Classic Movies Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain  

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List Rules The best films whose copyrights have expired. Includes all films made before 1923 and films that failed to renew copyright

The best free movies in the public domain number among some of the best movies of all time, and since their copyrights have lapsed, they are free to watch, distribute, and remake. Many of these free films in the public domain were once high-grossing, Academy Award-winning movies that have since become open to public use. Classic movies like The Wizard of Oz, Metropolis, and Metropolis are now part of the general public experience.

What is the best film in the public domain? What Oscar winning films are now free to use? What are the greatest films whose copyrights have lapsed? Vote on the movies you think are the best available in the public domain. If you know of a movie that is now free to public use and not here on this list of the best films in the public domain, make sure to add it and vote it up so others can have a chance to find their new favorite movie in the public domain.
list ordered by
1
482 172
Ranker Video
George A. Romero, Duane Jones, Bill Hinzman
Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent zombie horror film directed by George A. Romero, starring Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman. It premiered on October 1, 1968, and ...more
2
259 68
Ranker Video
Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
His Girl Friday is a 1940 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, from an adaptation by Charles Lederer, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur of the play The Front Page by Hecht and ...more
3
192 55
Ranker Video
Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry, Mary Philbin
The Phantom of the Opera is a 1925 American silent horror film adaptation of Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, directed by Rupert Julian and starring Lon Chaney, Sr. ...more
4
185 66
Ranker Video
Vincent Price, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Umberto Raho
The Last Man on Earth is a 1964 science fiction horror film based on the Richard Matheson 1954 novel I Am Legend. The film was directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, and stars Vincent ...more
5
220 58
Ranker Video
Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Coburn
Charade is a 1963 Technicolor American romantic comedy/mystery film directed by Stanley Donen, written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The cast also ...more
6
129 43
Ranker Video
Lon Chaney, Ernest Torrence, Raymond Hatton
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a 1923 American film starring Lon Chaney, directed by Wallace Worsley, and produced by Carl Laemmle and Irving Thalberg. The supporting cast includes Patsy Ruth ...more
7
180 80
Ranker Video
Jack Nicholson, Dick Miller, Mel Welles
The Little Shop of Horrors is a 1960 American comedy horror film directed by Roger Corman. Written by Charles B. Griffith, the film is a farce about an inadequate florist's assistant who ...more
8
152 52
The Gold Rush is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Charlie Chaplin, Mack Swain, Georgia Hale
The Gold Rush is a 1925 American silent comedy film written, produced, and directed by Charlie Chaplin. The film also stars Chaplin in his Little Tramp persona, Georgia Hale, Mack Swain, Tom ...more
9
111 36
The General is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Boris Karloff, Mike Donlin, Glen Cavender
The General is a 1926 American silent comedy film released by United Artists. Inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase, which happened in 1862, the film stars Buster Keaton who co-directed it with ...more
10
137 64
Ranker Video
John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, Stefanie Powers
McLintock! is a 1963 comedy Western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and starring John Wayne, with co-stars including Maureen O'Hara, Yvonne De Carlo, and Wayne's son Patrick Wayne. The film, ...more
11
120 43
Ranker Video
Reza Badiyi, Herk Harvey, Candace Hilligoss
Carnival of Souls is a 1962 independent horror film starring Candace Hilligoss. Produced and directed by Herk Harvey for an estimated $33,000, the film did not gain widespread attention when ...more
12
101 36
D.O.A. is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Edmond O'Brien, Beverly Garland, Neville Brand
D.O.A., a film noir drama film directed by Rudolph Maté, is considered a classic of the genre. The frantically paced plot revolves around a doomed man's quest to find out who has poisoned ...more
13
91 37
Meet John Doe is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan
Meet John Doe is a 1941 American comedy drama film directed and produced by Frank Capra, and starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The film is about a "grassroots" political ...more
14
68 34
The Little Princess is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Mary Pickford, ZaSu Pitts, Theodore Roberts
The Little Princess is a 1917 American silent film directed by Marshall Neilan based upon the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This version is notable for having been adapted ...more
15
78 35
Ranker Video
Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby
Road to Bali is a 1952 American comedy film directed by Hal Walker and starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. Released by Paramount Pictures on November 1, 1952, the film is the ...more
16
73 36
Ranker Video
Mae Questel, Jack Mercer, Gus Wickie
Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor is a two-reel animated cartoon short subject in the Popeye Color Feature series, produced in Technicolor and released to theatres on November 27, 1936 ...more
17
52 19
Detour is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Ann Savage, Tom Neal, Tim Ryan
Detour is a 1945 film noir thriller that stars Tom Neal and Ann Savage. The film was adapted by Martin Goldsmith and Martin Mooney from Goldsmith's novel of the same name and was directed by ...more
18
71 37
Ranker Video
Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes, Adolphe Menjou
A Farewell to Arms is a 1932 American romance drama film directed by Frank Borzage and starring Helen Hayes, Gary Cooper, and Adolphe Menjou. Based on the 1929 semi-autobiographical novel A ...more
19
56 34
Ranker Video
Patrick Magee, William Campbell, Luana Anders
Dementia 13 is a 1963 horror-thriller released by American International Pictures, starring William Campbell, Patrick Magee, and Luana Anders. The film was written and directed by Francis Ford ...more
20
63 32
Ranker Video
Bela Lugosi, Clarence Muse, Madge Bellamy
White Zombie is a 1932 American independent Pre-Code horror film directed and produced by brothers Victor Halperin and Edward Halperin. The screenplay by Garnett Weston, based on The Magic ...more
21
54 26
Angel and the Badman is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
John Wayne, Gail Russell, Harry Carey
Angel and the Badman is a 1947 American Western film written and directed by James Edward Grant and starring John Wayne, Gail Russell, Harry Carey and Bruce Cabot. The film is about an injured ...more
22
55 29
Cyrano de Bergerac is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
José Ferrer, William Prince, Mala Powers
Cyrano de Bergerac is a 1950 black-and-white feature film based on the 1897 French Alexandrine verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. It uses poet Brian Hooker's 1923 English blank ...more
23
53 30
My Favorite Brunette is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Peter Lorre, Dorothy Lamour, Lon Chaney
My Favorite Brunette is a 1947 American romantic comedy film directed by Elliott Nugent and starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Written by Edmund Beloin and Jack Rose, the film is about a baby ...more
24
70 46
Ranker Video
Dave O'Brien, Carleton Young, Harry Harvey Jr.
Reefer Madness is a 1936–1939 American propaganda exploitation drama film revolving around the melodramatic events that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try marijuana—from ...more
25
52 30
Topper Returns is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Free Movies! The Best Films in the Public Domain
Joan Blondell, Carole Landis, Roland Young
Topper Returns is the third and final entry in the initial series of films inspired by the novels of Thorne Smith. It followed Topper and Topper Takes a Trip. As in the prior movies, Roland ...more