The best movies to watch for free on YouTube

A bearded man with an eyepatch wearing a duster coat and a brown hat holding a revolver in True Grit (2010).
Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Hey, there’s actually some pretty good stuff on here

There are a ton of streaming services to choose from nowadays. There’s arguably never been a better time to watch a good movie from the comfort of your home, with platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Max, Criterion Channel, and more offering a cornucopia of new releases and classic titles every month.

YouTube happens to be one of these. Despite not getting nearly the same amount of attention as those aforementioned services when it comes to movie libraries, YouTube actually has wealth of great movies that are available to (legally) stream for free.

We’ve combed through the platform’s library of available titles to bring you the very best free movies on YouTube. Let’s dive in and see what they have to offer!

10 Things I Hate About You

Patrick (Heath Ledger) runs after Kat (Julia Stiles) in a scene from 10 Things I Hate About You Image: Touchstone Pictures

Director: Gil Junger
Cast: Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

There are far more than 10 things to love about this quintessential teen romantic comedy. A soundtrack full of earworms. Breakout roles for Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Cameos from the bands Letters to Cleo and Save Ferris. And all of it in a modern Shakespeare retelling.

Cameron (Gordon-Levitt) falls for Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), but her overprotective father won’t let her start dating before her proudly outcast sister, Kat (Stiles), does. Lovelorn Cameron hires secretly sensitive bad boy Patrick (Ledger) to win Kat’s heart, but what happens when everybody in the movie catches feelings? Experience the cream of the crop of ’90s teen movies and watch 10 Things I Hate About You. —Susana Polo

The Dark Crystal

A long-haired male puppet holding the body of a female puppet in a room covered in dirt and rubble in The Dark Crystal. Image: Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Directors: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Cast: Stephen Garlick, Lisa Maxwell, Billie Whitelaw

Jim Henson is known for puppeteering, but to be into film puppeteering at all, you’ve got to be pretty open to out-there filmmaking. It doesn’t get more “out there” than leaping from puppet-driven musical comedies to an original fantasy film where half the cast speaks a constructed language and there are no human characters at all. Yeah, the Skeksis language played so poorly in test screenings that the lines were redubbed in English, but you get the point.

The story of Jen the Gelfling’s quest to heal the Dark Crystal and prevent the cruel Skeksis from ruling the world forever was a product of Henson’s post-Muppet ambitions of proving that film puppetry could be a true medium, not merely a novelty. Is The Dark Crystal good? That’s a complicated answer. Is it the product of an incredibly skilled production, led by a once-in-a-generation creative talent, that could not be made today? That’s certain. —SP


A xenomorph uncoiling from Kane’s chest in Alien (1979). Image: 20th Century Studios

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright

Alien’s greatness probably doesn’t need to be restated. But even if you know how good it is, or think you’ve seen it plenty of times, you probably owe this Ridley Scott masterpiece a rewatch. It’s the kind of movie that miraculously builds on its own legacy with each subsequent viewing, and only grows in impressiveness with each passing year.

So rewatch Alien again. Compare every element of the movie against something sci-fi films (or any genre, for that matter) have done since, and marvel at how far ahead Alien comes out. In the nearly 45 years since that movie was released, no film has come close to matching how well it communicated the idea of being trapped in space with something more horrible than you knew could exist. No cast has ever had such perfect grizzled-trucker energy or crackly faces. It’s easy to look at movies from the 1970s and say they don’t make ’em today like they used to, and it’s true. But it’s also true that no one before or since has ever made ’em like Alien, and we should all probably appreciate that a little more often than we do. —Austen Goslin


A smiling man (Warwick Davis) seated in the saddle of a horse holding reins in Willows. Image: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis

It may seem impossible now, but there was a time when Star Wars was new, and Hollywood was dying to do more stuff like it. Enter George Lucas and his buddy Ron Howard, who said: Let’s do Star Wars for medieval fantasy.

The result, Willow, is a loosely structured fantasy adventure comedy with cutting-edge special effects that’s fun for the whole family (give or take a couple of black magic scenes that absolutely seared into the brains of young viewers). Star Wars’ Warwick Davis plays the titular hero — a hapless but hopeful basically-a-Hobbit — on a quest to save a baby from an witch, with the help of himbo swordsman Madmartigan, in maybe Val Kilmer’s most delightful role.

Willow is, frankly, phenomenally silly, but also phenomenally fun. There’s a magic wand and a fairy queen and a sorceress who’s been turned into a kind of Australian possum. Give it a watch. —SP


A man staring into a pool of water at an image of Jesus Christ reflecting back at him in Silence. Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano

Of all Martin Scorsese’s many terrific films, it’s hard not to feel that his 2016 adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence is one of his most personal and important. The film follows two Jesuit priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), on a mission to find another priest who is said to have renounced his faith in 17th-century Japan. At the time, Christians in the country were largely forced into hiding at the risk of torture and death, making the priests’ journey particularly difficult.

