Free Public Domain Movies on the Web

The whole public domain concept is a pretty interesting one. Ideally, this means that when a copyright expires for anything, it falls into public hands to be done with whatever anyone wants. This has happened to a lot of stuff (classical music, for example), while others keep getting renewed, even if it means altering the law to do so.

Despite this, there are a lot of worthwhile films available on the web for anyone to see at no charge. This is a great way to see some great old stuff as well as newer stuff (like documentaries) that never had a copyright to begin with. Whatever the reason, you could spend literally hours fleshing out your film knowledge at no cost. What could be better?

The Internet Archive has been around since 1996, and not only contains films, but texts, audio, software and all kinds of junk. It currently lists 829 features, which appear in a quicktime window at the click of your mouse. This site has a lot, but my main issue is the tiny box in which you have to view the movie. With no way to expand it, you'll have to get pretty close to see any details. Still a good resource if you can't find a certain film anywhere else.

Public Domain Torrents also has a bunch of stuff, and gives you alternate formats which you can download to your computer. They even give you options to grab files that will play natively on your iPod, PSP, or PDA--great for public domain on the go. The downside is this site is a mess, with horrible web design. It's not pretty, but it gets the job done, and caters to mobile film geeks.

My favorite site is Free Movies & Documentaries. While using the same resources as PDT, it is much easier on the eyes, and features a large playback window (that can be expanded). There are even films here that I know are not in the public domain, but are somehow hosted by Google Video so they must be legit, right? Anyway, a great site with a lot of movies and good presentation.

So there you go. If you have been wondering about some oldies but goodies, now you can check them out on your computer without even a rental charge. I think I'll take full advantage and start with M, Detour, and Carnival of Souls. It's a moral imperative, you know.