2020 is (thankfully) in the rearview mirror, and the new year is finally here. There is better way to celebrate 2021 than curling with a movie during the cold winter months ahead. To help you out, EW has compiled a list of the best movies on Hulu right now — from the old to the new, the comedy to the drama, and the blockbuster to the indie. There’s a little something for everyone on this list, which will be updated monthly as new films are added and removed from the streamer. Ready to take your movie night to the next level? Read on for this month’s picks.
Credit: Paramount Pictures and Skydance
In director Alex Garland’s cerebral sci-fi thriller, Natalie Portman plays biologist and former soldier Lena, who sets out to discover what happened to her husband during a mission in Area X, a mysterious force field-like phenomenon dwarfing the US coastline. Things become increasingly sinister the further she and her all-female crew venture into this mysterious land of mutated creatures and forests. To say much more would be to ruin the fun of the movie, which EW critic Leah Greenblatt calls “the kind of film that leaves you dazzled, shellshocked — and not entirely sure whether your own moviegoing DNA hasn’t been altered a little in the process.”
Apollo 11 (2019)
APOLLO 11 – Still 1
Credit: Neon/CNN Films/Sundance Institute
The historic Apollo 11 mission has served as inspiration to countless shows and movies since its successful launch in 1969, but it’s never been seen quite like this. Utilizing a newly discovered archive of 65 mm footage and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings from the actual launch, director, editor, and producer Todd Douglas Miller drops the audience right in the middle of the action. The documentary is both immersive and intimate as it takes the viewer through every stage of the launch, and is a treat for both cinephiles and history buffs alike.
The Assistant (2020)
In this slow burn #MeToo drama, Ozark star Julia Garner is the titular assistant of an unseen demanding film executive. Though Harvey Weinstein is never specifically named, the parallels here are clear and devastating. As EW critic Leah Greenblatt eloquently put it in her review: “Instead of melodrama, the movie finds its traction in parsing out micro-aggressions and mood: a sort of devastating slow-drip portrait of the power structures that allowed a man like Weinstein to happen — and keep more like him in place, untouched by any justice a hashtag can reach.”
Back to School (1986)
BACK TO SCHOOL
Credit: Everett Colleciton
This comedy classic stars Rodney Dangerfield as a ridiculous self-made millionaire who decides to join his unhappy son at college in a misguided attempt to encourage him. It provides the late Dangerfield, a long-time standup comedian, a starring vehicle in which he can be his goofy, bug-eyed self, but with a surprising amount of pathos as well. And, as a bonus, it features a very young Robert Downey Jr in one of his first credited on-screen roles. If you need a pick-me-up during these dark times (and who doesn’t?), Back to School is just the ticket.
Credit: Annapurna Pictures
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a hilarious romp and an ode to smart girls everywhere. It follows Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), two academic overachievers who realize on the eve of their high school graduation that they never really took the time to party like their peers. The two besties decide to make up for lost time and cram four years’ worth of missed shenanigans into one night, and it goes about how you might expect. It’s hilarious, raunchy, surprisingly poignant, and a wonderful addition to the coming-of-age genre.
The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, from left: Fran Kranz, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, 2012. ph: Diyah Pera
Credit: Everett Collection
When five college friends escape to a — you guessed it! — cabin in the woods for some R&R, things go wrong very, very fast. But what at first seems like an average slasher flick quickly reveals itself to be something else entirely as it becomes clear that all is not as it appears at this remote locale. Come for the horror, stay for the scathing satire.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)
Film Title: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Credit: DreamWorks Animation
This final entry into the supremely underrated How to Train Your Dragon franchise is equal parts laugh-filled hijinks and bittersweet tearful moments. The final adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless involve finding the Hidden World, a secret Dragon Utopia, before a hired tyrant named Grimmel finds it first. Along the way, Toothless gains a love interest, proving that the only thing better than one Night Fury is two (or more specifically, a Night Fury and a Light Fury).
Watch How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World on Hulu here.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
If Beale Street Could Talk
Credit: Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures
Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name, Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to his Best Picture-winning Moonlight is a devastating (and devastatingly beautiful) portrait of the romance between a young, black couple in 1970s New York. When Fonny (Stephan James) gets wrongly accused of rape and is arrested, Tish (Kiki Layne) and her mother Sharon (Regina King) stand by him and work to clear his name. It may be a period piece, but the way the film handles issues with the police, sexual assault, and racism feels horribly, but vitally, of this moment.
I, Tonya (2017)
Never before has watching an entire cast of antiheroes been so downright riveting and entertaining. Told from the conflicting accounts of the different people involved, I, Tonya tells the unbelievable true story of Tonya Harding, the first American woman to complete a triple axel in a figure skating competition. Harding’s legacy was forever marred after a shockingly ill-conceived plot by her ex-husband to harm fellow Olympic competitor Nancy Kerrigan emerged. It’s a darkly comedic take on one of the most infamous sports scandals in history, and it’s buoyed by a revelatory performance from Margot Robbie as Tonya and Allison Janney as her abusive mother, LaVona.
Minding the Gap (2018)
Minding The Gap
This Emmy- and Oscar-nominated documentary from director Bing Liu follows three young friends from a small Rust Belt town who use their shared passion of skateboarding to escape the reality of their volatile home lives. And although the skateboarding sequences are riveting, Minding the Gap is, at its heart, a moving, occasionally heartbreaking, and introspective look at growing up and coming to terms with past trauma.
Talent: Bing Liu (director)
Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018)
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT
Credit: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures
It’s rare that a film series gets better with each subsequent installment, but the Mission: Impossible movies have somehow managed to do just that. Fallout, the sixth entry into the high-octane spy series, sees Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his motley crew join forces with CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) to prevent mysterious arms dealer John Lark and a group of terrorists known as the Apostles from carrying out a devious plan of mass destruction. If that sounds fairly pedestrian for a spy movie, think again. Film critic Chris Nashawaty puts it this way in his glowing review: “Fallout is a unique exception that defies our seen-it-all cynicism. It’s the kind of pure, straight-no-chaser pop fun that not only keeps taking your breath away over and over again, it restores your occasionally shaky faith in summer blockbusters.”
Watch Mission: Impossible — Fallout on Hulu here.
Palm Springs (2020)
Part Groundhog Day, part romantic comedy, Palm Springs stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as strangers stuck in a mysterious time loop who are forced to relive the same day (and awkward wedding) over and over again. The concept makes for some hilarious hijinx, and make no mistake, the film is laugh-out-loud funny, while providing a surprisingly profound meditation on love and life. It would have played well in any year, but in 2020, the idea that the mundanity and sameness of everyday life can be overcome by choosing to love those closest to us, over and over, is absolutely soul-crushing in the best of ways.
Credit: Everett Collection
This Korean export made history at this year’s Oscars ceremony when it became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture. In it, writer, director, and producer Bong Joon Ho deftly blends social commentary and class consciousness with thrilling wit. The film follows a poor family, the Kims, who slowly ingratiate themselves into the lives of the wealthy Park family, with disastrous consequences. The journey is full of shocking twists and turns, and by the end of it, you’ll be left questioning who, in fact, are the real parasites?
Talent: Cho Yeo-jeong, Park So-dam, Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Lee Jung-eun, Jang Hye-jin
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON
Credit: Seth Johnson/Roadside Attractions/Armor
This feel-good dramedy is the rare film that critics and audiences agree on: It boasts a 96 percent rating from both groups on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s easy to see why. The film follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a man with Down syndrome who runs away from his assisted living facility in an attempt to realize his dream of becoming a pro wrestler. Along the way he runs into a fisherman on the run (Shia LaBeouf) and his social worker (Dakota Johnson), who’s been tracking him. Together, the three of them form an unlikely but incredibly touching ensemble that leaves a smile on your face long after the credits roll.
Pick of the Litter (2018)
PICK OF THE LITTER
Credit: Everett Collection
PUPPIES! This too-cute-for-words dogumentary follows a litter of five Labrador puppies from birth as they train to become guide dogs for the visually impaired. Not all dogs can make the cut, and the camera follows Poppet, Patriot, Phil, Primrose, and Potomac and their various trainers as they seek to master the required skills to become, literally, the pick of the litter. It’s a family-friendly movie that is sure to make your heart melt— and don’t worry animal lovers, no harm befalls any of the pups in the film. Those tears on your face by the doc’s end are purely joyous ones.
Talent: Don Hardy, Dana Nachman (directors)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
In writer-director Céline Sciamma’s sizzling romantic drama, a female painter (Noémie Merlant) is hired to paint a wedding portrait of a female aristocrat (Adèle Haenel) in 18th century France. During the course of their time together, the two enter into a forbidden romance. With gorgeous cinematography from Claire Mathon, and gripping performances from its leading ladies, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a work of art in and of itself. Calling the film “beautiful” just doesn’t do it justice.
