This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Hulu, which you can sign up for here. *New additions are indicated with an asterisk.
When a lot of people think of Hulu, they might think of it as the best streaming service for current television, with a few of their original shows thrown in for good measure. That’s a shame: Film lovers still don’t really utilize the service’s surprisingly deep library of movies, all free to subscribers. As we have with Netflix and Amazon, we’re hear to provide a service — a regularly updated list of the best movies you can watch on Hulu right this minute. Get started.
Steve McQueen made headlines with his collection of films on Amazon Prime called Small Axe. However, the film that won McQueen the Oscar for Best Picture —an adaptation of the true slave memoir by Solomon Northup, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Luputa Nyong’o — is available for Hulu subscribers.
Danny Boyle directed the true story of Aron Ralston, a canyoneer who was trapped in Southeastern Utah, miles from civilization. Stuck there for days, he eventually had to cut off his arm to survive. Brutal and unsparing, Boyle’s last great film was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 adaptation of the hit manga franchise has been often imitated but rarely duplicated. See what the big deal is about with a revisit of a film that has influenced literally hundreds of other works, animated and live-action, in the three decades since its release. They’re always talking about remaking it, but it usually falls apart. People are probably scared to walk in the shadow of such an achievement.
Thomas Vinterberg’s latest dramedy recently received Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director, and you can already watch it on Hulu. The wonderful Mads Mikkelsen stars as an ordinary teacher who decides to undergo an experiment with three of his friends to maintain a low-level blood alcohol level all day. At first, it opens them up to the world, but things change as they start to push the envelope further.
Director Todd Douglas Miller worked with a team to remaster never-before-seen footage of the first trip to the moon for its 50th anniversary. The result is this stunning technical achievement, a movie that transports us back in time and into space in ways that we’ve never seen before.
Amy Adams stars in Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 critical smash hit about an alien visitation who have landed on Earth with no way to communicate with the people of our planet. Adams is a linguist who discovers what the aliens are saying and what they want, with great personal investment. Gorgeously shot and creatively ambitious, it’s one of the best sci-fi films of the ‘10s.
Kitty Green’s drama is one of the best films of 2020 so far and it’s already free for Hulu subscribers. Emmy winner Julia Garner of Ozark fame stars as an assistant to a powerful Hollywood figure who we never see, but we know is doing something very wrong. It’s a searing look at the systems of assistants around people like Harvey Weinstein that plays out with all the tension of a thriller.
Shannon Murphy’s coming-of-age drama is one of the best films of 2020 and it’s already on Hulu. Defying the typical melodrama of its subject matter, this is the story of a teenager (Eliza Scanlen) who falls in love with an older troublemaker (Toby Wallace), but her parents (a great Ben Mendelsohn & Essie Davis) allow it because their daughter is dying of cancer. It’s the rare cancer melodrama that earns its tears.
Very few hit documentaries actually change the world but Magnolia and CNN Films’ 2013 hit Blackfish literally altered the way marine parks like SeaWorld operate, and definitely impacted their bottom line. It’s about the fate of a killer whale named Orca and how difficult and arguably inhumane it is to keep them in captivity. It’s a tough watch, but it’s really well-made and informative.
Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her incredible work in Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film about an obsessive ballet dancer whose life falls apart while working on a production of Swan Lake. Intense and unforgettable, Black Swan is a daring piece of physical horror about pressure, competition, and insanity.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is one of the smartest and straight-up funniest comedies in years. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever star as lifelong friends who learn on the last day of school that their priorities may have been a bit out of whack. Determined to make up for lost time, they have a wild and crazy night. Often described as “Superbad with girls,” this is destined to be a cult classic.
Before The Matrix, the Wachowskis made waves with their debut with a 1995 noir thriller that turned gender roles on their head by making both leads femme fatales. Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon are the fantastic leads, but it’s the Wachowskis’ clever script that really elevates this genre exercise.
Marathon! The three original movies about the amnesiac spy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) are all on Hulu right now, allowing for a fun marathon of one of the best action franchises of the ‘00s. It started with Doug Liman’s 2002 The Bourne Identity, a solid flick that’s topped by the fantastic The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 epic retelling of the classic novel is one of the most lavish and ambitious Hollywood productions of its era. Gary Oldman gives one of his best performances as the title character, but it’s Coppola’s incredible craftsmanship and unforgettable design that make this movie an underrated horror classic.
