In 2017,Hulu made television history by becoming the first streaming network to win the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy, thanks to the phenomenon that isThe Handmaid’s Tale. While that painfully prescient adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel remains one of thebest TV shows to watch on Hulu, it also set a bar for quality entertainment that the network has continued to match—and sometimes exceed—with original series likeThe Bear,The Great, andOnly Murders in the Building.
While Netflix has largely cornered the streaming market onoriginal movies, and even managed to convince A-listers likeGuillermo del Toro,Alfonso Cuarón, andMartin Scorsese to come aboard, Hulu is starting to find its footing in features too. Below are some of our top picks for the best movies (original and otherwise) streaming on Hulu right now.
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The Jewel Thief
Like Frank Abagnale (the subject of Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can) before him, Gerald Blanchard is a criminal mastermind whose sheer audacity is worthy of a Hollywood retelling. Yet the real-life Blanchard is so endlessly captivating and unafraid to share the most intimate details of his capers that it’s best to let him do the talking—which is exactly what he does in this fascinating documentary, in which even the people he duped and the authorities who pursued him seem a bit in awe of his bravado. What else would you expect from a man who allegedly parachuted onto the roof of Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace in order to break in and make off with the Star of Empress Sisi, a priceless jewel that once belonged to Empress Elisabeth of Austria?
While the words “postapocalyptic drama” often draw groans from viewers who have tired of the trope, this one is different (yes, we know, you’ve heard that before, too). Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) is a 13-year-old with some pretty serious biohacking skills, which is particularly handy given that she and her father (Richard Brake) are attempting to survive in a world where Earth’s ecosystem is now nonexistent. Making it more of a challenge is that it’s impossible to know who to trust when even Vesper’s uncle (the always-captivating Eddie Marsan) is only looking out for himself. In addition to stellar acting, it’s a visually impressive sci-fi fairytale that plays a bit like a mash-up between Children of Men and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Alien was originally released in 1979, but has lost none of its potency in the intervening years—which isn’t something most 44-year-olds could say. By now you probably know the story: The crew aboard the spacecraft Nostromo, including warrant officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), put a presumably slight pause on their trip back to Earth in order to respond to a distress call from a nearby planetoid. But what they discover is a bizarre alien life form that seems to delight in knocking off crew members in new—and frequently terrifying—ways. Can you say Facehugger? Or Chestburster? Alien is also noteworthy for being the film that kicked off a bona fide, and legendary, sci-fi/horror franchise—and introduced the world to Ridley Scott, who changed the genre game yet again with his next feature, Blade Runner.
Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Who cares—it’s pure action-movie perfection. NYPD detective John McClane heads to Los Angeles to spend the holidays with his estranged wife and kids, but instead finds himself in the middle of an office party turned hostage situation. Hey, it happens. With one “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”, Bruce Willis was instantly transformed from comedic TV star to ’80s action hero. If one Die Hard isn’t enough, Hulu has also got 1995’s Die Hard With a Vengeance and 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard. If you want to watch Die Hard 2 (which is really the best of the sequels), you’ll need to get the Starz add-on.
Also available on Disney+, Flamin’ Hot tells the story of Richard Montañez (Jesse Garcia), the Frito-Lay janitor who brought Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to the masses. Directed by Eva Longoria, the movie might come off as a little cheesy at times, but its comedy and heart transform it into something more than just a story about a beloved snack.
Raine Allen-Miller made a splash at Sundance with her directorial debut, which offers a playful twist on the typical rom-com. Yas (Vivian Oparah) and Dom (David Jonsson) are two twentysomethings both reeling from recent break-ups. After a chance—and rather awkward—first meeting, the pair spend a day wandering around South London, bonding over their shared experience, finding cheeky ways to get over the mourning of their previous relationships, and maybe discovering that romance is not dead after all.
FromRosemary’s BabytoHereditary, motherhood has long served as the catalyst for some of the horror genre’s scariest flicks. In the case ofClock, it’s the lack of desire to procreate that gets the terror treatment. Ella (Dianna Agron) is a happily married interior designer who is perfectly content with her life, and has no desire to add a child to it. But that doesn’t sit well with her friends and family, who keep pressuring her to procreate. So she signs up to take part in a clinical trial for women like herself—whose so-called biological clocks are either broken or nonexistent. Which is where things really get scary. Fair warning:Clock does get pretty dark and weird, and is definitely firmly cemented in the horror genre. But to some, it also plays like a satire of the American Dream and its obsession with family.
