The best movies on Hulu

The best movies on Hulu

Clockwise from top left: Colossal (Neon); Mission: Impossible-Fallout (Paramount Pictures); Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (Neon); Super 8 (Paramount Pictures); Parasite (Neon)
Clockwise from top left: Colossal (Neon); Mission: Impossible-Fallout (Paramount Pictures); Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (Neon); Super 8 (Paramount Pictures); Parasite (Neon)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options, broken down by streamer, medium, and genre. Want to know why we’re so keen on a particular show? Click the movie title at the top of each slide for some in-depth coverage from The A.V. Club’s past. And be sure to check back often, because we’ll be adding more recommendations as films come and go.

There are plenty of great classic films available as part of your standard Hulu subscription, but this list was first compiled of movies featured on The A.V. Club’s Best of the Year lists and ballots going back to 2010. We continue to update it as new movies are added to Hulu’s library.

Looking for other movies to stream? Also check out our list of the best movies on Netflix, best movies on Disney+, and best movies on Amazon Prime.

This list was most recently updated Oct. 1, 2020.

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2 / 80

’71

’71

Jack O’Connell in ’71
Jack O’Connell in ’71
Photo: Universal Pictures

What might a movie called ’71 be about? The Pentagon Papers? War between India and Pakistan? The release of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album? Had director Yann Demange taken a cue from Vincent Gallo (Buffalo ’66) and called his film Belfast ’71, no confusion would be possible. Arguably the most violent year in the history of the Troubles, 1971 saw riots (in response to mass internment of nationalists by British security forces) that prompted thousands to flee Northern Ireland, and culminated with the December 4 bombing of McGurk’s Bar, which killed 15 people. Demange’s film, a work of fiction, doesn’t dramatize any of these specific events, but it captures, with harrowing intensity, the chaos and terror of the era, depicting a single night during which a particularly green British soldier gets separated from his unit in the Catholic part of Belfast—a foul-up that practically amounts to a death sentence. [Mike D’Angelo]

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3 / 80

American Ultra

American Ultra

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: American Ultra

American Ultra is one of those geeky genre mishmashes that’s very clever about being dumb. Written by Max Landis (Chronicle), the movie takes a one-joke premise—“What if Jason Bourne couldn’t remember his past because he was baked all the time?”—and gives it more layers of shading than a viewer probably has any right to expect. Nima Nourizadeh’s direction skews eclectic: overhead shots, extreme telephoto close-ups, quasi-ironic slow-mo sequences, digitally composited long takes. The violence is exaggerated into explosive blood spurts and doors ripped apart by gunfire—the stuff of scrappier genre fare, in which the viewer gets hooked on the fun the filmmakers must have had in making it. It’s demented, occasionally inspired, and often very funny. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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4 / 80

Annihilation

Annihilation

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Annihilation (Paramount Pictures

Alex Garland’s bewitching follow-up to Ex Machina is the answer to a question unasked: What if a chilling piece of science fiction were also a tone poem? Exploring the notions of love, betrayal, hopelessness, fear, rage, and identity through flower-people, screaming bears, and a gorgeous atrocity in a lighthouse, Annihilation proves itself to be every bit as alluring and upsetting as the anomaly on which it centers. [Allison Shoemaker]

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5 / 80

Any Given Sunday

Any Given Sunday

Jamie Foxx and Al Pacino
Jamie Foxx and Al Pacino
Screenshot: Any Given Sunday

Oliver Stone employs his hyper-stylized aesthetics for a titanic, from-all-angles portrait of professional football in Any Given Sunday, an all-star 1999 film that brazenly strives for Shakespearean grandeur, thanks in part to the scripting of playwright-turned-screenwriter John Logan. At the center of this gladiatorial gridiron epic is Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), wearied championship coach of the Miami Sharks, who’s grappling with numerous dilemmas, from the disloyalty of owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) to his lovelorn loneliness to—most crucially of all—a severe injury to his veteran quarterback Cap Rooney (Dennis Quaid). The last of those problems manifests itself in the opening sequence, and sets the stage for the emergence of third-string QB “Steamin’” Willie Beamen (Jamie Foxx), an arrogant bad boy who quickly becomes a league and media sensation, even as he slowly alienates his coach and teammates—including Lawrence Taylor’s linebacker and LL Cool J’s running back—with his me-first attitude. Those are only a few of the issues tackled by Any Given Sunday, which manages to touch upon the myriad ways that money, sex, race, gender, fame, ego, fear, amorality, and greed factor into the sport. [Nick Schrager]

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6 / 80

Apollo 11

Apollo 11

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Apollo 11 (Neon

Shutting down conspiracy theorists probably wasn’t high on director Todd Douglas Miller’s to-do list when he was making the documentary Apollo 11. So just consider it a bonus that his film about the first manned moon landing is so immersive that it feels like it’s happening in real-time on screen—and definitively un-faked. Apollo 11 doesn’t run through the usual grainy footage that has been recycled from doc to doc: those well-worn shots of a booster rocket falling to Earth, Neil Armstrong exiting the “Eagle” module, the American flag being planted, Buzz Aldrin hopping around on the lunar surface, and the big final splashdown. Instead, Miller and a team of editors, historians, and government archivists have dug deep into the NASA and broadcast news vaults, finding angles and audio that in some cases no one has seen or heard in 50 years, if at all. Everything looks strikingly fresh… and overwhelmingly so. [Noel Murray]

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7 / 80

The Assistant

The Assistant

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: The Assistant

As its title indicates, The Assistant looks at a powerful serial abuser—at the patterns of exploitation, at the network of enablers he builds around himself over several decades—through the at-once limited and privileged perspective of someone very low on the totem pole of his empire. Her name is Jane (Julia Garner, Emmy-winning costar of Ozark) and for 87 minutes, we’re immersed in her professional world, a mundane and exhausting and sometimes degrading series of routines through which the undeniable evidence of transgression emerges. Perhaps dramatization is the wrong word. The Assistant is more of a spartan procedural, its narrative a methodical accounting of one day—typical in incident, atypical in dawning realization—for an entry-level employee at the New York production house of a Weinstein-like figure. “First in, last out,” Jane is shown, in the wordless opening passage, climbing into a car in the dark early hours of the morning, making the long commute from Astoria to the cluttered Manhattan office building where she toils tirelessly seven days a week. We’ll see her turn on lights and electronics, open bottles of water, take phone calls, unclog printers, sign for packages, book flights and hotels, even babysit the children of women who come to meet with Him behind closed doors. [A.A. Dowd]

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8 / 80

Babyteeth

Babyteeth

Babyteeth
Babyteeth
Photo: IFC Films

Eliza Scanlen, best known abroad for playing little-sister roles in HBO’s Sharp Objects miniseries and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, stars as Milla, a sheltered 15-year-old cancer patient who falls immediately and hard for Moses (Toby Wallace), the scuzzy 23-year-old drifter who literally runs into her on a train platform in the opening scene. It’s obvious from the start that Moses is trouble, and not just because he looks like a Soundcloud rapper. He’s also a one-man illegal pharmacy who’s caught stealing pills from Milla’s psychiatrist dad Henry (Ben Mendelsohn) more than once before Henry invites him to move in. You read that correctly; after several attempts to keep him and Milla apart, Henry and his wife Anna (Essie Davis) invite Moses to come live with the family, as a comfort for their daughter in the last weeks of her life. Sure, Moses is a drug dealer. But so’s Henry, in his way. Both Murphy and screenwriter Rita Kalnejais view the grey areas of this unconventional arrangement both cuttingly and compassionately; their film is less cynical than Cory Finely’s Thoroughbreds but in the same polished black-comedy wheelhouse. In playing along with Milla’s fantasy of a great romance in her dying days, Anna, Henry, and Moses create a convincing replica of a happy family that’s both comically demented— “He’s a drug dealer!” Anna cries after first meeting Moses; “Don’t pigeonhole him like that!” her daughter snaps back—and oddly sweet. [Katie Rife]

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9 / 80

Blade

Blade

Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes
Screenshot: Blade

Within that genre, it’s an absolute classic, a fast and cheap American studio B-movie that integrated the tricks and physicality of Hong Kong martial arts movies and helped prepare the world for The Matrix. In the superhero realm, though, it might be even more important. Blade established a foothold for Marvel, which turned out to be huge. With Blade, Goyer and Stephen Norrington, the British director whose only previous credit was the horror flick Death Machine, constructed a world with a dazzling efficiency. Blade shows us a whole hidden society: a vampire world with its own politics and prejudices and grudges, operating in plain sight, with the cooperation of human authorities. The movie reveals its world piece by piece. Blade doesn’t devote its entire first act to its hero’s origin story. Instead, we’re halfway into the movie before we even learn how Blade has his powers, and we only get that story in a quick monologue from Whistler, Blade’s grizzled sidekick. When Blade first shows up—appearing suddenly at a blood-rave without a drop of hemoglobin on him, the entire room cowering at the sight of him—we know all about him that we need to know. And so the movie throws us headlong into action, giving us a truly great fight scene before Blade so much as says a single word. (If only more superhero movies had that sense of momentum.) [Tom Briehan]

