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 Jan. 9, 2021.

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2 / 105

’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 / 105

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 / 105

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 / 105

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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6 / 105

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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7 / 105

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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8 / 105

Blade Runner

Blade Runner

Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford
Screenshot: Blade Runner

The most widely admired science-fiction film to come out of the 1980s, Blade Runner reimagined the nocturnal, seductive, and pessimistic qualities of film noir and its ’70s derivative, neo-noir, for the paranoid cityscape of the future: a dark, rainy, multi-lingual Los Angeles where a detective in a trench coat trails a gang of biomechanical replicants who escaped from an off-world colony. Released during a rich period for sci-fi, fantasy, and special-effects filmmaking—the same weekend as the sci-fi horror classic The Thing, just two weeks after E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, Conan The Barbarian, and Poltergeist still in theaters—it was not initially a hit. But over the last 35 years and across multiple reedited re-releases, Blade Runner has grown exponentially in stature and influence, and and now looms over the genre, second only to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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9 / 105

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday
Screenshot:

On Jan. 30, 1972, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 13 Irish civil-rights activists were killed (and many more injured) when British soldiers opened fire on a peace demonstration that had turned unruly. From the opening minutes, the sick dread of inevitability hangs over director Paul Greengrass’ emotionally charged re-creation Bloody Sunday, as the two sides hold fast to their positions, refusing to swerve out of a game of chicken. The British authorities, acting on a decree to suppress all parades and processions—not to mention an underlying thirst to avenge its fallen soldiers—take a heavy-handed approach to breaking up the march; in response, the agitated demonstrators can only add to the chaos. (Only the audience seems to hear the most pragmatic officer ask the obvious question, “Why not let the march go ahead?”) Greengrass’ rigorous, you-are-there documentary style has earned the film comparison to Gillo Pontecorvo’s masterpiece The Battle Of Algiers, which brought the French-Algerian conflict to life with stunning, unprecedented verisimilitude. At its best, Bloody Sunday produces the same chilling illusion of history writ large, clearly detailing the strategies of both sides, then blankly observing the conflict through unadorned, newsreel camera stock and the precise orchestration of large-scale chaos. [Scott Tobias]

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10 / 105

Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights

Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg
Screenshot: Boogie Nights

Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s second film and second triumph (this year’s overlooked Hard Eight was the first), is a sprawling, energetic, audacious look at the porn industry of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Mark Wahlberg, in a performance that allows even “Wildside” to be forgiven, plays a young stud, with a talent clearly outlined by his tight jeans, who rises to the top of the industry only to let success go to his head. A large and universally excellent cast (Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, William H. Macy) plays the extended family he joins. Though it’s incredibly stylish, Anderson and his cast never let Boogie Nights stray from its human center. For example, as a porn producer with artistic aspirations, Reynolds plays a character that could easily have been a caricature, but he conveys sleaze with heart so well that the threat never comes close to materializing. By taking on the porn industry, Anderson has chosen a subject that could easily be mined for cheap laughs. But while it’s very funny, Boogie Nights taps into something much deeper with its on-target depiction of the shifting political and social tides of the ‘70s and ‘80s and thoughtful relationships between characters. It’s a deeply satisfying movie. [Keith Phipps]

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11 / 105

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 / 105

Breakdown

Breakdown

Kurt Russell
Kurt Russell
Photo: Getty Images

Kurt Russell gets an all-too-rare leading role in writer-director Jonathan Mostow’s wildly entertaining throwback thriller, playing an ordinary guy named Jeff who inadvertently becomes the target of interstate bandits. With terrific supporting performances by Kathleen Quinlan (as Jeff’s wife, who gets kidnapped by a seemingly helpful trucker after their car breaks down on a desolate stretch of road) and the always-reliable J.T. Walsh (as the casually cruel leader of a band of brigands), Breakdown is taut, lively, and only a little bit preposterous. It benefits greatly from the presence of Russell, who makes convincing both sides of the hero: the frantic family man stranded in the middle of nowhere among people who mean him harm; and the clever, crafty fellow who recovers his wits and satisfyingly outsmarts the bad guys. [Noel Murray]

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13 / 105

Bully

Bully

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Screenshot: Bully

Critics and audiences generally derided Larry Clark’s Bully as a sensationalistic rehash of his reactionary and overwrought Kids. True, the films share a notable obsession with lithe young bodies, but viewing Clark’s mean-spirited, groin-level view of contemporary teenage life as mere exploitation dismisses one of the sharpest, funniest satires of adolescent nihilism since Beavis And Butt-Head. [Nathan Rabin]

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14 / 105

The Cabin In The Woods

The Cabin In The Woods

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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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15 / 105

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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16 / 105

Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes

Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson
Screenshot: Changing Lanes

