Can I Watch Movies Online for Free or is it Illegal?

- by Sarah Connelly

The advice from legal experts is that any service offering free streaming, or downloading, or to watch movies online for free, is probably illegal. Although streaming movies via the internet doesn’t directly break any laws in the UK, it does go against international copyright laws.

Still, it should be noted that no one has ever been prosecuted in the UK for watching free movies online. Normally, the only people who get prosecuted are those who provide the illegal online streaming services. Read on to find out what you can do to safely watch movies online for free in the UK.

Can I Watch Movies Online for Free or is it illegal - Cashfloat

Watching movies for free online from questionable sources can be dangerous and expose you to cybersecurity risks. Crimestoppers UK reported that, in 2019, a total of 926,836 people had money stolen from them due to illegal streaming.

Legal streaming services such as Youtube, Netflix or Apple TV Plus and satellite/cable TV operators now offer more modestly priced, and some free, streaming of movies. As a result, it makes sense to stop and think before exposing yourself to illegal sites. You don’t need to go to the underworld of illegal websites to watch movies online. There are lots of cheap, or even free, legal alternatives.



Can you be fined for streaming movies?

Nobody has ever been prosecuted for downloading or streaming movies illegally in the UK – yet. This is probably because the illegal streaming and downloading of movies by end-users is simply too widespread for film copyright owners and organisations representing them to track. Nevertheless, theoretically, you can be prosecuted for illegally streaming or downloading movies online.

What is more likely to happen is that the people who provide illegal online movie streaming services will be prosecuted. In 2017, the UK government passed the Digital Economy Act, which introduced tougher sentences for online copyright infringement. The maximum penalty for streaming online is now 10 years in prison! The tougher sentences apply to everyone, but are far more likely to be used to target people who provide illegal streaming and downloading services.

Be warned, though, threats of prosecution have been made to users of illegal streaming and downloading sites. In 2020, Norfolk and Suffolk police issued a warning to the subscribers to a service called GE Hosting that they could face prosecution for their activity. On top of threats of prosecution, internet service providers sometimes withdraw internet services from customers who frequently use illegal sites for streaming and downloading movies. This is because internet service providers in the UK and the EU are usually required to sign up to schemes which require them to block users of illegal websites.

The UK Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) represents the interests of copyright owners, along with cinema owners and legal streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix. In recent years, they have focussed on trying to shut down illegal streaming and download websites. Where possible, they have prosecuted illegal operators and distributors. They have not done this so much to recover lost revenue, but as a deterrent to others considering starting or already operating illegal websites or streaming services where people can illegally watch movies online.

The UK's creative industry employs 1.5 million people, account for £36 billion in revenues but lost £500 million a  year due to copyright theft!
The UK's creative industry employs 1.5 million people, account for £36 billion in revenues but lost £500 million a  year due to copyright theft!

FACT aim to support the media industry and they told the Telegraph:

“The jobs, livelihoods and skills of the many individuals employed are threatened. People must understand that if they do not pay to watch the films, TV and sport content they love, then they won’t be there to watch in the future.”

The focus of the UK authorities on the illegal distribution of movies via streaming or download services has resulted in some successful prosecutions. In 2012, a man operating an illegal site called Surfthechannel.com was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy to defraud. He was sentenced to four years’ in prison with an order to repay more than £71,000 to copyright owners or face a further 21 months in jail. More recently, in 2019, three men were jailed for a total of 17 years for providing fraudulent streaming to public venues to watch premiership football games.

How to Watch Movies Online for Free

You may have heard of free movie sites like Lookmovie.io or Putlocker that offer all the newest movies for free in HD. Sounds enticing, right? Wrong. These websites are illegal (which is why they will also keep changing as authorities work to remove them), and although you are unlikely to be prosecuted or fined, you may be exposing yourself to online risks.


Are Lunchflix and Lookmovie legal?

