Looking through all of streaming services has taught me a few things, but the most important one is this: Use Hulu for TV needs and go somewhere else for movies.
For this list I sifted through and came up with a range of movies new and old, left the country for a few others, and snuck in some of the broader-appealing Criterion movies (I’ll let you figure out which ones).
The best movies on Hulu
I’m not sure if this is the best Christopher Nolan movie, but it’s my favorite. It’s a sprawling, messy epic that literally takes you to the edge of the universe and back and forth through time. It’s blatantly sentimentally, which is a change of pace from Nolan’s usually clinical, antiseptic style. He worked with some of the smartest people science has to offer to tell a story about a man trying to save the world for his daughter. This is why we love movies.
Mean Girls before Mean Girls, Scream before Scream, that’s how I pitch this '80s classic to people who haven’t seen it. It’s a satire and a biting black comedy. High school tales about the coolest of the cool and the people who want to undermine them are the forever-cool leather jackets of film.
3) The Eye
Before you make the joke, no, this is not the Jessica Alba disaster. The original Hong Kong-Singaporean movie was one of the first foreign movies I saw, and nearly 15 years later there are parts that freak me out. Asian horror in the 2000s was amazing in both the quality of the originals and the lack thereof, mostly, in their American remakes.
4) Point Break
Kathryn Bigelow directs action as well as any filmmaker out there. Point Break features the kind of stunt work that still takes your breath away nearly 30 years later. Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze have more chemistry than most romantic leads; their friendship becomes as tangible as the money Bodhi’s (Swayze) crew steals. Johnny Utah (Reeves, in his role in a pantheon-level action movie) and Bodhi are a pseudo Romeo and Juliet, with their very real friendship star-crossed before Federal Agent Utah ever crosses paths with the leader of the Ex-Presidents. The movie is ridiculously fun and plays just as well whether this is your first viewing or hundredth. Whatever you do, just make sure you pick this one and not the ill-conceived and poorly executed 2015 remake.
5) I Ain’t Scared of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac
This documentary about the late, great Mac is an hour-long celebration of the man’s life and his art. This is film as comfort food. Listening to actors and comics go on about Mac's life and comedy is great, and a nice memento to a man who left us too soon.
6) The Loneliest Planet
If you’re looking to take a chance on something, take a look at Julia Lotkev’s relationship examination The Loneliest Planet. It’s about a couple, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, who go on a backpacking trip as an engaged couple and come back at something else entirely. Lotkev’s approach is stripped down and the lack of stylistic flare helps keep the focus entirely on Bernal and Furstenberg, who both do excellent work. There isn’t much plot to describe, but the most noteworthy event is best left unspoiled, as it challenges everything the viewer has come to learn and asks simple questions with harsh answers.
7) The Voices
Ryan Reynolds is an interesting case study. He’s a reliably charming performer, but that reliability is only outdone by his questionable major movie choices (Green Lantern anyone?). He’s enjoying a resurgence with the success of Deadpool, but one thing he’s always done well is indie movies. They aren’t always good, but the roles are always interesting. The Voices is both good and interesting. Reynolds plays a man who suffers from the common affliction of hearing his pets talk to him. You know how it is.
8) The Loneliest Planet
If you’re looking to take a chance on something, take a look at Julia Lotkev’s relationship examination The Loneliest Planet. It’s about a couple, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, who go on a backpacking trip as an engaged couple and come back at something else entirely. Lotkev’s approach is stripped down and the lack of stylistic flare helps keep the focus entirely on Bernal and Furstenberg, who both do excellent work. There isn’t much plot to describe, but the most noteworthy event is best left unspoiled, as it challenges everything the viewer has come to learn and asks simple questions with harsh answers.9) Creed
For those suffering from sequel fatigue, Ryan Coogler’s Rocky installment is the antidote. Coogler and leading man Michael B. Jordan lend Creed fresh perspective and energy while still packing the emotional wallop that endeared the series to so many people 40 years ago.
