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.
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.
Comedies don’t get much funnier than this 1980 smash hit from Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, a spoof of the disaster genre franchises of the ‘70s. A film that always ranks highly on any list of the best comedies ever made, Airplane! holds up wonderfully as a perfect blend of physical humor and slapstick comedy. Quotable to the extreme, Airplane! is one of those movies people like to say can’t be made today. Check it out to see why.
Caught up in legal and technical issues for years, this document of the recording of Aretha Franklin’s legendary return to gospel music was finally released this year to rapturous reviews. It’s a vision of an artist at the top of her craft that will move you even if you don’t like religious music or the Queen of Soul. It’s a must-see.
An American Werewolf in London
John Landis’s 1981 horror-comedy stars David Naughton and Griffin Dunne as two students who have a very strange trip to the United Kingdom, where they are attacked by a werewolf. A critical and commercial success, one of the main reasons to check out Werewolf almost four decades after its release is to see the remarkable make-up effects, highlighted in a transformation scene that has lost none of its terrifying power.
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.
*A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Steven Spielberg’s completion of a project conceived by Stanley Kubrick divided audiences when it was released, but most people have now come around to recognize it as a genre masterpiece. Haley Joel Osment stars as a David, an artificial boy who longs to be real, in a film that now feels ahead of its time in its representation of impactful climate change and the role that technology plays in our lives. If you haven’t seen it in the nearly two decades since it was released, you should revisit.
Abel Ferrara’s 1992 drama features one of the most fearless performances of its era from Harvey Keitel. Long before monsters were regularly the protagonists of independent films, audiences were shocked by Keitel’s portrayal of an NYPD lieutenant who has gone completely off the rails. Sure, we had edgy cops, but we didn’t have ones who smoked crack while on the job or masturbates in front of teenage girls. This is the kind of insanity that should make for a B-movie, but Ferrara and Keitel elevate it into fine art.
*The Beach Bum
Harmony Korine released his long-anticipated follow-up to Spring Breakers early in 2019 and most people barely noticed. Matthew McConaughey leans into his bongo-playing stoner persona as the wonderful Moondog, a Floridian who is kind of just chilling his way through life. There’s almost no plot, but this is an unforgettable slice of debauchery complete with memorable supporting turns by Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence, and, of course, Snoop Dogg.
Tim Burton directed this adaptation of the beloved Daniel Wallace novel of the same name that really speaks to that unique dynamic that develops between a father and son. Deeply personal (Burton’s father had died just a couple years before filming), this is a visually striking and emotionally resonant story of a dying man (Albert Finney) telling tall tales to his son (Billy Crudup) that has something to say about memory, heroism, and family that feels genuine and artful at the same time.
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.
Any list of the greatest baseball movies of all time that doesn’t include Ron Shelton’s Bull Durham is simply incomplete. This is another great example of a movie that found its three stars at exactly the peak of their powers. Tim Robbins is at his gawky best and it’s arguable that no one has had the chemistry that Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon had here. Watch this scene and try to argue otherwise.
Kevin Smith’s best film is also one of his most personal, the story of a man who falls in love with a lesbian and destroys his friendship in the process. Smith has never been better than he is here at capturing believable, funny human relationships, and he gets his best acting work of his career as well from Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee. It won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for a reason.
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.
Who doesn’t love Chucky? The homicidal doll recently popped up again in pop culture with a reboot, but the original franchise is still going strong. Go back to where it all began with this classic horror-comedy, a movie that scared a generation into throwing away their toys.
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.
J.J. Abrams redefined viral marketing for his production of Matt Reeves’ monster movie, a flick that came literally out of nowhere and built buzz in mysterious, fascinating ways. The first trailer had no title! By the time the movie came out in January of 2008, the hype machine was in full effect, and the movie (mostly) lived up to it. Some people still argue about how little of the monster the flick actually shows, but it’s a much tighter, tauter action flick than you may remember.
The Color Purple
Steven Spielberg is often cited as one of film’s best purveyors of movie magic, but he doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a director of historical dramas like Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, and Schindler’s List. That part of his career really started here with this 1985 film that took the childlike wonder of Spielberg’s early films and turned them to a darker chapter of American history. It’s a huge turning point in the career of one of history’s best directors.
