- Hulu is a day-after destination for many TV obsessives, but it’s also becoming a hive for original series and more obscure shows. Here’s our guide to the best available TV shows on Hulu:
- Hulu is available for $5.99 a month (or $59.99 a year) with ads or $11.99 a month for an ad-free option. There’s also a free trial available: The first month free for Hulu, or the first week free if you’re opting for Hulu Live TV.
Best Animated Shows on Hulu
Matt Groening’s surreal sci-fi comedy about life in the future may never reach the cultural importance of his original hit, The Simpsons, but at least you can rest easy knowing each of its seven seasons is essential viewing. Not bad for a show that’s primarily about a 20th-century pizza boy trying to find his way in the future after being accidentally frozen. Futurama survived cancellation to see a second life on Comedy Central after its original run was rediscovered via Cartoon Network reruns. Futurama works as both classic science-fiction storytelling and a comedic goldmine. Plot threads get set up in the first episode that take years to resolve, but even if you watch the show out of order, the strength of the jokes keeps you laughing even if you’re missing an inside joke. —John-Michael Bond
Do you miss the glory days of The Simpsons? Relive the joy of knowing America’s funniest family with Bob’s Burgers. Bob and Linda Belcher are a working-class married couple doing their best to run the show’s titular burger joint with their three kids. The premise might sound basic, but creator Loren Bouchard (Home Moives, Dr. Katz) has a gift for absurdist comedy and heartfelt stories. The show also features a cast of comedic luminaries like H. Jon Benjamin, Dan Mintz, Kristen Schaal, and Eugene Mirman. If you aren’t watching Bob’s Burgers you’re robbing yourself of joy.
Steve Carell and Nancy Walls created their version of The Naked Gun with TBS show Angie Tribeca. Rashida Jones stars as the titular character, a tough-as-nails cop whose partners keep dying. It’s a spoof of cop procedurals, down to the CSI: Miami scream in the intro, but the physical humor, sight gags, whip-fast dialogue, and in-jokes about branding elevate it to something beyond mere parody. —Audra Schroeder
One Punch Man
What started as a Japanese webcomic has become a sleeper series. One Punch Man focuses on Saitama, an ordinary man with extraordinary strength. In fact, one punch takes out his enemies, a power he often seems indifferent to. There are different classes of heroes, and each episode, Saitama takes on a different foe. There’s also a subtle, dry sense of humor in the series: Saitama’s fights aren’t really all that epic, and the other “superheroes” are kinda assholes. —A.S.
Even if you don’t like anime, give Cowboy Bebop a shot. At just 26 episodes, this neo-noir/space opera is the perfect binge-watching experience. Set to a brilliant jazz score, Cowboy Bebop follows a group of intergalactic bounty hunters as they capture criminals and deal with the existential loneliness their life brings with it. Do you like fight scenes? Cathartic twists? Super intelligent Corgis? Cowboy Bebop has all that and more. Give it one episode, and you’ll see why Cowboy Bebop is regularly called one of the best anime of all time. —J.M.B.
Best Classic Shows on Hulu
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s impossible to overemphasize how groundbreaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer was when it hit TV screens in 1997. Before Buffy, no TV show had successfully pulled off a combination teenage melodrama and legitimate horror, but Josh Whedon and crew rose the challenge. At times feeling a bit like Degrassi: The Vampire Generation, Buffy examines real-world teen issues between the bloodletting, using healthy doses of humor to keep the darkness at bay. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, David Boreanaz, Anthony Head, and the rest of its remarkable cast create believable characters in an extraordinary world. From experimental musical episodes to pitch black stories about teens dealing with the death of parents, Buffy is one of the rare gems of the ’90s.
When Cheers finally went off the air on May 20, 1994, 80.4 million people tuned in to say goodbye. Over 11 seasons the show built a loyal following, thanks to a relatable cast of drunks, intellectuals, goons, and sweethearts. No sitcom in history has featured a cast quite like this, a group of regulars at a local bar who are all running from something. Over the years the characters grew, but the show stuck to its heart: Good-natured joking between friends. It’s little wonder the show helped launch the careers of stars like Ted Danson, Shelley Long, Kelsey Grammer, Woody Harrelson, and Kirstie Alley. Each episode endears you more deeply to the cast as they navigate debts, death, scams, broken hearts, and romantic entanglements. There’s a sweetness to Cheers that feels like a beer on an empty stomach, leaving you feeling warm even after just one.