Sports have been weird during the pandemic, but baseball seems to slowly be returning to normal. Why not celebrate with one of the best baseball flicks ever made? Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins star in a story of lust and competitive spirit within a minor league baseball time. Smart and sexy, and there’s not enough of either of those things in most movies.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford redefined cool in the 1969 Western, playing the title characters in an instant classic. Based loosely on a true story, this is the tale of two outlaws on the run after committing a string of train robberies. They flee to Bolivia to try and escape the U.S. law, but it tracks them down. Newman and Redford’s star power is simply blinding.
The best foreign language film of 2018 has jumped from Netflix to Hulu, and should definitely be seen by anyone who fell in love with Steven Yeun’s Oscar-nominated work for Minari this year.. Lee Chang-dong adopts a novella by Haruki Murakami into a riveting dissection of class and gender in modern Korea. Yeun is mesmerizing as the mysterious Ben, someone who our protagonist starts to think might be a killer. Don’t miss it.
Long before he played Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. notched his first Oscar nomination for this 1992 biopic of the life of one of the most influential movie stars of all time, Charlie Chaplin. Another legend, Richard Attenborough directed this adaptation of Chaplin’s autobiography, which was only modestly reviewed when it came out but does feature a legitimately great performance from RDJ.
Looking for an under-the-radar genre flick to tell your friends about? This is the one. A group of friends get together for a dinner party when power goes out on the block they’re on. They notice lights on in one house down the street and they go to investigate and…we won’t spoil. Just check this one out for yourself.
This 2019 Romanian film developed such critical acclaim that it actually earned two 2021 Oscar nominations: Best Documentary and Best Foreign Language Film. This tough-but-rewarding watch from director Alexander Nanau recounts the revelations that emerged after a horrible fire in Bucharest that killed 27 people and injured dozens more. In the days that followed, the burn victims didn’t get remotely the quality of care they needed, and journalists revealed that the health system in the country was essentially broken and corrupt.
In between the first two Godfather movies, Francis Ford Coppola wrote and directed a drama that’s arguably even better (yes, we said it) in this stunning story of a surveillance expert who believes he has uncovered a murder plot. Gene Hackman leads an incredible cast in a film that’s about paranoia, privacy, and power. It was nominated for Best Picture but lost to, believe it or not, The Godfather Part II.
Alexandre Aja directed this razor-sharp 2019 film about a father and daughter trapped in a basement as flood waters rise during a hurricane. Oh, and they just happen to be being hunted by alligators. A combination of disaster flick and monster flick tropes, Aja’s film is a delight from start to finish. There’s not an ounce of fat on this one.
One of the shortlisted films for the 2021 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film is already on Hulu after a brief virtual run. The great Andrei Konchalovsky directs this riveting recounting of the events around and after the Novocherkassk massacre in 1962. This is a smart, fascinating piece of history that hasn’t been told often outside of Russia.
One of the smallest movies on this list, Kent Jones’ moving drama is a character study about an average woman, unforgettably played by Mary Kay Place. Diane is a giving person — giving to a bedridden cousin and giving to a drug-addicted son — who rarely finds time for herself. She’s at a point in life where she’s looking back and wondering how to write her final chapters. It’s a wonderful little movie of the kind that people often claim “don’t get made anymore.”
Tim Burton followed the biggest hit of his career (Batman) with one of his most personal films, this gorgeous 1990 fable starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. Depp plays the title character, a riff on the Frankenstein myth of an outcast who really has a heart of gold. With a giant heart to balance out its darker themes, this is one of the movies that really defined the Burton aesthetic (and the kind of movie his fans wish he’d make again).
Alexander Payne’s best film remains his 1999 comedy starring a young Reese Witherspoon as the unforgettable Tracy Flick, an overachieving student who simply rubs Matthew Broderick’s high school teacher the wrong way. With a clever understanding of how high school politics and dynamics reflect adult versions of the same thing, Election remains a funny, smart piece of work from a great director.
The wonderful Julia Hart co-wrote and directed this very unusual superhero origin story that plays like the more character-driven answer to the blockbuster worlds of things like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The great Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Ruth, a young woman who seems to have lost control over her life and the very unique nature of her being. As she’s being hunted by men in black, she finds her way home and back into the sphere of her mother and daughter. What unfolds is a story of empowerment, a truly female-driven narrative about generations of strength and an origin story for an unforgettable hero.
