The 50 Best Movies on YouTube (Free and Paid)

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The 50 Best Movies on YouTube (Free and Paid)

YouTube has as deep a selection of new movies as anyone, as long as you’re willing to pay to stream. But the video streaming service also has a great, if hard-to-find, selection of legal free movies. These are mostly older movies which have entered the public domain or more recent ones who’s copyright was never established. We’ve divided these movies into two sections: the 20 best free movies on YouTube and the 30 best new movies on YouTube you’ll have to pay for.

You can also check out our guides to the best movies on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu, iTunes, Showtime, Cinemax, on demand, in theaters and at Redbox.

First, here are the 20 Best Free Movies on Netflix:

bucket-of-blood.jpg 20. A Bucket of Blood
Year: 1959
Director: Roger Corman
A Bucket of Blood captures B-movie maven Roger Corman in a transitional period, after his early, shoddy monster movies and before his more acclaimed, Edgar Allen Poe-inspired gothic horror pieces. Here, he turned to comedy for the first time, effectively satirizing his own cheapo oeuvre while also drawing parallels to early classics of the horror genre. The film features Corman mainstay Dick Miller in the lead role—an actor you might not know by name but would recognize as “that guy who gets killed” in practically every ’80s horror or sci-fi feature, from The Terminator to Chopping Mall. He plays a rather slow-witted worker in a Bohemian cafe who is unintentionally hailed as a great sculptor after accidentally killing a cat and covering its body in clay to hide the evidence. A madcap series of accidental and eventually premeditated murders follow to keep up the ruse, in a story with obvious inspiration in Mystery of the Wax Museum and House of Wax. Featuring an unusually sincere portrayal of Beatnik culture in the late ’50s, it’s a funny, sneakily insightful flick from the King of the B’s.—Jim Vorel


tabu-210.jpg 19. Tabu: A Story of the South Seas
Year: 1931
Director: F.W. Murnau
F.W. Murnau’s final film before his tragic death underlines just how capable he was of adapting from one style to the next. Stepping away from Hollywood, he collaborated with famed Nanook of the North documentarian Robert J. Flaherty, who wrote the screenplay with Murnau and directed the opening scene. Murnau documents the lives and culture of indigenous Pacific Islanders while also weaving a tragic love story. The quietly harrowing final sequence ensures that the film will never stop lingering faintly in the mind.—Jeremy Mathews


carnival-of-souls.jpg 18. Carnival of Souls
Year: 1962
Director: Herk Harvey
Carnival of Souls is a real diamond in the rough, an indie cheapie that gets by much more on style than substance but proved influential in its own ways. An eerie, black and white horror flick with the “urban legend” quality possessed by so many episodes of The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery, it follows a woman who miraculously survives a deadly accident and the strange and terrifying sights she begins to witness in the days that follow. She’s haunted by pale-faced ghouls and a specter known only as “The Man,” played by the film’s director, Herk Harvey. Employing some great performances and visual cues that take inspiration from German Expressionism, it’s the sort of atmospheric, creeping horror film that some modern audiences may no longer have patience for, but indispensable to students of the genre.—Jim Vorel


lady-vanishes.jpg 17. The Lady Vanishes
Year: 1938
Director: Alfred Hitchcock 
Pretty much predating every trope you’ve ever come to expect out of a genre that gets its name from keeping the audience keyed-up, The Lady Vanishes is both hilariously dated and a by-the-numbers primer on how to make a near-perfect thriller. Far from Hitchcock’s first foray into suspense, the film follows a soon-to-be-married woman, Iris (Margaret Lockwood), who becomes tangled in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the titular lady’s disappearance aboard a packed train. No shot in the film is extraneous, no piece of dialogue pointless—even the ancillary characters, who serve little ostensible part besides lending complexity to Iris’s search for the truth, are crucial to building the tension necessary to making said lady’s vanishing believable. The film is a testament to how, even by 1938, Hitchcock was shaving each of his films down to their most empirical parts, ready to create some of the most vital genre pictures of the 1950s.—Dom Sinacola


the-living-wake.jpg 16. The Living Wake
Year: 2010
Director: Mike O’Connell
It’s difficult to explain why star and co-writer Mike O’Connell is so funny, but his film, a strange cross between a Monty Python sketch and a Christopher Guest mockumentary, entertains nonetheless. Portraying the eccentric K. Roth Binew with an exaggerated Shakespearean delivery, O’Connell sets out to document his character’s last day on earth after being diagnosed with a vague terminal disease. He is also indescribably entertaining in person and in his YouTube hit “What’s It Gonna Be?” Keep an eye out for this guy.—Tim Basham


