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How to watch free movies online

Tubi TV on Apple TV
(Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

When you hear folks talk about being able to watch free movies and TV online, chances are they're also talking about doing so in a way that's not entirely above board. But it doesn't have to be that way. Because there are plenty of ways to legally watch movies and shows online for free in 2021. It's not even all that difficult.

All you have to do to legally watch movies online for free is be willing to sit through a bit of advertising. And chances are you already do that on any number of "live" streaming services, right? You're paying for the privilege of a service that will feed you movies with advertising.

You can do better than that. There are several streaming services that offer live movies and TV shows — all legal — and all you have to do is be willing to watch the occasional advert.

Following are our three favorite free movie services in 2021. The only question is which to choose. On the other hand, they all offer up free movies and shows, so you really don't have to choose at all. Go nuts. Install them all.

ExpressVPN
The best VPN for free movies

It's not uncommon for free movie services to be locked into the United States. But what if you've found yourself out of your home country and still want to watch your free shows?

ExpressVPN is one of the easiest and affordable ways to watch what you want from anywhere you want to watch it. Plus it'll help keep your network traffic away from any prying eyes on public networks.

Watch free movies online with Tubi TV

Tubi TV on various devices

(Image credit: Tubi TV)

Tubi TV is one of the most popular ways to watch free movies online — and to do so legally. The ad-supported service is owned by the Fox Corporation, which gives it a huge catalog as well as the corporate support for even more content deals that give you even more free movies to watch.

Tubi TV has films from just about all the genres you'd want to watch films in — action, comedy, classics, dramas, horror, LGBTQ, romance, science-fiction, reality, thrillers and more. There are a number of series available on Tubi as well, including TV comedies and dramas. And Tubi has a number of dedicated channels, too, featuring content from A&E, BabyFirst, Complex, Dove, FilmRise, Lifetime — and of course Fox itself.

Tubi also is bolstering its news section in 2021 with nearly 80 live, 24-hour newsfeeds from major station owners including Cox Media Group, Hearst, Scripps and TEGNA (the former Gannett station network). That gives Tubi coverage in 24 of the top 25 markets in the United States.

Tubi is available in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. It's available on most every major platform in most of those countries, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, iOS and Android, smart TV systems, gaming platforms, and on the web.

Watch for free: Check out TubiTV.com
More: See what's new on Tubi TV

Watch free movies online with Pluto TV

Pluto TV on a tablet and smartphone

(Image credit: Pluto TV)

Fox isn't the only broadcaster with its own free streaming service. ViacomCBS is the proud owner of Pluto TV, which also has its share of free movies and shows. Whereas Tubi is mostly about video-on-demand (in addition to live news), Pluto puts a live, linear lineup front and center. In other words, it's got what looks like a traditional live guide full of channels and shows of free content that you'll want to watch. 

Those free live channels include a ton of ViacomCBS-owned content, like the MTV channels, BET, CBS and more. Individual shows have their own "channels," too, basically turning Pluto into a 24-hour streamer of some of the most popular shows out there today.

But Pluto also has a robust on-demand section, so you can watch what you want, when you want. For free. All you have to do is tune in, and endure a few advertisements.

Pluto TV is mainly a U.S. joint, but content may be available in other countries, too, such as Canada, the UK, Mexico and Germany. But what you're able to watch will vary depending on distribution rights.

Beyond that, Pluto TV is available on pretty much every major streaming platform available, including Roku and Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, various smart TV models, and on the web.

Watch for free: Check out Pluto TV

Watch free movies online with IMDB TV

IMDB TV on an iPad and iPhone

(Image credit: IMDB TV)

You likely know IMDB — the internet movie database. (Very much like what you get with our own catalog.) What you might not know is that it has a large section of movies and series to stream — all for free, and all supported by advertising.

What you might not know is that Amazon owns IMDB. Makes a little more sense now, doesn't it?

There's no shortage of movies and series available across all kinds of networks and distributors. Some are newer, some are older. But it's a pretty deep bench. There also is a decent stable of IMDB original content, too.

One thing you'll have to do here that you don't with Tubi TV and Pluto TV, however, is actually log in to IMDB to watch video. (IMDB has been pretty aggressive about that in the rest of the app, too.) It's just something to be aware of since IMDB is owned by Amazon, and Amazon loves data. (Who doesn't, though.) 

IMDB TV is available in the United States and U.S. territories. You can watch it from inside the IMDB app, the IMDB website, on Amazon Fire TV, Roku and in the Amazon Prime app.

Watch for free: Check out IMBD TV

Watch free movies on The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel

(Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

The Roku Channel is another ad-supported channel that include series and movies from all sorts of sources.

And the most important part is that it's not only for Roku devices.

Yes, you absolutely can watch The Roku Channel on a Roku player or Roku TV, and that's how a good number of folks are going to do it, seeing as how Roku is the No. 1 streaming platform in the United States.

But The Roku Channel is available on other platforms, too, including Amazon Fire TV, on a Samsung Smart TV, or in a web browser at TheRokuChannel.com.

Roku also is getting into the original content game, having purchased the catalog from the now-defunct Quibi service. It also has an original series called Cypher.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for AndroidCentral.com and Mobile Nations, is the Dad part of Modern Dad, and is editor of WhatToWatch.com.