Streaming Old Movies

Kevin Ott
Humphrey Bogart

While you can always stream old movies at the usual digital watering holes of Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu, there are websites dedicated to streaming old movies. If you're a fan of old movies, these four streaming sites are paradise.

Watch TCM

Watch TCM is a streaming extension of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel. It features a "Movies" section in which you can watch any of the movies in its collection on-demand. They rotate these films out regularly, adding new ones and only keeping each movie on the site for a limited time. The site also has a "Live" section in which you can watch whatever movie TCM is broadcasting live.

To access any of its content, however, you must have an existing account with a cable TV provider. You simply enter your cable account information, and the website gives you unlimited access to its content and features. Some of its many classic movies include:

  • Ben-Hur
  • A Stolen Life
  • Any Wednesday
  • Calamity Jane
  • Doctor X
  • Easter Parade

If you already have cable, this site is a convenient silver screen treasure trove. Its "Live" feature often brings films your way you never would have found otherwise.

Warner Archive

The Warner Archive is a paid streaming service that costs about $9.99 per month to gain unlimited access to the deep vaults of Warner Brothers. You can dig up legendary films from the earliest days of cinema as well as its most successful classics. It's a dizzying, addicting portal back in time as you tour the history of Hollywood. It features films from just about any major star you can think of, including:

  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Lauren Bacall
  • Fred Astaire
  • Debbie Reynolds
  • Lucille Ball
  • John Wayne
  • Rock Hudson
  • The Three Stooges

Fandor (Classic)

Fandor is another paid subscription service that costs about $10 a month to gain unlimited access to all of its streaming content. (An extra treat with Fandor is it has new movies too. So if you need a break from the classics it doesn't take long to find a new Tom Hiddleston film.) It has a vast library of classics including films by these household names:

  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Sophie Lauren
  • Cary Grant
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Gary Cooper

Besides making films available to stream, Fandor produces short featurettes with interesting facts about classic films, like this one:

SnagFilms

SnagFilms is a free streaming site that allows you to sign up without cost to access its streaming content. It only requires you provide your email address or link your social media account with your SnagFilms login. Although it also has new films as Fandor does, it has an impressive catalog under its classic film section. (The best way to access the section is to search for "classic movies" in the site's search box at top.) It has great films from stars that are harder to find on the websites mentioned above, including a notably large collection from the Silent Era. Stars seen on SnagFilms include:

  • Greta Garbo
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Spencer Tracy
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Buster Keaton
  • Boris Karloff
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Shirley Temple
  • Abbot and Costello

Like Fandor, SnagFilm also produces quite a few classic film-related featurettes that draw upon SnagFilms large classic film library:

Extra Tips for Streaming Old Movies

Besides the four sites above, there are other creative ways to stream old movies. Some additional options include:

Kanopy (Using Your Library Card)

This is just one more reason why you should get a library card. The website Kanopy offers a free streaming service to anyone who has a library card (assuming your library participates, and it's a good chance it does as hundreds of library branches have joined Kanopy's program). It has mostly documentaries and foreign films, but it has a sizable classic movies section with great titles such as Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator and Katherine Hepburn's Summertime.

Use Your Cable Subscription or Streaming TV

Major cable TV companies have been offering apps that connect to your cable subscription and allow you to stream their channels without additional cost. Spectrum, for example, has a streaming app for mobile devices that give you special access to a long list of channels, including TCM (Turner Classic Movies) where you can find classic movies.

If you use a streaming service for your tv viewing, you likely have access to channels that stream old movies to watch at home or on your mobile device. These include channels like AMC and TCM on Sling and Classic Reel on Roku.

Caution When Browsing Film Sites

One final tip: beware of film piracy sites. The piracy of digital entertainment products is as bad as it's ever been, and in this day and age the viewer clicking play can be just as liable as the person posting the illegal content. Look carefully at the website before streaming anything. If it is owned by a company that publishes its information transparently and includes licensing and copyright information about the content it streams, then it's a safer bet.

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Streaming Old Movies