The 100 Best Movies on Hulu (2017)

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major_league_poster.jpeg 75. Major League
Year: 1989
Director: David S. Ward
Many can laugh at this crazy cast of oddballs, but only a select few can look back and laugh. Because for those in Cleveland and northeastern Ohio, it’s all too real. Not until the second film’s release did the Cleveland Indians finally break out of their 30-year slump. Some will say it was the new stadium. Others, the even more superstitious ones (most baseball fans), may point to the dominance and swagger of Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, as portrayed by Charlie Sheen. (Fun fact: Sheen was actually a star pitcher in high school.) Whatever the case, the really bad times are in the past, and let’s hope, for the sake of another one of these movies popping up, they stay there.—Joe Shearer

room-237.jpg 74. Room 237
Year: 2013
Director: Rodney Ascher
There exists a rare species of obsessive cinephile: the hyper-fan who focuses on one film, mentally and emotionally ingesting it dozens, maybe hundreds, of times. Along a certain parallel, there is also a serious breed of conspiracy theorist, compulsive in his or her beliefs, taking things far beyond just watching Doomsday Preppers for fun. Push these two types inextricably together, you get Room 237, the confounding, eye-opening and often hilarious documentary about individuals whose over-wired brains are devoted to one cinematic masterpiece, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The most outlandish—and perplexing—theories in Room 237 posit The Shining either as a vehicle meant to comment on dark, oppressive periods in history, or as a massive, cryptic revelation. As a cinema sociologist, director Rodney Ascher acts as non-participant observer, letting his Room 237 subjects sell themselves, leaving us to jump on, laugh or stare in amazement. As a documentary filmmaker, Ascher voraciously digs into the stories, freezing frames from the 1980 classic, adding explanatory graphics and complex maps of the hotel’s physical layout. As the subjects analyze Kubrick, Ascher analyzes their analyses, which in turn inspires an analysis of Room 237 itself, making for a documentary film that twists in on its own guts so thoroughly one can’t help but feel similarly obsessed by film’s end.—Norm Schrager

gangs-of-new-york.jpg 73. Gangs of New York
Year: 2002
Director: Martin Scorsese 
This one split critics and audiences, but for all the times that the story about Leo and Cameron Diaz’s characters drains momentum from the movie, Daniel Day Lewis’ star turn as William Cutter, also known as the meat cleaver-wielding Billy the Butcher, really ratchets everything up to 11. Every villain deserves a grand entrance. Not many get better than Bill the Butcher’s. Within the opening scene, we are treated with a bloody brawl. From there, the character’s disturbed psychosis only spreads until its reaches one of the greatest climaxes in Martin Scorsese’s career. Oh, also Daniel Day Lewis. Did we mention that?—Paste Staff

survive-a-plague.jpg 72. How to Survive a Plague
Year: 2012
Directors: David France
A New York journalist who has covered the AIDS epidemic for 30 years, first-time filmmaker David France has assembled both a superbly researched record of the decade-long fight for a viable treatment protocol and an intimate portrait of the personalities leading the charge. Serendipitously, the arrival of HIV coincided with the availability of consumer-grade camcorders, and as a result, much of this developing story—from private conversations to public protests—was recorded for posterity. France combines this historic footage, courtesy of more than 30 videographers, with archival news reports and present-day interviews to craft a complete picture of the founding, mission, strategies, in-fighting, splintering, failures and successes of ACT UP, a Greenwich Village-based protest group that forced government agencies and health organizations to take AIDS seriously and invest in finding a cure. Yet, by the time this story ends in 1996, with the development of a combination drug therapy that actually works, 8.2 million people had died. How to Survive is indeed a tale of survival, but the AIDS community didn’t get there without a fight—and a steep personal toll. —Annlee Ellingson

