35 Free Sci-Fi Movies in the Public Domain

35 Free Sci-Fi Movies in the Public Domain

May 5, 2021 0 By Stoudman

Although science fiction is one of the genres most often associated with the public domain, there are quite a few titles that have long been thought to fit this description which either do not or simply lack evidence to prove. While there are probably a lot more free sci-fi movies in the public domain than we have listed here, we’re specifically focusing on films with evidence to support the claim that they are in fact free and legal to enjoy.

One thing you will definitely notice about almost all of these movies is that they typically aren’t the highest quality titles. Almost all of the free sci-fi movies on this list can be defined as a “B-film,” and while they might not technically be the best this genre has to offer, many of them are regarded as classics and plenty of fun to watch among a group of friends.

If you’re looking for something better, fear not; we’ll start our list off with what is objectively one of the best and most significant science fiction films of all time.


1. A Trip To The Moon

This was actually one of the first movies ever made, directed and produced by Georges Méliès in 1902. One of the most obvious influences for the film was Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon, but the film itself features a lot of iconic imagery which would go on to inspire many other movies in this and other genres. Since this title is now officially over 95 years old, it is irrevocably in the public domain. Some modern prints might not be readily available for free, but you can at least watch the black and white copy of the film below.

 


 2. The Lost World

If you’re interested in yet another classic free sci-fi movie which went on to inspire many others in the genre, you can’t go wrong with one of the earliest giant monster films of them all. Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book The Lost World, this movie features some of the earliest stop-motion animation of all time, making it quite historically relevant. Since it was released in 1925, it is over 95 years old and has officially entered the public domain.

 


 3. The Ghost of Slumber Mountain

Can’t get enough giant monsters? This movie was released in 1918, so it actually predates The Lost World, and it’s actually thought to be the trial run for that movie. While the latter film would use stop motion animation, this one started things off with stop motion photography. Sadly, much of the original film has been lost to time, and what remains isn’t quite enough to tell the full plot of the movie. That said, what we have today is now over 95 years old and in the public domain, so feel free to watch it at your leisure!

 


 4. Plan 9 From Outer Space

Widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, this is definitely one sci-fi classic that everyone should experience. Directed by the incomparable Ed Wood, this movie stars many notable actors such as Tor Johnson (Bride of the Monster, Night of the Ghouls), Vampira (Vampira: The Movie, The Big Operator), and of course Bela Lugosi (Dracula, White Zombie). Love it or hate it, this is one of those films everyone should see at least once.

TAKEDOWN NOTICE: While it has long been held that the copyright for this film was not renewed and had fallen into the public domain, this might not be the case. There actually are active copyrights on file for Plan 9 From Outer Space, and they have been used as a source to justify takedowns/copyright strikes against streamers/content creators. Be aware that this could happen if you choose to rebroadcast the film.

 


 5. The Indestructible Man

Starring none other than Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man, The Mummy’s Tomb), this film is far less notable than many of his other science fiction and horror roles. That said, this is a fairly enjoyable B-movie that most sci-fi fans would likely enjoy. This is yet another case where the copyright has not been renewed, causing the film to fall into the public domain. 

 


6. Last Woman on Earth

Directed and produced by Roger Corman, this film was originally released as the B movie in a double feature with The Little Shop of Horrors. Although that might sound like a bad thing, it should be noted that the screenplay for this film was written by Robert Towne, who would later go on to write the screenplay for Chinatown. This movie is likely in the public domain for the same reason as the film it was released alongside, because the copyright was not renewed after its theatrical release.

 


 7. Embryo

Starring Rock Hudson (Pillow Talk, All That Heaven Allows) and Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, The Poseidon Adventure), this movie was directed by Academy Award nominated director Ralph Nelson. Unfortunately, while a lot of his other films are widely regarded as classics, this definitely is not an example of his best work. This movie fell into the public domain because the required copyright notice was not provided. Sadly, most legally free transfers of this movie are very poor and difficult to watch.

 


8. Attack of the Giant Leeches

This classic creature feature was yet another Corman feature released as a double bill alongside the films A Bucket of Blood and House of Usher. If you’re looking for something fun and ridiculous to watch with friends, this might be a good option. Like many other Corman films of the time, the copyright was not renewed, and thus it fell into the public domain.

 


 9. The Killer Shrews

If you’re looking for another cheesy creature feature, it’s hard to go wrong with this independent sci-fi film which was produced alongside The Giant Gila Monster. Featured on the 4th season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, this is one of those movies that is quite easy to watch with friends. The most common public domain print of this film does not include the prologue which explains what a shrew actually is, which makes the experience even more bewildering.