A moment of blind chance blown up to movie size, Changing Lanes follows the ripples of an accident until they become mighty waves. Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson are both late for court appearances when Affleck sideswipes Jackson’s car. For the former, a prematurely successful, remarkably well-connected lawyer, the funds of a multimillion-dollar charity depend on his timely arrival. For the latter, a recovering alcoholic whose wife is threatening to move to Oregon with their kids in tow, his court date is a last chance to prove himself a responsible father and husband. When Jackson refuses a blank check out of propriety, Affleck leaves him stranded, as unaware that they share a destination as he is that he’s left an essential file in Jackson’s hands. The hours that follow, which unfold over a long Good Friday, pit two desperate characters against each other in a game that keeps changing the rules until they vanish entirely. Out of that clever setup, Changing Lanes pulls both the promised taut suspense and a much deeper film, an ethics thriller. Jackson and Affleck both play morally gray characters: One’s not quite the yuppie scum he seems to be, while the other is not quite the meek loser he pretends to be. The film repays them by finding gray areas of its own, focusing on locations where ordinarily discrete walks of life overlap—expressways, courthouses, and AA meetings—and letting the camera drift to a child’s drawing as a paternal fixer (Dylan Baker) prepares to bankrupt a man with a single keystroke. Continuing to develop into a director of note and a fine visual stylist, Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Persuasion) keeps all the balls afloat, juggling the machinations of Affleck and Jackson’s game and the inner dilemmas that drive it. Is it justice they want, or redemption? Dealing in suspense with a conscience, Lanes smartly remembers that, whatever their decision, souls hang in the balance. [Keith Phipps]

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17 / 105

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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18 / 105

Cloverfield

Cloverfield

Cloverfield
Cloverfield
Screenshot: Cloverfield

The secret-shrouded brainchild of producer J.J. Abrams, writer Drew Goddard, and director Matt Reeves, Cloverfield speaks so directly to a decade in which camera phones and YouTube have take the middleman out of video. The film taps into the spirit of the age in other, more unsettling ways as well. Its horror is devastating and citywide. Baffled news anchors report it breathlessly, inspiring panic in characters who realize that the violence that only happens elsewhere has found its way home. The monstrous source of the violence maintains an unerring concentration on destruction, and spawns other, smaller monsters with the same focus. It leaves terror, broken buildings, and clouds of dust behind. The best efforts of conventional warfare can’t bring it down. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths to keep the nature of the threat a secret, so let’s just say that it couldn’t have existed without H.P. Lovecraft, H.R. Giger, or Ishirô Honda, the director who gave Japan an embodiment of its then-recent nuclear attacks with Godzilla. Also, it’s absolutely terrifying, and it’s all the more effective for the way it lets viewers spend time getting to know the terrified stars, and the emotions and regrets behind their seemingly futile efforts to survive. It puts human faces on the victims of mass destruction, faces that might easily have been yours or mine, staring down the maw of something we don’t understand. [Keith Phipps]

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19 / 105

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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20 / 105

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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21 / 105

The Commuter

The Commuter

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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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22 / 105

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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23 / 105

Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society

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Screenshot: Dead Poets Society

Written by Tom Schulman (based loosely on his prep school experiences in Nashville, Tennessee) and directed by Peter Weir (on assignment from Disney/Touchstone head Jeffrey Katzenberg while Weir was waiting to make Green Card), Dead Poets Society was a small piece of summer counter-programming that became an unexpected blockbuster, as audiences responded to its story of high school boys learning to be non-conformists on the cusp of the ’60s. Schulman’s script is way too pat in its depiction of idealistic souls being squelched by stern parents and crusty headmasters, but the young actors—led by Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, and Josh Charles—are all extraordinary, and Weir and cinematographer John Seale imbue the campus and its environs with the feel of an old myth, playing out with dark inevitability. [Noel Murray]

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24 / 105

The Dead Zone

The Dead Zone

Christopher Walken
Christopher Walken
Screenshot: The Dead Zone

The rare Stephen King adaptation to capture the author’s signature sense of inexplicable, internal/external terror, The Dead Zone stands as one of David Cronenberg’s most straightforward and eerily effective early works. Trimming King’s source material down to its lean essence—and benefiting from the lack of his imaginative monsters, which never properly translate to the screen—the film concerns Maine schoolteacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken), who turns down an offer to stay the night with his girlfriend Sarah (Brooke Adams), subsequently gets into a traffic accident, and awakens from a coma five years later with the gift of second sight. Far from a blessing, however, the power proves to be a damnable curse, turning Johnny into a freak show whose time and attention is coveted by many, but only for their own selfish ends. As the man’s vision expands, his life shrinks down to nothing—an isolated existence which Cronenberg depicts through direction that routinely lingers on the empty silences between words and the distant whooshing of wintry New England wind. Cronenberg’s icy directorial detachment lends The Dead Zone a haunting creepiness, greatly amplified by Walken, whose halting verbal rhythms and glassy stare imbue Johnny with an alienated (if not outright alien) quality. [Nick Schager]

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25 / 105

The Dictator

The Dictator

Sasha Baron Cohen
Sasha Baron Cohen
Photo: Four By Two Films

The Dictator keeps the gags coming as fast as it can manage, sometimes in big gross-out setpieces like an impromptu baby delivery, but more often in the general fusillade of hit-or-miss jokes that hit at a better-than-average rate. While Admiral General Aladeen certainly has a place in Baron Cohen’s gallery of human cartoons, the key point about The Dictator is that it’s a departure from his previous films and not another trip to the well. His needling instincts to shock and provoke are still present—and still merrily juvenile—but the film is both more conventional than Borat and Brüno and a more accommodating vehicle for different types of comedy. In reaching back to the past, Baron Cohen finds a viable way forward. [Scott Tobias]

