This list is continually updated to reflect recent Hulu offerings, as films are frequently added and removed based on availability.
The streaming wars seem destined to rage on forever, 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.
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 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 name suggests, however, the focus is not the book, but Capote himself, crafting 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, 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, 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 Donnie 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, leaving Ree to look after her two siblings. One day the sheriff comes to their ramshackle house, informing Ree that her father skipped bail, 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. 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 they live in.
A dark subversion of the high school films that dominated in the ‘80s, Heathers follows Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), one of the popular girls — 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, Heather 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 spin-off 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, saying that a war is “unforeseeable,” the Prime Minister’s acerbic, foul-mouthed Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), steps in to manage the scandal. In the States, 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 both enlist 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; 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 if he feels sympathy for the people is paid to fire 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
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’
This legendary Spielberg film introduced the world to Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), an intrepid super-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 mid-season 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, provides 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 the 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 under-appreciated 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 ‘80s/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
‘The Silence of the Lambs’
Notching five Oscars in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most successful films to grace the Academy Awards; it’s also one of the most disturbing. The film follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who is assigned to interview an imprisoned serial killer named Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), in the hopes that he might help develop a profile of an active killer, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Lecter demands a price for his help, and to catch one killer, Starling may inadvertently help the other. The Silence of the Lambs is a terrifying psychological thriller, following a woman who must delve into the minds of monsters, as well as her own traumatic memories.
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Irony has become such a pervasive trend in horror, that it’s hard to remember how fresh Scream was on release. Directed by horror veteran Wes Craven, the film is at once a satire and rebirth of the slasher genre, featuring protagonists and a killer who are aware of the common tropes of horror movies. The script is loaded with jokes and references regarding classic horror movies, but Craven’s direction keeps things tense. Even as the characters quip, the camera frames them oppressively, and the killer always seems just off the edge of the screen. A heavyweight cast including the likes of Neve Campbell and Drew Barrymore also adds a level of professionalism to a genre known for low budgets and cheap thrills. Ironically, this iconoclastic film inspired a wave of imitators, all of which lacked its charm and respect for the foundations of horror. Violent, clever, and well-acted, Scream stands out as the vanguard of postmodern horror and likely its pinnacle.
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‘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 British cinema, one several great actors — Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, 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 his life story, 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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Published at Fri, 05 Jan 2018 00:39:28 +0000