 


 10. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

This classic cheesy sci-fi movie was originally produced in 1959, but it wasn’t released until 1962 as part of a double feature with Invasion of the Star Creatures.

Playing on the trope of the mad doctor, there’s nothing particularly new or significant to see here, but it has become a fairly well-known and beloved science fiction film simply because it has been in the public domain since the day it was released because the copyright notice provided upon its release was flawed.

In other words, this has always been one of the many free sci-fi movies anyone can legally watch without paying a dime!

TAKEDOWN NOTICE: This film has been taken down from streaming sites in the past. This indicates that there are probably copyrighted prints in existence. As a result, any attempt to rebroadcast the movie might be taken down from streaming services.

 


 11. Teenagers From Outer Space

Am I allowed to say this might be the worst movie on our list of free sci-fi movies in the public domain? It’s pretty bad, and not necessarily in an enjoyable way, although many have tried to lampoon the film. One of the most notable things about this movie is that it was released on a double feature with Gigantis the Fire Monster, which was the English-dubbed version of Godzilla Raids Again. This is another example of a movie which fell into the public domain because the copyright was not renewed.

 


 12. The Wasp Woman

This is yet another Roger Corman classic, one which played off the success of other creature features such as The Fly. The idea of a human being mutating into a bug was becoming quite popular in the sci-fi world around this time, and this movie is just one example of that. According to some sources, this movie was never actually copyrighted, and was instead made cheaply on a budget of around $50,000 just to make money at the drive-in theaters which were wildly successful at the time.

 


 13. Evil Brain From Outer Space

Although this movie certainly sounds like another Corman classic, it’s actually one of those cases where the original source material came from Japan and was re-edited to sell the film to American audiences. In this case, the movie is literally episodes 7, 8, and 9 of a serial known as Super Giant filmed in Japan in 1958. The modified American release is the only version in the public domain.

 


 14. This Is Not a Test

The 50s and 60s were a time filled with Cold War fears of nuclear war, and this sci-fi attempted to play on those fears by depicting just such a scenario. While there’s nothing particularly remarkable about this movie, it is a good opportunity to get a feel for the fears and concerns that Americans had at the time. How did this one fall into the public domain? Well, do the math. It was made before 1963, it was cheaply produced, and chances are the copyright was either not renewed or improperly applied.

 


 15. Trapped by Television

Take a break from all the 50’s and 60’s B movies to experience one of the earlier sci-fi movies on our list. At the time this movie was released, few Americans had any idea what the commercial television would look like inside the home, so the way it is depicted in this film will definitely seem strange to modern viewers. That said, if only for the chance to see what they once thought the future of television could look like, this movie is definitely worth a watch. Trapped by Television is in the public domain because its copyright was not renewed.

 


 16. The Phantom Planet

Okay, back to the 60’s B movies! This movie was directed by William Marshall, who was perhaps better known for acting in films such as State Fair. The Phantom Planet was released as a double feature alongside Assignment Outer Space. This is another title which was released before 1963 and was likely either missing a copyright notice or simply did not have its copyright renewed.

 


 17. A Message From Mars

Released in 1913, this film would today only be considered tangentially related to science fiction. Although it is framed from the perspective of a message being sent from Mars to people on Earth, the basic concept for the story isn’t actually all too different from It’s a Wonderful Life, which would eventually be released a full 33 years later. Since this film is over 95 years old, it is in the public domain. Even the BFI has released this film online for everyone to enjoy.

 


 18. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

The earliest science fiction films were usually based upon popular literature of the era, and this is an excellent example of that. Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was only 46 years old when this film was released, and it remains one of the earliest surviving examples of the genre on film. This was the first movie ever filmed underwater, making it a fairly significant title, and it was also one of the first movies produced by Universal Pictures. Now over 95 years old, this movie is officially in the public domain and free to enjoy.

 


19. Warning From Space

After the success of Godzilla, there were several attempts to cash in on the kaiju craze. Whether or not this is one of the better kaiju films is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. Critics weren’t particularly kind to this film, but fans of the genre might enjoy it.

Although we don’t know how this fell into the public domain, there are multiple reliable sources confirming its copyright status. There does not appear to be a copyright on file for this movie, so chances are it is public domain.

 


20. Eegah

This is one of the more forgettable titles on our list, but it does have a nanar quality to it. In fact, Eegah has been lampooned by none other than Mystery Science Theater 3000. The villain of this story is a prehistoric caveman played by Richard Kiel (Happy Gilmore, Moonraker).