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26 / 105

Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco

Johnny Depp and Al Pacino
Johnny Depp and Al Pacino
Screenshot: Donnie Brasco

The underrated and eclectic 1997 crime melodrama Donnie Brasco, written by Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show) and directed by Mike Newell, posits the life and perpetually non-starting career of a low-level career criminal played by Al Pacino as an extended study in sour desperation. Pacino plays his aging criminal as the crime-world equivalent of Willy Loman, a sad-sack small timer whose outsized legend exists only in his own over-active imagination. Based on a true story, Donnie Brasco casts a pitch-perfect Johnny Depp as a young FBI agent who goes undercover as a Florida jewel thief and befriends Pacino, a frustrated hitman who works for hot-headed and equally disappointed boss Michael Madsen. Pacino takes Depp under his wing as a protégé and surrogate son, and Depp increasingly finds himself torn between his sense of duty and his loyalty to Pacino. Donnie Brasco invests the enduring, resonant themes of the undercover-cop movie with grubby verisimilitude and a keenly observed sense of time and place. The haunting character study’s unblinking, unsentimental depiction of organized crime as the sorrowful domain of small-timers and no-hopers stands as a necessary and bracing antidote to the pantheon of great mob movies—some of the best of which star Al Pacino—that depict life inside the mob as a world filled with glamour and excitement. [Nathan Rabin]

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27 / 105

The Duke Of Burgundy

The Duke Of Burgundy

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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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28 / 105

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman
Screenshot: Eyes Wide Shut

Loved and revered perhaps more fiercely than any other non-commercial filmmaker of his time, Stanley Kubrick was a true iconoclast, a cinematic rebel who could command as much artistic control as any other major director. And, perhaps more than his other films, Eyes Wide Shut epitomizes Kubrick’s commendable and audacious willingness to venture into unexplored territory and risk making a fool of himself. Like Crash and Blue Velvet, two similarly fearless, sexually transgressive but ultimately moralistic films that straddled the fine line between genius and lunacy, Eyes Wide Shut is above all a masterpiece of sustained tone, a tightrope act that pays off in rich and unexpected ways. [Nathan Rabin]

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29 / 105

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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30 / 105

Friends With Kids

Friends With Kids

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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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31 / 105

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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32 / 105

Gretel And Hansel

Gretel And Hansel

Gretel And Hansel
Gretel And Hansel
Photo: Orion Pictures

Gretel And Hansel comes from Oz Perkins, the cult director who made a name for himself on the strength of two films, The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House. This was Perkins’ first film to receive a wide theatrical release, and so perhaps it’s to be expected that it would also be his most commercial one to date. Sort of. Though it moves at a much brisker clip, “commercial” is a relative term for a film where the camera lingers on a character pulling a lengthy tress of child’s hair from the back of her throat. The balance Perkins strikes in Gretel And Hansel is reminiscent of another contemporary arthouse horror director, Robert Eggers, whose films aren’t impossibly dense but are too slow for a decent chunk of the horror audience. In fact, screenwriter Rob Hayes borrows a favorite technique of Eggers’, employing stylized dialogue that takes a few minutes to get used to but eventually helps the viewer sink into the film’s world. Sophia Lillis stars as a teenage Gretel, whose name is put in front of her brother’s in the title for reasons that become clear later on. As the film opens, Gretel is looking for work as a servant, and nearly takes a job with a foppish landowner in makeup and sock garters until he asks her if her “maidenhead” is intact. This is the first of a handful of nods to the dangers of moving through the world in a female body, a theme that’s handled surprisingly well considering the film has both a male director and a male screenwriter. It’s also important to what happens after Gretel and her little brother, Hansel (Sammy Leakey), are sent away by their mother, who’s both unwilling and unable to feed them any longer. As in the fairy tale, they fall into the clutches of a sinister witch after nearly starving to death in the woods. But this witch (Alice Krige) lives in a wooden house instead of one made out of gingerbread and gumdrops. She also shows a special interest in Gretel, who seems to have an inborn talent for magic. [Katie Rife]

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33 / 105

Hail Satan?

Hail Satan?

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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34 / 105

Hell Or High Water

Hell Or High Water

Hell Or High Water
Hell Or High Water
Photo: CBS Films

Hell Or High Water is the kind of movie that makes you fall in love again with the lost art of dialogue, getting you hooked anew on the snap of flavorful conversation. Whenever one of its characters opens their mouth, you’re reminded of how flatly expositional or distractingly florid so much movie dialogue is, even (or perhaps especially) when it’s aiming for the wiseguy patter of Tarantino or Mamet. But in Hell Or High Water, everyone speaks with a plainspoken wit that provides even the most functional of scenes—say, an interview with a bank teller who’s recently been robbed—a charge of pleasure. “Black or white?” asks the officer investigating. “Their skins or their souls?” the victim retorts. These are cops, robbers, and struggling wage slaves, not poets or philosophers. But they all have a way with words, and hearing them exercise it is like guzzling a gallon of water in the desert. Two men do a good portion of the talking. They are Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster), brothers heisting their way across sleepy, one-horse Texas. The Howard boys are not your typical bank robbers. For one, they hit only the registers, pocketing a modest few thousand from every score. For two, they’ve targeted a specific bank—a local company with a few branches scattered across the state. The regional nature of the crime spree keeps it out of federal jurisdiction; it falls instead on the desk of grizzled Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges, because who does grizzled better?) a few days out from retirement. Marcus spots the pattern and suspects a motive beyond money. He and his partner, Alberto (a terrific Gil Birmingham), take chase. [A.A. Dowd]

