You Never Need to Pay to Watch Movies — Here's Why


The movie-going experience has gotten very expensive lately — I recently paid $14.50 for an afternoon ticket to a regular 2-D movie — which has many of us rethinking entertainment and spending habits. If you love to watch movies like I do, but hate spending a major chunk of change just to see one, bookmark this list of ways you'll never have to pay for movies again. (See also: Watch Movies in the Theater for Free)

1. Free Screenings

Granted, it helps if you live a major city like New York or L.A. — those cities host screenings very frequently — but there may be screening opportunities near you. These screenings are always movies that will be released in the near future, which means that not only do you get to see a free movie, you get to see it before most people. Heed this warning, however: If you plan to attend a screening, it's best to arrive a couple hours in advance to get a place in line. The screening is always overbooked to ensure maximum attendance; once they reach the limit, you're out of luck even if you're still in line, and that's just a bummer.

2. Free Redbox Rentals

I caught onto the Redbox freebie game many years ago when I discovered that I could turn one promo code into free DVDs for as many debit or credit cards that I have. Because the code is linked to your card account, to get the most bang for your buck (or lack thereof in this case), just pull out a different piece of plastic at the kiosk. This is a great trick to extend the life of free codes. To ensure that you keep the free codes coming, sign up for text and email alerts from Redbox and check sites dedicated to code sharing, like Inside Redbox. Keep in mind, however, that the rental is usually only free for the first night; the DVD must be returned the next day before 9 p.m. or you'll start getting charged. And if that happens, it defeats the whole purpose. (See also: Never Pay for a Redbox DVD Rental Again)

3. Free Outdoor Movies

One of my favorite summer pastimes is enjoying a free outdoor movie. In New York City, these screenings are abundant — but they've also become increasingly popular in many cities and towns across the country. Free outdoor movies are an excellent, romantic date night that'll keep the cash flow in check, but they're just as great with a group of friends. Pack your snacks, drinks, and blankets, and enjoy a flick in the great outdoors. What could be better than that? (See also: 50+ Fun Nights Out for $10 or Less)

4. Free Movie Nights at Bars

Your local bars are always trying new promotions to get bodies in the chairs that will order food and drinks, and one way some bars do this is to host a movie night. I've been to several different movie nights at different bars, and I've enjoyed myself every time. Often the establishments hosting these free movie nights offer a free snack — often popcorn — too. This activity is worth looking into — just do a search online to see what's in your area.

5. Hulu

You have to pay for newer and mobile content via Hulu Plus, but if you're into watching a limited number of oldies but goodies, you can sift through the free content on Hulu — which isn't the easiest task since most of its offerings are locked without a subscription. Still, it's there, and you can take advantage of it.

6. Crackle

Content-streaming site Crackle may seem too good to be true, but it isn't. Similar to Hulu (but with a much larger selection of free movies), Crackle offers full-length Hollywood movies in all genres. Even better, you'll actually want to watch these movies, unlike some of the other free sites.

7. Popcornflix

Yet another free-movie-streaming service, but the selection on Popcornflix mostly includes obscure, low-budget, straight-to-DVD movies that most people have never heard of. If you're into those kinds of movies, this is your new Saturday night obsession.

8. YouTube

It's hard to find a full-length movie on YouTube because it has time restrictions on the length of posted videos, but you can find movies (albeit not always the best quality or selection) in several parts that you can watch back to back.

9. Dailymotion

Like YouTube, this video-sharing service hosts a limited selection of movies, but you'll have to dig.

10. Trade With Friends

Do you have a sizeable collection of DVDs? Does one or more of your friends have a sizeable collection of DVDs? It makes sense then to create a sharing system among those friends and swap DVDs that you haven't seen before. Everybody's a winner.

11. Download to Your Computer

I know what you're thinking — isn't that illegal? Most of the time it is, but there are sites that offer free downloads for public domain movies. You can find lots of movies in many categories. Good places to start include Public Domain Torrents, Internet Archive Movies, and Public Domain Flicks. (See also: Great Horror Movies You Can Watch for Free)

12. Your Local Library

Have you been to the library lately? If it's been a while, I'll let you in on a little secret — the library lets you borrow more than books now. You can take home free DVD rentals. This is a great way to stay entertained on a weekend when you're minding your money even more.

13. Research Small Screenings Around Town

Sometimes the smaller museums and organizations host events in which a free movie will be screened. I once went to an event that was screening an LGBT movie that I didn't know anything about beforehand but ended up enjoying. These opportunities may be in your area, too. A good way to tap into these events is to search for them on Meetup (you might make some new friends while you're at it) or check your area's events calendar. Many colleges and universities host free screenings, especially of documentaries, international films, and other highbrow stuff, as well.

Do you have other suggestions on how to watch movies for free? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

Thanks for the great info! As new Roku owners, we just booted satellite tv and are now spending $8 a month for a service instead of over $50 as before. While we get a lot of free rentals from the library, it's nice to have some other free options for 'on demand'.

Guest's picture

One problem I have with library DVDs is they are often dirty or scratched. My trick is to wash them first with white toothpaste. Dot the disc with toothpaste and wipe it onto the disc from the center out before rinsing and drying with a lint-free cloth.

It works great and makes those DVDs that look like they were used in a frisbee game watchable.

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