The best movies on Hulu

The best movies on Hulu

Coming in July: 28 Days Later, RoboCop, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and more

farClockwise from upper left: Support The Girls (Photo: Magnolia Pictures), The Dark Knight (Screenshot), Parasite (Photo: Neon), The Long Goodbye (Screenshot), To Die For (Screenshot)
farClockwise from upper left: Support The Girls (Photo: Magnolia Pictures), The Dark Knight (Screenshot), Parasite (Photo: Neon), The Long Goodbye (Screenshot), To Die For (Screenshot)

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 May 17, 2021.

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2 / 135

’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 avspecific 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 / 135

28 Days Later

28 Days Later

28 Days Later
28 Days Later
Screenshot: 28 Days Later

Danny Boyle jumpstarted both his terrific ’00s run and the undead revival with a concept that vexed some hardcore horror devotees: fast zombies. Far from anti-Romero sacrilege, though, this creative choice shifts the undead metaphor from shuffling, decaying remnants of society to a raw, untamed rage, here the result of a fast-spreading virus, another tweak of the established zombie formula. The title comes from the amount of time elapsed between the virus’s inception and the ravaged world that Cillian Murphy’s character discovers when he wakes up from a coma in an abandoned hospital—a terrific nightmare hook that wrings initial terror from scenes of deadly quiet. Appropriately, Boyle shot fast and furious with digital video to capture beautiful lo-fi visions of a post-apocalyptic London and beyond. Horror overtones echo throughout Boyle’s career, from Shallow Grave and Trainspotting to Sunshine and 127 Hours; in 28 Days Later, his talent for intensity boiling over into insanity comes through as loud and clear as it ever has. [Jesse Hassenger]

Available July 1; Leaving July 31

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4 / 135

A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Photo: Lionsgate

What resonates, in this smart but minor procedural, isn’t the harsh vision of a post-9/11 world, but the unglamorous depiction of governmental grunt work. Like Zero Dark Thirty, A Most Wanted Manunderstands national security as the purview of workaholics, men and women who have sacrificed personal lives for the sake of their duties. There’s something deeply sad about the relationship between Günther (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his second-in-command, Irna (Nina Hoss), who share a bantering rapport familiar enough to be called romantic. When they feign a kiss mid-film, pretending to neck to avoid detection, the squandered emotion becomes palpable: Personal satisfaction—happiness, even—is an impossibility for these committed intelligencers. Hoffman, slumping with defeat when not using his weight as a weapon, locates the tragedy of his disheartened hero. He also gets to let loose one last blue streak, bellowing with impotent frustration as only he could. The actor’s subtlety will be missed, but so will his way with an expletive. [A.A. Dowd]

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5 / 135

Across The Universe

Across The Universe

Across The Universe
Across The Universe
Photo: Columbia Pictures

Across The Universe’s saving grace is its reckless energy and Taymor’s typically gorgeous imagery, whether she’s filming a straight-up dance sequence to “With A Little Help From My Friends” or a trippy surrealist nightmare in which the Army processes Anderson to “I Want You.” The film wavers between exhilarating and gimmicky, and the cast’s interpretations of the Beatles catalog vary between passionate and rote, but Across The Universe is consistent in one aspect: Its crazed ambition. When it falls, it falls far, but at least that means it’s reaching high. [Tasha Robinson]

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The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures Of Tintin
The Adventures Of Tintin
Photo: Paramount Pictures

The Adventures Of Tintin makes for a solid ride, as it throws the pair into the midst of a vast whirligig of significant items lost and found, plots foiled and reconvened, and acquaintances ditched and recovered. (Among them, the twin incompetent lawmen Thompson and Thomson, voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.) Spielberg directs with a keen eye for clarity, both visually and narratively: While the plot is dense and complex, the heroes’ goals are always clear, and the narrative plays fair with the mystery, drawing a straight, comprehensible line from one step to the next. (Far fairer than it plays with the laws of physics, which get mangled into unrecognizability, especially when comedy or excitement might result.) And the many action setpieces are carefully staged to be exciting and involving, but not confusing. Tintin falters a bit toward the end, spending so much energy on a large-scale fight that the small-scale battle that serves as a climax feels meager by comparison, and then pointedly setting up the sequels to come. But while it’s essentially just another slick Spielberg action machine, it’s operating effectively on all cylinders throughout. [Tasha Robinson]

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7 / 135

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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8 / 135

Arrival

Arrival

Amy Adams in Arrival
Amy Adams in Arrival
Photo: Paramount

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s spookily majestic sci-fi spectacle, is on a mission of multiple objectives. Focused on the nuts and bolts of interspecies communication, this is an unusually intelligent object from Hollywood, where science fiction is usually just a fancy word for an action movie set in space or the future. But there’s also a surprisingly affecting emotional core to Villeneuve’s enigma—a stealth poignancy woven into the fabric of its cerebral design. Arrival has come, like a visitor from the cosmos, to blow minds and break hearts. One does not generally attend a film from the director of Sicario expecting four-hankie catharsis. But Villeneuve is a chameleon: Having expertly imitated the sleek moodiness of David Fincher with his missing-kids potboiler Prisoners, the French-Canadian director conjures some Malickian grandeur here during an elegiac prologue, underscoring a family tragedy with the symphonic ache of Max Richter’s “On The Nature Of Daylight.” Based on an award-winning short story by sci-fi writer Ted Chiang, Arrival possesses a setup not so different from Sicario, given that it puts another highly skilled professional woman under the jurisdiction of dismissive, trigger-happy male superiors. But a more personal dimension is immediately plain, as Villeneuve introduces the extraterrestrial fleet through a reaction shot of his heroine, linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), gaping in muted disbelief at a lecture-hall television we don’t see. [A.A. Dowd]

