The best free streaming platforms are a great option if you're looking for how to stream TV and movies for free without entering recesses of the internet that are illegal and could threaten the health of your device. In 2023, there is no shortage of legitimate streaming services out there, but, understandably, most of them have a cost. And if you want Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV and more, it's going to start to get expensive.
But not to worry. If you find that free-to-air broadcast channels don't cater to your viewing needs but don't want to pay out for a subscription to a streaming service, there are some alternatives out there. Below we round up 10 options for how to stream TV for free or how to stream movies for free that are all safe and legal.
We've divided them into services that are totally free, i.e., free for ever, and services that have limited-time free trials. Note that content and availability can vary from country to country. You may want to consider getting one of the best VPNs.
The best free streaming platforms: how to stream TV and movies for free safely and legally
The best free streaming services that are totally free
We'll start with five places you might not know about, where you can find lots of TV shows and films to watch for free, securely and within the law. From ad-funded television to classic movies that are now out of copyright, there’s plenty of great content to discover on these lesser-known streaming platforms.
01. Rakuten TV Free
Based in Japan, Rakuten is a streaming service offering movies and TV series for subscription, rental and purchase, but it also features a good selection of ad-supported free content in Rakuten TV Free. This includes movies, kids TV shows. documentaries and even some Rakuten originals. Just click the ‘Free’ tab at the top to see what’s on offer. You'll need to provide an email address and create a password, and then you can start watching on a PC or Mac (not Chromebook), smartphone (iOS or Android) or Xbox One. You can also cast to your TV using Chromecast.
02. Pluto TV
Based in the US and owned by Viacom, Pluto TV is a free, advertiser-supported streaming website whose main offering is a selection of content via ‘channels’ that are designed to replicate the experience of traditional live TV. This means that you can't stop and start a show when you want to; you have to 'tune in' at the right time. However, there’s also a selection of on-demand movies, TV boxsets and documentaries to enjoy, from horror franchises to, er, MacGyver.
You can watch both the 'live' and the on-demand content on Pluto TV on a desktop computer or via the free apps for iOS, Android and Amazon devices. You can also cast to your TV via the Amazon Fire Stick.
Launched in 2019 by the software company of the same name, Plex is a US-based, ad-supported streaming service, which distinguishes itself from many rivals by operating outside of North America. In fact, it's available in over 200 countries worldwide, and it will tell you what's trending in your region.
It features a wide range of movies, TV shows, podcasts and news shows, which you can watch via the web browser or cast to your TV via Chromecast or Fire Stick. It doesn't always have the best-known TV or movies, to be frank (Ice Pilot, anyone?). You'll need to subscribe to the premium version for more choice, but have a look around the free streaming options and you'll probably find a few curiosities that pique your interest, including classic movies and an eclectic range of documentaries.
04. BFI Player
For anyone wondering how to stream movies for free, and quality artistic movies, the BFI Player is a real treat. The website of the British Film Institute, contains a wide range of shorts and features that are free to watch, including short films, classic TV dramas, documentaries, musicals, home movies, and even some classic British adverts from times past.
Most of the content is vintage, black-and-white fare, but there are also some short films from modern BFI film festivals. Just click the 'Free' tab at the top to see what's available. There’s no signup required, you can watch in the browser, and there’s a Chromecast option to cast to your TV. The catch? It's only available in the UK.
05. Popcorn Flix
Popcorn Flix is a website offering ad-supported free streaming of feature-length, mainly independent, movies and webisodes. There’s no need to sign up, and you can just watch in your browser, your Xbox or Playstation, or cast to your TV via the Amazon Fire Stick. Sadly, the service is only available in North America.
Streaming services with free trials
While the first five services on our list do solve the problem of how to stream TV for free, they don't tend to offer the latest movies or trending TV shows. For that, you’ll usually need to sign up to a paid service. The good news is that many of them offer free trials, ranging for one week to 90 days.
That might sound like a lot of administrative effort, but think about what that means. If you try them out one-by-one, taking great care to cancel before you get charged, you’ll end up enjoying around six months of the very latest, blockbuster entertainment, without paying a penny! Here are the best free streaming trials available right now.
Ever feel nostalgic for vintage British shows like Fawlty Towers, The Office or 1960s-1980s Doctor Who? Or fancy catching up with more recent hits such as Downton Abbey, Life on Mars, or Gavin and Stacey? Well, BritBox has all of these boxset classics in one place, and many more, from crime dramas to sitcoms, BBC to ITV. For those outside the UK, it's also a great place to catch up on the latest episodes of British shows like EastEnders.
You can watch all this content on the web, or via the free iOS and Android apps, and you can cast to your TV via Chromecast or Amazon Fire. There's a seven-day free trial. The bad news is that BritBox is not available everywhere, with access limited to the UK, US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.
02. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon has gone into streaming in a big way, producing its own original content such as John Wick spinoff The Continental. This puts it up there with the likes of Netflix, Disney and Apple. However, unlike those rivals it offers a generous 30-day free trial of its streaming video service.
Amazon Prime Video has a ton of great content, and it's mainly geared towards slickly produced, adult-oriented TV and movies. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime TV app on your television already, you can stream this content via the Amazon Fire Stick, and you can use Chromecast using the Amazon Prime apps for iOS and Android. A subscription costs $8.99 / £8.99 per month if you let the trial elapse.
Amazon Prime Video also allows you to unlock content from other channels. For example, you can add channels like HBO Max, Showtime, and Starz, giving you access to even more content (off course, you have to pay extra for these).
Hayu is a very much a niche streaming service since it focuses entirely on reality TV shows like Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Real Housewives of New Jersey, as well as home and design, cookery and true crime content. That might sound like a nightmare for some, but if you're itching to watch Kim Kardashian-West: The Justice Project, it might be just what you're after. There's a free seven-day trial, and after that it's one of the cheapest streaming services at just $4.99 a month. There are iOS and Android apps to let you watch on your mobile or tablet, or you can cast to your TV via Chromecast or Airplay.
Want to upgrade your viewing setup? Even if you're using free streaming platforms, you might want to invest in one of the best TVs for PS5 if you're also into gaming or even one of the best Frame TVs that allow you to also display digital art.
Does Disney+ have a free trial?
No, unfortunately not. Disney+ ended its free trial in 2020. There are still ways to get access for free through promotions with third parties. For example, Verizon offers a free Disney Plus subscription with its Unlimited plans.
Is there a Netflix free trial?
No, Netflix does not offer free trials either. You have no option but to sign up for a paid Netflix subscription. The good news is that you can cancel at any time if you decide you no longer want it.
Is there a free Apple TV+ trial?
No, there is no general free Apple TV+ trial, but you can get Apple TV+ free for 3 months when you purchase an Apple device and redeem the offer within 90 days (see our guide to the best Apple deals). Free Apple TV+ deals also come up from time to time with non-Apple products too.