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.
Will Reiser adapted his own story of battling cancer in a tender, genuine film that ended up being a sizable box office hit given its subject matter. People were attracted to the truth in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as a young man diagnosed with cancer, and how that diagnosis impacted his relationships, particularly one with a good friend, played by Seth Rogen.
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.
The great Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) wrote and directed this adaptation of the novel of the same name by Russell Banks. It’s the story of Wade Whitehouse (Nick Nolte) and the people around him as he solves a mystery involving a hunting accident, including an ex-wife and an abusive father played by Nick Nolte, who won an Oscar for his work here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The amazing William Friedkin directed this adaptation of the 1996 play of the same name by Tracy Letts about paranoia and trauma. Set almost entirely in a single Oklahoma hotel room, it’s basically a two-hander between a woman (Ashley Judd) and a soldier (Michael Shannon) who believes that not only is the government after them but that they have infected their room with bugs. It’s a riveting showcase for Shannon’s skill set.
Warren Beatty wrote, directed, and starred in this amazing black comedy from 1998 that feels almost timelier today than when it was released. The legendary actor plays a California Senator on a re-election campaign who basically goes off the traditional rails, expressing himself in ways that politicians aren’t usually prone to do. Beatty’s Oscar-nominated script is razor sharp and hysterical.
Who would have guessed that a spin-off of the Transformers franchise would be a charming and fun action movie for the entire family? That’s a good way to describe this Travis Knight film, which is kind of a prequel to the Bay universe and also kind of its own reboot. It helps a great deal to have stars as likable as Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena in the movie that feels more like a throwback to action flicks of the ‘80s than anything related to the bombastic nonsense of the Transformers franchise.
Paul Newman and Robert Redford redefined cool in this 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.
Buffy collaborators Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard reuniting for a meta-horror movie would have been news no matter what, but it helped this movie become a phenomenon that it was actually a really good flick on its own terms. Deconstructing the tropes of the genre in a way that makes it clear he still loves them, Goddard co-wrote and directed one of the best genre debuts of the ‘10s.
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.
One of Steven Spielberg’s most acclaimed films is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel by Alice Walker, and it’s really a turning point in his career, the first time he made a historical drama instead of an escapist blockbuster. Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover star in a story of the Black experience in the United States the early 20th century. Some of it feels a little dated now, but there’s still power in the performances.
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.
Losing Ryan Coogler to this sequel meant a slight step down in terms of overall quality but this follow-up the excellent reboot of the Rocky franchise in Creed is still pretty darn good. Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis Creed, who ends up having to fight a new enemy with a familiar name, Viktor Drago, the son of the legendary villain from Rocky IV. Jordan, Stallone, Tessa Thompson, and even Dolph Lundgren keep this one grounded without every getting too melodramatic.
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.
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.
Carl Franklin wrote and directed one of the most underrated Denzel Washington performances of all time in his 1995 adaptation of the novel of the same name by Walter Mosley. Washington plays Easy Rawlins, a World War II vet in 1948 who gets drawn into a mystery that classic noir filmmakers would have adored. Charming and riveting, the only crime here is that there wasn’t a whole franchise of films with Washington playing Easy.
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.”
Three of the first four films in the beloved Bruce Willis action franchise are on Hulu (and one could add Die Hard 2 with a Cinemax add-on package if they really want to be a completist). Die Hard With a Vengeance is underrated and Live Free or Die Hard has its moments, but the original is still the masterpiece, a film that truly rewrote the rules for the genre, shifting it more to everyman characters like Willis and away from muscular stars like Sly and Arnold.
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.
Forget wearing masks, what if people told you that you couldn’t dance anymore?! Such is the plot of this ‘80s slice of escapism, a film that has maintained a loyal fan base for over 35 years now. Kevin Bacon gives his breakthrough performance as a Chicago teen who moves to the heartland and discovers his new home has a ban on dancing. You can’t hold back Bacon!
It’s kind of become the poster boy for the worst of Sundance indie clichés, but Zach Braff’s 2004 dramedy is a better film than its reputation. The writer/director from Scrubs also stars a young man dealing with a quarter-life crisis when he returns home to attend his mother’s funeral. Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ian Holm star in the film that introduced thousands of people to the Shins.
Lola Kirke and Zoe Kravitz star in Aaron Katz’s 2017 neo-noir, a film that should appeal to fans of L.A. fiction like Drive and Mullholland Dr. The less you know about the plot the better, but this is an effective, quirky little movie with great performances that slid too far under the radar and barely got a theatrical release or attention on VOD. Make up for it on Hulu.
Roman Polanski co-wrote and directed an adaptation of Robert Harris’s The Ghost, a political thriller about a man hired to ghost write the memoir of a famous politician, and the skeletons he finds in the closet along the way. Ewan McGregor does some of the best work of his career as the writer, and Pierce Brosnan matches him as his subject. It’s an old-fashioned thriller with modern filmmaking excellence.
David Fincher’s last theatrical release was this 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The great William Friedkin directed this adaptation of the highly-acclaimed play by Tracy Letts. Matthew McConaughey gives one of the best performances of his career in the title role, a hitman hired to murder someone for a life insurance payout. Let’s just say it all goes very, very poorly, but it’s the movies pitch-black sense of humor that makes it particularly memorable.