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10 / 80

Blade II

Blade II

Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes
Screenshot: Blade II

Wesley Snipes returns to vampire-slaying duty in Blade II, and while he still cuts a grim figure, he’s surrounded by a film that’s everything Blade should have been but wasn’t: stylish, fast-paced, and comfortable with its own ridiculousness. Taking place two years after the original, Blade II finds Snipes’ half-human, half-vampire warrior fighting a new enemy: a vampiric super-sect so dangerous and feared that even the malevolent vampire establishment wants it destroyed. Having devoted his life to fighting vampires, Snipes is understandably reluctant to aid his hated foes, but agrees to help destroy the new breed before it can take over the earth. [Nathan Rabin]

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11 / 80

Border

Border

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Border (Neon

Like the eccentrically gifted border-patrol agent at its center, Border is a rare and special thing. It’s a highbrow surrealist cringe comedy with a grim police-procedural subplot, a tragic tale of star-crossed love between fairytale creatures, and a challenging philosophical thought exercise with unforgettably bizarre sex scenes. The less you know about the specifics of its plot going in, the better, but suffice to say that the screenplay from Ali Abbasi, Isabella Eklöf, and Let The Right One In’s John Ajvide Lindqvist won’t be replicated any time soon. [Katie Rife]

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12 / 80

The Cabin In The Woods

The Cabin In The Woods

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: The Cabin In The Woods

Where Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, The Cabin In The Woods takes on the whole genre and twists even harder. Director Drew Goddard, screenwriter of Cloverfield and a veteran of Lost and Alias, co-wrote the film’s script with Joss Whedon, who worked with him on Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. The script brings to the fore Whedon’s love of subverting clichés while embracing them and teasing out their deeper meaning. [Keith Phipps]

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13 / 80

The Challenge

The Challenge

The Challenge - Official Trailer
The Challenge - Official Trailer
Screenshot: kinolorber

Less a traditional documentary than a superb photography collection in which the pictures all move, Yuri Ancarani’s The Challenge doesn’t bother with exposition, or even with basic contextualization. Nobody gets interviewed, and the film’s subject is never formally announced in any way. Instead, Ancarani serves up various outré images—an airplane with hooded falcons in every seat; SUVs drag-racing over sand dunes; a sheikh and a cheetah in a Lamborghini—that gradually create a portrait of phenomenally wealthy, incredibly bored Qatari men. Whether one chooses to see The Challenge as an indictment of the idle mega-rich or as a gorgeous aesthetic object (it can arguably be both) is a matter of taste. Nobody, however, could possibly deny that it features some of the most stunning falcon-cam shots ever captured. [Mike D’Angelo]

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14 / 80

Clemency

Clemency

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Clemency

Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency begins not with an act of mercy but a state-sanctioned death. The details are agonizing: a weeping mother clutching a rosary; the squeaking leather of the straps on a lethal injection table; a pool of blood forming around the needle transmitting first sedative, then poison. That horrifying introduction is in line with most movies about prison, which nearly exclusively focus on the dehumanizing experience of incarceration, from classics like Papillon and Cool Hand Luke to the more contemporary Starred Up and A Prayer Before Dawn. But Clemency subverts expectations with an unblinking exploration of how serving as a state-approved executor of the death penalty is its own form of degradation. Alfre Woodard captures with exquisite nuance the emotional and physical toll it might take on someone, spending years overseeing executions; she grounds the film, which otherwise strikes a balance between broad empathy and a pointed call for criminal justice reform. [Roxana Hadadi]

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15 / 80

Coherence

Coherence

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Coherence

Shot in a single location (director James Ward Byrkit’s house) with a tiny budget and a largely unknown cast, this fiendishly clever throwback to golden-age Twilight Zone mindfucks assembles eight yuppie friends for a dinner party and then unleashes hell when a comet passes over them. The power goes out all over the neighborhood, with the exception of a single house down the block; when a couple of guys go over there to check it out, they return with a box—which contains individual photos of the whole group, each with an unexplained number on the back—and a crazy story. Or do they return? Byrkit and Alex Manugian (who’s also part of the cast) devised a freaky exercise in escalating paranoia, then had the actors improvise their way through the narrative, not knowing what would happen next. Miraculously, the result plays like tightly scripted drama, building relentlessly toward a decisive moment for one character in particular. Those with a little layman’s knowledge of quantum physics will be extra prepared for the question Coherence ultimately poses: If there are an infinite number of things you could be doing with your life right now, why on earth are you doing that? (But keep reading, please.) [Mike D’Angelo]

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16 / 80

Colossal

Colossal

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Colossal (Neon

Colossal’s early April release date all but eliminated star Anne Hathaway from the 2017 awards-season conversation, which is a shame because she turns in a witty, sympathetic performance as Gloria, a self-destructive alcoholic who discovers that she has a psychic connection to the giant monster who started ravaging Seoul right around the time she moved back home in disgrace. At first, this high-concept sci-fi drama appears to be pushing a straightforward (and rather obvious) metaphor for alcoholism. But by the surprisingly moving final scene, Nacho Vigalondo, who wrote as well as directed the film, deftly pivots it into a much more interesting statement about toxic masculinity, as well as a character study of a woman taking back her life from the forces, both internal and external, that want to tear her down. [Katie Rife]

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17 / 80

The Commuter

The Commuter

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: The Commuter (Lionsgate

Non-Stop on a train,” the latest collaboration between Liam Neeson and B-movie whiz Jaume Collet-Serra is a dazzlingly contrived and compartmentalized funhouse thriller that casts the towering Irish actor as a debt-ridden insurance salesman (and ex-cop) who becomes the fall guy for a bizarre conspiracy on his commute home. A delirious blend of Hitchcock, Fincher, and post-subprime-crisis middle-class anxiety, The Commuter jumps the rails (literally and figuratively) in its third act. But for much of its running time, it’s the Platonic ideal of a January release: rollicking, screwy, and pissed-off. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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18 / 80

The Day Shall Come

The Day Shall Come

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: The Day Shall Come (IFC Films

The frustrations humming just beneath the surface of The Day Shall Come, the bitter and bracingly funny political satire from British dark-comedy master Chris Morris, are evident in its opening text: “Based on a hundred true stories.” If Morris’ first film, the implausibly hilarious suicide bomber farce Four Lions, deliberately raised questions about where its audience’s sympathies should land, his second feature is unequivocal. What else are we to make of a movie about a terrorist plot in which every single gun, rocket launcher, and dirty bomb ingredient is bought, paid for, and provided by the U.S. government? [William Hughes]

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19 / 80

Drugstore Cowboy

Drugstore Cowboy

Matt Dillon
Matt Dillon
Screenshot: Drugstore Cowboy

Released in 1989 but set in 1971, Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy, adapted from a then-unpublished novel by James Fogle, concerns the exploits of four junkies, led by Matt Dillon, who rob pharmacies and hospitals of whatever potent prescription meds they can find. I’m not nearly enough of a connoisseur to know how the effects of Dilaudid and Percocet differ from those of marijuana, and in any case, it’s not always clear what the film’s characters are on at a given moment, or how recently they scored. But it doesn’t matter. Whatever the source, they’re addled beyond belief while remaining recognizably human at all times. Just as real-life drunks tend to over-enunciate because they’re afraid they may slur, real-life druggies are often more self-conscious than the clean and sober, which is precisely what fuels their tortured reasoning. Capturing that behavior may not be a laugh riot à la Pineapple Express or Half Baked, but what comedy is there, rooted in recognition, hits much closer to home. [Mike D’Angelo]

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20 / 80

The Duke Of Burgundy

The Duke Of Burgundy

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: The Duke Of Burgundy

At first glance, Peter Strickland’s misleadingly titled romance—it’s named after a butterfly, and takes place in an alternate universe devoid of men—appears to be a riff on European softcore films from the 1970s. Gradually, however, the master/servant relationship between Cynthia (Borgens Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) takes on unexpected dimensions, as it becomes clear who’s really in charge and who’s struggling mightily to meet her lover’s needs. For all its surface-level kinkiness (including a hilarious conversation with the vendor of a custom-made “human toilet”), The Duke Of Burgundy is less concerned with sex per se than with the inherent difficulties involved in sharing your life with another person, which sometimes requires a sincere effort to share their interests even when you’re not especially interested. It’s not every film that can achieve overpowering emotional catharsis using water sports as a metaphor. [Mike D’Angelo]

