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The best free movies online

Tim Curry and the 'Clue' ensemble.
Tim Curry and the 'Clue' ensemble. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Keeping up with what feels like an endless array of streaming services is exhausting and expensive. Fortunately, the old sensation of aimlessly channel surfing and stopping on whatever is available has taken the form of free online collections and apps. Free movies can be found across a variety of apps, but between Tubi TV, Crackle, and Popcornflix, some overlooked gems and all time favorites are waiting for your viewing pleasure. Here are ten of the very best currently available for the low price of absolutely nothing.

Better Watch Out (2016) 

Christmas is just around the corner and for those that prefer their holiday fare to be ho-ho-horrifying, this twisted version of Home Alone is the perfect streaming stocking stuffer. 12-year-old Lucas’ parents are out for the night at an office Christmas party, which means 17-year-old (and biggest crush) Ashley, is coming over to babysit. Shortly after her arrival, strange things begin happening outside, and it’s up to the babysitter to protect the house from a nefarious presence hellbent on taking whatever he wants by any means necessary.

Bit (2019)

The intersectional feminist vampire movie of your dreams, Brad Michael Elmore’s Bit was a standout at festivals like Outfest, but was quietly released on major VOD platforms around the start of quarantine. Starring Nicole Maines (Supergirl) as Laurel, the story follows a young trans woman moving to Los Angeles, only to find herself in the throes of a cabal of vampires under the leadership of a woman named Duke. Unlike the vampires of yesteryear, these vampires revel in their monstrosity and target those who deserve to have their blood spilled for a change. 

Clue (1985)

Few films deserve to call themselves “perfect,” but I will die on the hill of Clue being a perfect film. This iconic farce based on the popular board game of the same time is endlessly quotable, a masterclass in physical comedy, and boasts one of the greatest Tim Curry performances of all time. Clue was a massive flop and ripped to shreds by critics upon its release, but over time it has amassed a legendary legion of cult followers and is recognized now for its true comedic brilliance. 

Compliance (2012)

Based on the very real strip search phone call scams that took place across mostly rural American states between 1992 and 2004, Compliance is a psychological thriller that will absolutely blow your mind. The film is an exercise in showcasing how humans respond to those they believe are in positions of power, and how people will go to horrifying and extreme lengths to obey orders out of fear of retribution. Starring Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hereditary) and Dreama Walker (Don’t Trust the B-- in Apt. 23, Doubt), you won’t believe how this film plays out, and it will force you to question your own convictions.

Dolemite (1975)

“I'm gonna let 'em know that Dolemite is my name, and f***in' up motha f***as is my game!” If you liked 2019’s Dolemite is My Name starring Eddie Murphy, you owe it to yourself to watch the film that inspired it all and made Rudy Ray Moore a Blaxploitation superstar. Dolemite is a comedic crime film seasoned with kung-fu lead by Moore’s enigmatic alterego, and a groundbreaking piece of Black cinema that sparked the flame of an entire genre. 

I Am Big Bird: the Carroll Spinney Story (2014)

Sometimes you need to watch something that makes you feel so full of joy that you might actually explode. Voice actor and puppeteer, Caroll Spinney, played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street from its premiere in 1969 until 2018. Big Bird is one of the most recognizable figures in the entire world, but the story of the man behind our favorite 8-foot-tall yellow feathered friend was left out of the public eye until this documentary’s release. It’s heartwarming, pure, and will remind your inner child that just like Big Bird says, “life’s a movie, write your own ending.” 

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Chances are if you haven’t seen this absolutely bonkers martial arts film, you’ve seen it meme’d and gif’d since the dawn of the internet. Based on the manga of the same name, this Hong-Kong cult classic absolutely has to be seen to be believed. The violence is completely unrealistic, the dialogue is poorly dubbed camp fodder, and yet audiences have been lovingly sharing this film for decades. Sometimes you just have to watch someone punch their fist through the jaw of a bad guy or punch through a wall like a human cartoon character.

Short Term 12 (2013)

Grab your tissues, because this one is a tearjerker. In Brie Larson’s first leading role and Lakeith Stanfield’s feature debut, Short Term 12 is an empathetic look at the lives of residents and workers at a group home for “troubled” teenagers. Despite the film’s massive accoldates, the film has sort of fallen out of public consciousness, and it’s a total shame. Do yourself a favor and tune into the film that should have given Larson her first Oscar, and set the stage for Stanfield to be a bonafide superstar. 

Small Soldiers (1998)

If there was ever a movie absolutely ripe for a modernized remake, it’s Small Soldiers. Directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, Piranha, The Howling), this is the edgier older cousin of Toy Story criticizing commercialism and unnecessary militarization wrapped in a movie about toys with a mind of their own. This is absolutely one of those films that people don’t go out of their way to watch, but have a tendency to get sucked into if it happens to be playing on a channel when they’re scrolling past. This time, make the plan, watch Small Soldiers and relive the pre-Y2K glory days of weird movies that will never get greenlit ever again.

We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011)

This movie is about to ruin your whole day. Based on the novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a psychological drama directed by Lynne Ramsay and featuring career highlight performances by both Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton. It’s best to go in as blind as possible but know that this film is centered around some pretty triggering material and features an extreme act of violence that may be hard to process. That said, it is an incredible piece of must-watch cinema.

Thirt13n Ghosts (2001)

Now that we're full swing into a reckoning that horror movies from the 00s weren't all terrible, actually, now is the perfect time to revisit the glory of Thir13en Ghosts. The highly misunderstood haunted house meets Y2K film is a masterclass in terrifying creature designs and a perfect time capsule of 2001 one-liners. Matthew Lillard continues to prove why he is the most underutilized asset in horror cinema, and a lot of the special effects still hold up pretty well. It's the perfect film for your next virtual movie night, and the Juggernaut and the Jackal are sure to freak out at least half of your friends.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (2009)

Instead of watching Oscar-bait poverty porn this awards season, take a chance on a fascinating documentary about the renown West Virginia outlaw Jesco White and his eccentric family in Appalachia. Showcasing life with the White family provides an unapologetic look at poverty, substance abuse, and criminal activity as a means of survival for those living in a community frequently reserved for political fodder and punchlines. Produced by MTV and Jackass's Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is a surprisingly empathetic look at one of the most misunderstood cultures in America.

But I'm A Cheerleader (2001)

Stop whatever you're doing and put on Jamie Babbit's feature debut, But I'm a Cheerleader. Easily one of the most groundbreaking LGBTQ+ films ever made, Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Dante Basco, Eddie Cibrian, Cathy Moriarty, RuPaul, Mink Stole, Kip Pardue, Michelle Williams, and Bud Cort join forces in pink and blue to deliver a message about acceptance, the dangers of conversion therapy, and an appreciation of camp cinema. There are few films that should be required viewing for anyone who loves movies, but this is definitely one of them.

BJ Colangelo is an award winning filmmaker and film analyst specializing in dismissed cinema and television. She writes about horror, wrestling, musicals, adult animation, sex and gender, kicking pancreatic cancer’s ass, and being a fat queer in places like Fangoria, Vulture, The Daily Dot, Autostraddle,, and a handful of books college students get assigned to read. She’s also the co-host of the teen girl movie podcast, This Ends at Prom, with her wife, Harmony.