Stars at Noon
Claire Denis, masterful as always, channels the hot, sweaty vibe ofBody Heatfor this tale of Trish (Margaret Qualley), a young journalist who finds herself stranded in Nicaragua. When she meets a handsome if slightly mysterious Brit (Joe Alwyn) at a bar, she thinks he may be able to help her—but only after things get steamy between them. Eventually, however, she realizes that nothing is what it seems, and Daniel may not be who he seems.
The Hunger Games Series
It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since these movies first took over the cultural zeitgeist—and made Jennifer Lawrence an intergalactic superstar—but here we are. Based on Suzanne Collins’ wildly successful young adult series,the Hunger Gamesmovies focus on a teenager, Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), who, say it with me, volunteers as tribute to save her sister from competing in a brutal, televised competition where they fight to the death. It’s no longer a spoiler to say Katniss wins the Hunger Games and in the process becomes a beacon of hope for all the people who have been forced to send their children off to die for years. If you’ve never watched the series, you should. If you have watched it, now is your chance to stream the movies again, just in time for the release ofThe Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, a prequel film coming in November.
Triangle of Sadness
Think of it likeGilligan’s Island, but with more class commentary and vomit. When a bunch of rich people head out to sea on a luxury yacht, their plans are thwarted when a terrible storm leaves many of them stranded on a beach where none of their money or power can help them survive. That already gives away too much, but suffice to say, if you likeMenu-esque critiques of the excesses of wealth with just as many dark-comedy twists, then this Oscar-nominated film is right for you.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
OK, so this might be the movie that turned the idea of “lesbian period drama” into a trope, but it’s also one of the best modern queer romance films around, alongsideMoonlightandCarol. Set on an isolated French coast in the late-1700s, writer-director Céline Sciamma’s film centers on a young aristocrat woman, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who is betrothed to a wealthy Milanese man. When Héloïse’s mother hires Mariane (Noémie Merlant) to paint a portrait of her daughter, the two women fall in love and have the kind of heartbreaking affair that have made lesbian period dramas so undeniable in the first place. You’ll be transfixed.
Look, there are probably already far too many Princess Diana movies and TV shows, but this one, directed by Pablo Larraín and starring Kristen Stewart as the Princess of Wales, focuses on one specific Christmas at Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham Estate in a way that narrows down just how complex each day Diana’s life with the royal family must have been. Yes, the backdrop are the rumors of divorce surrounding Diana and Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), but the story is about her relationships within the family and the life she left behind to join them.
This film from directorChloé Zhao, about one woman’s post–Great Depression quest through the American West, won a ton of Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress for lead Frances McDormand, and Best Director and Best Editing wins for Zhao. Zhao also won for Best Adapted Screenplay for her adaptation ofWIRED contributor Jessica Bruder’s book, also calledNomadland. It’s a bracing look at the modern American dream.
If you’re the kind of viewer who just can’t get enough of murder shows and has been looking for a murder movie, might we suggestBoston Strangler? Based on the real-life serial killer of the same monicker, writer-director Matt Ruskin’s “reimagining” ofthe 1968 movie focuses on the two reporters—Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon)—who uncovered the news about the Strangler’s string of killings in the 1960s and broke the story. If nothing else, it’s worth watching just to see what happens when a Bostonian directorforbids his predominantly non-Bostonian cast from trying to imitate the city’s notorious accent.
Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is a single woman on the lookout for a partner, but who is tired of the online dating scene. So when she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), a quirky, handsome stranger, she takes a chance on giving him her number. The two hit it off on the first date and eventually find themselves making plans to spend a weekend away—which is when Noa realizes that Steve has been hiding a few disturbing details about himself. Ultimately,Freshstands as a lesson in the horrors of dating in the digital age (both real and imagined).
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Two years after the death of her husband, retired religion teacher Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson) decides it’s time to do something about the fact that she has never had an orgasm. So she hires Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), a young male sex worker, and invites him to a hotel room so that she can cross a few items off her sexual bucket list. But what begins as a transactional relationship quickly, and genuinely, evolves into much more.
Given the existence of Harold Ramis’ near-perfectGroundhog Day, it takes a whole lot of chutzpah for a filmmaker to add another picture to the infinite-time-loop rom-com canon. But writer-director Max Barbakow went ahead and did it anyway withPalm Springs, and audiences are thankful he did. Building upon the rules originally established inGroundhog Day,Palm Springsoffers its own unique twist on the story. Instead of one person (Billy Murray’s Phil Conners) slowly being pushed to the brink of insanity because he’s the only one who seems to be experiencing the phenomenon,Palm Springssees three wedding guests—Nyles (Andy Samberg), Sarah (Cristin Milioti), and Roy (J. K. Simmons)—living the same day again and again, and working together to find a way out of it.