Watch Hundreds of Free Films from Around the World: Explore Film Archives from Japan, France, and the U.S.

While the world retreat­ed indoors in March, and the cin­e­mas we knew and loved closed up shop, so many film libraries have turned around and opened up their archives to the world. This is a good thing. Don’t say you have noth­ing to watch! We have explored all the links below and can ver­i­fy that they are all indeed free to watch. Some are even free to down­load. Here’s a brief run­down of some we’ve found:

The Nation­al Film Reg­istry of the Library of Con­gress

The Library of Con­gress annu­al­ly selects films to pre­serve that it con­sid­ers “cul­tur­al­ly, his­tor­i­cal­ly or aes­thet­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant” and quite a lot of them are avail­able to screen. May we sug­gest:

Mod­es­ta, Ben­jamin Doniger’s 1955 short dra­ma about women’s rights in a rapid­ly mod­ern­iz­ing Puer­to Rico. It won the prize at the Venice Film Fes­ti­val in 1956.

St. Louis Blues, basi­cal­ly an extend­ed music video (before such a thing exist­ed) for the Queen of the Blues, Bessie Smith, from 1929.

With­in Our Gates, the astound­ing 1919 fea­ture film by Oscar Micheaux. Direct­ed by and star­ring African-Amer­i­cans, this rebut­tal to Birth of a Nation says some­thing more inci­sive about Amer­i­can racial pol­i­tics than most films cre­at­ed in the 20th cen­tu­ry.

Cin­e­math­eque Fran­caise

The phys­i­cal Cinematheque–a cul­tur­al insti­tu­tion since 1936, and cur­rent­ly housed in a Frank Gehry-designed building–might be closed, but its stream­ing plat­form, dubbed “Hen­ri” is up and show­ing some rare and restored clas­sics. On one hand, it real­ly helps if you can under­stand French, because not every­thing is sub­ti­tled. On the oth­er, there are plen­ty of silent and subbed films:

Pro­tea, Vic­torin-Hip­poly­te Jasset’s 1913 response to the Fan­tomas seri­als, fea­tures Josette Andri­ot as the slinky, sexy Mata Hari-like super-spy, a few years before Irma Vep and her sim­i­lar get-up.

The Fall of the House of Ush­er: Jean Epstein’s sur­re­al adap­ta­tion of the Poe clas­sic fea­tures bril­liant pho­tog­ra­phy and an expres­sion­ist style. Fans of The Light­house will appre­ci­ate its luna­cy.

Paris qui dort: Rene Clair’s *oth­er* sur­re­al film made in 1924 (the bet­ter known is Entr’acte), this glo­ri­ous 4K restora­tion looks like it was shot yes­ter­day as a group of friends wake up to find that all peo­ple in Paris have been frozen in place. Play time com­mences and there is some footage of climb­ing the Eif­fel Tow­er that might give you the willies. Watch it above.

Japan­ese Ani­mat­ed Film Clas­sics

With works that go back as far as 1917, this is a deep dive into the world of Japan­ese ani­ma­tion curat­ed by the Nobuo Ofu­ji Memo­r­i­al Muse­um. There’s tra­di­tion­al cell ani­ma­tion, but also a sur­pris­ing amount of cut-out ani­ma­tion

The Dull Sword, Junichi Kuichi’s short film from 1917, is a tale of a hap­less samu­rai with an end­ing told in shad­ow pup­pets.

Prop­a­gate is a 1935 film from Shige­ji Ogi­no, show­ing the cycle of plant life through a mod­ernist dance of black and white shapes, close to Oskar Fischinger in style.

Ari-chan the Ant is more what we expect from ani­ma­tion in 1941–a copy of the Disney/Merrie Melodies house style, pleas­ant enough, but under Mit­suyo Seo’s direc­tion also a cri­tique of impe­ri­al­ism, how­ev­er sub­tle. Seo would go on to direct Japan’s first fea­ture-length ani­mat­ed film, Momotaro’s Divine Sea War­riors.

Nation­al Film Preser­va­tion Foun­da­tion

Bring­ing us full cir­cle, the NFPF is a non-prof­it cre­at­ed by Con­gress in 1997 to save films that oth­er­wise would dis­ap­pear, and that includes many ear­ly ani­mat­ed films, avant-garde works, and films that were once thought lost but have since been dis­cov­ered in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, around 2,500 works.

Too Much John­son is the long-thought-destroyed film direct­ed by Orson Welles that was to be part of his 1938 mul­ti­me­dia pro­duc­tion for his Mer­cury The­ater. The archive presents both the 66 minute work print and a 34 minute reimag­ined cut.

The Fall of the House of Ush­er…wait, didn’t we already men­tion this? In fact, just like the year that brought us Armaged­don and Deep Impact, anoth­er Poe adap­ta­tion hit the screens in 1928. This one is short­er, and even more sur­re­al, and direct­ed by James Sib­ley Wat­son and Melville Web­ber.

At first this silent footage of the Negro Leagues seems a bit too comical–a base­ball ver­sion of the Harlem Globetrotters–but it’s actu­al­ly a por­trait of an era in flux, two years before seg­re­ga­tion was about to end in base­ball. Shot at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, the star of this footage is Reece “Goose” Tatum of the Cincin­nati Clowns. As the film notes point out, just because they were goof­ing off for the cam­era doesn’t mean these play­ers weren’t athletes–Hank Aaron was their short­stop before sign­ing to the Braves, and the Clowns’ rival team, the Kansas City Mon­archs, boast­ed Jack­ie Robin­son also as a short­stop.

You can find more free films in the Relat­eds below…

Relat­ed Con­tent:

4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More

60 Free Film Noir Movies

Watch 3,000+ Films Free Online from the Nation­al Film Board of Cana­da

Watch More Than 400 Clas­sic Kore­an Films Free Online Thanks to the Kore­an Film Archive

Down­load 6600 Free Films from The Prelinger Archives and Use Them How­ev­er You Like

1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, etc.

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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