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35 / 105

The Horse Whisperer

The Horse Whisperer

Kristin Scott Thomas and Robert Redford
Kristin Scott Thomas and Robert Redford
Screenshot: The Horse Whisperer

The Horse Whisperer, writer/director/actor Robert Redford’s postcard from big-sky country, has been preemptively maligned as Bridges Of Madison County, take two, but the low-key later-in-life-romance subplot is the least striking aspect of this haunting, frequently beautiful movie. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a New York magazine editor whose daughter loses a leg and a best friend in a horrible horseback-riding accident. Desperate for her daughter (Scarlett Johansson) to get on with her life, Thomas takes her and her spooked horse out to Montana to meet with Robert Redford, a so-called “horse whisperer” whose rapport with animals will hopefully heal both horse and daughter in one fell swoop. The film begins with a horrifying intensity, as Redford presents the collision of truck, horse, and rider in a bravura bit of frightening filmmaking. Once the film heads west, it becomes a gorgeously shot staring match between man and horse. Even though the horse soon becomes a pretense for a soft-light-soaked staring match between man and woman, The Horse Whisperer thankfully never fully leaves Marlboro Country for Harlequin country. This patient film doesn’t offer any pat Hollywood answers, and the conclusion dangles some refreshing loose ends. With solid, stately acting, and landscapes that could convert atheists, The Horse Whisperer tugs heartstrings without seeming self-conscious. [Joshua Klein]

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36 / 105

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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37 / 105

Hud

Hud

Melvyn Douglas and Paul Newman
Melvyn Douglas and Paul Newman
Screenshot: Hud

Throughout the first two decades of his career, Newman alternated between smooth-talking pretty-boy roles and parts where he played troubled rogues, likable but dangerous. Newman received his third Best Actor Oscar nomination for Hud, in which he plays a rancher’s son who spends his days sexually harassing the family housekeeper while waiting for his dad to die so that he can claim his inheritance. And yet, even though the character is a total prick, Newman is strangely sympathetic, because he makes a life of drinking, roping, and not giving a damn look wholly defensible.

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38 / 105

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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39 / 105

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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40 / 105

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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41 / 105

I Heart Huckabees

I Heart Huckabees

Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman
Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman
Screenshot: I Heart Huckabees

A self-described “existential comedy” about interconnectivity, environmentalism, corporations, coincidences, the meaning of life, and Shania Twain, Huckabees casts Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as existential detectives who help their clients deal with philosophical crises, albeit sometimes in ways that just confuse them further. Jason Schwartzman, in a rare and welcome lead role, co-stars as an environmentalist locked in personal and political struggle with fellow client Jude Law, a yuppie executive whose happy façade conceals an emptiness shared by his girlfriend Naomi Watts. For his part, Mark Wahlberg imbues a modern icon of manliness and courage—the heroic firefighter—with a combustible mixture of rage, idealism, and despair. United in their confusion and alienation, Wahlberg and Schwartzman form an unlikely friendship as they fall under the spell of gloomy philosopher Isabelle Huppert, the apparent ideological foe of Hoffman and Tomlin. A stoner movie that gets high on theories and concepts, Huckabees throws out so many seemingly contradictory and counterintuitive ideas that it takes repeat viewings just to process everything in the script. A light comedy about the meaning and nature of existence, the film fuses lowbrow physical comedy and deep thoughts in a far-from-seamless way, but it’s thrilling to witness a movie this eager to risk looking ridiculous. [Nathan Rabin]

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42 / 105

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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43 / 105

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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44 / 105

Last Of The Mohicans

Last Of The Mohicans

Daniel Day-Lewis
Daniel Day-Lewis
Screenshot: Last Of The Mohicans

Michael Mann’s interest in men at work and Daniel Day-Lewis’s career-long project to retell the history of the United States intersect in The Last Of The Mohicans, a 1992 adaptation of the James Fenimore Cooper novel that’s also a credited remake of the 1936 film version. Day-Lewis plays Hawkeye, a white man adopted by the Mohican tribe in upstate New York, caught between sides during the French And Indian War in 1757. Hawkeye, his brother Uncas (Eric Schweig), and their father Chingachgook (Russell Means) save Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe), the daughter of a British soldier, from an attack by the Huron, and form an uneasy and extremely temporary alliance with the British against the attacking French. The Mohicans’ position (concerned more with protecting their friends and family) allows Mann to portray an armed conflict where neither warring side is particularly worth rooting for—and he nonetheless features a memorable villain in Magua (Wes Studi), as ruthless and avaricious on his people’s behalf as Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook are protective on theirs. [Jesse Hassenger]

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45 / 105

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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46 / 105

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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47 / 105

