Did you know there are free apps for streaming movies on your phone? Yeah, dude! *Read this next bit in a movie announcer voice:* In a world where paid subscription models abound, you no longer have to be bound by Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus. (That was fun, right?) You can install these apps and from some you can even download a movie to watch later. Say, on a plane. Or on a Greyhound bus on your way to visit Aunt Beth in Pulaski County. That’s gonna come in handy.
We’ll first give you a list of free movie apps that work for both Android & iPhone. Hopefully, you’ll find one that suits your needs and be able to install it before that bus takes off and you are face to face with Aunt Beth herself. Good night and good luck.
The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues. — Terry Prachett, Moving Pictures
Best Free Movie Apps for Android & iPhone
Before we get to those lists of best free movie apps, let’s talk about legal stuff. We want all of our readers to steer clear of illegal acts. Streaming and/or downloading copyrighted content without explicit authorization is straight up illegal. And there are websites and apps out there that look totally legit and even have ads from big brand names but they are still committing a crime. Hell, Apple and Google even have some of these apps in their stores (we’re seriously perplexed, too). Just remember that while there may not be palpable consequences for you (those fighting to end this sort of crime aren’t looking for the end user [you]; they are looking for the individuals who knowingly steal content and make it available to you), you are putting money into the hands of criminals and perpetrating an injustice to all artists involved in the movie industry.
If that argument doesn’t sway you, then think about this: the illegal apps and sites get shut down. Fairly regularly. So if you want something that can be your go to streaming app or site, then you want something that is above legal reproach.
Also, sites that illegally stream movies are easy to find. What really takes some know-how is finding the legal streaming services. And you’ll be able to stream with a clear conscious, and with a little extra confidence that your computer or device isn’t being loaded up with malware and scareware.
And that’s something you really should be aware of. If you’re not into the self-righteous argument, then at least consider this: 90 percent of websites who provide illegal streaming of TV shows and movies contain some kind of malware or other nasty programs meant to defraud users. So, if you’re not feeling like a saint and say to yourself, “I don’t owe Hollywood anything!,” think before you click: “Could this site ruin my computer?”
And even if you subscribe to the “giving the film industry the middle finger,” don’t just focus on the stars or producers who make the big money. There are sound engineers, costumers, technicians, LOTS of people who make a film [read: documentary, TV show, sports shows] and are artists in their own rights. They deserve their due and their livelihoods do depend on your purchasing content. If we continue to undercut the artists of the world, there may not be art for us to enjoy. Because the thing is, when Hollywood doesn’t get its money, it doesn’t take that from Michael Bay. It means that more adventurous projects aren’t getting funded, or corners are getting cut. Like on writing. Welcome to the age of perpetual reboots.
*Steps off of soapbox*
Best Free Movie Streaming Apps for Android & iPhone
The following are apps that are available for both iPhone and Android, presented in alphabetical order so no one feels like mommy and daddy likes one over the other:
- Crackle: Crackle prob would’ve made the top of this list even if it wasn’t alphabetically first. You may have played around with Crackle back when web-streaming was first becoming really viable, but back then, it was largely seen as a Hulu also-ran. But now that Hulu has put so many of its eggs into the paid subscription basket (for instance, you can’t even watch the free stuff on the app, you have to have a subscription), Crackle is starting to look pretty good. Crackle is available on a heck of a lot of devices, from smartphones to tablets to smart TVs to game consoles. You can watch without having to sign up although we think it’s good to sign up to have a more personalized experience. You can even pause what you’re watching, come back to it on a different device, and pick up where you left off. Crackle is currently owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment and refreshes daily with new options from Sony. There are commercials and ads, but you gotta expect that with free stuff. Crackle has even delved into producing it’s own original series and movies. And because it’s owned by Sony, you can rest assured that it is 100 % legal, although (naturally) you’re going to see a lot of Sony properties on there.
