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9 ways to watch movies online for free

Only the popcorn will cost you. Well, that and the internet connection for your phone, laptop or set-top box.

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CNET

No money in the budget for a Netflix subscription? Or Amazon Prime? Fear not: As long as you have an internet connection, you can still enjoy movie night. Granted, you may not be able to stream Hollywood's latest, but you can still enjoy gems such as "Apollo 13," "The Imitation Game" and plenty of classics, all without spending an extra penny.

Here are eight services offering totally free -- and totally legal -- movies you can watch online. (One quick note: Selections change regularly, so not all the titles listed here may still be available.)

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Crackle

Sony's Crackle is an ad-supported streaming service, one that offers both movies and TV shows -- including some original content. It's available on a wide variety of devices and doesn't even require you to set up an account, though doing so enables you to save favorites, get recommendations and resume playback if you switch between devices.

Crackle offers mostly older movies, but there are some top-rated, award-winning titles in the mix.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: Crackle's selection has improved dramatically in recent months, with well over 100 movies available at any given time (the selection changes periodically). At this writing, you'll find gems like "The Karate Kid" (the original, good one), "Point Break" (same), "Serenity" and "St. Elmo's Fire" mixed in with some decidedly C-grade fare. They're all older films, to be sure, but there's still plenty of quality stuff to watch. Just plan on sitting through the occasional commercial interruption.

Where you can watch: Crackle's list of supported devices is extensive. The service offers apps for all mobile platforms, game consoles and major streaming devices, and it's even baked into many smart TVs. It does not offer the option to download movies for offline viewing.

Hoopla

Got a library card? Check to see if your library has partnered with Hoopla. This digital-media service allows you to check out all kinds of stuff -- including movies. When you "borrow" a movie, you have 72 hours in which to watch it. Your library determines the total number of movies you can borrow each month.

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Hoopla is a subscription service you may have access to through a public library.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: It's hard to get a bead on how many movies Hoopla has available at any given time, but you can browse a huge range of genres -- everything from African films of the 1970s and 1980s to a generous selection of family-friendly content. Some noteworthy picks available at time of publication include "Annie," "The Commitments" and "The Lost City of Z."

Where you can watch: Hoopla content can be viewed on your PC in a browser, or on Android or iOS devices. You can cast from those devices to a Google Chromecast (Gen 1 or 2) or an Apple TV. Surprisingly, Hoopla's mobile apps offer not only streaming, but also a download option for offline viewing.

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is home to all things public-domain, including thousands of feature-length movies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there's no cost to use the service, nor do you need an account (though you can create one if you want to mark favorites and such).

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Many classic movies and TV shows can be found on the Internet Archive.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: "Public domain" is code for "old" and/or "mostly black and white," making this the place for folks interested strictly in classic films. Thus you'll find the likes of "His Girl Friday," "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and "Gulliver's Travels."

Where you can watch: The Internet Archive exists solely on the web, so you'll need a browser to access it. However, most mobile browsers (including Safari on iOS) can stream the content.

Kanopy

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Kanopy

If your library doesn't offer Hoopla, maybe it has Kanopy? This service, which began life in Australia, has made its way to over 3,000 college campuses worldwide and, more recently, various US libraries. At press time, Kanopy had reached over 200 cities; check the website to see if your library has it -- and ask for it if it doesn't.

What you can watch: Given its educational bent, it's not surprising that Kanopy offers largely indie films and documentaries from the likes of PBS and The Great Courses. But its 26,000-strong library also includes titles from the esteemed Criterion Collection, which is code for "films." There are few mainstream blockbusters to be found, but no shortage of award-winning and thoughtful movies.

Where you can watch: Kanopy has Apple TV and Roku channels and apps for Android and iOS. It's also available on Chromecast.

Roku Channel

The Roku Channel is a new channel for owners of all Roku devices. It's not a free movie provider, but rather an aggregator of new and existing no-cost content. 

