Roku has become one of the most popular streaming devices in the U.S., available to consumers as a plug-in dongle or integrated directly into a smart TV. But it’s more than just an easy way to access other streamers, it has its own streaming service, The Roku Channel.
An ad-supported streaming service, The Roku Channel offers a slate of classic movies for free ranging across all different genres. Users can also sign-up for premium subscriptions to get access to movies on cable channels like Showtime, Starz, Epix and AMC+.
Get a look at some of the best movies on The Roku Channel right now.
American Animals (2018)
You have to love a good heist movie, which is why it was a little surprising that American Animals — despite strong reviews — didn’t do better during its initial release. But, that’s one of the benefits of streaming, getting the chance to catch up on something you may have missed the first time around.
American Animals tells the true story of college students who attempt to steal a book from the university library that is supposed to be worth millions. Director Bart Layton was known for documentaries (The Imposter), which likely inspired a unique choice to blend the narrative telling of the story featuring actors (Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner and Jared Abrahamson) with interviews of the real-life people the story is based on.
It’s a fun ride that fits right into the wheelhouse of anyone intrigued by true-crime stories.
Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes Films
The actors most associated with Sherlock Holmes today are either Robert Downey Jr., who played him on the big screen for Guy Ritchie, or Benedict Cumberbatch, who did so in the popular BBC series. Still, one of the most iconic portrayals of Sherlock Holmes belongs to Basil Rathbone, who played the master detective in 14 films between 1939 and 1946.
Five of Rathbone’s films are available to watch for free on The Roku Channel — Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon, The Woman in Green, Terror by Night and Dressed to Kill.
See how the screen’s original Sherlock Holmes compares to our modern day versions of the sleuth.
It seems like we get a new version of Batman about every four years now, but — with all due respect to Adam West and his wonderfully silly version of the caped crusader — Michael Keaton’s Batman is still the model for bringing the character to the big screen.
Batman was a perfect playground for Tim Burton, as he brought his unique sensibility to create a Gotham City and cast of characters that mixed humor and darkness. Keaton was strong as the Dark Knight, but Jack Nicholson stole the show with his legendary performance as the Joker. A healthy debate could be had over whether his or Heath Ledger’s performance is better.
Keaton and Burton would reunite for Batman Returns, which is also The Roku Channel, as are the other Batman movies before Christopher Nolan took over the franchise, Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.
August Wilson is a seminal American playwright, and Fences — from his 20th Century Cycle of works — remains one his most lauded plays. Denzel Washington, who had starred in a Broadway revival of the play, successfully brought it to the big screen in 2016.
Fences tells the story of a working-class Black family in the 1950s that must deal with the realities of their own relationships and the societal issues they face.
Washington, along with Violas Davis, put on a master class in acting — both would be nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, respectively, with Davis winning. The cast is rounded out by Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson.
Fight Club (1999)
We’ve all been breaking the first two rules of Fight Club for a long time (heck, I’m doing it right now), but it’s hard not to when the David Fincher-directed, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton-starring film is just so much fun.
The themes and little Easter eggs that Fincher put in the film have been over analyzed to death in the 20-plus years since its release, and yet the film remains endlessly rewatchable, bolstered by Pitt, Norton and Helena Bonham Carter’s nearly perfect performances.
So continue to break those first two rules of Fight Club in case someone you know somehow hasn’t seen the movie.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Despite not taking place in the actual Star Trek universe, many Trekkies consider Galaxy Quest to be one of the best examples of what a Star Trek movie can be.
Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, the late, great Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell and Daryl Mitchell make up the group of actors from a now cancelled TV show that are mistaken as a real space crew by a group of aliens seeking their help.
Galaxy Quest is an homage to both the series it is spoofing and the fandom that surrounds it, but it also is just a fun space adventure with plenty of laughs that has amassed its own cohort of loving fans over the years.
No matter what time of year it is, horror fans always know it’s a good time to watch Halloween. Spawning a multitude of sequels and reboots, Halloween and its killer Michael Myers are among the most recognizable horror franchises around. Always hard to top the original, though.
John Carpenter’s original tale of teenager Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) first encounter with Michael Myers follows a style that you wish more horror films would adhere to — keep it simple. The scares come from the silent, unrelenting pursuit that Myers has for his victims, always lurking behind them eager to strike.