The Legend Of Bagger Vance

The Legend Of Bagger Vance

Will Smith and Matt Damon
Will Smith and Matt Damon
Screenshot: The Legend Of Bagger Vance

In The Legend Of Bagger Vance, a Robert Redford-directed adaptation of Steven Pressfield’s best-selling Bhagavad Gita-inspired novel, Matt Damon plays a one-time golf champ, the golden-boy hero of Savannah, Georgia, whose WWI experiences have left him a specter of his former self. Ten years after leaving the military, he spends his time drinking as often as possible while trying to forget the past. He is, in short, a man in need of redemption, or at least a redemptive sports-as-metaphor-for-life movie, and he finds the opportunity for both when financially strapped ex-lover Charlize Theron organizes a golf tournament with stakes considerably higher than the $10,000 purse. Though his initial attempts seem hopeless, Damon discovers untapped potential under the guidance of an easygoing passerby (Will Smith) who offers sage, symbolic advice about the game. In a lesser film, Smith’s suggestion that Damon “find his swing” would seem about as appealing as Patricia Wettig’s demand that Billy Crystal “find his smile” in City Slickers. But Redford has developed into a director of such understated skill that he makes some mighty suspect material work beyond expectations.. Bagger Vance sheds its slightness early on, using thin profundities as guideposts rather than destinations and revealing itself as a moving story of one man’s struggle against a game, his past, and his willingness to surrender to both. [Keith Phipps]

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48 / 105

The Little Hours

The Little Hours

The LIttle Hours
The LIttle Hours
Photo: Gunpowder & Sky

One of the first things Aubrey Plaza says in The Little Hours is “Don’t fucking talk to us.” Anachronism, as it turns out, is the guiding force of this frequently funny, agreeably bawdy farce, which imagines what a convent of the grubby, violent, disease-infested Middle Ages might look and sound like if it were populated by characters straight out of a modern NBC sitcom. Plaza’s Fernanda, a caustic eye-rolling hipster nun born eons too early, sneaks out to get into mischief, using a perpetually escaping donkey as her excuse. Uptight wallflower Genevra (a priceless Kate Micucci) tattles relentlessly on the other women, reporting every transgression to Sister Marea (Molly Shannon, playing her dutiful piousness almost totally straight—she’s the only character here that could actually exist in the 1300s). And Alessandra (Alison Brie), the closest the convent has to a spoiled rich kid, daydreams about being whisked away and married, but that would depend on her father shelling out for a decent dowry. If the plague doesn’t kill them, the boredom will. When Plaza, Micucci, and Brie get smashed on stolen communion wine and perform a drunken sing-along of a wordless choral staple, like college girls sneaking booze past the RA and belting some radio anthem in their dorm, the true resonance of all this anachronism slips into focus: An itchy desire for a better life is something women of every century experience, regardless if their catalog of curses yet includes “fuck.” [A.A. Dowd]

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49 / 105

The Longest Yard

The Longest Yard

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: The Longest Yard

The movie doesn’t waste a lot of time on setup: Director Robert Aldrich and screenwriters Albert S. Ruddy and Tracy Keenan Wynn introduce Burt Reynolds with a scene of him pushing a shrewish girlfriend around, followed by a car chase with the police, then a bar fight. Ten minutes into the story, Reynolds is in prison, and officious, American-flag-lapel-pin-sporting warden Eddie Albert is explaining the film’s premise. Albert runs a guard-staffed semi-pro football team, and wants Reynolds to coach and quarterback. Instead, Reynolds puts together a team of prisoners to give the guards a warm-up game, and through that team’s gradual assembly, the movie reveals Reynolds’ character, as well as his past as a former NFL MVP disgraced in a point-shaving scandal. Football aside, The Longest Yard draws mainly from Aldrich’s own The Dirty Dozen, plus existential prison pictures like Cool Hand Luke and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, where aloof anti-heroes gets punished beyond what their crimes demand. Reynolds takes on a game he can’t win (because the guards will make his stint miserable if he does), and can’t lose (because his fellow inmates will treat him even worse than the guards). The movie winds up being about small victories. Who can exploit whom, and who can inflict the most damage along the way? [Noel Murray]

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50 / 105

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings

Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood
Photo: New Line Cinemas

The long-awaited adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s colossal Lord Of The Rings trilogy, shot concurrently at a budget approaching $300 million, should have been a bloated, hubristic disaster—the sort of project, like Cleopatra or Heaven’s Gate, that torpedoes a major studio. But in the Tolkien spirit, New Line wisely entrusted the Rings to a hobbit, choosing an unlikely leader in director Peter Jackson, whose previous credits include the micro-budget slapstick horror films Bad Taste and Dead Alive, and the masterful art film Heavenly Creatures. In the latter, two adolescent girls create elaborate fantasy worlds in their own backyard; so too does Jackson, who shot the trilogy in the lush, rolling greens and towering peaks of his native New Zealand, merging the stunning natural landscape with CGI wonders designed by his own special-effects house. An enthusiastic visionary set loose on one of the biggest playgrounds ever constructed, Jackson brings more personality to the series’ first installment, The Fellowship Of The Ring, than typically seeps into a franchise of this magnitude. [Scott Tobias]

