Entertainment Internet

How to Watch Classic Movies: The 10 Best Apps and Sites

Dan Price Updated 24-06-2020

Forget about modern Hollywood blockbusters. For real satisfaction, you need to dig into some classic movies—we’re thinking films from your childhood, early cinematic masterpieces, and notable older movies from other countries.

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But what’s the best way to watch classic movies? In this article, we list the apps and sites you need to know about. They’re packed with old movies worth watching.

1. Turner Classic Movies

turner classic movies

Turner Classic Movies—better known as TCM—is a US TV channel with spinoff networks in the UK, Latin America, Germany, Asia, and Scandinavia.

The content is sourced from the Turner Entertainment film library. It holds the distribution rights to pre-1950 Warner Bros. films and pre-1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies, as well as a North American license for movies from RKO Pictures.

If you live in the US and have a cable TV plan, you can sign in to Watch TCM for free and watch whatever is currently airing. There’s also an app available on Android and iOS.

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The site also has a shop where you can buy classic movies and download them. Prices typically fall between $10 and $25.

2. Pluto TV

pluto

Pluto TV is most commonly associated with providing free live TV for cord-cutters. Did you know, however, that the service doubles as an excellent app for watching classic movies? It boasts several channels packed full of old movies.

Some of the classic movie channels worth checking out on Pluto include Paramount Movie Channel, CMT Westerns, Classic Movies Channel, and 80s Rewind.

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3. Shout Factory

shout factory

Shout Factory is the home of cult movies, classic films, B-side movies, and even some TV shows, animation, and live music concerts.

The app has licensing agreements in place with several large networks and studios, including NBCUniversal, MGM, Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, and Fox.

4. The Criterion Channel

criterion channel

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The Criterion Channel is a US network that specializes in licensing “important classic and contemporary films.” Collectively, the movies for which they hold the rights to are called The Criterion Collection.

Today, the Collection consists of more than 1,000 classic movies. You can watch them all on the app and site, along with a continually rotating mix of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films from well-known studios and independent filmmakers. You will also find stacks of supplementary content, such as interviews and discussions.

The service is not free. You’ll need to pay $10.99/month or $99 for 12 months of access.

5. Library of Congress: National Streaming Room

congress library films

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The Library of Congress’ National Screening Room is a collection of historically or culturally significant movies that are available to watch for free. The collection includes both copyrighted and public domain content.

Some of the videos in the collection include 1903’s The Forbidden City, Pekin, Ghosts from 1915, and The Lost Battalion from World War I.

In total, more than 360 classic movies are available on the site. Fair warning, some of the videos reflect beliefs and attitudes from a different era. Against a modern backdrop, some viewers might find parts of the content offensive. However, if anything, that only underscores the importance of the collection’s place in history.

6. Netflix

netflix

Netflix’s catalog might have been slowly shrinking in the last few years, but the streaming service still boasts an impressively large collection of old movies and classic films.

The best way to see what classic movies are available on Netflix in your region is to use the secret genre codes. Just add them to the end of the Netflix URL, like so:

  • https://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/[CODE]

Here’s the complete list of classic movie genre codes that you can explore:

  • Classic Action and Adventure: 46576
  • Classic Comedies: 31694
  • Classic Dramas: 29809
  • Classic Musical Comedy: 32392
  • Classic Romantic Movies: 31273
  • Classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy: 47147
  • Classic Thrillers: 46588
  • Classic War Movies: 48744
  • Classic TV Shows: 46553
  • Classic Westerns: 47465
  • Film Noir: 7687
  • Epics: 52858
  • Silent Movies: 53310

7. Old Movies—Oldies but Goldies

Old Movies—Oldies but Goldies is a free classic movies app for Android.

It has hundreds of free films from the “classic Hollywood cinema era,” loosely described as 1910-1969. That means you can watch many of the old-time actors that your grandparents used to talk about, including the best works from legends such as Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, John Wayne, and Alfred Hitchcock.

The app is ad-supported.

Download: Old Movies—Oldies but Goldies on Android (Free)

8. The Film Detective

film detective

The Film Detective is another website where you can watch old movies. Almost all of the films available on the platform were made before the dawn of the color era.

You can watch movies such as the original The Fast and the Furious from 1954, The Pied Piper of Hamelin from 1957, 1976’s James Dean, and The Borrowers from 1973.

You can use the platform for free on the web and across all of the major streaming devices as long as you’re content to watch some ads. Alternatively, you can pay $3.99/month if you want to remove the ads.

9. Fandor

fandor

Fandor is a classic film site for movie geeks. It offers handpicked movies to its members, each of which has the underlying aim of “the advancement and preservation of film art and culture.” As part of its strategy, the company gives 50 percent of all revenues to the films’ rights holders.

The service has a large selection of independent movies from years gone by, as well as a healthy dose of foreign content.

It total, more than 4,000 movies are available. You’ll need to pay $5.99/month or $49.99/year to watch them.

10. Kanopy

kanopy

Kanopy provides a way for anyone in the US to watch free classic movies, as long as they hold a library card from a participating establishment. Many colleges and universities also have agreements in place.

You will find a mix of critically-acclaimed classic content, newer releases from indie filmmakers, and foreign films. The Kanopy service is available on Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Fire TV, and some smart TVs.

The Best Apps and Sites for Old Movies

No single service offers all of the classic films ever made, and nor is every service available on every platform. So, in order to gain access to a wide range of classic movies, we recommend trying a few of the apps and sites listed above.

And if you need even more films to watch, check out our articles explaining how to find out which movies are available to stream How to Check Which Movies Are Available to Stream Want to know if your favorite movies or TV shows are available to stream? Here are several tools that make it easy to check. Read More and our list of the best free movie streaming sites The Best Free Movie Streaming Sites Are you looking for the best free online movie streaming sites? Here's where you can watch free and legal movies at any time. Read More .

Related topics: Media Streaming, Online Video.

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  1. Elias
    June 20, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    People will always watch old movies because it is like traveling back in time! Personally, I love to spot the old cars, the cloths, the everyday objects people have been using 50, 60 or even 70 years back! Not to mention urban landmarks that I have visited. Nice selection of websites btw, here is another one: http://oldmoviesonline.net

  2. Dorothy
    January 2, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    We prefer old movies from the late 30's through to early sixties. Better acting, better storyline and cleaner language.

  3. Anonymous
    August 9, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for info. I really love to watch black and white films, especially crime films. :)
    By the way http://www.foxarchive.com/ has some classic movies too.

  4. jblackford
    November 8, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    i like those sites, must check them out.

  5. Steve
    October 25, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Thats a great list of sites, but does anyone watch the old classics anymore?

    Heres a nice big

    • charmaine
      November 7, 2009 at 2:05 pm

      in our age now i don't think people go 4 old movies anymore, but u know, sometimes its a pleasure to watch at least 1, specially if u feel lonely

  6. Ishan@ILoveFreeSoftware
    October 23, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Nice compilation. This would be a good time pass over this weekend :)