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20+ Places to Legally Watch and Download Free TV, Movies, and Documentaries

This was originally a guest post from Karen Schweitzer, who writes about online colleges for OnlineCollege.org. Karen has previously contributed to Poorer Than You with the post 15 Places to Find Free Books Online. This post has been updated by the editor as recently as March, 2013 to find you the best places for free, legal video content online!

You don’t need a television, Blu-ray player, or cable package to watch all of your favorite TV shows, movies, and documentaries. There are plenty of sites online that broadcast this sort of entertainment. Some sites even provide downloads so that you can legally transfer files to your PC, iPod, or mp3 player. Here is a list of 20 sites to bookmark today:

Can I Stream.It? – Got a specific movie, show, or even episode in mind? Search for what you’re looking for on “Can I Stream.It?” to find out if it’s available on any of the major streaming sites. “Can I Stream.It?” searches Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crackle, YouTube, EpixHD, Xfinity Streampix, Snagfilms, Redbox Instant, and Hitbliss to see if you stream what you’re looking for from any of those services.

Hulu – Hulu is a great place to find popular movies, television shows, clips, and documentaries. All of these things can be viewed for free online. Back-seasons and some movies are hidden behind the pay wall of Hulu+, which costs $7.99 per month, but there is still a ton of recent episodes and movies available for free.

Veoh – Veoh offers millions of videos that can be watched for free online. Videos include full-length television shows and movies, documentaries, clips, trailers, and commercials.

Joost – This popular site provides free television shows, movies, and music. Joost not only allows you to browse the offerings, the site also offers suggestions for other movies you might enjoy.

PBS – The PBS site allows you to watch full-length episodes of PBS TV shows online. This site also broadcasts news, documentaries, and movies.

Babelgum – Babelgum is a free streaming video site that houses international movies, previews, and documentaries ranging from action adventure to shorts.

CWTV – The CW features high quality versions of several of the network’s shows online. Other viewable items include fall previews, clips, and interviews.

Internet Archive – The Internet Archive is a free public domain site with hundreds of movies, films, and videos. Most offerings can be watched online or downloaded for later viewing.

Docu-View – Docu-View is a free video streaming site with more than 300 documentaries.

Fox.com – Fox.com lets you watch new, new full length episodes of Fox TV shows eight days after their release. Whether you have missed an episode or just looking for something online to watch, Fox.com is a good place to find free television shows.

Retrovision – With more than 30 different movie categories to choose from, Retrovision is a great place to watch classic movies and television shows online.

OnlineDocumentaries – Online Documentaries offers more than 600 free documentaries that can be watched online. The site houses documentaries from HBO, BBC, PBS, and other high profile networks.

CBS – Nearly all of CBS’s normal season shows are ready and available for anyone to watch online. Simply click on the shows you like to view one episode or the entire season.

Fancast – Fancast is a good place to watch full-length movies and television shows. The site also offers clips, trailers, and other streaming video.

PublicDomainTorrents – This free movie site can be used to download or watch a wide range of classic movies and B movies.

FilmTalks – With some of the best titles on the web, FilmTalks is an excellent place to find high quality online documentaries.

Jaman – Jaman provides popular and classic films to view online. The Jaman library also includes documentaries.

Emol – This site, created by Entertainment Magazine, features several full length movies and clips for viewers to enjoy. All of the videos and films are available for download or instant viewing.

MoviesFoundOnline – MoviesFoundOnline hosts movies, cartoons, documentaries, TV shows and other media from the public domain. If you’re a fan of classics, MoviesFoundOnline is one of the better places to get your movie fix.

Guba – This online entertainment site allows viewers to browse, download, and share movies. Guba has a wide assortment of titles and videos to choice from.

Top Documentary Films – Top Documentary Films is a documentary site that offers a vast collection of free online documentaries. The site features several well known documentaries including, Sicko and The Naked Truth.

A&E TV – View full episodes of some of cable channel A&E’s most popular shows on their website, available as soon as the next day after airing.

Keeping this list up-to-date is an on-going process! Let us know in the comments if you have any issues with any of these sites, or if you find something we missed.

48 responses to “20+ Places to Legally Watch and Download Free TV, Movies, and Documentaries”

  1. Stefan | StudySuccessful.com

    I believe downloading is always legal? Uploading isn’t..

