The streaming market has become increasingly diverse. In the past few years, dozens of platforms have made their way to the digital world, from general providers like Netflix and Max to more niche sites like The Criterion Channel and BroadwayHD.
As great as Netflix, Disney+, or Paramount+ is — providing subscribers with oodles of premium content updated regularly — it’s also extremely hard to beat free content like the numerous movies currently streaming on YouTube.
From beloved modern films like The Grand Budapest Hotel to tried and true cult classics like Die Hard, here are some of the best movies currently streaming on YouTube — for free, no less!
Action: Die Hard (1988)
Attending a party in a Los Angeles skyscraper, New York City police detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) must use his wiles and wits to survive when the building is seized by an unscrupulous gang of terrorists.
This past year, the world was shocked to hear about the sudden retirement of Bruce Willis. With Willis formally diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, the ‘80s action star has wisely decided to step away from his career in front of the camera, spending time with his family and loved ones in the years ahead.
As sad it is to see a giant like Willis go, audiences are always able to look back at some of Willis’ most illustrious films from the past, starting with the 1988 classic, Die Hard. Arriving just in time for the holidays, this action extravaganza remains one of the most beloved entries in the genre, thrilling fans around the world every time the Yuletide season rolls around.
Comedy: Ghostbusters (1984)
Exiting SNL at the close of the 1970s, Dan Aykroyd started working on an ambitious new script for a light-hearted horror comedy for himself and John Belushi. While the original plans for the movie failed to materialize before Belushi’s death in 1982, the screenplay eventually became the basis for the 1984 classic, Ghostbusters.
Discovering the genuine existence of life after death, a group of paranormal researchers (Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson) start a ghost-catching business in New York, leading them into conflict with an ancient demigod seeking to destroy the world.
Between its ensemble quartet and supporting appearances from Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters ranks among the star-studded comedies of its era. Persistently quotable and featuring just enough scares to give it an edge, it’s a movie capable of entertaining the entire family.
Mystery: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Like every great director, Wes Anderson has cultivated his own unique style of filmmaking, with viewers able to recognize a typical Anderson film from the opening scene alone. Off-beat, quirky, and packed with humor, each of Anderson’s films are worth watching, starting with his 2014 comedy mystery, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Framed for the murder of his elderly lover (Tilda Swinton), a prestigious hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes) and his loyal lobby boy (Tony Revolori) go on the run, seeking to prove their innocence and ensure the guilty party responsible is apprehended.
Like most of Anderson’s later movies, The Grand Budapest Hotel hinges on an utterly massive ensemble cast, making use of everyone from Adrien Brody and Willem Dafoe to Jeff Goldblum and Saoirse Ronan. Gorgeously shot and possessing a vibrant color palette, it’s one of Anderson’s best directorial efforts yet.
Sci-Fi: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Having created the prototypical summer blockbuster with Jaws in 1975, Steven Spielberg set out to similarly reinvent the traditional sci-fi film with his next project, 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Following a mysterious encounter with extraterrestrial visitors, an ordinary Indiana electrician (Richard Dreyfuss) begins experiencing strange visions of a mountain–a vision shared by multiple people who’ve had similar experiences with U.F.O.s.
Like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Spielberg’s later work on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind nurtures a wondrous view of the cosmos, forcing viewers to ponder life beyond planet Earth. Dense, intelligent, yet never pretentious, it’s one of the greatest films of Spielberg’s entire career.
Romance: Twilight (2008)
Moving to a new town in suburban Washington, a high school student (Kristen Stewart) learns that her enigmatic classmate (Robert Pattinson) is secretly a vampire. Despite being fearful of him at first, she soon develops romantic feelings for him.
Whether you love it, hate it, or relentlessly complain about it, it’s impossible to take anything away from the Twilight Saga. Achieving the same level of popularity as other notable teen series like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, Twilight commanded legions of fans in its heyday, delighting audiences with its gothic exploration of love and vampiric folklore.
Adapted from Stephanie Meyers’ best-selling Y.A. series, the initial Twilight film cemented the series’ place as a stylistic successor to the Potter movies, maintaining a careful balance between teen romance and traditional horror mythology. It may not be an altogether great movie, but its popularity among younger audience members is beyond argument.
Teen: Juno (2007)
One of the most intricate and emotionally engaging teen comedies of the modern era, Juno paints a compelling portrait of teen pregnancy. Drawing on the same intricate blend of wit and poignancy of an ‘80s John Hughes movie, it’s a moving display of the problems teens might endure as they near adulthood.
