Finding the perfect movie for Taco Tuesday can be tough. Going to the movie theater is out of the question, and you’ve already spent 30 minutes scrolling through Netflix, but nothing has caught your eye.
At least, that’s what last Tuesday looked like for me.
So, I turned to free online streaming, where you never know if a movie will load or the video has the quality of a potato.
That’s when I found 123movies.la. Its modern look has a very familiar feel to other search engines. Think Google simple. A logo and a search box.
But this site is loaded with movies you’ve never heard of, and some new ones too.
A Design That Shines, But Isn’t Gold
It only took me a few minutes to look through the catalog and realize the new car in front of me had a shoddy transmission.
The design is familiar, and you can easily search for whatever you’re looking for. But I wanted some recommendations for a Taco-Tuesday movie. So, I headed over to the movie section.
The landing page for the movies doesn’t seem to care about what I might like. Instead, the films are in no particular order and half of them don’t have an image for me to judge the book by its cover. So, I’m in a sea of meaningless movie titles with no direction on which way is up.
Thankfully there is a filter option for the amoeba of movie titles.
You’re able to search by genre and year. But those don’t help much. Instead, I prefer to listen to users. And they make it easy by offering to filter based on most viewed links and top of IMDB.
Unfortunately, while these filter methods will get you a list of things people enjoy, it is limited to their library. And worse – it’s a randomized list.
When you click ‘most viewed’ it populates a different list every time — although not an entirely new list. For example, the cinematic masterpiece and Charles Band’s 2005 magnum opus ‘The Gingerdead Man’ first appeared at #1 on the most viewed tab. But when I refreshed the page, it was #7 despite its clever title and obviously compelling plotline. There seems to be a group of top recommendations that appear in no particular order.
And the ‘Top IMDB’ filter option has the same issue.
Besides offering a group random movies, it offers a group of random movies that bears no resemblance to IMDB’s actual top lists.
Of course, the best movies of all time are subjective. There are different classics for different people.
But I think we can all agree that Star Wars Revenge of the Sith should come before a Revenge of the Sith: Reviewed.
Yet, 123movies.la has such a great algorithm they put the masterpiece of a review by PlinkettReviews before the actual movie.
So while the layout of the website is easy to navigate, you will still be lost in a meaningless library.
Surprisingly Clean on Mobile
Most free streaming sites are a minefield for a phone without AdBlock installed.
Any click might bring you down a rabbit hole of ads that may, or may not, be malware for your device.
But 123movies was reasonable. I clicked around before landing on American Dad. When I selected the show, I was given two ads that I was able to back out of. That’s impressive compared to some sites that are almost unusable with ads on.
Generally, the sites I use on mobile will have an ad over the play button. And that ad will redirect a few times until you’re on a landing page that tries to convince you hot singles in your area are looking for you.
But this website didn’t offer that. Instead, the link went straight to a landing page you’re able to back out of. I had to do this twice before the show was playable.
The connection was reasonable, and within 20-30 seconds, the show started and didn’t pause to buffer through the entire episode.
All in all, the mobile experience of this site should be the standard for free streaming services. They offer a mediocre library with minimal ads that are easy to avoid and fast servers that start your show (or movie) without buffering multiple times.
Sometimes, Bad is Good
Taco-Tuesday could’ve been ruined with a randomized movie list that gives no real direction. But instead, I ended up watching a movie that was so bad I couldn’t stop laughing.
I think that perfectly sums up my experience using this site.
The site looks good, but the library is horrible. But not horrible in the ‘I’m never eating here again’ way. It is awful in the ‘favorite-dive-bar-with-bad-service’ way.
I’m not going to suggest you invite friends over to watch a movie on 123movies. But if you find yourself bored on a weekday and want to watch a movie, keep an open mind and check out the library. You’re not going to recognize most of the movies on the list, but most of them are so bad you won’t be able to stop laughing after a few glasses of wine.
This website has the appeal of an ugly dog.
If you decide to take a chance to find something on the site, you’ll have a decent experience finding a mediocre (at best) movie.
The (not so) Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I try to give the benefit of the doubt whenever I have a chance. But some things are inexcusable.
Besides having a broken algorithm to suggest the next title, this site can be inaccurate.
Let’s say you give it a chance. You sit down. You’ve had a few glasses of wine, and you’re ready for a bad movie. You know, something like the 2019 Hollywood failure ‘Cats.’ After convincing yourself a live-action musical about humanized bird murders is worth sitting down to watch, you give it a shot.
You’re under your favorite blanket with a big bowl of popcorn and your favorite fluffy socks.
You click the movie. Get past the ads.
But you’re greeted by a much younger Jeff Goldblum staring in the 2001 movie Cats & Dogs. Let’s leave aside that Jeff’s performance is probably a better theatrical choice than the financial black hole that is the 2019 Cats.
You were promised a movie. The site’s description even had the movie’s poster, release date, actor list. 123movies does not deliver on their promise.
This is not ok.
I can handle the lack of good movies, the subpar algorithm, and possible malware-laden ads. But I cannot handle a false advertisement.
If you’re going to be a library filled with bad movies, at lease take the time to get the links right.
What Can Be Improved
Sometimes you need to take things for what they are.
This site offers free movies with minimal ads and a decent layout that makes it easy to check out their library.
But two things can be fixed to put glitter on their turd library.
First, and most importantly, make sure the links are accurate.
Finding something to sink two hours of my life into can be a tough choice. And once I finally make up my mind, it is frustrating to be redirected to another movie. To me, this seems like the most critical fix for the quality of life.
Second, make sure the filters are accurate.
I’m not the biggest tech guy, but I imagine there is a way to get an accurate list of IMDB movies integrated into the site. At the very least, the most viewed movies on the site itself should be easy to find – its data the site should already have.
At first glance, the filters seemed useful. Then I refreshed the page and was offered a different list with the same movies.
Verifying each link points to the correct movie might be a hassle but fixing the quality of the filter seems like a more straightforward fix that makes using the site much more user-friendly.
What’s the Verdict?
This is a mediocre site at best.
The layout is easy to navigate, but the library lacks compelling movies, and the links might be incorrect.
Of course, this is a free site, so some things are worth putting up with. But the downsides of this site make it hard to recommend to friends.
I’ll use 123movies if I need background noise while cleaning the house, but it would be tough to put this site on a list of reliable resources.
This is the McDonalds of free streaming. It’s usually disappointing, but when everything else is closed, it’s an option to get by on.