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.
We can argue all day over what the peak of macho ‘90s action movies may be, but Simon West’s 1997 offering needs to be in the conversation. Positively dripping with testosterone, Con Air stars Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, and John Malkovich and it may not be a masterful example of quality screenwriting or dialogue, but the action stunts are incredibly well-executed. It’s a movie that holds up really well on rewatch for that reason (and Malkovich’s wonderful scenery chewing.)
Imagine being so generally unlucky that casino owners use your very presence to try and cool down hot players. Such is the premise of this noir, starring William H. Macy as the title character. His luck seems to turn around when he meets a cocktail waitress played by Maria Bello, but things get extra complicated when Alec Baldwin’s casino owner gets violently involved. It’s a clever, dark little thriller with exceptional performances.
*Dances With Wolves
It’s hard to believe there was a time when a historical drama like this could be such a phenomenon, but it shows you how much our times have changed in the three decades since its release. This movie made over $400 million worldwide on its way to seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Director. Known more now as the movie that stole deserving Oscars from GoodFellas, this is a better movie than its reputation.
Wolfgang Petersen’s 1981 action classic tells the story of a German U-Boat in World War II in the Battle of the Atlantic. It’s best-remembered for being an incredible exercise in sound design and claustrophobic cinematography. We really feel what it must have been like to be stuck in this nightmare situation in which the tedium will kill you if the enemy doesn’t first. It’s one of Germany’s best films, a nominee for six Academy Awards.
*Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Younger movie lovers probably don’t have the right degree of perspective for how funny Steve Martin was in the ‘80s and ‘90s. This is one of his most consistently hysterical performances, starring with Michael Caine as a pair of grifters competing to land the latest con. Frank Oz’s underrated film is funny from beginning to end.
*The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s heartbreaking drama tells the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a magazine editor who suffered a stroke that was so debilitating that he could only move his left eye. He then wrote an entire book about being locked in his own body, using only eye movement on a screen to form the words. It’s a beautiful, poetic piece of work about the triumph of the human spirit.
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.
Alexander Payne’s 1999 satire is just as biting and brilliant as it was two decades. Anchored by a fantastic performance by Reese Witherspoon (arguably still her career-best), Payne’s adaptation of the Tom Perrotta novel uses a contentious high school election to expose the thin line that separates adults from teenagers when it comes to maturity and what we consider good behavior. It’s hysterical, smart, and insightful in ways that we don’t see that often in modern cinema.
*Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn
When Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell went into the woods to basically remake their own movie, how could they have known how much they would change horror movie history? One can see the influence of this movie on SO many horror flicks that would follow over the next three decades, and it has held up brilliantly. It would be a major movie if it were released today, which is not something you can say about too many ’80s genre flicks.
There are rumors that a remake of this John Woo classic is on the horizon, so you owe it to yourself to go back and see the very high standard that project will have to meet. This is one of the best action movies of the ‘90s, a wonderfully staged blockbuster by one of the genre’s best filmmakers. And John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were near the peaks of their screen charismas as an FBI agent and terrorist who end up, well, switching faces. It’s a blast.
The Fifth Element
There’s not a lot of great sci-fi on Hulu, but you should fire this one up if you’re jonesing for something set in a different time and place in space. And make sure you fire it up on the biggest TV in your house and with the volume at a level to wake the neighbors. Luc Besson’s vision isn’t exactly a great piece of storytelling, but this Bruce Willis vehicle is a perfect example of the director’s skill with world-building and technical elements.
There was a time when the Final Destination series felt like more of a joke, largely because it came on the heels of a wave of garbage horror movies that mimicked the self-awareness of the Scream franchise without remotely understanding why they were popular. This is all to say that the FD movies are much better than you remember, especially the second volume. The opening scene of that one alone is worth popping up on Hulu.
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.
*Four Weddings and a Funeral
Remember when romantic comedies weren’t basically the exclusive territory of Netflix Original movies? It’s hard to believe now, but Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral was a legitimate phenomenon, grossing more than any U.K.-produced film in history at the time of its release, on its way to an Oscar nomination for Best Picture! Why was it such a hit? A lot of the success of great rom-coms comes down to casting, and Newell got Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell at their most absolute charming.
