It might not be the most popular source of streaming entertainment, but Google’s YouTube Movies & Shows is a convenient, free alternative to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other subscription-based services. The library is updated often, and typically contains more than a few critically acclaimed films and lesser-known gems.
Not everything offered by the service is worth your time, though, so we’ve searched through YouTube’s entire free streaming library to put together a list of the best full-length movies available right now. If you want to broaden your search, we also have lists of the best movies on Netflix, the best movies streaming on Amazon, and plenty of guides for Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, produced, and directed this surreal comedy that casts George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson as a trio of prison inmates who escape from a chain gang in order to track down a hidden treasure. Set during the Great Depression, the film offers a contemporary spin on Homer’s epic The Odyssey, pitting the three convicts against a variety of obstacles — real, imagined, and even mystical — over the course of their quest. With a beautiful soundtrack and memorable performances from a star-studded cast, the film won a Grammy Award for its music and received a pair of Academy Award nominations, too.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
One of the only films to win the Academy Award in each of the top five categories, this 1991 psychological thriller cast Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling, whose investigation of a brutal serial killer leads her to seek information from another, equally terrifying killer: The imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist with an affinity for killing and eating people. The Silence of the Lambs was directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Ted Tally, and is based on Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel of the same name. Widely regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made and often ranking among the best films of all time, it is as terrifying as it is captivating in its story of Starling’s cat-and-mouse game with both Lecter and the vicious killer “Buffalo Bill” who she’s pursuing.
Europa Report (2013)
This fictional found footage film directed by Sebastián Cordero follows the crew of the first manned mission to Europa as they attempt to investigate evidence of life on the far-off moon of Jupiter. Although the movie flew under the radar when it was released, it received critical praise for its realism and scientific accuracy as the team struggles to overcome one crisis after another during their journey. The film’s international ensemble cast includes Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, and Sharlto Copley.
Kung Fury (2015)
A rare example of a successful Kickstarter film, Kung Fury promised its backers a spectacular homage to ’80s action films, and it delivered. Director David Sandberg also plays the lead, Kung Fury, a detective who gained superhuman fighting abilities after being simultaneously struck by a bolt of lightning and bitten by a cobra. Kung Fury uses his supreme combat skills to clean up the filthy streets of Miami but faces his greatest challenge when no less a villain than Adolf Hitler (Jorma Taccone) arrives, intent on conquering all of time through his own mastery of kung fu.
If it’s not apparent already, Kung Fury is a film that makes no attempts at seriousness. That’s not all, either; a full-length sequel is on its way, with Michael Fassbender, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and David Hasselhoff involved in varying capacities. Yeah.
The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi action film The Terminator not only launched its director’s and co-writer’s careers, but it also turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into a bona fide leading man with his performance as the titular, near-unstoppable android assassin. The film follows a young woman, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who finds herself pursued by a cyborg killer sent from the future to prevent her from giving birth to the man who will lead the human rebellion against the machines in the decades to come. Michael Biehn plays a supporting role as Kyle Reese, a human soldier sent from the future to protect Connor from the terrifying T-800 assassin.
André Øvredal wrote and directed this dark, found-footage mockumentary film that follows a group of Norwegian film students who set out to make a movie about a mysterious man they believe to be a bear poacher, only to discover that his actual job involves eliminating rogue trolls who venture too close to populated regions. Several prominent Norwegian comedians are featured prominently in the cast of the quirky film, which received positive reviews from critics both in Øvredal’s home country and here in the U.S., where it became a cult hit and led to a viral clip featuring actor Otto Jespersen screaming, “Troll!”
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople casts Sam Neill and Julian Dennison as an unlikely duo of foster father and foster child, respectively. A troublemaker from the city adopted by a rural family, Ricky (Dennison) struggles to settle in with his new family, leading to a series of events that sends him fleeing into the New Zealand wilderness. Ricky’s foster father, Hec (Neill), sets off to track the teenager down, only to end up in trouble himself. A national manhunt soon begins, bringing Ricky and Hec closer while showcasing both the fantastic chemistry of the film’s leads and Waititi’s wonderfully endearing, clever script.
