Hulu, once only a streaming platform for network television, has expanded to feature a robust library of films. 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.
Fortunately, we have you covered. This curated list is a one-stop guide to the best movies on Hulu right now. It’s all organized by genre for your convenience, so turn on your favorite streaming device, have Alexa dim the lights, and let the credits roll. Check back periodically as we’re always updating recommendations based on Hulu’s latest releases.
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True Grit (2010)
The second film adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic Western novel, the Coen brothers’ True Grit is a damn fine take on the genre, with superb direction and great performances from its cast. Set in the 19th century, the film begins with teenager Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) seeking revenge on outlaw Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who murdered her father. Chaney and his fellow rogues have fled into Indian country, where the local authorities can’t follow, so Mattie hires curmudgeonly U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her track him down. Along with a Texas Ranger by the name of LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), they pursue their quarry. True Grit doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the Wild West, but the film isn’t without a sense of humor. This blend of horrific violence and wry comedy is classic Coen brothers.
Darren Aronofsky has made a number of controversial movies, but none has been so polarizing as 2017’s Mother! — a film that had critics and filmgoers dividing into camps based on whether they thought the film was a brilliant biblical parable or a trainwreck carrying some neat ideas. The film begins with a married couple, known only as Him (Javier Bardem) and Mother (Jennifer Lawrence), living in a secluded house. Him is a poet, trying to compose his next work, and Mother tends the house. Their life seems routine, until Man (Ed Harris) arrives, eager to meet Him, and takes up residence in their house. Soon, Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), comes as well, and then more strangers follow in her wake. As their house swells with uninvited guests, Mother struggles to maintain her composure. As that relatively simple explanation of the premise might suggest, Mother! is a strange film, an increasingly tense, frightening drama that makes heavy use of allegory.
Blood Diamond (2006)
Leonardo DiCaprio received one of his many (non-winning) Best Actor Oscar nominations for Blood Diamond, in which he stars as Danny Archer, a mercenary smuggler searching for a priceless diamond amid Sierra Leone’s civil war. DiCaprio’s performance, however, is just the tip of the iceberg, as Djimon Hounsou received a Best Supporting Actor nomination and the film earned three technical nominations, as well. It makes sense because Edward Zwick’s dramatic thriller is extremely gripping, intense, and heartbreaking in equal measure. A fiercely critical polemic against the diamond industry and imperialism writ large, Blood Diamond leaves no stone unturned in its high-octane thrill ride.
I, Tonya (2017)
Tonya Harding is one of the most notorious figures in sports history. Once a shining star in the world of figure skating, she transformed into a villain after her ex-husband and bodyguard conspired to injure her rival, Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), a conspiracy many believed Harding had a hand in. I, Tonya follows Harding (Margot Robbie) from her sad childhood to her rise as a figure skater, to her eventual fall.
What elevates the film above most biopics, however, is its willingness to play with reality; I, Tonya filters events through the perspectives of its characters, leaving the audience questioning whether Harding is simply a misunderstood person with some flaws, or a devious villain. Robbie’s standout performance — and that of Allison Janney, who plays Harding’s mother — is simply the foundation that supports the entire endeavor.
So, you worked really hard in school, avoided drugs and alcohol, didn’t go to any parties, and were rewarded by getting into the Ivy League college of your choice. Nice! You’ve got a lot in common with Booksmart‘s protagonists, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein). If you’re anything like them, however, you may be unhappy to learn that everyone else in your school also got into the Ivy League college of their choice but they partied constantly and had a great time in high school. That realization leads Amy and Molly to go out for one wild night of partying before graduation day. It may sound like a tired concept for a high-school comedy but Booksmart is anything but a run-of-the-mill teen movie. By investing in the friendship of its brilliant female leads and focusing more on questions of growing up and discovering yourself rather than sex and dating, Booksmart is a refreshing take on the teen comedy. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is funny, refreshingly creative, and heartwarming.
With 2015’s The Big Short, director Adam McKay transitioned from the fun, outlandish comedies that had defined his career to that point (Anchorman, Step Brothers) to didactic, angry satire. Vice, which chronicles Dick Cheney’s (Christian Bale) long ascent up the stairs of political power, takes that formula and runs with it. The black comedy takes aim at his subject and also at the society that enabled him. The movie follows a not-entirely chronological path through Cheney’s life, from his shiftless, drunken youth to his tenure as one of the most powerful men in America. As in The Big Short, the plot is frequently interrupted by explanatory skits, the narrator, even the characters themselves. Beyond McKay’s dynamic approach to satire, Vice is worth watching for Bale’s tremendous performance.
