I always seem to have too many movie options, from mail rental and DVDs from the library to whatever happens to be on TV. Still, it can be great to jump online and spontaneously pick a movie to watch. There are lots of sites where you can legally view great classic movies for free. I thought I’d share some of my favorites:
Though the selection of classic movies on Hulu is fairly small, I like to use this site, because I love the player. The picture quality is always sharp and clear, and there’s a handy feature where you can dim the lights around the player screen while you’re watching the movie. There are a few commercial breaks in each presentation, but they are short and not too intrusive. There’s also an interestingly diverse selection of titles, from early Hitchcock such as The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes to glossy musicals like Moon Over Miami with Betty Grable.
2. The Internet Archive
This is the place to go for a larger library of titles. The Internet Archive has hundreds of feature film titles, all well-organized by category. There are several strong film noir titles, including The File on Thelma Jordan and Kansas City Confidential, lots of Charlie Chaplin shorts, a full Flash Gordon Serial and loads of other great movies. The picture quality tends to be fairly grainy and the sound tinny (of course, we are talking about old movies), but the screen is a nice size and the overall viewing experience is pleasant.
3. Classic Cinema Online
My favorite thing about this site is the ease of navigation. There are several well-organized categories with a good-sized selection of titles. This is a great place to watch serials, 50’s sci-fi movies and classic dramas. The Google player is easy to use and the picture and sound quality are decent.
At first, the navigation on this site can be a bit confusing, but once you find the categories on the right sidebar, it’s easier to find your way around. The large number of categories help you to narrow down your choices quickly and the brief descriptions by each title are also extremely helpful. The player is easy to use and about the same quality as at The Internet Archive.