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51 / 105

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King

Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood
Photo: New Line Cinemas

To live up to expectations, The Two Towers only had to be as good as its predecessor—and, astoundingly, it’s better. That’s not simply a matter of exposition giving way to action, although the film has plenty, as soulful hobbits Elijah Wood and Sean Astin make their way toward Mordor, friends Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan find unlikely allies deep in a forest, and the dwarf/elf/human team of John Rhys-Davies, Orlando Bloom, and Viggo Mortensen attempts to defend a struggling kingdom from the forces of Christopher Lee. What makes Towers so staggering is the way it brings the full scope of Jackson’s adaptation into focus. Without missing a beat in three hours, the film shifts from epic to lyrical and back. [Keith Phipps]

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52 / 105

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers

Liv Tyler
Liv Tyler
Photo: Liv Tyler

Released one per year for three years, Jackson’s films took on more weight and created greater anticipation with each installment. The Fellowship Of The Ring proved that Jackson and his co-screenwriters, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, were more than capable of bringing Tolkien to the screen with an eye toward large-scale spectacle as well as a respect for the original story, characters, and themes. The Two Towers did it one better. Ratcheting up the intensity on every level, it took the series to the same place as Tolkien’s books: the realm of shared cultural myth. Jackson doesn’t buckle under the burden of winding it down with The Return Of The King, either; in fact, he lets the weightiness define the film. [Keith Phipps]

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53 / 105

Love & Basketball

Love & Basketball

Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps
Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps
Screenshot: Love & Basketball

When writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood first began working on her screenplay for Love & Basketball, the WNBA didn’t exist. It wouldn’t be founded until 1996, just four years before Love & Basketball premiered. Before then, the best the sport’s elite female athletes could hope for was a successful college career and a spot on the U.S. Olympics team. Or, like the driven protagonist of Love & Basketball, they could aim to become the first woman in the NBA. Love & Basketball pulls off the neat trick of being both a romance and a sports movie—a combination that earned Jerry Maguire acclaim a few years earlier. But it’s also a poignant look at working twice as hard to get half as far.

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54 / 105

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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55 / 105

McQueen

McQueen

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Ann Ray (Bleecker Street

Rising quickly from a protegé of fashion editor Isabella Blow to creative director of Givenchy and owner of his own label, McQueen rose to prominence during a period where not just models but also fashion designers were becoming celebrities in their own right. He had an undeniable talent and a knack for getting the fashion gatekeepers that his work was designed to piss off to write him checks anyway. And he hated it—hated being famous, hated being respectable, hated pretty much everything but his dogs and working in his studio with the close-knit group of colleagues who were his only real friends. Those colleagues, along with members of McQueen’s family and former lovers, provide a rare, intimate look into the designer’s private world in McQueen, a film that’s refreshingly free of the gushing sound bites from sycophantic celebrities that too often dominate fashion documentaries. [Katie Rife]

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56 / 105

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

John Ford did more to shape the American Western than any other director; in every decade of his career, he led the charge to define and redefine it. By 1962, he didn’t have many films left in him, but The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance still provided a glimpse of future interpretations of the past. The late ’60s and ’70s found filmmakers demythologizing the Old West; with Liberty Valance, Ford beat them to it, offering a bittersweet look at the closing of the frontier by focusing on two strikingly different men who help one town choose law and order over the chaos of the open range. James Stewart stars as a lawyer from the East who doesn’t even make it to his new home in the town of Shinbone before his life savings is stolen. The robber is the notorious Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), a gang leader given free rein to terrorize the locals in exchange for his work assisting a group of powerful ranchers. Penniless, Stewart takes a job washing dishes at a small restaurant staffed by Swedish immigrants; they include the lovely Vera Miles, an illiterate woman all but married to John Wayne, a goodhearted tough guy who runs a small horse farm and believes security means carrying a gun and being willing to fire it. As Stewart settles into town, he and Wayne strike up an occasionally uneasy friendship—Stewart advocates improvement through education and democracy, while Wayne clings to the tools that helped him tame the unsettled land. Neither fully acknowledges that only one will have a place in a more civilized Shinbone. [Keith Phipps]

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57 / 105

Maverick

Maverick

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

Maverick casts Mel Gibson in the role made famous on television by James Garner. Garner himself appears as Marshal Zane Cooper, a mediator of sorts between Maverick and his conniving fellow poker player Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster) as they endeavor to scrape up enough money to enter a poker tournament with a $25,000 buy-in. Gibson’s Bret Maverick stands apart from many other western comedies in that he’s not a sheriff, a full-on outlaw, or mistakenly pressed into duty as either—just a cardsharp whose quick draw belies his lack of gunfighting acumen. That’s one of the movie’s many deceptions and misdirections. But while Maverick is as much a con-artist picture as a western, Maverick’s cons have an odd seed of honesty; he really does want to play in that tournament, and seeks money primarily from those who owe him actual debts. Most of his scams involve extricating himself from scrapes: getting his wallet back from Annabelle, staging fights to make himself look more fearsome, or teaming up with his American Indian buddy (Graham Greene), whose tribe makes money by faking Indian cliches for a Russian Grand Duke. The poker milieu is appropriate because Maverick‘s Old West ultimately functions as a series of comically elaborate bluffs. [Jesse Hassenger]