A lot of people ask whether Lunchflix and Lookmovie are legal. These are both sites where you can stream a huge number of films for free. Unfortunately, both of these sites are illegal and you should avoid them. Not only will you be breaking the law, but a lot of users have received viruses and malware from these sites.


Precautions When Using Illegal Movie Streaming Sites

If you’re not going to listen to us, and decide to use websites like these anyway, we strongly recommend you follow the following steps:

  1. Install an Adblocker, like this Adblocker for Chrome. After all, these websites stay alive by selling ad placements, amongst other things. And the only companies buying ads on illegal sites are indecent ones …that are probably also illegal.
  2. Always have up-to-date antivirus software installed on your computer or even your mobile device (yes, mobiles can be hacked as well!)
  3. NEVER download anything from any free movie streaming websites! If a site prompts you to download anything which you need to use the site, then find the software off-platform and download it yourself. Their software is probably malware.

Believe it or not, getting hacked can lead to anything from your computer completely crashing forever or to identity theft. Both of these are very expensive problems. Better to be safe than sorry! You don’t want to be needing to dip into your savings or borrowing a pay day loan from Cashfloat to replace your computer just because you weren’t cautious.

Watch Movies Online Safely for Free - Cashfloat

If you still want to watch movies online for free, we recommend you do so in one of the following SAFE ways:

  1. BBC iPlayer –To watch BBC iPlayer, all you need to do is register on their site, and Voila! As long as you’re covered by a TV license, it is a legal and safe way to watch online. A lot of the movies they have are quite good, particularly around Christmas time.

  2. Youtube or Dailymotion – We should start by mentioning that, while Youtube and Dailymotion are both legal sites, full movies uploaded onto these sites may be illegal. However, watching a full movie on Youtube or Dailymotion is a LOT safer than watching it on a dodgy pop-up site. You might be used to thinking these sites are just for clips, but you’d be surprised how many movies are available on them for free! Just search ‘full movie’ in the search bar and take your pick.

  3. Amazon Prime Video – Amazon prime video is stuffed with good movies, and they offer a free 30 day trial. There are also free trials available for lots of other online movie streaming services. 

  4. Film4 – Channel 4 have added Film4 to their All4 online streaming service, with around 30 free movies available at any one time.

  5. My5 TV – My5 TV also have lots of free movies to stream or download. This is a good place to go for something whacky, like Megasharks vs Crocosaurus

The best and cheapest ways to pay to watch movies online:

If you want to stay away from illegal movie services run by people with questionable morals and support all the hard work movie makers put into creating entertainment for you instead, the best possible way to watch movies relaxingly online is to… pay for it. Here are a few ways us here at Cashfloat found for you to safely and legally watch movies online (not for free).

  1. Netflix!! Even though Netflix costs, it is relatively cheap at £5.99 to £13.99 a month and you can watch unlimited movies and TV. Also, their cancel anytime policy means that you can literally cancel and not get charged if, for example, you know you won’t be watching for a while. Although the newest movies are not normally available, Netflix has really upped their game recently and have started releasing their very own exclusive quality content! And if you’re into watching series, Netflix has a huge variety (especially for older series that are perfect for binge-watching).

  2. Starting from £2.49, you can rent movies on the Microsoft or Google stores. I mean, who watches any movie more than once anyway?! And if you really like the movie, there’s an option to buy it instead of rent it, but of course, for a higher price. Always download the SD version and not the HD to save money, unless you’re viewing on a really huge screen.

  3. If you’ve tried the Amazon Prime video trial and you like it, why don’t you take out a full membership? It costs only £7.99 a month and is full of good films and TV. 

  4. Apple TV plus is another cheap option for watching movies online. They offer a free trial as well, so you can decide whether you like it before you subscribe. 

  5. Disney Plus is a great streaming service for families with young children. Subscriptions start at £5.99 per month and they’ve got a huge collection of movies to stream for children. 

