This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest movies to leave and enter Hulu. *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.
Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi allegory is one of the visually ambitious director’s best films, a perfect blend of style and daring storytelling. Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt star in a story of time travel, betrayal, and even romance. Based loosely on the legendary short La Jetée, this is a reminder of how studio films used to take genuine risks. It’s hard to imagine a major company getting behind a movie this strange in 2019.
The prolific and brilliant Takashi Miike had one of the biggest hits of his career in 2010 with his remake of Eiichi Kudo’s 1963 samurai film. Set in 1844, 13 Assassins is an old-fashioned samurai pic with a modern Miike edge. In other words, you get everything you want from a movie like this and it’s all filtered through Miike’s unforgettable style.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Before he made A Ghost Story and Pete’s Dragon, the great David Lowery made his film debut at Sundance with this meditative, elegiac film about an escaped criminal (Casey Affleck) trying to get back to his girlfriend (Rooney Mara). With echoes of Bonnie and Clyde, this film announced Lowery as a talent right away.
All Is Lost
J.C. Chandor’s second film proved to be an incredible vehicle for Robert Redford, who gives one of the best performances of his career as a man stuck on a sinking boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. With almost dialogue and no other performers beyond Redford and his increasingly dire predicament, All is Lost is a memorable tale of man vs. nature and the will to survive.
Before Christian Bale became Batman or won an Oscar, he was Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation of the controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis. People often meme and gif American Psycho without really digging into why this movie is so good. It’s not just another serial-killer story, but also a dark vision of privilege and ‘80s narcissism. It’s funny and scary in equal measure, with a totally fearless performance from one of the best actors of his generation.
There are a lot of indie dramas out there about junkie couples but few of them resonate with the same truth as Colin Schiffli’s 2014 festival award-winner. David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man) and Kim Shaw star as Jude and Bobbie, a couple as dependent on one another as they are their addictions. Dark but truthful, this is a powerful, underrated piece of work.
Paramount notoriously didn’t know what to do with Alex Garland’s latest sci-fi masterpiece and so they dumped it in U.S. theaters and sold it to Netflix in the rest of the world. In the States, it’s not on Netflix but is sitting there on Hulu, waiting for you to catch up with the fascinating story of “The Shimmer” and what it does to characters played by Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac. It’s only just over a year old but has already developed a loyal following.
Speaking of brainy sci-fi, Denis Villeneuve seems to be one of the modern masters of the subgenre with Blade Runner 2049 and this Oscar nominee. Amy Adams stars as the woman who figures out how to communicate with an alien species that lands on Earth. However, this emotional film becomes more about humanity than anything extraterrestrial.
One of the few children’s films incredible enough to be nominated for Best Picture, George Miller’s brilliant 1995 fables feels timeless almost a quarter-century later. Miller and his team of CGI masters are playing with universal themes of family entertainment – don’t give up, don’t let anyone else define you, the underdog arc, etc. – but they do so in a fresh, clever, moving way.
Billy Bob Thornton gives one of his most playful performances in this 2003 dark comedy about, well, a bad Santa. Every year, Thornton’s career criminal gets a job as a department store Santa in order to rob the place, but this year is a bit different. Incredibly raunchy and deeply cynical, this is a brand of comedy for adults that is too rarely done well nowadays.
Ted Demme’s relationship comedy made almost nothing when it was released in the winter of 1996, but it developed a cult following over the years in large part because of its terrific ensemble, including a nearly movie-stealing performance from a young Natalie Portman. Remember when they made movies like Diner and The Big Chill – flicks with big ensembles of interesting characters bouncing off one another? This is one of those, and it’s a great one.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Wyld Stallyns Forever! With the recent announcement that Bill S. Preston Esquire and Theodore “Ted” Logan would be returning in 2020’s Bill & Ted Face the Music, the time is right to catch up on this 1989 comedy classic, a movie that impacted pop culture in a way that barely seems possible today. But don’t just appreciate this flick as a piece of nostalgia – it would be sweet, clever, and funny if it were released today too.
