8 mobile apps for legally watching free movies

You probably watch digital content on your smartphone. Maybe you’re even viewing this webpage on your mobile device right now. Smartphones provide their owners with more than just a pocket computer experience. They can make calls, send messages, navigate locations, manage finances, socialize with friends, and yes, even watch movies.

We decided to compile a list of must-have apps for the avid movie watcher. This list specifically targets mobile apps that offer free and legal digital films. We threw in a few bonus apps at the end for those of you who want a full cinematic experience. They’re in alphabetical order, so be sure to read to the end. Let us know if you have any other apps we may have missed.

Crackle

Crackle is owned and operated by our good friends over at Sony Corporation. The Crackle app is easy to navigate, has a large selection of free movies, and continually updates its featured options. While many of the movies do have a few ads to interrupt playback, the few seconds spent watching Mark Wahlberg sell AT&T easily make up spending any money. If you do create a sign-in, you can access a few more features and thus avoid some of the advertisements.

Pros:

  • Large selection
  • No sign-in required
  • Intuitive design
  • Chromecast support

Cons:

  • Ads
  • Content removed as new content added
Crackle - Free TV & Movies
Crackle - Free TV & Movies
Developer: Crackle
Price: Free

Fox Now

While Fox Now probably has the most confusing menu options of any app on this list, there are several free movies and TV shows available without signing in. I was able to find the X-Files, partly because I wasn’t sure what to watch, but primarily because I knew the truth was out there. Fox Now doesn’t require a sign-in, but the content you can watch is very limited without one. Signing in will give you a few more choices in terms of TV and movies. One of the better features, however, is allowing you to watch cable TV shows on demand, while on your mobile device. This essentially lets you take your television with you wherever you go. The menu is a bit ugly, and while many shows are blocked without first linking a cable subscription, at least everything is pretty new and entertaining. Fox Now also partnered with National Geographic for… nature stuff.

Pros:

  • New and popular media
  • No sign-in required (but definitely recommended)
  • Large variety of content
  • Chromecast support

Cons:

  • Confusing
  • Many shows required a cable subscription
  • Sign-in required for a fuller experience
  • Lots of ads

Hoopla

This app is technically free, and technically not free. In order to use the application services, you will need to sign in with a library card account. This means your taxes are funding your ticket to freedom. You can get a username and login information after granting location access to the app. From there, you enter your library card number and PIN. Once you’re signed in, you can then “rent” from your local library instant and free movies and television shows. The movies are sent to you immediately, and are considered “checked out.” They also automatically get “returned,” when you’re done viewing them, allowing other users to access the same material. Our testing did not confirm whether specific content was available at certain libraries or if the service offers the same media to all users, regardless of location or city.

Pros:

  • Large selection
  • No financial responsibility
  • Instant access

Cons:

  • Requires sign-in with library card
  • Certain content possibly unavailable
  • Limited number of downloads
Hoopla Digital
Hoopla Digital
Developer: Midwest Tape LLC
Price: Free

Pluto TV

If I was to have a favorite, it might be Pluto TV. The app doesn’t seem like it’s capable of lagging. The interface is fast, easy-to-navigate, and there is a ton of available television content. You can watch popular live shows like Fear Factor and CNET, as well as other video channels like FailArmy. Oh, and there are movies. Lots of movies, shows, and documentaries. While most of the movies appear to be less popular, Pluto offers a great way to expand your horizon. No sign-in is required, and there didn’t appear to be any ad interruptions in films, either.

Pros:

  • Live TV!
  • No sign-in required
  • Huge selection
  • Amazing user interface
  • Chromecast support

Cons:

  • No A-list movies
  • No search option for movies
Pluto TV - It’s Free TV
Pluto TV - It’s Free TV
Developer: Pluto, Inc.
Price: Free

Popcornflix

Popcorn is a pretty decent app for watching movies. The selection is huge, and though the majority of movies are not very popular, there are definitely some gold nuggets that slipped through the theatres. If the selection of different ads matched the variety of movies, repetition wouldn’t be an annoyance. But it’s a small price to pay (or not?) to have hundreds of titles at your fingertips. A final note: four out of five movies I tried to stream on LTE (with a fast connection) did not ever play. But on WiFi, those same movies played without incident.

Pros:

  • Large selection
  • Large TV selection
  • Chromecast support

Cons:

  • LTE streaming issues
  • Tons of ads
  • No recent or popular shows and movies

Tubi

This app requires you to create an account, but with that, you get a few benefits. There are no ads, and the selection includes some fairly popular and new movies. Tubi also has a few shows, some of which are more recent and relevant, so making the initial account definitely feels worth the albeit tiny hassle. Content did seem to load a bit slowly, but once buffered, there was no lag and the quality was excellent. I found quite a number of films to watch that I had missed along the way, so I may keep this downloaded on my phone for next time I’m tempted to rent something. Additionally, Tubi has a genre called “Not on Netflix,” which is pretty awesome.

