When I started writing this post, I was going to name it something like “where to find free TV and Movies online,” but changed it to make sure I added “legal” in there. It turns out that a whole lot of what I was finding wasn’t legal. I saw a link on one site to “Marley and Me” and I thought to myself, “isn’t that still in the theaters?” Sure enough I was right, as the video started, I noticed that I could actually see the theater seats in the recording. I guess someone recorded it directly from the theater – I am going to assume that isn’t legal. 🙂
But, it is amazing to me how much free legal television (and movies) is out there. I first started watching TV episodes online about a year or so ago and it has been going on for a while. There are really a ton of sites, in the article I just focused on a few of the bigger, better, and cleaner ones that I found. So, let me also mention that from what I have seen of each of the mentioned sites, I think they are pretty clean. That said, I haven’t thoroughly inspected each site and advise you to use caution when checking them out.
Amazon’s “Video on Demand”
Amazon‘s program has a few free options, but most of the movies and TV shows will cost you a few bucks. That said, they have a huge selection of shows and movies that you can watch from the comfort of your own home – and many in HD. So as an alternative to driving out to rent a movie, I think it is great.
This was the first online TV watching site I found. It also seems to be the most well-known, and for good reason. They have a well laid-out site, that is user-friendly, pretty to look at, and simple to understand. I watched my first movie on Hulu this last weekend when we didn’t feel like going out to rent one and I think we will be doing this a lot more…
They have a wide variety of classic and some fairly new and popular movies that you can watch. All for free and without downloading anything. Isn’t technology great?
Hulu also offers most popular TV shows the day after they air on the networks – TV as we know it is soon to be obsolete. 😉
These are just a few of the television shows you can watch on Hulu…
- The Office
- Family Guy
- Saturday Night Live
- American Gladiators
- Prison Break
- The Simpsons
This site is similar to Hulu and offers a lot of the same content. Another good place to look for free movies to watch online. We watched an entire season of Arrested Development on this site.
I like the layout they have. It is fairly easy to navigate and find tv shows or movies that interest you. There is no need to download anything to start viewing either.
It is a little overwhelming and not laid out too well, IMO, but there are an abundance of options… They say that they have 3,839 Online TV Channels from 60+ countries. Most of the channels worked with Windows Media Player, so I couldn’t get it to work on my Mac.
This place has a bunch of genres that all contain different channels within them. The problem I was finding was that each channel I tried didn’t work. The one channel I did get to work had a horrible picture quality. They might have free tv, but I wouldn’t recommend them.
Other legal online TV resources
Individual network sites
If you miss your favorite TV show, you should check the network website. Most of the major networks have the shows online for viewing.
Watch regular HDTV channels on your computer
I wrote a post a while ago about how to watch HDTV on your computer. You need to buy a little gadget for about $70, but it does open up lots of possibilities.
Stream New Movies Online
iTunes now offers a lot more than just music – they also stream new movies online so you can watch them via your computer – basically functioning like online movie rental software… There are also a ton of video podcasts on just about every subject imagineable that you can access via Itunes.
Bringing it all together
Since this technology has not matured, things are still a little bit messy and not yet very streamlined. Bottom line: watching TV online just isn’t as simple as flopping down on the couch and grabbing your TV remote – yet.
Boxee and Miro are trying to solve that problem. Both of them offer a interface that allows you to make the whole online movie/tv watching experience a better one. Rather than having to go to each site to watch your favorite shows, you can do it through their interface. I haven’t used either of them yet, so I don’t know all the details, but if you spend a couple minutes on either of the sites you will learn a lot.
I became aware of Hulu (and more recently Fancast) a few months ago and have enjoyed watching a movies and shows with my wife and with my family on a few occasions now.
I hadn’t yet taken the time to see the depth of what other sites existed. Thanks for listing a few of the popular sites and listing your thoughts on them.
In light of my own online TV/Movie experience I’ll offer the following comments.
Like any use of the internet or browsing television it’s disappointing and frustrating to have to sort through family friendly and not-so-family friendly shows and movies. I find that particularly true on Hulu. A lot of the “Popular” movies probably belong in an Adult store. While I like the search on Hulu, I hope that Hulu at some point implements an alphabetized list like Fancast has to easily scan through their movies or shows without browsing through a handful of thumbnails at a time.
I enjoyed being able to hook up a wireless laptop to my father-in-law’s HDTV over the recent holidays and being able to watch some of Hulu’s content on a larger screen. The only problem was initially getting the sound from the laptop to the TV speakers. I think it would be great to have set things up so that you can feed your computer video and audio to your entertainment setup. My one friend does this already.
It’s amazing how things change.
Interesting article. Unfortunately all of the channels on many of the websites listed don’t work. “The page could not be loaded”; that’s the error message I got. I’d love to see many of the same channels I used to get on cable TV over the internet. I enjoy some of the SCi Fi channel TV shows and some of the HGTV and History Channels show, but you can’t get them, and you can’t get the major TV networks entertainment channels. There are plenty of free news channels and many boring TV channels from overseas.