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21 / 80

Fast Color

Fast Color

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Fast Color (Codeblack Films

Apologies to Captain Marvel, the Avengers, and the kids of Shazam, but the best superhero story of the year (on film at least) was Julia Hart’s intimate post-apocalyptic family drama. Anchored by the tremendous Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Hart’s film takes a bunch of familiar tropes and breathes new life into them by folding in issues of fear, addiction, and race. It’s also beautiful—give me Fast Color’s spare special effects over the bombastic blockbusters any day. [Allison Shoemaker]

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22 / 80

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Friends With Kids

While it’s true that most romantic comedies merely make minor tweaks to a rusted-out formula, it’s also true that many critics approach rom-coms with a sense of eye-rolling obligation, while solidly unspectacular movies like Lockout get praised to the skies. There’s formula in Jennifer Westfeldt’s directorial debut, but feeling as well. And anyone who thinks it’s far-fetched to see two friends of opposite gender agreeing to raise a child while they continue to date other people hasn’t touched base with single urbanites in their late 30s recently. (It’s absurd, but only by about 10 percent.) If nothing else, the film deserves endless praise for its bombshell kicker, a final line that blasts through the coy innuendo at the heart of most screen romances. [Sam Adams]

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23 / 80

Gemini

Gemini

Gemini
Gemini
Photo: Neon Releasing

Let’s get this out of the way up-front: Aaron Katz’s low-key neo-noir about the thorny friendship between an actress (Zoe Kravitz) and her beleaguered assistant (Lola Kirke) is too subdued for a flashy payoff. But that doesn’t mean it lacks flash; this is Katz’s most visually distinctive film yet, awash in neon and street-light, creating a Los Angeles that gains a kind of clarity and personality at night, even when the characters are throw into a confounding mystery. The movie’s thematic concerns are more subtle, considering Hollywood morality with an enigmatic (and half-comic) flair that will strike some as insubstantial. But its mood and images linger. [Jesse Hassenger]

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24 / 80

Good Hair

Good Hair

Chris Rock
Chris Rock
Screenshot: Good Hair

Is it possible to talk about the fascinating and complex universe of black hair without dealing with race and identity? That’s the question posed by Good Hair, director Jeff Stilson and co-writer/producer/narrator/star Chris Rock’s charming new comic exploration of African-American hair. The film is filled with sadly telling moments, like a black beauty student telling Rock that she’d have a hard time taking a job applicant seriously if he had an afro, yet its tone is one of amusement rather than indignation. Rock is an entertainer, not a polemicist, and Good Hair will never be mistaken for a college course in African American Hair And Racial Identity, though it does stress the pain women will endure and the exorbitant prices they’ll pay to keep up with follicular trends. To the film’s subjects, paying thousands for a complicated, high-maintenance weave is less a luxury than a necessity, even for those low on the socio-economic scale. Borrowing moves from Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, Good Hair alternates funny, candid talking-head interviews with famous folks like Nia Long, Ice-T, Al Sharpton, and Raven Symone with prankish stunts like Rock trying to sell African-American hair on the street and an extended trip to the Bronner Brothers Hair Show. During the climactic Hair Show competition, stylists battle in flamboyant production numbers that take showmanship to comic extremes, from a fuzzily conceived bar scene involving an aquarium and underwater hair-styling to a dizzy spectacle involving more or less an entire marching band. [Nathan Rabin]

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25 / 80

Hail Satn?

Hail Satn?

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Hail Satn? (Magnolia Pictures

What makes a religion, anyway? Historically, Christian churches have served as community centers for their congregants, provided those congregants conformed to a certain moral code. More recently, thanks to the evangelical movement’s (re)positioning of itself as the “moral majority” in the wake of Roe v. Wade, those functions have evolved into something blatantly political, as evidenced by that community’s hypocritical embrace of twice-divorced adulterer Donald Trump. So why not take the good parts of religion—the camaraderie, the organization—and use them to advance a more liberal moral and political agenda, one that values pluralism and bodily autonomy over all? And as long as you’re fighting back against creeping crypto-fascist theocracy, why not do it in the name of Satan? He has the best music, after all. That’s basically how The Satanic Temple came to be, as it’s depicted in documentarian Penny Lane’s film about the group, Hail Satan? [Katie Rife]

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26 / 80

Hounds Of Love

Hounds Of Love

Hounds Of Love
Hounds Of Love
Photo: Factor 30 Films

Hounds Of Love is a striking film, but it’s not a fun one to watch. Australian director Ben Young’s pseudo-true-crime character piece dramatizes the cycles that enable domestic abuse by taking them to their extremes, examining why someone would participate in the most heinous of crimes in an attempt to please their partner. Stephen Curry and Emma Booth star as John and Evelyn White, a working-class couple whose relationship revolves around the kidnapping, torture, and murder of young women; the majority of the film focuses on one of those women, headstrong teenager Vicki Mahoney (Ashleigh Cummings), and how her captivity disrupts the Whites’ sick domestic routine. Booth gives a standout performance as Evelyn, whose shattered psyche forms the broken heart of the film, and for a first-time director, Young shows remarkable control, giving Hounds Of Love moments of visual beauty to offset all of its emotional ugliness. [Katie Rife]

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27 / 80

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker

Anthony Mackie and Jeremy Renner
Anthony Mackie and Jeremy Renner
Screenshot: The Hurt Locker

Over the course of the Iraq War, reports of people killed and maimed by the crude roadside bombs known as IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) became commonplace. And yet the people who save lives by defusing such bombs remained largely untrumpeted. Kathryn Bigelow’s nerve-jangling thriller The Hurt Locker seeks to redress the balance, but it wouldn’t be accurate to describe the film as merely a paean to American courage and derring-do. Granted, the members of the Army bomb squad are a courageous lot, and Bigelow and journalist screenwriter Mark Boal (who was embedded with a unit in 2004) treat them with proper reverence. Yet there’s a kind of madness that comes with the job, where the hair-raising, red-wire/blue-wire stresses of day-to-day life can make some soldiers punch-drunk on adrenaline. With his brash, devil-may-care cockiness and good-ol’-boy swagger, Jeremy Renner recalls Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now. Both men have seen and survived so much that they project a dangerous aura of invincibility. Called in to take over for the fallen leader of a three-person bomb squad, Renner is precisely the wrong replacement: With the other two men, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, still reeling over their loss, Renner drags them ever more recklessly into sticky situations on the streets of Baghdad. Though Renner’s skills are as undeniable as his extraordinary resolve, Mackie in particular takes exception to his eccentric tactics and abandonment of protocol. At the same time, Mackie recognizes that they both have a job to do. [Scott Tobias]

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28 / 80

I, Tonya

I, Tonya

I, Tonya
I, Tonya
Photo: Neon

From the opening minutes of Craig Gillespie’s unreliably narrated, glibly entertaining biopic I, Tonya, it’s clear that Margot Robbie has disappeared into the role of disgraced figure skater and pop culture punching bag Tonya Harding. It’s not a precise imitation: However hard the wardrobe and makeup teams have worked to deglamorize this glamorous Hollywood star, she still doesn’t look much like the person she’s playing—a truth reinforced by the obligatory, closing-credits appearance by the real Harding, conquering the ice in archival footage. But as she wraps her mouth around a cigarette, a cornpone accent, and some well-delivered profanity, Robbie channels the antagonistic, take-no-shit attitude of her infamous “character,” while adding notes of disappointment and even dignity missing from every headline or Hard Copy treatment of The Tonya Harding Story. In the process, the actor wrestles a rare role worthy of her abilities from an industry that’d just as soon keep her in bubbles. [A.A. Dowd]

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29 / 80

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Raoul Peck’s docu-essay I Am Not Your Negro is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, speaking in a voice so low and affected that he hardly sounds like himself. He doesn’t quite sound like James Baldwin either—or at least not like the mellifluous, twangy Baldwin seen in the old clips from talk shows and public affairs programs scattered throughout Peck’s film. Jackson sounds more like the author late at night, exhausted, half-whispering bitter truths into a tape recorder. I Am Not Your Negro could be considered one of the final statements from a great American writer, and it’s a sadly resigned one, summarizing centuries of overt and subtle racism and expressing a feeling of hopelessness. To say that this movie is as relevant now as it was when Baldwin was alive is no great analytical leap. The trends of these times would not have surprised the man himself. As repeated throughout Peck’s film, Baldwin never had much faith that black people could ever live in a United States where they’d wake up in the morning without at least some worry that they’d be shot dead by nightfall. [Noel Murray]