liberal-arts.jpg 71. Liberal Arts
Year: 2012
Director: Josh Radnor 
Best known for playing Ted on the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother, Josh Radnor is establishing himself as a thoughtful writer-director of feature films dealing with young adults facing—and embracing—adulthood. An ode to his years at Kenyon College specifically and liberal arts education generally, Liberal Arts is at once a profound defense of academia for academia’s sake and a gentle critique of nostalgia: Live too much in the past (or in a book), and you’ll miss out on what’s in front of you. Jesse (Radnor), a college admissions counselor in New York City, is confronted with these realities when he’s invited to return to his Ohio alma mater to give a speech at a retirement party for his favorite English professor, Peter (Richard Jenkins). Newly single and weary of dealing with life in the big city (his laundry is stolen from the Laundromat in the opening scenes of the film), Jesse literally walks with a spring in his step when he gets back on campus. There he meets Zibby (a luminous Elizabeth Olsen), a sophomore with a passion for classical music, improv and trashy vampire novels. In a series of conversations about books, music and theater, they connect. As their relationship develops, however, their age difference and the perhaps unhealthy nostalgia behind their burgeoning romance start to weigh on Jesse. In his films, Radnor tends to present a thesis and then hammer away at it. In this case, it’s saying yes to whatever life puts in front of you.—Annlee Ellingson

the-fountain.jpg 70. The Fountain
Year: 2014
Director: Darren Aronofsky 
Some people want to build a better mousetrap. Darren Aronofsky had to build a better spaceship. “There is no reason a spaceship would be built like a giant truck in space,” argued the fillmmaker, not unreasonably. He had cause to debate the issue. His ambitious cosmic fable, The Fountain, traces a love story across a thousand years, from 16th-century Spain to contemporary America to interstellar space—which is where the spaceship comes in. As Aronofsky sees it, Hollywood’s imagination—driven by pulpier visions of the world of tomorrow—has been sorely lacking in this regard. And so Hugh Jackman’s 26th-century astronaut floats in—garbed as if bound for a yoga retreat in a pristine Zen-like biosphere, complete with an ancient tree that bleeds immortality-giving sap—as he approaches a distant star and a final revelation about that mysterious wellspring: the Fountain of Youth. The Fountain, which veers from hard science to utopian myth, delves into cutting-edge neuroscience, Mayan creation lore, the Spanish Inquisition, avant-garde botany and the crafting of fine stationery, among other things, all rather seamlessly interlaced. Maybe, just maybe, Aronofsky has built a better spaceship.—Steve Dollar

brooklyn-castle.jpg 69. Brooklyn Castle
Director: Katie Dellamaggiore
Year: 2012
The premise behind Brooklyn Castle is the stuff of soppy, Oscar-baiting drama: At I.S. 138 in Brooklyn, New York, a competitive chess program has helped an extraordinary number of lower-income inner city students improve their standings in life. Which makes the triumphs and failures of these kids all the more biting. More than just a run through a delightful roster of vibrant young people, Brooklyn Castle is as much about the struggles of public schools with funding and the suffering extracurricular world of your typical student. It’s is a timely cry for help from a broken educational system.—Dan Schindel

gomorrah.jpg 68. Gomorrah
Year: 2008
Director: Matteo Garrone
Gritty like The Godfather or the work of Martin Scorsese, Gomorrah depicts five microcosmic stories of the brutal underground mafia scene in Naples. The cast of largely untrained actors only enhances the film’s grim authenticity, and that authenticity is bolstered by the fact that the film’s source material, the bestselling book of same name, required author Roberto Saviano to get a permanent police escort. Harrowing in its matter-of-factness, the Academy criminally overlooked one of 2008’s best by not nominating it for Best Foreign Film.—Jeremy Medina

