In a world full of competitive streaming options and mounting monthly subscription fees, YouTube is offering a blissful return to basics and a bargain familiar to anyone who still remembers flipping through the channels: Put up with a few ads, and they’ll give you some great movies for free. It’s a great deal, and their selection has only been getting better. Their free library is loaded up with over 300 movies, many of them old favorites, cult classics, and popular hits. There’s never been a better time to expand your horizons or curl up with something familiar and comforting.
And there’s no catch. While people have always found ways to illegally upload content to YouTube, this set of movies is sponsored by YouTube itself, completely legal and completely free of charge. Dip in and start enjoying yourself. More are added all the time, but let’s take a look at the 22 best free movies on YouTube right now.
Big Trouble in Little China
In 1986, John Carpenter broke the mold with Big Trouble in Little China, a satirical kung fu movie that sets a goofy Kurt Russell down in a labyrinthine Chinatown and leads him through a plot involving kidnapping and sorcery.
Big Trouble in Little China failed so badly at the box office — making back only approximately $11.1 million of its budget, which has been estimated at roughly $20 million — that it drove Carpenter away from the Hollywood system altogether: "I don’t want to reach the point where I become embittered about making movies," he told Starlog.
But over the years, the film’s reputation has increased, and it’s now a bona fide cult classic. Empire rated it among the top 500 movies of all time, and it has vocal defenders who appreciate the way it skewers stereotypical Asian roles in the movies. At the time, it was also rare for a Western movie to feature a predominantly Asian cast. Actor James Hong has said, "There will never be another Big Trouble in Little China… Martial artists, the greatest of all, actors, writers, [in] that movie, John gave us all a chance."
Contact is based on a novel by Carl Sagan, who devoted most of his life to telling the public about all the beauty and wonder of the scientific universe. When you take that awe and intelligence and combine it with Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey, you get a stirring and genuinely transcendent science fiction movie that Roger Ebert called "the smartest and most absorbing story about extraterrestrial intelligence since Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Foster plays Ellie Arroway, a scientist working on SETI — the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence — who picks up a radio transmission from outer space. When she clashes with McConaughey’s Palmer Joss, a religious philosopher and former lover, it initially seems like the film is then going to turn into science vs. religion. But it swerves instead, choosing to unify the two — and giving Ellie a chance to meet her aliens.
Thought-provoking and full of great performances, Contact remains a popular and critically acclaimed film that demands not only viewing but discussion afterwards.