(Above image source: Pixabay)
Looking for free classic films?
The following, in alphabetical order, are The Savvy Screener’s top free sources for film classics, which we’ll loosely define as any movies not of this century. Please visit each entity’s website for info on apps and device compatibility.
The name says it all. Every day for the past nine years, curator Jimbo Berkey has debuted one classic public domain movie at free-classic-movies.com. You can also get a chronological list of every movie that’s still available on demand. We didn’t count how many there are, but can tell you that the list starts with Georges Méliès’ A Terrible Night, featuring a giant spider, from 1896; and runs through David Copperfield, starring Richard Attenborough and Laurence Olivier, from December 1969.
You can find these public domain movies elsewhere, but that would negate the fun of checking in with Berkey every day. He even includes an informative write-up on each day’s movie, a photo gallery, and a teaser about tomorrow’s selection.
You can stream 360 films, both copyrighted and public domain, from the Library of Congress’ vast collection at loc.gov/collections/national-screening-room. Most titles are in the non-fiction vein. Individual collections include titles from the National Film Registry, the library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division and “The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies.”
One of our National Streaming Room faves is Behind Your Radio Dial, a half-hour look at NBC in 1949, with a little nod to a “new and uncharted” thing called TV. Bet you didn’t know that your right to listen to radio (or watch TV) over-the-air without charge was guaranteed in 1788 by the US Constitution!
Here’s a compelling reason to renew your library card. Chances are good that your local branch subscribes either to Kanopy or Hoopla — free streaming services specializing in the kinds of movies you might have once checked out on DVD or VHS.
Kanopy’s vast library includes international and American classic films — both sound and silent. Its catalog includes titles from Janus Films (The Criterion Collection) and Paramount. There is a limit to how many titles you can stream per month, based on your library’s agreement with the service. To see if your library participates, visit Kanopy.com/signup and click on “Find Your Library.”
Hoopla’s classic film offerings, though not as extensive, include such titles as Dial M for Murder, Meet John Doe and All Quiet on the Western Front. To see if your library participates, go to hoopladigital.com to set up a free account.
If a film is in the public domain, chances are you can find it in the Internet Archive, where folks have uploaded thousands of films for you to peruse. You can start browsing collections and individual titles at archive.org/details/feature_films.
Some of our favorite collections include the silent marvels of the The Georges Méliès Collection, the ephemeral films of The Prellinger Collection and the eclectic classics of the Picfixer Feature Film Collection. Check out the following Picfixer sci-fi double feature, which includes trailers and a cartoon in addition to The Day of the Triffids (1962) and They Came from Beyond Space (1967):
We’ve found nearly 20 channels showing classic movies round the clock on Pluto TV, but you may find even more by skimming the pluto.tv/live-tv/channel-lineup. Our favorites include 80s Rewind on channel 88, the MST3K and Rifftrax riffs on cult flicks on channels 385 and 389 respectively, and the 007 Channel, showing nothing but James Bond films — on channel 7 of course.
Many of Pluto TV’s classic movies are also available on demand.
Curated by “Jon W., this ”cave of forgotten films” currently has more than 1,600 titles…and growing. For a complete list and links, visit rarefilmm.com/films-index. For the latest additions, visit rarefilmm.com.
Our favorites have included a cult 1966 fick, Chappaqua. The cast includes William S. Burroughs (Opium Jones), Allen Ginsberg (Messiah) and Ravi Shankar (Sun God). The latter sitarist also composed and played the score. Fellow musicians Ornette Coleman (Peyote Eater) and The Fugs’ Ed Sanders also have roles.
Head to shoutfactorytv.com/film for a great collection of films on the more culty side.
Our favorites (some of which require age verification) include:
To get started, go to Stirr.com, pick a city (any city, if your own isn’t on the list), and then click on “Channel Guide.” You’ll find a list channels, sans numbers. Scroll down until you reach Stirr Movies, the start of some dozen channels that include Stirr Classics, MovieMix, Stirr Westerns and Stirr Drama.
Head to thefilmdetective.tv/video for a large collection of films in dozens of categories, including Blaxploitation, the British Film Institute, Pre-Code, Serials, Silent and a couple of widely divergent actor-specific sections — John Wayne and The Three Stooges.
The films don’t seem to be in any order at tubitv.com/category/classics, but there are lots and lots of them. When we checked, they began with My Name is Nobody, a 1973 western starring Henry Fonda, and ended with Way Down East, a 1920 silent romantic drama starring Lillian Gish.
In between, you’ll find a large selection of movies in all genres: musicals, sci-fi, comedy, war, you name it.
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