Plus, that William Shatner mask is just creepy.
Before Christopher Nolan was one of the biggest filmmakers on the planet, he broke out with the smaller-scale film Memento. However, his love of distorting how a story unfolds for an audience was always present.
Memento stars Guy Pearce as a man who suffers from short-term memory loss attempting to find whoever killed his wife. As the story plays backwards, we learn, along with Leonard, just how dark this path has taken him.
While films like The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception and Dunkirk have proved Nolan to be a master filmmaker, the case can be made that Memento remains his best movie from top to bottom.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
The courtroom drama is a well-worn tradition in film, but the courtroom comedy is something we don’t see very often. Maybe that’s because My Cousin Vinny did it so well that few are up to the challenge.
Joe Pesci stars as a loudmouth, newly practicing attorney from New York who travels down to Alabama with his girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) to help his cousin and his friend who are wrongly accused of murder.
Pesci is fantastic, as is Fred Gwynne, who spars with Pesci throughout the movie as the straight-laced judge. And whatever you think of the fact that Tomei won an Oscar for her performance here, you can’t deny that she pops throughout the movie.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Zombies are just about everywhere nowadays, from prestige TV with The Walking Dead to an aspiring Netflix universe that got kick-started with Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead. It can all be traced back to a little film made in the woods of Pennsylvania in the late 1960s.
Night of the Living Dead was the creation of George Romero and was the jumping off point for where future filmmakers would take zombies — though Night of the Living Dead never actually calls its mindless ghouls zombies.
Even though it established many of the rules that would be used for most zombie stories going forward — i.e. zombies being slow-moving, people being bitten turning into zombies — Night of the Living Dead is more about the people trapped inside the central house for most of the film and the paranoia they experience while trying to survive.
Raising Arizona (1987)
Raising Arizona was not the first time audiences were introduced to the Coen brothers — that would be Blood Simple a few years earlier — but is the first time we saw just how wonderfully weird they could be.
Nicolas Cage is an ex-con who marries Holly Hunter’s ex-cop. When they realize that they cannot have children, they decide to take one from a set of local quintuplets, assuring themselves that the family wouldn’t mind having one less mouth to feed. Of course that’s not the case, as a chase ensues to get the baby back.
Raising Arizona also served as the first time that the Coens would work with one of their greatest collaborators, John Goodman.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Ever since Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter met Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling, film and TV creators have been trying to recapture the magic that made The Silence of the Lambs so successful. There have been some varying degrees of success — the Mads Mikkelsen-led Hannibal was a good entry, the more recent CBS series Clarice less so — but nothing has been able to hold a candle to the 1991 Best Picture winner.
The Jonathan Demme-directed film is an expertly executed thriller (the final night-vision encounter scene is just one brilliant example) featuring two all-time performances from Hopkins and Foster, not to mention Scott Glenn, Ted Levine and Kasi Lemmons in support.
Don’t settle for the imitations or spinoffs when one of the greatest movies ever made is available right at your fingertips.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
I admittedly have a bias for Silver Linings Playbook because of my Philadelphia roots as a central part of the film is the characters’ love for Philly sports teams (I nearly stood up clapping seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s monologue listing off a particularly memorable stretch of Philadelphia victories when I first saw it in theaters). But there’s plenty to love for those not inclined to root for the Philadelphia teams.
The film, from director David O. Russell, has a frenetic energy as Bradley Cooper’s Pat tries to get his life under control following a stint in a mental hospital and forms a connection with Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany, who has problems of her own. Robert De Niro, Jackie Weaver, Shea Wigham, Chris Tucker and Anupam Kher also give memorable performances.
For all the craziness involved with Silver Linings Playbook, it ultimately is a heartwarming story about a family discovering the balance and support they all need.
When you think of westerns, John Wayne is probably the first person that pops into your head. He starred in countless stories from the back of a horse, many of them with director John Ford. Stagecoach was the first time the two worked together, and it still holds up as one of their best.
Stagecoach tells the story of a group of people forced to travel together via stagecoach through dangerous territory. Wayne gave a star-making turn as the Ringo Kid and Ford’s shooting of one particular action sequence is impressive even by today’s standards.
It may be more than 80 years old, but Stagecoach is just as thrilling today as it was when it was first released.