The best movies on Hulu

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti in Palm Springs on Hulu.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti in Palm Springs on Hulu. (Image credit: Hulu)

Hulu is one of the more overlooked contenders in the streaming wars, but it’s become a bit more compelling since Disney shifted its priorities as part of a realignment of its digital strategy. With the launch of Disney+ giving the entertainment giant a home for all of its family-friendly content, Hulu has become a place for the more grown up stuff with a new focus on original productions and exclusives.

The streaming service has several subscription options including providing live TV and add-on deals with Starz. But if you just get the basic package, there’s still plenty of excellent stuff to watch. Here are 10 of the best movies you can check out now ranging from cult classics to Academy Award winners.

Parasite (2019)

The first international film ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, Parasite is an alternately hilarious and disturbing look at classism in South Korea that feels just as applicable to the United States. The film follows a struggling family who scheme to all get jobs within a much wealthier household, but their paychecks wind up coming with a high price.

Director Bong Joon-ho is known for strange and somewhat off-putting examinations of the perils of capitalism, and Parasite feels like the strongest version of the themes he explored in Okja and Snowpiercer. It’s full of surprises and absurd dialogue, combining some of the best aspects of a con movie and a thriller.

Palm Springs (2020)

Acquired by Hulu after it premiered at Sundance in January, Palm Springs turned out to be the perfect pandemic film. The romantic comedy reimagines Groundhog Day, starting with Nyles (Andy Samberg) who's already been trapped in a time loop for so long that he’s given up all hope of having a future.

Nyles has become a nihilist (get it?), trying to suck what enjoyment he can out of being stuck at a wedding with a girlfriend who’s not that into him. But he’s jarred out of complacency when the maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) gets trapped in the loop with him.

At a time when lockdowns can make the days blur together, Palm Springs is a beautiful story about finding joy in any circumstance and being brave enough to make changes. Running a tight 90 minutes, the film explains just enough while letting the fantastic chemistry between the stars do most of the work.

Best in Show (2000)

You can find all of the mockumentaries Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy wrote together on Hulu. While there’s plenty of debate about which one is the best, I’m putting my vote in for Best in Show.

A spoof of American dog shows, the film follows a variety of quirky characters and their prized pups as they compete for the titular prize. The script was almost entirely improvised by an impressive cast including Guest, Levy, Jane Lynch, and Parker Posy. 

While some of the over-the-top performances can be grating, Best in Show is overall a funny and endearing story. If you like it, be sure to check out Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind, which apply the same formula to local theater and folk music, respectively.

Beetlejuice (1988)

The film that introduced Tim Burton’s signature gothic fantasy style, Beetlejuice follows the misadventures of a ghost couple played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. When a living family moves into their house, they enlist a poltergeist (played by Michael Keaton) to help scare them away.

The movie’s visuals are wonderfully weird and more than a little creepy, with sandworms, contorted faces, and grasping hands brought to life through a mix of stop motion, prosthetics and puppetry. It also has a hilarious song and dance number and a fantastic score from Danny Elfman. It’s perfect for Halloween viewing, but you definitely don’t need to wait until then.

  Booksmart (2019)

The high school graduation movie is a classic for a reason, and Booksmart draws on the tradition of Superbad and Can’t Hardly Wait to hilarious effect. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever star as overachievers and best friends who fear that they didn’t have enough fun in high school and try to cram four years of experiences into one raucous night.

Hilarious dialogue, absurd scenarios, and a host of weird supporting characters make the film a comedic whirlwind. It also delivers some big touching emotional scenes too for a beautiful coming-of-age story about finding courage while still being true to yourself.

The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The less you know going into this movie the better, which may be the reason so few people saw it in theaters. While the trailers made it look like a hybrid of a Friday the 13th and Saw movie, the actual film is something much weirder.

Firefly creator Joss Whedon and Daredevil executive producer Drew Goddard co-wrote the often hilarious script. The film has an amazing cast including pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth and the ever-sarcastic (and hilarious) Bradley Whitford. Hopefully that’s enough to sell you on giving it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

Akira (1988)

One of the most influential anime films ever made, Akira helped expand Japanese animation’s popularity in the United States and joined Blade Runner in establishing the cyberpunk cinematic genre. Set in the then future of 2019, the film follows teenage members of a biker gang operating in the sprawling city of Neo-Tokyo as they get embroiled in a secret government program to experiment on people with psychic powers.

Akira uses the flexibility of animation to deliver unbelievably grotesque visuals and horrific violence. It’s a strange, emotional tale with a cosmic scope, but it’s a must watch for films buffs and science fiction fans.

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Russel Crowe and Christian Bale star in this excellent update of the 1957 Western about a rancher looking to earn wealth and respect by joining a mission to get a notorious outlaw on a train to Yuma Territorial Prison. It’s a dangerous job considering Ben Wade (Crowe) has a ruthless and loyal gang led by his second in command Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), who is determined to set his boss free.

The interplay between a swaggering Crowe and desperate Bale is the heart of the film, but it also features awesome shootouts and plenty of tension as members of the posse turn against each other while also facing various external threats. As a modern Western, it’s also much faster paced than its predecessor.

True Grit (2010)

Coen Brothers films are almost always worth watching and this Western is one of their better ones. Also an update of an earlier film, the new True Grit stars Jeff Bridges as a drunken fallen lawman hired by a 14-year-old farm girl to bring her father’s killer to justice.

Bridges won an Academy Award for Best Actor the following year, but he really deserved it for this performance. His co-star Hailee Steinfeld also does fantastic work as a serious young woman bent on vengeance that won’t leave anyone happier. It’s a beautiful and tragic story that epitomizes the genre’s themes.

Up in the Air (2009)

George Clooney brings his substantial charisma to the lead role of Ryan Bingham, a man who spends most of his life on planes flying to and from big companies so he can fire people. He claims he enjoys the isolated, attachment-free lifestyle, but coaching a new hire makes him rethink his priorities.

The film is filled with absolutely stunning visuals from the air, airports, and the various bleak offices where Ryan serves as a sort of grim reaper. While tragic at times, it also provides a hopeful note about the possibility of change and reconciliation.