Watch ‘Classic Albums’ online… for free!

Classic Albums is an ongoing documentary series featuring albums that are considered to be the best or most ground-making that have been made by a particular band or artist, or which mark a unique break-through or moment in the history of rock or pop music. Many of these have been broadcast on BBC, ITV and Sky and several episodes were made specifically for VH1 – most of the Classic Albums series are still available on DVD or Blu-ray.

The following is a complete listing of the series so far, with links to the shows you can watch online right now:

The Band – The Band (1969)

Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)

Phil Collins – Face ValueCream – Disraeli Gears (1967)

Deep Purple – Machine Head (1972)

Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987)

The Doors – The Doors (1967)

Duran Duran – Rio (1982)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)

Peter Gabriel – So (1986)

Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun and American Beauty (1968/1970)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968)

Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)

Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

Judas Priest – British Steel (1980)

John Lennon/The Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Metallica – Metallica (‘The Black Album’) (1991)

Motörhead – Ace of Spades (1980)

Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn The Torpedoes (1979)

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)

Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991)

Queen – Making of A Night At The Opera (1975)

Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

Rush – 2112 and Moving Pictures (1976/1981)

Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks (1977)

Paul Simon – Graceland (1986)

Simply Red – Stars (1991)

Steely Dan – Aja (1977)

U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)

The Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973)

The Who – Who’s Next (1971)

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)

Frank Zappa – Apostrophe (‘) / Over-Nite Sensation (1974/1973)

Rock Family Trees

Long-time readers of Melody Maker, NME, Rolling Stone or Sounds will already know the iconic work of Pete Frame – music journalist, author and sometime editor of alternative rock magazine ZigZag, for which he began drawing his Rock Family Trees in 1969. Over the years, Pete’s hand-lettered trees documenting music’s near-byzantine interconnections have been translated into books, album sleeves, CD inserts, exhibitions and limited edition prints.

In June and July 1995, BBC Television broadcast the first of two series of Rock Family Trees. Narrated by John Peel, the programmes relate the fascinating history and backstories of famous bands, artists and musical movements – from the roots of British R&B to New York Punk, by way of Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple! The second six shows, originally transmitted on BBC2 in September and October 1998, continued the sequence right up to the ‘Madchester’ years.

Rock Family Trees TV shows were never released on VHS or DVD, but the odd episode does still pop up from time to time in the wee small hours of the morning or as part of one the Beeb’s retrospectives on rock, punk or whatever. At 50 minutes per programme with classic interviews, great music and fascinating insights from some of the biggest names in the business these are not to be missed.

Series one, June/July 1995


Rainbow, Whitesnake, Gillan…

The Yardbirds, Cream, the Manfreds (Manfred Mann), John Mayall…

The Move, the Moody Blues, ELO, Wizzard…

The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, NY Dolls…

Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Dead or Alive…

Series Two, September/October 1998

The Mamas and the Papas, Lovin’ Spoonful, Blood Sweat & Tears…


Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer, the Searchers, Big Three…

Siouxsie Sioux, Public Image Limited, Adam and the Ants, the Slits…

Yes, ELP, Nice, Asia, Arthur Brown, the Buggles…

New Order, Joy Division, Buzzcocks, Happy Mondays, Factory…

Great sources of FREE movies online

We’re searching the web all the time for more rockumentaries and music-related movies. But of course, you may want to watch other films too – so here’s a list of free movie sites that we’ll update as we go along:

Internet Archive – Feature Films: The Internet Archive should be one of your first stops if you’re looking for free movies online. It features large collections of classic comedies, film noir and sci-fi / horror films.

Google Video: Still going despite Google’s purchase of YouTube. Some major classics are still hosted on Google Video, though searching via the Google video search page now gives you results from YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

Australian Screen Archive: The Australian National Film and Sound Archive provides free and worldwide access to over 1,000 film and television titles – a treasure chest of down-under video 100 years in the making.

B Minus Movies: Now hosted by AMC, which started life as American Movie Classics, this is the go-to site for B-movies by the likes of John Carpenter (Dark Star) and Roger Corman (Saga of the Viking Women). Want to see international icons before they made it big? Check out Raquel Welch in A Swingin’ Summer or kung-fu king Sonny Chiba in Terror Beneath the Sea. Looking for the unexpected? How about The Ruthless Four, a spaghetti Western starring Klaus Kinski.

Babelgum Films: Babelgum’s goal is to act as an international ‘glue’, bringing a huge range of professional and semi-professional films to a global audience – like a modern-day Tower of Babel. They’re also making an effort to get their content to smartphones. They have an iPhone app now and apps for other phones on the horizon. Get more detail on the mobile apps here.

