For cord-cutters, the times have never been better. We have an immense number of online video streaming services that can allow us to access all of our favorite content, be it television shows or films. It has now become entirely feasible to do away with cable television subscriptions and still have access to everything you want to watch. However, the cost of streaming subscriptions can add up, too, which has driven many people to search out “free” movie sites online. Compared to actual streaming services, the majority of these sites are quite obscure, and though they’re easy to find, they have awfully sketchy reputations. Are they safe? Is it technically “pirating” to watch these movies and television shows?
The answers to these questions have never been more relevant, with how popular online media is.
Quite a few users don’t venture anywhere close to the types of sites that are offering free movies and television shows, online. Just look at all of the subscription streaming services out there, and you can see why. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime (and a wealth of additional channel subscriptions), HBO Now, and more. You could subscribe to all of these at the basic level and still end up paying less than what you would have with a cable subscription. And between them all, there wouldn’t be much that you’re missing.
Additionally, many of these services are offering programs that you can’t get anywhere else. Netflix, in particular, has been producing exceptionally well-received movies and television shows.
However, the cost is still potentially significant, and as long as there are “free” options out there, people will gravitate toward them instead of shelling out hard-earned cash on more subscriptions. This, in part, has led to the proliferation of online piracy focused around films, and it’s a far larger situation than most people give it credit for.
Do a quick search online. Try to look for a recently-released movie available for download, and you’re almost certain to ping results from dozens of different sites purporting to offer it up for grabs. Obviously, these websites are operating in such a way that heavily skirts legality, but many of them aren’t being shut down, either.
We’re not just here to talk about legality, though. It’s definitely part of the discussion, but even more than that, it’s important to address some of the personal safety issues associated with these types of sites. Even visiting them, let alone choosing to download anything from them, can seriously compromise the security of your computer.
Disclaimer: As we frequently state, here, we absolutely do not condone any type of illegal activity. Though it’s the topic of our discussion today, we’ll be providing no links to “free movie sites,” or any other place that helps to facilitate or enable copyright infringement.
What’s the Deal With Free Movie Sites?
The first thing to understand is that none of these sites is trying to “replace” streaming services. They might shape the appearance and aesthetic of their own sites to replicate the likes of Netflix or HBO Now, but there is no similar end goal. Primarily, they act as a means for you to access download portals so that you can have access to films both new and old.
We say “new” in the sense of “just released,” meaning that unless you were to actually buy the movie outright, there wouldn’t be a place to stream it, anyway. If there’s any question about the legality of having free access to a film that was just released, you can put it to rest there. The vast majority of these sites are quite blatantly enabling online piracy, but that’s the very catch that allows them to stay in operation–they’re enabling it, rather than actually sharing the pirated movies themselves. And since it’s murky legal water to press a lawsuit on such grounds, many of these sites have nothing to worry about.
Are They Legal?
When watching content online, you can keep yourself surprisingly safe by keeping to a “two strike” rule. Look at any streaming media service that you’re using, and ask yourself the following two questions:
- Am I paying for this?
- Is it being distributed by the owner?
If the answer to both of these questions is no, then you’re probably better off not touching it. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great free ways to watch movies online. We’ll discuss a few of them, shortly, but anything that’s legitimately free is going to be distributed by the owner–not a third-party with a sketchy website.
To be sure, the legality issues don’t often fall on people who are doing the downloading and streaming in question. There is simply far too much online piracy traffic to police, and as easily as some of these sites might be taken down, new ones will pop up in the stead with relative ease. In most cases, we don’t see these types of sites dealt with until they reach a certain size and level of popularity.
Are They Safe?
Where legality is a question, so too should be your computer’s safety. In they myriad numbers of places that you can download free movies online, not one of them is even remotely considered secure, and thus we can say with near certainty that they are not safe for you to browse or use. Many of the files you can potentially download contain malware and viruses, and even the sites themselves are frequently compromised.
Think of it as somewhat akin to walking through a minefield to pick up a grenade. It isn’t a pretty picture, but it quite aptly describes the security situation of most websites purporting to offer free movie downloads.
Your safest bet is to steer clear of sites like this altogether, but if you absolutely must browse them or download from them, be sure that your computer is equipped with the necessary precautions.
Personal Security Precautions
No matter what you’re doing online, it’s inadvisable to do much of it without adequate virus and malware defense. There’s little excuse not to, given that several great security applications can be downloaded and used absolutely free.
Try out Malwarebytes or Avast Antivirus at absolutely no cost. There’s no promise that they’re ultimately going to save you from all of the threats found online, but you’ll be at exponentially less risk, especially in corners of the web that free movie sites tend to inhabit.
Alternative Streaming Services
While Netflix, Hulu, and others certainly take the cake when it comes to marketing their online streaming services, they’re not alone. Even if you’ve never heard of them, there are plenty of free options out there for those who aren’t interested in spending any money on a streaming subscription.
Here are a few that you can visit right now, for your viewing pleasure.
How could we not mention YouTube? It’s the largest online hub for streaming video content, by far, and it’s also home to quite a few full-length movies. Most importantly, you’re not going to get in trouble for watching anything on YouTube, and it’s an exceptionally secure site. You won’t have to risk your computer’s safety and integrity for the sake of finding something entertaining to watch.
Since it’s owned by Sony, you’d think that everything on it would cost an arm and a leg to watch. Not so! Crackle is a frequently updated treasure trove of video content, and the movies are free to view.
You won’t be able to download them, of course. This is a streaming service. But you can certainly find some excellent films that you’d have to pay to see with any other subscription streaming company. As of December 2016, you can watch such hits as Apollo 13, As Good As It Gets, Charlie’s Angels, Army of Darkness, Ghost Rider, and dozens more. You won’t find any brand new films listed here, but then again, it wouldn’t make sense to freely distribute something that just landed on Blu-ray and DVD, would it?
Vimeo is a bit of an odd comparison to major streaming sites but stay with me for a moment. It’s full of curated videos, which means that you’re very likely to find high-quality content here, as opposed to the gigantic “mass of everything” that you encounter when visiting YouTube. There aren’t as many films or television shows on Vimeo, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t bound to find something highly entertaining.
Check out the Staff Picks and Watch List for some excellent features from a variety of different media genres. Like the two options listed above, you’re not risking anything at all–legal or secure–by choosing to watch content on Vimeo.
We hope that the above article has been illuminating, with regard to your safety on free movie download sites. They are many, but most of them are not worth the risks that you’ll endure in using them, let alone the legal repercussions that could fall on your shoulders if you get tangled up with online piracy. Steer clear of pirated movie sites, and opt for something legitimate (and potentially also free!) instead.