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.
Look at me. Barry Sonnenfeld directed one of the best adaptations of an Elmore Leonard novel in the history of the great author and anchored it with one of John Travolta’s best performances. Everyone remembers the comeback with Pulp Fiction, but this one really allows Travolta’s incredible ‘90s charisma to shine. It’s a perfectly calibrated comedy with phenomenal performances all around, including Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo, and Gene Hackman too.
Terry Zwigoff directed this adaptation of a beloved graphic novel by Daniel Clowes about two female friends, played here by Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson. Enid and Rebecca are outsiders who become kind of fascinated with an older man, played unforgettably by Steve Buscemi. This is a smart look at outcast culture with writing so sharp that the script was nominated for an Oscar.
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?
People who love this movie really love this movie for a reason. Chris Columbus wrote the script for a story conceived by Steven Spielberg, and Richard Donner directed a wonderful ‘80s ensemble led by Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, and Martha Plimpton. It’s a delightful adventure movie for all ages. Watch it with the whole family.
*Grave of the Fireflies
There is a lot of streaming animation for kids but not nearly enough for adults. This Studio Ghibli masterpiece is one of the exceptions. Isao Takahata wrote and directed one of the most moving animated films of all time based on Akiyuki Nosaka’s short story of the same name. It is about two siblings in Japan in the final days of World War II and you’ll never forget it. Have some Kleenex ready for this one.
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.
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.
*Hearts Beat Loud
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.
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.
Near the end of a run in which Jet Li was one of the biggest stars in the world, this wuxia period piece made over $175 million worldwide on its way to an Oscar nomination. Released at a time when American audiences actually saw foreign films, Hero is a wonderful distillation of why so many people worldwide loved Jet Li, blending his balletic skills with the fact that he could kick anybody’s ass.
*How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
People often point to the Toy Story movies as the model for a great animated series but credit should be given to the trilogy of movies about a boy named Hiccup and his dragon Toothless. The third and final film in this blockbuster series is already on Hulu, and it’s a gorgeous, heartfelt, moving final chapter to one of the best franchises of the ‘10s, animated or live-action.
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.
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.
*Invasion of the Body Snatchers
There’s a reason we keep coming back to the concept of everyday people being taken over by an alien force. What’s scarier than no longer being able to trust your neighbor, co-worker, or even your significant other? While there are positive qualities to all the iterations of this classic Jack Finney story, this is the best film version, the 1978 one starring Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy.
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.
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.
Jason Reitman’s comedy was one of the biggest movies of 2007, a film that rode a wave of buzz through festival season all the way to an Oscar for writer Diablo Cody. Ellen Page stars as the title character, a young lady forced to deal with an unexpected pregnancy. Page got a lot of attention (and an Oscar nod) but this is a great ensemble piece that also includes some of the career-best performances from Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, and J.K. Simmons.
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.
Richard Donner’s 1987 hit is arguably the model for all buddy cop movies to come. Part of the reason for that is the perfect chemistry between stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, who helped turn this relatively low-budget action film into a massive blockbuster that spawned three sequels and a TV show. See where it all began with what can legitimately be called an action classic.
Jim Carrey was at the peak of his comedic prowess in Tom Shadyac’s 1997 hit about a sleazy lawyer who suddenly loses the ability to lie. Carrey throws himself into the film’s crazy premise, making what could have been a lackluster comedy into something much more manically unforgettable.
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.
Maybe you’ve heard of it? All three of the Wachowskis films about ‘The One’ are on Hulu, but it’s the original 1999 film that has held up the best – for the record, the second one is better than you remember and the third is still pretty disappointing. It’s hard to convey how much The Matrix changed blockbusters when it was released. You can see its DNA in so many movies that followed, from action movie franchise that mimicked its style to even elements of the MCU.
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.
Probably the most divisive choice on this list, Michael Mann’s adaptation of his TV hit may be too stylish for some, but that’s the exact reason so many people love it. Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell star in the only film version of Crockett and Tubbs that we’re likely to ever 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.