- Flipps HD: Flipps gets mixed reviews, mostly because it can’t always deliver continuous streaming without connection issues. But, on the up and very cool side, the Flipps app makes your phone into the remote control for watching stuff on your TV, or as Flipps puts it on their website, “Turn your phone into a magic wand of entertainment.” All in all, Flipps is pretty good with a good selection.
- Popcornflix: Originally touted as the Netflix alternative, Popcornflix is just that. A good free and legal alternative for watching full-length movies (albeit with commercials). Popcornflix is backed by parent company Screen Media Ventures, LLC, owners of one of the largest independently owned film libraries. And Popcornflix is easy to use.
- Snagfilms: From the Snagfilms “About” section on their website: “SnagFilms is like that cool local video store with unique indie films and exciting hidden movie treasures…” Snagfilms has full-length movies, TV shows and documentaries and with a selection of over 5,000 to choose from, you can watch for a while and not get bored. Snagfilms also boasts a social media aspect to the viewing, wherein users are able to share what they’re watching.
- Tubi TV: Tubi TV wins in the “this app looks and works just like the website” category. Tubi TV has over 40,000 titles and has partnered with the likes of Paramount Pictures and Starz to bring you great titles you actually want to watch. Great variety of categories, too; from exercise videos to Korean dramas, if you can’t find something to watch on Tubi TV, you’re not even trying.
- Viewster: People generally like Viewster; they have a lot to choose from and while not über-mainstream, it’s free. One cool feature that sets Viewster apart is the ability to search for movies by actors/actresses. Viewster has a good selection of Anime and Bollywood films, as well. Viewster touts HBO, Starz and BBC, among others as content partners and even accepts submissions of content.
- Yidio: Yidio doesn’t work on as many devices as other apps, but it’s handy because it actually shows you where to watch what you’re hankering to watch. You can create a list and Yidio sends you notifications when your favorites are available. Just be smart regarding which websites you choose to view from.
You may have noticed that a lot of the streaming services listed above involve commercial viewing. I’ve not played around with any of them for an extended period of time, so I can’t speak to how frequent and/or annoying the commercial breaks are, but I will say that it’s not as bad as you would think. It really all depends on why you’re wanting to watch a movie. Sure, if you and your significant other are planning a movie night, or if you really need to mine Wong Kai War’s 2046 for all its significance for your doctoral dissertation, then yeah, you be better off with a streaming service that allows for uninterrupted viewing. But for just having something on, especially while you’re also doing the laundry or playing Boom Beach, it’s not all that distracting.
The Paid Services
We know they’re not free, but we would be remiss if we did not mention some of the popular paid services that are out there: namely Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.
Love it or hate it, but Netflix is still seen as the standard for online streaming services, as all new services are immediately compared to how they stack up to Netflix. Beware: Netflix’s subscription price is going up to $9.99 by the end of 2015/early 2016 . Even those grandfathered-in will pay the new price and face a $2 increase. But Netflix still offers first month trial for free, so you could always sign up and cancel before being charged.
Also, though navigating the site is much more cumbersome than it should be (fortunately, they’re getting the apps’ UIs under control), Amazon Prime offers a great streaming service directly in its member benefits. Likewise, with Amazon Instant Video, you can try out Amazon Prime for a month for free and cancel before there’s a charge. And another benefit of Prime is that, unlike Netflix, you can buy movies through the Amazon store, and use the Amazon Prime app to stream any digital films that you’ve bought.
There are also some other services out there, like UltraViolet or Vuzu. These are hardly anybody’s first choice, though. Most people only sign up for them because they get a free digital download with their Blu-Ray purchases. Really, the sooner all those Blu-Ray distributors just switch to Amazon or iTunes credits, the better, because having all your films on half a dozen different services is the pits. Which is why it’s so great that so many of the apps and sites we’ve covered here have such a wide selection.
Is there anything you like to use that we’ve missed? If so, feel free to give it a shout-out in the comments, and we’ll take a look at it.