While the most popular streaming services--Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, etc.--have a monthly or annual subscription cost, there are ways to watch content for free on a variety of streaming services. Some free streaming services don't even require you to sign up for an account. We've broken down the best free streaming services below, outlining notable content such as movies and TV that you can stream entirely free of charge.
Services like Crackle, Pluto TV, and Tubi have a surprising number of hit movies and TV shows that you can watch without spending a dime. If you have a library card, you can also stream on a few additional services like Hoopla and Kanopy. There is some overlap between the services, but each one typically has at least some content that the others don't, so it's worth checking out all of the free video streaming services. No one service really claims the title of best free streaming service, however--they're all targeted at certain audiences, which makes it hard to use just one. Of course, you don't really have to choose, since they're all free.
All of these services have ads in their shows and movies, but the occasional interruption can be tolerated when you're paying nothing. It's certainly better than treading through the sea of "free" gray-market streaming sites out there. The content is also a notch above a random Youtube binge (most of the time, anyway), and available on just about any streaming device you can think of, including Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, and more. The ads also mean you don't fall into the Sling TV model of the service being free, but having to pay for certain TV series and movies. You may not be able to find a popular movie on even the best free streaming service, but open your mind a little bit beyond the Netflix bubble and we're sure you'll find something you like and can easily watch on your smart TV. A free movie is a free movie, after all, as anyone who already has Amazon Prime and occasionally remembers there's a whole streaming service attached to it can attest.
And if you're thinking about subscribing to one of the major (paid) streaming services, check out our detailed breakdowns of the best streaming services and best anime streaming services.
Compatible devices: Chromecast, Fire Stick, Roku, iOS and Android devices, Apple TV, web
Notable content: Dedicated genre channels, Arrival, Old School, Clueless
Pluto TV has the notable distinction of being a video streaming service that has both live TV and on-demand TV series and movies. It's not as varied as a pay-for service like Hulu Live, but that it even has live streaming is impressive. There are live TV channels dedicated to genres such as horror, comedy, and thrillers. In terms of on-demand content, Pluto has a fairly large selection (including documentaries), though it's a mixed bag. The app has a great interface that is easy to navigate and is compatible just about any streaming device, as well as a number of smart TVs, including those on Android and iOS.
Compatible devices: Chromecast, Fire Stick, iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Apple TV, PlayStation, Xbox, web
Notable content: Grease, Transporter 2, Déjà Vu, Fight Club, You've Got Mail, Wayne's World,
Founded in 2014, Tubi TV has a nice selection of movies and TV shows to choose from. Show selection is a bit limited compared to something like Prime Video, but the content regularly cycles, so there's new stuff to watch all the time. Tubi is available on most streaming devices, smart TVs, game consoles, and browsers. The layout is easy to follow, with movies and shows split up by popularity and genre.
Compatible devices: Chromecast, Fire Stick, iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Apple TV, PS4, Xbox One, web
Notable content: 10 Cloverfield Lane, 30 Days of Night, Almost Faous, American Conjuring, Babel,
Crackle is probably the most widely known TV and movie streaming service in this article, and it thrives off of more than just name recognition. The service has a ton of movies and TV shows to stream, and the simplistic interface works well regardless of which device you're using.
Compatible devices: any device with Prime Video app, web
Notable content: Hot Rod, Speed, Alex Rider, 24, Kung Fu Panda, Drive, The Maze Runner
Though more commonly known as a site you check to look up actors and actresses when recognizing them on screen, IMDb also has a surprisingly good selection of free content available for online streaming that can be watched through the Prime Video app on streaming devices and the web. In terms of movies, IMDb TV currently has several fairly recent hits.
Compatible devices: Chromecast, Fire Stick, iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, web
Notable content: Arrival, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Big Short
Plex requires you sign up for a free account before you can stream from its library. The selection of free content varies and isn't as robust as some of the other services on this list, so you may not find your favorite movie right away. Plex is also an app for managing and organizing all of your digital movies and TV shows, so it's worth checking out for more than just the free streaming website stuff.
Compatible devices: Chromecast, Fire Stick, iOS, Android, Smart TVs, Smart Blu-ray players, Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, web
Notable content: The Boondock Saints, The Contract, Sonic X, Naruto, Transformers
Vudu is one of the most popular storefronts for renting and purchasing new digital movies, but Vudu is also home to mix of free movies and TV shows. Like Plex, Vudu doesn't have as great of a library as destinations like Crackle, Pluto TV, or Tubi. The service is still worth checking out, though, and it's available on practically every device you likely use to watch movies and TV.
Compatible devices: Android, iOS, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, Vizio Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs
Notable content: The Office (Seasons 1 and 2), Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Jurassic Park, The Bourne Trilogy, The Matrix Trilogy
NBC's Peacock streaming service launched last July, serving as the home for NBC shows as well as a huge back catalog of movies from NBC's Universal Pictures and other distributors. Though it has paid versions with more content ($5/month with ads, $10/month without ads), Peacock also has a free version filled with a pretty decent lineup of content. Popular shows from NBC's catalog such as The Office (Seasons 1 and 2), 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, and Parks and Recreation are available for free subscribers. New episodes of shows are uploaded on Peacock one week after they air and can be watched for free. On the movies front, you can stream Jurassic Park, The Bourne Trilogy, The Matrix Trilogy, and much more. Select sporting events are also available to stream for free alongside highlights from news coverage. While Peacock isn't a service we'd recommend paying for at the moment, the free plan is actually fairly good when it comes to content.
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