The winter doldrums — what better time to curl up and watch a holiday movie or binge-watch a new-to-you series?
There are more FREE streaming services out there than you would imagine! Here’s a primer on where you can stream movies and TV shows for free.
These are all legal sites, with no bootleg content or copyright violations. Yes, they come with a catch — you may need a library card, or be willing to sit through commercials. But they are viable options for a tight budget.
So before you rent your next movie, or pay for another streaming service subscription, check out our list below. You’ll be able to re-visit some of your old favorites, as well as step outside your comfort zone to watch something different.
We researched all of these free services ourselves, using our Amazon Fire Stick and Samsung smart TV. But there are other ways to access this content, and we tell you all the compatible devices for each free streaming service in our list.
UPDATE: On 3/21/2020 we added info about streaming FREE audio-books for kids via Audible, and about streaming past games from Major League sports for free. The info is toward the bottom of the post. We also added a section for Not Free, But Cheap and Worth a Mention.
If you have another idea about streaming entertainment for free or cheap, please leave a comment below.
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Free streaming services for movies & TV
How did we not know about this service sooner? It’s pretty impressive and completely FREE all the time!
More info here.
We were able to access Pluto TV through our Amazon Fire Stick — and we liked what we saw.
The interface gives you an experience much like channel-surfing via cable or satellite. You can scroll through a “channel guide” where movies and shows are on a set schedule, or go right to the on-demand content and pick a movie.
On-demand movies are organized by categories you can scroll through: Kids, Action, New This Month, etc. We were happy to see some of our old favorites there, movies like Jagged Edge and The Big Chill. There are also TV series you can binge on, and sports content.
The content for kids is good, including a whole channel for Dora the Explorer.
Live sports: According to SportsProMedia, Pluto’s Stadium Channel has rights to stream live college football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse, as well as coverage from the PGA Tour. (Good info for when we have pro and college sports again.)
The catch: Pluto TV is completely ad-supported, so there will be commercial breaks. (We did not find them to be horribly intrusive, as commercials go.)
Pro tip: Take advantage of the option to set up a free account, which lets you set a watchlist and re-start a movie where you left off.
Stream on these devices: Amazon Fire Stick, Roku devices, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, some smart TVs (search for the app), smartphones, tablets, and computers.
To watch on your computer, go here. (Note: this interface is more confusing than the app for Fire Stick.)
Read Clark Howard’s favorable review of Pluto TV
Tubi is said to be the largest free streaming service around, featuring an extensive library of more than 15,000 movies and TV shows. You’ll find an impressive selection of movies, kids shows, and TV series (including vintage series from the ’50s and ’60s!)
There’s a whole section of shows for pre-schoolers, and a Not on Netflix section.
Tubi is all FREE, all the time. We’ve been using the Tubi app on our Fire Stick for quite some time. The interface is a lot like Netflix, where you scroll through various categories.
The catch: It’s entirely ad-supported, so you’ll have commercial breaks.
Pro tip: Register for a free account, so you can keep a watchlist.
Stream from these devices: Amazon Fire Stick, some smart TVs, Roku devices, mobile apps, Google Chromecast, some game consoles, and computers via web browser.
To watch on computer, go here.
Locast — not currently operating
Apparently, a federal court has ordered Locast to suspend operations, due to alleged copyright violations. It had been retransmitting broadcasts over the internet, allowing the public to watch local channels without cable or an antenna.
We got started with Crackle easily via Amazon Fire Stick, by loading the app and then using the activation code to set up our account on an iPhone.
The service is completely FREE, with commercials.
Content includes both movies and TV shows, including all 6 seasons of Third Rock from the Sun. A review on Cordcutting.com reports that Crackle’s movie collection is larger than Tubi’s.
Browse the content available on Crackle
The home screen is intuitive and similar to Netflix, with featured content appearing first. Navigation buttons take you to various categories.
Pro tip: Set up your own watchlist to save the shows and movies you want to watch later.
Stream on these devices: Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, smartphones, tablets, some smart TVs, computer via web browser, and more.
Read Clark Howard’s favorable review of Crackle
Stream free movies and TV shows with no commercials.
This service has one catch — you’ll need a library card from a participating library system.
