The Mechanical Monsters: Seminal Superman Animated Film from 1941

In 1941, director Dave Fleischer and Paramount Pictures animators Steve Muffati and George Germanetti produced Superman: The Mechanical Monsters -- a big-budget animated adaptation of the popular Superman comics of that period, in which a mad scientist unleashes robots to rob banks and loot museums, and Superman, naturally, saves the day. It was one of seventeen films that raised the bar for theatrical shorts and are even considered by some to have given rise to the entire Anime genre.

More than a mere treat of vintage animation, the film captures the era's characteristic ambivalence in reconciling the need for progress with the fear of technology in a culture on the brink of incredible technological innovation. It was the dawn of the techno-paranoia that persisted through the 1970s, famously captured in the TV series Future Shock narrated by Orson Welles, and even through today. Take for example books like Nicholas Carr's The Shallows and Sherry Turkle's Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

Superman: The Mechanical Monsters is available for download on The Internet Archive, and Toonami Digital Arsenal has the complete series of all seventeen films. Find more vintage animation in Open Culture's collection of Free Movies Online.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, The Atlantic and DesignObserver, and spends a great deal of time on Twitter.

Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man

In 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which went on to become one of the most beloved children's books of all time, reprinted and reinvented in a myriad stage plays, films, TV series, musicals and other adaptations. But Baum's original tale featured a little-known backstory about the Tin Woodsman – a morality tale about a man who gets so caught up in his work that he loses sight of what really matters in life.

Director Brian McCormick decided to capture this poetic tale and the hidden love story about a simple woodsman and a beautiful maiden in Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man -- an artfully shot short film, viewable for free online.

Additional behind-the-scenes footage reveals the production process and meticulous craftsmanship of the film's art direction, sound design and cinematography.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, BigThink and Huffington Post, and spends too much time curating interestingness on Twitter.

Spring: A Short Film Based on Hemingway’s Memoir

British filmmaker Temujin Doran may be better known for his strong, highly opinionated views on democracy and politics, but his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's memoir, A Moveable Feast, is something else entirely.

Though still narrated in Doran's characteristically urgent, restless tone, Spring offers a quiet tribute to Parisian urbanity and the richness of seasonality, captured with cinematic minimalism and eerily indulgent aesthetic austerity.

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, BigThink and Huffington Post, and spends a disturbing amount of time curating interestingness on Twitter.

Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Film Noir, Documentaries & More

Where to watch free movies online? Let's get you started. First, we have listed dozens of free, high quality films that you can watch online. Then, below, you can find movie sites that feature free movie collections. Classics, international, film noir, documentaries, indies -- they're all here, waiting to be watched. So please