hunt-for-wilderpeople.jpg 67. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Year: 2016
Director: Taika Waititi
Bella’s (Rima Te Wiata) first encounter with Ricky (Julian Dennison), the new foster child she’s agreed to take on, doesn’t inspire confidence, especially with her clumsy jokes at the expense of his weight. In turn, with child-services representative Paula (Rachel House) painting Ricky as an unruly wild child, one dreads the prospect of seeing the kid walk all over this possibly in-over-her-head mother. But Bella wears him down with kindness. And Ricky ends up less of a tough cookie than he—with his fondness for gangsta rap and all that implies—initially tried to project. An adaptation of Barry Crump’s novel Wild Pork and Watercress, Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople thrives on upending preconceived notions. The director shows sympathy for Ricky’s innocence, which is reflected in the film’s grand-adventure style. Cinematographer Lachlan Milne’s sweeping, colorful panoramas and a chapter-based narrative structure gives Hunt for the Wilderpeople the feel of a storybook fable, but thanks to the warm-hearted dynamic between Ricky and Hec (Sam Neill), even the film’s most whimsical moments carry a sense of real underlying pain: Both of these characters are outsiders ultimately looking for a home to call their own.—Kenji Fujishima

50.TheTrip.NetflixList.jpg 66. The Trip
Year: 2011
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Two British actor/comedians playing versions of themselves travel the beautiful and bleak north England countryside, stopping to eat at various upscale restaurants, but mostly just talking. And talking and talking. And doing impressions of Michael Caine, Woody Allen, and Liam Neeson, as well as British personalities an American audience might not recognize. But mostly just talking, with overlapping affection and competition. Sound like a good idea for a film? It absolutely is.—Jonah Flicker

creed.jpg 65. Creed
Year: 2015
Director: Ryan Coogler
There’s an alternate timeline in which Creed is a superfluous waste of nostalgia. In that universe, Warner Bros. gave the reins to a filmmaker other than Ryan Coogler, the young Oakland-born director who stunned viewers in 2013 with Fruitvale Station, a bio-drama about the death of Oscar Grant. Maybe Coogler is the last person anyone might expect to take up Sylvester Stallone’s mantle and breathe new life into the long-abiding, conditionally beloved Rocky franchise. There’s a chance that Creed might have turned out just fine without Coogler at the helm. But that version of Creed would lack the chief detail that makes Coogler’s film so good: perspective. Structurally, Creed is nearly a beat-for-beat remake of Rocky, which is fine if not particularly exciting on paper. It’s different, though, because it isn’t about Rocky Balboa at all. It’s about Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s rival-turned-best friend, Apollo Creed, whom we first meet in juvie pummeling an older, larger boy while their fellow delinquents cheer and jeer them on. And then, of course, there’s Rocky himself. There’s an air of masculine chagrin to his arc. We’re not used to seeing guys like Rocky laid this low and left this vulnerable. Donnie is his chance at winning glory in the ring again, but the kid also gives him the strength to fight anew when he’s down and out. It’s every bit as schmaltzy as it sounds, but schmaltz is Rocky’s bread and butter. Coogler makes it his, too. He understands that schmaltz is pure delight when it’s served properly: with earnest emotion and through rousing spectacle. Creed defies our expectations of its genre even as it fulfills them.—Andy Crump

rev-road.jpg 64. Revolutionary Road
Year: 2008
Director: Sam Mendes 
If Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s passionate affair in 1997’s Titanic detailed the timeless appeal of star-crossed love, their reunion a decade later for Sam Mendes spoils the illusion by showing what happens after the honeymoon ends and resentment replaces infatuation. Based on Richard Yates’ novel of the same name, this is the story of Frank (DiCaprio) and April Wheeler (Winslet), a couple of idealistic newlyweds who become trapped in the American Dream circa 1955—2.5 children, picket fence and a desk job. Mendes has proved an expert choreographer of the human animal pushed to its limit in adverse environments, and here he creates a bleak journey through familiar realities, punctuated by desperate characters searching for purpose. The film’s skill at capturing corrosive romance is both its greatest strength and detriment—while frighteningly moving, it’s also the best example of cinematic birth control since Rosemary’s Baby. Be warned that there’s little peace of mind in the perpetual entropy of the Wheelers’ drowning relationship. But it’s hard not to cheer for these characters. This is pure art as parable, with Oscar-worthy performances to support it.—Sean Edgar

blue-warmest.jpg 63. Blue is the Warmest Color
Year: 2013
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Three-hour movies usually are the terrain of Westerns, period epics or sweeping, tragic romances. They don’t tend to be intimate character pieces, but Blue Is the Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) more than justifies its length. A beautiful, wise, erotic, devastating love story, this tale of a young lesbian couple’s beginning, middle and possible end utilizes its running time to give us a full sense of two individuals growing together and apart over the course of years. It hurts like real life, yet leaves you enraptured by its power.—Tim Grierson