    1. Stephanie

      @Stefan: Not in the US (I realize you are in the Netherlands!) – here, both are illegal if you don’t have the permission of the copyright holder, but it’s very hard for them to catch you downloading, so people are usually taken to court for uploading. Although I’ve had a few friends (in college) receive angry letters from studios saying “STOP DOWNLOADING HOUSE M.D.!”

    2. al

      So based on your logic it’s ok to accept a stollen car as long as you don’t sell or give it away. It’s called a license and you don’t have the legal right to give it away if it’s a car or a song or a movie. I didn’t spend the last 20 years of my life creating and learning how to create music just so you can give it away or listen to it for free unless I (the creator) says you can.

  2. babu

    These documentary films are very nice. Thank you for this help.

  3. Miriam

    I love Hulu and the networks that will post their shows online. We haven’t paid for cable or satellite t.v. for years. I honestly don’t feel like we are missing everything. Hulu and the networks posting stuff online make it easier to watch when I have a free minute. We also have Netflix and the Roku box, so we can instant watch a ton of videos that way as well.

  4. Roger

    Interesting list; I wasn’t aware so many places offered free downloads/opportunities to watch the shows. Are they all advertiser supported, or do some follow different profit models (if they’re making profits at all)? If they’ve found ways to offer content for free AND make a profit, it sounds like a good thing all around.

  5. 7.31.2009 Featured blogs of the day – Student Bloggers

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  6. me

    Some of them (the sites) thou are only for States dwellers.

  7. Jerry

    As “me” pointed out, a number of these sites are only available if you are currently living in the US. (Our recent move overseas would lead to a sad breakup with Hulu, to our distress…) However, I haven’t tried all of these, so maybe we will have some insurance of being able to access US programming, after all! Thanks…
    Jerry

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    [...] Last but not least, Stephanie provides us with 20 Places to Legally Watch and Download Free TV, Movies, and Documentaries. [...]

  9. Paul @ Chick Flicks Suck

    Hulu is probably my favorite place on the web to watch TV and Videos. Youtube has also gotten into the game.

  10. Helen

    Great list! Thank you for compiling and sharing.

  11. Terence King

    good list for USA viewers that require free tv online ,well done.

  12. Tim

    Awesome list but as other posters have noted, alot of these sites are limited to USA customers only. I assume because they can target adverts to US viewers.

  13. Zoe

    Thanks for the info… just been looking at publicdomain torrents.. great site.

  14. Stefan

    nice article, thanks alot!
    stefan

  15. tlm

    Great site , and their is one too

    watch free movies

  16. Mr film

    Great list ! But most of them don’t work in europe :( Any tips for work ?

  17. Free Movie Maniac

    With the boom of the video sites it is very common now for users to watch movies online for free. There’s also dedicated free movie site that supply the links of latest movies. The viewing experience is awesome with latest movies posted in high quality. Uploaders frequently adapting new tricks to fool the producers and make good money on each download. Watching movies online is now a big growing industry.

    1. Gary S.

      FreeMovieManiac:

      I guess it’s not bad……….but the
      drawback is….you’re tied to a computer. That’s
      the ONLY way you can watch those videos.
      I’m in search of a download/purchase or DVD
      purchase site that has 1950s Classic TV.

      Gary S.

  18. Aaron Jim

    This is so cool!!!!!

  19. Aaron Jim

    I just want to watch a movie.

  20. Peter

    It can certainly be quite a minefield when you download movies. Even some of the larger download sites can’t control if the content you are downloading is actually legal.

  21. Gary S.

    I was wondering where I could obtain a copy of
    those TV broadcasts from the 50s, those old
    black-and-whites…….such names as Sky King
    Jackie Gleason Show, Red Skelton…..to name a
    few.

    Gary S.

  22. cb

    I looked at retrovision.tv – and it looks likes its all done by one guy. Who said he’s “uploaded” 1900 movies and counting.

    How is something like this legal?

  23. Sebastian

    If it is watching documentaries, it is legal for you to watch them in the original places where they are uploaded such as youtube or google video as well as any other website that embeeds the video (has reproduction player form youtube,etc).
    There are tons of documentary compilation pages out there and they are really good, it is up to you to choose which one fits your needs.

  24. Sam @ Debt Advice Desk

    Recent reports suggest illegal downloads cost the industry over £1.5bn a year. Is it the companies fault for cinema’s and DVDs being so expensive or is it just wrong to download illegally. There are two sides to every story!!

