The streaming wars seem destined to rage on for the foreseeable future, which is great news for cinephiles eager to expand their horizons. Hulu, once merely a repository for network television, now features a particularly robust library of films to choose from. As with any catalog, however, Sturgeon’s Law still applies, and it might seem difficult to find the real gems housed within Hulu’s massive library. But we’ve got you covered. Our carefully curated list is a one-stop guide to the best movies on Hulu. So turn on your favorite streaming device, have Alexa dim the lights, and let the credits roll.
This list is continually updated to reflect recent Hulu offerings, as films are frequently added and removed.
‘Requiem for a Dream’
Darren Aronofsky’s surreal exploration of addiction is one of the most powerful dramas of the 21st century — and one of the most horrifying. Requiem for a Dream centers on a group of four people: Heroin junkie Harry (Jared Leto), his best friend, Tyrone (Marlon Wayans); his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly); and his elderly mother, Sara (Ellen Burstyn). The three younger friends are all addicted to heroin, but cling tenuously to their dreams, while Sara becomes addicted to weight-loss pills prescribed by her doctor. Alll their lives eventually spiral into depravity and disaster. Requiem for a Dream is unsettling, not just because of the events portrayed, but also how the film depicts them. Aronofsky uses a variety of editing techniques — speeding up and slowing down images, and trapping characters in close-ups — to convey his subjects’ isolation and frantic hunger.
While Quentin Tarantino’s first feature film lacks the grand scope of his more recent works, it shows off a lot of the themes and techniques that have become part of his signature style. Told in a nonlinear fashion, Reservoir Dogs follows a group of thieves who embark on a heist that goes very wrong. The thieves don’t know each other’s identities, or even real names, and after the police show up in the middle of the heist, they regroup to determine who ratted them out. The script features the crackling, lengthy bouts of dialogue that Tarantino is known for, and the story, built around the shifting agendas and alliances of the characters, is intense.
Film scholar Kogonada has spent years crafting beautiful film essays on some of cinema’s greatest directors, so it should come as no surprise that Columbus, his directorial debut, shows a keen focus on composition, how people and things fit within the frame of every shot. The film isn’t just a showcase for his skill with a camera, however; it also tells an emotional story about two kindred spirits who meet by chance. Jin (John Cho), an American living in Korea, returns to the U.S. (Columbus, Indiana, specifically) after his father falls into a coma. Jin meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a young, aspiring architect, who is languishing in Columbus, taking care of her mother. The two explore the town together, discussing their love of architecture and their own pasts.
In 1959, after reading an article about the brutal, seemingly motiveless killing of a family of four in Kansas, writer Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) pitches the editor of the New Yorker on a story: He wants to travel to Kansas yo document the aftermath. He brings along his friend and fellow novelist, Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), and early in their trip, the authorities capture the suspects, a pair of former convicts named Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Richard Hickock (Mark Pellegrino). Capote worms his way into the local prison, getting access to Smith, with whom he strikes up an eerie rapport. On the surface, Capote is about the writing of the author’s iconic true crime book, In Cold Blood. As the movie’s title suggests, however, the focus is not the book, but Capote himself, and it crafts a subtle portrait of a complicated, sometimes disturbing mind.
Martin Scorsese spent decades trying to make his adaptation of Shūsaku Endō’s classic novel; in a sense, Scorsese was not unlike the film’s protagonist, stumbling through hardships without any promise of success in the end. Set in the 17th century, Silence follows two priests, Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), who venture to Japan in search of their mentor, Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who renounced his faith after enduring torture. The shogunate has outlawed Christianity, and the priests must seek out rare, hidden enclaves of Japanese Christians while evading samurai enforcers and witnessing atrocities committed against the Christian villagers. Measured, contemplative, and beautifully shot, even in moments of violence, Silence is a tremendous experience.
