Top Apple TV Apps You Don't Have to Pay For
If you're like me, you like things that are free. Luckily, Apple TV has plenty to offer in the way of free movie apps. You won't get the latest theater releases here, but you will find classic shows such as Seinfeld, oldie-but-goodie public domain flicks, older documentaries, independent and international films, and much more. Different apps offer different ways in which to watch free movies and TV shows. Some of the apps below feature movies from the public domain, which means they're free to the public. Apps that feature classic movies don't need to monetize to pay for the content. However, Apple TV apps with more recent content do, which is why the apps below, such as Crackle and Tubi TV, offer great content that includes short advertisements in order to pay for that content. Overall, it's surprising the amount of good free movies and TV shows you can watch on your Apple TV—and these apps let you watch the same content on your iPhone or iPad too!
This app has a huge collection of public domain content. That means, of course, that the content is dated. But it has a lot of classic material that can still be very entertaining. It claims to have the largest library of free films available—these include classics such as Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. You'll find Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Three Stooges, Frank Sinatra, and many more. There's also a large selection of “B-Movie Masterpieces,” such as Plan 9 from Outer Space and Night of the Living Dead. Classic TV includes Beverly Hillbillies, Dragnet, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, and The Lucy Show. Plus, there are hundreds of short documentaries from the 1940s and '50s that are pretty weird, such as How to Be Well Groomed and What to Do on a Date. You probably won't find a more eclectic and odd collection anywhere else.
This collection of ad-supported movies is more apt to have movies from recent decades. More recent movies are typically available for a set period and then expire, to be replaced by new titles. At the time of this writing, well-known films such as Rudy, Ali, The Legend of Zorro, Roxanne, Birdy, The Net, The China Syndrome, About Last Night, Crash, La Bamba, and The Cable Guy were available. Crackle also has original shows and films, including Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. TV shows include Seinfeld, Married with Children, Dilbert, All in the Family, and The Larry Sanders Show. There are regular commercial interruptions during the movies, which is the tradeoff for free content. But the amount of ads is less than you'd see on network TV.
Viki has a large selection of international movies and TV shows, mostly from Korea and China, but also a selection from other countries such as Japan, India, and the United States, with subtitles available. In my experience, there's no commercial interruption. The app also has a selection of TV shows. You can sort content by country. TV series from the US include classics such as The Lucy Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Ozzie and Harriet, Popeye, Felix the Cat, Casper the Friendly Ghost, The Lone Ranger, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Public Domain Movies (Free)
This app has over 100 movies that are in the public domain that you can sort by director, actor, writer, and year, as well as by genre. Classic movies include those with Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Laurel & Hardy, Abbot & Costello, and Kirk Douglas.
This app offers free anime in addition to movies and TV shows. Content is ad supported, with commercials both at the beginning and during the videos. This app is somewhat different from the others in that many of the movies and TV shows are independent or foreign-language originals that haven't had a theatrical release or haven't been shown on regular TV channels.
Pluto TV (Free)
This app simulates a cable TV service. Instead of movies/shows on demand, it has a viewing guide with channels, with specific programs streaming at specific times. The viewing guide is organized into categories, with the Memory Lane category including the channels Drive-In Movies, Classic Movies, Shout TV, and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Currently playing as I write this are Son of Rambow, Sherlock Holmes: Terror by Night, H.G. Wells: The Invisible Man, Route 66, and The Castle of FuManchu.
SnagFilms has over 5,000 independent movies, TV shows, and documentaries you can stream. With popular documentaries such as Super Size Me and well-known independent movies such as Visioneers and Brooklyn Rules, there's lots of opportunity to discover movie gems. Named the “Best iPad Video App” by the Huffington Post, there's sure to be something here for everyone.
Tubi TV (Free)
Tubi TV has some surprisingly recent films for a free app for watching movies. The company behind the app is able to do this by monetizing with commercial interruptions. It may be a trade-off, but for free quality content, it's worth it. Enjoy Anime? Tubi TV streams new anime the day after it's released in Japan. It also has a selection of Korean dramas and exclusive categories such as, “Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes.”
Jim Karpen, Ph.D, is on faculty at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IA. He has been writing about the revolutionary consequences of computer technology since 1994. His Ph.D dissertation anticipated the Internet revolution. His site, jimkarpen.com, contains selected regular columns written for The Iowa Source. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.