Mission: Impossible Fallout
Tom Cruise’s latest adventure as Ethan Hunt may actually be his best. It’s certainly one of the best action movies of the last couple years, and it’s already available on streaming services! Sure, you’ve read a lot about how Cruise does his own stunts (which is impressive) but watch this for a master class in action film editing. The film hums and moves in ways that other action movies don’t. It’s as wildly entertaining as anything you’ll find on Hulu.
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.
This is probably the least seen movie on this list but it’s one you really should seek out as soon as possible. Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda saw his international profile blow up last year with the Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters. This 2004 drama by the master tells the true story of four children who lived without adult supervision in an apartment in Tokyo. It is a heartbreaking look at how we often don’t see the tragedy going on right next door.
Steven Soderbergh knew that the reason that the 1960 Rat Pack original of this film was such a hit could be summed in two words: Star Power. And so he cast some of the most charming and magnetic people he could find in Hollywood, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts. The resulting caper flick is one of the most rewatchable films of all time.
Roman Polanski’s Holocaust drama won the director and star Adrien Brody Oscars. Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, an unforgettable Polish-Jewish survivor of World War II. Polanski’s film plays out like a piece of music itself, lyrically moving through the major events in Szpilman’s life as he hid to survive the Nazi occupation of Warsaw.
Oliver Stone’s most personal and devastating film resurrects the demons that haunted this filmmaker from his time in Vietnam. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, and Willem Dafoe star in one of the best war movies of all time, a film that won Best Picture in a way that felt like the voting could have been unanimous. It’s an important film that remains deeply powerful in how it captures the cruelty of war.
*Pretty in Pink
Here’s a film written by Hughes that you may have to stretch to call “great” but it is “iconic,” a great snapshot of ‘80s fashion and suburban adolescence. Molly Ringwald stars in one of her most famous roles alongside Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy, and James Spader. This works best now as a time machine back to an era of bigger hair and unforgettable outfits. And it’s one of the few decent rom-coms on Hulu right now.
Punch Drunk Love
P.T. Anderson is one of the best living American filmmakers, acclaimed for films like Phantom Thread and There Will Be Blood. If he has a film in his oeuvre that remains underrated it would be this 2002 gem, which also happens to contain the best performance of Adam Sandler’s career. A delightful little movie about two eccentric loners who find each other, this is a movie that people watch over and over again. In nearly any other director’s career, it would be their best movie.
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.
If this list was purely one of underrated horror films, Antonia Bird’s 1999 period drama would be on it. Generally ignored at the time, it’s become a cult hit in the last two decades. It loosely retells the true story of Alferd Packer, a man who got in a bit of trouble for, well, eating people. Starring Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, and Jeremy Davies, this is a darkly humorous and memorable little movie that has grown in popularity for a reason.
*Requiem for a Dream
Darren Aronofsky adapted Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel of the same name into one of the most harrowing films about addiction that has ever been made. Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans, and Jennifer Connelly star in a film that looks at four different spirals into drug abuse and the horrors that can often come with it. The performances are unforgettable, but it’s the incredible visual confidence that Aronofsky displayed in only his second film that makes this such a riveting experience.
*Revenge of the Nerds
Putting aside some questionable gender politics as seen through modern eyes, this 1984 comedy works best now as a lovable ode to the outsider. Its plot is so wonderful simple – nerd frat vs. jock frat – but it caught something timeless about college culture and even nerd culture that still feels relevant (and very funny) today.
Everyone talking about the arrival of elevated horror on the scene as if Get Out and Hereditary were the first of the genre to be taken seriously must not remember the ‘70s when movies as dark and vicious as Rosemary’s Baby won Oscars and made millions. Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel has lost none of its terrifying power, thanks in large part to the phenomenal work by Mia Farrow, who makes Rosemary’s predicament palpable.
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.
David Cronenberg became widely known for movies you’ve probably seen like The Fly and Eastern Promises, but maybe you never caught his twisted 1975 horror film about alien parasites that work their way through the residents of an average apartment complex. With his focus on body horror and buckets of blood, this one still has the power to shock. It was shot under the title Orgy of the Blood Parasites. Who doesn’t want to see that?