A strange project from filmmaker Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa is a stop-motion film about the difficulties of connecting with people in the modern world. The animated feature follows a customer service expert named Michael Stone (David Thewlis), who perceives everyone else in the world as speaking in the same voice (Tom Noonan). Stone is unable to relate to the mass of humanity he views as interchangeable, until he meets a woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who sounds unique. The adult film uses puppets in lieu of physical actors, sure, yet it still manages to create a moving relationship thanks to excellent vocal performances and a keen sense of humanity. Anomalisa is — by and large — a beautiful film, one that artfully studies the nature of our own loneliness with the utmost poignancy.
Thirty years after Apollo Creed’s fatal defeat at the hands of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, director Ryan Coogler revives the flashy boxer’s legacy in style. Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, Creed’s illegitimate child, who decides to pursue a career in boxing. After being denied a slot at Delphi Boxing Academy — a school run by his half-brother — Johnson seeks out the legendary Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to train him. When Rocky is diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he must battle his disease and demons to help Adonis prepare for a fight against British champion Ricky Conlan. Stallone’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and critics and fans alike agree that Creed is a fitting, inspiring addition to the Rocky saga.
In the Ozark Mountains, teenager Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her family in a spartan existence. Her mother is mentally ill and her father is a meth dealer,which leaves Ree to look after her young two siblings. One day, the sheriff comes to their ramshackle house, informing Ree that her father skipped bail, in exchange for which he put up their house. If she doesn’t find him in a week, the state will evict the family. So Ree sets off on a quest to find her father, a journey that will take her through desolate landscapes, occupied by people who would prefer to maintain silence and secrecy. Although many films about rural America treat their subjects with scorn or fear, Winter’s Bone presents them as people, flawed like any others, whose attitudes are tied inextricably to the land where they live.
The Square, the latest award-winning film from Swedish director Ruben Östlund, follows a man named Christian (Claes Bang), the curator of a modern art museum whose exhibits, he assures an interviewer, must be “cutting-edge.” Running such a museum is a difficult job, and over the course of the film, Christian trudges through setback after humiliating setback, some of which are his own making. As in his previous film, Force Majeure, Östlund is a vicious satirist, slowly chipping away at his protagonist and the larger, bourgeois world of modern art. As absurd as it is scathing, The Square is a sharp comedy that manages to keep topping itself from beginning to end.
‘Ingrid Goes West’
A delightfully dark comedy about the hazards of social media, Ingrid Goes West follows Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), a troubled woman who develops an unhealthy fixation on an Instagram celebrity, Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). In awe of Taylor’s sunny, sublime life, Ingrid moves to California and conspires to worm her way into Taylor’s orbit. Ingrid Goes West has a sharp script with snappy lines that capture the dialect of the social media age. Each character feels absurd in their own unique way, and Plaza’s performance as the bubbly-yet-dangerous Ingrid is among her finest.
A dark subversion of the high school films that dominated in the 1980s, Heathers follows Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), one of the popular girls — a member of a clique called the Heathers — at Westerburg High School. Weary of the group’s tyranny, Veronica teams up with dangerous misfit J.D. (Christian Slater) to pull a prank on the Heathers’ leader, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker). When the prank turns deadly, Veronica realizes she may be in over her head, as J.D. wants to keep killing the school bullies. Very dark, but also funny, Heathers is an excellent, unique comedy.
‘In the Loop’
A feature film spinoff of the popular U.K. comedy series The Thick of It, In the Loop follows government officials from Britain and the U.S. as the two countries lurch toward a war in the Middle East. When Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) flubs an interview, the Prime Minister’s acerbic, foul-mouthed director of communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), steps in to manage the scandal. Meanwhile. a pair of State Department employees, Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) and her assistant, Liza Weld (Anna Chlumsky), try to weaken support for military intervention. What follows is a tangled web of political missteps and scathing insults. In the Loop is a venomous satire, one in which government is a congregation of the amoral and the foolish.
