This article has been just updated: December 13, 2019
From torrent sites to blogs to forums, there’s no shortage of places on the internet where you can download movies without paying. But what if you want to download movies for free and do so legally? That’s much more difficult, but not impossible. We’ve scoured the internet looking for legal sites that offer free movies, and these are our favorites.
Since 1996, the Internet Archive has been on a mission to preserve our digital culture for future generations. The website provides free access to massive collections of digitalized content, including movies.
Called Moving Image Archive, this section of the Internet Archive contains digital movies uploaded by Archive users which range from classic full-length films to daily alternative news broadcasts to cartoons and concerts.
Most movies in Moving Image Archive can be downloaded for free, either directly from the site or via a torrent file. Moving Image Archive typically offers movies in several different file sizes and formats, so you shouldn’t find it difficult to play the movies you download from there on any device—from your smartphone to your HDTV.
If you have a movie, perhaps one you’ve created yourself, that you would like to share with the whole world and preserve for future generations, you can upload it to Moving Image Archive under the Creative Commons license.
As its name suggests, Public Domain Torrents is a place where you can find movies that are in the public domain and download them via torrent. Hundreds and hundreds of timeless classics can be found under animation, drama, comedy, horror, musicals, sci-fi, and many other categories. For the times when downloading a movie takes too long, Public Domain Torrents currently has 82 movies that you can watch online without downloading.
As we’ve explained earlier, there’s nothing illegal about using the BitTorrent file distribution system to download movies that are in the public domain. You can even share them with others, burn them to DVDs, and project them outside for your kids and neighbors.
If you’d like to support Public Domain Torrents—and you definitely should—you can buy movies from the site instead of downloading them, or you can make a donation directly using PayPal.
YouTube may be most famous for 10-minute long videos produced by independent content creators, but the video-sharing site is also a treasure trove full of full-length movies, documentaries, and TV shows. The only problem is that YouTube doesn’t allow its users to download content for offline playback.
Fortunately, there are many ways how to do just that, and online YouTube downloader sites, such as Y2mate, are among the most convenient. To download a YouTube video using Y2mate, all you have to do is copy the video’s URL and paste it into Y2mate. Then, click the Start button and wait for the video to download.
If you use the Firefox web browser, you can download the Video DownloadHelper addon and use it to download YouTube videos directly. Similar add-ons exist for other major web browsers as well, but Video DownloadHelper has been around the longest, and it works flawlessly.
Vimeo may not be as large as YouTube, but it’s the place to be if you enjoy independent movies from creators around the world. What has attracted so many film-makers to Vimeo is the platform’s supportive community and a large selection of high-quality tools for hosting, sharing, and streaming videos in HD and 4K with no ads.
Unlike YouTube, Vimeo allows its users to download content directly from the site, by clicking on the Download button below each video. You can choose between SD, HD, and the original video quality, and Vimeo’s fast servers don’t keep you waiting.
5. Open Culture
Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural and educational media from various corners of the internet and provides it for free and in high quality. The project was founded in 2006, and its current lead editor is Dan Colman, the Director & Associate Dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program.
Open Culture has in its collection over 1,150 free movies divided into the following categories: Comedy & Drama, Film Noir, Horror & Hitchcock, Westerns, Martial Arts Movies, Silent Films, Documentaries, and Animation.
Apart from movies, you can also use Open Culture to download audiobooks, watch online courses, learn languages, find textbooks, and more. If you’re hungry for knowledge, Open Culture is guaranteed to provide you with something to munch on.
Free Classic Movies is a one-man project dedicated to the early years of cinematography. The site is essentially a curated selection of movies from the end of the 19th century to the second half of the 20th century. You can browse the site by date, look for a particular actor or actress, or use the search feature to look up a movie by keywords.
The man behind Free Classic Movies, Jimbo Berkey, has written a short description for each movie on the site, often including interesting information about the history of cinema and film-making in general. Free Classic Movies may not be as large as some of the other sites featured in this article, but it’s hard not to fall in love with it.
If you’re a fan of classic horror and western movies, Classic Cinema Online will probably become your new favorite site. From Captain Kidd to Gone with the West to Apache Blood, Classic Cinema Online has it all. Unfortunately, the movies hosted on the site are not readily available for download, so you’ll have to use Video DownloadHelper or other similar add-on to download them.
Are Torrents Illegal?
Before we continue, we feel the need to clarify the legal status of torrents. A torrent file serves an important role in the BitTorrent file distribution system. It contains metadata about files and folders to be distributed and a list of the network locations of trackers, which help participants in the system find each other.
There’s nothing inherently illegal about BitTorrent since it’s just one of many communication protocols for peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P). There’s also nothing inherently illegal about torrent files since they, by their very nature, don’t contain any copyrighted content.
However, the act of using the BitTorrent file distribution system to download copyrighted content using a torrent file that contains metadata about it is illegal in most countries around the world. Because most BitTorrent clients also automatically share all content that’s being downloaded with other BitTorrent users, people who use torrents to download copyrighted movies are often charged with illegal distribution of copyrighted material.
If you would rather avoid potentially astronomical fines and even prison time, you should stick to verified sources of free, legal content, such as those listed below.
As you can see, there are many ways how to download movies for free and do so without breaking any laws. It’s true that public domain movies can be found also on general-purpose torrent trackers, such as The Pirate Bay, but by using such trackers, you risk downloading content that’s not legal. The site’s we’ve listed should host only movies that you can legally download without paying, so sticking to them is your safest option.