While the movie serves as a fascinating look at this period in Japan, it’s even more affecting as a crisis-of-faith movie for Rodrigues. Garfield’s performance is absolutely haunting, as we see Rodrigues slowly lose not just his faith in God, but in everything he’s ever stood for or known himself to be. Garfield communicates all of this pain mostly without dialogue, with a constant war of expressions on his face and in his eyes between his faith and his despair. All of this makes Silence feel like Scorsese’s greatest statement on faith yet — particularly impressive when you consider that he made it in his sixth decade as a filmmaker. —AG


A woman with curly brown hair with her head sticking out of a green lawn with green and yellow polo balls beside her in Heathers. Image: Cinemarque Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Director: Michael Lehmann
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty

Michael Lehmann’s classic 1989 dark comedy about solving toxic high school dynamics via murder looks even more arch, mannered, and over the top now than it did back in its day, but it’s still a ridiculously fun movie, full of memorable one-liners, cinematography that pops off the screen, and familiar faces in their very young days. Christian Slater’s career-long Jack Nicholson impression has never been more pronounced than it is here. And after so many years of Stranger Things, it’s fascinating to revisit Winona Ryder from the era where her signature move was blasé teen angst instead of agonized mom angst. The dialogue has aged a bit, but the central conceits — that high school kinda sucked for most of us, and that people tend to be huge hypocrites about how they remember the dead — still land solidly, and with a lot of laughs. —Tasha Robinson

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

An animated horse idling in a verdant green field of grace with mountains in the distance in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Image: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Directors: Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook
Cast: Matt Damon, James Cromwell, Daniel Studi

If you don’t care about this movie, I don’t care about you. It might be a niche take, but I love an animal movie that doesn’t make the animals talk with weird humanoid lips. Spirit is the story of a wild horse who’s taken into captivity by American settlers in the pre-1900s western U.S., and it’s responsible for about one-third of my personality.

Voiced by Matt Damon, Spirit is endlessly compassionate and filled with spunk. His journey to try to escape captivity and return to his horse wife is fraught with physical abuse that mirrors the way the settlers abuse the land out west, but Spirit never loses his drive. The film paints the settlers as evil and oppressive, and represents the Lakota man who takes him in as safe and respectful of his wildness — aka, it’s accurate.

This movie came out when I was 7 years old, and I remember sitting in the theater, quietly weeping for perhaps the first time in my life. I wasn’t having a meltdown or a temper tantrum. I was going through the very real range of emotions the movie evokes — fear when Spirit gets caught for the first time, rage when he’s branded, excitement when he learns to love riding, deep joy when he’s reunited with his horse baby mama, some blend of grief and anger at the realization that this situation happened to a lot of real-life horses.

Watch it with your kids or watch it alone, and just don’t think too hard about how cringey the original Hans Zimmer songs are. —Zoë Hannah

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

John Krasinski as Jack Silva holding an assault rifle in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Director: Michael Bay
Cast: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini

Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie never really got a fair shake. Around its release, Republican politicians were still using the 2012 Benghazi attacks as a weapon against presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time of the attacks. Because of that, the movie got written off by many due to claims that it was nothing more than Republican propaganda. However, nearly a decade removed from that context, it’s much easier to fit the excellent 13 Hours into the larger arc of themes Bay has spent his entire career chasing: Institutions of power care more about rules and norms than they do about human lives, and to save lives, it’s up to individuals to break those rules.

Beyond the morals of the movie, however, 13 Hours is just absolutely terrific, thrilling filmmaking. Bay basically turns the movie into his own personal version of the John Carpenter classic Assault on Precinct 13. What that means in practice is that Bay gives us about 40 minutes of discussion about the politics of Benghazi, the questionable U.S. presence in Libya as a destabilizing force for its government, and the indefensibility of the U.S. bases there. The other 100-ish minutes of the movie’s run time are then dedicated to some of the most expertly filmed firefights ever put on film, where tension comes through in waves and characterization is built beautifully in the brief quiet moments between gunshots. —AG

Do the Right Thing

Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem in Do the Right Thing. Image: Universal Pictures

Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Danny Aiello, Spike Lee, Giancarlo Esposito

If you’re American, this movie is required viewing. Do the Right Thing, a Spike Lee joint, makes you feel everything it replicates on screen — the heat collecting on the concrete of a Brooklyn street, the tension between a Black man and his neighborhood racists, the joy of a summer block party with excellent music, the perpetual grief of police violence against Black Americans.

It’s no easy watch. The story centers on racial tensions between white police, Italian neighbors, and Black neighbors in 1980s Brooklyn, but the tone isn’t overly serious. Instead, Lee uses moments of humor and joy to underscore the multiple tragedies of the film, and the ending doesn’t tie things up nicely — in fact, it leaves you (or me, a white person) with a pit in your stomach that won’t go away until you start protesting in the streets. And that’s a good thing. After all, the film is (desperately, pleadingly) telling you to do the right thing.