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story (2010)
With the recent passing of comics icon Stan Lee, there is ample reason to get reacquainted with the man who co-created Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Avengers, Hulk, the X-Men, and so many other world-famous superheroes and their supporting cast of colorful characters. This 2010 documentary chronicled the life and career of the man who helped make Marvel Comics a household name and changed the face of the comics world for generations. While the film offers an origin story of sorts for Stan “The Man” Lee, it also provides a touching look at his life away from all of the superheroes and larger-than-life adventures, as both doting husband and father.
Reefer Madness (1936)
If you’ve never heard of Reefer Madness, you might be living under a rock. No matter your views on marijuana use, this absurd 1936 movie was made to “educate” young Americans on the dangers of drug abuse, but it’s actually a propaganda film produced by a church group and distributed by notorious exploitation producer Dwain Esper.
In the film, pot abuse drives several young adults to violence, murder, and (of course) madness. At the end, Dr. Alfred Carroll (Josef Forte) breaks the fourth wall (uh, spoilers?) to warn viewers that their children might die after consuming marijuana. After a sort of reappearance in the 1970s, Reefer Madness took on a new life as a parody film for supporters of drug reform and cannabis legalization.
The General (1926)
While Charlie Chaplin remains a household name more than 40 years after his death, Buster Keaton is an oft-overlooked film pioneer, and one of the first true silent film stars. The General met mixed reviews and poor box office returns upon release in 1926 but has since become regarded as Keaton’s greatest film and an all-time classic.
Adapted from Union soldier William Pittenger’s memoir, The Great Locomotive Chase, The General follows a Confederate train engineer forced into action after the father of his love interest (Marion Mack) is wounded in battle. The film includes two train chase scenes that proved to be the most expensive stunts ever in a silent movie, and features some impressive historical detail, all things considered.
The Escort (2016)
Mitch (Michael Doneger) is a sex-addicted journalist desperate for a good story. When he meets Natalie (Lyndsy Fonseca), a high-class, Stanford-educated escort, he convinces her to let him write an exposé on the industry for a magazine. Without his knowledge, Natalie begins to use Mitch as a bodyguard, leveraging his interest in her into protection. What starts as a business proposition soon evolves into something more.
This silent adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is often regarded as one of the most influential films in the history of cinema. After failing to acquire the proper rights to Dracula, German film studio Prana Film rebranded the legendary vampire as Count Orlok, and resorted to calling vampires “Nosferatu.” While it won’t scare the pants off you, director F.W. Murnau perfectly tells the story, harnessing the haunting atmosphere associated with German Impressionist cinema to great effect (in Nosferatu, you can see the influences of such seminal works as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). Production designer Albin Grau birthed the film’s concept after speaking with a Serbian farmer who believed his father was one of the undead.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A seminal entry for American horror cinema, George A. Romero’s classic horror movie follows seven people who find themselves trapped in Pennsylvania as the terrifying walking dead surround them. They have to try to survive without understanding the terror that lurks outside. The movie has been noted as the first zombie film, and its influences can be seen in everything from 28 Days Later to Shaun of the Dead. Romero’s debut — he wrote, directed, edited, and acted in the film — made him into a superstar, quickly revolutionizing the genre on a budget of a mere $114,000.
Free to Play: The Movie (2014)
More than a year after the Overwatch League was founded, e-sports are still carving out a niche and establishing itself as a legitimate form of entertainment. Those who don’t game on a competitive level might not understand the level of dedication required for such endeavors, not to mention the physical and mental tolls placed on young players who train for hours on end each day.
Free to Play, a documentary from game developer/distributor Valve Entertainment, focuses on two athletes and one coach who are competing in the 2011 International Defense of the Ancients (DotA) tournament. It explores the stresses the players are forced to deal with and deftly compares the struggles of e-sports athletes to those of traditional athletes.