Mike Nichols’s remake of the beloved La Cage aux Folles is a joyous comedy about acceptance and love that still works well today (which is not something you can say about a lot of mid-’90s comedies). Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are phenomenal as a gay couple forced to jump through hoops for their son’s new in-laws, played wonderfully by Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest. It’s funny and smart front to back.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 mockumentary remains the king of the hill when it comes to cringeworthy cultural clashes in comedy. Cohen is like no other modern comedian —he’s more in tune with people like Andy Kaufman in how he’s willing to do anything for a joke and go places other comedians wouldn’t even consider. This film find him at his creative peak, mixing commentary about xenophobia with slapstick humor in a way that felt transcendent at the time and holds up on repeat viewing.
If you’re looking for a good underrated thriller, look no further than this 1997 film about a road trip gone horribly awry. Jonathan Mostow directs the always great Kurt Russell as a man who has some words with a truck driver and learns that road rage is never the answer. A mix of modern fears with a noir sensibility, this is a tight, effective little movie of the kind that doesn’t really make it to theaters all that often anymore.
The film world hasn’t exactly been the same since it lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the best actors of his generation. Any debate about the best performance of his career that doesn’t include his Oscar-winning turn as Truman Capote in Bennett Miller’s 2005 drama is simply incomplete. Hoffman bypasses the typical shallow nature of playing real people to offer something deeper and truer about how the story of In Cold Blood changed Truman Capote’s life. It was powerful then but it’s even more poignant now that PSH is gone.
Abbas Kiarostami passed away too young in 2016 but he left a notable library of great works, including Close-Up, A Taste of Cherry, and his final film, 24 Frames. However, the best work of his career is sitting right there on Hulu to introduce you to his filmography. This 2010 drama is a riveting movie about a woman (Juliette Binoche) and man (William Shimell) who seem to be meeting and flirting for the first time…but then maybe not. Kiarostami plays with the very nature of how relationships are captured on film in one of the best films of the ‘10s.
There are precious few quality family films on Hulu, so you should try and embrace the few options you do have, such as this 2000 hit from Peter Lord and Nick Park, two of the geniuses behind Aardman Animations. A clever riff on prison break movies like Escape from Alcatraz (but with chickens!) this is actually the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time, a title it’s held for almost 20 years now.
Forget it, Jake. One of the essential films of the ‘70s was directed by Roman Polanski and released to rapturous reviews in 1974. (It would have won Best Picture if not for a little movie called The Godfather, Part II.) Jack Nicholson stars as Jake Gittes, a private eye who gets involved in the California Water Wars in the ‘30s. Polanski uses a noir structure to get at something deeper about corruption and poison in the entire system. It’s a masterpiece.
The Cider House Rules
An imperfect but sweet movie, Lasse Hallstrom’s 1999 adaptation of the John Irving novel is mostly worth watching today for the excellent performance of Michael Caine, which one the beloved actor his second Oscar. His work supports Tobey Maguire as the lead Homer Wells, who lives at an orphanage at which Caine’s doctor performs illegal abortions. An unusual coming-of-age film that’s strengthened by a great cast, especially Caine.
For those too young to remember when a little black-and-white movie about convenience-store clerks took the world by storm, it can be kind of hard to explain why Clerks was so huge. Sure, it’s a very funny movie – arguably Kevin Smith’s funniest in terms of pure laughs, even to this day – but what was so amazing about Clerks was the sense it gave a generation of filmmakers that they could do it, too. DIY filmmaking was never the same.
There are Oscar winners and blockbusters on Hulu when you want something familiar, but sometimes it pays to dig in a little deeper and find a movie that’s been overlooked. You shouldn’t miss this gem from kogonada, starring John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson. It’s a beautiful, elegiac piece of work about unexpected connections and, believe it or not, architecture.
