and documentaries.
Viewster is free to watch with ads on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Roku, and select Smart TVs.
For When You Can’t Find What You’re Looking for
If, after all of that, you still can’t find something you want to stream, there are a few things you can do. Maybe what you want to watch is just hidden or you brushed over it without knowing. If you think that may be the case, there are some services you can use to try and locate where you can stream specific movies or TV shows:
The MPAA also has an official web site that can help you locate where to watch almost any current movie or TV show currently stream-able. Of course, even If you’ve found what you want to watch, there’s a chance it might be blocked for you. If so, there are some things you can do to get around that as well.
Now you have so many movies and TV shows that you’ll be saying, “Netflix? What’s Amazon? Who’s Hulu?”. You’ll never even have enough time to watch it all. Most of these offer a way to watch for free too—and you can’t beat those kind of savings.
Photos by OpenClips.