SnagFilms Review: Free Streaming Content Through ‘Filmanthropy’
Editor’s Note: SnagFilms shut down in May 2020. Learn about other ways to stream free movies here.
SnagFilms is a free on-demand streaming service that provides access to more than 2,000 movies, documentaries and TV show episodes.
What may set it apart from some of the other more recognizable names in the free streaming TV game is that it has a stated mission beyond maximizing advertising opportunities.
SnagFilms pushes “Filmanthropy” — a phrase that was coined by the company’s founder to describe the power documentaries have to inspire a community to action — as its principal mission.
That is noble, but does it make the content on SnagFilms worth adding to your rotation of free streaming options? Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
Team Thegadgetlocker loves the idea of saving on the entertainment budget by taking advantage of free streaming TV options. As a part of our quest to find the best free streaming options, I have taken a closer look at the SnagFilms service and this review is my findings.
For the purposes of this review, I have downloaded the Roku and Android apps for SnagFilms on my devices, and utilized the web-based media player.
What Is SnagFilms?
SnagFilms is unlike many of its competitors in the free on-demand streaming TV world. The collection of its content, which is advertised as more than 2,000 movies, documentaries and TV episodes, is targeted towards that philanthropic philosophy the service coined as Filmanthropy.
That’s SnagFilms founder Ted Leonsis’ fancy way of saying that the content featured on the platform is intended to inspire communities into action for causes that benefit the greater good.
According to its website, there are “hundreds” of titles on the SnagFilms platform that are “based on philanthropic causes.”
But it’s not all about Filmanthropy. At least not on the surface. There are comedy titles and other pieces of content in the SnagFilms library that can be consumed for entertainment value alone. We’ll take a deeper look at both later in the article.
How to Watch SnagFilms
SnagFilms has a handful of ways you can enjoy its content. It is available through phone or tablet app, streaming device or on the web.
The Sign-Up Process Is Optional
You don’t have to sign up for an account with SnagFilms in order to view the content. Just download the app or visit the website and you should have immediate access to the library of content.
But there are some perks if you should decide to sign up for an account.
You will be able to download content to your device through the app so that you can view offline. Other perks include being able to designate content as a favorite for easy reference, as well as being able to stop and restart content at the same spot in case you have to change devices or locations.
As you can see in the graphic above, the sign-up process is actually pretty simple. SnagFilms does not require a mailing address or any credit card information. You only need an active email address, Facebook or Google account to sign up.
Devices and Apps
SnagFilms has a presence on most major streaming platforms, so it shouldn’t be too hard to track down.
It can be connected with your television through streaming devices like Roku or Amazon Fire or by download on some smart TVs.
If all else fails, you can access the content on the official SnagFilms website.
Content Available to Stream on SnagFilms
If you’re looking for mainstream on-demand streaming content, like you might find on a service like Tubi TV, you may find yourself disappointed.
Not only is there a much smaller menu of options, but the content probably appeals to what feels like a more narrow audience. Looking for something light to watch with the kids? Something with a cast of recognizable actors to put on while friends are over? This is not SnagFilms’ sweet spot.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad streaming option. It’s just different than others on the market. Let’s look at some of the areas where SnagFilms excels instead.
While SnagFilms claims to have hundreds of pieces of content that meet its criteria for a philanthropic production, there are 10 in particular that SnagFilms features as picks for that mission.
These vary from the story of an MMA fighter who was born with no arms or legs (A Fighting Chance) to the struggle of two Ugandan daughters trying to lift their families out of poverty (Africa’s Daughters):
- Sewing Hope
- Senegalese Women
- Kicking It
- A Fighting Chance
- Femme: Women Healing the World
- Sink or Swim: Learning the Crawl in the Maldives
- Letters from the Big Man
- Africa’s Daughters
- India’s Hidden Plague
Those 10 are just the beginning. When you visit SnagFilms, you’ll notice that there’s an entire genre subtitle dedicated to films that meet this requirement.
Documentaries are an area of emphasis for SnagFilms, which makes sense given its stated goal. There are several engaging topics that are covered by at least one piece of SnagFilms’ library. Here is a sampling of some interesting and popular documentaries:
- The Iran Job
- National Geographic’s Human Footprint
- Out in Silence
- Inside Bob Dylan’s Jesus Years
- We the People: The Market Basket Effect
Popular TV Shows
SnagFilms’ collection of TV shows may not be large or well-known, but it does offer up some fresh options. Many of the available TV shows are of the docu-series variety. Here’s a look at some of the popular titles:
- Women on the Front Line
- The World Cup Project
- Purple States
- We The Economy
- Shark Men
- American Viral
- Teachers Lounge
- Gabe & Max Need Help
- Don’t Walk
Here’s a look at the first episode of Teachers Lounge, which features comedian Jim Gaffigan:
With the exception of having a hard time getting the app to load on my otherwise highly functional phone once or twice during the testing, I had a mostly positive user experience with SnagFilms.
How Bad Are the Ads?
Actually, they weren’t bad at all. I noticed them most when I was using the Roku app, but I rarely encountered them at all on the phone app or the web. During a full-length feature, you can expect to be interrupted by a modest commercial break approximately three times. Compared to some other free streaming competitors, that’s very user friendly.
If I were to issue a complaint in this department, it would be that SnagFilms does not give you warning for when the advertisements will be inserted into your content. You can’t look ahead on the move to see where a potential break in the action may be. That’s good for the people paying for advertising but not-so-great for users.
I found the user interface for SnagFilms to be clean, simple and pretty straightforward on the phone, Roku and web.
Like many of its competitors, the home screen is rooted in popular genres with scrollable tiles offering some of its most well-regarded content. What separates it from competitors is that while their content is usually sorted into more traditional genres like comedy or action, SnagFilms has some pretty specific genres picked out for its content.
I have included a couple of screenshots from the Android phone app to illustrate that:
Once you’ve made a selection on a piece of content, you’re taken to a new screen with additional details such as the length of the production, a rating, the year it was released, directors and stars, as well as a detailed summary.
Here’s what that looks like:
Once you approve of the content, simply tapping or clicking that blue triangle on the title image will start the playback of the content.
Tips for Enjoying SnagFilms
Has some of the available content caught your attention? If so, here are some tips for enjoying it on SnagFilms:
- Find Your Cause: In the true spirit of the SnagFilms mission, you’re probably going to get the most satisfaction out of this service if you find a film or documentary that addresses a cause that speaks to your heart.
- Challenge Your Beliefs: Because there are some uncomfortable and maybe sometimes controversial topics featured on some of these films, you may enjoy giving your belief systems a bit of a challenge by trying a documentary that perhaps doesn’t align with the way you perceive a subject.
- Tuck the Kids in Bed: While SnagFilms does feature a very small child-friendly section of content, one of the major gripes people with children will have about this as a TV alternative is that it doesn’t do enough for their child entertainment needs. If you have little ones at home, this may be a service best enjoyed once they’re fast asleep for the evening.
Final Thoughts on SnagFilms
Still trying to decide whether or not you should add SnagFilms to your streaming portfolio? Here are some pros and cons to think over:
SnagFilms: Pros and Cons
|FREE!!||Content is thin compared to competitors|
|Healthy variety of documentaries||Not much in the way of mainstream movies or TV|
|Original comedy shorts||Limited family-friendly options|
Bottom Line: If you are looking for a good documentary or a film with a cause, SnagFilms is a viable free on-demand streaming option. If you’re looking for anything else, you’re probably better off exploring a more mainstream streaming offering like Pluto TV or XUMO.
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