Any list of the best concert films of all time that doesn’t include Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz is simply wrong. This is a document of the “farewell concert appearance” by The Band on Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco in 1976. The end of The Band brought out an incredible array of special guests and Scorsese really captures not just the music but the mood and energy of an era.
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.
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.
The biopic can often be a stale, by-the-numbers genre, but then you get movies like Spike Lee’s story of the life of Malcolm X that make the entire genre worthwhile. Malcolm X is a powerful force of nature, driving by one of Denzel Washington’s career-best performances and Lee’s most ambitious filmmaking. It’s a masterpiece that plays with renewed power after the events of 2020 (and could be a nice partner with Amazon Prime’s One Night in Miami, which also features Malcolm X).
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.
Russell Crowe stars in a brilliant period action film based on the novels by Patrick O’Brian that recreates warfare on the water arguably better than any other movie. It really should have been the start of a franchise. Crowe plays Jack Aubrey, Captain in the Royal Navy, and Paul Bettany does his best film work as the ship’s surgeon. The movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
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.
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.
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.
Marc Forster directed Halle Berry to an Oscar, the first ever won by a Black woman for Best Actress (and still only). Berry plays a woman who begins a torrid relationship with a corrections officer, played by Billy Bob Thornton, unaware that he’s the man who helped execute her husband (Sean Combs). This drama also features great supporting turns from Heath Ledger and Peter Boyle, but it’s Berry’s intensity that makes it unforgettable.
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.
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.
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. This Sundance award-winning documentary from Benjamin Ree 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.
Oliver Stone’s deeply personal and powerful film about the Vietnam War remains his best work, winning the filmmaker an Oscar for Best Director and nabbing Best Picture, too. It stars Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, and Willem Dafoe in a story that cast a light on morality in wartime in a way that hadn’t really been seen before.
*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.
Once upon a time, a story of a rich man and a prostitute became one of the most beloved rom-coms of its era. This is a classic case of blinding star power as then-newcomer Julia Roberts became a household name, matched perfectly with Richard Gere here at his most charismatic. Some of it is dated, but it’s also got a nostalgic power that’s hard to deny.
The Prince of Tides
Barbra Streisand directed this critical and commercial hit way back in 1991, earning seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for star Nick Nolte. The great actor plays a man who falls in love with his sister’s therapist after revealing details to her about his dysfunctional childhood in South Carolina. It’s a confident and well-made love story that doesn’t shy away from its dark subjects including trauma and abuse.
Rob Reiner directed this adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel and made movie history. It’s the story of Westley (Cary Elwes), a farmhand who will do whatever it takes to reunite with the love of his life, Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright). To say that people love this ‘80s romantic fantasy comedy would be a massive understatement.
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.
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.
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.
It feels like a lifetime ago that Guillermo del Toro’s fable won Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture, but believe it or not, it was only three years ago. While history has already somewhat forgotten this lovely fantasy film, Hulu subscribers can now revisit it for themselves.
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.
Perhaps Alexander Payne’s best film, his adaptation of the Rex Pickett novel centers on a surly wine lover and his chance at love. Paul Giamatti stars as Miles Raymond, a misanthropic teacher who goes on a trip to wine country with his more outgoing friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church). The movie won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was nominated for four other Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tom Hanks made his directorial debut with this unexpected gem, a flick that seems to grow its fan base more with each passing year. Hanks also wrote the movie, which tells the fictional story of the Oneders, a pop band in the 1960s who rose to fame on their one hit and then crashed just as quickly. Charming and quirky.
Hulu has a remarkable range in terms of indie and blockbuster films, helped by their partnership with Neon to include recent films like Parasite, but they’re still a little lacking in terms of international cinema. So take the chance to learn about the filmography of the great Mia Hansen-Love, the French director of Goodbye First Love, Eden, and this acclaimed Isabelle Huppert drama from 2016.
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.
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.
Cameron Crowe reunited with his Jerry Maguire star Tom Cruise for this 2001 flick that threw fans of both gentlemen for a loop. An adaptation of the 1997 film Open Your Eyes, it’s a true major studio oddity, a looping blend of romance and science fiction that co-stars Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz, who gives one of the best performances of her career.
Gavin O’Connor directed Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton to two of the best performances of their careers in this 2011 sports drama that takes place in the world of mixed martial arts. Hardy and Edgerton are perfect as brothers who are forced to deal with their estrangement and their alcoholic father (Nick Nolte, Oscar-nominated for his work here) both inside and outside of the ring.
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.
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.
Michael Douglas gives one of his career-best performances in the 2000 dramedy based on the novel of the same name by Michael Chabon. He’s pitch perfect as Grady Tripp, a novelist who is now teaching at a university and trying to live up to the success of his breakthrough debut. Charming and funny, Curtis Hanson’s film also features one of Tobey Maguire’s best performances.
Jason Reitman directs the always-great Charlize Theron in his 2011 dark comedy about a writer of young adult novels who returns to her hometown to wreak havoc. The movie is a bit inconsistent at times, but Theron and Patton Oswalt are simply great, especially in the way she allows her character to be genuinely unlikable. It’s a smart movie about someone who thinks she’s superior to those around her and learns maybe she’s not.
Any list of the best comedies of all time that doesn’t include Mel Brooks’s 1974 comedy masterpiece is simply wrong. Gene Wilder stars as a descendant of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein in Brooks’s parody of Universal monster movies that became an international smash hit, even landing an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay. It was hysterical in 1974 and it still is today.