    1. Mitch

      Sam this is a common fallacy – the recording/movie industry counts all downloads a lost sales. Not true! Many downloaders wouldn’t buy anyway, so technically did not “cost” the industry anything. Also, many who infringe (not steal) do so because industry makes it impossible to get copies legally in their country.

      There are also many studies showing that the biggest “illegal downloaders” also happen to be the biggest *legal* purchasers of content. (see Mike Masnick @ Techdirt, many articles) Shows that if the industry made their content more available at reasonable prices, they would make more money, instead of pi**ing off their biggest fans.

  25. Willie Turpin

    I think that it is absolutely awesome that you can go online and quickly download movies for your viewing pleasure. Not only does this save time, but it saves so much money. The only problem that you run into is which site is the best. To get a more in depth idea of what I think, visit Movies Downloading Sites

  26. Thomas

    Great article hulu has pretty much replaced cable for me.

  27. Film Critic

    Great list I didn’t know half of these existed. A lot of them are US only though.

  28. Graham Meheux

    Really useful list, Karen/Stephanie. Most of what I’d heard about downloading movies for free had not been good; it seemed to involve almost as much effort as the trip to the movies or Blockbusters, with sometimes questionable results, but I couldn’t get the idea out of my head; somewhere there must be a way of downloading films for free legally.
    That’s why I set up a little blog site to let people know I’d found a solution. downloadmoviesforfreelegally. Hope this is useful to anyone who’s interested in how to watch downloaded movies legally.

  29. Mary

    This is about the only fun thing to do now that school is out!

  30. Frank

    these websites suck! All they have are old timer movies and shows that not a lot of people watch

  31. matt

    don’t forget http://documentary.net
    this one is really legal. 50% of the mentioned above are not.

  32. Clive

    This is a good list for free movies although some of the films on them are quite dated. Great for free films though. If you want to spend a bit for more recent films check out this site.movies download sites

  33. manda

    …what do you knot understand about the words FREE and LEGAL??? Im pretty sure that if you have to enter your FREAKING CREDIT CARD NUMBER it is NOT free…God you stupid people….>:(

  34. Danny Fong

    Thank you for your article I find it very useful excellent writing

  35. James Dawn

    Hulu is one of the best place to watch tv shows online. I use this site to watch tv shows online.

  36. Big-Toe

    KICKASS COLLCTION OF DOCUMENTARIES on a charity website!?! dedicated to giving free books to schools in developing countries and planting trees but they also got incredible collection of full free documentaries…

    http://www.book-cycle.org/media-gallery

  37. kamran

    Oh and i always thought we can only watch good movies for free only illegaly :D.
    Thanks for the list

  38. Charlie

    We stopped watching movies online on several of these websites. Reason being is that we kept getting viruses on my computer. I even have the anti-virus software installed, but these viruses, malware, spyware, kept downloading onto the computer.

    1. Stephanie

      Hi Charlie,

      Sorry to hear you’ve picked up viruses and malware! Could you let us know which sites you were having the issues with so that we can be sure to remove them from the list? Thank you!

  39. Charlie

    It is not on your list. Plus, i tried to Google it, and it was not to be found. Perhaps, it was taken down, as I saw this message up to the 8th page on Google:
    “In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page.”
    I believe the url was freemoviesonline or something like that.

    1. Stephanie

      Phew! Glad to hear the site in question is no longer around to infect people’s computers. Thanks for checking back in to follow up with this info, Charlie!

  40. Jo

    Hey Stephanie,
    I didn’t know where to post this, so sorry if I’m in the wrong section.
    I stumbled on your blog by reading you comment on Ramit’s page. Got curious about your “PTY” title.
    I clicked on “Bargaineering”, thinking it was a category on your blog but realized it directed me elsewhere. And, just like that, I clicked in and clicked out of your blog. Putting the blogroll on the left (critical spot of every page) makes it very easy not to stick around… unless that’s your objective? If not, perhaps switching the tiny tiny little “Topics” column to “Blogroll” might keep people here longer. I mean, not that your blog is bad, but all the blogs on the blogroll are seriously good too.
    Anyway, just my two cents. Keep up the good work. Have a nice day~

    1. Stephanie

      Hi Jo,

      A bit off-topic, but interesting feedback all the same! I have flipped the two sidebar sections – Blogroll is now on the right, and the Topics are on the left. What do you think?

  41. jimmy ray

    canistreamit is cool. essimi.com is kind of like that, it just lists hidden movies on youtube, free and LEGAL.