If you haven’t heard of Google’s YouTube Movies & Shows, you’re not alone — but you’re missing out on a surprisingly convenient and free alternative to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other subscription-based streaming services. The ad-supported library of movies is updated frequently and offers an impressive list of noteworthy films, from critical darlings to cult classics.
Of course, not everything in the collection is worth watching. That’s why we’ve searched through the films available in YouTube’s 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.
William Shakespeare’s tragic story of star-crossed lovers from rival families gets a modern, gorgeously stylized update in this 1996 film co-written and directed by Baz Luhrmann. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, still early in their prolific careers, portray the story’s titular duo, respectively, and deliver a captivating performance that blends much of Shakespeare’s original dialogue with a story set in fair Verona Beach, where a pair of powerful families are engaged in a rivalry full of gunfights, lavish parties, and rising tension. A critical and commercial hit that introduced yet another generation to Romeo and Juliet’s tragic tale, the film is filled with lush sets and cleverly updated elements from the original play, as well as a star-packed supporting cast. John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Brian Dennehy, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Diane Venora, and Paul Rudd join DiCaprio and Danes in the familiar tale of love, loss, and the deadly cost of two powerful families’ feud.
Robin Williams plays an English teacher at a stuffy Vermont boarding school, whose teaching methods earn the ire of the school’s conservative faculty and parents but impart a newfound sense of self in his pupils in this Oscar-winning film penned by Tom Schulman and directed by Peter Weir. Set in 1959, the film famously brought the phrase carpe diem (“seize the day”) into mainstream culture and helped launch the career of Ethan Hawke with its tale of a group of students inspired to live life on their own terms and see the world through their own eyes. Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, the film earned Schulman an Oscar for his powerful, compelling screenplay.
Ridley Scott directed this critically acclaimed film, but it was the script penned by Callie Khouri and the performances of stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon that turned it into a cultural touchstone. The film follows two friends as they embark on a road trip that takes one bad turn after another, turning them into wanted fugitives running from a system of justice that rarely gives female victims a fair break. Decades before the #MeToo movement put a spotlight on the sexual abuse and harassment that’s all too common in women’s lives, Thelma & Louise told the story of two women who finally had enough and the adventure that turned them into patriarchy-defying heroes.
Before he became the filmmaker on 2014’s monster reboot Godzilla and 2016’s Star Wars prequel Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Gareth Edwards did it all on Monsters, which he wrote and directed along with serving as cinematographer, production designer, and visual effects artist. Part creature feature, part travelogue, the 2010 film follows a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) who’s recruited to escort his boss’ daughter (Whitney Able) back to the U.S. from Mexico. In order to do so, they’ll need to make their way through the quarantined zone of northern Mexico that was walled off after a falling space probe brought a host of extraterrestrial creatures to Earth. A truly independent film that manages to be as beautiful as it is terrifying at times, Monsters makes it clear why Edwards became one of Hollywood’s rising stars shortly after the film’s release.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.