Hulu has more independent movies than you might expect, including this terrifying thriller from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Craig Zobel recounts the true story of a prank call that turned horrifying in Mount Washington when a caller, who posed as a police officer, ordered a restaurant manager to do horrible things to one of her employees. What would you do if a voice of authority commanded you to comply? It’s a harrowing, riveting study in human behavior.
The Crying Game
Sometimes a movie’s quality can become overshadowed by the headline-grabbing twist in its final act. Such was the case with Neil Jordan’s 1992 hit, a movie that became a cultural phenomenon because of its twist, but the movie itself kind of faded into history. Even without the shocker, this is a solid film with great performances by Stephen Rea, Forest Whitaker, and Jaye Davidson.
The Dark Knight
Maybe you’ve heard of it? Probably the most popular film on Hulu, Christopher Nolan’s 2008 blockbuster redefined not just the superhero movie but the blockbuster altogether. Winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, The Dark Knight redefined critical acceptance of an oft-maligned genre, and movies haven’t really been the same since it premiered. It’s arguably the most influential film of its era.
Dazed and Confused
Richard Linklater’s semi-biographical and hilarious coming-of-age film is one of the best of the notable writer-director’s career. Maybe you wrote this off in the past as just another stoner comedy, but this movie deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as films like American Graffiti and Diner for the way it captures the way young people really communicate with affectionate and genuine filmmaking. It also launched a dozen or so careers, including Parker Posey’s and Ben Affleck’s.
The Dead Zone
David Cronenberg directed one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work in this 1983 hit starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, and Martin Sheen. Walken plays a man who comes out of a coma with psychic powers. He can grab your hand and know your secrets, possibly even your future. When he shakes hands with a candidate for the Senate and sees a horrifying vision of nuclear holocaust, he knows he has to act. It’s a little dated, but Cronenberg’s craftsmanship keeps it humming.
The continued debate over immigration and refugee crises around the world has kept Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan incredibly relevant. This Palme d’Or winner (the biggest prize at Cannes) tells the story of a man who escapes war-torn Sri Lanka and moves to France with a family he doesn’t know. The first half is more of a character drama than the stark, action-driven second half. See for yourself if they work together as a complete piece for you.
Indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg’s best film and biggest hit remains this 2013 comedy starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston. Wilde and Johnson play friends who work at a brewery in Chicago. While they seem to have a ton in common and flirt regularly, they’re both with other partners. It’s no spoiler to say things get complicated.
Viola Davis finally won her first Oscar for Denzel Washington’s 2016 adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Davis plays the wife of Washington’s Pittsburgh-based trashman in the 1950s in this study of a patriarch who rules with an iron fist. Washington and Davis find the truth in characters who would have been stereotypes in the hands of lesser actors.
A Fish Called Wanda
One of the funniest movies ever made is just sitting there on Hulu waiting for you to laugh again. This brilliant 1988 comedy stars John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, and Kevin Kline, whose timing is so good here that it should be studied by anyone seeking to do comedic acting. How good? So good that he won an Oscar for it.
Some movies transcend when they were released to become timeless, but others feel more like direct products of their era, almost a way to be transported back to when they came out. Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance is the latter, one of the most ’80s movies ever made. It’s not just the fashion and the music, but the way this film was influenced by music videos of the era and became a massive hit. The story of a welder by day and stripper by night isn’t exactly riveting, but everything else about this movie still is.
This 2014 Swedish film became an international hit on the back of rave reviews. It’s a searing examination of how an incident can forever change a relationship. In this case, the incident happens to be an avalanche, and the patriarch of a traveling family’s decision to run instead of protecting his wife and kids. All four survive the natural disaster, but they’re not quite the same again. It’s being remade with Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. See the original first.
The surprising winner for the 2019 Oscar for Best Documentary is already right there on Hulu for you to catch up with it. Be careful to have someone nearby to hold your hand if you’re scared of heights. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin are the directors, but the star is Alex Honnold, a “free climber,” someone who tackles mountain faces without any gear. His latest quest? To take down El Capitan, one of the most famous rock formations in the world, and one that had never been free-climbed.