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58 / 105

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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59 / 105

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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60 / 105

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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61 / 105

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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62 / 105

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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63 / 105

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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64 / 105

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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65 / 105

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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66 / 105

MouseHunt

MouseHunt

Nathan Lane and Lee Evans
Nathan Lane and Lee Evans
Screenshot: MouseHunt

The first big family film from Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks studio stars Nathan Lane and British comedian Lee Evans as estranged brothers who are reunited when their father dies, leaving them a run-down house as part of their inheritance. The pair soon learns that the house is a lost architectural masterpiece, but their attempts to auction it off are thwarted by a pesky, brilliant, territorial mouse. On paper, it sounds like a dreadfully contrived bit of high-concept crap: Home Alone with a mouse. And while there is a limit to how good a film about a feisty mouse can be, MouseHunt is far better than you’d expect. Despite its intelligence-insulting premise, MouseHunt is a well-crafted, surprisingly smart film that benefits tremendously from the winning chemistry between Lane and talented newcomer Evans, as well as beautifully Gothic set designs and a periodically clever, inventive script by would-be cult filmmaker Adam Rifkin (The Invisible Maniac, The Nutt House a.k.a. The Nutty Nutt). It’s hardly a masterpiece, of course, and much of the slapstick quickly grows tiresome, but at its best, MouseHunt’s baroque, Dickensian universe recalls Nicholas Roeg’s terrific, underrated, and similarly mouse-centric Roald Dahl adaptation The Witches. And for a movie in the notoriously sadistic kiddie-slapstick genre, it’s surprisingly humanistic, refusing to villainize either the brothers or the spunky little mouse. [Nathan Rabin]

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67 / 105

Next Day Air

Next Day Air

Omari Hardwick
Omari Hardwick
Screenshot: Next Day Air

Donald Faison wanders through Next Day Air in a stoned haze as the unlikeliest of catalysts. The baby-faced Scrubs veteran plays a fuckup so incompetent that he can barely hold on to a job where his mom is his boss. Even his smoke-buddy Mos Def has the initiative to steal from his employers and customers, but Faison’s ambitions begin and end with toking as much weed as possible without losing his job. Faison sets Next Day Air’s plot in motion when he accidentally delivers a package containing a small fortune in cocaine to a trio of stick-up kids with more balls than brains: Wood Harris, Mike Epps, and a sleepy thug who spends so much time on the couch dozing that he’s become part of the furniture. Scenting a big payday, these small-timers decide to immediately sell the coke to Epps’ cousin, a paranoid mid-level dealer looking to make one last score before leaving the business for good. But the intended recipient of the package isn’t about to let Faison’s screw-up go unpunished, nor is the hotheaded Hispanic kingpin whose drug shipment has mysteriously gone missing. A very pleasant surprise, Next Day Air is the rare crime comedy that does justice to both sides of the equation. [Nathan Rabin]

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68 / 105

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling
Screenshot: The Nice Guys

Not since Blue Ruin has a movie gotten as much mileage out of having its hero fuck up as The Nice Guys does. Shane Black’s entertaining but shaggy homage to The Rockford Files-era detective series and mid-to-late 1970s cheese finds its offbeat gumshoe in Holland March (Ryan Gosling), a smartass with no sense of smell who tends to make bad guesses, lose guns, misread addresses, drink whatever’s handed to him, and defenestrate himself repeatedly; early on, he tries to break into a window, only to slice his wrist up so badly that he passes out from blood loss. Structured like a TV pilot, the movie partners March with Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), the Yoo-hoo-loving goon who broke the private eye’s arm just days before, in the search for a missing activist. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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69 / 105

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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70 / 105

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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71 / 105

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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72 / 105

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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73 / 105

Paycheck

Paycheck

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck
Screenshot: Paycheck

Based on a short story by paranoid futurist Philip K. Dick, whose work inspired the similar Minority Report, John Woo’s smart thriller Paycheck may not intend to be political, but it’s marked as much by its era as post-Watergate thrillers like The Parallax View or Three Days Of The Condor. In considering a machine that works like a giant crystal ball, the film questions the Bush Doctrine of preemptive warfare, saying that once the future can be predicted with any degree of certainty, the world is destined to be destroyed. Of course, like most science fiction that contends with such fortune telling, Paycheck gets snared by the usual questions of free will versus predestination, raising all the unavoidable paradoxes that are impossible to resolve. But the inherent slips of logic do nothing to undermine the Dickian anxieties at the story’s core, which looks to the future in order to comment meaningfully on the present. [Scott Tobias]

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74 / 105

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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75 / 105

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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76 / 105

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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77 / 105

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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78 / 105

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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79 / 105

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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80 / 105