Movies simply don’t get much funnier than this Oscar winner starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, and Michael Palin. The story of a jewel robbery gone very wrong, the barrister who gets involved, and the fish that gets caught in the middle is regularly included on any short list of the funniest movies ever made. You know how the Academy Awards never include any comedy performances? This one won an Oscar for Kevin Kline, who is simply impossible to deny.
Robert Zemeckis shifted gears from his obsession with motion-capture animation to give Denzel Washington a platform for one of his best performances. The Oscar winner plays an alcoholic pilot who miraculously saves a plane from crashing, but questions arise over his culpability. It’s got some broad strokes, but Washington really grounds it.
It’s a cliché, but Andrew Niccol’s 1997 sci-fi drama truly was ahead of its time. Unpacking themes of eugenics that would only become more feasible with medical and technological advancements over the last quarter-century, Niccol’s excellent genre flick tells the story of a future where genetics are determined. With great work by Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, it’s a movie you really should revisit.
David Fincher’s last theatrical release was an adaptation of the novel by Gillian Flynn about the disappearance of a woman and the investigation that comes down on her husband Nick (Ben Affleck, doing arguably career-best work). Clever and taut, this is the kind of adult thriller that doesn’t really get made all that often anymore.
Gustav Möller’s 2018 film is a riveting thriller that takes place entirely in an emergency call center in Copenhagen. An officer, demoted to working there because of a pending court case, answers a call from a frightened woman. His life will never be the same as he works to try to save her and makes some false assumptions along the way. The kind of tight little thriller that you should watch before they inevitably remake it.
Penny Lane makes quirky documentaries, and this is her best yet, a study of the Satanic Temple that unfolds in a way that you may not be expecting. The group at the center of Lane’s film is not just devil horns and ritual behavior, they exist to illuminate the regular failures of church and state the hypocrisy of a government that basically ignores that essential aspect of its existence. Funny and enlightening, it’s very much worth a look even for the most devout of you.
Ignore the think pieces about how Heathers plays today and watch this 1989 dark comedy, a satire that caught Christian Slater and Winona Ryder at just the right time in their careers. She plays the outcast in high school and he plays the mysterious new kid who teaches her the art of vengeance. Is some of it dated? Sure, but it’s still sharp in the way it weaponizes the clique culture that has arguably become even more prominent in the three decades since.
We try to make it so not every film on this list is intense, serious, Oscar bait. Take for example one of the most crowd-pleasing films that you could watch on any streaming service, the best film vehicle yet for Nick Offerman. The Parks and Recreation star plays Frank Fisher, a single father whose daughter is about to leave the nest. Before she does, they record a song together that just happens to get some buzz. The wonderful cast also includes Toni Collette, Blythe Danner, Kiersey Clemons, Sasha Lane, and Ted Danson.
David Mackenzie’s 2016 modern western is feeling more and more like a definitive film of the last decade with each passing year. There aren’t many films that one could consider better at capturing the lengths people will go to hold on to what’s theirs than this story of two brothers (Chris Pine & Ben Foster) who become bank robbers to save their family land. The cast is uniformly great, but it’s Taylor Sheridan’s excellent script that really makes this a special movie.
Hulu clearly has a current arrangement with Neon, being the home for recent critical darlings of theirs like Wild Rose, Apollo 11, and The Beach Bum. Here’s another one of their films, a critically acclaimed, lyrical documentary about wild beekeepers in Macedonia. Shot over three years and with 400 hours of footage, it’s a great example of how to craft art from reality.
One of the best things about Bong Joon-ho winning multiple Oscar for his brilliant Parasite (also on Hulu) is the exposure likely led more people to his other works, including this wonderful film, one of the best monster movies ever made. In fact, this story of a creature in the Han River also stars the leading man from Parasite, the wonderful Song Kang-ho. It’s a gorgeous piece of work that really put Bong on the map worldwide.
Before he made Hemsworth your favorite Chris in Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi wrote and directed this adaptation of Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has a new foster family, including a sweet foster mother. Sadly, he’s stuck with the surly husband when his new mom passes away, leading Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill) on an unforgettable adventure. Funny and truly heartwarming, this is a comedy that’s almost impossible to dislike.
