An illustration of a laptop for an article about five free online movies. (Illustration by Sonja Vasiljeva, San Jose State University)

Top 5 Free Movies, or a Path to Cutting Back on Unneeded Streaming Services

Endless options and expensive prices make finding your new favorite film almost impossible, so here are a few options to try without charge.

There’s been a frustrating trend happening with digital streaming services lately. Gone are the days when all you needed was the password to your friend’s Netflix account to watch all the movies you could want. It seems like every studio has established their own streaming service nobody asked for, taking their content with them. Now everyone is stuck with a bunch of subscriptions they told themselves they’d cancel after the free trial.

It’s time to shed those excess subscription fees and enjoy some movies for the unbeatable price of free. Pull out the notepad and put away the wallet; here’s a list of five movies available for free online, with a little something for every kind of moviegoer. Spoiler-free, of course.

5. “The Edge”

Available on YouTube, “The Edge” is a 1997 survival film starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. After crashing into a lake in the remote Alaskan wilderness, a trio of survivors fight to survive the brutal environment made worse by a grizzly bear that has acquired a taste for human flesh.

Hopkins delivers a strong performance as a billionaire genius with the ability to retain vast amounts of knowledge that comes in handy quite often in the film. On the other hand, Baldwin’s role as a pampered fashion photographer is perfectly antithetical to Hopkins’ character, with tensions between the two slowly building throughout the film.

The true star of the movie, however, goes to Bart the Bear, a trained Kodiak brown bear that plays a vicious man-eater. His massive size and menacing roar make for a terrifying antagonist as he methodically stalks the survivors like a furry Michael Myers.

The cinematography in the film is picturesque, with gorgeous shots of Alaskan mountains fit for a painting. Not to mention the amazing close-ups of Bart’s bared teeth and gaping jaws that make one wonder about the safety of the camera crew during filming.

There’s a certain charm to this forgotten gem from the mid-‘90s that should resonate with anyone who enjoys nature’s beauty as well as its beasts.

4. “The Lincoln Lawyer”

There are a lot of things that come to mind when Matthew McConaughey appears in a Lincoln commercial. Does he always drive like he’s filming a scene for “True Detective”? What is he rolling in his fingers? Why a Lincoln? While some questions are destined to be unanswerable, the latter may have something to do with his role in the 2011 legal thriller, “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

Also available on YouTube, the film follows McConaughey as he plays Mickey Haller, a morally ambiguous criminal defense attorney caught in a conspiracy that forces him to confront his past. McConaughey’s charismatic personality is crucial to the film; his confident persona makes viewers sympathetic toward someone in a profession that entails defending people accused of heinous crimes. This dynamic inspires thought-provoking moments and offers an excellent critique of the criminal justice system.

Alongside McConaughey, John Leguizamo and William H. Macy deliver excellent performances as characters that could have used more screen-time and development. Aside from some shallow character growth, however, the film’s plot is enough to hold the attention of anyone interested in murder, law and — of course — Lincolns.

3. “Starsky & Hutch”

Based on the 1970s series of the same name, “Starsky & Hutch” is a hilarious buddy cop film starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. The quintessential pair play brilliantly off one another as undercover narcotics officers attempting to bust a drug kingpin, played by Vince Vaughn.

Despite the cliched good cop/bad cop dynamic and a formulaic plot, the film really shines with the comedic performances delivered by the actors. There are appearances by Snoop Dogg, Jason Bateman and Will Ferrell, just to name a few. If you’ve never seen the film, or you’re simply watching it for the first time in a while, you’ll find yourself catching one hilarious cameo after another.

While some of the humor is a bit dated, it holds up surprisingly well for a 2004 movie based on a television show from the ’70s. Pay no mind to Ben Stiller’s Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actor, and go into the movie ready to laugh. “Starsky & Hutch” is available for free on YouTube, and for those of you who are first-time viewers, you’re welcome.

2. “Apocalypto”

Available on the free movie and streaming website Tubi, “Apocalypto” is a 2006 historical film directed by Mel Gibson. The movie sets itself apart by offering viewers a fascinating peek into ancient Mayan society, a world rarely depicted in film and television.

Set in early 1500s Mexico, “Apocalypto” follows a young warrior’s experiences as a hunter in his tribe and the violent clashes with rival groups that lead to his capture. One of the major allures of the film is the ancient and alien-like culture it revolves around. The strange and unfamiliar nature of their customs spark a deep-seated curiosity in the viewer, making the plot that much more captivating as events unfold throughout the movie.

Aside from those who are fluent in Yucatec Maya, viewers will have to read subtitles to watch this film, as “Apocalypto” is delivered entirely in Mayan to add effective authenticity to the movie. This accuracy is layered in a subtext that begins with the decline of the Mayan civilization and ends with the arrival of a certain group of Europeans.

Give “Apocalypto” a watch if you find yourself bored by the typical shoot ‘em up action movies that flood the market. Its unique setting, beautiful cinematography and free admission make this film well worth your time.

1. “The Imitation Game”

Nominated for numerous prestigious awards and winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, “The Imitation Game” is a critically acclaimed drama that is almost too good to be free. Set during World War II, the film follows Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) while he attempts to build a machine capable of decrypting coded Nazi messages.

In addition to fighting the Nazis, the film also depicts Turing’s struggle to conceal and eventually come to terms with his homosexuality. This adds a deeper layer to the film, which already has espionage, drama and elements of real-life events that should keep any viewer invested.

Available on Tubi, “The Imitation Game” is one of those movies that sticks with you. It’s a sober reminder of the effects of discrimination, in addition to the progress society has made over the years.

Justin Spencer, University of Texas at San Antonio

Writer Profile

Justin Spencer

University of Texas at San Antonio

Justin Spencer is an Air Force veteran who after six years of service attended UTSA. He currently works as a warehouse manager and customer service representative for Pureline Nutrition, a Texas-based supplement company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Don't Miss