What’s on Hulu? The best original movies available now

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Feature films are a relatively new area for Hulu, so to come up with this list, we also considered its much larger collection of documentaries, its horror movie series Into the Dark, and a some of the great catalogue titles that make the service worthy of a subscription. Enjoy!

Updated August 24, 2021 to add 10 more film recommendations. More interested in Hulu’s TV shows? Click over to this story for our top picks.

Arrival

Arrival Paramount Pictures

Many sci-fi movies are essentially war movies with humans fighting aliens, humans teaming with aliens to fight other humans, or some variation thereof. Adapted from a short story by Ted Chiang, the amazing Arrival (2016) is something very different. It may not appeal to all comers, but if you tune into its thoughtful, meditative mode, it’s a great film. Amy Adams plays a linguist, Louise Banks, who is called into duty when 12 alien pods mysteriously arrive and hover over 12 seemingly random places all over the planet. It’s her job, along with scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), to learn the alien’s language and find out what they want.

In a normal movie, the answer would mean the end of the mystery, but here, it’s only enhanced. The timely message is one of empathy and understanding, rather than panic and destruction. Director Denis Villeneuve does remarkable things with shapes and light and dark, as well as a use of quiet and diegetic sounds; it’s pure poetry. The late Jóhann Jóhannsson, who died in 2018, provided the astoundingly beautiful music score.

Bound

Bound Gramercy Pictures

The Wachowski siblings did not always make futuristic movies about a “chosen one” that saves the world. In their directing debut Bound (1996), they created a twisty, character-driven crime film that was good enough to evade comparisons to Quentin Tarantino. In it, ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) tries to go straight with a job as a painter and a plumber, but she meets gangster’s moll Violet (Jennifer Tilly), who seduces her. Together they cook up a plan to steal $2 million from Violet’s volatile husband, Caesar (Joe Pantoliano).

The movie includes a famous sex scene between Gershon and Tilly that is celebrated for its beautiful frankness and passion. Otherwise, the movie’s accomplished use of dialogue, rhythm, sound design, and color palette are all highly inventive. The movie was credited to Larry and Andy Wachowski, but since then the brothers have transitioned to Lana and Lilly. Hulu offers the unrated cut, which runs 14 seconds longer than the theatrical cut.

The Conversation

The Conversation Paramount

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) was released in-between his Godfather Parts I-II, a three-year feat of excellence that has hardly been equaled. This movie centers on Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a surveillance man in San Francisco who may be the best in his field. He sometimes sees a girlfriend (Teri Garr), but doesn’t really let her into his life, and he even keeps his own colleague Stan (John Cazale) at arm’s length. Harry becomes obsessed with his latest job, recording a couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) as they walk around Union Square, trying to look and sound normal, but clearly wary, or afraid, of something.

As Harry re-jiggers the recording, and raises red flags for his employers (played, in brief scenes, by Harrison Ford and Robert Duvall), he finds that his own existence is not entirely opaque, much like the weird see-through raincoat he wears throughout the film. Walter Murch’s powerfully precise editing and haunting sound design are just two more parts of what emerges as a masterful film.



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