Wow! Thanks so much for all these sites! I knew about Hulu but not the others! Awesome!
My husband and I have even hooked up a cheap computer we got at an auction for like $20.00 to our 52 inch screen tv. For Christmas my husband got a wireless keyboard for it. So we sit on the couch with the computer turned on. Turn on the wireless laptop-with built in touchpad. We have made shortucts to all the major networks as well as hulu, and fancast. We simply cick and play and it looks just like TV. But it is way more enjoyable then watching it on a small computer screen.
We love it! It has made our tansition from expanded cable to basic cable so much easier. We also watch instant movies on netflix too. People think they have to buy those special boxes to do that, but you don’t, just need a computer attached to your tv.
Also it is pleasing to the eye. It is a tall black tower for the computer sitting unknowingly behind the TV.
Thanks for this list. You found a few that we were not aware of.
Thanks for compiling this list. My family loves tv but we are definitely trying to scale back our cable subscription costs.
One suggestion for those who are concerned with family friendly issues – it is very easy to look up ratings through IMDB.com. I know that ratings do not always reflect what we might not like our kids to see, but clearly something rated R will be a warning, whereas something rated PG13 might be worth doing further research on. I just suggest it as a baseline from where to start. My family has also sent a feedback email to Hulu, and the more people who do, the more responsive they’ll be.
Nicki at Domestic Cents says
We use Hulu when we miss an episode or our DVR doesn’t record it. I don’t know anything about the others but I’ll be sure to check them out. Thanks!
youtube.com is also starting to put more legal content on the site. Also, I always go to the networks site such as nbc.com. They always have free shows to watch and in excellent quality.
For those of you who already have an Xbox 360, Watching TV shows/movies/etc on your TV is as easy as streaming them to your Xbox. Here’s how we do it:
1 computer with mediamall “playon” software installed
1 xbox 360 attached to TV
1 network connection
With the mediamall playon software installed (about $30) we are able to stream tv shows and movies from hulu.com, netflix, CBS, youtube and a couple of other services. The only caveat is that you have to watch many shows a day or so later than they air. Small price to pay!
We’ve found the quality of the tv shows and movies to be excellent – no stuttering or jumping – and we don’t pay for cable tv – we just use playon with our xbox. seamless!
i have been using playon for over a year and a half. i love it. it is awesome!
Funny about Money says
Thanks for this awesome round-up! I’ll be using it, for sure.
I’ve watched movies and programs at my son’s house, but until recently haven’t figured out how to get at them myself; besides, my computer screen is a little small and an office chair is a bit uncomfortable for extended viewing. That’s about to change, though: now that I’ve figured out how to use Hulu and I’m about to figure out how to get my favorite PBS shows on the computer, my son plans to hook up a refurbished MiniMac to the TV screen, which will put me back in business.
I sure do hate the HTDV thing. The stupid box provides yet another piece of clutter to have to dust, and the antenna doesn’t bring in the channels I want to watch consistently–every now and then it’s “No Signal,” and whenever a neighbor turns on a microwave or the guy across the street who runs a shade-tree mechanic business starts using a piece of shop equipment, my signal breaks up. Attaching a computer to a monitor that’s big enough to see from an easy chair across the room will get around that, but I imagine that once everyone is doing that, it will mean the end of traditional broadcast channels, including, I expect, PBS.
since you brought it up, I should mention that monitor prices, like all technology, continue to drop – the last computer monitor I bought was a 22″ and it was about $170 – just some food for thought…
I just hooked up a spare computer to our 37″ basement TV last night. Streaming TV shows – and Hulu – just got easier! Of course it was already pretty easy with the Xbox setup.
I tried watching TV using Fancast and Hulu using a wi-fi connection while traveling in Mexico, and they don’t work outside the U.S. Do any of the sites work outside the U.S.?
Judy, that is a bummer! I am not sure where you can go to watch it outside the US… hopefully someone else does…
i couldn’t get any of these to work….they all told me the videos were not available in my region. i guess cause i’m in canada??
Awesome post! My husband and I have been contemplating how to continue to enjoy the television shows that while scaling back our spending. We purchased an external hard (400 GB) for an awesome deal. We plan to hook it up to an extra PC and use it with hulu.com. I will certainly take a look at the other suggestions you have listed here.
I found several illegal sites out there too, but a lot of those illegal sites are virus, trojan, and worm infested. I have had to perform a many system recoveries, therefore, I stopped accessing those sites. Be careful!
Hey, i was just wondering if anyone here has heard of “movie hulu” it is not the same as regular hulu and i was wondering if anyone knew if it was a legal website. There is no downloading required, but i figured it would be better not to risk it. Any thoughts?
Jun Willis says
Thank you so very much for sharing the movies, etc,, information and
your very vauable time. You are most generous.