You'll find movies from Roku partners such as Lionsgate, MGM, Sony and Warner, along with free content from existing Roku channels such as FilmRise, Popcornflix and Vidmark.  

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Roku

What you can watch: At press time, the Roku Channel's rotating selection included around 125 titles -- mostly schlocky stuff, but some standout titles including "Legally Blonde," "Mission Impossible III," "True Grit" and the Jennifer Lawrence breakout "Winter's Bone," Keep in mind, you can probably find the same titles (and more) from the likes of Crackle and Tubi TV; the Roku Channel is merely putting some hand-picked selections under one roof. You will have to sit through commercials, however, though fewer than broadcast TV and with less repetition than a lot of streaming channels.

Where you can watch: On Roku devices, natch. But this is definitely a TV-only solution: The Roku Channel isn't currently available for any mobile devices.

Tubi TV

Home to the web's largest library of free commercial movies (though definitely not commercial-free), Tubi TV offers content from studios including Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount. Similar to Crackle, it's available on a wide variety of devices and doesn't require an account, though doing so enables you to save favorites and resume playback if you switch between devices.

Tubi TV has many movies available to watch for free, as long as you don't mind a few commercials.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: Tubi TV has a lot of movies -- in the neighborhood of 46,000 according to the company, though only 15,000 to 20,000 are in active rotation at any given time -- but chances are good you haven't heard of most of them. To help separate the wheat from the chaff, check out the Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes and Not on Netflix categories. And there are at least some notable titles, including "Winter's Bone," new horror classic "Paranormal Activity" and the venerable "The Usual Suspects."

Where you can watch: Tubi TV's list of supported devices rivals that of Crackle. The service offers apps for Android and iOS, the major game consoles, major streaming devices and some Samsung TVs. It does not offer the option to download movies for offline viewing.

Vudu

Last October, Walmart's Vudu video service quietly announced "Movies on Us," which allows viewers to choose from a generous selection of movies (around 1,000 titles) to watch at no charge. This ad-supported option does require you to have a Vudu account, but it's free to set one up.

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Vudu offers a selection of movies that don't cost a dime, as long as you're willing to watch a few ads.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: It's hard to get super excited about Vudu's selection, which consists of mostly older and direct-to-video-caliber titles, but there are a few gems in the mix: "Moonstruck," the original "Magnificent Seven" and "The Man in the Iron Mask," for example.

Where you can watch: Vudu is available pretty much everywhere: all major streaming devices, mobile devices, game consoles and so on. While the mobile apps do allow you to download paid movies for offline viewing, however, Movies on Us titles can only be streamed.

Yahoo View

Although Yahoo's streaming service focuses mostly on TV shows, it does have a movie section. You don't need a Yahoo account to access it.

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Yahoo View also has a collection of movies to watch online.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: Although Yahoo's recent partnership with Hulu has yielded lots of great TV to watch (no subscription required), you'll find almost none of Hulu's movies. And the smattering of titles Yahoo View does have available are probably not going to appeal to many viewers. ("Sharknado 3," anyone?)

Where you can watch: For the moment, Yahoo's movies appear to be web-only. Although there are mobile Yahoo View apps, they sling only clips -- no movies or TV shows. I was unable to find a list of supported devices or platforms.

YouTube

You might think Google's video service is nothing but clips and more clips, but it does host some free full-length movies -- mostly of the public-domain variety. (This is not to be confused with YouTube Red, the subscription service that includes some original movies.)

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Some classic films can be found on YouTube.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

What you can watch: If there's an old movie -- old enough that the copyright has expired -- you're interested in seeing, you may be able to find it on YouTube. Indeed, there are at least 11 great movies there. For anything even remotely modern, however, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Where you can watch: Needless to say, anywhere you can access YouTube (which is just about everywhere), you can watch YouTube movies. In fact, if there's something you found on Internet Archive that you want to watch on a big screen, try YouTube via your streaming box.

Update, Oct. 23: This story was first published on Feb. 21, 2017 and has since been updated.

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