Bond, James Bond. One of the most iconic characters in the history of films may have officially started in 1962’s Dr. No and 1963’s From Russia with Love certainly ain’t bad, but this is the real essential film from the early days of 007. One of the best movies of its kind ever made, this is the Sean Connery iteration of Bond, of course, and his adventures with the villainous Auric Goldfinger and the Bond girl with most unforgettable name, Pussy Galore.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
What if we told you there was a crazy, stylish, unforgettable Korean Western just sitting there on Hulu waiting for you to discover it? Kim Jee-woon’s 2008 epic is a study in style, a movie that blends Spaghetti Western influences with modern sensibilities and action choreography. It’s not unlike The Matrix meets Sergio Leone. Who doesn’t want to see that?
The Green Mile
Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile isn’t the director’s most famous Stephen King adaptation, but it’s arguably even more earnest and heartfelt than The Shawshank Redemption. Tom Hanks stars as a death-row officer who meets a prisoner (Michael Clarke Duncan) who may have supernatural powers. It’s a solid adaptation of a great King book, and history has kind of forgotten it in favor or more popular King adaptations and Hanks performances. Check it out.
In 2003, Timothy Treadwell, a nature enthusiast, was killed by a grizzly bear in New York state. Two years later, Werner Herzog made one of the best documentaries of his career about not just Treadwell’s passing but the tenuous connection he had with mother nature, one that eventually broke and resulted in his death. It’s a fascinating examination of man’s place in a dangerous world.
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.
American audiences don’t have enough love for Mike Leigh, one of the best filmmakers still working today. His 2008 dramedy stars Sally Hawkins as a teacher who is almost strangely optimistic, and the ways in which the harsh truth of reality sometimes challenges her rosy outlook. Hawkins should have won the Oscar for her nuanced, layered work in one of Leigh’s best films.
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.
Clive Barker’s terrifying literary sensibility has too rarely been adapted well for the big screen, but this 1987 horror classic is the exception. Writing and directing an adaptation of his own work, Barker created an unforgettable vision of an alternate dimension of creatures born of nightmare fuel. In the ‘80s, there was Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Pinhead. And the last one was arguably the scariest.
They don’t make great monster movies like they used to. Which is one of the reasons everyone should watch the best modern flick in the subgenre, Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 gem about a creature in the water. The story goes that Bong was inspired by a story he read about a deformed fish found in the Han River. The rest was movie history.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
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.
Not many people would have bet that a black comedy telling of the story of Tonya Harding would end up being an Oscar winner but the ‘10s have been nothing if not surprising at the Academy Awards. Allison Janney took home the gold for her role as Harding’s cruel mother in this version of one of the most famous sports scandals of all time.
The Ice Storm
Ang Lee’s 1997 adaptation of the 1994 Rick Moody novel is a masterpiece of tone and impending dread. Set in 1973, it’s about a suburb of adults (including Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, and Sigourney Weaver) who are acting more childish than their offspring. And it’s about the tragedy that’s inevitable when no one is acting their age. It also features great young performances from Elijah Wood, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, and Katie Holmes.
If Beale Street Could Talk
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.
The masterful documentarian Brett Morgen was basically handed hours and hours of National Geographic footage of Jane Goodall that had never before been seen. With Goodall’s assistance and a brilliant score by Philip Glass, he assembled the footage into a study of a fearless pioneer in the understanding of what it means to be human. This is one of the best documentaries of the ‘10s.
One of Oliver Stone’s best films, the quality of JFK is sometimes overshadowed by its controversial talking points. Put aside whether or not you believe Stone’s take on what happened to John F. Kennedy, and just appreciate this film for its masterful acting, editing, and dialogue.
For every five or six Nicolas Cage movies that seem designed purely to produce GIFs and memes, there’s one that reminds you how good an actor he can be in the right material. Take this 2013 dramatic thriller, in which Cage plays a Texan foreman who becomes friends with a 15-year-old kid, who he then tries to save from the grip of an abusive father.
