Forget about modern Hollywood blockbusters. For real satisfaction, you need to dig into some classic movies—we’re thinking films from your childhood, early cinematic masterpieces, and notable older movies from other countries.
But what’s the best way to watch classic movies? In this article, we list the apps and sites you need to know about. They’re packed with old movies worth watching.
Turner Classic Movies—better known as TCM—is a US TV channel with spinoff networks in the UK, Latin America, Germany, Asia, and Scandinavia.
The content is sourced from the Turner Entertainment film library. It holds the distribution rights to pre-1950 Warner Bros. films and pre-1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies, as well as a North American license for movies from RKO Pictures.
If you live in the US and have a cable TV plan, you can sign in to Watch TCM for free and watch whatever is currently airing. There’s also an app available on Android and iOS.
The site also has a shop where you can buy classic movies and download them. Prices typically fall between $10 and $25.
Pluto TV is most commonly associated with providing free live TV for cord-cutters. Did you know, however, that the service doubles as an excellent app for watching classic movies? It boasts several channels packed full of old movies.
Some of the classic movie channels worth checking out on Pluto include Paramount Movie Channel, CMT Westerns, Classic Movies Channel, and 80s Rewind.
Shout Factory is the home of cult movies, classic films, B-side movies, and even some TV shows, animation, and live music concerts.
The app has licensing agreements in place with several large networks and studios, including NBCUniversal, MGM, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, and Fox.
The Criterion Channel is a US network that specializes in licensing “important classic and contemporary films.” Collectively, the movies for which they hold the rights to are called The Criterion Collection.
Today, the Collection consists of more than 1,000 classic movies. You can watch them all on the app and site, along with a continually rotating mix of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films from well-known studios and independent filmmakers. You will also find stacks of supplementary content, such as interviews and discussions.
The service is not free. You’ll need to pay $10.99/month or $99 for 12 months of access.
The Library of Congress’ National Screening Room is a collection of historically or culturally significant movies that are available to watch for free. The collection includes both copyrighted and public domain content.
Some of the videos in the collection include 1903’s The Forbidden City, Pekin, Ghosts from 1915, and The Lost Battalion from World War I.
In total, more than 360 classic movies are available on the site. Fair warning, some of the videos reflect beliefs and attitudes from a different era. Against a modern backdrop, some viewers might find parts of the content offensive. However, if anything, that only underscores the importance of the collection’s place in history.
Netflix’s catalog might have been slowly shrinking in the last few years, but the streaming service still boasts an impressively large collection of old movies and classic films.
The best way to see what classic movies are available on Netflix in your region is to use the secret genre codes. Just add them to the end of the Netflix URL, like so:
Here’s the complete list of classic movie genre codes that you can explore:
- Classic Action and Adventure: 46576
- Classic Comedies: 31694
- Classic Dramas: 29809
- Classic Musical Comedy: 32392
- Classic Romantic Movies: 31273
- Classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy: 47147
- Classic Thrillers: 46588
- Classic War Movies: 48744
- Classic TV Shows: 46553
- Classic Westerns: 47465
- Film Noir: 7687
- Epics: 52858
- Silent Movies: 53310
7. Old Movies—Oldies but Goldies
Old Movies—Oldies but Goldies is a free classic movies app for Android.
It has hundreds of free films from the “classic Hollywood cinema era,” loosely described as 1910-1969. That means you can watch many of the old-time actors that your grandparents used to talk about, including the best works from legends such as Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, John Wayne, and Alfred Hitchcock.
The app is ad-supported.
Download: Old Movies—Oldies but Goldies on Android (Free)
The Film Detective is another website where you can watch old movies. Almost all of the films available on the platform were made before the dawn of the color era.
You can watch movies such as the original The Fast and the Furious from 1954, The Pied Piper of Hamelin from 1957, 1976’s James Dean, and The Borrowers from 1973.
You can use the platform for free on the web and across all of the major streaming devices as long as you’re content to watch some ads. Alternatively, you can pay $3.99/month if you want to remove the ads.
Fandor is a classic film site for movie geeks. It offers handpicked movies to its members, each of which has the underlying aim of “the advancement and preservation of film art and culture.” As part of its strategy, the company gives 50 percent of all revenues to the films’ rights holders.
The service has a large selection of independent movies from years gone by, as well as a healthy dose of foreign content.
It total, more than 4,000 movies are available. You’ll need to pay $5.99/month or $49.99/year to watch them.
Kanopy provides a way for anyone in the US to watch free classic movies, as long as they hold a library card from a participating establishment. Many colleges and universities also have agreements in place.
You will find a mix of critically-acclaimed classic content, newer releases from indie filmmakers, and foreign films. The Kanopy service is available on Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Fire TV, and some smart TVs.
The Best Apps and Sites for Old Movies
No single service offers all of the classic films ever made, and nor is every service available on every platform. So, in order to gain access to a wide range of classic movies, we recommend trying a few of the apps and sites listed above.
And if you need even more films to watch, check out our articles explaining how to find out which movies are available to stream
and our list of the best free movie streaming sites
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