When we searched for metro Atlanta libraries that grant access, we found we were not eligible through our Dekalb County library system. But you may be eligible, if you have (or get) a library card from:
- Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
- Smyrna Public Library
- Coweta Public Library System
- Henry County Public Library System
Actually, there’s just one more catch: You’ll most likely have a monthly limit on how many items you can access with your library card. It depends on which library system you’re with. In addition, the library has a daily limit on Hoopla lending, so if demand is very high and the limit is reached you might receive a message saying to try tomorrow. The spending limit rolls over at midnight EST each night. So, in times of heavy demand, the early bird gets the worm.
Stream content on: Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, Android TV, Google Chromecast, Roku devices, and computers via web browser.
Search for a participating library in another state
Like Hoopla, you’ll need a library card OR university .edu account to access Kanopy. If you have college students in your family, you’ll likely be able to sign in with their school email address!
Without our own access, we were not able to personally review the content — but Kanopy is said to have a large movie collection, rivaling Netflix, including recent releases. It’s also said to be great for educational content like online courses and professional development.
There are NO commercials.
We found no participating libraries in Georgia, but we found many participating universities, including GA Tech, Emory, Kennesaw State, Gwinnett College, and many more. You may have a college student home from an out-of-state school that participates as well.
Give it a try! Get more info about Kanopy.
Stream on these devices: Amazon Fire Stick, some smart TVs, Google Chromecast, Roku devices, and computers via web browser.
Search for a participating library or university in another state
You may know VUDU as a movie rental service, much like Amazon Streaming Video — but it also has thousands of movies and TV shows you can stream for FREE.
The catch: The free content has commercials.
Check out the free titles here.
You can stream VUDU from nearly anywhere — the app usually comes pre-loaded on smart TVs, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast, and some game consoles. You can also watch on a computer via web browser.
The Roku Channel has a decent collection of free movies and TV shows to stream — including 9 seasons of the British hit Doc Martin, the binge-worthy favorite Schitt’s Creek, and the vintage classic Bewitched.
It was meant to be an extra perk for owners of Roku devices, but you can access it through a web browser on any device.
The catch: Commercials, what else? But the price is right.
Stream from: Roku devices and web browsers.
To watch on a computer, go here.
We’ve been using this streaming service via our Amazon Fire Stick for some time now.
You’ll find movies, binge-worthy TV shows, kids shows, and even some original programming.
It’s all free, all the time — with commercials.
Stream on these devices: smartphones, Amazon Fire Stick, some smart TVs, and computer via web browser. Yes, this is a limited offering.
To watch on a computer, go here.
Did you know you can find full-length television shows and movies on YouTube?
It’s not a strong offering, with only a few hundred movies, but the price is right, and you can see films like The Graduate and Rain Man.
Pro tip: Check out the Timeless Classic Movies YouTube channel. Or just go to YouTube.com and search by movie title or general term, like movies for kids, TV shows full episode, etc.
YouTube also offers one of our own all-time favorite classics — Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. This is the 1965 version that you may remember from childhood. We find we can watch it over and over again.
The 1972 version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is also available.
For a list of 10 full-length family movies on YouTube, go here.
Where to stream: via web browser, or through the YouTube app available for Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku devices, and some gaming consoles.
Acorn TV (free trial)
This is a subscription service that normally costs $5.99 per month, after a 7-day free trial. Every now and then, the trial period is extended to 30 days for those who’ve never subscribed in the past.
Acorn TV streams mysteries, dramas, and comedies from the U.K. and beyond. You can watch hit shows like Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders, and more. There are NO commercials when viewing Acorn TV.
To take advantage of the FREE trial offer, you must sign up on the website. Just click on “Start free trial” and then fill out the form.
The catch: You’ll have to set up an account with your billing info (credit/debit card or PayPal), and then remember to cancel your subscription before you’re charged for the first month after the trial ends.
Pro tip: As soon as you set up the account and get access, go back and turn off auto-renew. Or, set a calendar alert on your smartphone to remind you to cancel the service in 7 days.
You can stream on these devices: Roku, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Apple TV, smartphones and tablets (Apple and Android), Google Chromecast, laptops and desktop computers via web browser.