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9 / 135

The Assassin

The Assassin

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Screenshot: The Assassin

Enigmatic and often mesmerizing, super-saturated with color, drawn like a still plain ripped by brief, unexpected gusts of wind—The Assassin is one of the most flat-out beautiful movies of the last decade, and also one of the most puzzling. Returning to features after a prolonged absence, Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien has made a martial-arts period piece like none other, keeping to the classic principles and conventions of wuxia—the storied Chinese genre of wandering warriors and codes of honor—while casting them in a mysterious light. Bold takes on popular genres generally set out to de-mystify, but Hou has accomplished the opposite. Washing away centuries of film and fiction, he envisions a tale from the Tang dynasty—about a deadly martial artist who must kill the man to whom she was once betrothed—as a window into the haunted otherworld of the mythic past. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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The Assistant

The Assistant

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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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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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Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
Photo: Lionsgate

Comedians in middle age are not supposed to make movies like Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar. Kristen Wiig, the film’s star, producer, and co-writer, is around the age that fellow SNL luminaries like Will Ferrell, Mike Myers, and Eddie Murphy were when they decided to dip into more family-oriented comedies, try out more serious roles, and/or step back from the grind of superstar brand maintenance. Wiig, meanwhile, nearly a decade removed from her breakout hit Bridesmaids, has reunited with that film’s co-writer, Annie Mumolo, for something gloriously, exuberantly silly. Barb & Star throws into sharp relief just how infrequently a major comedy star makes a gag-heavy free-for-all that actually works. Wiig even takes on a makeup-heavy second role that recalls both Murphy and Myers—particularly the latter, as she essentially plays her own Sia-resembling version of Dr. Evil.

Not that Barb (Mumolo, also co-starring) or Star (Wiig) are aware of any archnemesis for most of the film’s run time. As a comic duo, they’re sort of a middle-aged Nebraskan version of Dumb And Dumber’s Harry and Lloyd or Beavis and Butt-Head—less because of their intelligence levels (they’re more daftly oblivious than stupid) than their soulmate-level shared sensibility. Though the movie gradually teases out a few key differences—Barb is a widow while Star is a divorcé; Barb is more fearful of new experiences; they each use a slightly different pronunciation of “caramel” despite their midwestern accents—these women live together, work together, and seem to spend nearly every other waking moment together. They share an enthusiasm for poofy mom haircuts, “full jewelry,” and culottes, among other signifiers for (caricatured) women of a certain age and socioeconomic position. [Jesse Hassenger]

Coming July 9

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Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Christian Bale
Christian Bale
Screenshot: Batman Begins

In the November 1939 issue of Detective Comics, six months after creator Bob Kane first introduced The Batman, Kane and uncredited collaborator Gardner Fox attached a two-page prologue to the otherwise unmemorable adventure “The Batman Wars Against The Dirigible Of Doom.” Subtitled “The Legend Of The Batman—Who He Is And How He Came To Be!” the intro reveals Batman’s previously untold origin story, taking him from a happy rich kid to a grim creature of the night in what must be the 12 most emotionally wrenching panels of comics’ golden age. In Batman Begins, which reboots the Batman film franchise eight years after the disastrous Batman & Robin, director Christopher Nolan (Memento), co-writer David S. Goyer, and star Christian Bale draw liberally from different periods of Batman’s history, but their film most resembles those two pages: It treats Bruce Wayne’s transformation into, as that story put it, a “weird figure of the dark” as a logical response to the darkness around him. [Keith Phipps]

Stream it now; leaving July 31

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Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice

Michael Keaton
Michael Keaton
Screenshot: Beetlejuice

It’s hard to believe that a movie as defiantly odd as the horror-comedy Beetlejuice even got made by a Hollywood studio in the ‘80s, let alone that it became a substantial hit and a sleepover staple. The title character—a pasty-faced, hollow-eyed, green-teethed, bug-chomping corpse played by Michael Keaton—doesn’t make his first full appearance until halfway through the movie, and then comes roaring across the screen like a pop-eyed beast from a Tex Avery cartoon, belching and swearing and boasting. Chief among those boasts: that he can help recently deceased couple Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis scare away the hideous New York yuppies now inhabiting their charming country house. (Yes, Beetlejuice is pro-ghost.) Dry in tone, packed with grotesque sight gags, and surprisingly sweet at times, Beetlejuice never seems concerned with straightforward storytelling. First and foremost, it’s a funhouse ride. [Noel Murray]

Coming July 1

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The Big Chill

The Big Chill

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Screenshot: The Big Chill

Like American Graffiti, The Big Chill belongs to a nearly forgotten time when culture metamorphosed so rapidly that it made sense to feel deeply nostalgic for the previous decade or two, which could feel like a whole different world. The film’s loose narrative involves a group of old college pals, now in their mid-30s, assembling for the funeral of another friend who’d committed suicide, then spending a couple of days collectively wondering what became of their former radical ideals. John Sayles had explored roughly the same idea a few years earlier in Return Of The Secaucus 7, but it was Lawrence Kasdan’s more accessible, Motown-fueled take that caught the public imagination, introducing and/or firmly establishing a handful of major actors in the process. [Mike D’Angelo]

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16 / 135

Big Fish

Big Fish

Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor
Screenshot: Big Fish

Big Fish is a Daniel Wallace adaptation and visual feast that recaptures the fairy-tale simplicity and wrenching emotional power of Edward Scissorhands. Told largely in flashbacks, Big Fish stars Albert Finney as a larger-than-life Southern patriarch who never lets the truth get in the way of a good yarn. Like his Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, director Tim Burton’s Big Fish largely takes place in a kaleidoscopic, fully formed, utterly benevolent universe that seems to have originated in its protagonist’s vivid imagination–which in this case isn’t that far from the truth. With such a world-class fantasist in the director’s chair, the question of which side of the fantasy/fact divide Big Fish will fall on is never in doubt. But Burton and company make an unbeatable case for the life-affirming power of make-believe. [Nathan Rabin]