Director Matthew Vaughn proved to be the perfect fit for Mark Millar’s dark comic sensibilities for this 2010 superhero movie for adults. Aaron Johnson stars as an average kid who tries to be a superhero, but Chloe Grace Moretz steals the flick as the unforgettable Hit Girl. If you like the Kingsman and Deadpool movies, you owe it to yourself to check out the movie that helped usher them into existence.
Its gender politics seem shakier now than when it came out, but Judd Apatow’s biggest hit still works because of the intelligence of its screenplay and the commitment of its cast, especially Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. The story of a man forced to grow up when his one-night stand gets pregnant errs a bit too much on the side of the male view, but one can’t deny the pure laughs-per-minute ratio. It’s fun to contrast this with the recent Long Shot to see how much Rogen has changed (and how much he really hasn’t).
Let the Right One In
Tomas Alfredson’s Swedish vampire movie is one of the best horror flicks of the new millennium and a film that feels like it’s really influenced the current wave of personal, “elevated” horror films that are currently so popular. A 12-year-old boy becomes friends with a young girl in a Stockholm suburb in the ‘80s and finds out she may not be exactly what she seems. Haunting and unforgettable, you need to see this one, even if you’re not a big horror fan.
Everything comes full circle in Life Itself as Steve James tells the life story of Roger Ebert in a way that only he could. Ebert helped bring James’ Hoop Dreams to the world with his praise for it and so it makes perfect sense that James would now tell his story, one that is even more poignant since his passing.
Steven Soderbergh is one of film’s best genre jumpers, able to make any kind of film that suits his fancy. This is one of the darker entries in his filmography, the story of a Brit (Terence Stamp) who comes to the United States to find out what happened to his daughter. Stamp is unforgettable in this taut, clever thriller by one of America’s best filmmakers.
This 1989 sports comedy was a major hit mostly for the way it tapped into something that all baseball fans love — the story of the underdog. No sports team is more underdog than the Cleveland Indians, who are the focus of this story of an owner who basically wants to tank the team. This is back when Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, and Charlie Sheen could carry a movie. And it’s still a solid diversion, a reminder that even those who are told they will fail can surprise even themselves.
Man on Wire
James Marsh’s Oscar-winning documentary chronicles the 1974 feat of courage/idiocy of Philippe Petit, who strung a wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and then walked from one to the other. Marsh’s success comes from eschewing the traditional talking-head format of history docs, making his movie more like a heist film, complete with re-creations of the insane event high above New York City.
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 masterpiece about the end of the world. Reportedly inspired by the director’s own battles with depression, the film stars Kirsten Dunst as a woman on the day of her wedding. Melancholia is divided into two acts, the first about a miserable wedding day and the second about a rogue planet crashing into Earth. It’s a must-see.
Minding the Gap
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.
It’s fun to see a movie that catches a star at just the right moment in his or her career. A great example of that is 1987’s Moonstruck, which contains Cher’s best performance, an acting turn that won the famous singer an Oscar. She stars as an Italian-American who faces a small problem when she falls for the brother of her fiancé, played by an also-perfectly-cast Nicolas Cage.
Major studios really don’t make movies like Mother! that often, if ever, which is why it’s so crazy that this is a Paramount release. No matter what you think of it, you have to admire the risks Paramount took in financing and releasing something this truly insane – the story of a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her husband (Javier Bardem) and how their lives change after the arrival of a strange couple. That only hints at the insanity to follow in this riveting, deeply symbolic film about religion, filmmaking, art, gender roles, and broken sinks.
Remember the McConaissance? Now that it appears to be over, we can appreciate the tentpoles of Matthew McConaughey’s comeback to be taken seriously as an actor, including True Detective, Dallas Buyers Club, and this indie gem, in which McConaughey plays a drifter stumbled upon by a couple of Arkansas kid. Jeff Nichols coming-of-age drama is a great example of a filmmaker who uses setting as a character.