One of the rare musicals to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, this 2002 adaptation of the classic is the story of two women in 1920s Chicago, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Velma is a vaudeville star; Roxie is a fan, and an aspiring singer herself. After both women end up in prison for murdering their lovers, they each enlists the aid of lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who turns them both into celebrities to gin up public sympathy. Chicago is a funny — though somewhat dark — satire of celebrity culture. Of course, musicals live or die by the quality of the music, and Chicago’s soundtrack is full of big, brassy jazz numbers that are as superb as the acting.
‘Up in the Air’
Nobody likes getting fired, and Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) job is to let downsized employees down gently. A traveling HR consultant, Bingham enjoys his constant flights across the country, free of social obligations, even though he is paid to fire people on behalf of their employers. He stops flying solo when his boss assigns a young employee, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), to follow him and learn the business. Built around a superb performance from Clooney, Up in the Air is a smart exploration of how to feel in a society where people are increasingly emotionally distant.
Action and Adventure
The classic anime film Ninja Scroll follows a wandering swordsman named Jubei and a ninja named Kagero, whose paths cross when they run afoul of one of the Eight Devils of Kimon, a group of ninja with demonic powers. Jubei and Kagero, along with an old spy named Dakuan, must fight their way through the Eight Devils and stop a conspiracy to overthrow the shogunate. Ninja Scroll moves from fight scene to fight scene, set piece to set piece, with ruthless efficiency. The action sequences are the main attraction, particularly the fights with the Eight Devils, each of whom has unique powers that make for creative battles.
Takeshi Koike’s hyperkinetic racing film Redline demonstrates, with great flair, how there are some stories that just can’t be done in live action. Redline is set in a distant future where humanity is one of many species living and warring amongst the stars, and where peoples of every species tune in to watch the galaxy’s most popular race, the Redline. The film begins as human racer JP tries to win the Yellowline and secure a spot in the big race. After an explosion wrecks his car, enabling rival Sonoshee McLaren yowin the race, JP catches a break: Some racers have dropped out of the Redline due to the choice of location — the militaristic, dystopian Roboworld — and fans have voted JP in as a replacement. With a bright color palette, inventive character designs, and wild action sequences, Redline shows the anime genre at its best.
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
This legendary Spielberg film introduced the world to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), an intrepid adventurer-archaeologist with a flair for the dramatic. In his first rodeo, Indy must search for the mysterious Ark of the Covenant — a powerful relic — in order to prevent Hitler’s Nazis from reaching it first. Yes, it’s cheesy, but it’s a landmark adventure film that would set the Hollywood standard for years to come. Ford is in prime form, just a year removed from The Empire Strikes Back and a year before his turn as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, and his cocky, casual attitude fits the film perfectly. Empire magazine once named Raiders the No. 2 movie of all time, and for good reason. It’s stylish, exciting, and just plain awesome.
This 2015 thriller follows FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) as she, and a slew of other federal agents, work to take down the leader of a massive Mexican drug cartel. Sicario is a brutal glimpse into the world of drug trafficking, anchored by powerful performances from Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro, among others. Harrowing scenes teeming with murder and torture dot the film’s bleak landscape, as no character in director Denis Villeneuve’s world is without sin. Del Toro, in particular, turns in an excellent performance as an agent whose personal vendettas throw the entire operation into shades of gray.
‘Ghost in the Shell’ (1995)
One of the most acclaimed anime films ever, Ghost in the Shell is set in a not-too-distant future where technology has advanced to the point where humans replace their body parts — or even entire bodies — with cybernetic enhancements. After a criminal known only as the Puppet Master hacks the brain of an important official, Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg and field commander in Japanese intelligence agency Section 9, leads a hunt for the enigmatic villain. Ghost in the Shell is a stylish cyber-thriller, and also a smart one, delving into issues of identity and what it means to be human — or, to be more precise, post-human.
