The best free streaming services let you watch popular movies and TV shows — without paying a single cent. These free streaming services offer both live TV and on-demand content, mostly older and classic titles but also some newer hits and originals.
The best streaming services have more than proved their usefulness in entertaining everybody at home. But signing up for all of them is just not financially feasible for most people. That’s where the best free streaming services come in. They can provide hours of free TV and movies at no cost. You will have to watch ads, but that’s no different than what you get through an expensive cable package. Again: They’re free!
And since they cost $0, you can sign up for all of the best free streaming services on our list. We've ranked them anyway, since nobody has an endless amount of time.
The best free streaming services right now
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Amazon Freevee, a rebrand of the service formerly known as IMDb TV, features an impressive library of free on-demand content. The TV selection consists of the typical free shows like Hell's Kitchen but also past hits like Lost, Desperate Housewives and Mad Men. Plus, Freevee also makes originals, like the revivals Bosch: Legacy and Leverage: Redemption and courtroom reality sensation Jury Duty.
The movie lineup is better than competitors, with recent titles including Deadpool, The King of Staten Island, Spy, Emma and The Invisible Man.
The Roku Channel app comes automatically with any Roku TV or device, but it’s also available for download on mobile phones and tablets. You can also access it on the web. The Roku Channel doesn’t force you to register for an account (you can watch as a guest) but signing up allows you to continue watching content on another device.
Like the other services, it offers on-demand movies and TV shows. The Roku Channel also rolled out a Roku Live TV Guide, so viewers can channel surf. The best part of Roku Channel is that it often streams the first episodes of premium cable shows, like Game of Thrones, Billions, Outlander and Watchmen. But when it comes to having whole shows, you don't have series of that caliber, but stuff like This Old House instead. Some of our staff lit up at that news, while others, well, we kept clicking around in Roku looking for something else. And remembering that Peacock is better for more-recent content.
The Roku Channel has risen in our free streaming service rankings after adding all the originals from the now-defunct Quibi. That includes some really good series, like Free Rayshawn and Reno 911. Roku is also the place for original movies like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. Plus, they get our thanks for saving the NBC-canceled series Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist with a Christmas special.
The Viacom-owned Pluto TV has a decent selection of on-demand movies and shows but where it really shines is in live TV streaming. Viewers can browse live channels in a grid, similar to the cable TV guide experience. The lineup draws heavily from Viacom’s other properties, so you can tune into TV Land Drama, BET Her, MTV's Jersey Shore and VH1's I Love Reality. They also offer other recognizable brands, like CNN and Fox Sports — though those run curated clips, not the actual live broadcast you’d see if you watched them on cable.
We're still waiting for Pluto to add dedicated channels for shows that we really care about — recent editions include Baywatch, Stargate and Degrassi — but we do know people who love those shows, and keep going back to Pluto to binge-watch. For more modern content, check our Peacock.
As we poked around Pluto, we noted its interface is clean and simple, making it easy to toggle between live and on-demand. Both are organized into categories, making it easy to find the kind of content you want to watch. Yes, there are ads, but no more than what you’d get watching cable. And Pluto TV doesn’t even require registration, though users can special features if they do sign up for an account, such as the ability to designate favorite channels and resume watching a program on a different device. As for the latest, a recent update to Pluto TV added a ton of free TV, including two huge channels: Rocky and Sailor Moon.
Think of Tubi as a free version of Netflix, with an on-demand library of over 20,000 movies and TV shows. Of course, Tubi doesn’t have the newer, high-profile titles that a subscription platform boasts, nor originals. But their catalog is still impressive for a free streaming service.
Tubi (now owned by Fox Corporation) was able to build it by partnering with over 250 providers, including Hollywood heavyweights Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM. Recent available titles include The Terminator, Foxcatcher, Kill Bill, The Craft and Fruitvale Station. Personally, our streaming media editor Henry T. Casey loves Tubi for one show and one show only: Lucha Underground, a stylized wrestling show on El Vez. Recently, Tubi added the former HBO series The Nevers.
Tubi has a clean, streamlined experience. When we tested Tubi, we saw that its home page is organized into sections like Recently Added, Family Movies, Action and Black Cinema. Clicking the menu for even more genres and curated collections, we saw the clever and cheeky Not on Netflix area. While you don’t have to sign up to use Tubi, registering for an account gives you access to parental controls, a queue and viewing history.
Crackle is a pioneer in the free streaming space, launching in 2004 — back when Netflix was still shipping DVDs. Owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Crackle houses free movies and TV shows and even original programming, which sets it apart from many of the other free streaming services on this list. Crackle doesn’t require registration, though an account lets you add favorites and save progress while watching a movie.
The movies library is much bigger than the TV one and much more interesting. Crackle is one of the best free streaming services because it goes further than most, with originals featuring top actors including Martin Freeman, Bryan Cranston and Rupert Grint. It's just that these are their lesser-known titles, and while we're open to discover new projects, we're also wary that there may be a bad reason why we don't known about these shows.
Unlike Peacock, Crackle doesn't require signing up for a service to watch content. You can just open their page, click on a show or movie, watch and ad and then see the thing you want.
