As paid streaming sites often dominate conversations, it’s easy to dismiss free options. But free services have a lot to offer, whether it’s a vast library or rare hits that you won’t find on the likes of Netflix. Yes, you’ll often have to sit through an ad or two. And no, you probably won’t find the latest blockbuster. But you’ll find hours of entertainment.
To help you find your way, here’s a rundown of the best free streaming services around.
Compare Free Streaming Services
|Crackle||Hoopla||Pluto TV||Tubi TV||Vudu|
|Number of titles||500+||500,000+||1,000+||40,000+||10,000+|
Crackle is a rather unique free streaming service. As well as offering hundreds of free movie streaming and shows, this Sony-owned platform also makes original content. So far, there are over 25 exclusive series to watch. They span everything from crime and comedy to animations and documentaries. If you’re looking for a crime drama starring a much-loved Harry Potter actor, hit play on Rupert Grint’s Snatch. Or delve deep into millennials’ financial lives with Ashton Kutcher’s reality show, Going From Broke. More original shows are expected to join this gripping line-up soon.
Not interested in exclusive titles? Crackle also has episode upon episode of series like Hell’s Kitchen, Merlin and Starsky & Hutch, along with popular movies like Captain Phillips and Patriot Games.
You don’t need an account to access Crackle. But setting one up is worth it because you can then add videos to your watchlist. Plus, having an account means Crackle will save your place, so you don’t have to fast forward through a movie or show when you get back to watching.
Ads are the reason Crackle is free, so you can’t get rid of them. But you shouldn’t have to sit through more commercials than you would via cable TV. In fact, Crackle tends to have fewer ads overall.
Free streaming services that don’t require an account technically come with unlimited simultaneous streams. Crackle is no exception, which means everyone in your household can watch what they want when they want.
Unfortunately, Crackle doesn’t allow users to download content for offline viewing. You’ll need an internet connection to watch any of its titles.
Unlike some free services, Crackle’s app can be downloaded across a wide range of devices. Head straight to the site via a web browser, or use the app via Android and iOS phones and tablets, select smart TVs and game consoles like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It also works on streaming devices, including Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku.
Hoopla’s sizable library focuses on the classics more than the latest hits. But you’ll still find plenty of well-known names, including Emma and Good Will Hunting. When it comes to TV, Hoopla has British greats like Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Call the Midwife alongside kid favorites like SpongeBob SquarePants and iCarly. And that’s not all. The service’s partnership with local libraries provides access to an excellent range of ebooks, audiobooks, comics and music.
To access Hoopla, you’ll need a library card — and your local library will have to be a member. If it isn’t, let your library know you’re interested. If your library has already signed up, you simply need to register via Hoopla’s site or mobile app. Once your account is set up, you can check out a specific number of titles every month.
Hoopla is rare in the free streaming world because it has no ads. That means you can watch shows and movies with zero interruptions.
Since Hoopla is tied to your library card, only one person can watch content at a time.
Surprisingly, Hoopla does allow you to watch content offline. But you can only download titles via the app.
The amount you can check out each month depends on the limit set by your library. Some places only allow five titles to be checked out each month while others allow 20. Movies and TV shows also have a viewing time limit. If you don’t watch them in 72 hours, they’ll disappear from your library.
Pluto TV is one of the few free streaming services to try its hand at live TV. Take your pick from over 250 channels, including entertainment from Comedy Central and MTV and news and sports from CNN, FOX and NBC. Pluto TV also recently signed a deal with AMC Networks, meaning you can now watch past seasons of The Walking Dead, among other shows.
Note that some channels aren’t strictly live and may instead show recently aired content. Other channels are geared more towards particular niches — there are entire channels dedicated to specific genres like mysteries and even one that broadcasts NASA live streams, for example. Plus, there are thousands of on-demand movies and shows to catch, ranging from RuPaul’s Drag Race to classic James Bond films.
Thankfully, you don’t need to register an account to use Pluto TV. But the option is there if you want to save your favorite channels and pick up where you left off with on-demand content.
Pluto TV’s channel line-up includes regular commercial breaks. While they used to appear in random places, the service has worked to improve ads so they slot in seamlessly with your chosen content.
Pluto TV doesn’t have a streaming limit because there’s no requirement to create an account. So technically, anyone in your household can use the service whenever they like.
You can’t watch Pluto TV without an internet connection, so say goodbye to your offline download dreams.
Tubi TV has a surprisingly large catalog — it currently exceeds 40,000 titles. And although you won’t find many recent hits, there are plenty of decent shows and movies to enjoy. To save you precious time, Tubi categorizes its content into highly specific genres. Head to the Not on Netflix and Leaving Soon sections to find rare gems. Right now, on the platform, you can choose between movies like Chicago, Annie and Looper and shows like The Masked Singer and Hell’s Kitchen.
No login is required to access Tubi TV — unless you want to watch R-rated content. Setting up an account doesn’t just allow you to view mature titles. It also lets you create a must-watch list and resume playback from where you left off.
There’s no way to get around Tubi TV’s ads. They can pop up both before and during content playback. But the interruptions tend to be short.
Simultaneous streaming isn’t offered. But if no account is created, multiple people can use Tubi TV at the same time.
Titles can’t be downloaded, so you’ll need a good internet connection to use this service.
The more you watch Tubi TV, the more the service starts to understand your likes and dislikes. It uses this information to recommend content you’re likely to click play on, saving you plenty of scrolling time.
You may be wondering why Vudu is included in a free streaming service list. Well, hidden among the rent and buy options are more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows. Unsurprisingly, they tend to be older releases. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less entertaining. Family-friendly picks like Ella Enchanted sit alongside classics like Rain Man. In the TV section, you’ll find the likes of Merlin and The X Files. Vudu is also working on original content. The first — a remake of 1983 film Mr. Mom — is available now.
An account is needed to watch free Vudu content. As Walmart owns the service, you can sign up with your Walmart account. Alternatively, use an email address or Facebook account. You’ll be asked to enter payment information, but can skip this step.
Commercials will appear before and throughout your chosen title. They can be repetitive but aren’t much different from what you’d find on cable.
Only two people can watch Vudu content at one time. If you want to remove this limit, create individual accounts for each user.
Free Vudu titles aren’t available to download. In other words, you can only use the service online.
Vudu prioritizes families. Parents can set a PIN to block kids from mature content or stop specific kinds of titles from being accessed.
Can I Cut the Cable TV Cord With a Free Streaming Service?
Free movie and TV streaming sites aren’t the entire cord-cutting package, but they are a way to watch thousands of titles without denting your bank account. Tubi TV offers one of the largest free libraries, while Pluto TV gives you a free live streaming experience.
If you want more, why not combine a free site with a paid-for live TV service? Philo and Sling TV are two competitive options. And don’t forget, you can always invest in an antenna to get hold of free local channels in your area. Head here to see what channels are available in your area.
Current as of June 2020*
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