BestOnlineDocumentaries: As one reader previously told us, “This site is a bit out of date and some of the links are broken, but it’s still a great compilation of online documentaries.” For more documentaries, you should also see Snagfilms mentioned below.

Big Five Glories: Presents classic films in the public domain within an attractive user interface. Makes the films a pleasure to watch.

Classic Cinema Online: This site nicely pulls together hundreds of classic films, ranging from Action to Westerns and even old cinema shorts and news reels.

ClearBits: This new site provides hosting and distribution for open licensed (Creative Commons) media and datasets. They have a section devoted just to movies, and all their content can be downloaded without cost.

Clicker: The Internet Television guide tells you where you can watch free and paid-for movies online. If you’re looking for more mainstream movies, here you go. This is Sony’s online movie play. Note: there’s probably some geo-blocking that comes with this. Also, one of our readers has also suggested the UK-based Blinkbox, which seems to offer another platform for more mainstream films.

Creative Commons: The folks who gave us the Creative Commons license host a wiki where you can find a good number of freely available films. Handy and worth keeping an eye on. I’d also suggest keeping tabs on CC’s Video blog.

Documentary Film Network: This site has been archiving documentaries for the past 4 years and serving them free of charge. Among the 181 films, you can find some of the Nixon-Frost interviews and a Che Guevara Biography.

Europa Film Treasures: Thanks to Europa Film Treasures, you can spend hours looking back through an archive of European film. Theses films range from “comedy to science fiction, from westerns to animation, from erotic to ethnological movies.” Highly recommended by our readers.

Film Annex: This site has one of the largest selections of online films for you to watch or download. You can find free classic movies and television shows right here. And you’ll also find at the Film Annex many films from independent filmmakers and directors. The site gives you the ability to download or stream films to your PC, laptop or iPhone. The films are ad-supported.

FMO: FreeMoviesOnline features a large selection of public domain films.

Hulu: Unfortunately Hulu limits its programming to a US audience (a policy that really needs to change), but it’s the 800 pound gorilla in the US, and there are some decent films here. You will find some Hulu titles sprinkled in above.

IMDB: This is perhaps a little redundant, but the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) also hosts some free online films (as well as TV shows) on its site. From what I can tell, it’s done in partnership with Hulu. But this collection has the advantage of pointing you to some decent films. Click here and scroll down. You can also find another re-packager of Hulu flix over at is a web site where you can watch films produced by the National Film Board of Canada. It offers access to 100s of documentaries, animated films and trailers. You can also access this collection via a free iPhone app. (p.s. You should also check out our own free iPhone app, which will let you download free audio books, free courses, free language lessons, and other types of intelligent media.)

Open Flix: This YouTube channel features hundreds of full length films. And they’re all apparently free and legal. A very nice resource.

OVGuide: If you’re looking for more free films, you should pay this site a visit. OVGuide is an up-to-date guide to online video, including TV shows, movies, and video games. It offers another way to find free movies online.

PBS Video: PBS hosts online a new film based on Michael Pollan’s bestseller, Botany of Desire. Other PBS productions are also housed here.

QuickSilverScreen: This site essentially puts torrents online and lets you watch films posted by other users, including many new films. It’s hard to believe that this site is entirely kosher, but it’s very popular (one of the top 3,000 sites on the web) and hardly a closely held secret. This collection contains some dreck, but also some decent documentaries and classic films. So it gets on the list.

SnagFilms: SnagFilms “finds the world’s most compelling documentaries, whether from established heavyweights or first-time filmmakers, and makes them available to a wide audience.” You can watch full-length documentary films for free. Currently includes over 550 films.

Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive: This online catalog “provides access to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive. The Archive serves as a comprehensive informational and archival resource worldwide for moving image materials pertaining to the Holocaust and related aspects of World War II.”

The Though this site typically offers arts films on a pay-per-view basis, it does feature a series of free films. Each month, a free film is featured (see example here). The site also hosts free international films restored by Martin Scorsese’s Word Cinema Foundation, mentioned below. And you can find another set of free films here.

UbuWeb: Presents dozens of avant-garde films & videos for your viewing pleasure. Tends to redistribute films from Hulu but some other gems one can be found here.

Video on Demand at Buy Ok, it’s not the most enriching collection of films. But if you’re looking for something light…

Wikipedia List of Public Domain Films: A great resource for finding films in the public domain

World Cinema Foundation: The WCF, created by Martin Scorsese in 2007, has restored a series of classic international films. You can watch them for free online.

YouTube Movies: YouTube hosts a series of full-length movies (that are likely geo-restricted).

YouTube Screening Room: The Screening Room presents high quality, short independent films to YouTube users and promises to roll out four new films every two weeks. The collection includes some Academy-Award winners and other quality films. More info here.