  • A Farewell to Arms (1932) With Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes.
  • A Woman (1915) With Charlie Chaplin.
  • A Story of Healing (1997) Academy Award for best documentary short subject.
  • Alexander Nevsky (1938) A historical drama film directed by the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.
  • Alice in Wonderland (1903) The first-ever film version of Lewis Carroll's tale. Based on Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) This is a classic based on a novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque.
  • Angel on My Shoulder (1946) A gangster comedy starring Claude Rains and Paul Muni.
  • Baby Doll (1956) Directed by Elia Kazan. Written by Tennessee Williams. With Karl Malden and Carroll Baker.
  • Battleship Potemkin (1925) Directed by the great Russian director, Sergei Eisenstein.
  • Behind the Screen (1916) With Charlie Chaplin.
  • Birth of a Nation (1915) Directed by DW Griffith. A landmark work in film history (1915) with racist undertones. Also see his later movie, Abraham Lincoln.
  • Beat the Devil (1953) Directed by John Huston, with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre.
  • Blackmail (1929) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Bon Voyage (1944) A French language WWII propaganda film by Alfred Hitchcock. Also see Aventure Malgache.
  • Breathless/Au bout de souffle (1960) Godard's classic with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg.
  • Burroughs the Movie (1985) A Howard Bruckner documentary on the beat writer, William Burroughs.
  • Carnival of Souls (1962) A low budget B film that became a cult classic.
  • Charade (1963) Starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. (US viewers only)
  • Cry Baby (1990) One of Johnny Depps early ones. (US viewers only)
  • Cul-de-Sac (1966) By Roman Polanski.
  • Death Mills (1945) Billy Wilder's documentary in German showing what Allies found when they liberated Nazi extermination camps.
  • Death Rides a Horse (1967) Giulio Petroni's top spaghetti western.
  • Dementia 13 (1963) A horror film that was one of Francis Ford Coppola's early mainstream efforts..
  • Detour (1945) Edgar Ulmer's cult classic noir film shot in 6 days.
  • D.O.A. (1950) Rudolph Maté's classic noir film. You can also watch the movie here.
  • Downhill (1927) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
  • Dressed to Kill (1946) Brings Sherlock Holmes to screen.
  • Dry Summer (1974) Turkish film restored by Martin Scorsese's WCF.
  • My Brother is Coming (1919) A Hungarian film by Michael Curtiz, who went on to direct Casablanca.
  • Eyes Without a Face (1960) Directed by Georges Franju. French film subtitled in English.
  • Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) Starring Johnny Depp. (US viewers only)
  • Happy Go Lovely (1951) A classic comedy with David Niven and Cesare Romero.
  • Hell's House (1932) With Bette Davis.
  • Henry Miller Asleep & Awake (1975) Tom Schiller's 34 minute voyage into the world of Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn)
  • Hiroshima mon amour (1959) Major French film directed Alain Resnais. Written by Marguerite Duras.
  • His Girl Friday (1940) Directed by Howard Hawks. A classic comedy with Cary Grant.
  • Home (2009) Yann Arthus-Bertrand's film that will make you look at our planet in a new way.
  • Impact (1940) Arthur Lubin's well reviewed noir flic.
  • In Cold Blood (1967) With Robert Blake. (US viewers only)
  • Intolerance (1916) D.W. Griffith's most ambitious silent film is one of the landmarks in cinematic history.
  • It Happened One Night (1934) Directed by Frank Capra, with Clark Gable.
  • It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Directed by the great Frank Capra. Starring Jimmy Stewart.
  • J'attendrai le suivant (I'll Wait for the Next One) (2002) A French film nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Short Film in '02.
  • Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914) With Charlie Chaplin.
  • King Lear (1987) Jean-Luc Godard does Shakespeare.
  • La Femme Nikita (1990). Directed by Luc Besson. (US viewers only)
  • Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902) French science fiction black and white film. Loosely based on two popular novels by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.
  • Logorama (2007) François Alaux and Herve de Crecy’s 17 minute film, Logorama, won the Oscar for the best Short Film (Animated) in 2009.
  • Lost Horizon (1937) A romantic fantasy and science-fiction adventure film directed by Frank Capra.
  • Lumiere (1966) A very short film by David Lynch. 55 seconds.
  • M (1931) Directed by Fritz Lang, with Peter Lorre. In German.
  • McClintock! (1963) with John Wayne.
  • Meet John Doe (1941) Frank Capra's comedy, with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Meetin’ WA (1986) In a short film Jean-Luc Godard meets Woody Allen.
  • Metropolis (1927). Fritz Lang's silent German expressionist science fiction film.
  • Monty Python's And Now For Something Completely Different (1971)
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Directed by Frank Capra, with Jimmy Stewart.
  • Murder! (1930) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
  • My Best Friend's Birthday (1987) Directed by Quentin Tarantino.
  • Nanking (2007) Directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman. Premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
  • Night and Fog (1955) Alain Resnais's film on the Holocaust. Truffaut called it the greatest film ever made.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968). A cult horror classic.
  • Nosferatu (1922) Classic German silent film.
  • Olympia (1938) Leni Riefenstahl's film of the Berlin Olympic Games (1936). Considered one of the greatest sports documentaries.
  • Panic in the Streets (1950) A great noir movie directed by Elia Kazan, with Jack Palance.
  • Paradise Canyon (1935) Starring John Wayne.
  • Penny Serenade (1941) With Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

Free Movie Sites

Internet Archive - Feature Films: When you're looking for free movies online, the Internet Archive should be your first stop. It features large collections of classic comedies, film noir and sci-fi/horror flix. Many films listed above come from the Internet Archive.

Google Video: For some time now, major classics have appeared on Google's site. You will find many such films above.

Australian Screen Archive: The Australian National Film and Sound Archive provides free and worldwide access to over 1,000 film and television titles – a treasure chest of down-under video 100 years in the making.

B Minus Movies: AMC is your new go-to site for B-movies by the likes of John Carpenter (Dark Star) and Roger Corman (Saga of the Viking Women). Want to see international icons before they made it big? Check out Raquel Welch in A Swingin' Summer or kung fu king Sonny Chiba in Terror Beneath the Sea. Looking for the unexpected? How about The Ruthless Four, a spaghetti Western starring Klaus Kinski.

Babelgum Films: Babelgum’s goal is to act as an international ‘glue’, bringing a huge range of professional and semi-professional films to a global audience – like a modern-day Tower of Babel. They’re also making an effort to get their content to smartphones. They have an iPhone app now and apps for other phones on the horizon. Get more detail on the mobile apps here.

BestOnlineDocumentaries: As one reader previously told us, "This site is a bit out of date and some of the links are broken, but it’s still a great compilation of online documentaries." For more documentaries, you should also see Snagfilms mentioned below.

Classic Cinema Online: This site nicely pulls together hundreds of classic films, ranging from Action to Westerns and even old cinema shorts and news reels. If you're looking for more mainstream movies, here you go. This is Sony's online movie play. Note: there's probably some geo-blocking that comes with this. Also, one of our readers has also suggested the UK-based Blinkbox, which seems to offer another platform for more mainstream films.