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30 / 80

If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk
If Beale Street Could Talk
Photo: Annapurna Pictures

Barry Jenkins’ dazzling adaptation of a 1974 novel by James Baldwin approaches the blossoming love between Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) with great reverence, cinematographer James Laxton capturing the almost internal glow they radiate, as Nicholas Britell’s score swells and swoons. Yet an undercurrent of tragedy runs through even the film’s most sun-kissed moments, not just the ones of hardship. Baldwin’s story, remarkably adapted by Jenkins as his follow-up to the Oscar-winning Moonlight, looks upon the injustice laced throughout the lives of black Americans with the same steadfast gaze the film turns on its moments of tenderness. It’s all there, found in the blue skies; in Fonny’s sculptures; in the thoughtful performances of Layne, James, and standouts Regina King, Colman Domingo, and Brian Tyree Henry; and in the warmth that passes between two palms pressed together, even when they’re separated by glass. [Allison Shoemaker]

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31 / 80

The Impossible

The Impossible

Tom Holland and Naomi Watts
Tom Holland and Naomi Watts
Screenshot: The Impossible

Whether it’s a responsible choice to turn a real-life disaster into a stunning special effect—or to depict the natives of Thailand as “obstacles,” as opposed to people who’ve just had their own lives upended—is worth debating further. But The Impossible ultimately isn’t about the tsunami and its victims per se; it’s about this one family, and their resourcefulness in the face of disaster. Bayona’s tsunami sequence is bound to garner accolades—and rightfully so, since it’s 10 of the most harrowing minutes in recent film history—but the film is filled with smaller but no less gripping scenes of the characters scrambling toward each other, agonizingly slowly, amid a landscape of wreckage and strangers. On the whole, The Impossible is a superb example of the “man against the elements” film, driven by the panic that sets in when one family member fears never seeing the others again. With that as his starting point, Bayona deftly pushes the audience’s buttons. [Noel Murray]

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32 / 80

Joe

Joe

Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan
Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan
Screenshot: Joe

These days, the performances of Nicolas Cage can usually be divided into one of two categories. The actor is either outright bad, in that lazy Con Air kind of way, mumbling through his lines and defaulting to sullen action-star mode. Or—and this is much more fun, obviously—he’s good bad, offering the kind of bellowing, cartoon-junkie intensity that seems readymade for YouTube encapsulation. (The Wicker Man remake may be awful, but because of its star and his lunatic line readings, it’s rarely boring.) Every once in a while, though, Cage does the unthinkable and offers a performance that requires neither apologies nor camp appreciation. For two hours or so, he becomes a magnetic actor again, the same vibrant presence who wowed audiences with his work in Leaving Las Vegas and Adaptation. He is, in these rare instances, just plain good. That Cage, the serious and committed one, shows up for work again in Joe, a ramshackle Southern drama about poverty, dead-end lives, and the day-to-day difficulty of keeping your hands clean in a dirty world. [A.A. Dowd]

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33 / 80

Killer Joe

Killer Joe

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey topped a resurgent 2012 as the eponymous character in Killer Joe, a redneck noir that bristles with sleazy wit. McConaughey plays a police detective who moonlights as a contract killer, a double life that gives McConaughey an advantage in investigative cover-ups (see also: Morgan, Dexter), but one that requires careful management so McConaughey doesn’t cross the streams. He’s utterly psychotic, but he keeps his anger and creepy peccadilloes in check while spending much of his time leveraging power and control from the desperate, greedy pond scum that requires his services. Whatever threat he poses is hidden behind the eyes. [Scott Tobias]

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34 / 80

The Last Mistress

The Last Mistress

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: The Last Mistress

Early in The Last Mistress, a quietly sinister period drama based on Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly’s scandalous 19th-century novel, a pair of old gossips discuss the engagement of a virginal aristocrat to a notorious libertine. They worry the naïve young woman is overmatched, but more ruinous still is the possibility of love: “In love,” one says, “the first to suffer has lost.” And with that, all the film’s period trappings can no longer hide the act that we’re in the world of Catherine Breillat, the French director behind Fat Girl, Romance, and other frank chronicles of bedroom politics. For Breillat, love and exploitation go hand in glove, because the more people give themselves over to each other, the more vulnerable they become. And once two people share that lasting a connection, a power struggle intensifies and the real suffering begins. [Scott Tobias]

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35 / 80

The Last Race

The Last Race

“The Last Race - Trailer”
“The Last Race - Trailer”
Screenshot: Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing

There were plenty of celebrated documentaries in 2018, but my favorite by far (which few of my colleagues even saw) was noted photographer Michael Dweck’s formally dazzling portrait of Long Island’s last surviving stock-car racetrack. This isn’t a subculture in which I have any inherent interest—quite the contrary, in fact—but The Last Race enthralled me by making it strange and beautiful. [Mike D’Angelo]

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36 / 80

Luce

Luce

Luce
Luce
Photo: Neon

There’s a scene early in Luce, a riveting psychodrama about race and preconceptions, that’s as tense as any thriller, and all it really comes down to is two people talking in a classroom, their deceptively polite conversation shading into passive-aggressive antagonism. One of the two is the title character, a beaming A-student played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. The other is his government and history teacher, Ms. Wilson (Octavia Spencer), the only instructor at their Virginia high school who ever seems to challenge the star athlete, debate-club champion, and soon-to-be valedictorian—though she, too, views him as an “important example to the school,” a Black kid who’s climbed his way to the top of the class. Harrison perfectly captures the poise and charisma of an academic golden child, the kind who knows just how to talk to adults, projecting sincerity and gratitude with just a touch of good humor, so as not to come off an unlikable, Tracy Flick-like overachiever. But the actor also lets us see, early and often, how that congeniality is a kind of front: a whole manufactured persona Luce can toggle on or off. And as Ms. Wilson carefully questions the promising pupil about an assignment he’s turned in that’s raised some red flags for her, his mask of ingratiation slips, just long enough for him to issue what sounds an awful lot like a veiled threat. It’s a remarkable, chilling performance: from Harrison, certainly, but also from his character, playing code-switching mind games with his teacher. [A.A. Dowd]

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37 / 80

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson
Screenshot: Mad Max Thunderdome

Beyond Thunderdome is set roughly 15 years after Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, in an Australian wasteland seemingly salvaged from bits of Lawrence Of Arabia, spaghetti Westerns, Peter Pan, and Metal Hurlant. It finds series protagonist Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) visiting two contrasting societies: the proto-capitalist, pig-powered Bartertown, and The Crack In The Earth, an oasis inhabited by feral children who have created a cargo cult around a crashed 747. Though Beyond Thunderdome’s worldview might be dichotomous to a fault, it takes on a certain elegance in the dialogue. Max, the only character who speaks in identifiably modern English, serves as the audience surrogate. Bartertown is trapped in Autny’s catchphrases. The kids, with their shifty grammar, suggest an evolving language, and a hope for the future. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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38 / 80

March Of The Penguins

March Of The Penguins

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: March Of The Penguins

Penguins, nature’s very own headwaiters, seem to be experiencing a pop-cultural renaissance. In the funny pages, Bloom County’s neurotic, flightless Opus has his own eponymous strip, while at the multiplexes, a squad of gung-ho penguins is currently stealing Madagascar. But the glacially beautiful documentary March Of The Penguins confirms that no computer-animated or hand-drawn penguin could ever match the curious majesty of the genuine article. Informational and breathtaking, March Of The Penguins pays unforgettable tribute to magnificent creatures that, like the similarly far-fetched duckbilled platypus, prove evolution’s genius and surprisingly wacky sense of humor. [Nathan Rabin]

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39 / 80

Margin Call

Margin Call

Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley
Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley
Screenshot: Margin Call

Set during one long 24-hour period, Margin Call opens at a Lehman Brothers-like New York investment firm that’s resting its century-plus history on a rapidly crumbling foundation. After a veteran risk-management officer (Stanley Tucci) loses his job in the latest round of layoffs, he leaves his egghead protégé (Zachary Quinto) with a flash drive and urges him to look at the information on it. As Quinto analyzes the data, he discovers that the company is severely overleveraged, and if market trends curve even slightly in the wrong direction, the health of the firm—and the entire global economic system—could be in jeopardy. At its best, Margin Call feels like the Fail Safe of our time, a doomsday thriller where the fate of the world rests on a few people with their fingers on the button. [Scott Tobias]