10) O.J.: Made in America
This eight-hour documentary (available in five chapters) is among the very best work to come from TV or cinema in 2016. O.J. looks closely at the man and legend of O.J. Simpson and charts his rise and fall from star athlete to accused murderer and social pariah. Director Ezra Edelman captures the racial tension that permeated the 20th century and distills it down to the Trial of the Century. It becomes clear that O.J. Simpson wasn’t the only one on trial. It’s as much a historical document as it is entertainment, and it couldn’t be more timely or timeless.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is quickly establishing himself as an A-list director, between Prisoners, this year’s excellent Arrival, and 2017’s high-stakes curio Blade Runner 2049. Sicario is a taut drug war thriller top-lined by Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin (all doing great work). Villeneuve has a strong eye for visuals and a knack for making movies that linger days after you watch them. If nothing else, this one is worth checking out for the awesomely tense opening and a spectacular border crossing attempt gone awry.
12) Balls Out
If you can get past the terrible poster art and even worse title, Balls Out is funny enough to justify the 90-minute commitment. People taking sports too seriously always has potential, and this intramural-football-centered story gets good mileage out of the familiar setup. The cast is full of current Saturday Night Live cast members and top-lined by the always enjoyable Jake Lacy and Nikki Reed.
13) The Truman Show
The reality TV angle of Truman has become increasingly relevant with each passing year, but the recommendation here is for Jim Carrey’s performance. He’s a tragicomic force who never hits a false note. The movie itself is great all the way around, but Carrey is its heart and soul.
14) Air Force One
Popcorn entertainment of the highest order. The movie’s mix of cheeseball lines (“Get off my plane!”), gluttonous action, and hilariously bad CGI is just as entertaining today as it was in 1997. This is a classic in the “turn off your brain” genre and offers the kind of base pleasures we could use every now and then.
15) The Legend of Drunken Master
Jackie Chan can’t kick it like he used to, but the man is a treasure of world cinema. His gifts for blending slapstick with intensely studied martial arts are second to none. His contribution to cinema was recognized with an honorary Oscar in 2016, so this is a great time to honor the man yourself and watch one of his essential films.
Johnny Depp makes a lot of awful movies, but Mortdecai is perhaps the most curious oddity of them all. The movie is infamous for how it tanked at the box office, and its mere existence is baffling to anyone who saw it. A misfire of this magnitude doesn’t come along often, but when it does there’s almost a badge of honor feeling for the souls who survive it.
17) Iron Man
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 10 years since Jon Favreau first laid out the blueprint for the movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While creative fatigue may have set in somewhere along the way for some, the MCU movies continue to bring in interesting filmmakers and make overnight stars of its leads. Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. found magic in this origin story for Tony Stark, taking a second-tier superhero in the eyes of mainstream audiences and putting him on par with Batman and Superman. After 14 movies (and a staggering nine movies scheduled to be released by 2019), Iron Man continues to be one of the crown jewels of the MCU.18) Julia’s Eyes
Sometimes all it takes is a minor wrinkle to make an old formula feel fresh. The wrinkle here is that the heroine’s eyesight steadily worsens while she’s looking for the truth behind her sister’s death. The movie puts you in Julia’s place with a handful of stylistic choices and makes it to where even someone with 20/20 vision won’t see some of the jumps and twists coming.
Imagine if one of the regional myths you grew up believing held more truth than you ever knew. That’s the setup for this documentary based on a New York urban legend. The filmmakers get more than they intended as their search for the truth leads them to the case of convicted child kidnapper Andre Rand. The truth, or whatever the doc uncovers, proves to be far scarier than the legend.
20) The Hunt for the Wilderpeople
First New Zealand gave us Peter Jackson; now it’s given us Taika Waititi. Jackson makes oversized spectacles, and Waititi has built his name on small-scale stories with strong characters (Eagle vs Shark, What We Do in the Shadows). That is, until Marvel recruited him for his own oversized spectacle (the upcoming Thor: Ragnorok). Wilderpeople is such a delightful movie that you understand why Waititi is getting called up while also being greedy enough to want him to keep making movies where his is the main creative voice.
21) The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky's 2006 film The Fountain mixes sci-fi, romance, and spirituality into a cocktail that deserves far more attention than it's received. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz (both doing some of their very best work) as a couple whose relationship plays out over three different time periods. The high-wire narrative is anchored by its focus on love and mortality, so it's easier to follow than you’d think. Add on Clint Mansell's career best score and the result is the kind of movie that rewards viewers and multiple viewings.Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.