One of 2018’s best films is already on Hulu in Barry Jenkins’ lyrical adaptation of James Baldwin’s beloved novel. His follow-up to Moonlight is the story of Tish and Fonny, young lovers in the early ‘70s torn apart after Fonny is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Poetic and realistic at the same time, If Beale Street Could Talk is a gorgeous, essential piece of filmmaking.
It’s about time we had one Into the Dark movie on this list, right? So this spot will hold the best of the entire run of the Blumhouse original hits from now on. Read more about all of them here, and don’t miss Culture Shock, a clever commentary on where the country is at the end of the ‘10s embedded in an effective horror thriller.
One of the best films of 2018, Debra Granik’s return to filmmaking stars Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and Ben Foster as a daughter and father who live way off the grid. His PTSD doesn’t allow him to live in traditional settings, but he can sense that his daughter is pulling away from him and ready to live in the society he has shunned.
Roger Ross Williams directed this nuanced, tender documentary about a young man named Owen Suskind, a boy who struggled to communicate with the outside world because of autism. Owen’s father Ron discovers that the boy’s love for Disney animation will be his channel to his son. Delicate and sweet, this film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary.
Lupita Nyong’o is the best. She’s great every single time, even in this relatively mediocre zom-com about a kindergarten teacher who ends up a part of an attack by the undead on the worst day of her life. You could call this Field Trip of the Undead, but the reason to watch is Nyong’o, who proves she’s just as deft a comedienne as an action/horror star.
The opioid crisis gets an empathetic character study in Nia DaCosta’s drama with an incredibly talented young cast. Tessa Thompson stars as Ollie, and Lily James as her sister Deb, and both live near the border of Canada, falling to the drug trade across it to make ends meet. Thompson imbues everything she does with truth, and this is proof of her dramatic chops. Luke Kirby and James Badge Dale co-star.
No one makes movies like Werner Herzog, whose documentaries express his deepest interests. He’s always been fascinated with the way man interacts with nature, and so it makes sense that he would turn his eye in the other direction and make a non-fiction film about how technology has impacted the human condition. This is a little slighter than the best Herzog docs but it’s still a fascinating exploration of where we are and where we’re going.
Steven Soderbergh came back from a semi-retirement with a 2017 heist comedy featuring a remarkably wonderful cast. It’s led by Channing Tatum, but the movie also simply great performances from Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, and Adam Driver. It’s a fun, smart film that’s actually made for adults, which means almost everyone ignored it in theaters. Make up for that oversight now.
It has no relation to the Eugene O’Neill play of the same name, and it played in theaters in 3D, but the standard-D version of this original Bi Gan film is still very much worth your time. There’s little plot to this elegiac film, but what really stands out is the last 59 minutes of the film, which unfold in one long take.
Paolo Sorrentino, the Oscar-winning director of The Great Beauty, returned with another examination of excess in this look at the insane existence of Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi near the end of the ‘00s. The great Toni Servillo stars as the polarizing figure in European politics, but this is mostly a study in opulence and the inherent insanity that comes when one can have everything they want, and how much we want to be close to those kind of people. The U.S. cut is combination of two films released in Italy and appears to be a slightly longer version on Hulu than what was in U.S. theaters.
Steven Soderbergh’s film became something of a hit because of its subject matter and the chiseled bodies on display in it, but it’s a smarter, more daring film than its reputation might lead people to believe. It’s really an early commentary on the gig economy, about how people have to scramble and do whatever it takes to make ends meet. And it features great performances from top to thonged bottom, including one of the best in the career of Matthew McConaughey.
Terry Gilliam spent a large portion of his life trying to get a movie made based on Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and then hardly anyone saw it when it came out. It’s a shame because this 2018 dramedy was Gilliam’s best film in two decades, an inventive adventure film that features work from Jonathan Pryce that stands among the best of his career.
Kelly Reichardt directs Michelle Williams and Paul Dano in this deliberate, purposeful tale of life on the Oregon Trail. Loosely based on a true story, it’s the story of an 1845 excursion across the infamous trail in which a frontier guide led a wagon train through a bleak, unforgiving desert, which would later be called Meek’s Cutoff.