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40 / 80

Master And Commaner: The Far Side Of The World

Master And Commaner: The Far Side Of The World

Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe
Screenshot: Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The Earth

Estimates put the budget of Peter Weir’s Master And Commander, a mega-production backed by three major studios, somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 million. That’s a staggering amount of money by any measure, but a solid percentage of it appears to have made it to the screen. With imposing scale, it captures the weight and proportion of early-19th-century warships in a way that digital effects could never express. A stately answer to today’s more fleet-footed action-adventure films, Master And Commander simply revolves around a cat-and-mouse game between one large ship and another with twice its guns and manpower. But the story’s simplicity helps elevate the battle to a colossal stage. Patched together from three of Patrick O’Brian’s serial novels, Master And Commander takes place in 1805, against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, which pit the British Navy’s H.M.S. Surprise against a formidable French opponent. On a production of this magnitude, few actors have the presence to assert themselves above the cacophony, but Crowe carries the film with the rare combination of charisma and brute masculinity that has made him a star. [Scott Tobias]

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41 / 80

Meek’s Cutoff

Meek’s Cutoff

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Meek’s Cutoff

Following three families on an arduous journey through the Cascade Mountains via the Oregon Trail in 1845, director Kelly Reichardt adopts the austerity and pace of Gus Van Sant’s “death trilogy,” especially Gerry, which also conveyed the sheer ardor of traveling on foot to a water source that’s perpetually beyond the horizon. Yet Meek’s Cutoff isn’t a minimalist experiment: Instead, it advances a story full of tension and slow-burning suspense, as the fates of weary pioneers rest in the hands of two men of dubious intent. [Scott Tobias]

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42 / 80

Minding The Gap

Minding The Gap

Minding The Gap
Minding The Gap
Photo: Kartemquin

From the house that fronted Hoop Dreams comes another absorbing, heartbreaking documentary about coming of age on the economic fringe of the American Midwest. It’s boards, not basketball, that the young subjects of Minding The Gap looked to as an escape hatch, back when they were teenagers delivering themselves, an afternoon at a time, from the shared trauma of their home lives. Bing Liu, the director, was one of them, a budding filmmaker shooting skating videos with his friends. Returning to his old stomping grounds of Rockford, Illinois, he catches up with these childhood companions, still haunted by the abuse they experienced as kids, which has shaped their adulthoods in ways both obvious and not. As usual, the Kartemquin long-term filming model pays enormous dramatic dividends. But Liu is just as interested in where these real lives have been as where they’re headed, because the two are intimately related—just one profound takeaway from his multifaceted portrait of boys growing into men, trying to outpace their demons along the way. [A.A. Dowd]

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43 / 80

Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Mission: Impossible—Fallout

Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Mission: Impossible — Fallout
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Only about 30 rocket-paced minutes have whizzed by before Mission: Impossible­—Fallout first flirts with truly impossible odds. Ethan Hunt, the human missile of American intelligence that Tom Cruise has been popping back in to play for more than 20 years now, is masquerading as a mysterious terrorist, the perfectly named John Lark, to buy back some plutonium he’s lost to a cabal of doomsday extremists. The bad guys, alas, will accept only one form of payment: the sneering anarchist supervillain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), who Hunt put away in the last Mission: Impossible and is now forced to bust out of police custody to avert nuclear catastrophe. Forget, for a moment, the risk that our hero will unleash the world’s most dangerous man back on the world. How, exactly, can Hunt free his nemesis without either killing a lot of innocent cops or blowing his cover as an agent of chaos who wouldn’t think twice about leaving a trail of bodies in his wake? [A.A. Dowd]

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44 / 80

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, the series’ fourth film, charges director Brad Bird with the task, betting that the animator behind The Incredibles and Ratatouille would have similar luck with flesh and blood in his live-action debut. The bet pays off. And then some. Bird brings a scary amount of assurance to Ghost Protocol. His action scenes are clean, coherent, thrilling, and visceral, never more than in a mid-film sequence in Dubai that piles setpiece atop setpiece as the action moves in, around, up, and down the Burj Khalifa skyscraper—the tallest building in the world. As Tom Cruise clings to the side of the building using malfunctioning equipment, and a sandstorm looms in the distance, the question shifts from whether Bird can direct an action film to whether there’s anyone out there who can top him. [Keith Phipps]

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45 / 80

Monos

Monos

Monos
Monos
Photo: Neon

Boys and girls on the precipice of adulthood kick a can around, blindfolded, playing some makeshift hybrid of soccer and Marco Polo to pass the unfilled hours. They live near an actual precipice, in a stone bunker carved into the top of a mountain and surrounded by clouds—their modest castle in the sky. By day, they perform military training exercises, but also just goof around and make out and eat mushrooms. By night, they dance around bonfires and scream toward a heaven they can almost reach out and touch. They’re somewhere in Latin America, possibly Colombia, though where exactly is never specified. For all intents and purposes, this foggy, isolated, high-altitude kingdom is Neverland. But there’s no Peter Pan around to fill their lives with meaning or magic. Going only by code names, like Smurf and Boom Boom, the young commandos do answer to someone: They’re at the bottom of a chain of command, the lowest-ranking grunts of a mysterious guerilla group called The Organization. But they’re also just kids—horny, confused, unsupervised kids, tasked with grave responsibilities they’re nowhere near emotionally mature enough to handle. That’s the reigning contradiction, maybe the tragic tension, of the gripping Monos. [A.A. Dowd]

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46 / 80

Monster’s Ball

Monster’s Ball

Halle Berry
Halle Berry
Screenshot: Monster’s Ball

Spelled out in its broadest outlines, Monster’s Ball reads like a crude liberal fantasy worthy of the late Stanley Kramer (Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner): It’s a message movie about a white racist redeemed by the love of a poor black woman, who is, in kind, redeemed by his generosity. The action could have swayed toward unbearably turgid and patronizing, but director Marc Forster and his stellar cast transform Ball’s dubious premise into a surprisingly nuanced and resonant melodrama, bolstered by an unusually strong feeling for the crawling tenor of life in the Deep South. Though its vision of racial harmony appears too tidy and simple-minded at times, Monster’s Ball sticks closer to its characters than its message, smartly deferring any questions of authenticity to the actors. [Scott Tobias]

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47 / 80

Mortdecai

Mortdecai

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Mortdecai

Look, comedy’s highly subjective, and Johnny Depp’s aggressive onscreen quirkiness wore out its welcome about four Tim Burton movies ago. That’s all fine. Still, the violently negative reaction to director David Koepp’s adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s cult pulp novels seemed wildly out-of-proportion to the actual quality of the film, which is an uneven but mostly genially wacky globe-hopping adventure. The same critics who rightly pegged Koepp’s similarly hyperactive Premium Rush as a must-see somehow weren’t willing to extend the same goodwill to Mortdecai, even though it has the cinematic flourish and distinctive sensibility so often missing from modern movie comedies. Although it’s not exactly a criminally neglected masterpiece, this picture does stand a good chance of being a flop that gets an Ishtar/Hudson Hawk-style reassessment in the decades to come. [Noel Murray]

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48 / 80

The Mountain

The Mountain

The Mountain
The Mountain
Photo: Kino Lorber

With this expertly wrought period piece, Rick Alverson peels back the placid surface of midcentury Americana to reveal the squirming hotbed of anxiety, repression, and predation lying just beneath the “good ol’ days.” Good doctor Jeff Goldblum takes young ward Tye Sheridan on the road as he goes from hospital to hospital demonstrating his barbaric lobotomy technique; the banal horrors Sheridan witnesses along the way lay bare the ugliness of our national character. [Charles Bramseco]

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49 / 80

Mud

Mud

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu

“His name is mud” isn’t a likely expression for a film to make literal, but writer-director Jeff Nichols—whose previous film, Take Shelter, repeatedly featured the protagonist and his family taking shelter—doesn’t shy away from bluntness or directness. Yes, Matthew McConaughey is Mud, a laconic ne’er-do-well hiding from the authorities on a small island off the Southern coast after killing a man in anger. The movie, however, isn’t so much about him as it is about the pair of teenage boys, Tye Sheridan (from The Tree Of Life) and Jacob Lofland, who happen upon him there and get drawn into his efforts to reconnect with his childhood girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon) back on the mainland. Sheridan, in particular, deeply identifies with McConaughey’s ostensibly pure love—a sense of kinship that blinds the boy to the real danger his friendly outlaw chum represents. And as if that isn’t enough potential mayhem, Joe Don Baker, playing the dead man’s understandably pissed-off father, is gearing up for some serious vigilante justice. [Mike D’Angelo]