The concept for the film is a caveman coming back to life in modern times and going on a rampage. If you’re a fan of Encino Man, chances are you’ve already noticed the parallels between each story.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of information about how this became public domain. That said, there is no copyright currently on file, so it’s very likely this movie is public domain.

 


21. Snowbeast

This is another cheesy science fiction film that is fun to watch with friends. Although it hasn’t been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, they did make a Rifftrax version of the movie. Despite the quality of Snowbeast, there were actually some fairly notable actors involved.

Bo Svenson (Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill: Vol. 2) and Yvette Mimieux (The Black Hole) headline the film. Clint Walker (The Dirty Dozen, The Ten Commandments) also has a minor role. This is a case where they neglected to provide proper copyright notice and the movie became public domain.

 


22. The Ape Man (1943)

During the early 1940’s, Bela Lugosi was making a lot of science fiction and horror films. We have several examples of these on our list of free horror movies in the public domain. Although some consider this more of a horror flick, it’s also fair to call it sci-fi. After all, the story focuses on a mad scientist!

Unfortunately, this is far from the best movie on our list of free sci-fi movies. Even so, it’s hard to deny yourself the chance to see a master like Lugosi. The Ape Man is in the public domain because its copyright was not renewed.

 


23. The Doomsday Machine

Also known as Escape From Planet Earth, this is one of the lowest rated films on our list. We recommend watching this one with friends, because it might be difficult to get through alone. Although there aren’t many notable actors in this film, Casey Kasem has a minor role. Cartoon fans will recognize his voice from properties like Transformers and Scooby-Doo.

We don’t know exactly how this became public domain, but several sources indicate that this is the case. One thing we can confirm is that there doesn’t appear to be an active copyright on file for this movie.

 


24. Killers From Space

This is another very poorly rated science fiction film that could be fun with friends. Although they never covered this movie on Mystery Science Theater 3000, there is a Rifftrax version of the movie. Killers From Space entered the public domain when the copyright holders forgot to renew their license.

 


25. Black Dragons

If you just can’t get enough Bela Lugosi, this movie is more of a crime/mystery film than science fiction. That being said, there are elements of a mad scientist in this film, so it definitely fits the genre. Critics were not fond of this movie, and the studios never renewed its copyright. Since the copyright lapsed, Black Dragons fell into the public domain.

 


26. First Spaceship on Venus

This is one of those movies which was initially released in another country. They later dubbed the film in English and gave it a new title for the American market. The results were less than stellar, and critics were not very kind. While it might be fun to watch with friends, it’s not the best sci-fi title on our list.

If you’re looking for guaranteed laughs, consider the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version instead. The copyright holder has confirmed this film is in the public domain and it is free and legal to watch.

 


27. Zontar: The Thing From Venus

Since we’re on the subject of sci-fi movies about Venus, this is another sci-fi movie you can enjoy for free. Believe it or not, this is actually a remake of Roger Corman’s It Conquered the World. Neither movie was particularly good, so you have to wonder why the same story was produced twice. Regardless of the answer, Zontar was released without a copyright notice and it is now public domain.

 


28. The Incredible Petrified World

This title is so poorly rated, you might be shocked to learn it’s the first movie of a double bill. Don’t worry, we’ll be covering the B movie next! John Carradine (Johnny Guitar, The Ten Commandments) headlined this film, but that didn’t save it from the critics. Although there is a copyright notice in the movie, it was never actually registered for copyright. As such, this movie has always been in the public domain.

 


29. Teenage Zombies

Yes, this was the B movie to The Incredible Petrified World. If you can believe it, this movie is even worse rated than its predecessor. There was no real headline actor behind Teenage Zombies, which meant no star power to bring in the crowds.

Of course, B movies were generally produced from start-to-finish to fill out double bills. By their very nature, this type of film was designed to be easily forgotten. Once again, this movie shows a copyright notice in the credits, but they never actually filed a copyright. Since the movie was never copyrighted, it was always in the public domain.

 


30. Invasion of the Bee Girls

This one might not be appropriate for the kids — and you might not like it either! Although Invasion of the Bee Girls is better rated than many other titles on this list, it’s not exactly Shakespeare. The plot for this Bee movie (pun intended) centers around women killing men with sex.

Yes, you read that right, it’s basically the “Snu Snu” episode of Futurama. And yes, there is nudity, so it really isn’t safe for children. According to IMDb, this movie is in the public domain. There does not appear to be an active copyright on file, so chances are that IMDb is correct.