The Neverending Story
Wolfgang Petersen adapted Michael Ende’s book in 1984 with results that impacted an entire generation unwittingly scarred by intense emotion and complex storytelling. Adapting the first half of the book, Petersen’s film tells two stories – that of the bullied Bastian in the real world and his counterpart Atreyu in the story that he reads. It’s a great fable that doesn’t talk down to kids.
Jane Campion directs Holly Hunter to her best performance in this 1993 film about a mute piano player and her daughter, played by Anna Paquin in a breakthrough performance. Set in 19th century New Zealand, Campion’s film was a massive hit when it was released, winning three Oscars – including trophies for both Hunter and Paquin.
The world is in a Keanussaince in the ‘10s, but there was a time when his career was more of a question mark. Was he just the goofy idiot of Bill and Ted or was there more to this performer? Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 action classic really transformed Reeves’s career, leading to Speed and, eventually, John Wick. It remains a ridiculously fun action movie that is often mocked for its surfer-culture tropes but should be reappreciated for Bigelow’s directorial flair.
A Quiet Place
Until Disney+ comes along, there aren’t really that many major blockbusters from recent years on streaming services. The assumption is probably that people will pay to rent or own movies that were hits. And so it’s kinda neat that Paramount has dropped John Krasinski’s mega-hit from 2018 on streaming services already. It’s an incredibly rewatchable movie. You’ll admire something new about its design and execution every time.
Barry Levinson directs Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the story of a man who learns he has a brother who is an autistic savant after the death of his father. Both gentlemen are fantastic in a movie that’s arguably a little manipulative but should be watched or rewatched purely for the strength of its performances. The movie won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Hoffman.
Almost three decades before Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino shocked the world with his independent action debut, this 1992 classic with Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, and Steve Buscemi. If you haven’t seen it in years, revisit QT’s debut and marvel at what a tight, refined piece of independent filmmaking he delivered right out of the gate. It’s one of the best directorial debuts of all time, and a film that really changed the independent moviemaking landscape forever.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
Talk about your comedies that have aged well. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow star as the title characters, two twenty-somethings without much focus or direction who decide to go to their high school reunion. Both of the leads are delightfully charismatic and the film contains some wonderful supporting turns from Janeane Garofalo and Alan Cumming too.
The best poker movie ever made, period. It’s funny that Rounders didn’t make much of an impact when it was released in 1998, but that’s partially because poker was nowhere near as popular as it would become over the next two decades. As the game grew, people kept coming back to this Matt Damon and Ed Norton drama, and rediscovering its many charms. It’s sharp, clever, and, sorry, but the kind of modestly budgeted adult drama that they don’t really make anymore.
The Royal Tenenbaums
There’s surprisingly little Wes Anderson on streaming services, but one of his most beloved comedies is sitting right there on Hulu waiting for you to rewatch it. It’s the story of three siblings – Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, and Luke Wilson – and their abrasive father, played unforgettably by Gene Hackman. This is Anderson’s second highest-grossing film for a reason (after Grand Budapest Hotel) – it really does feature a little bit of everything that fans of his like about his work.
The Second Mother
There are a lot of foreign dramas that most people haven’t heard of on streaming services but how on Earth are you expected to know what’s worth your time? This one is. It’s a Brazilian 2015 film about a maid for a wealthy family in Sao Paulo and how she becomes more than just an employee for the family, but it’s got a darker, more realistic edge than Roma.
Stephen Chow rules. This Cantonese-language international hit was one of his first breakthroughs (followed by his masterpiece, Kung Fu Hustle, which you really need to see if you have yet to do so). Shaolin Soccer is pretty much exactly what that title implies — a kung fu sports movie. It’s almost impossible to describe a Chow movie in a way that captures his inspired, bizarre filmmaking. Just watch this one. Trust us.