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50 / 80

Nights And Weekends

Nights And Weekends

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Nights And Weekends

In Nights And Weekends, Joe Swanberg and his frequent leading lady, script collaborator, and now directing collaborator Greta Gerwig dissect a long-distance relationship that dies, then gets briefly, sadly resurrected. First seen during a rare weekend together, Swanberg and Gerwig are making their usual transition from sexual bliss to mutual whining about incompatibility and the stress of trying to keep the romance alive. A year later, Swanberg travels to New York on business and reconnects with Gerwig, in a series of clumsy encounters where neither knows what role they’re supposed to play. When Gerwig cheerfully shoos Swanberg out of her apartment so she can change for their not-quite-a-date, then crumples into sobs as soon as he steps out, it’s both a powerful, beautifully acted scene and a critical study of what becomes of the noncommittal. [Noel Murray]

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51 / 80

The Nightingale

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
The Nightingale
Photo: IFC Films

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale is a Western revenge yarn of such heightened cruelty and suffering that it basically demands to be read as allegory. Westerns, as a rule, are violent, and that perhaps goes double for the Aussie ones, which tend to be more pitiless than their American cousins, stripping the genre of its romance and derring-do. Even by those standards, The Nightingale is tough to take. Set in the Oz of 1825, it confronts audiences with the full horror of colonialism, including enough scenes of sexual assault to warrant the trigger warning offered up before several screenings of the film. But while what we see and can never unsee over the course of a grueling two-plus hours is certainly extreme, it’s not gratuitous. That’s partially because Kent, who made the spectacular spookfest The Babadook, isn’t some B-movie shockmeister, rubbing our noses in ugliness for the sake of it. She’s pulled back the veil of awful history to find a cracked reflection of the modern world—and a corresponding, hard-won beauty in solidarity among survivors. [A.A. Dowd]

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52 / 80

Palm Springs

Palm Springs

Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Photo: Hulu

Andy Samberg stars as Nyles, a slacker doofus stuck at a destination wedding in Southern California, which he’s attending as the date of a bridesmaid. Blithely wandering the reception in a loud and very informal short-sleeve shirt, Nyles clearly doesn’t have any fucks to give. But he also seems to have a suspiciously premonitory sense of how the night will play out. And before long, Palm Springs reveals the reason for both: He’s stuck in a time warp, waking up every morning to find himself still in Palm Springs on the morning of the wedding. The film employs its magical conceit as a multi-purpose metaphor for a long-term relationship. The flip side, of course, is that monogamy can leave you feeling as stuck as the characters, living the same day over and over again, with only your significant other for company. But Palm Springs wears all that baggage lightly. It’s a sadly rare thing: a sweet, madly inventive, totally mainstream romantic comedy, buoyed by inspired jolts of comic violence (some of them provided by J.K. Simmons as another wedding guest with a very big bone to pick with Nyles). [A.A. Dowd]

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53 / 80

Parasite

Parasite

Parasite
Parasite
Photo: Neon

The last time Bong Joon Ho made a parable of class warfare, he set it aboard one hell of a moving metaphor: a train looping endlessly around a frozen Earth, its passengers divided into cars based on wealth and status, upward mobility achieved only through lateral revolution. Parasite, the South Korean director’s demented and ingenious movie, doesn’t boast quite as sensational a setting; it takes place mostly within a chicly modern suburban home, all high ceilings, stainless steel countertops, and windows instead of walls, advertising the elegant interior decoration within. But there’s a clear class hierarchy at play here, too; it runs top to bottom instead of front to back, vertically instead of horizontally. And though we’re watching a kind of warped upstairs-downstairs story, not a dystopian arcade brawler, Parasite races forward with the same locomotive speed as Snowpiercer, with plenty of its own twists and turns waiting behind each new door. [A.A. Dowd]

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54 / 80

Person To Person

Person To Person

Person To Person
Person To Person
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

A sweet, light puff of a movie, Person To Person succeeds on the strength of its affection for shaggy-dog stories and the personalities who waltz in and out of them. In theory, it’s the sort of indie that’s already been done to death: an ensemble-cast love letter to the prickly character of New York. (Even worse, it’s shot on fuzzy Super 16mm.) But writer-director Dustin Guy Defa, a prolific director of short films making his first feature since 2011’s Bad Fever, has developed a feel for American eccentricity that brings to mind Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater in its best moments, albeit in a scruffier style. Taking its title from a superb, more or less unrelated short that Defa directed in 2014, the movie follows several stories, which are set over the course of a single day but don’t always overlap. It’s a film of ephemeral pleasures, adorned in a rich variety of voices, non-verbal gestures, and speech patterns: unfussy, unrushed, at times very funny. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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55 / 80

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits

The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
The Pirates! Band Of Misfits
Photo: Aardman Animations

Aardman Animations’ stop-motion releases like the Wallace & Gromit shorts, Chicken Run, and Shaun The Sheep are instantly recognizable for the almost exaggerated sense that every aspect of the production has been formed by hand, with the caricatured distortions of children’s drawings mixed with the fussy craft of a crocheted doily. That fussiness also extends to the studio’s house brand of humor, a precisely tuned blend of maiden-aunt primness and broad, goofy absurdism. All these familiar flavors are again front and center in The Pirates! Band Of Misfits, the feature that returns Aardman to theatrical stop-motion after the CGI of Arthur Christmas and Flushed Away. It also returns Aardman co-founder Peter Lord to the director’s chair for the first time since 2000’s Chicken Run. But it doesn’t feel like a return to form—or a new direction, though it’s Aardman’s first book-to-film adaptation, Hugh Grant’s first animated film, and the studio’s maiden foray into 3-D stop-motion. It still feels like a comfortable visit with an old friend. [Tasha Robinson]

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56 / 80

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
Photo: Neon

Love at first sight is a fairy-tale fantasy that grows less beautiful the more you think about it. Can you really love someone if you don’t know them? And how can you know them at a single glance? Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, which has to be the most rapturously romantic movie of the last few years, is a story of love at umpteenth sight. For two hours, the film’s characters—two women who meet on the edge of society and propriety—never stop studying each other, their eyes sweeping across candlelit rooms and windswept cliffs, the increasing intensity of their gaze and simmer of their passion melting the barriers between them. To fall for someone, the French filmmaker posits, is to really see them. And to see them requires time and attention—a process of discovery that only begins with that first look. [A.A. Dowd]

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57 / 80

Proxy

Proxy

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Proxy

To begin a thriller with a shot of ultrasound gel dripping onto a bare, oversized stomach is to portend trouble for the life gestating inside of it. And sure enough, no more than one scene passes before the violence arrives, as Proxy’s pregnant protagonist loses her unborn child in a vicious assault. Who would commit such a heinous crime and why? For Esther (Alexia Rasmussen), such questions seem less important than the tricky matter of moving forward. Without a support system—she has no friends or family, and no ties to the sperm-donor father—the young woman drifts through her post-miscarriage life in a distant haze. It’s only when Esther begins attending meetings with other grieving mothers that she begins to regain a sense of balance, thanks largely to her budding friendship with group regular Melanie (Alexa Havins). Neither woman, however, is quite what they claim to be—a fact that dawns slowly on each (and the viewer), and shapes the shocking events that follow. [A.A. Dowd]

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58 / 80

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Nothing in his previous work behind the camera suggested that John Krasinski was any kind of master craftsman. But maybe the nine sitcom seasons he spent emoting directly to the camera taught the Office-drone-turned-director something about nonverbal storytelling, as he does wordless wonders with this taut suspense contraption about an Earth hushed into silence by blind, echolocating monsters. The sleeper hit of the year, A Quiet Place smuggled some pure visual filmmaking into the multiplex, getting moviegoers to sit still (and, yes, maybe even shut up) for a nearly dialogue-free portrait of a family in mourning. The monsters helped, of course. [A.A. Dowd]

