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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Often included on any legitimate list of the funniest movies ever made, Mel Brooks’ send-up of the Western genre remains a comedy classic nearly a half-century after its release. Cleavon Little leads an amazing ensemble that includes Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, Brooks himself, and a performance from Madeline Kahn so perfect that she got an Oscar nomination.
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.
*The Bridges of Madison County
Clint Eastwood directed and stars in this tender adaptation of the hit book but it’s really Meryl Streep’s movie through and through. She’s simply breathtaking as an Iowan mother and wife who meets a National Geographic photographer and falls in love. It’s really one of her best performances.
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.
*The Cabin in the Woods
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.
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.
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.
Cold Case Hammarskjöld
This Danish documentary will absolutely blow your mind. It starts as an investigation into the death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, who died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia in 1961. Suspicion that the plane was actually shot down or sabotaged starts the film, which then spirals into an examination of an international conspiracy with some incredible implications. Don’t miss this one.
Anne Hathaway stars in one of the most original and creative dramedies you could watch on Hulu. What happens if you blend an addiction drama and a kaiju movie? You get this crazy story, in which Hathaway’s troubled soul learns that she is somehow controlling a monster on the other side of the world. It’s imperfect but there’s nothing else quite like it.
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.
Sometimes you want to see complex character studies or detailed documentaries; sometimes you just want to see Liam Neeson shoot people and yell. One of the unexpected action stars best recent films is this 2018 thriller by his regular collaborator Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Run All Night). Neeson plays an ordinary guy sucked into a murder plot on a train in a simple but effective story that Alfred Hitchcock would have loved.
Is this the biggest horror movie of the 2010s? Not only did it make James Wan into a major director, but it spawned its own multiple title franchise with spin-offs like The Nun and Annabelle. Go back to the beginning and watch the first and arguably still best film in the series, a fantastic haunted house movie that revitalized the genre.
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.
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.
*The Dark Knight
Maybe you’ve heard of it? The Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy has a weird habit of bouncing on and off the streaming services like some sort of digital merry-go-round. Everyone gets a turn. And now it’s Hulu’s.
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.
Neil Marshall’s 2005 horror film is one of the best genre pics of its era, a sweat-producing project for anyone with even the smallest amount of claustrophobia. It’s so brilliantly simple — six young women enter a cave system and, well, all six don’t make it out. At first, it’s a terrifying example of what it would be like to feel trapped underground, and then it introduces monsters into the mix. It’s a great movie that has held up remarkably well.
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.”
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.
The Duke of Burgundy
Peter Strickland, the writer/director of In Fabric, makes movies that aren’t quite like anyone else’s of the modern era, films that share more in common with European horror of the ‘70s than what we see today. This is still his best film, a fascinating two-hander about two women who develop a sexual relationship that hinges on domination and submission in unexpected ways. Kink, obsession, and copious style combine in a film you won’t soon forget.
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.
First Girl I Loved
There’s a nice number of acknowledged classics on this list, but it’s safe to presume that most readers haven’t seen Kerem Sanga’s moving 2016 coming-of-age drama given it barely played in theaters. Dylan Gelula and Brianna Hildebrand star in a film about two teenage girls who find themselves unexpectedly in a romantic relationship.
The movie that taught a nation to dance again and turned Kevin Bacon into a star came out in 1984. Maybe you’re old enough to remember the story of the town that banned dancing or maybe you’ve only heard the theme song but never watched the actual film. It’s a bit shallow and music video driven but it’s also an immensely watchable reminder of an ‘80s culture that just wanted to express itself.
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.
The Full Monty
There are indie comedy hits and then there are movies like The Full Monty, which was made for just over $3 million and grossed just over $250 million and was nominated for Best Picture. People fell in love with the story of six unemployed average guys who started their own striptease act to make some money. It is often listed as one of the best British films of all time and was spun off to a 2000 musical and 2013 play.
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.
Remade as Gloria Bell with a great performance by Julianne Moore, this is the 2013 original from the same director with Paulina Garcia in the lead role. She’s equally amazing in what is really just the kind of deft character study they don’t make that often anymore. In fact, they had to make this one twice.