One of Lars von Trier’s best films is this 2011 sci-fi/drama starring Kirsten Dunst as a woman who becomes aware that the world is about to end. Von Trier has said the film is an allegory for his depression, something that can come out of nowhere like an apocalyptic event. It feels particularly appropriate for early 2020 too.
Long before Parasite and Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho directed this masterful film that has earned raves as one of the best Korean dramas of the current generation of filmmakers. It’s the true story of a series of murders that took place mostly in the late ‘80s, but this is closer to Zodiac in the way it unpacks how unsolved crimes can drive people to obsession. It might be Bong’s best film.
Bing Liu’s deeply personal documentary was one of the breakthrough indie films of 2018, going all the way from a Sundance premiere to an Oscar nomination. People fell in love with Liu’s deep humanism in the telling of his own friendship with three young fellow skaters in Rockford, IL, and how he illuminates how difficult it can be to go from a boy to a man.
We don’t give LAIKA enough credit. They don’t make nearly as much money with films like Paranorman and Kubo and the Two Strings as companies like DreamWorks and Pixar. Their latest is already on Hulu, dropping less than a year after its theatrical release. It may not be their best, but it’s gorgeous to look at, revealing the company that made it as arguably the most visually fascinating animated studio around.
It’s rare for a fourth film in a franchise to be considered its best, but some certainly feel that this Brad Bird 2011 banger qualifies. It essentially rebooted the franchise in which Tom Cruise tries to kill himself for your entertainment value, leading to the worldwide success of Rogue Nation and Fallout. This movie rules.
The great Sam Pollard directed this 2020 documentary that is built on newly declassified documents surrounding the FBI surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Using mostly archival footage of King from the ‘50s and ‘60s, it captures how much the government kept an eye on the civil rights leader and asks viewers what they expect personally from their public figures.
In June 2020, lists of recent films that reflected the national unrest after the murder of George Floyd circulated on social media. Not enough of them included Reinaldo Marcus Green’s 2018 indie drama, a dissection of the failures of the police force with great performances from John David Washington, Lakeith Stanfield, and Rob Morgan.
Shane Black directed Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe to two of the best performances of their career in an old-fashioned buddy comedy flick. Gosling plays a private eye who gets caught up in the disappearance of a teenager (Margaret Qualley) and partners with a gruff cop (Crowe) to find her. It’s clever and very funny, the kind of movie that one wishes got made more often.
The writer/director of The Babadook may switch genres with her follow-up, but this film is no less terrifying. Aisling Franciosi gives a daring performance as Clare, a servant in a penal colony in 1825, who is raped before her baby is killed. She hunts down her attackers and gets her vengeance, but that description simplifies a daring, complex film about colonialism, trauma, and pure evil.
Hirokazu Kore-eda saw his profile rise when he won the Palme d’Or for 2018’s Shoplifters, but that came after a notable career of over two decades. One of the standout films from the masterful Japanese filmmaker is this 2004 drama that tells the true story of a group of children abandoned in their own Tokyo apartment. Heartbreaking and unforgettable.
Believe it or not, the frontrunner to win the Oscar for Best Picture is already available on Hulu. Chloe Zhao’s masterpiece is the story of a woman, played by Frances McDormand, who becomes a modern nomad, traveling the country while she grieves the loss of the life she once had. This is a beautiful, elegiac drama that stands among the best films of the last few years, and it’s already on Hulu.
One of Sergio Leone’s best films, this Western stars Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale, and Charles Bronson. It’s an epic film that casts Fonda against type as the bad guy and contains some of the best imagery in Leone’s career, anchored by one of the best scores ever written by Ennio Morricone. In a 2008 poll by Empire of over 10,000 readers, filmmakers, and critics, this movie was the highest-ranking Western.
Painter Barbara Kysilkova was stunned to find her artwork stolen. Then she chose to track down the thief and ended up forming a deep friendship with the man, Karl Bertil-Nordland. Benjamin Ree’s Sundance award-winning documentary is proof that sometimes truth is as hard to believe as fiction. It features some of the most unexpected twists of any film from 2020, and one of the best endings too.
After fetching the highest price in Sundance history, Neon had a theatrical release planned for this audience favorite but the pandemic shuffled it off to Hulu, where the story of a day repeating over and over again will play differently than anyone could possibly imagine. Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti star in this romantic riff on the Groundhog Day formula that somehow finds fresh new life in the concept. Both stars are better than they’ve ever been on film in a comedy that’s exactly what we need in Summer 2020.
Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar winner for Best Picture is already on Hulu, shattering records for streaming views at the service. It’s a major coup for the company, a streamer still known more for TV than film, and one of the best movies you could watch with a subscription anywhere. We don’t need to tell you how much Parasite rules – you either know, or you haven’t seen it yet.
Tyler Nilson & Peter Schwartz wrote and directed this SXSW hit about an unlikely friendship that received almost universal critical acclaim and went on to make over $23 million on a minimal budget. Audiences took this heartwarming tale of a fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) and a young man (Zack Gottsagen) from an assisted living facility who basically go on the run, tracked by a social worker played by Dakota Johnson. It’s moving and well-made.
Olivier Assayas’s ghost story is not your typical tale of the supernatural. The French filmmaker, working in perfect conjunction with star Kristen Stewart, who has never been better, crafts a film about loss, fear, and longing. It’s not an easy film to dissect or understand, but you won’t forget it.
The Polar Express
Yes, motion-capture animation in 2004 looks even creepier now than it did then, but there’s enough charm and sentiment in this Robert Zemeckis film that people keep returning to it every holiday season. And, no, it doesn’t have to be Christmas to watch it.
Neon’s partnership with Hulu has led to a number of films quickly cycling to the service like Amazing Grace, Apollo 11, and The Beach Bum, but this is probably the most news-making of their quick acquisitions, a film that was still in some theaters when the virus struck but is on Hulu already. People who love this movie, love this movie. Its fandom is intense. See if you’re one of them.
Chicagoan Stephen Cone wrote and directed this tender, nuanced character study of a young lady (Jessie Pinnick) and her coming-of-age at her aunt’s house in the Windy City. Pinnick is phenomenal, but it’s Cone remarkable gift with character that takes what could have been a generic story and make it feel completely genuine. It’s a beautiful little movie.
This is the drama that really started the love affair with Denis Villeneuve. Before Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049, the French-Canadian directed this dark drama about the abduction of two young girls and how it tears a community apart. A father, played well by Hugh Jackman, becomes convinced he knows the identity of the kidnapper, and takes justice into his own hands. Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano are also phenomenal here.
Quo Vadis, Aida?
A 2021 nominee for Best International Feature Film, this Bosnian war drama is tragically unforgettable. Jasmila Žbanić is spectacular as a translator who works at a UN facility near Srebenica in 1995. As the opposing Army takes over the area, the UN starts to pull out, leaving dozens of victims behind. It’s a searing human drama about the cost of decisions related to international wars.
Long before they won Oscars, Joel and Ethan Coen made one of the best comedies of the ‘80s about a babynapping. Of course, this the Cage and Holly Hunter vehicle is about way more than the stealing of one of the Arizona children. It’s about redemption, maturity, and partnership. It’s also somehow even funnier now than it was when it was released.
Gore Verbinski directed one of the best animated films on Hulu, this Oscar-winning featuring voice work by Johnny Depp in the lead role and some of the most inspired visuals in any animated film this decade. Rango is a chameleon who stumbled into a town called Dirt in this inventive riff on the Western genre that plays equally to children and adults.
Forget that Queen nonsense, this is the best rock biopic in recent memory. Taron Egerton plays Elton John, whose life story unfolds in vibrant musical numbers actually sung by the leading man in this case. Energetic and emotional, Rocketman works by embracing the creative passion of its subject and trying to express it cinematically.
See, Tom Hanks doesn’t always play the nice guy! In Sam Mendes’ adaptation of the Max Allan Collins graphic novel, America’s dad plays a mob enforcer seeking revenge. What’s most memorable about the 2002 film is Mendes’ remarkable attention to period detail. It’s a gorgeous film just to live in for a couple hours.
There’s a reason this is reportedly the most streamed original Hulu film to date. People love a good thriller, and this is a tight piece of work. Newcomer Kiera Allen is phenomenal as a young woman who has been told her entire life that she’s sick, but she discovers that her mother (Sarah Paulson) may be hiding a horrible secret.