Coming July 1

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The Birdcage

The Birdcage

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

Nineteen years after its debut, Mike Nichols’ modernized adaptation of La Cage Aux Folles strikes a somewhat awkward chord with the character of son Val (Dan Futterman), whose demand that Armand and Albert deny and repress their homosexuality makes him come off as a selfish, insensitive brat—and one who, ultimately, only embraces his parents’ true nature because he’s been left with no more deceitful options. Similar discomfort comes via Armand’s repeated attempts to hide the flamboyant Albert from view (note to future spouses: do not treat the love of your life like an embarrassment). Yet whereas those plot points now stick out like sore thumbs, Elaine May’s script otherwise remains amazingly sharp, generating consistent laughs from a bevy of clever one-liners and ever-more-awkward situations, all of which Nichols directs with his usual un-showy sharpness. Ultimately, though, The Birdcage remains a riot thanks mostly to its cast, from the stuffy Hackman and Wiest, to the exasperated Williams and showy Lane, to the colorful Azaria, playing a man whose absurd vivacity cannot be contained. [Nick Schager]

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18 / 135

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday

Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday
Screenshot: Bloody Sunday

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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Border

Border

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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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Bound

Bound

Jennifer Tilly
Jennifer Tilly
Screenshot: Bound

To say Bound is a double-meaning title understates the way the Wachowskis thread the concept into the fabric of the movie, where Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon are bound literally, bound to each other, bound to the powerful men who control their destinies, and bound by their own ideas about what intimacy could mean for them. Since this is a crime film, getting unbound involves a plan to steal $2 million in mob money and run off together, but the Wachowskis remain conscious of how their theme is developing, even as they choreograph suspenseful setpieces with a “Look, ma!” flair that’s only occasionally distracting. The stakes are high, but to the Wachowskis’ credit, the question isn’t “Will they get away with the money?” but “Will they make it out together (with their lives and their tenuous trust intact)?” That’s a different level of engagement than the crime genre usually encourages. [Scott Tobias]

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Bug

Bug

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Screenshot: Bug

Like William Friedkin’s underrated previous film, The Hunted, the relentlessly claustrophobic Bug strips its story down to the basics. A dramatically grunged-up Ashley Judd is all jangled nerves and edgy intensity as a hard-luck waitress with a drinking problem, a coke habit she can’t afford, a missing son, and an abusive ex-husband (Harry Connick Jr.) fresh out of jail and eager to pick up where he left off. Judd spies a brief respite from loneliness in the person of mysterious drifter Michael Shannon, an AWOL veteran with demons of his own. As in The Exorcist, Friedkin establishes a tone of hard-edged, almost documentary-style realism before ratcheting up the horror to nearly unbearable levels. Bug skirts camp ridiculousness throughout, especially during a fever-dream last act in which Judd embraces Shannon’s insanity with disconcerting conviction. Like a thinking man’s The Number 23, Bug seems to take place largely inside the demented psyche of someone with a loosening grasp on reality. At other times, Bug suggests Safe as remade by David Cronenberg, both in its biological, venereal horror, and in its paranoia about a contemporary world hopelessly corrupted by viruses, germs, and infections, literal and metaphorical. Judd and Shannon’s unnerving performances ensure that even when Bug leaps deliriously off the deep end, it remains rooted in the loneliness of two very sad people desperate for any kind of meaningful connection, no matter how mad or destructive. Even at its most preposterous—Friedkin’s latest rivals his Druid horror flick The Guardian for sheer lunacy—Bug remains disconcerting, real, and raw. It poignantly suggests that some lost souls would rather be crazy and doomed than alone. [Nathan Rabin]

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Burning

Burning

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Photo: Burning

A bone-dry comedy of class warfare. A perplexing missing-person mystery worthy of Hitchcock or Antonioni. An existential meditation on the little hungers and great hungers that drive us. There’s no single right way to classify Burning, so why not just call it the best movie of the year and leave it at that? Returning after an eight-year hiatus from filmmaking, South Korean master of the slow burn Lee Chang-dong (Poetry) did more than perfectly capture the subjective ambivalence of Haruki Murakami’s original short story, “Barn Burning.” In stretching it out to fill two-and-half perfectly paced hours, he also teased from his source material a wealth of new meanings and ambiguities, percolating through the love triangle of sorts that envelops an introverted writer (Ah-in Yoo), his hometown classmate-turned-crush (Jong-seo Jun), and her slick, wealthy new beau (Steven Yeun, rivetingly loathsome in a tricky role). You didn’t have to look hard to see a disturbing relevance in the film’s simmering stew of resentments, the working-class and explicitly male rage that boils over into a shocking climax. (Not for nothing does Donald Trump make a televised cameo.) But Burning’s power is more timeless that it is timely, located as it is in big questions without clear answers: real riddles of desire, longing, and motivation, none any easier to solve than the disappearance at the center of this captivating enigma. [A.A. Dowd]

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Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Paul Newman and Robert Redford
Paul Newman and Robert Redford
Photo: Silver Screen Collection (Getty Images)

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid might not have invented the modern buddy comedy, but it may as well have. While Lethal Weapon screenwriter Shane Black was still toddling around playing cowboys and Indians, director George Roy Hill, cinematographer Conrad Hall, composer Burt Bacharach, stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and screenwriter William Goldman were meticulously crafting the gold standard for movies about rugged pals quipping and wisecracking their way through one perilous bonding situation after another. Goldman has criticized his Oscar-winning screenplay for being overly clever, which is akin to job applicants who cite their biggest flaws as “I’m too hard-working” or “I’m too much of a perfectionist.” But Goldman has a point. Butch Cassidy’s dialogue is so unrelentingly sarcastic and irreverent that the film sometimes feels like an especially sharp Mad Magazine parody of itself. In one of the special features included in the two-disc special edition, Hill is reported to have complained following a screening that people were laughing at his tragedy. But tragedies are seldom this glib. Then again, they’re seldom this fun or consistently entertaining, either. [Nathan Rabin]

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Caddyshack

Caddyshack

Caddyshack
Caddyshack
Photo: Orion Pictures (Getty Images)

[Harold] Ramis transformed the default rebelliousness and sneering sarcasm of the 1960s counterculture into a commercial comedy force, elevating (or reducing, based on your perspective) the intergenerational and interclass clashes of the era into a crowd-pleasing battle between slobs and snobs, one in which the filmmakers and the audience’s sympathies are never in question. (Here’s a hint: It’s not with the snooty country-club types with ascots and monocles.) That’s especially true of Ramis’ 1980 directorial debut, Caddyshack, which he co-wrote with National Lampoon’s Douglas Kenney and Bill’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray. With Caddyshack, Ramis plugged into the cultural zeitgeist with a ramshackle golf comedy crudely but effectively engineered to showcase the talents of four very different sensibilities: Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight. [Nathan Rabin]