Creative Commons: The folks who gave us the Creative Commons license host a wiki where you can find a good number of freely available films. Handy and worth keeping an eye on. I'd also suggest keeping tabs on CC's Video blog.

Daily Motion Movies: This YouTube-style video site features a section that offers short films in HD. The collection is small, and you won't find well known films here. But some movies get decent reviews. This looks to be part of a beta project that could expand.

Documentary Film Network: This site has been archiving documentaries for the past 4 years and serving them free of charge. Among the 181 films, you can find some of the Nixon-Frost interviews and a Che Guevara Biography.

Europa Film Treasures: Thanks to Europa Film Treasures, you can spend hours looking back through an archive of European film. Theses films range from “comedy to science fiction, from westerns to animation, from erotic to ethnological movies.” Highly recommended by our readers.

Fancast: This Comcast-owned site features a long list of free movies.

Film Annex: This site has one of the largest selections of online films for you to watch or download. You can find free classic movies and television shows right here. And you'll also find at the Film Annex many films from independent filmmakers and directors. The site gives you the ability to download or stream films to your PC, laptop or iPhone. The films are ad-supported.

FMO: FreeMoviesOnline features a large selection of public domain films.

Free Documentaries Online: The name says it all.

Free Documentaries.Org: Specializes in showing provocative documentaries for free.

Free Movies Cinema: A mixture of yet more free films, which includes Quentin Tarantino's early film, My Best Friend's Birthday.

Hulu: Unfortunately Hulu limits its programming to a US audience (a policy that really needs to change), but it's the 800 pound gorilla in the US, and there are some decent films here. You will find some Hulu titles sprinkled in above.

IMDB: This is perhaps a little redundant, but the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) also hosts some free online films (as well as TV shows) on its site. From what I can tell, it's done in partnership with Hulu. But this collection has the advantage of pointing you to some decent films. Click here and scroll down. You can also find another re-packager of Hulu flix over at

Indie Movies Online: Just as it sounds. A good place to watch full-fledged indie films on the web. Right now, you can find Peter Greenaway’s film, Rembrandt's J'accuse and The Future We Will Create - Inside the World of TED. The site seems to be available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, but perhaps also beyond.

Jaman: Jaman is mainly a pay-per-download site that focuses on indie-style films, but they do host some free movies. Even though they have a page devoted to their free films, it's actually not that easy to find the freebies. You have to fish around a little.

Legal Torrents: Pretty much what the name says. hosts high quality open-licensed (Creative Commons) digital media and art. This link takes you to their movie section. is a web site where you can watch films produced by the National Film Board of Canada. It offers access to 100s of documentaries, animated films and trailers. You can also access this collection via a free iPhone app. (p.s. You should also check out our own free iPhone app, which will let you download free audio books, free courses, free language lessons, and other types of intelligent media.)

OVGuide: If you're looking for more free films, you should pay this site a visit. OVGuide is an up-to-date guide to online video, including TV shows, movies, and video games. It offers another way to find free movies online.

PBS Video: PBS hosts online a new film based on Michael Pollan's bestseller, Botany of Desire. Other PBS productions are also housed here.

QuickSilverScreen: This site essentially puts torrents online and lets you watch films posted by other users, including many new films. It's hard to believe that this site is entirely kosher, but it's very popular (one of the top 3,000 sites on the web) and hardly a closely held secret. This collection contains some dreck, but also some decent documentaries and classic films. So it gets on the list.

SnagFilms: SnagFilms "finds the world's most compelling documentaries, whether from established heavyweights or first-time filmmakers, and makes them available to a wide audience." You can watch full-length documentary films for free. Currently includes over 550 films.

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive: This online catalog "provides access to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive. The Archive serves as a comprehensive informational and archival resource worldwide for moving image materials pertaining to the Holocaust and related aspects of World War II. "

The Though this site typically offers arts films on a pay-per-view basis, it does feature a series of free films. Each month, a free film is featured (see example here). The site also hosts free international films restored by Martin Scorsese's Word Cinema Foundation, mentioned below. And you can find another set of free films here.

UbuWeb: Presents dozens of avant-garde films & videos for your viewing pleasure. Tends to redistribute films from Hulu but some other gems one can be found here.

Video on Demand at Ok, it's not the most enriching collection of films. But if you're looking for something light...

World Cinema Foundation: The WCF, created by Martin Scorsese in 2007, has restored a series of classic international films. You can watch them for free online.

YouTube Movies: YouTube hosts a series of full-length movies (that are likely geo-restricted).

YouTube Screening Room: The Screening Room presents high quality, short independent films to YouTube users and promises to roll out four new films every two weeks. The collection includes some Academy-Award winners and other quality films. More info here.

Sources Used to Create This List

For more Free Culture, see our other major collections:

Free Courses Online

Free Audio Books

Free Language Lessons

Intelligent Video: The Top Cultural & Educational Video Sites