Software freedom requires the people be allowed to alter any software on their computer, but mainstream movie distributors are afraid that if we had that freedom over the software we use to watch their movies we’ll just redistribute and not pay them. (Or at least that’s what they say in public, it’s reasonable to assume they have ulterior motives in private given how easy it still is to “pirate”).
To help you enjoy your life in software freedom I will be listing DRM-free movies I’ve enjoyed here, in order of personal preference. Most of these require a purchase to download off the official sites, which I encourage you to do so these talented artists can continue making DRM-free movies.
Man From Earth & Man From Earth: Holocene
These movies are a fascinating story telling experience, giving you a sense of disbelief within a sense of disbelief. You never know whether or not the story John Young/Oldman tells is meant to be true or not within the movie. And I can see the inner story being fascinating to historic and (if they’re not insulted) religious scholars.
Blender Open Movies
These are a diverse range of short animations (~10-15min) used to push and show off the capabilities of the “Blender” 3D animation tool, with everything from comedy to action to action-comedy.
In particular I tend to enjoy Glass Half, Spring, Cosmos Laundromat, Agent 327, Caminandes, and Sintel. Though seriously, they’re all great!
The Babadook (caveat)
NOTE: This page does not want to offer a download, but it will play fine on any browser whether or not it supports DRM. Still I’m happy to give Hollywood the signal this is how I prefer to buy my movies.
From a creapy book to a vague and threatening monster (seamingly related to the characters’ loss of their father/husband) this is the first film I’ve seen that felt properly scary to me.
Public Domain (fiction)
For more, Andrew Roach has his own reviews.
1940’s Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes has long inspired many successful adaptations, and while these may be quite old the only way they show it is through the lack of colour. It’s still very watchable today with great action, acting, mystery, and pacing. Especially mystery ofcourse.
Night of the Living Dead
This is basically the movie which defined zombies as we understand them today, making it an intriguing piece of cultural history, whilst maintaining a tense atmosphere throughout.
Audio Adventures (fiction)
These lack the visuals of a movie or TV show, but the voice acting and story telling is more than good enough you don’t really miss having anything to look at.
Filled with energy and expressive voice acting, the members of “Magical Anomoly Interdimensional Locators” have a really humerous dynamic as they seek “Scientific Tools Augmented with Magical Powers”.
Murder at Avedon Hill
There are several well written murder mysteries, just as there are well developed fantasy realms. Murder at Avedon Hill excells at being both at the same time.
Plus the author does some great voices for the audiobook, while mixing in a nice music track. The audiobook is a superb way to enjoy the story.
The Red Panda Adventures
And now Decoder Ring Theatre brings you the continuing adventures of Canada's greatest superhero, that scourge of the underworld, hunter of those who prey upon the innocent, that marvelous masked mystery man know only as The Red Panda!
The Red Panda, mysterous crucader for justice, hides his true identity as one of the city's wealthiest men in his neverending battle against crime and corruption. Only his trusty driver, Kit Baxter, who joins him in his quest in the guise of The Flying Squirrel knows who wears the mask of The Red Panda!
It’s a pastiche of cheesy old superhero shows, set in 1930’s Toronto. Complete with bizarre explanations, descriptions of cheap visuals (they didn’t even bother create), banter, and illiteration. With a dash of added self-awareness.
Case in point The Red Panda and The Flying Squirrel have static electricity-powered shoes allowing them to walk up walls and ceilings as if they were floors.
It’s all very amusing!
Then if that wasn’t enough, it’s emotional exploration of WWII is both thorough and effective. In part by tearing apart the existing superhero world they’ve previously established, exploring more of it in the process.
It’s a mocumentary podcast made by a fictional and socially oblivious bigfoot hunter, author of the fictional book “Why We Can and Must Find and Kill Bigfoot”. Nothing short of that will prove his existance to us nonbelievers. And he won’t replace his Tandy 1000 computer after only three decades.
Excellent vocal performance from Josh Allen!
Old Gods of Appalachia
Before you judge us as backwards hillbillys or opiod-addicted rednecks take a minute to understand how we got here. I mean how we really got here. There are places in this world where humanity was never supposed to see. Walled in by mountains of burning block rock, isolated by a chocking canopy of poisoned flora. Woods where tooth, claw, and hunger still sit atop the foodchain, long before our kind set foot in these mountains. When the peats of the blue ridge towered above the stars in the heart of the plato still rolled with ridges tough as pine knobs, darkness was brought here.
Cages made of fear. Our tongue do not have the shape to speak true names of what they are. That's are, not were.
Old Gods of Appalachia’s vocal performance, word choice, music, & subtle use of sound effects/voice acting creates a eery atmosphere for these ghost stories steeped in US history and a lovecraftian premise!
Welcome to Night Vale
This a progressive and existentialist community radio station from the strange fictional American desert town of Night Vale where all conspiracy theories are true. It’s got to be the absolute weirdest show I’ve ever heard, so be warned!
You can just start listening from the latest episode! There’s barely any plot, only common story threads. Or binge the whole thing to better understand those existing story threads.
This is an intense space disastor! It has a range of likable but untrustworthy characters, as they struggle to handle constant issues and figure out what the heck is going on. Combined with appropriately painful music, this show keeps you on edge.
I could complain that the psuedoscience doesn’t feel well enough established to provide a satisfying answer to their mystery box, but perhaps that just serves to leave it feeling more chaotic.
Though be warned: every episode starts with a content warning.
Doctor Who audio adventures
Doctor Who is a staple of british (soft) scifi, providing a wide variety of adventures for over half a century. Unfortunately the BBC is one of DRM’s biggest advocates, but they license the rights to make audio-only adventures to Big Finish Productions which are sold as digital downloads.
These audio adventures are everything fans have come to expect from Doctor Who, involving much of the same crew. In particular may I recommend Destination Nerva?
Thrilling Adventure Hour
Like “The Red Panda Adventures” “The Thrilling Adventure Hour” lovingly recreates cheesy old radio (and TV) shows, whilst admitting to the era’s worser qualities. However while Red Panda focuses on being an adventure, Thrilling focuses on being a (live) comedy with multiple subshows. Not that these qualities are lacking in the other.
Each subshow has a catchy theme song and excellent vocal performances.
Their liveshows started with “Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars” which is a western set on future Mars, and ended with (my favourite subshow) “Beyond Belief” where a drunk couple talks sense into all manor of horror monsters.
Between these are an especially cheesy pallet cleanser consisting of some combination of over-the-top WWII USian patriotism + bad accents, time travel, and/or highly derivative or formulaic (this appears to be the joke) superheros. I had fun tooting about how intentionally bad these are!
This is Not a Conspiracy Theory
This is a very well constructed, written, and narrated documentary series on the history of conspiracy theories, and network theory as an alternative. Kirby Furgeson has given this project the time and care it required.
Everything is a Remix
This is a documentary series also by Kirby Furgeson of similar quality to “This is Not a Conspiracy Theory” about how all creativity is copied, transformed, and combined from that which came before.
Terms and Conditions May Apply
Terms and Conditions May Apply from ro*co films on Vimeo.
Prefixed with a cute cartoon and with strong cinematagraphy throughout, this Cullen Hoback documentary covers the creepiness of how much surveillance we’re under online. I also enjoy the scenes cut from popular films scattered throughout illustrating how new all of this is.
Shortish documentary on climate change activism. I think I’ll have to rewatch sometime.