For anyone who managed to snag movies from the 123movies site, you know there was a wide selection of material. The site, which originated in Vietnam, allowed users to download high-def films from major studios. Like most sites of that ilk, it was a boon if you didn’t mind taking the risk of streaming a movie that is normally only available on commercial services.
Interestingly, the site also didn’t require a registration or subscription. If you used a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you were almost untraceable (in truth, your Internet Service Provider always knows your identity and location, even if you use a VPN). And, the site didn’t even show you a barrage of banner ads, which is the case for many movie download sites.
When the site went down, users started wondering what could replace it. Fortunately, this also coincided with the rise of legal, legitimate sites that do require a paid subscription but also let you stream many movies and shows without having to rent them individually. Here are some of the top picks that do not require a rental or purchase fee per video. These services will meet the need for those who prefer a diverse, unusual assortment of films.
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Our top legal alternatives to 123movies
Amazon Prime Video (opens in new tab)
The world's biggest retailer got stuck into the world of instant video a few years back, and has become one of the best and most prominent exponents. As well as a vast library of movies, it also produces original, exclusive shows such as Hunters, Jack Ryan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and many more. And of course, once signed up for Amazon Prime (opens in new tab), you'll also get the extra perks that come from being a Prime member.
Netflix (opens in new tab)
A powerhouse of original programming that started as a way to order DVD discs by mail, Netflix stands out because of the extensive library. There is a show or movie for just about any taste -- from science fiction to true crime documentaries to romance movies. For those with eclectic tastes, the suggestion engine is quite unique in that it knows what you watch and what you like. There are suggestions based on your past viewing that will surprise you, including little-known classic rock documentaries and sci-fi shows no one remembers anymore.
Hulu (opens in new tab)
With plans starting at $5.99 per month, Hulu is one of the more affordable paid (and legal) services. Like Netflix, there are original shows and movies, including a recent documentary about Hillary Clinton. You could argue that Disney+ tends to have more movies available in 4K resolution with HDR, but Hulu has a deeper archive of older television shows like sitcoms and dramas that were popular in their day and then completely melted into obscurity. Hulu also stands out because it was one of the first to offer original shows and movies.
Youtube (opens in new tab)
It’s hard to overstate the importance of YouTube as a viable alternative to sites like 123movies. While you won’t find too many Hollywood films (unless you specifically rent or purchase them), there are certainly many high-quality documentaries, user-created sitcoms, and even feature-length movies that are entertaining (if not exactly professional). In terms of pure entertainment value, some of the gameplay videos with explanations are worth investigating just for the sarcastic jokes, weird personalities, and cultural commentary.
Pluto TV (opens in new tab)
One of the most unusual features of Pluto TV is that you don’t need to register or subscribe to anything. The app “just works” when you load it on your phone or access from a smart television (including many Google Android-powered models from HiSense and other brands). Pluto TV tends to cater to binge-watchers -- for example, there is an entire channel dedicated to the show Baywatch with multiple seasons available, all playing one after the after.
Tubi TV (opens in new tab)
Tubi TV stands out as a service that provides free mainstream movies from major studios like Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount from an archive that is not all public domain. The films tend to be older classic movies, but intermixed you will find movies like The Hurt Locker. The service is also unique in how many different platforms allow you to access the app, from smart televisions, the Roku set-top box, gaming consoles, and your smartphone.
Roku (opens in new tab)
Roku is a hybrid service that runs as an app on smart televisions and set-top boxes, on your phone or tablet, and also using the Roku set-top boxes. While some of the movies are available only as rentals or for purchase, there are quite a few documentaries and older classic films, plus B-grade movies from decades ago, that are available to stream. If you choose to use one of the Roku devices, the remote provides quick and easy access and searches by voice.
Creative Commons (opens in new tab)
There’s one source for movies and shows that might be easy to overlook. Creative Commons is a license for video material that is not copyrighted for commercial playback. It means the content is available for streaming on YouTube and through other sites. The service has a diverse collection of weird romantic comedies created by YouTubers and full streams of Hollywood movies that probably won’t last that long before they are removed.
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