Pros:

  • Large selection
  • New movies and shows
  • No commercials
  • Great user interface
  • Chromecast support
  • Has “Not on Netflix” genre

Cons:

  • Account required
  • Email notifications
Tubi TV - Free Movies & TV
Tubi TV - Free Movies & TV
Developer: Tubi TV
Price: Free

Vudu

Owned by Walmart, Vudu easily earns its place on the list of best legal video streaming apps. While a majority of the program’s content is available for purchase or rental, Vudu also lets users view a huge selection of free films. The only caveat is you will suffer through a few ads at the beginning, and even intermittently during your movie experience. If you don’t mind saving a few bucks, these ads won’t be a bother. You do need to sign in with either your Vudu account or Walmart account, however, so be sure to do that to take advantage of the many films available.

Pros:

  • Huge selection
  • Tons of free movies
  • In-app purchases
  • Chromecast support

Cons:

  • Sign-in required
  • Few television shows
  • Ads all the days
Vudu Movies & TV
Vudu Movies & TV
Developer: VUDU
Price: Free

YouTube

Did you know you can watch a ton of old movies on YouTube? I’m talking really old, from like the 40’s. But hey, they’re there. Also, on rare occasion, you can watch pirated content that some resolute bot account has uploaded, but rarely do these last long, so I wouldn’t count on finding free recent movies. Of course, you can also stream from YouTube or even Google Play Movies for a rental fee. So while the normal free version of YouTube doesn’t have a lot of choices, I’ve been able to find a few old classics, including Miracle of 34th Street. As an FYI, most of these will be in terrible quality and probably not worth inviting the whole family over for.

YouTube
YouTube
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Bonus Apps

The apps below help round out your viewing experience in a couple ways. Either by giving you more options than merely movies and TV or by helping you find the content you want through other databases, they may be just what you need to further your digital content experience.

IMDB

Popular for its fairly comprehensive database of Hollywood films over the years, IMDB’s amount of content only grows as new media is released. IMDB helpfully identifies which actors are in viewed movies, and in what other works your favorite actors have performed. Most people have a biography attached, and the app even displays personal details like date of birth and career achievements. Likewise, you can find parental control information, and also see related flicks to your search queries, giving you choices for upcoming movie nights. The app does not offer streaming, except for movie trailers and behind the scenes.

IMDb Movies & TV
IMDb Movies & TV
Developer: IMDb
Price: Free

JustWatch

This is a must have mobile app for anyone who ever watches online content on any platform, anywhere, ever. I dreamed of an application that could let you search for a movie title or TV show and show you the best place to find it. And my dream came true. In essence, this app gives you a pretty up-to-date database of all downloadable streaming services and media apps. Search results can be customized to only reveal programs you subscribe to, such as Netflix or Prime Video. The app allows you to sort by the best prices, quality of the download, and streaming service options. If you want to watch a movie, don’t just check Amazon Prime Videos: check JustWatch first, and then from there make your decision.

Dailymotion

This app did not deserve a place on this above list, as it offers no popular American movies. Primarily a database of updated user content, the media you can access is very hit-or-miss. For example, searching for “World Series” results in Yuli Gurriel’s racist gestures in 2017, and little else. Searching for “Lord of the Rings” yields a few random clips from the trilogy and user-edited parodies. Apart from a few Bollywood and other foreign films, DailyMotion offers no movies. Womp womp.

Pros:

  • Popular mini-clips
  • No sign-in required

Cons:

  • No decent filters
  • Only foreign films (Bollywood, Chinese, etc)
  • No choice movies or full television shows
Dailymotion: Videos for now
Dailymotion: Videos for now
Developer: Dailymotion
Price: Free

Vimeo

Similar to DailyMotion, Vimeo has a pretty different goal in residing on your phone. More like a less popular YouTube with a few less restrictions, content is primarily uploaded by users and small channels for viewing. Some of the videos require a paid subscription, so really, the best thing to gain from Vimeo are pranks and clips of cute animals. There are also a bunch of art projects from students of various film classes, in case you want to view other people’s homework assignments.

Pros:

  • No sign-in required
  • A large spectrum of video clips
  • Rare content

Cons:

  • No real movies
  • No real television
Vimeo
Vimeo
Developer: Vimeo Inc.
Price: Free+

Honorable Mentions

FandangoNOW

A comprehensive, fast, and easy-to-navigate app, FandangoNow is one of our favorite paid streaming services. There doesn’t appear to be a section for finding free movies, but there is one for select TV shows. You can also search through several sales on movies, and even browse Fandango’s $0.99 section for cheaper rentals. FandangoNow frequently offers the best pricing on movie rentals, as evidenced by JustWatch’s up-to-date database. It’s worth noting that I have had to call customer service twice, due to accidental purchases, and app bugs and errors.

Pros:

  • One of the largest selections available
  • In-app purchases
  • Chromecast support
  • Frequent sales
  • Has “Not on Netflix” genre

Cons:

  • No free movies
  • Limited TV selection
  • App needs bugs ironed out
FandangoNOW - Movies + TV
FandangoNOW - Movies + TV
Developer: Fandango
Price: Free

Featured-Image: Android Headlines