The iPad is a great device for watching movies and full-length feature films, but what if you don't want to buy digital media, or pay a monthly subscription charge for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or TalkTalk TV? Readers regularly ask us about the best ways to watch films for free on a mobile device.

In this feature we're going to widen your movie-watching horizons. Grab some popcorn and discover the best ways to watch the latest full-length movies for free on your iPad and iPhone.

The best apps for watching free movies

Lots of streaming services operate legally on the App Store. In general they offer a few older classics, along with a few adverts - you're not going to get the latest blockbusters. We would recommend the following apps for watching free movies on your iPad:

  • Snagfilms: You won't find many Hollywood blockbusters on this, but there is an interesting selection of older movies, documentaries, and world cinema. At the time of writing we did find Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, which is a quiet classic.
  • Popcornflix: US viewers will enjoy this one, as it offers lots of free movies. They tend to be the made-for-TV type, but there are some mainstream hits such as Zodiac, Star Trek and Serpico. It serves up adverts between movies, but we couldn't get a single movie to load in the UK because of region locking. 
  • BBC iPlayer: Don't forget to check BBC iPlayer (or any of the other TV catchup services) for films as it often has several on offer each week.
  • Crackle: This has a great range of movies - not the latest hits but plenty of big hitters. Unfortunately the app isn't available on the UK app store, but if you've got an American App Store account, you can use a VPN to get it working in the UK. We recommend NordVPN but read Best VPNs for iPhone and iPad for alternatives.

Watch movies for free on your iPad with YouTube

YouTube is a massively underrated service in this regard; many people fail to realise there's a range of feature-length movies on the platform. The challenge is finding decent films among all the noise of short video clips. Also, some people upload videos they don't own the rights to, which is illegal, although these are usually taken down within a couple of days.

If you want to watch a movie, open YouTube and search for it - you'll be surprised how often you find what you're looking for. Of course, if it's brand-new or a premium title from recent years, you should probably give the upload a wide berth. 

For those unsure of what they want to watch, Reddit has a great sub called /r/fullmoviesonyoutube. If you sort it by Top and Past Week you'll find a lot of great options.

How to watch free movies on iPad and iPhone: Reddit

Take out a free trial

Another neat option, at least in the short term, is to take out a free trial with one of the popular streaming services. You have to sign up, but if you cancel (usually within 30 days) you can get away without paying anything. By going from one service to another you can get a couple of months free.

How to watch free movies on iPad and iPhone: Amazon Prime Video

  • Netflix: Probably the biggest name in online streaming. Starting at £5.99/$8.99 per month for an SD package with a 30-day free trial. If you're not impressed by the UK offering, here's how to get US Netflix in the UK.
  • Amazon Prime Video: £7.99/$12.99 per month (or £79/$119 per year along with Amazon One-Day delivery). One month free trial.
  • Now TV Sky Cinema Pass: Slightly more expensive at £11.99 per month but the free trial (which only lasts a week - beware!) is worth a go. 

If you're planning to take out a subscription with the intention of cancelling before you get charged, remember that many offer a 30-day trial rather than (necessarily) a full month. Some cynics might suggest that the companies do this deliberately so that people get their maths wrong and get charged on the 31st day. Work the dates out carefully and set a reminder in your calendar. 

Watch movies online for free with Sky and Virgin Media

If you have a Sky TV or Virgin Media service you can watch the movies and television shows from your Sky or Virgin account on the iPad. Both Sky and Virgin have apps available on the App Store:

If you're already a subscriber to these TV services you can watch movies, and TV shows, on your iPad for free.

Apple TV+ is free with new devices

If you're planning to buy a new Apple device that can run the Apple TV app, or bought one after 10 September 2019, then you qualify for a year's free subscription to the Apple TV+ streaming service. In the main this includes original TV shows, but movies should appear in the months ahead. 

If you don't have a device that qualifies for the free subscription, you can still enjoy a 7-day free trial and then pay £4.99/$4.99 p/m to continue. To see what's on offer, read our complete guide to Apple TV+