Free Movies on YouTube Including Films by Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, and Mae West

Relax, it's not the virus. 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,' a classic shock film from 1920, is one of numerous good movies Pittsburghers can watch free online. (image: original movie poster)

Stay healthy while watching movies at home. ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ a classic 1920 silent shocker, is among the good ones FREE online. (image: original movie poster)

The season for watching movies at home is upon us. There are plenty of low-cost sources, but let’s be extreme about minding the budget. Here’s a short list of good movies available free on YouTube—mostly older classics on which copyrights have expired or aren’t being enforced. Albert Einstein’s favorite fellow genius, an artist he knew and admired, was Charlie Chaplin. You will need no understanding of physics to enjoy Chaplin’s seminal 1921 feature The Kid, or his outrageous 1925 comedy The Gold Rush. In the department of female genius, Bette Davis shot to stardom with her role in 1934’s Of Human Bondage—a searing drama of tainted love—and Mae West both scripted and starred in the aptly titled 1936 comedy Go West Young Man. Also from the 1930s, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps remains among the best-loved spy thrillers. 

Two cult hits of the ‘60s are currently free on YouTube. The Little Shop of Horrors, which inspired the Broadway musical, has a cleverly scripted comic style of its own, while George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead needs no introduction unless you’ve never heard of zombies. Still seriously spooky are two German silent films of the 1920s: Nosferatu, adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a bizarre saga of illusion and reality. And for 21st-century fun, it’s hard to beat Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. In this 42-minute web special created by Joss Whedon and others, the inept mad scientist Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris) confronts his phallic nemesis Captain Hammer. That makes 10 flicks for the road … or more accurately, for free home viewing. You’ll find plenty more if you look. (MV)