The Rules Of Attraction

The Rules Of Attraction

James Van Der Beek
James Van Der Beek
Screenshot: The Rules Of Attraction

Instant gratification is the name of the game in The Rules Of Attraction, both for its sex- and drug-addled characters and in Roger Avary’s directorial style. He films every scene for maximum visceral impact, dispensing sex, drugs, and violence in industrial-sized doses. In a performance designed to obliterate his Dawson’s Creek image, James Van Der Beek stars as drug-dealing college student Sean Bateman, who shares more than just a surname with the serial-killing protagonist of Ellis’ American Psycho. A Knight’s Tale’s Shannyn Sossamon co-stars as the object of Van Der Beek’s misguided affections, a virgin who preserves her chastity by flipping through a book detailing the horrors of venereal diseases before going to parties. Ian Somerhalder, a dead ringer for Wes Bentley, fills the third point in the film’s unrequited-love triangle, as an effete rich boy hoping that Van Der Beek is more than a little bi-curious. The Rules Of Attraction unabashedly assumes that nothing succeeds like excess. Avary piles on the stylistic tricks with gratuitous glee, employing split-screens, backward movement, flashy editing, and speeded-up film like a brash film student with a budget trying to beat Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Brian De Palma at their own game. Surprisingly, the excess works, giving the film a sleazy energy that’s only occasionally overbearing. Propelled by a fine Tomandandy score and a savvy assortment of seductive new-wave hits, Attraction is top-notch trash, a guilty pleasure designed for the decadent 14-year-old in everyone. [Nathan Rabin]

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81 / 105

Save Yourselves!

Save Yourselves!

Sunita Mani and John Reynolds in Save Yourselves!
Sunita Mani and John Reynolds in Save Yourselves!
Photo: Bleeker Street

Bait and switch may be a reprehensible sales technique, but it often works wonderfully in movies. The indie comedy Save Yourselves! kicks off with what seems like a solid sitcom-episode premise: Extremely online couple Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds) decide to spend an entire week disconnected from the internet, focusing instead upon their in-person interpersonal dynamic. (The impetus for this experiment, typical of the movie’s droll sense of humor: Su, frustrated, knocks Jack’s phone out of his hand and across the apartment without warning, whereupon he turns to her and says with deep sincerity, “Thank you.”) To that end, the two Brooklynites borrow a friend’s isolated cabin upstate, bringing along their smartphones and laptops but vowing not to pick them up unless there’s a genuine emergency. It’s not too hard to guess what sort of jokes would emerge from this scenario, and severe tech withdrawal does briefly play a key role. The film’s true premise, however, involves the emergency that soon arises, since Su and Jack have cut the world off at the precise moment that it’s invaded by a hostile alien race. [Mike D’Angelo]

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82 / 105

Selena

Selena

Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez
Screenshot: Selena

Selena, as a biopic, neatly traces the rising star’s path from singing in her family’s struggling restaurant to crossover success, distilling her unfairly short life into resonant anecdotes and shot-for-shot music performances. It doesn’t exactly shirk conventional biographical cinema—you get your obligatory montage highlighting the peak of success, the heavy-duty familial rifts, all the pertinent scandal—but that’s fine. What makes director Gregory Nava’s portrait of Selena so engaging is the reverent attention to beloved details, from the eagle-eyed reconstruction of her famed stage looks by costume designer Elisabetta Beraldo to Jennifer Lopez’s close (but not exact, because that’s impossible) recreation of the stage presence that made her such a star.But beyond her bedazzled bustiers and powerful vocals, Selena was an immensely charismatic, gutsy young upstart who, during her career’s nascency, had a lot to prove as a performer straddling the rather sticky line between two very different cultures. Though she could never claim to fully identify with the distinct Mexican-American experience, Lopez also had her fair share to prove as an up-and-coming actress daring to portray a widely grieved figure, and carried out the task with impressive poise. To date, it remains one of the better tributes to a luminary dimmed before her prime. [Shannon Miller]

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83 / 105

She Dies Tomorrow

She Dies Tomorrow

She Dies Tomorrow
She Dies Tomorrow
Photo: Jay Keitel/Neon

Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil), the protagonist of She Dies Tomorrow, is not okay. When we first meet her, she seems fine enough—about as fine as any of us are in an era where anxiety and confusion are so prevalent that there’s a term for endlessly scrolling through bad news. She putters around her half-empty house still piled with moving boxes, occasionally stopping to lie on the floor or run her hands over the furniture. She pours herself some wine, picks out a sequin gown, puts it on, and sits down at her laptop to shop online for leather jackets (and, more curiously, cremation urns). It’s not until her friend Jane (Jane Adams) comes by and finds her blankly standing in her backyard holding a leaf blower that we realize how not okay Amy actually is, as she greets her friend with a barely audible, “I was thinking... I could be made into a leather jacket.” With its claustrophobic spaces and free-floating fear, She Dies Tomorrow is built around an eerily timely theme: existential dread as thought virus. Amy is gripped by the unshakable belief that she will die the next day, and everyone who encounters her becomes similarly convinced after only a few seconds of exposure. One character describes the feeling: “It’s like when you’re in New York City... in the summer, when you look up and there’s air conditioners everywhere, and you just know, ‘One of those is going to pop out and crash down on my head.’” The pandemic here is emotional, as first Jane, then everyone she meets, is visited by a psychedelic onslaught of color, sound, and pummeling flashing light. It’s sort of like being abducted by aliens while high on LSD, and it turns all who see and hear it into hollow shells of doom. [Katie Rife]

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84 / 105

Shirley

Shirley