Friday, May 6, 2011

Youtube Free Movies, Part 1

[12/30/14 UPDATE: I wrote a third entry on this topic in December 2013. Go there for updated info.]

The AV Club prompted me to do something I had on the back-burner: they announced that Youtube has inked a deal with some movie studios, allowing their flicks to be seen through the site. That deal concerns Youtube rentals, specifically, but I decided to finally look through their films.

Youtube's free movies section has a fairly large selection, broken down into 13 categories. True, you won't want to watch most of them - but there are plenty of respectable titles and niche offerings. After all, this isn't like cable or Netflix - they'll play roughly 8 ads throughout a 95-minute movie. So this entry is the first of a two-part post to let you know what you're in for...

I started by scanning through Classics, of which there are currently 154. Every movie category page has rows of 4 mid-sized film posters/covers, with the appropriate titles appearing beneath the pix. There's a maximum of 15 rows, so every complete page (i.e., page 7 out of 9), has 60 entries.

As you move your mouse over a picture or title, the film's description will appear. If your cursor goes over the posters, tho, a little button (a "plus" symbol next to a "down" arrow) pops up in the lower right of the image. This can be used to add the movie to your queue or access other Youtube features.

In short: among the major headings, Classics has the best selection, while Romance has the fewest (13 titles). The best news really is that there are many foreign works here - Australia, NZ, Italy, India, Hong Kong, Japan, etc. I'm not saying that any of them are good , but I'm very happy to have some international options...

I've told you the number of entries for Classics, so let me give you a quick run-down of the quantity (not quality) of the other sections: Crime - 67; Comedy - 162; Horror - 189; SciFi - 34; Family - 17; Drama - 161; Documentary & Biography - 162; Animation & Cartoons - 20; Mystery & Suspense - 57; Action & Adventure - 197. 1061 motion pictures in total.

The big thing I should note right up front: any one film only appears once in these pages. As such, there are more than 10 Bollywood movies scattered throughout the various headings, and they appear in other genres, not in the small Indian section. It's the only category I won't cover, but it's tiny and I haven't seen a Bollywood pic (yet).

There are even moments of unintentional comedy in the whole design of Youtube movie effort. Many of the film descriptions seem straight from a dvd liner, while others seem like user comments. Others don't seem to belong to the film; look at the pic to the right to see the description for this gospel dvd instead of this Roger Moore pic.

And, oddly enough, Youtube offers the original versions of several films covered by MST3K - The Painted Hills, The Magic Voyage of Sinbad, and many more. I'm sure it's due to cheap/free copyrights, but it's strange to have the option to watch famously bad/weird movies. It's stranger still since MST3K is now available on Hulu (7 eps) and on Netflix (dozens). Um, thanks?

Drama is most likely to have movies that you've heard of, I think. Still, I ran through it and could only find 4 worth mentioning: Abre Los Ojos (the original Vanilla Sky), The Last Emperor, Niagara, Niagara, and The Brother from Another Planet. I'd provide a link for The Da Vinci Code, but it's supposed to be horrible.

SciFi isn't just a small category, it's unimpressive. Out of everything on that page, I can only recommend two: the supposedly-fun Repo: The Genetic Opera, and Fritz Lang's classic, Metropolis. It's quite meager, but it's better than nothing.

A&A, tho, is almost confusing. It's mostly kung fu flicks, Westerns, and random oddities. It does have Humphrey Bogart in John Huston's Beat the Devil, Fists of Fury, Hugh Grant's The Lady and the Highwayman, Stagecoach, and Steamboy. The best movie I've seen here is the great El Mariachi, but I'd still call this section slim pickings.

Why? Because most of this section is "do not watch" dtv junk. The oddities are almost confusing: Schwarzenegger's first movie, Hercules in New York; the hysterical/weird Mean Guns with Ice-T & Chris Lambert; Angelina Jolie's first starring role in Cyborg 2; and Bruce Willis' catastrophic, unintentionally hilarious Striking Distance. Lord help me, I almost forgot - the infamous Snipes & Harrelson vehicle, Money Train.

Horror has a lot of modern dtv garbage and oldies. There's only 5 movies of note, really: Tamara (I gave it an MRQ recently), Woods' Plan 9, the 1958 House on Haunted Hill, Abel Ferrara's Driller Killer, and Peter Jackson's Bad Taste.

If you know me, you know that last totally redeems the 150+ stinkers on that list. Read my glowing review, then let's watch it together.

I won't go into the 13 Romance titles. It's an eclectic set of mostly unknown or unfamiliar movies. It's sort of a joke, actually, but you should just look at the page to get your laughs. That's why I added the 2 pix on the right.

Crime is an odd option - you'd think it's covered by Mystery & Suspense or Action & Adventure, right? It offers a ton of 30-40s flix mixed in with some post-60's fare. Hysterically, it features two "Manhunt" entries, side by side.

The first is an Argentinian action western that requires R-rated sign-in. The second is an Italian crime drama about 2 hit men sent to track down a target. I don't like the fact that it's dubbed, but I watched the opening 2:20 of it and suggest you do too. If you do, you'll see what might've inspired the Travolta/Jackson duo in Pulp Fiction.

Also, you'll watch a brawl between 3 guys that features an improbably good fighter who gives one guy a prolonged slap-down. Check it out, it's a great 2 mins, 20 secs.

Unfortunately, it's otherwise a bunch of curiosities, like a 1975 cop show pilot with Richard Gere, Get Christie Love, the awful China Girl, a winner of 2 independent film awards (Kwik Stop), and a Billy Zane movie. You might watch them out of idle curiosity, but if you're not getting over an appendectomy, I don't know that you'd make time for any of this.

That's the first part of my Youtube Free Movie Roundup (obviously, I'm great at naming things). Next week, I'll cover the remaining 6 sections (Animation, Classics, Comedy, Documentaries/Biographies, Family, and Mystery). As with this write-up, I'll be pointing out the best and most notable films that are available, along with whatever else catches my eye. I might not have provided that "Da Vinci" link, but I still let you know it's there, right?


  1. It's a pretty useful thing though.
    The Classic section in particular has quite a few amazing films.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I'm sure it will come in handy!

    and btw, I watched the first 2 min of Manhunt like you recommended, the dubbing is horrible but it's cool. And isn't the Black killer one of the three huts that meet Charles Bronson at the train station during the opening of Once Upon a Time In The West ?

  2. My pleasure! I figured this would be very handy for a lot of people...

    You're exactly right about the actor! I looked it up on imdb. Wasn't it hysterical watching that guy beat up the two men, then slap the other one around?

  3. haha, I though I recognised that actor, even if I've never actually heard him speak...

    That scene was hilarious, but I don't know if I could watch a whole film like that, especially if it's dubbed, I hate dubbing !


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