The wail resounds in every corner of the house, you cannot stop it—the books have all been read, the new releases streamed, every video game played to the end multiple times. I’m bored… You gave up quarantine homeschool weeks ago. Just who did you think you were? Here’s an idea, parent at your wit’s end: sit the kids in front of Lone Wolf McQuade or Over the Top.
Tell them how everything used to look like that when you were young. No second or third screen to turn to when you lost interest. You’d catch a free movie on a Sunday afternoon—streaming in real time, as it were—on one of four or five channels. No pause, rewind, or save for later. (Play it up—maybe you didn’t live this, they don’t know that.)
Oh, and there were commercials every ten minutes or so—lots and lots and lots of ads. This is a lesson in media history—you’re an educator! They’ll readily admit how much better they have it as they watch Chuck Norris and Stallone rack up the kills on YouTube, free to stream (and pause, rewind, and save for later), with many fewer ad interruptions than in your day, and with 363 other films to watch and more to come.
But say you find this content objectionable, or… well, bad. You could certainly do much worse, believe me, as you’ll see in a cursory look at the many feature entertainments available to stream free with ads on YouTube. But, in all seriousness, you care about your children’s education, and with some careful digging, you’ll find quite a lot to give them a real cultural lesson, and to enlighten the grown-ups, too.
Learn, for example, about the Wrecking Crew, in a documentary of the same name, the famous cohort of studio musicians who played on hundreds of the best pop, rock, soul, etc. records in the 60s. As the Funk Brothers were to Motown, Booker T. & the MGs to Stax, so were the Wrecking Crew to the West Coast Sound (and the sound of Elvis, The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, the Mamas and the Papas, Sonny & Cher, Simon & Garfunkel, and so on).
And as the Wrecking Crew were to the West Coast so was Muscle Shoals to the deep South. The tiny Alabama town and its FAME Studios featured some of the greatest R&B, soul, and country rhythm players in the world, major contributors to records by Dylan, the Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and so many more. There’s a film about them too. (We can’t embed the full movies here, but you’ll find them in the links below.)
There are many other quality educational entertainments about pop music history, like the Dave Grohl-directed Sound City. You’ll also find documentaries like Super Size Me, Capitalism: A Love Story, and Freakonomics. (An economics course!) Many other platforms have introduced free streaming movies with ads. In YouTube’s case, as AdAge notes, the move to streaming free films comes as a way to recoup advertisers who increasingly found their ads running “inside offensive videos, some with terrorist propaganda and hate speech.”
The company is cleaning up its image, and in the process becoming something like the TV channels of old, only with all the digital ease that makes streaming so convenient. “They are now a TV network,” says an executive for one video ad technology platform, moving away from low-quality, user-generated content and toward high dollar series and the goldmine of old movies. Advertising is everything, so, there’s another lesson for you—even in the new media business, history repeats.
See a list of recommended films available to stream free on YouTube, with ads, below. Enter the general collection here. And feel free to explore our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..