123movies was once called “the most popular illegal site” on the internet which means it was neither legal nor safe to use – but is it still accessible online?
Like any good bad guy, 123movies had many, many aliases back when it was one of the most popular websites on the internet. At its highpoint, 123movies had over 98 million unique visitors every month.
Similar to sites like Putlocker and PrimeWire, 123movies provided its users with illegal – or pirated – streams of popular TV shows and movies, as well as content from platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
123movies was also known as “GoMovies”, “GoStream”, “MeMovies” and “123movieshub”, and while the official 123movies site is now dead, there are plenty of mirror versions still available online.
Officially, 123movies ceased to exist back in 2018. Mirrors of the site still exist, however, so you can still access 123movies online via your phone and/or PC, although these mirror versions of the site, like the original platform, are not legal nor considered safe.
Is 123movies Safe To Use?
Streaming illegal content online is not safe nor is it recommended. Depending on where you live, the penalties can range from fines and warnings to prison time – each country’s rules and laws are slightly different, as you can see below:
|STANCE ON PIRACY||COUNTRIES|
|Pirating is legal or allowed (for personal use)||Poland, Spain, Switzerland|
|Pirating is illegal||Australia, China, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, United States|
|Pirating is illegal, but individuals are not actively prosecuted||Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, India, Israel, Iran, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Uruguay|
The rise of services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and HULU has made a pretty sizeable dent in the illegal streaming market. More and more people now pay for content rather than stealing it. But online piracy and illegal streaming sites will never go away.
Just look at PirateBay, for instance, it has been sued to death, its creators got prison time, and yet you can still access mirrors of the site online, so long as you use a VPN to protect your identity and block your ISP from tracking your internet activity.
As soon as one site is banned or sued out of operation, one of two things happens: a mirror site is launched that is basically a clone of the original site, or a competitor site rises from its ashes and fills the void.
This has been happening over and over again for the best part of a decade and a half, in the context of illegal film and TV show streaming.
And because 123movies and its mirrors are no longer run by the original companies, there is no way to know if the version of the site you are accessing is safe or not. It could be jam-packed with malware and/or viruses.
This is the problem with mirrors; you just don’t know who’s behind it. The mirror version of 123movies you access could be a front for infecting phones or computers with malware, malware that can access your personal data and clean out your banking accounts.
For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you never use mirror versions of illegal sites like 123movies. They’re run and operated by unaccountable and unknown third parties. Malware is no joke, especially when you get it on your phone, as you have reams of personal data on it.
And if you MUST access mirror versions of sites like 123movies or Putlocker, you’ll need to do it with a robust and secure VPN – we recommend PureVPN – and some rock-solid antivirus software like AVAST.
Or, save the money you’d have to spend on digital condoms for your phone and PC, and just use legit sites like Netflix, HULU, Disney+, and Amazon Prime TV.
How To Access 123movies Safely?
As noted above, 123movies is now considered an illegal site, this goes for all of its mirror sites and any site similar to it. If you value your security and do not want to receive a hefty fine for viewing pirated content online, you’ll avoid sites like 123movies like the plague.
And yet, millions of people still access and use sites like 123movies every day. In order to do this, they use VPNs – VPNs like PureVPN – which are inexpensive tools that scramble your IP address and make your web connection completely anonymous.
With a VPN, you can therefore use sites like PirateBay and 123movies without your ISP finding out. This means if you do choose to watch and download pirated content, you most likely will not be caught – this is the #1 reason why VPNs are so popular.
Nevertheless, I still wouldn’t risk it. No VPN is completely secure, especially if the FBI gets involved. They could hand over their records in the event of a major case, for instance, or get themselves out of legal hot water.
This isn’t likely to happen, as most VPNs reside in countries outside the jurisdiction of the USA and Europe, but it is still a risk, so you need to be aware that while a VPN does provide brilliant cover and anonymity, there’s no way you can be completely sure that you won’t get caught.
And if you do get caught downloading or viewing pirated content online, you could get yourself a massive fan or, worse still, a criminal record. And when you factor in how cheap things like Netflix or Amazon Prime are, it probably isn’t worth it in the first place, right?
Furthermore, you can use a VPN to access US TV services – things like HULU and HBO Max – from the UK. This isn’t technically legal, but it is something of a grey area, in that there is no law saying you cannot do it but platforms like Netflix and HULU don’t like you doing it.
If you want a better selection of content, you’re far better off getting yourself a VPN – something like PureVPN, which is cheap and very fast – and using it to access versions of HULU or Netflix in different regions. Compared to using sites like 123movies, this is definitely the lesser of two evils.
Why Did 123movies Shut Down?
As I noted above, 123movies used to be a big deal. During its heyday, it enjoyed nearly 100 million visitors every month. During 2015 and 2018, authorities began clamping down on services like 123movies and Putlocker.
123movies was immensely popular though, making it the king of illegal streaming sites. In 2016, the site was extremely popular the world over but a large chunk of its traffic came from the UK and USA, placing it in the crosshairs of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).
Around this time, 123movies was added to the MPAA’s Online Notorious Markets list which was submitted to the Office of The United States Trade Representatives (USTR).
During this time, 123movies site was operating out of Vietnam, with servers in Ukraine, but after much pressure from legal bodies, the owners of 123movies finally threw in the towel during 2018, inviting visitors to the site to think about paying for content from legal providers.
Once 123movies ceased to exist, copycat sites immediately appeared online. These were either mirrors of 123movies or new sites like WatchAsap that basically did the same thing – stream movies and TV shows illegally.
123movies is not legal and it is not safe. The official site went offline in 2018, so any site you go on now that claims to be 123movies is a mirror version of the original site. And mirror sites can be dangerous.
Streaming sites like 123movies and Putlocker, while useful and free to use, are illegal to use because they take copyright-protected content and distribute it for free – meaning without a license or paying the content creator for access to it.
By using these types of streaming sites, you leave yourself open to fines, a criminal record, and even jail time – although the latter is rare.
And this is fine, each to their own. But it is still illegal, just as stealing something from a shop and not getting caught is still illegal and highly immoral. Plus, the authorities are getting savvier at catching people too.
And there are real consequences for downloading and consuming illegal content – things like fines are no joke, especially when they’re in the thousands of pounds. A VPN will get around most of these issues, but you’re still running a massive risk.
My advice? Avoid illegal streaming sites and never download pirated content. You can access more content than ever before online these days with things like Netflix, Amazon, and even YouTube Premium.
Yes, you’ll have to pay for access to these services but the cost of subscribing to one is far less than the fine you’ll have to pay if you get caught streaming illegal content.
And if you use a VPN, you can unlock different content from different regions inside Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other services like HULU, HBO Max, and Disney+.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.