The Golden Girls
Sitcoms tend to focus on beautiful young people or middle-age adults dealing with family issues. The Golden Girls bucked tradition by centering on four older women in their ‘50s and ‘60s—four extremely horny women in their ‘50s and ‘60s to be exact. The Golden Girls had a brash realness about it, addressing topics ranging from impotence to AIDS with hysterical grace. Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur are brilliant actresses, able to swing from oneliners to heart-rending pain within the same scene.
For the better part of a decade, Family Matters was part of the American Friday night landscape. Originally airing on the legendary TGIF block, home of classic family hits like Boy Meets World and Full House, the show centers on Chicago police officer Carl Winslow and his family. With his three kids, wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew living under one roof, Carl has his hands full, even before Steve Urkel becomes a factor. Urkel was the show’s breakout character, a pop-culture phenomenon that slowly takes over the show by the end of season 9 but begins as an oddly triumphant take on an awkward nerd. Family Matters is a show that can tell serious stories about racist police officers but also pull off “Urkle invents a machine that turns him into a heartthrob” episodes. The swing back and forth would be jarring if the characters weren’t so darn likable.
With Showtime’s revival of the cult classic, now is as good a time as any to revisit the David Lynch and Mark Frost-created show, or jump into the fire for the first time. When Twin Peaks debuted on ABC in 1990, it quickly developed a fanbase enthralled by dream worlds, red rooms, murder, and owls that were not what they seemed. Though ratings couldn’t save it, Twin Peaks challenged what a TV drama could be ensured that 25 years after it went off the air, fans are still obsessed. —A.S
Best Comedies on Hulu
Rick and Morty
Adult Swim has built a fiercely loyal audience over the years by becoming a repository for dark, adult comedic cartoons. Rick and Morty represents the pinnacle of what an Adult Swim show can be. Created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, the series follows a young boy and his mad scientist grandfather through a series of interdimensional adventures that bring chaos to every living creature in the multiverse. Pitch black comedy is rarely sentimental, but Rick and Morty regularly manage to pull genuinely moving moments from even the darkest of scenarios. Season 3 is just around the corner. Thankfully for you seasons 1 and 2 are streaming in their entirety on Hulu. —J.M.B.
This award-winning single camera sitcom stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as upper-middle-class parents who begin to question if their lifestyle is getting in the way of their children’s cultural identity. Sitcoms that tackle issues can easily see their plots overwhelmed with preaching, but Black-ish handles the complicated racial world of modern America with comedic grace and occasionally righteous anger. Politically closer to All in the Family than The Cosby Show, Black-ish is thoughtful without ever forgetting to be funny. —J.M.B.
No show in modern broadcast history has done more to elevate crappy selfish people than Seinfeld, and for that, we owe NBC a debt of gratitude. The famous “show about nothing” has stood the test of time, remaining brutally funny nearly 20 years after its last episode aired. Seinfeld’s singular focus on the awful, awkward reality of everyday interactions gives it a timeless quality sitcoms rarely get to experience. Hulu is the only place you can watch Seinfeld online. Whether you seek to the be the master of your domain or find out what pisses off the Soup Nazi, Seinfeld is there to serve up absurd laughs 21 minutes at a time. —J.M.B.
The Mighty Boosh
This BBC show tells the story of Howard Moon and Vince Noir, two zookeepers whose mundane job often spits them into alternate universes and outlandish musical numbers. While talking animals and mutant creatures like Old Gregg fill out the “Zooniverse,” The Mighty Boosh is really about the friendship between odd couple Howard and Vince. —A.S.
Best Drama Shows on Hulu
This Is Us
If you skipped This Is Us based solely on the melodramatic tearjerker commercials NBC ran to promote it, just know you’re missing out on an incredible drama. Sentimentality is in short supply these days, and this series offers an injection of much needed emotional catharsis. At its root, this tale of three siblings (two biological twins and their adopted brother, all of whom were born on the same day) is about the struggle to stay okay. Intertwining flashbacks to the characters’ teenage years with their adult lives, the show creates a sense of real mystery without cheesy action-packed drama. If you’re looking for an hour each week to shed a hard-earned tear, This Is Us is for you. – J.M.B
Hugh Laurie took home a pair of Golden Globes for his role as the acerbic Dr. Gregory House, and Chance slots him into a similar role as a troubled medical professional. This time he’s Eldon Chance, a San Francisco-based forensic neuropsychiatrist. He gathers every bit of expertise about both the human mind and the criminal mind after he finds himself on the bad side of a patient’s violent spouse, who also happens to be a cop. —D.W.
