When you think of Hulu, movies aren’t likely the first thing that comes to mind. After all, Hulu is first a foremost a TV streamer, and the service is constantly releasing new shows and limited series that get plenty of attention from both critics and general audiences. Quietly and in the background, though, it has also developed a fairly impressive lineup of Hulu original shows and movies. These movies come from a wide variety of places: Some were developed in-house, while others were acquired out of festivals. Not every Hulu movie is great, but many of them are better than you might have expected.
The best of Hulu’s original offerings stand up with the movies produced by any other studio. There are a few genuine masterpieces and a few other great movies that you can watch over and over. These are Hulu’s 10 best original movies.
On its face, Minding the Gap tells a pretty slight story. The film follows three friends who skateboard together as they deal with their families and grow into adulthood. The film is filled with beautiful compositions, but what makes it extraordinary is the sensitivity it shows to its main characters. Minding the Gap is really about cycles of toxic masculinity, and what it takes to break those cycles or how they might continue. The movie is often deeply moving, but it’s also a sad movie about what your parents leave you with, and who it ultimately turns you into.
Kristen Stewart has proven to be one of her generation’s great onscreen performers, but she should take more time for things like Happiest Season. Stewart stars alongside Mackenzie Davis as she heads to her girlfriend’s family’s house for Christmas. The wrinkle: They don’t know their daughter is gay. Happiest Season is not a perfect movie, but it’s lovely to see LGBTQ+ romances getting the rom-com treatment, and Stewart is great as a shy, introverted woman trying to make sure she doesn’t disappear as she begins to see the love of her life in a totally new context.
It turns out the best way to update the formula laid out by Groundhog Day is to add more people to it. In Palm Springs, we find two characters caught living the same day over and over again on an endless loop. The two eventually fall in love but realize that spending an eternity trapped in the same day together isn’t going to make their lives fulfilling. As a result, Palm Springs becomes a film about daring to leave behind what’s comfortable and embrace the fact that you don’t always get to know what’s ahead. It’s a profound experience that also happens to be one of the funniest movies available on Hulu.
It says something about the 2020s that they’ve kicked off with a slate of films focused on how hard it is for young women in certain parts of America to get birth control or an abortion. In Plan B, the introverted Sunny (Kuhoo Verma), has a one-night stand that leaves her in need of a morning-after pill. As it turns out, that pill is not as easy to acquire as one might imagine, and so she and her more wild friend (Victoria Moroles) wind up having a crazy, drug-filled night in which they learn more about one another as people. It’s a lovely, heartfelt movie that’s also an indictment of America’s healthcare system, which makes it difficult for young women to get the help that they need.
When you think of magic, you don’t usually imagine having a profound experience. With In & Of Itself, Derek DelGaudio manages to provide both. The movie is a filmed version of his live stage show, in which DelGaudio does several tricks so astounding that to explain them would be to ruin how they unfold. Even as he does these tricks, though, DelGaudio also weaves in stories from his own life that reflect on how we see each other and ourselves. Is there any truth to the stories he tells? That’s never made clear, but part of the magic of In & Of Itself is that whether it’s true or not, it remains profoundly impactful.
Tense thrillers are pretty common on streaming services, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one as twisted as Run. The movie stars Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen as Chloe and Diane, a mother and daughter who are incredibly close. Chloe has suffered from ailments her entire life and is confined to a wheelchair, and she slowly begins to discover that her mother is the cause for all of her health problems. She’s a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, and all of her illnesses have been entirely manufactured. From there, the movie races toward a breathless conclusion that is heartbreaking and liberating, as Chloe tries to escape her mother’s grasp.
Summer of Soul revives a piece of Black history that had been largely erased. The film tells the story of the Harlem Cultural Festival or “Black Woodstock,” which was a music festival held in Harlem the same year as Woodstock and featured a slate of amazing Black musicians. Although there are plenty of interviews that provide context for the festival, Summer of Soul puts the music at the center of the documentary, showing never-before-seen footage from the festival that is well worth the price of admission. There are a dozen moments from this concert documentary that on their own would make the movie worth seeing. The fact that they’re all contained within one film makes Summer of Soul all the more remarkable.
Pete Davidson has long been a polarizing figure, but his work on Big Time Adolescence is widely used by his defenders as evidence that there’s more beneath the surface than there may seem to be. In the movie, he plays a drug dealer and college dropout who spends most of his time hanging out with a teenage boy who idolizes him. The movie is about the push and pull of this relationship, and Davidson plays the realization that he might be a bad influence with a surprising amount of heft. Big Time Adolescence is a sweet, heartfelt coming-of-age drama, and it’s well worth a watch.
Crime + Punishment
Hulu makes many different kinds of movies, but its selection of documentaries may be its standout feature. That’s thanks in part to Crime + Punishment, which follows a group of Black and Latino police officers as they attempt to change the NYPD from the inside. The documentary is a grounded look at the challenges that minority officers face, even as it acknowledges that they can sometimes be a part of broken, corrupt systems that target minorities with precision. Regardless of the intentions of these officers, their actions contribute to a police state that has continued to be a major problem in America in the years since this film hit Hulu.
Greta Thunberg is world-famous, but I Am Greta offers a more intimate portrait of the young climate activist. Although the film follows Thunberg, it’s really about the fight to take action on climate change, and one young woman’s firm belief that the world should be doing more to stop the impending apocalypse. One of the things I Am Greta makes abundantly clear is that Thunberg doesn’t fully understand why everyone isn’t reacting to the threat of climate change the way she has. It’s as if she’s the only one who fully understands that the world is about to end, and is willing to do something to keep it from ending. Hopefully, the documentary encourages others to follow in her footsteps.
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