Coming July 1

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Cheech & Chong’s Still Smokin’

Cheech & Chong’s Still Smokin’

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Screenshot: Cheech & Chong’s Still Smokin’

Still Smokin’, [Cheech And Chong’s] fifth effort remains an improvement on the previous films under just about every vector of criticism. This film finds director Chong tentatively experimenting with form and structure, devoting the first half of the film to a comic mishap that sends the pair to Amsterdam for a Dolly Parton/Burt Reynolds film festival, and then shooting the second half as a stand-up concert documentary. If stoner comedy has a Stop Making Sense, this would have to be it; there’s a winning sense of spontaneity to the grainy footage of Cheech and Chong’s onstage set, bouncing around the theater and employing the occasional distorted exposure to nod to their countercultural roots. More exciting still, Still Smokin represents the series’ first effort to actually tussle with legitimate thematic concerns, forming cogent thoughts beyond a desire for the nearest bag of Lay’s. Most of the first half plays out as a Q&A between the esteemed European press and our dudes, affecting a Godardian aloofness as if they had just been kicked out of Cannes for taking bong rips in the bathroom of the Grand Palais. They deliver some strong one-liners (“A lot of people say we’re just in it for the drugs, but that’s true,” Cheech deadpans) and more than that, they confront their own growing public profile with more self-awareness than in the literally self-aware flourishes. They lampoon their own cult of celebrity, but there’s a genuine unease beneath the jokes as they reconcile the stardom they stumbled into with the enduring desire to remain a toasty slacker forever. Chong mutters that “responsibility’s a great responsibility, man” in Next Movie, and those words ring loud and clear over his semi-reluctant fame. [Charles Bramseco]

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Clemency

Clemency

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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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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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Collective

Collective

Collective
Collective
Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Early in the 21st century, a new wave of Romanian filmmakers like Cristian Mungiu, Cristi Puiu, and Corneliu Porumboiu began drawing international recognition for their gripping, docu-realistic dramas, addressing the power imbalances and the social dysfunction plaguing their country, post-Communism. The best way to describe Alexander Nanau’s documentary Collective is to say that it’s a non-fiction version of those new Romanian classics: like The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu or 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days, but with real people. It’s a taut, intense procedural, with a resonant story that simultaneously follows a journalistic investigation and an attempt to fix a fatally dysfunctional medical bureaucracy—all while criminal organizations, corrupt politicians, and rabble-rousing television hosts work in concert to stymie any real reform. [Noel Murray]

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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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The Conversation

The Conversation

Gene Hackman
Gene Hackman
Screenshot: The Conversation

Is it irony or just hypocrisy that Harry Caul, the professional snoop Gene Hackman plays in The Conversation, is obsessed with protecting his privacy? Maybe it’s neither. Maybe the guy’s just been doing what he does for long enough to know how easy it is to breach the firewall of someone’s personal life. Maybe a healthy supply of paranoia is just a side effect of becoming the “best bugger on the West Coast.” If there is an irony dripping off of Francis Ford Coppola’s suspense classic, it’s teased by the title itself: Harry spends the whole movie studying, dissecting, and decoding a single conversation, all the while remaining incapable of holding one himself. And it’s that failure, that inability to grasp the vagaries of human interaction, that causes him to miss a crucial detail—the most important clue—until it’s much too late. [A.A. Dowd]

Coming July 1

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The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Heath Ledger
Heath Ledger
Screenshot: The Dark Knight

It’s no accident that the skyline of Gotham City figures prominently in so many scenes in The Dark Knight, the second Batman movie from director and co-writer Christopher Nolan. It’s seen from above when Batman glides from building to building, and from below as the Joker skulks through streets that the residents deserted in panic. But it’s just as conspicuously present in the film’s many scenes of executives and city officials meeting high above the general populace, like gods determining the fates of those below. Where Batman Begins was largely about the considerable personal toll exacted by its hero’s decision to fight back against the forces of evil while adhering to a code of honor, The Dark Knight expands those weighty themes to city scale. [Keith Phipps]

Stream it now; leaving July 31

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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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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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Dear White People

Dear White People

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

Justin Simien’s career got off to an auspicious start with his debut feature, Dear White People. Though plagued by the unevenness of a first film, Dear White People also reveals Simien’s keen eye for observation and his sharp sense of humor. His characters—four black students at a fictional Ivy League college—may claim to have all the answers, but Simien smartly undercuts their moral authority with shades of gray; he’s more interested in raising questions about race and identity than in trying to answer them. Yet the film is not without its heart; it was a joy to recognize myself in the wonderfully flawed Sam White (Tessa Thompson), a young woman struggling to balance anger, activism, and art. [Caroline Siede]

Coming July 1

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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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Die Hard

Die Hard

Bruce Willis
Bruce Willis
Screenshot: Die Hard

During the ’80s golden era of American action movies, there was a certain way these movies looked: burnished steel, gleaming sweat, bulging muscles that couldn’t possibly exist without chemical enhancement. The movies that people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were making looked nothing like real life. One fascinating thing about 1988’s Die Hard, quite possibly the best action movie ever made, is that it didn’t look anything like that. As played by Bruce Willis, McClane was something other than a steroidal superman. He was an ordinary human being, and kind of an asshole. As the movie opens, we see McClane grumpily huffing at his airplane seatmate, his affable cartoon-character limo driver Argyle, and finally at his estranged wife. He’s a New York cop who wants to remain a New York cop, and he can’t accept that his wife’s business career has taken off in Los Angeles or that she’s using her maiden name. Seeing her for the first time in months, he freaks out at her and then immediately realizes that he’s being an asshole when it’s too late to do anything about it. But fortunately for McClane, before he has a chance to make more of an ass out of himself, some terrorists show up. And all of a sudden, he’s his best self. [Tom Breihan]

