In case, you know, you get bored on the internet
June 19, 2013 3:13 PM   Subscribe

The fifty best (public domain) classic movies that you can legally watch online for free right now, all neatly collected for y'all by Flavorwire (paginated version).
posted by MartinWisse (25 comments total) 107 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fun fact, there was a one-year window of time between the DVD release of The Truth About Charlie in 2003 and Criterion's DVD of Charade in 2004 during which the only way to see the latter was because it was included, in its entirety, as a bonus feature on the special edition of the former. I wound up making several extremely specific and weird recommendations to people at Blockbuster for this reason.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:20 PM on June 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I recommend Carnival of Souls. That movie creeped me out in an entirely different way than Night of the Living Dead.
posted by Redfield at 3:27 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


So why was it included?
posted by MartinWisse at 3:27 PM on June 19, 2013


I'm sort of having trouble believing that 1991's Slacker has fallen under the public domain.
posted by item at 3:28 PM on June 19, 2013


Indeed, there are some questionable calls on a number of YouTube inclusions. Just because it's there in one piece instead of being split into eight parts doesn't mean it's in the public domain.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:31 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come to think of it, Slacker always seems to come up on these '100% LEGAL AND FREE PUBLIC DOMAIN MOVIES STREAMING ONLINE!!!' linkbaits lists, but a cursory search is turning up zilch to back up its PD status other than other '100% LEGAL AND FREE PUBLIC DOMAIN MOVIES STREAMING ONLINE!!!' linkbaits lists linkbaits as sources.
posted by item at 3:36 PM on June 19, 2013


Indeed. I believe that "Cannibal, The Musical," for instance, is there because pretty much all of Troma's movies are on YouTube, and not because it's public domain.

And Slacker is up there courtesy of FilmBuff, which at least seems to have permission to upload it. "We leverage strong relationships with content owners, partnerships with all digital retailers and world-class curation expertise to help shape the future of entertainment consumption," says their website.

So yeah. I wouldn't trust that "public domain" business on Flavorwire necessarily.
posted by themanwho at 3:40 PM on June 19, 2013


Slacker, amongst other movies, was uploaded to YouTube by its distributor so is apparently fine to watch there. Not in the public domain, but watchable for free.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:42 PM on June 19, 2013


Oh, and you can also watch it on Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox, and Netflix.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:43 PM on June 19, 2013


How long does it take for a movie to be in the public domain? There are lots of fairly recent movies in addition to Slacker. Cannibal the Musical (1993), One False Move (1992), Kung Fu Hustle (2004!)

I'm going to take with a grain of salt that these movies are all legal to stream for free, and instead just knowingly illegally download higher-quality versions from a torrent site, thank you very much.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:44 PM on June 19, 2013


there was a one-year window of time between the DVD release of The Truth About Charlie in 2003 and Criterion's DVD of Charade in 2004 during which the only way to see the latter was because it was included, in its entirety, as a bonus feature on the special edition of the former

Huh. I have a 2001 DVD of Charade put out by Madacy Entertainment.
posted by stopgap at 3:56 PM on June 19, 2013


Cookiebastard: "How long does it take for a movie to be in the public domain?"

Steamboat Willie's age +1?
posted by radwolf76 at 4:00 PM on June 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


Holy shit! Driller Killer! I thought I was the only person on earth to have ever seen that one. I picked it up at my local indie video rental place wayyyyyy back in the late 80's/early 90's. I'm kind of amazed it's on a "classic" list, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"How long does it take for a movie to be in the public domain?"

In the USA see List of films in the public domain in the United States - not for the list (which is a fraction of the films) but discussion of how to determine if a film is PD. It's a black art, though fascinating when you get into it. The linkbait problem is right on, so many films are uploaded illegally and tagged as PD to draw hits. Other films are copyright but made available for free then mistaken as PD by others and redistributed illegally as PD. It's like replicants in Blade Runner, every film tagged as PD should be looked at askew to see if it's real or not, and even then you can't always tell, it's a jungle of lies, deception and mystery - in the end films want nothing more than to be seen, life.
posted by stbalbach at 4:09 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Ctrl-F "Inseminoid"
> no results found
> all of the internet confirmed to be the lie-song of a false-trumpet, tootled deceitfully into the sleeping ear of an innocence-child
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:12 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's nothing in the article that insists all the included films are in the public domain. It states quite clearly that some are public domain and some have been made freely available by their rights holders or by permission of their rights holders.

It's also quite possible some of these are illegal uploads anyway. It can be an infuriating process to double check who owns what rights and where and when.
posted by davros42 at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2013


So why was it included?

The Truth About Charlie is a (terrible) remake of Charade.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:24 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel so bad for whoever forgot to explicitly declare copyright in Charade, resulting in its immediate public domaining on release.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:27 PM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


As it happens, I finished watching Scarlet Street just ten minutes ago, then I checked out this list and there it is! First rate.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 4:29 PM on June 19, 2013


I have no opinion about Inseminoid but that last sentence is a thing of beauty
posted by en forme de poire at 4:49 PM on June 19, 2013


His Girl Friday

The ultimate newspaper comedy finds ethically challenged editor Walter Burns (Cary Grant) pulling every dirty trick he can come up with to keep ace reporter — and ex-wife — Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) from abandoning his paper and settling down with dull fiancé Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). The dialogue crackles, the pace is breakneck, and Howard Hawks’s direction was seldom leaner; no wonder this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies.

I know what's the next film I'll watch.
posted by ersatz at 5:05 PM on June 19, 2013


It is my understanding (may be wrong), that "Night of the Living Dead" is so free to the public that anybody can take actual pieces of that film, remake the film, clip, slice, cut, edit the film to legally make it into something entirely new, and as long as you don't attempt to make a profit on it-you're okay.
I keep searching the nets for "new" versions of NotLD with no luck. Maybe it isn't common knowledge. Maybe nobody with talent, the equipment, or a sense of nostalgia has the time.

There are a lot of great films in that list. Many I have seen, many I have not. I would HIGHLY recommend any and all of Buster Keaton's films. He's still my #1 director of all time. There were some Alfred Hitchcock films in there, but imho not the great one. (yes I think he only made one great film-Rope).
posted by QueerAngel28 at 6:22 PM on June 19, 2013


The slightly more obscure film Night of the Living Bread is free to the public as well.
posted by officer_fred at 8:49 PM on June 19, 2013


Thanks for the post, MartinWisse.

It gave me a link to Nosferatu (1922), which I have never seen, but have wanted to.

I just watched it on youtube, and all I can say is, WTF? I won't go into any details because I don't want to derail the thread, but, from my admittedly limited knowledge of vampire lore, that film seemed to play fast and loose with the "facts" as I know them. (I must note, though, that I have never read the original "Dracula" book, so I can't claim to be a good judge on the matter.)

Anyway, I will say that the Ellen character was a real hottie, IMHO. That's probably due to my affinity for the female hairstyles of the 1920's. Rowr!

OK, one comment... Nosferatu appears to be a Vulcan. Who knew?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:46 AM on June 20, 2013


the only way to see the latter was because it was included, in its entirety, as a bonus feature

I guess the copyright issues are why it's widely available on streaming now -- both Amazon Prime and Netflix keep recommending it to me. It's fun, but it's not like I want to keep rewatching it.
posted by dhartung at 3:01 AM on June 20, 2013


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