NOTE: Due to the graphic content in this film, it is age restricted and must be watched on Youtube.

 


31. Phantom From 10,000 Leagues

Although this might not be the most memorable monster movie of the 50’s, it definitely personified the era. This is one of those free sci-fi movies that looks like they spent more on the poster than the film. There are several sources indicating this movie is in the public domain.

While a copyright exists for the musical score of this movie, there is no copyright for the film itself. What this means is that you wouldn’t be able to broadcast or sell the film without permission. However, it has been posted on several public domain sites and it is readily available to watch for free.

TAKEDOWN NOTICE: We advise against rebroadcasting this film in any way. Technically the film itself is public domain, but the music is not. You could reuse the footage without the music, but even that is taking a risk.
 


32. Track of the Moon Beast

With a story written by Bill Finger (Batman), how could you possibly go wrong? Well, apparently in a lot of different ways. Critics were not very kind to this film, and it was eventually featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This movie was published with an inaccurate copyright notice, and it has technically been public domain since its release.

 


33. Night of the Blood Beast

This is another movie made during the era of double feature science fiction and B movies. Produced by Roger Corman (Little Shop of Horrors, The Terror), this movie was released alongside She Gods of Shark Reef. This flick is so by-the-numbers they used the same alien costume as an earlier Corman production: Teenage Caveman.

As with many other free sci-fi movies, this one was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Corman often neglected to renew the copyrights for his films, and that’s what happened in this case. When the copyright was not renewed, this movie fell into the public domain.

 


34. Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning

This is probably the newest movie on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Star Wreck was the first major project for Timo Vuorensola, who went on to direct Iron Sky and Iron Sky: The Coming Race. The title of this movie alone indicates it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Although it’s technically not in the public domain, the movie was released under a Creative Commons license. This license allows for non-commercial and non-derivative use. What that means is it’s free to watch, but broadcasting/selling/reusing any part of the movie is illegal.
 


35. Metropolis (1927)

Alright, so this one has a bit of a story behind it. Most people are well aware of Metropolis, but not many are aware that certain versions of the movie are not actually in the public domain. The print that is public domain actually just legally entered into that designation in 2022 because it is now 95 years old.

The print clocking in at around 90-120 minutes is safe to watch, but they actually found a new copy of the film about a decade ago that had an additional 30-40 minutes of footage. You might not think that’s important, but it actually contributes a lot of context to the plot which was previously missing for many decades. We highly recommend getting The Complete Metropolis to see this movie the way it was intended to be seen.

Of course, if you’re just looking for free movies to watch, you can also legally enjoy the copy below without paying a dime!

 


Resources to Find Free Sci-fi Movies in the Public Domain

There are a lot of free sci-fi movies which are likely in the public domain, but they aren’t always easy to find, and it can sometimes be very difficult to verify that they are indeed free and legal to enjoy. With that in mind, we recommend using the following resources if you’re interested in looking for more public domain sci-fi movies.

Although this list of resources is not exhaustive, it’s a great place to start when researching free sci-fi movies in the public domain. That said, we highly recommend keeping a few things in mind before starting your search. The following factors will help you to understand what could possibly be in the public domain and what almost certainly is not.

Artwork from an old science fiction comic. Source: Pixabay.

Consider the film’s age

Typically, if a movie was made in the United States sometime before the 1970s, there’s a much better chance that it could be in the public domain. This is not a sure thing however, and the only way to really know for sure is to do the research. Another detail to consider when looking at the age of a movie is whether or not it is at least 95 years old, because all films enter the public domain at that point. As of 2021, this means any movie made before 1926 is free and legal to enjoy.

Look at the video quality

One of the more confusing details about the public domain is that specific prints can be copyrighted while others aren’t. A good example of this would be The Phantom of the Opera from 1925, a classic horror film that is now over 95 years old. While the movie itself is unquestionably in the public domain, there are some modern, high definition prints released on physical media which are not legal to watch for free.

As such, one factor which can help you determine if a specific film print is in the public domain is its video quality. If the copy of the film you’re watching is not high definition, there’s a better chance that it’s a legal copy. This of course only applies to free sci-fi movies which you have confirmed are in the public domain.

Avoid home video logos

If you find a copy of a movie believed to be public domain, make sure it doesn’t begin with logos from a home video release. For instance, if it starts with a “Warner Home Video” title, it probably came from a copyrighted release. Most public domain prints don’t include home video logos. If you’re trying to ensure the movies you watch are legal, this dead giveaway tells you to keep looking.