Mom and Dad (2018)
Brian Taylor’s horror/comedy Mom and Dad takes a simple premise — sometimes, even loving parents get a little fed up with their kids — and runs with it all the way to Crazytown. The film follows the Ryan family: Brent (Nicolas Cage), Kendall (Selma Blair), their petulant teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters), and young, hyperactive son Josh (Zackary Arthur). The Ryans exhibit the typical tensions of movie families — Kendall feels shut out of her daughter’s life, Carly steals money from her parents to buy drugs — but those problems explode when a mysterious signal drives all the parents in town into a frenzy, making them possessed by a singular urge to kill their children. With the rampage spreading around town, Carly and Josh must escape from their murderous parents. As one might expect, Cage turns in a delightfully frenetic performance, and Blair keeps pace with him. Mom and Dad isn’t brilliant satire (the dialogue can be a bit stilted at times), but it’s so over-the-top and moves at such a ferocious pace, it’s hard not to get caught up in the action.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
The directorial debut of Boots Riley (perhaps better known as the frontman of the hip-hop band The Coup), Sorry to Bother You is a madcap satire of 21st-century capitalism, a film that tosses realism out the window within the first 10 minutes or so. The movie follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a sad-sack guy who, desperate for money, gets a job as a telemarketer at a grimy office (he lies about his previous work experience, which his interviewer considers a positive). Cassius struggles to make sales, so an older coworker (Danny Glover) gives him some advice, telling him to use a “white voice.” After using a white voice (David Cross), Cassius suddenly starts racking up sales and soon gets a promotion to the esteemed position of Power Caller. As he climbs the corporate ladder, however, Cassius risks losing his soul to the relentless machine of marketing. Sorry to Bother You makes uses of some bonkers visuals to accompany its eccentric premise, such as an early sequence in which Cassius, as he calls customers, literally drops into their houses, snapping back to the office when they hang up.
The Square (2017)
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 throughout 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 (2017)
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 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.
Action and adventure
Ninja Scroll (1993)
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.
Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018)
Fallout has a good case for being the best entry to the Mission: Impossible franchise. Rogue Nation writer-director Christopher McQuarrie returns and continues to push the envelope in this traditionally envelope-pushing series. M:I is at its best when the world of espionage in which it exists is living just along the edge of believability, which McQuarrie has fully grasped. Thanks to Tom Cruise’s insane penchant for thrill-seeking and ability to perform death-defying stunts sans double, the most recent iterations of Mission: Impossible do just that: Expand our mind beyond what we thought possible, while grounding the story of international conspiracies and world-destroying syndicates just enough to feel plausible. While James Bond’s MI6 enjoys a level of tongue-in-cheek, Ethan Hunt’s IMF captures the imagination of an interconnected, deeply perilous world and gleefully operates in the fringes. Fallout continues to explore the villainy and influence of The Syndicate and its leader, Solomon Lane, as the IMF joins forces with the CIA to prevent a global catastrophe. It’s as good as spy movies get.
The seminal anime film Akira has had a huge impact on sci-fi since its release, but despite how many films and video games have drawn on Akira for inspiration, the movie itself still feels fresh. The film begins in Neo-Tokyo circa 2019, decades after the start of World War III. Far below the towering skyscrapers, gangs of motorcycle-riding youths fight in the streets. A leather-clad hotshot named Kaneda leads a gang called the Capsules. While evading the police, Kaneda’s comrade Tetsuo runs across a mysterious being with psychic powers, and after crashing his bike, ends up in the government’s custody. After enduring strange experiments, Tetsuo develops psychic powers, and a mighty ego to match. As Tetsuo’s powers grow, Kaneda must try to stop him before he destroys Tokyo. Akira is a slick action film full of striking imagery and stylish violence.
Annihilation is the kind of film that asks the big questions, though, it never truly answers any of them. Helmed by the visionary behind Ex Machina (Alex Garland) and adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name, the film follows a ragtag group of military scientists — namely, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh — who investigate a biological anomaly known as “The Shimmer,” a quarantined zone on the coast that’s mutating everything in its path. It’s an ambitious novel to tackle, yet, Garland and company tackle the book’s haunting, metaphysical themes with aplomb, serving up a sci-fi masterpiece that will leave your head reeling once the beastly, otherworldly screams and crystalline blossoms begin to settle.
Horror and suspense
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.
Saw II (2005)*
Escape room horror is one of those underrated fears you don’t really think about until you see movies like Saw. This film is where it all began for Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), a sadistic serial killer who abducts people into a game that tasks them with solving puzzles, finding keys, and settling group conflicts to save their own lives. Illusionist David Blaine has nothing on some of the deathtraps in Saw II. The participants aren’t random, either. Jigsaw’s victims are all people he perceives to be flawed in conscience and morality. In this one, eight such people are taken captive and asked to play a sadistic game for their lives. A lone astute detective is their only hope for survival. The second film in a series that eventually exploded in popularity, Saw II has a compelling hook and a finish that may well blow your mind.
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)*
What do you do with a lifelong criminal who seems to defy all rules of imprisonment? You take him to Alcatraz, the most infamous maximum-security facility in the world. Escape from Alcatraz follows Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood), a cunning conman whose breakout expertise is eventually tested at a camp designed to keep bad guys in and whistleblowers out. The film starts as a classic thriller but quickly shapes into an eye-opening representation of Alcatraz’s harsh conditions. Much of Escape from Alcatraz is grandiose flair from Hollywood, but other real themes — such as the effects of isolation on mental health — get healthy exploration. There’s also the fact that it’s Clint Eastwood in a blockbuster thriller, and that alone warrants a look.
Free Solo (2018)
What can we say about Free Solo that hasn’t been said already? Filmmaker Jimmy Chin’s award-winning biopic chronicles professional climber Alex Honnold’s free solo ascent of one the most iconic slabs of granite in the world, El Capitan, as well his upbringing and van-fueled life outside the wall. It’s a harrowing portrait, one lined with vertigo-inducing shots and candid conversations about life and death, told through the lens of a 33-year-old who wants nothing more than to summit a 3,000-foot cliff with no ropes or safety harness. The footage of the climb itself — from the route planning to the actual execution — is mesmerizing, but it’s the film’s blunt examination of Honnold’s mind and motives that takes it to new heights.
Becoming Bond (2017)
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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