The streaming wars seem destined to rage on forever, which also means cinephiles eager to expand their horizons have never been better off. Hulu, once merely an experiment among a swath of veteran broadcasters, now features a particularly robust library of films to choose from. Sturgeon’s law still applies as with any catalog, though, and it might seem difficult to find the real gems housed within Hulu’s massive library. That said, our strictly curated list is a one-stop guide to the best, smartest, and most intriguing films currently streaming on the landmark service. Eat your heart out, Netflix.
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To celebrate Spectre‘s theatrical release on November 6, Hulu added almost the entire James Bond catalog to its collection. Before there was Daniel Craig, there was Sean Connery — and a whole host of others — in the role of the roguish lady’s man, Secret Agent Bond. Goldfinger is the quintessential Bond film, and while acolytes of the franchise love to debate who is the ultimate 007, it all started with Sean Connery. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), one one of the most famous Bond paramours and one of the few to have ever been a villain, also purrs her way through the movie.
As one of Wes Andersen’s first films, Rushmore sets the tone for the off-kilter humor now expected of the director and his cast of familiar faces (i.e. Luke Wilson, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman). Much of the film’s humor comes from the short-lived friendship and rivalry of Max Fischer, a sanctimonious eccentric who attends the prestigious Rushmore Academy, and Herman Blume, a dissatisfied multi-millionaire industrialist. However, a woman who teaches the first grade at Rushmore quickly sours their relationship as the two begin to pine after her. Andersen’s humor is as charming and poignant as ever throughout though, whether he’s exploring the awkwardness of adolescence or our innate desire to march to the beat of our own drum.
In short, Beloved is a film about the emotional and psychological tolls of slavery, the potency of memory, and the how the horrific institution forever shaped and perverted the collective identity of Americans. It’s based on Toni Morrison’s award-winning novel of the same name, and despite its heavy focus on the past, it remains all too relevant today. Director Jonathan Demme, who helmed such titles as Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, lends an artistic touch, but it’s Oprah Winfrey’s powerhouse performance that really steals the show.
The phenomena started in 2012 is finally culminating in its fourth and final installment later this month. Conveniently, Hulu is currently offering Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Part 1 — the second and third films in the series, respectively — to first-time viewers or those who might want to rewatch the films before lining up to witness the final adventures of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.
If you were born in the ’80s, you’ll remember the film about a Jamaican bobsled team competing in the Olympics. It’s up there with such family sports classics as Rookie of the Year and The Mighty Ducks. And, like the aforementioned films, Cool Runnings is still remarkably funny and entertaining more than 20 years later. In the film, the late John Candy plays a cynical gold medalist whose career went up in a blaze of scandal when he cheated in the Olympics. He soon becomes convinced against his better judgment to coach the team of misfits, though, each member of whom is trying to find his own purpose and meaning as the team strives for Olympic gold.
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is the movie that made ants seem like the scariest beasts in the world and blades of grass the most entertaining. As you might expect, the film revolves around an eccentric inventor who accidentally does just what the title suggests. His kids and two neighbors must then escape the most ordinary things while in miniature form, all of which are far more terrifying given their relative size. Rick Moranis (Ghostbusters, Spaceballs) plays the batty scientist and father, one who quickly undertakes a mission to find his kids and restore them to their proper size in nutty fashion.
Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, two Saturday Night Live alums, bring comic relief to this drama about filial relationships and skeletons in the closet. The film’s humor is the kind that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time, and follows two twins who become reunited following life crises. Wiig and Hader’s solid performances are as moving as they are hilarious, however, allowing the film to take on a serious tone without being overly sentimental. Furthermore, their inside jokes are unstudied and authentic, which makes the film’s funniest and most pathetic moments succeed where others might falter.
The American Civil War had a knack for pitting family members against one another, but we often forget such is the case with any civil war. The Wind that Shakes the Barley is a visually stunning and heartbreaking film that examines the personal ramifications of the Irish War for Independence, along with the ensuing Irish Civil War that followed. The Ken Loach film does so by focusing on two brothers who are united against the British yet divided in their beliefs of how Ireland should govern itself. Cillian Murphy, of The Dark Knight Rises and Peaky Blinders renown, stars as the socialist brother whose principles remain immovable.
Like many mumblecore films and those created by a younger generation of filmmakers, Girl Most Likely explores the first forays into adulthood and what happens when said forays are failures. Kristen Wiig plays Imogene in the film, a one-time playwright who let her first failure tailspin and now relies on her relationship status and socialite life to give her meaning. When all that implodes, she soon winds up back in Jersey and under the care of an addictive mother (Annette Benning) and in the company of one of the unlikeliest trios ever hoping to aid someone on the road to recovery. The main character’s plight is one that feels familiar, yet the joke lies in how empathetic we feel toward her.