  6. The Findanyfilm search engine is really good. It helps you to locate good places to watch movies legally online. Again, make sure to click the RENT option, and not the BUY option, so you pay £2.49 instead of £9.99.
One study of the most frequently used illegal film and TV sites in the UK found that 90% contained malware and other unwanted programs designed to defraud users!
One study of the most frequently used illegal film and TV sites in the UK found that 90% contained malware and other unwanted programs designed to defraud users!

Staying safe online while watching movies

Cyber crime is nothing new. If for instance, you were to receive an email or see an advert about low interest loans from a new lender you’d never heard about, you wouldn’t immediately give them all of your details.

Cashfloat is a secure lender; we are fully authorised by the FCA, our website is secure (you can tell by the little padlock in the URL bar), and we make all our loan terms and conditions clear before you apply for a low interest short term loan. Just as a sensible user would make sure to check all of these features, you should also check any website before entering your sensitive details.


Summary: Keeing Safe and Legal

How can I watch free movies online safely?

To watch free movies online safely, you can use:

• Youtube – There are many free full-length movies available on Youtube. Just search ‘full movie’ and take your pick!

• Dailymotion – Same as Youtube, you can find many great full-length movies on DailyMotion, sometimes broken into parts. Dailymotion is also known for having a great pick of series to choose from.

• BBC iPlayer – If you have a TV license, you can access free movies on BBC iPlayer. Although there are not many good movies all-year-round, stay tuned at Christmas time, when the BBC uploads a new range of better videos for free.

• All4 and My5 TV – Channel 4’s All4 streaming service and My5 TV both offer movies to stream for free online.

• Free trials – Try a free trial of a subscription service, such as Amazon Prime Video. You might find you’re hooked and you take out a paid subscription. Subscriptions to paid services are usually the best and they’re not too expensive nowadays either.
Please note that watching free movies on Youtube and Dailymotion is considered illegal. However, you are unlikely to get prosecuted for using them, and they are entirely safe as long as you don’t follow any links.


Is there a legal way to watch new movies for free online?

The most legitimate way to watch movies online is to pay for them. After all, a lot of money and effort was spent to create the film for you. The least you could do is pay a small amount of money to watch it. The cheapest ways we found to watch movies online were:

• Netflix – Starting from £5.99 a month. Netflix has a vast selection of movies and TV series for you to choose from. You won’t get the newest Hollywood blockbusters, but Netflix has started releasing their own original films, starring the biggest names.

• Prime Video – Starting from £7.99 a month. Prime video comes as part of the Amazon Prime package and offers a massive range of movies. If you’re already paying for Amazon Prime, consider this a free add-on!

• Microsoft Films and TV – On every Windows PC, you can access the Microsoft store to rent movies from as little as £2.49 (choose SD option, not HD) per film. If you have an Apple device, you can rent movies on iTunes from as low as £2.99 per movie. Convenient, easy to access and 100% safe.

• Google Play – Google Play is similar to Microsoft Films and TV. Have a look at what they’ve got on offer. They have a huge catalogue of films to choose from.


Piracy. It’s a Crime.

We know that services like Netflix are not free, and we try to help our readers to save money, but we cannot recommend any of the popular free movie streaming sites as they are illegal and sometimes dangerous. Feel free to check out the other free options we explored in this article.

Know someone who would benefit from knowing all this useful information? Share this with them! Who knows? You might even save them some money!

Now that you know all teh safest ways to watch movies free online, you can learn how to watch TV series free online, here.

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About The Author
Sarah Connelly
Sarah is an enthusiastic writer, blogger and an eager agent of change. After completing her degree in Computer Science in one of London’s esteemed universities, Sarah’s early career in programming left her creatively frustrated. Looked for a way to combine her creative and analytical side, Sarah’s search led her to Digital Marketing and now she writes content and code for Cashfloat. Sarah enjoys spreading awareness about common financial issues and the importance of money management. With her STEM background, Sarah believes strongly in ethical business management and consumer protection. in her free time, Sarah enjoys reading, watching movies and eating out. After all, #YOLO!
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