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The Donut King

The Donut King

The Donut King
The Donut King
Photo: Colin Kennedy

As an energetic montage at the beginning of The Donut King states, Los Angeles has a much higher percentage of donut shops than any other city in the U.S.—one for every 7,000 residents, as opposed to the national average of one per 30,000. And almost all of those donut shops are owned by Cambodian people, whose market dominance is so complete that even East Coast staple Dunkin’ Donuts struggled to break into Southern California in the ’90s. Remarkably—almost miraculously—this is all the work of one man: Ted Ngoy, who sponsored hundreds of refugees to come to the U.S. and gave them turnkey loans to run their own donut shops in the ’70s and ’80s. The first part of Gu’s documentary celebrates Ngoy, as well as the ingenuity and tireless work ethic of immigrants in general, with a vivid hybrid of biographical documentary and food porn set to colorful animation and a hip-hop beat. In fact, The Donut King plays much like an extended episode of Ugly Delicious, before diving into darker territory in its second half that actively dismantles the myths it spent the first hour building. And although this abrupt turn destabilizes the film’s structure in a way it never quite recovers from, it also makes The Donut King much more than simple food porn—not that there’s anything wrong with that, particularly when creative, mouthwatering treats like cronuts and emoji donuts are so lovingly showcased. [Katie Rife]

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38 / 135

Fargo

Fargo

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

The Coen brothers’ first breakout hit crystallizes all their strengths as writers and directors: The diamond-sharp plotting, the unparalleled gift for stylized language (in this case, the quotable dialect of native Minnesotans), the exacting control over every aspect of the production. What makes Fargo special, beyond the Coens working at the peak of their craft, is that it considers the crime thriller in moral terms, turning the bloody mayhem over a scheme gone wrong into a reflection on the bedrock values of home and family. The Coens sharply contrast the desires and temperaments of its two main characters: a car salesman (William H. Macy) who arranges to have his wife kidnapped to bilk ransom money out of his wealthy father-in-law, and a pregnant police chief (Frances McDormand) who waddles her way to the bottom of the case. In McDormand’s steady gumshoe, Fargo has an unforgettable hero who can piece together the clues without comprehending the crime.

Coming July 1; Leaving July 31

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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 2019] (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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Flight

Flight

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington
Screenshot: Flight

For the opening scene of Flight to have maximum impact, it’s probably best to go in knowing nothing about its protagonist’s profession, which is unfortunately revealed in the film poster, if not the title itself. Waking in an anonymous hotel room, Denzel Washington stares at the naked woman he bedded the night before, while his ex-wife calls him to argue about money. Bleary-eyed and surrounded by the remnants of a party only hours dead, he swigs the dregs from a beer bottle, stumbles around the room, does a line of coke to get straight. And then he eventually strides confidently into the hallway in his airline pilot’s uniform, to the tune of Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright.” Directing his first live-action film since 2000’s Cast Away, Robert Zemeckis paces it brilliantly, slowly ramping up the energy from hungover lethargy to coke-fueled confidence, while creating undercurrents of dread as Washington hits his stride. He looks the part of the perfect pilot, and he may feel all right, but beneath the surface, something has clearly gone wrong. Whatever his problems—and by the film’s end, they’ve been depicted in exhaustive detail—his confidence isn’t misplaced. There’s only one flight in Flight, what should be a routine morning transit from Orlando to Atlanta. It’s destined to be more harrowing than usual, however. As a new co-pilot (Brian Geraghty) looks on in concern after their plane takes off in the rain, Washington punches through a narrow corridor of clouds while traveling at a speed just on the right side of what’s considered safe. It’s how he flies and how he lives: pushing the limit but never going over, thanks to his perfect control. Then, as the plane nears its destination, events beyond Washington’s control take over. [Keith Phipps]

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41 / 135

The Full Monty

The Full Monty

Mark Addy
Mark Addy
Screenshot: The Full Monty

Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) stars as a laid-off Sheffield steelworker who devises an unusual scheme to better himself in this boisterous new comedy. Inspired by the popularity of a Chippendales appearance, Carlyle begins recruiting other unemployed men to form their own stripshow. That none of them, for various reasons, are really qualified to be taking off their clothes in public is the source for much of The Full Monty’s humor—most often in the form of some very funny physical gags—but the film has much more going for it than that one obvious joke would suggest. The Full Monty takes a harsh look at the state of post-Thatcher labor in Britain, portraying some of the humiliation involved with life on the dole. Carlyle’s attempts to win the respect of his young son, and some of the other men’s insecurity with their bodies—a rarely touched topic—are treated sensitively and incorporated seamlessly into the story. [Keith Phipps]

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42 / 135

Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Galaxy Quest

An inspired spoof of and tribute to Star Trek, Galaxy Quest stars Tim Allen as the one-time star of the long-canceled, cultishly adored science-fiction show of the title, the captain of a fictional starship whose crew now finds its steadiest employment signing autographs at conventions and opening discount electronics stores. When guileless space aliens who believe the series’ episodes to be “historical documents” (imagine hardened Trekkies with an even looser grasp on reality) kidnap Allen and his crew, the group is forced to recall the lessons of its fictional past and band together to save the aliens’ fragile civilization, which is founded on the high-minded if occasionally illogical principles of the series. Director Dean Parisot (Home Fries) makes the most of Robert Gordon and David Howard’s Three Amigos-in-space screenplay, never letting the impressive special effects get in the way of a solid comedy that would have worked at half the budget. But the cast is what makes Galaxy Quest work. Allen suggests the two-dimensional actor who starred on Home Improvement more than the two-dimensional actor who played Captain Kirk, but the rest turn in deft comic performances. These include Sigourney Weaver as the series’ token woman, Daryl Mitchell as its aging wunderkind navigator, Sam Rockwell as a minor player (who died in episode 82) swept along for the ride, and the especially good Alan Rickman and Tony Shalhoub, respectively playing a sardonic British actor tired of being typecast in his Spock-like role and the ship’s sleepy-eyed tech sergeant. [Keith Phipps]

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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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Girl With A Pearl Earring

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson
Screenshot: Girl With A Pearl Earring

