Cinema & filmmaking

10 Public Domain Movies Available Online

Did you know that many independent and classic movies are available to watch free on the Internet?

Every year on October 27th we celebrate World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, a UNESCO initiative started in 2005 to raise awareness and take urgent measures for preserving archived recordings of audiovisual documents: movies, documentaries, newsreels, radio programs, etc.

The audiovisual heritage of the 20th century is an exceptional testimony of the last 100 years of our history: an archive of memories, emotion, and culture in which the art of cinematography has held an essential role.

We are sharing here a list of 10 classic and independent films of public domain, available for free to anyone who wants to watch or revisit them.

1. Carnival of Souls, Herk Harvey (1962)

One of the most influential horror movies of all time, Carnival of Souls only cost 33 thousand dollars to make, yet its oneiric and surrealist feel was key to the visual education of world-famous directors such as David Lynch, Nicholas Winding Refn, and George A. Romero. The movie tells the story of Mary, a young woman who starts to be persecuted by ghostly appearances after a serious car accident.

2. Charade, Stanley Donen (1963)

How can one of the most important and renowned movies, by one of the most important Hollywood film directors of the 50s and 60s be in the public domain?
As absurd as it sounds, this is due to an error when the picture was registered and no proper copyright notice was put in place. Luckily for us, as we can now enjoy this wonderful romantic spy comedy interpreted by Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant absolutely free.

3. Dementia 13, Francis Ford Coppola (1963)

This debut feature by Coppola has little in common with any of his subsequent productions, such as The Godfather or Apocalypse Now, but is still an enjoyable horror movie with an accomplished gothic atmosphere. Producer Roger Corman offered Coppola the chance to direct his first movie with the leftover budget from another production and the director, despite being later removed from the set due to disagreements with Corman, made the most of the opportunity.

4. Fear and Desire, Stanley Kubrick (1953)

Another debut feature, this time by Kubrick, Fear and Desire is an anti-war parable released during the Korean War that shows the director’s stylized, yet controversial treatment of the universal themes of the movie. With a starting budget of 10.000 dollars (although this increased later on) and the help of friends and acquaintances, Kubrick managed to carry out a project that was believed lost for many years and was only recently truly appreciated.

5. The Gold Rush, Charles Chaplin (1925)

Charles Chaplin was an extraordinary master and for many people, The Gold Rush is the most emblematic of all of his comedies. Chaplin himself claimed it to be the movie he wished to be remembered by. The scene in which the starving tramp, the main character, eats his own shoe is considered movie history. The rest of the movie maintains a level of comedy well above what was achieved by hundreds of comedies released in the following decades.

6. Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero (1968)

The most influential zombie movie of all time. A seminal film for any horror fan and, essentially, for any cinema fan, Night of the Living Dead established the idea of the zombie as we know it, and was ahead of its time in terms of the political and social themes associated with this subgenre over the years.

7. The General, Buster Keaton (1926)

Buster Keaton was one of the great masters of silent comedies and The General is one of his most celebrated works. A perfect mix of laughter and adventure, the movie has aged amazingly well and is a testimony of the often forgotten creative ability of silent movie artists.

8 and 9. Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor (1936) and Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves (1937), both directed by Dave Fleischer

The Popeye Color Features are three shorts produced by Fleischer animation studios in the 1930s and starring the famous spinach-addicted sailor. Hugely popular in their time, they preserve all the magic of their Technicolor production and are a massive source of inspiration to animators and illustrators alike thanks to the innovative depth of field technique used in their making.

10. Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood (1959)

For some, this is one of the worst pictures ever made. For others, it is a cult movie that has been influencing generations of moviemakers (albeit only from the 1980s onwards). Ed Wood, to whom Tim Burton would dedicate a movie by the same name, directed a veritable monstrosity in which a race of extraterrestrial invaders decides to take control of humanity by resurrecting the dead.


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