There’s a lot to love on Hulu right now.
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 inJune 2017
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 Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is always essential viewing, whether it’s your first time seeing it or the 20th. Christopher McQuarrie’s script is an all-timer and a gift the keeps on giving. There’s something new to appreciate each time, and that’s a credit to the writing, Bryan Singer’s direction, and the immaculate work by the cast. What else is there to say? Seriously, what else? If you’ve already seen it, you don’t need me to tell you to watch it. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t give away the plot here because you should have the most pristine experience possible. Let’s all watch it tonight, OK?
4) Short Term 12
Before she landed the titular role in Captain Marvel, Brie Larson won an Oscar for Room. Before she won the Oscar, she won over audiences and critics with her work in Dustin Cretin’s Short Term 12. She plays a supervisor in a treatment facility for troubled teens. It’s a sensitive topic that the film handles in a way that feels honest. The movie goes to some dark places thematically, but there are enough victories for the characters mixed in that it’s not a grueling movie to sit through.
Cloverfield is awesome. I understand the complaints about the handheld/found footage aesthetic, but I don’t hear them. From concept to execution, Cloverfield is a blast. Say what you will about J.J. Abrams, but the man knows how to make an event movie. He also has an eye for talent. He roped in longtime collaborators Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods), both masters of genre. Cloverfield is much scarier than you’d think for a monster romp. And now that there’s a Cloverfield Cinematic Universe taking shape (last year’s 10 Cloverfield Lane and this year’s untitled entry), now’s a great time for a refresher on how it all began.
6) 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane came out of nowhere last year when was announced just two months prior to its release (it had previously flown under the radar as Valencia). For most of its runtime, it’s a taut locked-room thriller. It’s about a woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who wakes up after a car crash in bunker belonging to a mysterious man (John Goodman). There’s another man stuck with them (John Gallagher Jr.) whose allegiances are hard to peg. The movie is a showcase for its cast and talented young director (Dan Trachtenberg). The ties to Cloverfield proved to be divisive among audiences, but it’s too good to miss out on.
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) Trading Places
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) Cabin Fever
Eli Roth’s debut remains a goofy, gory, gooey delight nearly 15 years after its debut. A getaway to a cabin in the woods for five friends goes spectacularly awry when a flesh-eating disease rips through the group and ruins their debaucherous plans. Roth’s mix of comedy and horror isn’t for everyone, but this movie did catch the eye of splatter-horror icons like Peter Jackson. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s hard to imagine you won’t find something to laugh or cringe at in Cabin Fever.
Charlie Kaufman is arguably the best American filmmaker going right not. Or the most important. At the very least, he’s the best screenwriter. Anomalisa marks his second directorial effort after the much praised Synecdoche, New York, and it’s full of the pathos and introspection that have marked much of his work to date. It’s about a lonely man living a pedestrian life who meets someone who breaks up the monotony. But it’s about so much more than just that. This film is not for everyone, and its ending won’t leave you feeling particularly satisfied, but Kaufman has written some of the absolute best films of the last 20 years (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). He doesn’t get the chance to direct very often, so we have to savor the films we do get from him.
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.
As far as vampire thrillers go, this one is comparatively lowkey. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan play a pair of vampires who have been on the run for hundreds of years. They try to live anonymously, but when their cover is blown, they’re on the run again. It’s arty fare and something that may test the patience of some. Director Neil Jordan creates a beguiling atmosphere, and Arterton and Ronan are strong leads, and combined they help carry the movie through clunky moments. Even if it isn’t totally successful in everything it sets out to do, it’s a worthy effort with enough highlights to make it worth your time.
22) March of the Penguins
Remember when this documentary captured the zeitgeist in the summer of 2005? There’s nothing separating Penguins from any number of nature documentaries, from Disney Nature’s output to Planet Earth. But I’ll be damned if the journey of the penguins featured isn’t just as compelling now as it was back then.
Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo isn’t well known in America, so this is a chance to impress your friends with your excellent taste in foreign films. Vigalondo’s biggest movie to date is the indie hit Colossal (starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis), but his debut Timecrimes remains his best film. It’s a low-budget time travel thriller (think Primer with a more propulsive plot) that is heady without being pretentious and twisty without being confounding.
24) Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater’s spiritual cousin to Dazed and Confused received the usual acclaim that accompanies most Linklater joints, but it didn’t translate to a big audience. That seems fitting, as it wouldn’t be right if Everybody Wants Some!! (the two exclamation points are important) didn’t find and build its audience the old-fashioned way just like Dazed did. The movie follows a group of baseball players as they navigate life on a college campus. Like most Linklater movies, Everybody’s is about the experience and characters rather than plot mechanics. Get you some!!
25) Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe ain’t what he used to be, but it’s important to go back and remind yourself about what made him so good in the first place. Almost Famous has it all, from the great performances by Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and everyone else, to catchy music, and effortlessly good writing. Based on Crowe’s own experience as a writer for Rolling Stone, the film follows a young writer (Fugit) as he goes on the road with the band Stillwater. Crowe won an Oscar for the film’s screenplay, and no less than Roger Ebert named the movie as one of the best films of the 2000s.