But there’s a boatload of merit to this film as a film, in addition to its merit as a required text to understanding race relations in the U.S. Like every other Spike Lee movie, the cinematography is unmatched, with his signature high-contrast colors and wacky, wide-lens, canted-angle shots to really capture the vibe of the late ’80s. The acting from Lee himself, Giancarlo Esposito, and Rosie Perez stands out, and the music is legendary —particularly Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” which they wrote for the film. —ZH


A close-up shot of a gigantic lizard-like creature baring its teeth with smoke pouring out of its mouth in Godzilla. Image: The Criterion Channel

Director: Ishirō Honda
Cast: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kōchi, Akihiko Hirata

If you haven’t seen the original 1954 Godzilla, it can be a real surprise how philosophical and principled it is, and how little of it is devoted to a giant rubber-suit monster stomping on Tokyo. (Though there certainly is some of that!) Like so many franchise starters, the first Godzilla is much more complicated and nuanced than most of the followers that focused in on the kaiju fantasy action. It’s well worth watching Ishirō Honda’s classic about war, weapons, humanity, and the price of technological progress, just to see where this story started, realize how it’s mutated, and appreciate how different Japan’s version of Godzilla has always been from America’s version. —TR

Train to Busan

A disheveled man and a larger man holding a child stand at the far end of train car holding weapons in Train to Busan. Image: Well Go USA Entertainment

Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok

Zombies. Trains. South Korean political commentary. What else do you need from a horror-action-thriller?

Unlike Snowpiercer, the other scary train movie out of South Korea, Train to Busan is a really fun watch. That isn’t to say it won’t hit you in the heart, though — the tale follows a frankly shitty father as he attempts to be less of a shitty father by bringing his daughter to see her mother in Busan on her birthday. Unfortunately for them both, a zombie attacks the train and thus begins a zombie apocalypse that plays out within the train cars.

It’s a master class in locked-room storytelling, with plenty of the funny and shocking elements that have become endemic to Korean film. Ultimately, you’ll watch the main character grow out of his tendency to disappoint his family. More importantly, you’ll watch him fight a bunch of well-CGI’d zombies. It’s a great first foray into Korean film if you’re new to it, and a classic deserving of endless rewatches if you’ve already seen it. —ZH

Lady Bird

Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother (Laurie Metcalf) in Lady Bird Image: A24

Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts

In the wake of Greta Gerwig’s box-office buster Barbie, it’s an excellent time to revisit her earlier, more delicately planed, but just as emotionally engaged work — particularly Lady Bird, her coming-of-age movie starring Saoirse Ronan as a teenager trying to find her own identity amid her relationship with her mother. Reading a point-by-point plot summary makes Lady Bird sound mundane and scattershot, but the wistful, sometimes dryly hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking way Ronan plays the title character holds it all together. This one’s a slice of life that feels like real life — and like an arch, straight-faced comedy at the same time. —TR

Total Recall

Schwarzenegger holds a gun in Total Recall Image: Artisan Entertainment

Directors: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone

I will never forget the first time I watched Total Recall as a child. The sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s pained expression as he wrenched an oversized tracking device out of his nose canal fascinated me almost as much as the sight of his eyes popping out of his face on Mars haunted my sleepless childhood nights. Its macabre practical special effects aside, Total Recall remains an irrefutable banger of a sci-fi action flick that still holds up more than three decades since it was first released.

The reality-blurring romp about a salt-of-the-earth construction worker who may or may not be a Martian secret agent is packed to the brim with explosive action sequences, bizarre satirical world-building, and fantastic performances. If you haven’t seen Total Recall yet, don’t worry — you have. You just don’t remember it; you’re actually a Martian secret agent whose mind was erased because you got too close to the truth. This is all a simulation. I’m communicating to you from the real world. I’m just kidding... or am I? —Toussaint Egan

True Grit

A young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) and an old bearded man (Jeff Bridges) on horses in a forest in True Grit. Image: Paramount Home Entertainment

Directors: The Coen brothers
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

My father likes Westerns. A lot. To this day, I’ll often come down the stairs to find him watching some nondescript (to me), old-looking film with two dudes talking like they have something in their mouths and swinging pistols around their fingers. While he succeeded in getting me into horror before the age of 10, I can’t say the same for Westerns — until we found ourselves watching the original 1969 True Grit one evening.

The story stars a girl — something I’d never seen in any of the John Wayne movies my dad liked — and she was competent, brave, and on a mission to avenge her father’s death. What better movie to watch with your dad?

Well, the better movie to watch with my dad came out a few years later, when 2010’s True Grit was released. We watched it together as soon as we could, in theaters, and decided it deserved rave reviews. My opinion stands, having rewatched it several times over the last 15 years. The story is the same as the original, but this version has Jeff Bridges instead of John Wayne and a 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld instead of a 21-year-old Kim Darby. Between the more realistic age of the leading actor (the character of Mattie is 14) and the improved cinematography of the remake, the 2010 version of True Grit became one of my favorite movies, and a formative one at that. While the 1969 version is funnier and grittier, the drama of the newer remake is compelling and connected with me, a ’90s baby, in a way the 1969 version connected with my father, a ’60s baby. Both are well worth a watch, and both are free on YouTube. —ZH

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