Hulu remains one of the premier streaming services around, churning out new content and bringing in classic library titles on a regular basis. One of their best film categories is the documentary genre. Reality really is stranger than fiction sometimes, and Hulu’s plethora of documentary options allow viewers to dive into a wide range of topics, from the charming to the grotesque.
To help guide your documentary viewing on Hulu, we pulled together a list of some of the best documentaries on the streaming service.
Slay the Dragon (2019)
Contrary to the title, this is not a documentary about killing fire-breathing monsters before they wreak havoc on small island villages. Instead, it tackles the topic of gerrymandering, which is not necessarily exciting to all, but it should be vital to everyone. The practice of resetting district boundaries to artificially impact election results is viewed as a dire topic by the filmmakers, who see it as a path towards eroding democracy and keeping those in power entrenched in their positions. In an election year, there may be no more important political documentary to watch than Slay the Dragon.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Stephen Wolf, Rick Pluta, Charles Williams II
Directors: Chris Durrance, Barak Goodman
Runtime: 101 minutes
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the most famous Supreme Court justices of all time, serving on the bench through a series of medical hardships prior to her passing in September. Members of the Supreme Court are notoriously private, but RBG gives a great behind-the-scenes look at how Ginsburg elevated her status in American lore. RBG dives into all of the obstacles Ginsburg had to overcome in her career, including rampant gender bias, but it also allows audiences to see a side of the justice previously obscured, including her embrace of the Notorious RBG moniker. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards, RBG remains one of the most important political documentaries in recent years.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinem
Directors: Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Runtime: 98 minutes
March of the Penguins (2005)
No nature documentary is as invigorating and heartbreaking as March of the Penguins. For a year, a French scientific base in Antarctica became the home to a fascinating filming experiment, with all eyes on the rituals and mating patterns of emperor penguins. Each fall, the adult penguins move inland to ancestral breeding grounds, where they court one another in attempts to hatch a single chick. In order for the chicks to survive, however, mothers and fathers must traverse back and forth to the ocean, undertaking dangerous journeys while avoiding the coveting eyes of other penguins whose chicks didn’t survive. Morgan Freeman provides the film’s narration, making the 2006 Best Documentary Feature winner feel that much more epic.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Star: Morgan Freeman
Director: Luc Jacquet
Runtime: 80 minutes
Free Solo (2018)
Only a fear of heights should preclude you from watching the Best Documentary Feature winner from the 2019 Academy Awards (it beat out RBG, for what it’s worth). Alex Honnold is driven by a singular focus: Climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without any harnesses, ropes, or protective equipment. If he succeeds, it’s a feat for the history books. If he fails, he dies. The fact that this National Geographic documentary came to be answers whether or not he’ll accomplish his goal, but the documentarians never shy away from the moral ambiguity of capturing such a moment, grappling with the ethics of potentially filming a death. Honnold carries the film, bringing the rock climbing community along for the stunning ride.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin
Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Runtime: 100 minutes
Three Identical Strangers (2018)
Imagine discovering you have a twin brother you never knew about. Now, imagine discovering you’re actually part of a set of triplets. That unbelievable discovery forms the basis for Three Identical Strangers, detailing how Edward Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran came to discover each other by chance after growing up in separate adopted families. Their reunion led to a rise in fame and popularity, but it also brought questions about how they became separated in the first place, adding a sinister and sad element as each brother battles mental health problems. It’s the ultimate “nature vs. nurture” debate, played out in real life before our very own eyes.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Edward Galland, David Kellman, Robert Shafran
Director: Tim Wardle
Runtime: 96 minutes
Fyre Fraud (2019)
The Fyre Festival of 2017 was such a spectacular failure that it inspired two very similar documentaries that were released around the same time in 2019. Beating Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened to the punch, Fyre Fraud details the music festival better known for cheese sandwiches and Lord of the Flies vibes than bass beats and mingling singles. The biggest difference between the documentaries is Fyre Fraud‘s inclusion of an interview with festival mastermind Billy McFarland, revealing the fractured yet relentless ego of a man who now sits in a prison cell.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Billy McFarland, Ja Rule
Directors: Jenner Furst, Julia Willoughby Nason
Runtime: 96 minutes
For many documentary filmmakers, the goal of creating their movie is to hold a mirror up to society and demand a change be made. There aren’t many better success stories than Blackfish, although it took a tragedy to create that impact. The film looks at the captivity of Tilikum, an orca held and used for performances at SeaWorld. Tilikum was ultimately responsible for the death of its trainer in 2010, although the documentary argues unjust captivity as a reason Tilikum was more likely to be aggressive in certain situations. It took several years, but SeaWorld ultimately decided to end the use of orcas in its performances, as well as its orca breeding program.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Tilikum, John Hargrove, Samantha Berg
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Runtime: 83 minutes
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014)
The concert film is an important segment of the documentary genre. Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me isn’t so much a concert film, however, as it is the celebration of the life of a country music legend. As Glen Campbell was in the grips of a fatal battle with Alzheimer’s disease, he embarked on a farewell tour. The documentary reveals the struggles that Alzheimer’s brings in an intimate portrait of a man slowly losing his own sense of self. But it’s also triumphant, with Campbell displaying moxie and courage in the face of a terminal illness. Throughout the film, one thing remains true — the Wichita lineman is still on the line.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Glen Campbell, Kim Campbell, Jay Leno, Vince Gill
Director: James Keach
Runtime: 116 minutes
Hail Satan? (2019)
Satan gets a bad rap, but those working in the devil’s name are not always as evil as they sound. Hail Satan? introduces The Satanic Temple (not to be confused with the Church of Satan), a non-theistic religious group that actually works towards social progress and religious freedom. The Satanic Temple are big believers in the separation of church and state and have been known to counter-protest in favor of abortion rights at Planned Parenthood locations. Director Penny Lane does an admirable job of matching the tone of the film with the tone of the group, who believe in their mission but never takes themselves too seriously, despite what their name might suggest.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Jex Blackmore, Chalice Blythe, Nicholas Crowe
Director: Penny Lane
Runtime: 95 minutes
Everyone knows what Lin-Manuel Miranda has been up to lately, but what was he up to before he became the sensation behind In the Heights and Hamilton? He was part of a hip-hop improv group called Freestyle Love Supreme, which engaged audiences and hinted at Miranda’s particular set of skills that would come into focus with Hamilton. The group performed on Broadway for a few months from October 2019 to January 2020, so the documentary focuses on the rise of the group and their individual members, an origin story not known by many outside of the Hamilton diehard population.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson, Anthony Veneziale
Director: Andrew Fried
Runtime: 90 minutes
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