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59 / 80

Raging Bull

Raging Bull

Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro
Screenshot: Raging Bull

Raging Bull is a stunner. Robert De Niro gives the best performance of his career as Jake LaMotta, a ferocious, displaced boxer who’s perpetually uncomfortable in his own ballooning skin. Once again, Scorsese lets the hero’s disastrous relationships with women drag the movie down a bit, but the real center of Raging Bull is the relationship between De Niro and Joe Pesci, playing LaMotta’s put-upon brother. The two actors work off each other like veteran vaudevillians. Good-natured needling slips easily into outright hostility, while overheard conversations and muffled music bleed through the walls of Bronx tenement apartments and row houses, preventing the characters from having a quiet moment to collect their thoughts. The brutally kinetic fight scenes anchor Raging Bull, and Scorsese shoots each a little differently, tailoring the fight choreography to the moment. In fact, the whole movie is a series of indelible moments, adding up to an elliptical statement about the empty redemption of man at his most animalistic. [Noel Murray]

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60 / 80

The Rider

The Rider

The Rider
The Rider
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Asking non-professional actors to re-enact events from their own lives doesn’t always work out well—just ask Clint Eastwood—but The Rider successfully straddles the tricky line between awkwardness and authenticity. Injured rodeo cowboy Brady Jandreau essentially plays himself, surrounded by real-life friends and family, in a story about coming to terms with the abrupt, involuntary end of one’s lifelong dream. Director Chloé Zhao (whose Songs My Brothers Taught Me was likewise set in and around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation) intimately knows both these people and the South Dakota landscape. It all feels true. [Mike D’Angelo]

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61 / 80

Shirley

Shirley

Shirley
Shirley
Photo: Hulu

Suffering has long been characterized as a woman’s lot, canonized in the form of Catholic saints and celebrated in literature and art. (Pablo Picasso merely made it explicit when he said, “Women are suffering machines.”) To defy this edict will bring further misfortune, leaving only two choices: either smile and let your soul die piece by indignant piece, or embrace the darkness and learn to enjoy it. Josephine Decker’s Shirley is about a woman who opted for the latter: Shirley Jackson (played here by Elisabeth Moss), author of high-school staple “The Lottery” and the oft-adapted The Haunting Of Hill House.  Mocked by her peers, mistreated by her husband, and burdened by mental illness, Jackson lived with the psychic evils that lurk in her writing. But for Decker, what’s important about Shirley’s misery is how she used it to fuel her work. [Katie Rife]

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62 / 80

Shoplifters

Shoplifters

Shoplifters
Shoplifters
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

In the opening moments of Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters, a man and a boy exchange a nod that’s at once solemn, playful, and astonishingly efficient. It tells us that these two are connected, practiced, that they’re here to work, but that the work is fun. They’re stealing, and it’s a necessary but enjoyable ritual. That density of meaning runs throughout Shoplifters, which explores how families can be both chosen and needed, built on love and formed for convenience all at once. It’s a film of gentleness and compassion, brought to life by an ensemble of actors as committed to the playfulness and poetry of ordinary life as the director who brought them together. Like a practiced thief, Shoplifters knows how to direct your attention; it’s more than capable of sneaking in while you’re distracted and lodging somewhere behind your ribs, never to leave again. [Allison Shoemaker]

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A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor
A Simple Favor
Photo: Lionsgate

Gallons of ink have been spilled on Paul Feig’s female-focused approach to comedy, so why isn’t one of the year’s best vehicles for women getting more press? Starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in a twisted tale of suburban intrigue, A Simple Favor pioneers the subgenre of mommy-blog noir. But while it lives in the mundane realm of play dates and PTA meetings, the film also recognizes that, while they might spend a lot of time with kids, its characters (and target audience!) are still intelligent adults with sophisticated tastes, from dry gin martinis to designer menswear. [Katie Rife]

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The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters Brothers
The Sisters Brothers
Photo: Annapurna Pictures

When Quentin Tarantino coined the term “hangout movie,” he was describing one of the greatest Westerns ever made: Rio Bravo, Howard Hawks’ 1959 masterpiece, which kills most of its running time just laying low with a small-town sheriff and the motley posse he’s assembled to guard a jailhouse, eavesdropping on their conversations as they dig in their spurs and chew the cud. The film, talky and at times nearly plotless, brought the Wild West to life in a different way: These weren’t just mythic archetypes we were watching but complicated people, with personalities and hang-ups and whole interior lives. The Sisters Brothers, a Western directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Dheepan) and adapted from the acclaimed novel by Patrick DeWitt, spans a larger geographic radius than Rio Bravo—it’s a kind of road picture, ambling across two states, instead of plunking us down in (basically) a single locale. Nevertheless, there’s a strong whiff of Hawks’ classic in the movie’s conception of its titular outlaws as neurotic chatterboxes. It’s something of a hangout Western, too, and its pleasures mostly come down to the company we get to keep with the characters and the actors easing into their eccentricities. [A.A. Dowd]

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Sorry To Bother You

Sorry To Bother You

Sorry To Bother You
Sorry To Bother You
Photo: Annapurna Pictures

It’s hard to imagine a cinematic depiction of Oakland, California as grabby or arresting as Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You. Though it uses real locations from the city, Riley’s version depends less on particular landmarks or geography than the filmmaker’s eye for which quotidian details can be nudged into the realm of absurdity—and how to pull them back down to the ground. It’s a push-pull best depicted by the movie’s visualization of a job at a rundown call center: When Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) places a cold call, the movie briefly throws him and his workstation into the personal space of whoever he’s speaking with, sort of a physicalized split-screen that thrusts him back into the bleak office space when the conversation ends. It’s a neat trick that emphasizes both the intrusiveness of cold calling and the discomfort the caller might feel, all while keeping the scenes of call-center drudgery from becoming as dull as the actual work. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Southbound

Southbound

Southbound
Southbound
Screenshot:

Heartless evildoers receiving their ironic comeuppance have been a horror staple since the days of EC Comics. The indie horror anthology Southbound puts a contemporary spin on this tradition, presenting five tales of irreversible decisions and their gruesome consequences. Sometimes the lessons in these mini-morality plays are ploddingly obvious—especially when Larry Fessenden explicitly explains them in his cameo role as a radio DJ—but then again, the same can be said for Tales From The Crypt. Set against the bleak landscape of the Southwestern desert, the segments overlap on several levels. Besides the Monty Python-style transitions, in which characters from one episode appear in the next, the movie also maintains a certain stylistic consistency throughout, which has its pluses (the segments share a timeless feel, à la Bates Motel) and minuses (shaky hand-held camerawork is an unfortunate constant). Regardless, that cohesion is a credit to the creative forces behind the film, and a welcome change from the wild inconsistencies of horror anthologies like the ABCs Of Death series. [Katie Rife]

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Spaceballs

Spaceballs

Spaceballs
Spaceballs
Photo:

Spaceballs wasn’t one of Brooks’ great successes, but it’s endured in the shadow of Star Wars as a lone “official” parody version. In retrospect, its comic deconstruction of the most successful movies of all time looks more respectful than Lucas’ own prequels, which ultimately seemed to understand less about the appeal (and pitfalls) of their source material. Certainly, George Lucas had good intentions when he tried to redo his own greatest hits, but as Spaceballs teaches us, good is often very, very dumb. [Adam Nayman]

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The Square

The Square

The Square
The Square
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

The centerpiece moment of Ruben Östlund’s The Square pits a dining hall’s worth of self-proclaimed art lovers against the evening’s “entertainment”: a performance-art stunt that pushes way beyond the outer limits of their comfort zones. It’s an exaggerated version, perhaps, of what audiences might experience watching this super-sized cringe comedy, awkward enough to get Larry David hot under the collar. Another savagely funny savaging of male ego, à la Östlund’s Force Majeure, the film takes place behind the scenes of a museum, where a pretentious curator (Claes Bang) grapples with personal and professional crises of his own making. But far from just poking fun at a hypocritical modern art world, the Swedish writer-director casts a wide satirical net. His biggest catch: the withering insight that there’s often a giant gap separating values from actions, flattering self-image from reality, “helping” from helping. Thankfully, Östlund wants to make us laugh as well as squirm; scene for scene, The Square is often gut-bustingly hilarious, provided you can see the humor in foibles that might mirror your own. [A.A. Dowd]

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Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
Screenshot: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, one of the best-regarded sci-fi sequels of all time, and pretty much the undisputed champion of Star Trek movies. Making a sequel of an episode of the TV series in a way that makes it perfectly accessible for neophytes, Khan is somewhat less stylish than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it’s a lot more exciting, with a great villain in Ricardo Montalban’s Khan and a strong emotional core based on the friendship between William Shatner’s Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s stoic half-Vulcan, half-human Spock. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

William Shatner
William Shatner
Screenshot: Star Trek Vi: The Undiscovered Country