Adapting Tracy Chevalier’s novel, Girl With A Pearl Earring seeks not so much to clear up the mysteries Johannes Vermeer’s painting as to capture more moments of pregnant ambiguity where lives find their potential, and to show the unspoken codes that keep that potential in check. As the film opens, its eponymous heroine, beautifully played by Scarlett Johansson, seems incapable of her immortal expression, or even of looking anyone else in the eye. A Protestant among Catholics, a woman in a man’s world, and a new servant in the established ranks of the busy, precariously prosperous Vermeer household, she keeps her hair covered and her head low. It takes time for her to develop any relationship at all with Vermeer (Colin Firth), and more time still for that relationship to blossom into something between infatuation and mutual admiration. When it does, Firth is struck by her beauty, but also by her instinct for color and composition, which has no outlet other than helping him. Making the transition from British television, director Peter Webber displays a great sense of understatement and a keen eye for careful framing, with cinematographer Eduardo Serra beautifully re-creating Vermeer’s signature play of shadow and light. Within Pearl Earring’s brisk running time, Webber sketches out the boundaries that money and tradition place around his characters’ lives, and shows how far their dreams overshoot those boundaries. Conveying a wicked sense of entitlement, Tom Wilkinson plays Firth’s patron as a man fully aware of the bottomless pit over which he dangles painter and subject alike, and equally aware that he need never speak of his power. Only the usually reliable Firth seems somewhat off, too much a brooding artist and too little a man. Yet this ends up working in the film’s favor, keeping the mystery of Vermeer intact until a final, offscreen gesture gives his most famous model a melancholy dignity to match the shroud of immortality. [Keith Phipps]

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara
Rooney Mara
Screenshot: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

There is no director more ideally suited to adapt Stieg Larsson’s best-selling potboiler The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo than David Fincher, and not just for the obvious reason that he knows his way around the serial-killer thriller. He’s equally adept at taking unwieldy chunks of exposition—like the lawsuits over the founding of Facebook or the leads (and blind alleys) in the investigation of the Zodiac killer or the gnarled family tree in Larsson’s book—and making it look like cinema of the first order. A typically Fincherian hero—the loner who retreats from family and society to burrow into a project—Daniel Craig stars as a Swedish journalist who seizes the chance to pivot out of highly publicized libel suit and into something new. Christopher Plummer, as the retired CEO of a large corporation, summons Craig to a remote island where he and members of his family live in luxury, and, more often than not, bitter estrangement. Plummer wants Craig to document the family’s history, but the focus of his investigation turns to the disappearance (and likely murder) of Plummer’s grand-niece 36 years earlier. As the case grows more complicated, Craig brings on an unconventional but brilliant research assistant in Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a young woman coarsened by her horrific experiences within the social system. [Scott Tobias]

Coming July 1

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Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck
Screenshot: Gone Girl

One might be inclined to label the movie as a series of elaborate misdirections, if it weren’t implicitly conditioning the viewer to mistrust its characters. Like the Paul Verhoeven movies it occasionally resembles, Gone Girl is a satire that doubles as tightly styled, perverse entertainment—a deconstructed thriller with a bop-bop-bop drum-machine pace, which builds to one of the sourest, most hopeless downer endings in recent memory. Fincher’s style—with its looming ceilings and motel-murder-scene lighting—can make something as simple as a man going out for a cup of coffee look like a procedural. Working off a script (by Flynn herself) that correlates suburban home life with a convoluted mystery, he has made a movie in which the lurid and the mundane look exactly alike, and where the underworld is represented by an abandoned shopping mall where suburbanites go to buy drugs. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]

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47 / 135

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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48 / 135

Hail Satan?

Hail Satan?

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Photo: Hail Satan? (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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49 / 135

Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

John Cho and Kal Penn go to White Castle
John Cho and Kal Penn go to White Castle
Screenshot: Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle

While Cheech and Chong’s career is the exception that proves the rule, there was a time when Caucasians possessed an apparent monopoly on lead roles in dopey, lowbrow stoner comedies and raunchy teen-targeted fare. Happily, cinema and society have advanced to such a degree that now Asians, blacks, gays, and other minorities all have inept teen- and young-adult-oriented comedies to call their own. The wildly uneven but intermittently funny new feature-length fast-food commercial Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle fits squarely into this brave new paradigm. It boldly subverts stereotypes and challenges conventional wisdom by presenting affable Korean and Indian antiheroes who are just as sex-crazed, irresponsible, mischief-prone, and chemically altered as their white counterparts. Danny Leiner’s theatrical follow-up to 2000's Dude, Where’s My Car?, which has enjoyed a surprising second life as a national punchline, Harold & Kumar stars John Cho and Kal Penn as twentysomethings with just two things on their minds: getting baked and grabbing White Castle food. [Nathan Rabin]

Stream it now; leaving July 31

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50 / 135

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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51 / 135

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Sally Field and Max Greenfield
Sally Field and Max Greenfield
Screenshot: Hello, My Name Is Doris

Sally Field, looking fabulous in cat-eye glasses and eccentric knits, stars as Doris, a sixtysomething woman who at the beginning of the film is living a lonely existence in Staten Island. Her mother, to whose care she has devoted much of her adult life, recently died, leaving her with little but her old-school leftist pal Roz (Tyne Daly) and her menial data-entry job to occupy her time. It’s the confluence of these two that inspires Doris to change things up, actually: After Roz takes her to a lecture by self-help guru Willy Williams (Peter Gallagher), Doris is motivated to pursue a relationship with her office crush, a recent L.A. transplant several decades her junior named John Fremont (Max Greenfield). Field keeps both hands firmly on the wheel as Doris, skillfully maneuvering through both the comedic and dramatic scenes like the two-time Oscar winner that she is. [Katie Rife]

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52 / 135

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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53 / 135

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. [Read more]

