Want to watch a movie?
Some of the best classic films have found their way into the public domain, and so are available to watch on YouTube. Across many genres and decades, these movies are as enjoyable as they are impactful. True, YouTube is rarely, if ever, the ideal way to watch a movie – but it also has its advantages. These movies are portable, and if you only have a few minutes, you can watch them with as many intermissions as you want. Best of all, they are free. So pull these up on your TV, computer, tablet, or phone and enjoy! A world of cinema awaits... Well, at least the part of it that is free on YouTube.
1969–George Romero's Night of the Living Dead
A classic in every meaningful sense, Romero's ghoulish nightmare represents a transition in American horror. Because of a rights issue, the film landed in the public domain, and is presented here for you to enjoy. It is also one of the latest widely seen movies I know of that is in the public domain. With a fine transfer and a no stock music to deal with (the two most common issues with watching silent film on YouTube), there are few if any compromises to be made in watching this movie here. If you love it, consider buying the Criterion Collection's excellent release, which I have heard is the only one to give financial compensation to Romero.
1940–Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday
In the golden age of Hollywood, many of the greatest film makers in the history of The United States made gritty crime dramas, thrilling westerns, hilarious comedies, and terrifying monster films. Few, however, made all of the above; even fewer with the mastery that Howard Hawks does consistently. In this movie an astonishing cast, talented director, and ingenious plot (a gender swap remake of an already successful play play and movie) come together to make an unforgettable comedy to begin an amazing decade of film. In stark contrast for the war movies and noir film that would become so important later, His Girl Friday is a light hearted comedy made in the last years before U.S. filmmakers and studios would be confronted with the harsh realties of the second world war.
1922–F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
In the greatest of all vampire films, the terrifying Count Orlok stole the breath and hearts of audiences just as he stole the blood from his victims. One of the finest examples of German expressionist filmmaking, Nosferatu continues to shine bright to this day, especially in its dark and shadowy setting. While both of these versions of the movie carry with them the old plague of YouTube film-going—inaccurate and sometimes distracting stock music—you could do worse than either of them. I know, because I have. The top video is presented in black and white, and has a beautiful transfer and a fully orchestrated score. The bottom video, which I recommend, retains the film tinting that would have been included in the highest quality presentations back in 1922. A Gothic pipe organ accompanies Orlok on his quest for innocent blood. Sit back and enjoy, as the dark father of all vampire films plays before your very eyes! And Kino Lorber has released an excellent Blu-ray if you want to experience the Count with ideal musical accompaniment in the highest possible quality.
1946–Orson Well's The Stranger
I have heard that there are some who do not appreciate the work of the legendary Orson Wells. They are wrong. I cannot show you Citizen Kane to prove it (and yes, it is that good), but I can show you a really lovely movie: the ever marvelous post-war thriller The Stranger. Here is a tale of lies, secrets, shadows, and heartbreak. The amazing visuals that were blossoming at the height of the noir-era of American cinema weave a twisted tale of villainy and justice. Well's excellent direction and seemingly natural understanding of the cinema combine to make one of his most accessible films. The man who may have been the greatest filmmaker of all time stars in and directs this master worked film.
1925– Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush
There were many masters of the silent cinema. None of them were greater than Chaplin. None of Chaplin's other movies were greater than this. In The Gold Rush you see everything that made old Hollywood the dream factory of the world: lavish sets full of fake snow, expressive actors, innovative in-camera effects that are still referenced today, cute animals, romance, laughter and tears. Its funny, hearting, and at times bitterly sad. It is also the movie that helped me love silent cinema, a world I was just beginning to enter into. The restoration here is excellent, and the music is good (though not as good as the soundtrack written for the Criterion collection release based on an orignal composition by Chaplin himself). If this is your first feature length silent, try to image what I would have been like to see it in a in a crowded theater in 1925, sitting next to your family or someone special, and watching the projector throw this massive image onto the screen. I promise it won't be disappointing.