You've faced it in normal times: the torture of scrolling through Netflix or Hulu and finding nothing to watch. You're almost certainly facing it now. Seeing the same tiles again and again is excruciating. It's the kind of thing that probably has you itching to sign up for those free trails or borrowing passwords to other services, but there is a less heralded option: free streaming sites.
Sites like Tubi, Pluto TV, Crackle and Vudu do not have nearly as high a profile as their subscription-based peers, nor have they built up huge libraries of original productions. Supported by various levels of advertising, however, they're absolutely free, and they have huge libraries. There's a lot of b-movie filler to sort through, but keep searching and you'll find some classics. The effect is sort of like the days when you couldn't find anything appealing on the new release walls of your local Blockbuster and journeyed into the interior shelves of older VHS tapes instead. You might find a forgotten favorite, or that one film you swore you'd always watch but never got around to.
You'll also find plenty of comfort food in the form of classic rom-coms, broad comedies, and nostalgia-inducing favorites. There's also a good number of horror and thrillers to be found. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll uncover critically acclaimed indies, canonical Hollywood fare, and cult films as well.
There's also a surprising amount of movies starring Meryl Streep spread out across these apps as well.
We did the hard work for you and found some of the best titles to get you through your days of social isolation. Consider this more of a primer to get you started than a completely exhaustive list—part of the fun of these sites might be exploring a fresh library of content on your own.
From beloved romantic comedies to kid-friendly favorites that still hold up, there's more than enough here to help you turn your brain off.
- Ace Ventura: Pet Detective [Crackle]
- Ella Enchanted [Tubi]
- Failure to Launch [Crackle, Tubi]
- First Wives Clubs [Pluto]
- Good Burger [Pluto, Tubi]
- Eat, Pray, Love [Vudu]
- Harriet The Spy [Pluto]
- Legally Blonde [Crackle]
- Orange County [Crackle] (An underrated '00s teen classic starring Tom Hanks's respectable son.)
- Several Early "James Bond" Films [Pluto]
- Stepmom [Crackle]
- Superbad [Vudu]
- Troop Beverly Hills [Pluto]
Critically Acclaimed Modern Classics
From beloved Sundance hits to Oscar nominees, there are tons of quality films on these sites as well.
- Ali [Crackle]
- Big Fish [Crackle, Pluto]
- Bottle Rocket [Crackle] (Yes, Wes Anderson's very first feature film.)
- The Birdcage [Pluto]
- Capote [Pluto]
- Carol [Tubi]
- Dancer in the Dark [Vudu] (Björk was snubbed at the Oscars.)
- An Education [Crackle]
- Friends With Money [Pluto] (A Nicole Holofcener film that reminds you Jennifer Aniston can be really, really good in indie films.)
- Hello, My Name is Doris [Crackle]
- Lars and the Real Girl [Tubi]
- Marie Antoinette [Crackle]
- Meloncholia [Pluto]
- Rachel Getting Married [Tubi] (Anne Hathaway at her best.)
- Safe [Pluto] - Especially relevant now.
- Still Alice [Crackle] (The movie that got Julianne Moore her Oscar.)
- The Talented Mr. Ripley [Pluto]
- To Die For [Crackle] (Come for Nicole Kidman's best work ever, stay for young Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck.)
- We Need To Talk About Kevin [Crackle]
- Whale Rider [Tubi]
The Meryl Streep Free Streaming Film Festival
Meryl Streep is not only one of our greatest actresses, but also one of our most prolific. It's no wonder you can find a descent survey of her career on these sites, from Oscar-nominated roles to big comedies.
- Kramer vs. Karmer (1979) [Crackle]
- The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) [Vudu]
- Heartburn (1986) [Pluto]
- Ironweed (1988) [Pluto]
- She-Devil (1989) [Vudu]
- Postcards From The Edge (1990) [Crackle]
- Dancing at Lughnasa (1998) [Pluto TV]
- Adaptation (2002) [Crackle]
- The Manchurian Candidate (2004) [Crackle]
- Rendition (2007) [Vudu]
- Dark Matter (2007) [Vudu]
- The Giver (2014) [Tubi]
- The Homesman (2014) [Tubi]
- Ricki and the Flash (2015) [Crackle]
Old Hollywood Legends
Netflix's Classics section has been pretty paltry in recent years. It seems a lot of these films were hiding elsewhere in plain sight and absolutely free. Tubi and Crackle particularly excel in the area.
- Blue Velvet [Vudu]
- Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice [Crackle]
- Charade [Tubi] (Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, together.)
- Dr. Strangelove [Crackle] (For if you need to worry about a different type of existential crisis facing humanity.)
- The Firm [Crackle] (Remember when Tom Cruise was simply a movie star?)
- From Here to Eternity [Crackle]
- It [Vudu] (Clara Bow as the original 'It' Girl.)
- It Happened One Night [Crackle]
- The Last Picture Show [Crackle]
- On The Watefront [Crakcle]
- Ordinary People [Crackle]
- Roman Holiday [Tubi]
- A Star is Born [Tubi] (The 1937 Janet Gaynor version.)
- Sunset Boulevard [Crackle]
- Taxi Driver [Crackle]
- Terms of Endearment [Tubi]
There's even pretty comprehensive selection of recent cult hits.
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert [Vudu]
- Another Gay Movie [Tubi]
- The Blue Lagoon [Crackle]
- But I'm A Cheerleader [Pluto]
- Bright Lights, Big City [Pluto]
- Clue [Pluto]
- The Craft [Crackle]
- Desperately Seeking Susan [Vudu]
- Dick [Crackle] (Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams's hidden classic.)
- Donnie Darko [Tubi]
- Heathers [Tubi]
- Jawbreaker [Crackle]
- Party Girl [Pluto]
- True Romance [Vudu]