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54 / 135

The Hustler

The Hustler

Paul Newman
Paul Newman
Screenshot: The Hustler

By now, the story of a self-destructive loner wagering it all for pride and glory has hardened into genre cliché, with just about every gambling flick of the last five decades—including The Hustler’s official sequel, The Color Of Money—offering some variation on the fatalistic maneuvers of Fast Eddie. But none of those lesser descendants have robbed The Hustler of its hard-nosed poetry, partially because few of them seem as fascinated by the psychology of their anti-heroes. For whatever else he is—addict, egomaniac, “poolroom bum”—Eddie is also an artist, capable of identifying the gifts of his opponent. “Look at the way he moves, like a dancer,” he whispers of Gleason’s “fat man,” and Newman—young and brash, his eyes alight with fascination—makes the movie’s obsession ours. [A.A. Dowd]

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55 / 135

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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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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I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris

Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor
Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor
Screenshot: I Love You Phillip Morris

Based on the book by Houston Chronicle journalist Steve McVicker, I Love You Phillip Morris marvels at the impulsive, diabolical brilliance of Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carrey), a.k.a. “King Con,” a multi-talented con artist who frustrated and embarrassed detectives and jailers for years. In a breathless series of scenes, it’s established that Steven, upon discovering he was adopted, became so motivated to impress his birth mother that he fashioned a straight-arrow life as a Georgia policeman, and a respected husband and father of two. When he finally meets his mother and is shown the door, Steven embraces who he really is—gay—and proceeds to build a new life in South Beach on embezzlement and fraud. While in prison, he meets Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor), a sweet but taciturn love object, and his criminal exploits are pushed to another level. Beyond the aggressive black comedy, most of it funny and the rest compensated for via pacing, I Love You Phillip Morris examines the fascinating contradictions of a man who spun an elaborate web of lies in order to sustain a love that was fundamentally true. [Scott Tobias]

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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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In A World

In A World

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Roadside Attractions

In a world… where men have long dominated the voiceover profession… it’s nearly impossible for a woman to be heard. But one remarkable woman (Lake Bell) is determined to try… even if it means competing against a legend in the business… her own father (Fred Melamed). In addition to featuring perhaps the most novel milieu for a comedy since Tin Men was built around rival aluminum-siding salesmen, In A World… serves as a terrific introduction to the gifted Bell (Childrens Hospital), who wrote and directed the film in addition to playing the lead.

Coming July 9

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Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport

Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport

At the end of Into The Arms Of Strangers, Mark Jonathan Harris’ moving documentary about the 10,000 Jewish children who fled to foster homes in England during WWII, the titles post a dispiriting reminder of the 1.5 million children who weren’t so fortunate. The overwhelming number offers a sense of perspective, but, like Schindler’s List, the film is less interested in probing the horrors of the Holocaust than in locating small, redemptive pockets of courage and humanity. Produced with the assistance of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, Into The Arms Of Strangers archives the heartbreaking testimonials of a handful of survivors, now in their 70s but each with vivid memories of the period. [Scott Tobias]

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The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant

The titular Iron man
The titular Iron man
Screenshot: The Iron Giant

A pacifist morality tale set during the height of the Cold War sounds more like a trip to school than fun for the whole family. But at its core, The Iron Giant is basically E.T. in reverse: same starry-eyed story of a boy befriending an alien, only here, it’s the boy’s simple wisdom that makes an impression on the alien, not the other way around. And while there’s no single image in The Iron Giant to match the iconic shot of children cycling in silhouette under the moonlight, there isn’t much difference between that flight and a young boy cradled into the palm of a 100-foot-tall robot, catching a bird’s-eye view of a seaside town in New England. The bond between boy and alien may just transcend the bond between boy and dog. [Scott Tobias]

Stream it now; leaving July 31

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Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer’s Body

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Jennifer’s Body

Diablo Cody won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Juno, and in the process became far more well-known than most screenwriters who don’t also direct. After publishing a blog and memoir about her time as an exotic dancer, Cody had her first script snapped up and produced in relatively short order; by the time the Oscars rolled around, a cruel and pointless backlash seemed overdue. The 18-month wait for Jennifer’s Body, then, must have been excruciating for anyone who drew their critical knives as soon as a quippy, pregnant teenager first said (horrors!), “Honest to blog.”

Cody’s actual horror comedy, stylishly directed by Karyn Kusama, stars Megan Fox as a teenage girl who becomes a literal boy-eater after she’s possessed by a demon. Fox drew additional attention to the project, through both the movie’s misguided, sex-heavy marketing campaign and a truly Herculean feat of misogyny that somehow allowed the female lead of two Transformers movies to bear the brunt of disdain for Michael Bay’s dumb toy/military commercials. Fox spouting slangy Diablo Cody teenspeak was apparently the perfect target in 2009; now she seems just plain perfect as Jennifer, tossing off Cody’s weirdest lines with hilarious nonchalance. One of the best runners is Jennifer’s habit of referring to all males as boys, as in her insistence that PMS was “invented by the boy-run media to make us look crazy.” It gets even Cody-er when a possessed Jennifer inexplicably suggests watching the forgotten Emma Roberts vehicle Aquamarine. (“It’s about this girl who’s, like, half-sushi.”) [Jesse Hassenger]

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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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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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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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Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

Illustration for article titled The best movies on Hulu
Screenshot: Leave No Trace

It’s been eight years since writer-director Debra Granik and writer-producer Anne Rosellini debuted their magnificent Winter’s Bone, and helped launch a then-teenaged Jennifer Lawrence to stardom. The thematically similar Leave No Trace may do the same for its 18-year-old star Thomasin McKenzie, who’s both magnetic and heartbreaking as Tom, the resourceful daughter of a mentally ill Iraq War veteran (Ben Foster). As the pair scavenges their way across the Pacific Northwest, looking for places to squat off the grid, McKenzie captures the young woman’s complicated dilemma: She wants to take care of her dad, even as she realizes that his damage may be irreparable. Leave No Trace is at once a wilderness adventure, a coming-of-age picture, and a sensitive portrait of a kid struggling to reckon with the realization that she may need to cut her family ties. [Noel Murray]

Coming July 4

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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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Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky

Logan Lucky
Logan Lucky
Photo: Fingerprint Releasing/Bleecker Street

As a heist picture, Logan Lucky knows just how often to alternate straight exposition with cagey withholding. The full robbery blueprint is revealed slowly—new details are still twisting the narrative even after the big heist day has passed, perfect for Steven Soderbergh’s control-freak tendencies (once again, he shoots and edits himself). The snappy script by unknown (and possibly pseudonymous) newcomer Rebecca Blunt offers some Coen brothers-like dialogue, which Soderbergh complements with his compositions. Sometimes he gets a laugh just by how he positions the actors in the frame, and there are multiple gags predicated on the timing of explosions. [Jesse Hassenger]

