As the cost of living crisis bites, a lot of people are naturally wondering if they really need all those streaming subscriptions. Recent research by Kantar Worldpanel suggests that nearly a million Brits have given up on paying for streaming services this year.
Luckily, there are other options. Netflix is already joining other streaming services in introducing cheaper subscription tiers that feature advertising. In the UK, that works out at just under a fiver per month.
But if the outlay still seems too steep, or you’re just on the hunt for a new source of films to watch without dishing out for another subscription, there are some excellent freebie options out there. The big TV networks – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 – all have their own platforms, and with the exception of the BBC iPlayer, they offer ad-serviced streaming. And there are other options available, too – most accessible via the usual channels (Android, iOS, Fire TV, Android TV, PlayStation, Xbox et al), as well as online.
Here are the best free film streaming sites to keep an eye out for in the UK:
Channel 4’s streaming platform offers a close approximation of the viewing experience on the telly, with regular ads and sponsorships. But the library itself is fab, and as you’d expect with Film4 – the TV channel and the production company – to draw from, there’s an emphasis on exciting new British cinema (‘Rocks’, ‘Saint Maud’ and ‘The Last Tree’ are all streaming now). Plenty of recent crackers, the odd black-and-white classic and some great international films (‘Parasite’ and ‘Memories of Murder’ for a perfect Bong Joon-ho double bill).
For £3.99 a month, you can also access the content ad-free – although we’re about the free stuff here, so moving on…
Best films currently streaming: ‘Rocks’, ‘Hell or High Water’, ‘The Mist’, ‘Memories of Murder’, ‘Animal Kingdom’, ‘The Orphanage’
Not exactly free – there’s that license fee to be paid, of course – but certainly hella good value, iPlayer is a reliable and expertly curated source of movies. The content is downloadable, so while you can’t access iPlayer overseas, you can still watch the films when you travel. The films usually toggle on and off the iPlayer in a month, ensuring a constantly replenished source of new watches.
Best films currently streaming: ‘After Love’, ‘Paddington’, ‘The 39 Steps’ (1935), ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘Bringing Up Baby’
For reasons of copyright law we’re not really qualified to explain, a number of classic films are now freely available in the public domain. And one of the best places to find them is YouTube, which is not just a good place to watch Taylor Swift videos and honey badgers cutting loose, but a brilliant repository of hard-to-find works from the cinema canon. If you’re on the hunt for silent masterpieces, gritty old noirs or ’70s curios, give it a whirl.
Best films currently streaming: ‘Safety Last!’, ‘The Hitch-Hiker’, ‘The Witchfinder General’. Heck, here’s a handy list of 25 of them.
Another ad-financing streaming service, this Swiss-owned platform was rebranded and relaunched in April with big plans ‘to be the main provider of curated free films, television and sports across the world’. It’ll probably need to ramp up its movie library to achieve the film part of that mission statement, but a mixed bag mainly comprising of obscure actioners and throwaway crime thrillers, has some really good stuff too. A dig around will be rewarded.
Best films currently streaming: ‘Two Days in Paris’, ‘Shattered’, ‘Ghost World’, ‘The Good, the Bad, the Weird’, ‘Once, ‘Half Nelson’
Born from the dying embers of IMDb TV, Amazon’s new, ad-supported VOD offering has the strongest selection of free movies out there – as you might expect, with Amazon’s financial might behind it. You can access it via the Freevee app or the Amazon Prime Video site – you just need an Amazon account, though not necessarily a Prime subscription – and dig into a formidable catalogue of films (and TV series).
Best films currently streaming: ‘Eden’ (2015), ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Ginger Snaps’, ‘La Dolce Vita’, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Mean Streets’, ‘Ugetsu’
A handy way to aggregate all your media – films, audio, photos – in one place, Plex also has a free VOD library where you’re able to access entirely new content. Something for everyone, then, especially if you’re into festive guilty pleasures (the current Christmas movie selection is formidable) and classic Westerns. There’s some timeless British telly comedies on there, too.
Best films currently streaming: ‘Django’, ‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Man of the West’, ‘Metropolis’, ‘Whip-It’, ‘The Harder They Come’, ‘Youth in Revolt’
Similar to All 4, the film bit of ITV’s user-friendly streaming platform asks you to watch a few ads every hour, and its movies come with wrap-around sponsorship (you will find yourself hankering after a Domino’s at some point). But if you’re cool with that – and it’s always nice to see Ian Wright on the telly – there’s a deep and varied selection of movies on the platform.
Best films currently streaming: ‘Anomalisa’, ‘13 Assassins’, ‘Black Dynamite’, ‘Belleville Rendez-Vous’
As the name indicates, this is the freeview bit of Japanese-owned streaming platform Rakuten TV follows the standard model of ads during the movies. The selection isn’t earth-shattering – you’ll need to subscribe or rent from the wider Rakuten library – but there’s a tonne of rom-coms and one or two classics to stumble upon.
Best films currently streaming: ‘The Big Short’, ‘Begin Again’, ‘Imperium’, ‘The King of Comedy’
The ‘break glass in case of emergency’ choice, Channel 5’s streaming platform offers a very Channel 5-y selection of films. It’s a small line-up and mostly worth swerving, but there are usually one or two pearls among the straight-to-DVD stuff. Again, it’s an advertising model but there’s not too many to sit through.
Best films currently streaming: ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’