Helpful list. But be careful. My mac crashed after visiting a questionable site. The first site was fine but the main player wasn’t working on a vid and I followed it. Boom. Crash. Found a line in console afterward that said “machine-destroy”. I really think I was attacked so be careful!
ta, are you saying it was one of the sites listed? I went to each of them when the article was written and had no problems –
First of all, thanks a lot for all the site listing. I tried them all, but somehow fancast never had one movie I asked for available. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I live outside of the us ( like Hulu, not internationaly available ), would you happen to know any international legal sites?
But anyways, thank you for taking the time to list so neatly these sites =)
Thanks for all the great info. What do you recommend for low price internet? I appreciate all your efforts!
Thanks for bringing this list of legal movie sites to our attention. We got rid of our TV cable and started watching online.
This is about the only fun thing to do now that school is out!
Do you know anything about tehcake.com? I’ve seen that McAfee lists it as a “safe” site (i.e., no malware, spyware), but is it *legal*?
KELLY BERTL says
FANCAST does not offer free movies, you must have an account with comcast to watch any of the movies.
New Covenant Bible Institute says
I am familiar with Hulu but the other are new to me, there are many sites in the net that offers movie watching and it is hard to determine which is a good site and this post did help me know what are the sites to visit.
No one mentioned how to actually hook up tv to computer without using x- box or other game gadgets. I bought an HDMI cable (not cheap but less than game boxes which we would never use) and hooked it to my laptop, then the tv. I actually couldn’t believe I did it myself since I am technical-gadget challenged. You do have to have a newer tv that has the HDMI capability. I use Netflix streaming, but will check out these other sites. No cable for me! Now if I could figure out how to delete the bad language. My vcr player will do that but I haven’t found anywhere online that offers that service for streaming. Anyone else found anything like that? Some movies are good except for the token bad words.
I checked my vcr booklet and it is an RCA DVD Recorder+VCR Combo. The unit number is DRC832ON. It is several years old, but it does bleep bad language on VCR tapes or DVD’s. It will play both those, and one can even put a VCR tape onto a DVD with it. Make sure you don’t violate any copyrights, natch. You can set it to delete what language you want, using what they call TV Guardian mode. The categories are off, tolerant, moderate, and strict, with a short explanation of each. A little chuckle, when I watch a Christian movie it will bleep them praying because they use GOD’s name. In that case I just shut off the guardian. It sure was a good investment for me. I just wish there was a way to bleep language when watching a streaming program or movie. I tried to find such a thing and could not.
Why are there so many sites you have to live in the USA, to be able to see them? I have a good internet connection but all good internet tv options are for the US. Is it always going to be this way? Julle from Sweden
The time and effort you put into gathering and testing these sites as well as the cautions that come with them, I already appreciate tremendously. Reading all the various comments from others tells me there are many other people who just want to be able to find movies, tv, documentaries, that are family-friendly as well as family-enriching. Thank you so much.
I have watched 25 — mostly S. Korean, a few Taiwanese, Japanese, and Chinese — Asian Dramas (which are 15 – 20 episode Novellas) and Movies with subtitles in English. Ninety percent of those have been quite good to excellent. I have had no trouble keeping up with the subtitles, though there has been annoying “buffering” on occasion. The following are some of the safe- to-use websites for such: dramafever.com; dramacrazy.net; crunchyroll.com; mysoju.com; and kshownow.net (for reality shows). Also, Asian pop music has very pretty ballads. Try googling “Yukinohana on Youtube.com”, for example.
I was so excited to find this, then found out its all in the states. Can anyone give me some good sites avaliable in Canada?
Lisa T says
I just found you through Pinterest! I’m loving everything I’ve read on your site so far. Thanks for being a soldier for Christ as that is my main reason for investigating your site. I love this list you made for free TV viewing. Thank you for putting it all together. Now , the ‘but’, I don’t want to be negative or drag down all the good you are doing, but I thought it was odd that you listed some shows like the Family Guy as shows you could view. As you probably know, being an informed Christian, a lot of christian organizations have asked sponsors to boycott shows like ‘Family Guy’ because of the content which is immoral and sometimes anti-christian dialogue. Simpsons is a show our family would never waste time watching for some of the same reasons and I really don’t know about some of the others that you listed. Could see a secular site listing these shows, but was just surprised to find them listed on a christian site. Like I said, this doesn’t negate the good things I’ve seen so far, but does put up a little warning sign. Thanks for all your efforts for Christ, Lisa
Pete A. says
Don’t forget about the ROKU box, it streams movies and shows downloadable channels. It has Hulu Plus, Netflix, EPIX, Pub-D-Hub(Free Public Domain Movies), Pandora, etc. Its a great alternative to cable.
TidalTV doesn’t exist anymore–link goes to some Web service vendor I couldn’t figure out.
Fancast doesn’t exist either. It gives a link to Comcast’s *paid* online viewing service