Gods and Monsters
Sir Ian McKellen should have won an Oscar for his work in this Bill Condon film from 1998. The future Gandalf plays James Whale, the famous director of films like Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, in his final days, dealing with PTSD from World War I and his own closeted homosexuality. Brendan Fraser co-stars and does career-best work.
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?
Good Will Hunting
See where the mythos of Affleck and Damon began in the film that won them both an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Matt Damon stars as Will, a janitor at M.I.T. who discovers that he’s smarter than most of the students there but needs to overcome the hurdle of trauma — with the assistance of a therapist played by an Oscar-winning Robin Williams.
One of the best films of the 1990s, Martin Scorsese’s telling of the story of Henry Hill changed the language of how we tell stories about mobsters. Seriously, The Sopranos simply isn’t the same without it. GoodFellas has held up perfectly over the last three decades partially because of how much all that’s followed it have tried to repeat it.
Mike Nichols’ 1967 comedy was a game-changer, a movie that took the world by storm, turning Dustin Hoffman into a star and becoming a true phenomenon. The movie played to all demographics, making over $800 million when adjusted for inflation on its way to an Oscar for Nichols. Widely considered one of the best films ever made, not enough is written about how well it still plays today, over a half-century after its release.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Into the Dark: Culture Shock
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 3D version of this film literally made people sick in theaters when it was released in 2010. It’s still got the power to make you nauseous at home on Hulu too. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since Johnny Knoxville and the boys made one of these joyously hysterical movies, but they’re coming back in 2021 for Jackass 4. Catch up with where we left off the last time these grown men nearly killed themselves.
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.
We will still have to wait for the long-promised full cut of the two Kill Bill films into one epic movie (and the long-rumored third volume of this tale), but that shouldn’t stop you from revisiting two of Quentin Tarantino’s best films. In a catalog that includes a lot of great performances (and a few Oscar winners), one of QT’s best is Uma Thurman as The Bride, a legendary action character seeking vengeance on the man who betrayed her.
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.
Bill Condon wrote and directed this semi-biopic about Alfred Charles Kinsey (Liam Neeson), who really changed the way we look at human sexuality with his 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. More than just a recounting of Kinsey’s discoveries, it’s a character piece about what the research did to the people who worked on these projects and earned an Oscar nomination for one of Laura Linney’s best performances.
*Let Me In
Matt Reeves directed this remake of the beloved Let the Right One In and fans of the brilliant original felt it was heresy for this movie to even exist. They’re wrong. Both films can be great, and this is a great horror movie, filled with wonderful compositions and great performances from Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Elias Koteas, and Richard Jenkins.
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.
Lo and Behold
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.
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.
One of Robert Altman’s most popular and influential films launched not just a massive hit TV series but the careers of everyone involved and all the directors who would try to mimic Altman’s inimitable style. Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt, and Elliott Gould star as medical personnel at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. It’s funny, quirky, and helped usher in an entire era of dry comedy in the ‘70s.
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.
Dismissed as a star vehicle largely because of the incredible box office power of Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt, this dark action/comedy is better than its reputation. It’s thanks largely to the sharp direction from the great Gore Verbinski, a clever supporting turn from James Gandolfini, and how much Roberts and Pitt lean into their screen personas and find new levels to them.
Jeff Nichols wrote and directed this Spielbergian sci-fi film about a boy with some very special powers. Michael Shannon is phenomenal as the boy’s father, who is on the run with his son, trying to evade both the cult he took him from and the authorities. It’s a beautiful, complex film with great performances from top to bottom.
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.
One of the best adaptations of Stephen King, this 1990 Rob Reiner hit was so popular that it not only won Kathy Bates an Oscar but greatly influenced a show that would run almost three decades later in Castle Rock. Bates and James Caan are stellar in one of the best horror films about obsessive fandom ever made. In a way, this movie was ahead of its time.
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.
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.
Bong Joon-ho’s career went to another level with the Oscar wins for Parasite, which should lead people back to earlier great films in his career like The Host, Okja, Snowpiercer, and this 2009 thriller about a mother intent on proving her son has been framed for murder. Dark and devastating, you won’t forget it.