Forget what Stephen King himself has said about this Stanley Kubrick, it will likely always be the best adaptation of the literary legend’s work. Kubrick made the story his own and then allowed Jack Nicholson to give one of the most unforgettable performances in horror history. The Shining isn’t just an essential film for horror fans, it’s essential for everybody, the kind of movie that transcended genre to become a cultural phenomenon.
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.
Now that it’s been a full generation since its release, some people may not remember the days when a gassy green ogre ruled the world. Shrek wasn’t just a hit movie that spawned multiple sequels and TV specials, it won the first ever Oscar for Best Animated Feature (and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay!) It has held up well as an engaging riff on the fairy tale with phenomenal voice work.
In 2010, Martin Scorsese released his adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s best novel, the story of a U.S. Marshal who investigates a missing patient at a legendary mental hospital. Scorsese is in full command of his skill as a craftsman in this riveting thriller that also co-stars Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, and Michelle Williams. It’s one of the most underrated films of the last decade.
A Simple Plan
Sam Raimi directs a dramatic thriller that’s not exactly like the horror and superhero films for which he is primarily known. Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton star as Minnesotan brothers who find a plane crash with $4.4 million in cash. They take the money and, well, things go wrong from there. It’s a fantastic thriller with a “what if” premise about what you would do in the same situation.
The Sisters Brothers
Annapurna Pictures bungled the release of this 2018 Western to such a degree that it’s probably the best movie from that year that you haven’t seen. Just look at that cast, including John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed, in a story of outlaws and regret. It’s a smart, funny, poignant piece of work that may contain Reilly’s career-best performance. You know you want to see that.
Sorry to Bother You
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.
Support the Girls
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.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
This 2015 HBO documentary tells a true crime story that you may not know but you really need to hear. Not only were the serial murders committed over decades by Lonnie David Franklin Jr. simply horrifying, but Nick Broomfield’s documentary goes one steep deeper to comment on how Franklin got away with his crimes because he was killing people that the American system doesn’t care enough about.
“Shot entirely on an iPhone” sounds like a gimmick but Sean Baker transcends that to deliver a film that is about more than just the way it was filmed. Baker’s comedy-drama is the story of an eventful day in the life of a transgender sex worker. Tangerine pulses with life and energy in a way that most modern L.A. films fail to do, capturing a side of the city and its people in a heartfelt, pure, often hysterical manner.
Eili Harboe stars as the title character, a young woman who seems to be developing something like psychic powers as she ages. Part coming-of-age story, part religious commentary, this Norwegian thriller drew deserved comparisons to Carrie when it was released in 2017.
Three Identical Strangers
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.
Long before he was an Oscar darling, David O. Russell made one of his best films in this 1999 war comedy about four soldiers — George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze — who try to steal gold while in Iraq. A wonderfully balanced film tonally, Russell’s comedy is both a great character piece on a commentary on the ridiculousness of the Gulf War. In conversations about the best war movies, this one should come up more often.
Ah-nuld! Near the peak of his fame, the future Governor went to Mars in this landmark 1990 sci-fi film the great Paul Verhoeven. Loosely based on a Philip K. Dick short called “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” Total Recall is about an average man caught in an uprising on Mars … or is he? Most 1990 action movies have aged poorly, but Total Recall still has something to entertain even the many Hulu subscribers born after it was released.
Touching the Void
Did you like Free Solo? What if we told you there’s an even better high-altitude documentary sitting on Hulu waiting for you to compare and contrast? Based on a 1988 book of the same name, Kevin Macdonald’s film tells the story of a climb in the Andes with incredible shots of the mountain on which these intrepid men nearly died. It’s an unforgettable story of danger, courage, and survival.
Two Days, One Night
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne wrote and directed the biggest hit of their career in this 2014 drama starring Marion Cotillard as a woman who has to essentially beg her co-workers to keep her job. The Dardennes make deeply compassionate and humanist films that turn average people into unforgettable film characters, and Cotillard does the best work of her career here. She was nominated for the Oscar (and should have won).
Up in the Air
Jason Reitman’s best film stars George Clooney as a man who spends more time on the road than he does at home. The writer/director won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and the film feels just as timely a decade later as people continue to be increasingly divided by work and technology. Clooney has arguably never been better, and Oscar nominees Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are pretty fantastic too.
Steven Seagal is a strange dude these days, but he was once the biggest action hero in the world, heir to the throne of Ahhnold and Sly. He was arguably never more popular than when Warner Bros. released this bit of action escapism in 1992 (and made over $150 million). Andrew Davis, of The Fugitive fame, directs Seagal in the story of a Navy SEAL who has to stop a group of bad guys led by Tommy Lee Jones. This is the era of “Die Hard on a ____” movies. This one was on a ship.
When this 2017 Korean film is over, you won’t really remember much of the story or what the characters wanted, but you won’t forget the action. It contains some of the most unforgettable sequences of the ’10s with an incredible motorcycle scene and an unbroken shot through a crashing bus that must be seen to be believed. If you enjoy the John Wick aesthetic of highly choreographed action fu, you need to see this movie.
The Virgin Suicides
Sofia Coppola made here directorial debut with this adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides beloved novel about a group of sisters who captivated the entire neighborhood in which they lived. Kirsten Dunst anchors a dreamy, captivating movie about the myth of perfection that exists in the world of picket fences in middle America. It’s got a great Air soundtrack too.
While viewers were still relatively deep in the Cold War, John Badham’s film about a hacker who accesses the WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) and thinks it’s a game as he starts World War III had an urgency. The scary thing is that the world of 2019, one of hackers and increasing nuclear concerns, isn’t that different than when this movie became a massive hit. Watch it to see what people flocked to in 1983 and then ask yourself how different things are now.
Hit comedies are often just about finding the right comedians at the right time in their career. That’s certainly the case with Wedding Crashers, which made a fortune (almost $300 million worldwide) just by creating the perfect vehicle for Owen Wilson’s shaggy dog charm and Vince Vaughn’s alpha-bro hilarity. The two star as guys who crash weddings and meet girls. The movie helped revive the R-rated comedy and became an instant hit that’s still quoted today.
Wendy and Lucy
Michelle Williams gives one of the best performances of her career as a vagrant whose only real friend is her dog Lucy. On their way to Alaska, the two become separated, and Wendy strives to reunite with the pet she so desperately needs. Kelly Reichardt makes beautiful, character-driven films, and this is one of her best.
The Wings of the Dove
Iain Softley directs this adaptation of the hit Henry James novel that earned Helena Bonham Carter a much-deserved Oscar nomination. Carter does the best work of her career in this period piece about class and privilege with a deeply cynical, dark edge to it. Lest you think all period pieces are dry and stuffy, check this one out and have your mind changed.
Harrison Ford does the best dramatic acting of his career in this 1985 Peter Weir film about a detective who realizes he may be the only one who can protect an Amish boy who has witnessed a crime. If you only really know Ford as Han Solo or Indiana Jones, you really need to see how much more he could do with the only performance he’s ever given that was nominated for an Academy Award.
Sometimes a family movie can be so genuinely moving that it’s easy to ignore its manipulative, melodramatic elements. Such is the case with this adaptation of the hit 2012 novel by R.J. Palacio. Jacob Tremblay plays a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome who just wants to be like the other kids. This was a surprisingly huge hit (over $300 million worldwide) mostly due to how truthful it feels throughout. It’s just a sweet flick with a nice message for any generation
Ten years after the first movie, the stars have finally aligned for this fall’s Zombieland: Double Tap. Before they were household names, Emma Stone and Jesse Eisenberg rocked this story of a group of misfits united by the zombie apocalypse. If you’re wondering why people have been clamoring for a sequel for the entirety of the ’10s, do yourself a favor and catch up with this very clever movie before the sequel is finally released.