Sling is one of the best cable TV alternatives in the market at $40 per month for 50-plus channels. Recently, they relaunched a no-cost service with the name Freestream that boasts live and on-demand content. We love Sling, as multiple TG staffers have used it to cut the cord, and a free version may be the ticket to getting more users to try the platform.
Sling Freestream launched with 210 channels and 41,000 on-demand titles across genres including news, sports, game shows, crime dramas, nature, home improvement and cooking. Some of the channels are familiar names like ABC News Live, ESPN On Demand, Family Feud, Forensic Files, Hell's Kitchen, Rick Steves Europe, VH1 I Love Reality and The Walking Dead Universe. Plus, users can add on premium streaming services like AMC Plus and Showtime.
Expect more channels and on-demand titles as Sling Freestream continues to build out its offering.
The Walmart-owned Vudu is a digital marketplace where you can purchase the latest movies and TV shows but also stream free content. To use Vudu, you will have to sign up for an account (or use your Walmart account). Once you do that, you can access over 10,000 free movies and TV episodes. None of them are new blockbusters but the selection is superior among free streaming services. The movies area is better than TV, with recent titles including Troy, The Prestige, All Is Lost, Hoosiers, Four Weddings and a Funeral. And unlike other free services, Vudu is planning to produce original shows, like the sci-fi series Albedo with Evangeline Lilly.
Testing Vudu out, we found that its interface is easy to use. Free content is clearly marked and you can filter for just free titles. The ads are about as frequent as other free services, but they tend to be more repetitive (and sometimes annoyingly interactive, requiring you to choose an option). Poking around Vudu's free section, though, we couldn't help but notice multiple titles that seemed a bit risque for the top of the stack — titles that we'd have a hard time explaining to kids. That's not a problem on most of the above services, as Peacock, Pluto, Roku Channel and other services don't promote that content as highly.
Xumo is another free streaming service with live and on-demand content. The app comes on several major smart TV brands and can also be downloaded on Roku, iOS and Android. No registration is required. Xumo offers more than 190 channels, including top brands like NBC News, Fox Sports, Funny or Die and TMZ.
Xumo’s main experience is a grid-type guide, just like you’d get with cable TV — and Pluto and Peacock. You can watch live as you channel surf. The on-demand area lists all the channels, broken down by genre. The interface doesn’t make it that easy to see what TV shows are available, though. It looks like Xumo has the usual free fare: 21 Jump Street, Forensic Files, Family Feud and Unsolved Mysteries. The mobile app at least has a movies tab that you can browse.
Note: Peacock Free is being sunset for new users. Existing account holders will still be able to access Peacock Free for the present.
NBC's Peacock TV is a behemoth, with over 13,000 hours of content available in its Peacock Free tier. That content is top-notch, too. You'll find titles like The Office, 30 Rock, Battlestar Galactica, Cheers, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood and Parks and Recreation. And there are a lots of older movies to watch, from Harry Potter to Jurassic Park.
When we used Peacock, to see what it's like, we found that the free tier is definitely a sort of gateway drug. It's nice that the first episodes of big-name original shows such as Girls5Eva are available for free, but we get that NBCUniversal doesn't want to give whole shows away — that's what the $4.99 Peacock plan is for (although it might come in a little less with the right Peacock TV promo code). Peacock Free didn't require us to to enter our credit card info, but you must create an account to watch — something that Pluto, Xumo and others don't enforce.
There are also "live" channels, based on brands like Saturday Night Live and the Today Show. If you don't know what to watch, channel surf and check out what's playing at the moment. All in all, we'd call Peacock Free a steal — but it doesn't cost anything! Check out our full Peacock review to learn more.
How we test the best free streaming services
Shows and movies on free streaming services come and go with the frequency of Spinal Tap drummers, red-shirts on Star Trek and roses on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
So, first and foremost, we check these services frequently to make sure they're still providing some good content (specific shows and movies are subject to the whims and contracts we're not privy to).
On top of that, we also look at these services on the best streaming devices to make sure that everyone gets a quality experience. This is how we know that Freevee is more prominent on Fire TV hardware than elsewhere.
Lastly, we do the hard work and actually watch the shows and movies, to make sure these apps actually work well. We don't expect them all to function as well as paid services, but we love it when they have the same high-quality apps.
How to choose the best free streaming service for you
Luckily, since they are all free, you don’t need to choose just one of the best free streaming services. However, you may find it difficult to balance a bunch of different apps and want to focus on just one or two.
The first consideration should be whether you want to be able to watch live channels. If that’s the case, you may want to use Pluto TV, Sling Free, Xumo, Peacock or the Roku Channel. If you only care about finding movies and TV shows on-demand, then try Freevee, Peacock, Crackle, Tubi or Vudu.
Content selection is the other major thing that distinguishes the free streaming services from each other. Aside from Peacock, with its library of name-brand content, almost all of them have the same core of free TV shows, like Hell’s Kitchen and Roseanne. But some, like Freevee and Crackle, have more robust movie libraries. Others provide access to top past shows, like Peacock and the Roku Channel. So, peruse the available titles and see if the streamer has options that appeal to you. After all, even if these services are free, doesn’t mean they have stuff you want to watch.