Natural Born Killers
Who doesn’t remember Mickey and Mallory Knox? The irony of the success of Oliver Stone’s controversial film about a pair of fame-loving serial killers is how much you can see the influence of these two in the next quarter-century of filmmaking and even the cult of celebrity that forms around true crime stories. Way ahead of its time, this is one of Stone’s best films, a searing dissection of how easily culture places the wrong people on pedestals of fame. Mickey and Mallory weren’t the first and they won’t be the last.
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.
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.
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.
*Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Neon’s partnership with Hulu has led to a number of films quickly cycling to the service like Amazing Grace, Apollo 11, and The Beach Bum, but this is probably the most news-making of their quick acquisitions, a film that was still in some theaters when the virus struck but is on Hulu already. People who love this movie, love this movie. Its fandom is intense. See if you’re one of them.
Chicagoan Stephen Cone wrote and directed this tender, nuanced character study of a young lady (Jessie Pinnick) and her coming-of-age at her aunt’s house in the Windy City. Pinnick is phenomenal, but it’s Cone remarkable gift with character that takes what could have been a generic story and make it feel completely genuine. It’s a beautiful little movie.
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.
Gore Verbinski directed one of the best animated films on Amazon Prime, 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.
It’s the movie that really made Tom Cruise a star! One of the biggest actors of all time got his start in this teen sex comedy as a high school student who gets into some serious trouble when his parents are out of town on a trip. The iconic moments like the lip-syncing number to “Old Time Rock and Roll” have become a part of movie history but you should see the whole picture too.
*Romancing the Stone
The great Robert Zemeckis directed this fun romantic adventure that was so big it even produced a sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, also on Hulu. Kathleen Turner is charming as a romance novelist who gets caught up in a real-life adventure with an explorer played by Michael Douglas, in one of his most delightful and fun performances.
A Simple Favor
Who would have guessed that the director of Bridesmaids would helm one of the best thrillers of 2018? That’s the case with this Paul Feig thriller, the story of an ordinary woman (Anna Kendrick) who becomes obsessed with a new best friend (Blake Lively) after she just ups and disappears one day. The two stars are excellent, but it’s the buoyant, lively tone that Feig brings the film that really makes it fun.
The Sisters Brothers
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.
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.
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.
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 II: The Wrath of Khan
Khaaaannnnnn! Unless you’re of the right age, it’s hard to understand what a phenomenon this movie became, completely redefining the entire Star Trek franchise. The stories of Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise were always relatively benign (people forget the first movie is rated G!) but then this dark, twisted adventure story came along, and proved that this world could be just as rich and daring as the one created by George Lucas. It’s a genre classic, and still the best Star Trek movie.
Before he got his hands on the Star Wars franchise, J.J. Abrams wrote and directed this underrated ode to the films of Steven Spielberg that shaped his career. It’s a simple story of young teens who discover something crazy is happening in their small town. With echoes of E.T. and Close Encounters, it’s the kind of movie Spielberg could have made in the ‘80s, and features a great performance from a young Elle Fanning.
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.
Every few years, a comedy comes completely out of nowhere and taps something in the zeitgeist that makes everyone involved a star. No one knew who Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn the day before Swingers came out, but it launched them into the celebrity sphere, where they still reside. This movie is still money, baby, as it captures the posturing of young men trying to get work and get laid in Hollywood in the mid-‘90s.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Pedro Almodóvar is at his best when he’s deeply personal as he was in this 2006 drama, a masterpiece that star Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Blanca Portillo, and more. It’s a loving story of a family of women in Madrid that’s clearly a love letter to the females in the filmmaker’s life who shaped him into who he is today. This is a beautiful film.
Gavin O’Connor co-wrote and directed this moving tale of two estranged brothers who end up combatants in a mixed martial arts ring. Brutal and genuine, it features some of the best performances in the careers of Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Nick Nolte, who was nominated for an Oscar. It’s the kind of deconstruction of macho male archetypes that dares you not to cry during its ending, and it’s one of the best films of 2011.
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.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
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.
As the world falls apart, you may want to turn to Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 smash hit for advice on what to do in case this turns out to be a zombie apocalypse. A fun dissection of the genre of the dead, this movie works mostly because of the charming interplay between Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin.