A closed silver MacBook on top of a bed next to a bowl of popcorn.

The internet has more content than one human could experience, yet much is already lost! This is true of movies in particular. Most early films were lost decades ago, but with modern technology, we don’t need to lose any more.

What Is the Internet Archive?

The Internet Archive is a digital library founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle. The Internet Archive aims to provide free access to all knowledge by collecting and preserving digital content, including websites, books, software, music, and more.

The Internet Archive began as a way to preserve and make accessible the rapidly growing amount of digital content on the internet. It started by using web crawlers to collect and archive websites, creating a digital version of the “Wayback Machine” that allows users to see how a website looked at a particular point in time. Over time, the Internet Archive has expanded to include various digital media, including books, music, software, and videos.

RELATED: What Is the Wayback Machine, and Why Is It Important?

Today, the Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization supported by donations and grants. It continues to collect and preserve digital content and make it available to the public for free.

The Internet Archive Hosts Some True Classic Movies

The Internet Archive has a vast collection of movies, including many classic, independent, and foreign films. Some of the most interesting and notable movies preserved on the Internet Archive include:

These are just a few examples of the many fascinating and important movies preserved on the Internet Archive. If you are a movie buff, you can explore the Internet Archive’s collection to discover more hidden gems and classic films. Not to mention lost episodes of TV shows, or TV pilots that never made it to screen!

The Archive Goes Way Beyond Movies

As mentioned above, in addition to movies, the Internet Archive has a vast collection of other types of digital content. Some of the other types of content available on the Internet Archive include:

  • Books: The Internet Archive has a collection of over 36 million books.
  • Music: The Internet Archive has a collection of over two million recordings of music, including recordings of live concerts, radio broadcasts, and other audio content.
  • Software: The Internet Archive has a collection of over 950,000 software programs and games, including many classic and historical examples.
  • Television: The Internet Archive has a collection of over three million television programs, including episodes of classic TV shows, news programs, and more.
  • Websites: The Internet Archive has a collection of over 780 billion web pages, including many historical versions of websites.
  • Audio recordings: The Internet Archive has a collection of over 15 million audio recordings, including lectures, interviews, and other audio content.
  • Images: The Internet Archive has a collection of over 4.5 million images, including photographs, illustrations, and other visual media.

How Is the Internet Archive Legal?

The Internet Archive is essentially an online public library operating within the bounds of copyright law and works with rights holders to ensure that the content it collects and preserves is made available legally. In many cases, the content on the Internet Archive is in the public domain or is licensed under Creative Commons or other open licenses that allow for free distribution and use.

Of course, intellectual property laws vary from one country to another. Something that’s in the public domain in one nation may not be in yours. However, everything on the archive is legal within the legal jurisdiction from which it operates.

That doesn’t mean the site isn’t involved with litigation from time to time. For example, there are copyright holders who have made legal challenges to the Internet Archive’s “lending library” practices with regard to ebooks. In general, this isn’t something that you need to worry about as a site visitor.

RELATED: How to Download Free eBooks with Amazon Prime

There’s Even More Movie Magic Out There

The Internet Archive is certainly one of the largest repositories of media on the internet and a crucial project to preserve movies, TV shows, and many other media that would otherwise disappear. It’s a worthy cause, but if you love exploring the history of movies, especially more recent ones, there are many other hidden gem sites on the web.

The Internet Archive isn’t the only library service on the web offering movies. If you have a library card from a participating library, you can stream movies without ads for free on services such as Hoopla and Kanopy.

Genre film fans, in particular, can access plenty of free content in popular genres such as action films, horror films, or something a little more festive. So if you’re scrolling through Netflix and can’t choose anything maybe consider diving into the archives.

The Best Streaming Services of 2023

Best Streaming Service Overall
Hulu + Live TV
Best Live TV Streaming Service
Hulu + Live TV
Best Streaming Service for Movies
Best Free Streaming Service
Best Original Programming
Best Streaming Service for Families
Profile Photo for Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
Read Full Bio »