No Netflix? No problem! Here are eight free films on YouTube — and two rentals — that are sure to entertain.
As the longest-standing video streaming platform around for the masses, YouTube hosts a Wild West of viewing options with everything from viral hits sporting millions of views to head-scratching oddities only seen by a dozen or so people. In that spirit, here’s a rundown of 10 L.A.-based films from the famous to the befuddling — and you can watch most of ’em for free.
A Bucket of Blood (1959)
In this goofball dark comedy/sort-of horror film from director Roger Corman, a beatnik cafe underling played by legendary character actor Dick Miller discovers that a bit of plaster over a dead body can turn him into an instant art scene celebrity. In addition to being a dry run for “Little Shop of Horrors,” this cult classic is also a dead-on skewering of the SoCal coffee shop scene on the cusp of the ’60s.
The Endless Summer (1966)
The most famous surfing film of all time, this Bruce Brown documentary is loaded with eye-popping footage of California surfers going around the world to brave the biggest waves around. You can buy or rent the original or stream the 1994 sequel for free.
Catalina Caper (1967)
In honor of the late Little Richard who gets a wild scene in here, feast your eyes on one of the very few films shot on Catalina Island — a goofy beach movie caper starring Disney kid headliner Tommy Kirk. The only version you can watch for free is through “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” but believe me, it’s worth it.
The Great American Traffic Jam (1980)
L.A. was the indisputable king of hellish traffic jams for decades until other cities started to catch up in the 2000s. If you need any proof at all, they managed to turn that problem into an entire made-for-TV comedy about a bunch of commuters stuck for hours at the Golden Triangle traffic snarl.
King of California (2007)
This may not be among the best-known starring vehicles for Michael Douglas, but he really shines here as a dad dealing with significant mental health issues who’s just been released back into society — only to take daughter Evan Rachel Wood on a treasure hunt across L.A. Come for the great acting and stay for the awesome footage of the city and Santa Clarita and the Valley.
Lords of Dogtown (2005)
Before directing “Twilight,” Catherine Hardwicke helmed this fictional look at the skateboarding scene around 1970s Venice Beach. A perfect companion piece to the acclaimed documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” it’s just the thing to watch when you can’t spend a day at the beach yourself. Rent or buy.
Riot on Sunset Strip (1967)
Groove with some late-’60s psychedelia at its finest in this fictionalized account of the Sunset Strip curfew riots. Actually, it’s more of a quiet protest at the beginning and the end, but in between, you get some priceless counterculture lingo, lots of squares in ugly suits griping in bars and some of the skeeviest wood paneling ever captured on film.
Robot Monster (1953)
One of the most notoriously “bad” movies of all time, this cheapjack 3-D film is an apocalyptic tale following the few surviving humans menaced by Ro-Man, a guy in an ape suit with a diving helmet. “Mystery Science Theater 3000” had a blast with this one. It’s also the greatest showcase of Griffith Park’s Bronson Caves, the go-to locale for countless drive-in movies back in the day.
Tortilla Soup (2001)
Shot all over L.A. from Pasadena to El Segundo, this charming remake of Ang Lee’s classic “Eat Drink Man Woman” stars Hector Elizondo as a chef whose regular dinners with his three daughters serve as the catalyst for some major life changes. A groundbreaking Mexican American film at the time, it’s also a feast for the senses thanks to the meals featured from future Food Network celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Taking place on both coasts, this twisty thriller probably needs no introduction here; if you haven’t seen it, prepare to go in spoiler-free — even if the big reveal at the end makes repeated viewings kind of pointless. Plus, it was all actually shot in L.A., featuring City Hall standing in for a Manhattan police station and lots of recognizable spots around San Pedro.