Article updated September 30th, 2014
You’re on a trip, you’ve got a laptop or tablet, and you’d like to watch a movie or two. Since you can’t count on access to a reliable (not to mention free) Wi-Fi connection on the plane or at your hotel, streaming is out of the question.
Sure, you could pay to download a movie, but maybe you don’t feel like spending $10 for a film that you might not like. You could rent one, but that restricts you to a 24-hour viewing window once you start watching. Who needs the pressure? Watching a movie is supposed to be enjoyable.
Fortunately, there are ways you can download movies for free. No, not through shady file sharing sites offering pirated content that could very well infect your computer with malware. You can download free movies from reliable, well-known sites, as well as ones that offer movies in the public domain or that fall under a Creative Commons license.
FREE MOVIE DOWNLOADS FROM THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
Once a movie’s copyright expires, it enters the public domain, making it freely available for anyone to distribute. Best of all, you can download free movies directly from the sites to your computer. On Public Domain Torrents, you’ll find film noir classics like D.O.A. and Scarlet Street, as well as dramas like A Farewell to Arms. Along with free movie downloads of AVI files, the site offers files tailored for the iPhones, iPads and Playstation Vita and PSP.
Watch Your Movies Anywhere
You’ll have to do a bit of digging on The Internet Archive to find the real gems, but once you do you can download free movie classics like Fritz Lang’s M starring Peter Lorre, His Girl Friday with Cary Grant, and My Man Godfrey starring Carole Lombard and William Powell. Download formats depend on the title. They include low-quality MP2, higher quality MP4 and Ogg files, and QuickTime.
Although the library isn’t nearly as deep as public domain titles, films that fall under a Creative Commons license are also available and you can download movies for free. You won’t find the next Citizen Kane, but you may find something entertaining. The sci-fi parody Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning is among the better-known Creative Commons movies available. You can download free movies from the site in DivX or QuickTime formats.
DOWNLOAD FREE MOVIES AND SHORTS FROM ONLINE FILM FESTIVALS
Internet film festivals are a great source of free movies. Using the RealPlayer download feature (see below), you can stock up your film library in no time. PBS’s annual Online Film Festival — which runs annually — is a rich source of well-made short films covering a variety of subjects and genres. Ongoing festivals like the Once a Week Online Film Festival also provides a wealth of quality content.
Most of the festivals showcase short films – typically 30 minutes or less. But Culture Unplugged Studios presents full-length documentaries as well as shorts that explore topics such as hunger, poverty, and globalization. The Internet film festival sites offer a large variety of free movie downloads.
HOW TO DOWNLOAD MOVIES FOR FREE
To download movies from these sites, use the RealPlayer Cloud download feature. If you don’t already have the RealPlayer Cloud desktop app, you can download it free by clicking the orange button in the top right corner of this page. Once you have the app installed on your computer, simply start watching a video online with Fire Fox or Internet Explorer, then mouse over the top right corner of the video screen. You will see an option to “Download This Video.” Click that button to download the video to your RealPlayer library. From there, you can watch it on your computer, burn it to a DVD with a RealPlayer Cloud premium subscription, or transfer it to a smartphone and watch it using the free RealPlayer Cloud app for Android or iOS.
If you use Google Chrome, simply click the flashing “down” icon in the top right corner of your browser and you get a drop-down list of every video on the page. Download whichever ones you like by clicking on them in that list – they’ll go straight to your RealPlayer Cloud library.
FIND FREE MOVIES ONLINE
If you do happen to have a reliable, free WiFi connection that doesn’t limit the available bandwidth, you can still stream free movies online at a few sites. It’s a free for all on Crackle. Literally. Sign up and you’ll be able to watch popular titles like the 1980 Bill Murray comedy classic Stripes, Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale starring The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg, and Wes Anderson’s feature debut Bottle Rocket. Many of the titles have expiration dates, so check back frequently for new titles. Since you’re not paying for the privilege to watch the movie classics, there will be ads. Many of these movies are also available on YouTube in the free feature-length movies section of the site. After all, it’s not all funny cats and Harlem Shake videos on YouTube
Although many people use Hulu to catch up on their favorite television programs, the site also offers a nice selection of free movies. Most titles require a Hulu Plus subscription (you can tell by the green “H+” icon next to the title), but if you don’t mind a few ads, there’s plenty of movies available with free registration, including several Criterion Collection films such as Quadrophenia, Roman Polanski’s early classic Knife in the Water, and John Cassevetes’ A Woman Under the Influence.
A pair of sites that feature free independent movies. Many of these films are largely unknown, so finding a gem will take some effort. Nonetheless, on IndieMoviesOnline, you’ll find a few familiar titles with recognizable actors, such as 101 Reykjavik with Spanish film star Victoria Abril and the 1968 original Night of the Living Dead. SnagFilms has the distribution rights to more than 3,000 titles, including the hit documentary Super Size Me and Adrienne Shelly’s Sudden Manhattan. SnagFilms also features channels that include official selections from the Sundance and SXSW film festivals, as well as classics from the Kino Lorber collection.
Which public domain or Creative Commons movies have you downloaded? Let us know in the comments section.