By the time the series picked back up with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, there was no further delaying or sidestepping the inevitable: Everyone in the original cast was much older, verging on elderly, and the movie sets most of the original crew a few months away from retirement from duty on the Enterprise (though Sulu now captains his own ship). The characters have lived long enough to see the dawn of a new era where peace with the Klingons may be achievable. But when the Enterprise is framed for the assassination of a Klingon leader that may derail the peace talks, Kirk and Bones are thrown into mining prison while Spock leads sort of a locked-room mystery on the ship, trying to figure out the true culprit. Bringing Star Trek: The Motion Picture director Nicholas Meyer back into the fold, The Undiscovered Country restores the series’ graceful balance between acknowledging the characters’ past-prime lot in life and sending them on cool adventures anyway. It’s a lovely send-off for the original cast members that’s nonetheless not all that consumed with the task; this is a Star Trek story first and a swan song second. [Jesse Hassenger]

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Super 8

Super 8

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Super 8

For a stretch of the 1980s, there wasn’t enough Steven Spielberg to go around. While continuing to direct a movie every year or two, Spielberg produced films that had the look and feel of Spielberg-by-proxy, films filled with end-of-childhood adventures, suburbs, and small towns that doubled as unexpected sites of wonder or horror. In the best of them, directors like Joe Dante and Robert Zemeckis put their personal stamp on Spielbergian themes while creating popcorn-friendly films to rival their inspiration. Set in the streets, magic-hour-blanketed hills, and cluttered suburban homes of a small Ohio town as the 1970s edge into the ’80s, the J.J. Abrams-scripted-and-directed Super 8—which Spielberg produced—consciously, and successfully, looks back to an era of abundant Spielbergiana. [Keith Phipps]

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Superbad

Superbad

Michael Cena and Jonah Hill
Michael Cena and Jonah Hill
Screenshot: Superbad

The winning new teen romp Superbad was written by Evan Goldberg and Judd Apatow’s protégé Seth Rogen, and directed by The Daytrippers’ Greg Mottola, but it still feels like the concluding film in Apatow’s trilogy of raunchy, big-hearted, improvisation-heavy comedies about man-children torn between the pleasures of eternal adolescence and the relentless pull of adult responsibility. The stars and sensibility get younger with each successive film: The 40-Year-Old Virgin’s middle-aged Steve Carell gave way to twentysomething Knocked Up star Rogen, and now teenagers Jonah Hill and Michael Cera step in as co-dependent buddies facing the end of high school and scary/exciting college careers pulling them in separate directions. [Nathan Rabin]

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Support The Girls

Support The Girls

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Support The Girls

So many movies perform grotesque contortions (or extraordinary acts of denial) to avoid showing their characters at work, at least if their jobs aren’t cop, lawyer, or secret agent. And who can blame them, really? A lot of work is a soul-crushing slog, something that Support The Girls understands intuitively—so intuitively that writer-director Andrew Bujalski doesn’t need to sink his characters into a swamp of misery to acknowledge the drudgery of working at Double Whammies, sort of a poor man’s Hooters in the Texas suburbs. Applying a one-crazy-day structure to a day that isn’t all that crazy, Bujalski follows Lisa (Regina Hall), the restaurant’s manager, as she plays boss, dutiful employee, counselor, and mother, depending on which crisis she’s addressing. Hall, in exactly the kind of performance that’s too grounded and true to receive the awards attention it deserves, shows deft command of the subtle differences between our various selves—work, family, uncomfortable fusions of the two—that so many working people are forced to navigate. Yet for all of its dead-end realism, this is also a warm and funny movie, with boundlessly charming supporting turns from Haley Lu Richardson, Shayna McHayle, and Dylan Gelula. Workplace drudgery doesn’t preclude glimmers of humanity—and humanity doesn’t guarantee a happy ending, as the movie’s perfectly open final shots indicate. [Jesse Hassenger]

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True Grit

True Grit

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coens direct True Grit with a light touch, but like Portis’ stark, funny novel, their adventure tale shaves off none of the rough edges. It’s simultaneously rollicking and grave, alternating moments of fine dark humor with startling violence as it drags 14-year-old Mattie Ross (played crisply and unsmilingly by then-newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) into the world of adult responsibilities and the danger and lost innocence that come with them. She tries to buy revenge using the terms of trade her father taught her, then discovers she’s made a purchase that won’t fit easily fit onto a sum-filled balance sheet. The West here is a place of blood, black humor, and unsparing consequences, a land to test the character of even the toughest men, to say nothing of a willful girl with revenge in her heart and braids still in her hair. [Keith Phipps]

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75 / 80

Up In The Air

Up In The Air

George Clooney and Vera Farmiga
George Clooney and Vera Farmiga
Screenshot: Up In The Air

George Clooney plays a man who has perfected a dubious but widely applicable skill in Up In The Air: He fires people. Somewhere along the line, he also offers some advice that makes their dismissals sound like the beginning of a glorious new tomorrow. It’s canned, but it sounds sincere coming from Clooney, and not just because he offers it with an unblinking gaze that suggests utter conviction. He really believes it. Or at the very least, he believes in a life without attachments, in which he drifts from airport lounge to hotel room while racking up an inhuman number of frequent-flier miles and returning to his sparsely appointed Omaha apartment only when need requires. Jason Reitman’s direction nicely translates the seductive appeal of sterile public places while letting the assured performances do much of the work. The film isn’t shy about laying out its themes, but Clooney’s understated work at the center lends them added complexity. What Up In The Air lacks in surprises—apart from an elusive final scene—it compensates for by conveying the pleasures of living from landing to landing, and the terror of floating away. [Keith Phipps]

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Vox Lux

Vox Lux

Vox Lux
Vox Lux
Photo: Neon

In a culture where truth is malleable, spite and greed are celebrated, and unimaginable atrocities are reduced to just another fleeting set of stimuli, how could you not be exhausted? A similar sense of existential fatigue permeates Vox Lux, The Childhood Of A Leader director Brady Corbet’s film starring Natalie Portman as a pop star whose inner life is a sinkhole she vainly attempts to fill with booze, drugs, and flippant cruelty. It’s a more cynical, and arguably more realistic, depiction of the unique malignancies of fame than 2018’s other Oscar-baiting pop musical, A Star Is Born. [Katie Rife]

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77 / 80

We Are What We Are

We Are What We Are

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: We Are What We Are

We Are What We Are, a loose remake of the Mexican film of the same title, takes the original’s basic premise—a creepy family gets thrown into disarray when one of the parents unexpectedly dies—and invests it with rural Gothic atmosphere. Directed and co-written by underrated genre specialist Jim Mickle (Stake Land), it plays less like a contemporary horror film than an increasingly gruesome drama, building to a climax—completely original to this version—where the movie’s core themes are expressed through grotesque imagery. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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Wild Rose

Wild Rose

Wild Rose
Wild Rose
Photo: Neon

Country music has a long history of brazen women doggedly persevering over daunting personal and societal odds. As far back as 1952, Kitty Wells shredded the hypocrisy of sexual double standards in her song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” and Loretta Lynn had already given birth to three children when she taught herself to play the guitar in 1953, at the age of 21. Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley), the protagonist of Tom Harper’s new social-realist musical drama Wild Rose, has a life story that’s similar to those of her idols: She’s in her early 20s, fresh off of a 12-month prison sentence on drug charges, and trying—but mostly failing—to reconnect with her 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. Her disapproving mother Marion (Julie Walters) wants Rose-Lynn to give up her dream of becoming a country (not “country and western”) singer. But to Rose-Lynn, country music is “three chords and the truth.” And you can’t deny the truth. [Katie Rife]

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79 / 80

Wonder

Wonder

Wonder
Wonder
Photo: Dale Robinette

Earnest dramas about little kids overcoming adversity rank pretty low on my most anticipated list, and I wouldn’t likely have gone anywhere near Wonder (even the title makes me gag) had another publication not assigned me to review it. But director Stephen Chbosky—whose The Perks Of Being A Wallflower I sort of mildly ridiculed three categories back—deftly avoids most of this genre’s usual pitfalls, earning throat lumps honestly. Following the lead of R.J. Palacio’s source novel, Wonder focuses not just on Auggie (Room’s Jacob Tremblay, beneath heavy makeup), a genetically disfigured 10-year-old venturing into the potentially cruel wider world for the first time, but on all of the people in Auggie’s orbit: his loving parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson), his older sister (Isabela Vidovic), his new best friend (Noah Jupe), and even his sister’s estranged best friend (Danielle Rose Russell). This empathetic panorama prevents the film from ever getting too maudlin. It’s not one of the year’s best, but it’s much better than you might expect. [Mike D’Angelo]

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