An underappreciated gem in Paul Verhoeven’s body of work — sandwiched as it is between RoboCop and Basic Instinct — Total Recall is an imaginative, loose adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. The movie begins in the future, where a man named Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) trudges through an ordinary life, haunted by dreams of a better one on Mars. After an incident with a virtual reality machine, Quaid discovers he has memories of a former life as a spy and realizes his dreams of Mars may be real. Total Recall is an explosive sci-fi adventure, with a serpentine plot and grotesque practical effects, a perfect example of late 1980s/early ’90s filmmaking.
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This action-packed sci-fi thriller takes place in a not-too-distant future where the hottest sensation on the internet is a game called Nerve, in which the audience issues dares to contestants, who must complete them for money. Timid high school student Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts) enters the game on a whim, meeting another contestant, Ian (Dave Franco), with whom she partners up. As the night unfolds and the challenges start getting more dangerous, Vee and Ian must do their best to survive the game. Nerve is a frantic rush of a film, with a great concept and good execution.
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Horror and Suspense
’10 Cloverfield Lane’
The second film in the loosely-connected Cloverfield franchise, 10 Cloverfield Lane opens on a woman named Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who loses consciousness in a car accident and later wakes up in a bunker. The bunker’s owner is a man named Howard (John Goodman), who tells her that a disaster has left the world outside contaminated, unfit for human life. Michelle, Howard, and another survivor named Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) live together in the confines of the bunker, but tensions and secrets threaten the peace. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a taut, character-driven thriller built around great performances and a general sense of unease.
There have been many adaptations of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels, and while much acclaim has gone to the version of The Silence of the Lambs and the TV series Hannibal, Michael Mann’s film Manhunter has dwelt in obscurity. That’s unfortunate, since it is a stylish crime thriller, with expert direction and a synth-heavy soundtrack. An adaptation of the novel Red Dragon, Manhunter follows former FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen), who retired after nearly dying while capturing an infamous cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lectr (Brian Cox). When a new, vicious serial killer known as the “Tooth Fairy” (Tom Noonan) evades the police, the FBI brings Graham back out of retirement, but as he struggles to find leads, he realizes he may need Lecter’s help. Mann’s finely tuned shots and brilliant use of color make Manhunter a flashy take on a grim franchise.
If there is one lesson to take away from horror movies, it is to never spend a weekend in a secluded cabin, a lesson newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) learn in Honeymoon. The movie wisely builds up their relationship in the first act, and their affection makes it all the more unsettling when things start to go wrong. Honeymoon is a character-driven horror movie, and while it is light on jump scares, it does a great job of creeping out the audience, slowly escalating the action until it reaches a disturbing climax.
Weiner, a documentary from Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, began as a redemption story, chronicling former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s campaign to become mayor of New York City a couple years after a sexting scandal forced him out of politics. As the campaign progresses, and Weiner becomes embroiled in another scandal with similar details, Weiner becomes an eyewitness account of a campaign (and a marriage) imploding. Weiner is a fascinating subject, overflowing with bravado but prone to moments of self-doubt; he cuts a tragic figure, his wild energy causing both his rise and downfall. Weiner is a strikingly intimate portrait of a complicated public figure, and how quickly a political campaign can go off the rails.
‘March of the Penguins’
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary, March of the Penguins examines the mating habits of Antarctica’s emperor penguins, which emerge from the ocean every year, waddling onto land to breed. Huddled together amid the biting winds of the barren continent, the penguins look for mates, dividing up the responsibilities of protecting the ensuing egg and hunting for food. Narrator Morgan Freeman describes the events, depicted on screen through sweeping shots of the landscapes and intimate close-ups of the penguins.
James Bond is one of the most prestigious roles in cinema, one several great actors — Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and Daniel Craig, among others — have stepped into. One man who got a taste of the Bond lifestyle, however, stepped away from it after just one film: George Lazenby, who starred in the underrated On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In Becoming Bond, director Josh Greenbaum sits down with Lazenby to hear the story of how a young car mechanic from Australia came to play a British icon, and why he walked away from it all. Lazenby is a charming storyteller, and Greenbaum wisely lets him take the lead, as he tells a tale as full of drama, sex, and luxury as any Bond film.
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