Talent: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino
A Quiet Place (2018)
A QUIET PLACE
Credit: Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures
While you patiently wait for the sequel, which was bumped from its original March release to April 23, 2021 on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, why not catch up on the original? In it, first-time director John Krasinski takes every parent’s fear of not being able to protect their children from the world and turns it into a horror movie — literally. Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt play a couple who will stop at nothing to protect their kids from mysterious monsters who hunt by sound that have descended on Earth. The soundless concept is thrilling and the performances are gut-wrenching, and the result is one of the most thrilling fright-fests to hit the big screen in recent years.
Raging Bull (1980)
RAGING BULL, Robert DeNiro, 1980. (c)United Artists. Courtesy: Everett Collection.
Credit: Everett Collection
Arguably one of Martin Scorsese’s (and star Robert De Niro’s) best films, this cinematic classic features a tour-de-force performance from De Niro as real-life middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, who, in his attempts to seek boxing glory, also battled his inner demons that threatened everything he cared about. Despite middling box office success, Raging Bull would go on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards (it won two: Best Actor and Best Editing) and it is today considered to be one of the best films ever made.
RBGJustice Ruth Bader Ginsburg mid workout routine
Credit: Magnolia Pictures
Have you ever wondered how Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the Notorious RBG? This fiercely unapologetic documentary seeks to answer just that, by taking a methodical, adoring, and often humorous look at the exceptional career and life of the Supreme Court justice, who died Sept. 18 at the age of 87. Featuring interviews with the likes of Gloria Steinem, Bill Clinton, Ginsburg’s Harvard Law graduate granddaughter, and of course the justice herself, the film is an informative and inspiring doc that does the late icon proud.
Talent: Julie Cohen, Betsy West (directors), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (subject)
A Simple Favor (2018)
Credit: Peter Iovino/Lionsgate
There’s bonkers, and then there’s A Simple Favor. This tale of a mommy vlogger (Anna Kendrick) who goes searching for her enigmatic best friend (Blake Lively) when she mysteriously goes missing is part Hitchcock, part Gone Girl, and wholly smart, stylish, and just plain weird. Director Paul Feig brings his comedic flair to the film, which is based on Darcey Bell’s novel of the same name. Just when you think you have the whole thing figured out, the rug is pulled out from under you. It’s a delicious romp that will keep your head swimming until the very end.
Shirley ó Still 1
Credit: Thatcher Keats/Sundance Institute
Shirley is a trippy biopic of sorts that follows acclaimed horror writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss), who finds inspiration for her next book when a young couple comes to stay with her and her husband. The film is told in the style of one of Jackson’s Gothic tales, and the result is “a play of wits and deception where the game isn’t victory or even solace, really, but a state of survival that feels dementedly, horrifically true,” as EW’s David Canfield put it in his Sundance review of the film. It’s another incredible lead performance from Moss, who already churned out the horror hit The Invisible Man earlier this year. Although, unlike in that film, Moss is more the tormentor than the tormented in Shirley. Or, as Canfield put it in his review: She’s “gloriously demented.” Need we say more?
ShopliftersAndo Sakura, Sasaki Miyu and Lily Franky
Credit: Magnolia Pictures
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or-winning film tells the story of a dysfunctional “family” of petty thieves who take in a young girl who comes from an abusive home. Featuring excellent, lived-in performances from its entire cast, Shoplifters is a slow burn of a film that is deceptively poignant. It offers up a profound look at the nature of families, and what it truly means to be a part of one.
Talent: Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Lily Franky, Kirin Kiki, Miyu Sasaki, Kairi Jō
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Sorry to Bother You
Credit: Annapurna Pictures
Spoiling the entire plot of this film still wouldn’t prepare you for the absolute absurdness of it. In this audacious comedy, Lakeith Stanfield is Cassius Green, a telemarketer who quickly rises up the corporate ladder after adopting a “white voice.” Things go from bad to absolutely bonkers when Cassius catches the attention of Steve Lift (Armie Hammer), a cocaine-snorting CEO who offers him a deal he simply can’t refuse. The film’s a wild, but worthy, ride from start to finish. Or, as EW’s glowing review of the film puts it, “Sorry to Bother You is a timely, scalpel-sharp social satire with big laughs and even bigger ideas.”