Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Stream Classic Movies and TV for Free on Hoopla

Did you know that you may be able to stream movies and TV shows for free--and legally--from your local library?

Many libraries now offer a streaming video service as one of the perks for their patrons. My public library offers Hoopla, which not only allows patrons to "check out" films and TV show episodes, but also audio books, music, ebooks, and comics. There's only one catch:  There is a limit to the number of items you can check out per month, though it varies widely by library. For example, with my local library, the limit is five. And each episode of a TV series counts as one item. So, if your plan is to watch the original Poldark miniseries, it's going to take a few months.

Burl Ives in So Dear to My Heart.
Still, that's a minor inconvenience given the video content available on Hoopla. If you're a Walt Disney fan, it's like hitting the goldmine! There are dozens of Disney classics from the 1940s through the 1970s. In addition to the expected titles, there are hard-to-see films like So Dear to My Heart (1949), The Sword and the Rose (1953), Toby Tyler (1960), and Emil and the Detectives (1964).

If you prefer non-Disney classics, there are plenty of other choices such as:  Becket, Camelot, Dial M for Murder, Guys and Dolls, Suddenly, Ball of Fire and its remake A Song Is Born, They Might Be Giants, Nothing Sacred, Love Affair (Irene Dunne), The Pride of the Yankees, The Blue Angel (Marlene Dietrich), My Favorite Brunette, Fanny (Leslie Caron), and Raffles (David Niven). There are even a handful of silent films, including some Buster Keaton shorts and John Barrymore as Sherlock Holmes.

Mary Tyler Moore & Dick Van Dyke.
If you favor classic TV series, you can watch The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Doris Day Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Route 66, Peter Gunn, Shirley Temple's Storybook, and others. (However, keep in mind that each episode counts toward your monthly limit.)

Naturally, there are more recent movies and TV shows if you prefer to watch Into the Woods or The Dressmaker or Mr. Holmes. The most recent movie I could find was Gotti (2018), which recently earned Razzies for Worst Film and Worst Actor (John Travolta).

Gary Cooper & Barbara Stanwyck
in Ball of Fire.
Hoopla features one of the better search engines for browsing movie and TV show categories (e.g., Disney, drama, family-friendly, art house, Asian cinema) or searching for a specific title. You can create a watch list using a "favorite" button. Once you borrow a title, you're told the latest "turn in date." If you don't turn it in automatically by that date, Hoopla does it for you. Finally, there's also a handy "History" feature that keeps track of everything you watched (though you can hide selected titles if desired).

You can view content on your Android or iOS mobile devices, on your desktop, or on your favorite streaming platform (I prefer my beloved Roku).

And--best of all--you just need a library card! So, why don't you Hoopla a classic movie or TV show sometime soon?


  1. Thanks for singing the praises of Hoopla! It is one of the many great benefits offered by my public library. I enjoy the books as much as the movies.

  2. Our family loves Hoopla! We use it to tap into the Disney archives almost every Saturday and they also have a great selection of music - from rare LPs to current hit singles. Thanks for spotlighting this, Rick! Also, don't forget to mention Kanopy which most libraries give access to. They have a lot of Kino Lorber, Shout! films, and a huge selection of PBS programs and The Great Courses. Our local library also has Acorn TV, too, if you're a Brit tv fan....another great streaming service. Libraries are wonderful!

    1. Thanks for mentioning Canopy, which is the other large free streaming service. We subscribe to Acorn TV, which has great shows like FOYLE'S WAR, POIROT, NO OFFENCE, and DOC MARTIN. Hoopla also offers selected Acorn titles, but, of course, the monthly limit means you only get to see 5-10 episodes per month. But it's free!

  3. We love Hoopla! It is a terrific service that, it seems, many people don't know about.