Netflix and chill? More like Vudu and thrill.
That’s right — there are other streaming services besides the most well-known (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+) that have exciting content. Even better, many of these services are … wait for it … free.
Here at Wanderu, we want you to know that taking a trip doesn’t require big money — that’s why we let you compare prices on buses, trains and flights all in the same search results. Of course, buses are consistently the cheapest way to get from A to B, but the sacrifice is that they tend to take longer. Sometimes much longer. From sleeping to Spotify, there are dozens of ways to occupy your time en route, but nothing makes the miles zoom by quite like streaming quality movies and TV shows.
So, even if Netflix and the other major players do decide to block you from logging into Mom and Dad’s account, know that there are alternatives that don’t cost a dime. Below, find a few of our favs. All are compatible as apps on iOS, Android and other mobile devices, or watchable through your mobile browser.
1. Pluto TV
With Pluto TV, you have the option to channel surf live TV, as well as watch on-demand content. Offerings include more than 100 news, entertainment and sports channels like CBS, MTV and VH1. Recent selections from their rotating list of movies include The Craft, The Legend of Bagger Vance and multiple James Bond films. In terms of TV, top shows include Doctor Who and Antiques Roadshow.
Yes, this Walmart-owned streaming service requires you to make an account, but their vast catalog of movies and free TV shows is well worth it. Note that because Vudu is also a rental service, you’ll need to click the “Free” tab at the top to find the gratis stuff. But even there the selection is great: Offerings include multiple seasons of the original “Roseanne,” several Ace Ventura and Batman movies, and even Academy Award darling La La Land. Vudu is also producing some original content, with an episodic reboot of the 1980s Michael Keaton movie Mr. Mom now available.
3. Roku Channel
Don’t Worry: You don’t need a Roku device to access this platform’s free content. The Roku Channel offers a revolving list of free movies and TV, in addition to free live streaming (think news programs like “ABC News” and lifestyle shows like “This Old House”). No account is required to get started. Other notable titles currently on the service include My Best Friend’s Wedding, Hitch and the late 80s/early 90s great “Growing Pains.”
You can start watching immediately after downloading this free service, which has everything from cult classics like Heathers and Minority Report to episodes of “The Bachelor.” The platform has lots to sift through, but a feature that makes it unique is its “Not on Netflix” collection, which directs you toward exclusive content the streaming giant hasn’t yet gotten its hands on.
Launched by Sony in May 2007 (before Netflix even came onto the scene), ad-supported Crackle is currently available in the U.S. and Australia for free (with a plan to expand to other regions in the near future). Like other free streaming services, it offers a long list of recognizable TV shows and feature films you don’t need an account to watch. Beyond that, however, Crackle includes a robust selection of original content, such as “Snatch” starring Rupert Grint (aka Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter movies), and “Rob Riggle’s Ski Master Academy” (featuring the former “Daily Show” correspondent).
If you have a library card or university ID, you may have access to ad-free Kanopy — just check online to see if your public library or university subscribes. While schools have unlimited access to content, individual libraries may have monthly limits for the number of movies you can watch. Top offerings from Kanopy include documentaries like Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind and I Am Not Your Negro, as well as notable films such as Lady Bird and Eighth Grade. (A similar library-connected service is Hoopla, although they have a more limited collection.)
Duh, may be your natural response when you see YouTube on this list, but the Google-owned platform has features you may not even be aware of. Since its founding in 2005, this one-stop-shop for videos has become home to everything from sketch comedy to “Gangnam Style,” and has helped launch the career of many a YouTuber. With 500 hours of video uploaded every minute, there’s loads of content to consume, even on the longest of bus or train rides.
On top of viral videos and makeup tutorials, however, YouTube also has free feature-length films. They’re mostly old classic movies available through public domain, like Planet 9 From Outer Space and Nosferatu.
So, don’t get wrapped up in the rising rates of Netflix and Hulu. The apps above will keep you more than occupied on your next long ride, all without any added expense. And to find the cheapest deals on that impending trip, book your tickets through Wanderu.com or on the free Wanderu app.
Still committed to Netflix? Fine, fine — well, at least let us show you how to download content to watch offline, so that you don’t eat up all your data if the Wi-Fi is spotty.