We all have those major motion pictures we’re sure we’ll see one day, but somehow haven’t seen yet. Usually they’ve had such a huge influence on popular culture, inspiring decades of references, homages, and jokes, that we feel like we’ve seen them anyway. Back in the days of yore when television reigned supreme, we might occasionally catch one of them (or most of one of them) while flipping channels at night, albeit in a form re-edited to remove sensitive content and fit the image onto a square screen. Given how dramatically those viewing practices have migrated to the internet in the 21st century, it only makes good sense that Youtube — that vast temple of modern-day channel-flipping — would strike a deal with a Hollywood studio to make more than a few of these movies available, free to view.
Just this month, MGM put nearly 100 of its films up on Youtube, some of the best known of which include The Terminator, the Rocky and Pink Panther movies, Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Some of them you’ve almost certainly seen (and quite possibly want to see again), and others you’ve been meaning to see for ten, twenty, thirty, maybe even forty years.
Just like on television, the fact that you can watch them for free means that they come with ads, albeit ads less intrusive than traditional commercial breaks — unless you pay the monthly $9.99 USD for Youtube Premium, in which case they’ll play ad-free. (And in any case, they’re available at the moment only to viewers in the United States.) And also, as in the days of wee-hours channel-surfing, you’ll find the acclaimed classics mixed in with lesser-known pictures, even oddities, that may hold even more cinematic fascination.
Some of the unexpected titles among MGM’s free movies on Youtube include documentaries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi — the one about the most sternly and obsessively dedicated sushi chef in Tokyo, and probably the world, you may remember everyone talking about a few years ago — and With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story, posted no doubt in tribute to the recently deceased comic book-industry legend. Cinematically-inclined readers who remember with amusement the internet and our perceptions of the internet back in the cable-TV days should take note that the free MGM collection on Youtube Movies also includes Hackers, Hollywood’s most vivid depiction of the fear and optimism that swirled around computers and their connectedness in the mid-1990s. We had a fair few unrealistic expectations of the internet back then, which that movie and movies like it now reveal, but how many of us dared imagine that it would take over the role of the television?
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.