Online streaming service: Youtube

Youtube Movie


Youtube is one of the largest video sharing website. It ranks 3rd on Alexa.

In January 2010, YouTube introduced an online film rentals service. It was later expanded to more than 6000 titles through partnership with various studios in May 2011.

Now in Youtube’s movie channels, there are more than 20000 titles and some of them are free (we will discuss its rental service in a different blog series for paid online streaming services).

There are two categories of free movies on Youtube,

  1. Videos uploaded by individuals.
    Youtube creates movie pages for videos uploaded by individuals. However, it doesn’t review the video for potential copyright infringement (see OCILLA), but relies on the copyright holder to issue a takedown notice. Three successful complaints for copyright infringement against a user account will result in the account and all of its uploaded videos being deleted (there are at least 400 free movies deleted because of this).
    The screenshot of one deleted movie:
  2. Movie uploaded by partner.
    Youtube has partnership program which allows media corporations including Hulu, Crackle and Viewster to offer some of their materials on Youtube.


  • # of free movies: around 1500
    There are two channels on Youtube most of which are free movies: Indian Cinema (about 4000 movies) and African Cinema (previously known as Nigerian Cinema, about 1000 movies). We exclude them from the following analysis otherwise the result will be biased.
  • Uniqueness: 40%
    We define it as the percentage of movies not available as free on other sites. Many of the free movies on Youtube are also available on Hulu, Crackle or Internet Archive.
  • Vintage and quality distribution: see charts below
    We use the rating on IMDb as a measure of quality, and the votes on IMDb as a measure of popularity. The result will differ from data on other sites like RottenTomatoes, but it still provides good evaluation of the whole collection.

Year distribution (before 2000):

Year distribution (after 2000):

Votes distribution:

Rating distribution (with votes > 50):


Youtube doesn’t provide free movies by itself, but you can find many free movies which are available on different sites in a central place.

One interesting thing is, media corporations sometimes leave the video on Youtube even though they remove it on their own sites. For example, Stealth is no longer available on Crackle, but you can still find the movie in Crackle’s channel on Youtube.

Sometimes you can even find both the paid version and the free version of the same movie on Youtube (for example, see ‘The Chase’ in the table below). So don’t forget to double check before you decide to rent or buy a movie on Youtube 🙂

Here is a list of some high rated movies which are unique on Youtube:

Title Year IMDb Rating
Sherlock Jr. 1924 8.2
Life in a Day 2011 7.7
The Chase 1966 7.2
The Buddy Holly Story 1978 7.1
Taking Sides 2003 7.0
Quatermass II: Enemy from Space 1957 7.1
Malcolm 1986 7.0
A Cab for Three 2003 7.0
Ramchand Pakistani 2008 7.2
Daughter from Danang 2002 7.6

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