Rose Glass’s terrifying horror film is one of the best works of 2021 and it’s already on Hulu. Reminiscent of psychological nightmares of the ‘70s like Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, this is the tale of a hospice nurse named Maud (a fearless performance from Morfydd Clark) who becomes obsessed with saving the soul of one of her patients (Jennifer Ehle).
Long before he was a household name, Oliver Stone co-wrote and directed this 1986 war drama about Richard Boyle, an American journalist covering the Salvadoran Civil War. James Woods does some of the best acting work of his career in the lead role, which landed him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. It was one of the first films to really put Stone on the map as a major director.
Who doesn’t love it? One of the most popular films of all time actually wasn’t all that successful when it was released in 1994 but has since gone on to regularly rank on lists of people’s favorite movies ever made. People identify with the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and his time in the titular institution, where he meets the beloved Red (Morgan Freeman), another character that fans just adore.
Amy Seimetz directed one of the best movies of 2020 in this intense thriller that really captures the national mood of the year better than any other work. Imagine if dread could be contagious. That’s the basic premise behind the story of a woman (Kate Lyn Sheil) who becomes convinced that she’s going to die tomorrow — and then her existential anxiety passes to other people she knows. Surreal and unforgettable, and unlike anything else on Hulu.
Josephine Decker (Madeline’s Madeline) directed this unusual look at a chapter of the life from Shirley Jackson, played unforgettably by Elisabeth Moss. After its premiere at Sundance in January 2020, Shirley was planned for theaters by Neon, but the company had to move it to Hulu thanks to the pandemic. Consider it one of the better things to happen in the last few months.
2018’s Palme d’Or winner (the biggest prize at Cannes) is already on Hulu for you to see what the big deal is about. And it’s a real big deal. The masterful Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda has long been fascinated with the concept of what exactly we mean when we say “Family.” In this case, it’s the story of a discarded girl taken in by strangers and the drama that ensues. It will break your heart.
This might be the best movie from 2018 you haven’t seen. Look at that cast! John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play the title characters in this low-key Western that just happens to co-star Jake Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed. One of the wonderful thing about this film is how it blends genres and styles, playing like Western, noir, comedy, and drama in subsequent beats. Almost no one saw it after a minor theatrical release, but it feels destined for cult classic status.
The 23rd official James Bond film is also one of the best. Daniel Craig’s third film as the world’s most famous spy plays as a much more complex film than most 007 action flicks thanks to serious direction from Sam Mendes and gorgeous cinematography from Richard Deakins. It may be Craig’s best Bond flick (it’s this or Casino Royale). Watch it while you wait for the long-delayed No Time to Die.
One of the best movies of the 2010s has returned to Hulu to remind people how wildly far ahead of its time this movie was when it was released. With a razor-sharp screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and some of the best direction of David Fincher’s career, this is a flawless movie, one that resonates even more now in the era of constant internet than it did a decade ago.
Boots Riley writes and directs one of the most daring debuts of 2018 in this satire of modern race relations and corporate dynamics. Lakeith Stanfield stars as a man who climbs the ladder of a telemarketing company only to find true horrors on the top floors. It’s smart, strange, and unforgettable.
Questlove’s directorial debut just happened to win the Roots drummer the Audience Award at Sundance earlier this year, and it’s already on Hulu. A stunning concert film, it captures the joyous Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969 with footage that was only recently discovered. Performances include Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, and many more.
Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci star in this tender 2020 drama about a couple faced with the sadness of increasing dementia. Tusker (Tucci) and Sam (Firth) have been together for two decades, and they’re taking a trip across England to visit Sam’s family after a diagnosis of early onset dementia, knowing that their time together is limited.
Andrew Bujalski’s charming comedy about a Hooters-esque restaurant stars the delightful Regina Hall on a particularly bad day on the job. This ensemble piece doesn’t seek to make any great statement or offer deep insights, but somehow ends up doing both just by presenting truthful, genuine characters. It’s a funny movie with a poignant streak about how hard people have to swim just to keep their heads above water.
Park Chan-wook is internationally renowned for films like Oldboy and The Handmaiden, but really everything he’s ever made is worth a look, including this 2002 drama that kicked off what’s called “The Vengeance Trilogy” (along with Oldboy and Lady Vengeance,also on Hulu). As dark as movies get, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the tale of a factory worker who kidnaps his former boss’ daughter to try and get the money to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. To say that things don’t go well would be an understatement.