Amazon Prime Video (30-day free trial)
You probably know that Amazon Prime is a membership service that includes not only free video streaming, but a host of other freebies — free 2-day delivery, music streams, Kindle downloads, and more. It usually costs $119 per year ($59 for students).
Again, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial, and stream movies and TV shows with no commercials.
The catch: Just as with the Acorn free trial, you’ll have to set up an account with billing info and remember to cancel — see the pro tip, above!
You can stream Amazon Prime content through an app that’s available on most smart TVs, the Amazon Fire Stick, Roku devices, Google Chromecast, some BluRay players, some game consoles, smartphones, tablets, computers, and more.
Want to upgrade your streaming device?
A special offer lets you trade-in an existing device for a discount or credit on a new Amazon Fire streaming device. The devices eligible for trade-in include those made by Apple, Roku, Google Chromecast, and Amazon.
Hulu (30-day free trial)
Hulu has now followed the lead of others and increased its free trial period from 7 days to 30 days.
Remember: To redeem the trial offer, you have to set up your billing info and then remember to cancel before you are charged for your second month. We suggest setting up the account and then immediately turning off the auto-renew option.
The nice thing about Hulu is that it has original programming, so you can find something new to watch during your free month.
There are two options for the free trial:
- No ads, renews at $12.99 a month
- Ad-supported streaming, renews at $6.99 a month
This is just for the streaming service — NOT for Hulu Live TV (which is an alternative to cable and satellite).
Sign up here.
3 more free trials to check out
Because you can binge a lot of stuff in a month!
- UMC (Urban Movie Channel)
Dedicated to black TV and movies, UMC is normally $4.99 per month (or $49.99 a year).
7-Day FREE trial
Dedicated to the horror and supernatural genre, Shudder is normally $4.99 per month.
7-Day FREE trial
- Sundance Now
Dedicated to indie films, including some familiar titles, Sundance Now is normally $6.99 a month (or $59.99 per year).
7-Day FREE Trial
Audible offers FREE audio books to stream
For as long as schools are closed for public health reasons, Audible is making audio books available to children and teens. The FREE audio books are available in 6 different languages, through a service known as Audible Stories.
The Stories collection includes books that may be of interest to adults as well — from classics authors like Jack London, Mary Shelley, and Herman Melville. You can browse free literary classics here.
You can stream on your desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet.
The catch: You can only stream, not download the books to play later without an internet connection.
You can also sign up for a 30-day free trial, and choose from a wider selection of books. (You’ll get an email reminder a week before it auto-renews.)
Browse the free collection of audio books here.
Major League sports offers FREE streaming services
The NBA, NFL, and NHL made past games and original content available for FREE, while the live games were on hiatus during the pandemic. Some of this archived content is still available, although the need for it is diminished since professional and college sports has resumed.
You can get all the info you need here.
Not free, but cheap and worth a mention
- STARZ streaming service is offering a limited-time deal and it’s a good one — 3 months at $5 each.
You can subscribe to STARZ as an Amazon Channel or as a standalone subscription with the STARZ app. It is normally $8.99 a month.
STARZ has a good selection of current movies and even some Disney content for the kids. It’s also strong on original content, so you can find something you haven’t seen already. We recommend binge-watching Outlander, which is currently in its 5th season and can keep you busy for a while.
After your 3-month special offer ends, you’ll either need to cancel or be prepared to pay 8.99 a month going forward.
- Curiosity Stream drops the price of a one-year subscription to just $11.99 for a limited time.
Calling all geeks! Curiosity Stream is a niche streaming service that specializes in documentaries and non-fiction content, including some original programming. It also has content for kids.
Categories covered include history, science, technology, nature, society, and lifestyle. Within those categories are very specific topics (like WWII battles, genome sequencing, and dragonflies).
There are plenty of sports documentaries. We even browsed a charming category called Feel Good Films, which included content about hummingbirds, the Dutch tulip industry, and the science of bubbles.
There are NO commercial interruptions.
For $11.99 a year, we decided it was worth it and signed up.
The regular price is $19.99 a year (or $2.99 for a single month).
Stream on these devices: Amazon Fire, Roku, Google Chromecast, Xbox One, some smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers. There is also offline viewing available for phones and tablets.
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