Learning that she’s pregnant by her childhood best friend (Michael Cera), a 16-year-old high school student (Elliot Page) grapples over whether to keep the baby or put it up for adoption.
Despite some minor backlash for its main premise, Juno nevertheless portrays its main thematic issues in a cathartic and meaningful manner. With a warm script, subtle direction, and fine performances from every actor involved, it’s a movie that perfectly sums up the anxieties and fears of late adolescence.
Family: The Iron Giant (1999)
While Disney has long held a tight monopoly over the animation industry, certain family-friendly films have still managed to obtain a favorable response from contemporary audiences. Such can be said for 1999’s The Iron Giant, one of the most beloved non-Disney movies to ever grace the animation industry.
When a massive robotic creature (Vin Diesel) crash-lands in suburban Maine, a young boy (Eli Marienthal) forms an unlikely attachment to the mechanical being, helping him hide from the government authorities attempting to track him down.
Harking back to the same general plotline of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Iron Giant focuses on the profound friendship sparked between individuals of profoundly different backgrounds, as well as the idea that love and acceptance can prevail over hate and fear.
Biopic: Marie Antoinette (2006)
More recently, director Sofia Coppola has released her latest film, Priscilla, a biographical film centered around the Elvis Presley family from the perspective of the King’s wife, Priscilla. As fantastic as her newest movie is, it’s also worth noting the abundant similarities shared between Priscilla and Coppola’s 2006 film, Marie Antoinette.
Forced into a marriage with the heir to the French monarchy (Jason Schwartzman), the teenage Austrian princess Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) experiences life in the royal family amidst the chaotic French Revolution.
An enthralling study of Marie Antoinette’s life leading up to her shocking execution, Marie Antoinette’s modern approach allows Coppola to infuse her own creative sensibilities into the context of an historical drama.
Drama: The Elephant Man (1980)
Making his debut in 1977 with the imminently odd Eraserhead, surrealist director David Lynch collaborated with Mel Brooks on the 1980 biographical film, The Elephant Man. An original and evocative study of Joseph Merrick, it’s one of Lynch’s most conventional films, making it an ideal starting point for anyone interested in Lynch’s diverse filmography.
In Victorian England, a humane doctor (Anthony Hopkins) invites John Merrick (John Hurt) – a man suffering from severe physical maladies – to work at his hospital, saving him from the harsh treatment of the crowds around him.
Shot in crisp black-and-white, The Elephant Man skewers traditional stereotypes surrounding Merrick’s life, showing his heart and humanity in contrast to the unrelenting cruelty of the so-called “normal” people around him. It’s a devastating biopic that will shake and stun most audience members, leaving them with a renewed sympathy for Merrick and all the ordeals he faced in his everyday life.
Underrated: Quick Change (1990)
With breakout films like Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, and Stripes under his belt, Bill Murray became one of the breakout comedians of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Using his newfound success to his advantage, Murray signed on to co-direct and star in 1990’s Quick Change, a little-known comedy heist movie that deserves a larger audience.
Having successfully robbed a New York City bank, a trio of thieves (Murray, Randy Quaid, and Geena Davis) do everything they can to leave the Big Apple behind, only to meet constant roadblocks preventing their escape from the city.
Making his first (and so far only) directorial foray with this film, Murray manages to gage audiences’ interest both in front of and behind the camera. Maintaining remarkable camaraderie with Quaid and Davis, Quick Change serves as another welcome addition to Murray’s vast filmography.
Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Fangoria, and Sportskeeda, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.
Richard has been an avid consumer of movies, television, books, and pop culture since he was four-years-old. Raised on a diverse mix of Clint Eastwood Westerns, Star Wars, sci-fi and horror films, Alan Moore comics, and Stephen King novels, he eventually turned his various passions into a creative outlet, writing about film, television, literature, comics, and gaming for his high school and college newspapers. A traveling enthusiast, Richard has also managed to create a career out of journeying abroad, venturing to such awe-inspiring places as the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the rainforests of Costa Rica, and the scenic coastline of Haiti. Upon graduating from TCNJ, Richard set his sights on a career in journalism, writing extensively about the art of traveling and the entertainment medium for various online publications. When he’s not busy making his way through The Criterion Collection, he can be found either reading or planning a trip somewhere (preferably someplace with a scenic hiking trail).