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.
Is this the last great Tim Burton movie? This 1999 Johnny Depp flick was the perfect distillation of both Burton and his favorite star’s interests, allowing both to display their love for the dark side in a big-budget adaptation of Washington Irving’s classic short story. Depp plays Ichabod Crane, who investigates a series of murders allegedly committed by a headless horseman. Stylish and creepy, it’s a film of its era that’s held up remarkably well.
Billy Bob Thornton burst onto the national scene with this 1996 drama that he also wrote and directed. His speech pattern as Karl Childers has been impersonated so many times that the power of the film that birthed it has been somewhat overshadowed. This is a dark, riveting character study about mental illness and trauma.
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.
Is this Mel Brooks most popular movie? At least for the Star Wars generation? John Candy, Bill Pullman, and Rick Moranis star in a consistently funny send-up of the Lucasverse that wasn’t very well-received when it came out but has become a huge cult classic in the three decades since.
Roger Donaldson directed this 1995 sci-fi/horror film that became a huge hit. Natasha Henstridge made her film debut as an alien seductress who comes to Earth and terrorizes its men. The film was such a smash hit that it produced three sequels and two comic book series. It’s hard to believe a movie like this could be such a phenomenon today.
*The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
Henry Dunham wrote and directed this excellent little thriller that played in limited release in early 2019 and is already on Hulu. Reminiscent of David Mamet’s examinations of masculinity, this is a single-setting piece about a militia group on the evening of an attack at the funeral for a police officer nearby. They gather to discuss what to do and realize one of their weapons is gone, which means someone in the compound is responsible. It’s smart, taut, and a movie you’ll recommend to friends.
*Star Trek Movies
Time for a marathon! As of this writing, all of the Star Trek movies up to the J.J. Abrams reboot are on Hulu from the 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture through the 2002 Star Trek: Nemesis. Our favorites are probably The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home but just watch all 10 and make up your own mind.
David Gordon Green directed this 2017 dramatic retelling of the story of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Bauman lost his legs in the attack, and he’s played memorably here in one of the best performances of Jake Gyllenhaal’s career. He’s matched by Tatiana Maslany as his girlfriend in a film that feels more honest than manipulative.
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.
*The Talented Mr. Ripley
Anthony Minghella wrote and directed this 1999 adaptation of the beloved Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name. Matt Damon plays Tom Ripley, a well-to-do con artist who travels to Italy to insinuate his way into the life of a rich young man named Dickie, played by Jude Law. Murder, identity theft, and some gorgeous filming locations make this an unforgettable thriller.
*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 step 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.
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.
James Cameron’s sci-fi/action game-changer is one of those films that has become such an iconic part of ‘80s movie history that even people who haven’t seen it quote and GIF it. Why not actually go back and watch the film that altered sci-fi history and made Ah-nuld a star? The superior Judgment Day isn’t on Hulu, but you should really own that one already anyway.
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.
Denzel Washington won his second (and last to now) Oscar for this Antoine Fuqua action/thriller about a corrupt LAPD narcotic officer who basically terrorizes everyone around him, including another officer sent to evaluate him, played by Ethan Hawke. Washington is a force of nature, giving one of those performances that we all knew was iconic the first time we saw it. If you haven’t in nearly twenty years, you owe yourself a rewatch.
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.
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.
M. Night Shyamalan’s best film remains this 2000 superhero movie that unexpectedly became the start of a franchise 17 years later (with Split and Glass). Bruce Willis gives one of his best performances as a man who realizes he may be unkillable, and Samuel L. Jackson is unforgettable as his opposite, someone who can be so easily damaged. Shyamalan was at the peak of his storytelling ability here, and it’s a film that has held up incredibly well.
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.
Disaster movies aren’t just for Americans anymore! The premise of this is the kind of simple wonder that they used to make in Hollywood more in the ‘70s and ‘80s. An avalanche causes a large enough rockslide into a body of water that it creates a tsunami, and a nervous geologist is one of the few people who knows the carnage that’s about to come. Well-acted and smartly constructed, this is a wonderful slice of disaster escapism.
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.