26) Barbershop: The Next Cut
The third entry in Ice Cube’s Barbershop series might be its best. The movie, like the barbershop itself, has a looseness to it that makes you want to linger in the shop longer than you need to. The conversation is alternately fun and fierce. The ball-busting goes both ways, with everybody cracking wise and getting cracked on but always in a way that’s good-hearted. If that were all the movie had going, that would be enough for a fun time. But The Next Cut tackles larger issues, most notably the changing racial makeup and growing crime problems of Chicago. In a movie with the central idea of people hashing out the day-to-day of their lives, the thornier societal issues flow naturally out of the conversation, and the movie is consistently entertaining. The cast, including stalwarts Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas, Anthony Anderson, and newcomers Lamorne Morris, Nicki Minaj, and Common, has easy chemistry and the film’s two hours just fly by.
27) Daddy’s Home
It’s a crying shame Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s 2010 collaboration, The Other Guys, isn’t available, but their second one is. Ferrell plays a buttoned-up step-dad competing for the affection of his stepkids with the kids’ father, played by Wahlberg. The game of one-upmanship grows increasingly silly, as those kinds of things are wont to do, and Ferrell and Wahlberg sell the jokes as best they can. Daddy’s Home isn’t the funniest movie you’ll see with Wahlberg or Ferrell, but it gets the job done.
28) The Skin I Live In
The Skin I Live In is Pedro Almodovar’s excessively weird tale about a doctor (Antonio Banderas) who has dedicated is life to creating stronger skin. There can be no progress without experimentation, and for the good doctor, it’s time to find a human test subject. Almodovar is a fearless and inventive filmmaker, and if you’re not familiar with his work, this is a jump into the deep end. Considering themes and imagery in the movie, however, diving into this world and immersing yourself and going for the ride is the best way to do it.
29) American Beauty
After a wondrous run as a cultural whipping boy for its portrayal of suburban and especially teenage angst, the tide has turned for the movie that won best picture in 1999. Kevin Spacey’s performance is a perfect blend of malaise and existential crisis. Annette Bening and Mena Suvari are the yin and yang representation of a man’s midlife crisis: Suvari as the young temptress and potential for a different kind of life, and Bening as the outgrown partner and reminder of a life wasted. Nearly 20 years after its release, American Beauty holds up fairly well. Its observations still sting, even if they’re not as sharp as they used to be, and the satire is still relevant today. If nothing else, the trash bag scene is still a hoot.
When I first saw Election as an 8th grader, it was too easy to look at Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) as an overachieving kiss ass and dim-witted jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) as the underdog in this dark comedy about a high school election. Time has made me realize what a fool I was. Flick is one of the ‘90s most indelible characters, whose relevance has only grown with time. Obvious and easy parallels to our most recent election aside, Flick’s fight against the patriarchal and social norms makes for a compelling narrative, one full of unexpected twists and one of Matthew Broderick’s best roles. Oh, and it’s still really, really funny.
31) Plus One (aka +1)
Plus One is a low budget sci-fi thriller set at a party that takes a turn for the bizarre after something strange happens. Supernatural explanations, doppelgängers, and interpersonal drama abound. Not all of the film’s twists work, but the ambition on display makes this movie worth checking out. If you liked Primer or Coherence, Plus One is in a similar vein. It’s not quite on par with those two in terms of execution, but it has its moments.
32) American Ultra
Being totally honest, I hated American Ultra when I saw it, but now that it’s available for streaming, I’ve thought about giving it another look. It comes from the highly prolific and equally divisive Max Landis and is about two stoners who get mixed up with government spooks. Between the premise and the mix of violence, lowbrow humor, and romantic chemistry between the leads, I reductively refer to this as the poor man’s Pineapple Express (sadly not on Hulu). Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t, and movies that take risks deserve to be seen, good or bad.
33) Where to Invade Next
Michael Moore is never going to change his stripes as an activist or filmmaker. But his 2015 documentary tweaks his tactics enough to make you think maybe change is possible. Moore looks at various issues plaguing America, then finds other countries who have seemingly got it right as an example of a solution. It’s the least “preaching to the choir” Moore has been in a long time, and it makes Where to Invade Next feel like a conversation starter rather than a screed.
34) Legally Blonde
To see Legally Blonde is to love Legally Blonde. Reese Witherspoon does some of her best work as Elle Woods, who goes from sorority queen to Harvard Law School student after being dumped by her shortsighted boyfriend. Elle is unapologetically herself as she brings her fashionable ways to a community marked by its dullness. The movie is infectiously fun, from Elle teaching her friends at the beauty salon the bend-and-snap to breaking down the dos and don’ts of perms to clear a client. Like Elle, Legally Blonde is an easy movie to underestimate, but it’s time to stop being a Warner and start being an Emmett.
Photo via MGM Channel
There’s a growing realization that Seann William Scott is an underrated actor. Yes, Steve Stifler, the Stifmeister. That guy. Scott has had woefully few opportunities to show his chops, but in movies like The Promotion and especially Goon, he gets to show off a deftness for more subtle humor and emotions than American Pie demanded. In Goon, he plays a hockey player who excels only at fighting, but it’s his ticket to a brief respite from the drudgery life has waiting for him. Goon proved to be a cult hit, and Goon 2 is in the can and awaiting release in the U.S.
Editor’s note: This article shares blurbs with some of our other streaming guides and is regularly updated for relevance.
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