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.
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.
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.
Denzel Washington’s adaptation of the classic play Fences, by August Wilson, is a well-crafted drama built around powerful performances. The movie follows a man named Troy Maxson (Washington). Troy works as a trash collector in Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis), and son, Cory (Jovan Adepo). Troy is an angry man; he grew up in poor circumstances, and managed to play baseball in the Negro Leagues, but never made it to the majors due to segregation. He nurses grudges against the world and everyone in it, including his family. Fences is a focused character study, examining how his anger eats away at his relationships.
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.
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.
A sci-fi film that eschews big space battles for linguistic diagrams, Arrival begins (after a short prelude) with alien ships arriving at various spots on Earth. The nations of the world are unsure what to do, scrambling to figure out who the aliens are and what they want. A U.S. Army colonel, Weber (Forest Whitaker), recruits linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to try and communicate with the aliens. Along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise opens a line of communication with the aliens, who communicate via inky drawings. As she tries to decipher their language, other countries are doing the same, but coming to very different, very dangerous conclusions.
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.
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
‘Let the Right One In’
A horror film with a heart, Let the Right One In follows a meek boy named Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) who lives in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. Bullies prey on Oskar, and he leads a lonely life, dreaming of revenge, until one night he meets a pale girl named Eli (Lina Leandersson), who lives next door with a man named Håkan (Per Ragnar). Although Eli is distant at first, the two become friends, but Eli has a dark secret, and a string of murders follows her arrival. Let the Right One In is a somber, methodical film, and a fresh take on a classic horror premise, but it’s also strangely touching. Despite their youthful personalities, Oskar and Eli are two lonely souls who find a sort of comfort in each other.
’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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