Jeff Nichols wrote and directed this film that features the best film work by his regular collaborator, Michael Shannon. The actor plays a young husband and father who starts to have visions of the end of the world that leads him to think he may be prophetic. An allegory for mental illness and acceptance, it’s a riveting drama with an unforgettable ending.
Max Minghella directs a great performance from Elle Fanning in this story of a shy teenager who becomes a pop superstar. Like a minor variation on A Star is Born, this is the inspirational story of a girl following her dreams through a talent competition. The movie isn’t great, but it’s worth seeing for Fanning and the fantastic musical performances, often shot like music videos. The lesson is that Fanning could have been a pop star too.
The Thin Red Line
Terrence Malick wrote and directed one of his most acclaimed films with 1998’s The Thin Red Line, a World War II film based on the 1962 novel if the same name. (Well, as “based on” as a Malick film can be.) Lyrical and harrowing in equal measure, it’s a stunning ensemble piece about the Battle of Mount Austen in the Pacific Theater of WWII featuring strong work from Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Ben Chaplin, and many more.
Tim Wardle’s 2018 documentary tells the story of Edward Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran — three identical triplets who were separated at birth and reunited in their teens. The WTF story of Three Identical Strangers is the kind of thing that would be deemed ridiculous if it were in a fictional screenplay but the film gets even more interesting when it turns to an investigation of nature vs. nature and reveals some dark secrets behind this fascinating tale. Don’t miss it.
To Die For
Gus Van Sant directed Nicole Kidman to one of her best performances in this black comedy/drama based on the true story of Pamela Smart. Written by the great Buck Henry, this is the tale of Suzanne Stone, who seduces two students (Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck) into killing her husband (Matt Dillon). It’s a sharp commentary on celebrity that now feels ahead of its time.
Here’s a cool project for you – watch the John Wayne 1969 original and then the Jeff Bridges 2010 remake of this classic Western, both on Hulu, and contrast and compare. They’re both interesting films, the original a snapshot of Wayne’s star power, and the remake more of an ensemble piece anchored by the Coen Brothers’ immaculate craftsmanship.
David Gordon Green directed this Terrence Malick production and it’s one of the most underrated films by the director of Pineapple Express and Halloween. It’s the story of two boys, including Jamie Bell, who go on the run after their uncle (Josh Lucas) murders their father. It’s intense, dark, and poetically unforgettable.
Christian Petzold (Phoenix) wrote and directed Undine, an acclaimed fantasy drama that was only recently in theaters and is already on Hulu. Paula Beer stars as Undine Wibeau, a woman with a secret that meets a deep-sea diver, played by Petzold regular Franz Rogowski. Lyrical and romantic, it’s a modern fable that couldn’t be made quite this way by anyone other than Petzold.
After its 2020 premiere, Tara Miele’s moving drama largely became a victim of the pandemic, unseen by most people. It’s the kind of piece that will likely build a reputation through word of mouth because it’s an effective look at mortality, relationships, and what matters in life. Sienna Miller and Diego Luna star as a couple who get into a car accident that leaves them spiraling through their pasts and possibly even states of life and death.
Lynne Ramsay directed Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly in this devastating adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book. Ezra Miller plays the titular Kevin, a boy who develops into a man who does not seem to be quite all there. What do you do if you’re worried your son is a sociopath? Terrifying and yet empathetic at the same time, this isn’t an easy watch, but it is fascinating.
Tom Harper directed this wonderful music-based drama about a Scottish woman who decides she wants to be a country music star. Harper’s direction is light and confident, but the movie hinges on the amazing star power of Jessie Buckley, who is going to be a household name before long. See what is truly a breakthrough performance here.
The World to Come
Mona Fastvold directed this period piece about a relationship that forms between two married women who have been isolated in the heart of America in the mid-19th century. Katherine Waterston and Vanessa Kirby are excellent as the two women, countered by Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott as their husbands, respectively. It’s a powerful, moving study of how passion can form between two people even if they never expect it.
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) directed Mickey Rourke to the best performance of his career as an over-the-hill wrestler just trying to keep it together. Whether it’s his crumbling body, his tenuous relationship with his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood), or his romance with a stripper (Marisa Tomei), this guy seems on the edge of losing the fight. It’s a stunning performance piece. Rourke should have won the Oscar.