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The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye

Elliot Gould
Elliot Gould
Screenshot: The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye is actually one of the more plot-heavy films in Robert Altman’s filmography. Of course, Altman was a director who would frequently eschew traditional narrative in favor of pursuing a laid-back, hangout vibe, sometimes to his detriment. So to say that The Long Goodbye is plot-heavy is to say it actually has a plot, which is necessary on some level for any riff on the private-eye genre. But said plot is unspooled almost lackadaisically. Tension arises abruptly then fades away just as quickly. The ultimate solution to the mystery is pieced together in a couple of minutes, and the scenes in which protagonist Phillip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) actually puts two and two together are few and far between. Instead, Altman and his star lose themselves in a portrait of a ’70s Los Angeles that already feels faded, like a Polaroid left in the sun too long. The first 15 minutes of the film, which set the loose tone, concern Marlowe trying to get the right brand of food to feed his cat, who woke him up at 3 a.m. It’s glorious. [Emily VanDerWerff]

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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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The Man From Nowhere

The Man From Nowhere

The Man From Nowhere
The Man From Nowhere
Screenshot:

The Man From Nowhere, the highest-grossing movie, foreign or domestic, in South Korea in 2010. (For comparison’s sake, America’s highest-grossing movie that same year was Toy Story 3.) The Man From Nowhere is a raw fucking film. It tells its story with an all-out intensity that no American action movie could ever hope to match. It gets complicated, but here are the broad strokes: A quiet, mysterious loner lives by himself in an apartment building and runs a pawnshop. The only person he ever talks to is one neighbor, a little girl whose mother is a reckless heroin addict. He acts annoyed whenever the little girl comes around, but he looks after her. The mother steals some heroin from some gangsters, and so they kidnap both the mother and the girl. And they’re not just drug traffickers; they’re also organ harvesters, and they plan to do some bad things to these poor people. So the pawnshop owner, who happens to be a former special forces assassin, has to take on this entire merciless criminal syndicate to get his friend back. [Tom Breihan]

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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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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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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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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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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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MLK/FBI

MLK/FBI

Martin Luther King Jr. in MLK/FBI
Martin Luther King Jr. in MLK/FBI
Photo: IFC Films

Rather than a didactic Martin Luther King Jr. biographical endeavor, this project about the African American experience from veteran director Sam Pollard is an in-depth examination of the bureau’s history as it relates to their surveillance of the pastor-turned-galvanizing-orator. In place of talking heads, Pollard deploys only the audio from MLK’s interviews, filling the screen instead with archival footage and photographs. For context, Pollard talks to some of King’s closest contemporaries, like Andrew Young and Clarence Jones, as well as as notable academics like Donna Murch and David J. Garrow. Their observations, opinions, and first-hand accounts are the building blocks of a pragmatic history lesson. The tone of MLK/FBI can be excessively solemn at times, though maybe that’s a preemptive measure—a reflection of how those wronged in this country are expected to present their arguments in level-headed fashion or be deemed too emotional and hence not “objective.” Never forget that white America polices even the way in which those who are othered choose to talk about their trauma. [Carlos Aguilar]

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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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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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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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Neil Young: Heart Of Gold

Neil Young: Heart Of Gold

Neil Young
Neil Young
Screenshot: Neil Young: Heart Of Gold

Concert films became more common as MTV (and later, DVDs) grew more popular. They used to be reserved only for the biggest stars; now it’s rare to find a band that hasn’t shot a concert. But that doesn’t make all concert films equal. Anyone can point a camera at Journey while the music plays. It takes talent to make a concert film a film. Enter Jonathan Demme, whose 1984 Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense took the form to a place that its predecessors (with the possible exceptions of The Last Waltz) had only suggested. Namely, he took it to the stage, putting viewers close enough to see the sweat drip off David Byrne’s brow, but maintaining just enough distance that it looked like art. The shots seemed composed but the action spontaneous, a balance that few directors ever find. Demme repeated the trick on a much smaller scale with the little-seen but priceless Robyn Hitchcock feature Storefront Hitchcock. With Neil Young: Heart Of Gold, he more or less splits the difference, capturing a Young performance before a small crowd at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. [Keith Phipps]

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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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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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Nomadland

Nomadland

Frances McDormand in Nomadland
Frances McDormand in Nomadland
Photo: Searchlight Pictures

Unless the political landscape changes significantly over the next few years, the number of Americans facing an old age like the one profiled in Nomadland will only continue to grow. A longtime resident of Empire, Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) watched her town shrivel up and die after the gypsum mine that employed the majority of the community shut down in January 2011. A dandelion seed left to float on the fickle winds of capitalism, Fern now lives in a custom van she calls “Vanguard,” traveling in search of temporary employment and a safe place to park overnight. In the winter, she packs boxes at an Amazon warehouse; in the summer, she fries burgers and cleans toilets at tourist attractions. Her pleasures are simple, her struggles immense. Her hair is short, her shoes sensible. She keeps moving so she doesn’t dwell on the past for long. In different hands, Fern’s story might be tragic. But while Nomadland director (and writer and editor and co-producer) Chloé Zhao is interested in the material realities of a sixtysomething widow living an itinerant lifestyle, she also brings a dignity to the film that verges on sublime. [A.A. Dowd]

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Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away

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Screenshot: Not Fade Away

But while Not Fade Away is undeniably a mess, it’s a loveable kind of mess, where the missteps come from daring, not caution. Chase is covering well-trod ground, but he’s showing his own personal corner of it, lovingly filming the basements, street corners, and sandwich shops where he grew up. Then he ties it all to the transformative power of rock ’n’ roll, which the film’s narrator—Magaro’s romantic little sister—describes as filling ordinary kids with outrageous dreams. Chase deals with the mundane reality that squashes those dreams, but he doesn’t downplay the d