last-man.jpg 15. The Last Man on Earth
Year: 1964
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend has proven notoriously difficult to adapt while keeping any of its ideas intact, but compared to the later Omega Man or 2007 version of I Am Legend with Will Smith, this is probably the best overall take on the story. Some have called it Vincent Price’s best film, featuring wonderfully gothic settings in Rome where the last human man on Earth wages a nightly war against the “infected,” who have taken on the characteristics of classical vampires. It doesn’t fully commit to the inversion of protagonist/antagonist of the source material, but it makes the use of Price’s magnetic screen presence and ability to monologue. No one ever watches a Vincent Price movie and thinks “I wish there was less Vincent Price in this,” and The Last Man on Earth delivers a showcase for the actor at the height of his powers. Night of the Living Dead director George Romero has stated that without The Last Man on Earth, the modern zombie would never have been conceived.—Jim Vorel


night-of-living-dead.jpg 14. Night of the Living Dead
Year: 1968
Director: George A. Romero
It’s not really necessary to delve into how influential George Romero’s first zombie film has been to the genre and horror itself—it’s one of the most important horror movies ever made, and one of the most important independent films as well. The question is more accurately, “how does it hold up today?”, and the answer is “fairly well.” Unlike, say Dawn of the Dead, Night is pretty placid most of the time. The story conventions are classic and the black-and-white cinematography still looks excellent, but some of the performances are downright irritating, particularly that Judith O’Dea as Barbara. Duane Jones more than makes up for that as the heroic Ben, however, in a story that is very self-sufficient and provincial—just one small group of people in a house, with no real thought to the wider world. It’s a horror film that is a MUST SEE for every student of the genre, which is easy, considering that the film actually remains in the public domain.—Jim Vorel


the-kid.jpg 13. The Kid
Year: 1921
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length film and one of his finest achievements, The Kid tells the story of an abandoned child and the life he builds with The Little Tramp. Chaplin went against heavy studio opposition to create a more serious film in contrast to his earlier work. However, The Kid features just as much slapstick humor as his previous shorts, but placed within a broader, more dramatic context.—Wyndham Wyeth


blackmail.jpg 12. Blackmail
Year: 1929
Director: Alfred Hitchcock 
Alfred Hitchcock’s first sound film was also his last silent, as Blackmail was made in both formats. While the sound version is known for Hitchcock’s experiments with the new technology (most famously a scene that emphasizes the word “knife”), the silent version flows much smoother. And Donald Calthrop’s performance of the blackmailer feels even creepier with just his face and body language doing the job.—Jeremy Mathews


nosferatu.jpg 11. Nosferatu
Year: 1929
Director: F. W. Marnau
F.W. Murnau’s sublimely peculiar riff on Dracula has been a fixture of the genre for so long that to justify its place on this list seems like a waste of time. Magnificent in its freakish, dour mood and visual eccentricities, the movie invented much of modern vampire lore as we know it. It’s once-a-year required viewing of the most rewarding kind.—Sean Gandert


the-navigator.jpg 10. The Navigator
Year: 1924
Directors: Buster Keaton, Donald Crisp
The Navigator mines an ocean liner for every gag imaginable. Keaton plays a clueless rich young man who finds himself stranded on a giant, adrift ship with the clueless rich young woman who rejected him serving as his only company. These two spoiled upper-class twerps don’t know how to open canned food, let alone operate a ship, and have to improvise in hilarious ways to get things under control. The scene where the two characters each suspect someone else is on the boat, but can’t find anyone else, plays out in classic Keaton fashion: with perfectly timed wide shots that make it more believable that the two keep missing each other. The best moment may be a spooky night when the characters let the creepiness of the boat get the best of them.—Jeremy Mathews


his-girl-friday.jpg 9. His Girl Friday
Year: 1940
Director: Howard Hawks
Adapted from the widely acclaimed play The Front Page, His Girl Friday is a classic whose sharp, witty dialogue matches that of old newsrooms. This smooth-talking editor, played by the always-charming Cary Grant, recognizes true journalistic talent and goes to great lengths to get his best reporter to cover a major story.—Bonnie Stiernberg


gold-rush.jpg 8. The Gold Rush
Year: 1925
Director: Charles Chaplin
The Klondike gold rush made the perfect setting for Charles Chaplin’s tramp to run wild. Chaplin took all the motifs he could find from adventure novels, melodramas and other stories of the northern frontier, tossed them in a blender and served up a collection of what would become his most famous scenes. He finds humor in peril—with a suspenseful teetering cabin scene, as well as starvation (when he famously makes a meal of his boot) and of course finds time to show off with his dancing roll scene. However, no one has succeeded in finding any humor in the atrocious voiceover Chaplin added to the 1942 rerelease. Be sure to watch the original.—Jeremy Mathews