Fox’s hip-hop soap opera has stormed the ratings and the pop charts thanks to its addictive blendi of hit songs and melodrama. Lucious Lyon, CEO of Empire Entertainment, has to decide the fate of his record label when a medical diagnosis makes it clear his days are numbered. With three talented sons in the running to take over Empire, things are complicated, and the return of his ex-wife Cookie ignites an already volatile situation. That’s just episode one. Starring two Academy Award-winning actors, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, Empire is the best soap opera on TV right now. —J.M.B.
It’s easy to write The Shield off as just another cop show at first glance, but a closer examination reveals a hidden genre masterpiece that’s far darker than its standard peers. How much darker? Hulu categorizes it under Horror and Suspense. Starring Michael Chiklis and Walton Goggins, The Shield follows an experimental anti-gang strike force unit in the LAPD. Drunk with power, the team runs the streets, collaborating with criminals to keep the peace and pad their own pockets. Horrifically violent and tragic, it’s little wonder Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter got his start on the show.
The best Hulu Originals
The Handmaid’s Tale
Based on the ever-relevant novel by Margaret Atwood, women are stripped of all of their rights in the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy formerly known as the U.S. The few women who remain fertile in this near-future dystopia are now Handmaids forced to bear children, and it’s difficult to tell who really believes and who’s playing a part to stay alive when stepping out of line could mean death. With a stunning performance from Elisabeth Moss and an all-star cast including Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Samira Wiley, and Alexis Bledel, the show (along with the fiery anger it sparks) will stick with you long after it ends. —Michelle Jaworski
In this Hulu original, Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner play difficult people, and they’re supported by a cast of characters who display varying degrees of difficulty. In 2015 Klausner, who created and wrote the series, told the Daily Dot, “I wanted to put on television a female and a gay male lead who were not supportive, chipper sidekicks.” She certainly succeeded, creating a show that is as much about celebrity worship as it is friendship. —A.S.
Into the Dark
Hulu’s Into the Dark is an anthology horror movie series from Bloomhouse Pictures, the studio behind The Conjuring. Each month a new 90-minute horror movie is unleashed, drawing on everything from holidays to sci-fi for its tales of terror. Results have been mixed, but its brightest episodes, like one involving a woman who’s cloned every day to teach a man not to kill, are brilliant. Sometimes a slasher, sometimes a ghost story, Into the Dark is always a good time. – J.M.B.
|Check out more of The Best Hulu Originals
Best Sci-Fi Shows on Hulu
This science fiction-tinged comedy from Hulu arrives courtesy of executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The premise—a janitor named Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) is recruited by two resistance fighters from the future named Tiger and Wolf (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson) after beating a video game—is essentially lifted from The Last Starfighter. Future Man acknowledges this, and it offers copious nods Back to the Future and Quantum Leap. But damn if it isn’t funny. —Chris Osterndorf
For a brief, wonderful time, you could stream The X-Files on Netflix in glorious HD, free of commercials. Now your only option is Hulu, but at least the episodes are still in HD. Following the adventures of two FBI agents as they hunt for proof of the supernatural, The X-Files built a massive fanbase over the course of its nine seasons. True believer Fox Mulder and his skeptic partner Dana Scully dig through cases of alien conspiracies, mutant freaks, serial killers, ghosts, and even the odd musical number on their quest to discover the truth. While the last two seasons are a bit hit or miss, the legacy of The X-Files mythology can be felt in like-minded hits like Lost, Heroes, and American Horror Story. —J.M.B.
The Twilight Zone
Science fiction and horror are playgrounds for different ideas to flourish, and The Twilight Zone pushed each genre to their limits. This anthology’s 156 episodes of standalone stories spin tales of evil dolls, mischievous aliens, cunning demons, language errors, and more into nightmarish 25-minute morsels. Modern viewers might worry about the special effects holding up, but the storytelling sells even the silliest moments. Sometimes the monsters are a little rubbery, but if Talking Tina doesn’t give you nightmares, you’re a braver soul than me.
After The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling hosted this anthology series, in which he introduces tales of the bizarre in front of creepy paintings in his “night gallery.” The show was heavier on horror than The Twilight Zone, and featured appearances from Joan Crawford and Phyllis Diller, as well as the TV directorial debut of some guy named Steven Spielberg. —A.S.
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Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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