sita-sings-the-blues.jpg 7. Sita Sings the Blues
Year: 2010
Director: Nina Paley
Sita Sings the Blues is a study in cinematic obsession and a triumph of individual achievement for its creator, artist and animator Nina Paley. This is a feature animated film entirely undertaken by one determined woman, featuring four distinctly different styles of animation and storytelling, to wrap together the narrative of her own life with the millennia-old Hindu myth cycle The Ramayana after she noted the similarities between her own story and that of the myth’s heroine, Sita. A meditation on relationships and duty, it’s also set to the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Henshaw, whose songs essentially become the soundtrack to animated music videos. It’s a beautiful, incredibly imaginative film that is equal parts funny, sobering and jaw-dropping as a technical achievement. It’s one of the most impressive animated features ever made by a single person.—Jim Vorel


passion-joan-of-arc-210.jpg 6. The Passion of Joan of Arc
Year: 1928
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
It’s generally wise to avoid courtroom scenes, but that’s not the only rule Carl Theodor Dreyer breaks in this emotional firebomb. With bizarre framing and a disorienting sense of space, Dreyer disarms his audience, then hits them with serious impact. Isolating Maria Falconetti as Joan from the clergymen judging her fate, the director often gives us nothing to look at but the actress’s face, and that is, simply, enough.—Jeremy Mathews


charade.jpg 5. Charade
Year: 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
Cary Grant is the most charming male lead ever. Audrey Hepburn is the most charming female lead ever. Everything else is just bonus in this romantic thriller about a woman pursued in Paris for her late husband’s stolen fortune: the Henry Mancini score, the Hitchcock-ian suspense, the plot twists and Walter Mathau as a CIA agent.—Michael Dunaway


the-general.jpg 4. The General
Year: 1926
Directors: Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckham
When Yankee spies steal his locomotive and kidnap his girlfriend, a Southern railroad engineer (“The Great Stone Face” Buster Keaton) is forced to pursue his two beloveds across enemy lines. While a few Charlie Chaplin pictures give it a run for its money, The General is arguably the finest silent comedy ever made—if not the finest comedy ever made. At the pinnacle of Buster Keaton’s renowned career, the film didn’t receive critical or box-office success when released, but it has aged tremendously. It’s a spectacle of story, mishmashing romance, adventure, action (chases, fires, explosions) and comedy into a seamless silent masterpiece.—David Roark


10.Metropolis.NetflixList.jpg 3. Metropolis
Year: 1927
Director:Fritz Lang
Metropolis never slows as it delivers a constant stream of iconic images. Fritz Lang filled his parable with all the sci-fi/adventure tropes he could: the mad scientist, the robot, the rooftop chase, the catacombs and, as it turns out, a devious henchman. Metropolis, too, is a great reminder of just how difficult it is to judge an incomplete film. In fact, many silent films are missing material, even when it isn’t made clear in screenings or on home video. While Lang’s film has always been known for its spectacular special effects—it’s legally required that I use the phrase “visionary” while discussing it—but not until a few years ago did modern audiences see a film anywhere close to the one that first premiered. It turned out that the film’s best performance, Fritz Rasp as a ruthless spy for the corporate state, was part of that missing material, and it gives the film a greater sense of urgency, increasing the feeling of class-based antagonism. With that unknown excellence lurking in one of the most famous films of all time, it leaves us to wonder what else was lost in nitrate flames. —J. Mathews


sunrise.jpg 2. Sunrise
Year: 1927
Director: F.W. Murnau
During the last few years of the 1920s, the excitement was palpable as brilliant filmmakers pushed to unlock the medium’s full potential. Sunrise was born of that ambition, as Fox brought German genius F.W.Murnau to Hollywood, where he and his cameramen used all the resources at their disposal to create some of the most stunning visuals ever put on celluloid. Telling the story of a husband who strays and then tries to redeem himself, Murnau’s camera flies over country fields, gets tangled in the bustle of the city and desperately looms over a lake in a storm, while his actors, George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor, radiate with sincerity.—Jeremy Mathews


steamboat-bill-jr.jpg 1. Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Year: 1928
Director: Buster Keaton and Charles Reisner
Steamboat Bill, Jr.’s climactic cyclone sequence—which is at once great action and great comedy—would on its own earn the film a place on this list. The iconic shot of a house’s facade falling on Keaton is only one of many great moments in the free-flowing, hard-blowing sequence. But the film also showcases some of Keaton’s best intimate acting, including a scene in which his father tries to find him a more manly hat, and a painfully hilarious attempt to pantomime of a jailbreak plan.—Jeremy Mathews

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