52.BrokebackMountain.NetflixList.jpg 62. Brokeback Mountain
Year: 2005
Director: Ang Lee 
While his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight certainly deserves the acclaim it’s been given, Heath Ledger’s true tour de force was his understated work in Brokeback Mountain. Ledger brought a driving force to the movie which complimented its contemplative tone and showed a true, classical brilliance in acting that left you convinced that his character was real.—Sean Gandert

vanilla-sky.jpg 61. Vanilla Sky
Year: 2001
Director: Cameron Crowe 
Cameron Crowe’s follow-up to Almost Famous was confusing, aching and beautiful, and the music and that played throughout its disorienting scenes—eerie selections from Radiohead, Sigur Rós and Jeff Buckley, plus oddly jaunty moments thanks to Peter Gabriel Todd Rundgren—perfectly augmented that off-kilter mood. As a bonus, Crowe tossed Sigur Rós in the mix three years before Steve Zissou and his crew confronted the jaguar shark to the tune of “Staralfur.”—Rachael Maddux

jason-lives.jpg 60. Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
Year: 1986
Director: Tom McLoughlin
After he accidentally reanimates Jason, Tommy (from parts four and five) struggles to warn a nearby summer camp—this time with actual kids. Within his first two minutes back alive, Jason punches a dude’s heart out. Awesome. (An honorable mention has to go to the final moments of the poor town sheriff, who Jason literally folds in half.) Admittedly, this one isn’t particularly scary, but Jason Lives is in clear, reverent conversation with the entire franchise, a self-reflexive edge that predates Scream by a decade (“Some folks have a strange idea of entertainment,” one character laments). In a way, this movie feels more essentially Friday the 13th than the original ever did. If you ask someone to picture a Friday the 13th movie, the images they’d conjure in their head would look a lot like Jason Lives.—Jeffrey Bloomer

life-aquatic.jpg 59. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Year: 2004
Director: Wes Anderson 
Steve Zissou feels things quietly, but deeply. The movie’s “quiet then loud” comedic beats almost work like a classic Pixies song—Murray possesses a chilly, sad and utterly subdued state of being towards the insanity around him until his frustrations burst to the surface, and we get a brilliantly cutting line like, “Son of a bitch, I am sick of these dolphins.” Murray’s enigmatic style of playing emotions close to the chest provide ample comedic contrast even in big action scene beats, like when they rescue Jeff Goldblum’s Allistair Hennessey (“Steven, are you rescuing me?” Murray’s response, a pained half-smile and barely-there head cock, is deadpan brilliance). It’s a marked 180 from his constantly talking, wisecracking comedic personas in classics like Ghostbusters or Caddyshack, and, in my humble opinion, undoubtedly the most fruitful of his and Anderson’s collaborations.—Greg Smith

point-break-210.jpg 58. Point Break
Year: 1991
Director: Kathryn Bigelow 
There are plenty late ’80s/early ’90s action flicks anyone could cite, but few epitomized the near-paradoxical dudebro melodrama of the era with as much heart and sincerity as Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Johnny Utah—played by the only one on this Earth who could believably play a human being named that, Keanu Reeves, with the sedate gusto that would further vaunt him to action star fame—is an FBI agent who must learn how to be an X-treme surfer in order to infiltrate a cadre of bank robbers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze in peak hunk form). Inevitably, Johnny and Bodhi bond—and then clash—over their mutual thirst for salt water, high-stakes adventure and the love of a strong woman (Lori Petty, a wonderfully anti-typical blockbuster love interest), climaxing in the now-iconic scene of Reeves hollering and firing his gun into the sky, a scene so cemented in the cinematic canon that any aging, pacifist Millennial who has never fired a gun before still secretly wet-dreams about having the chance to do the same before their time runs out. —Dom Sinacola

italian-job.jpg 57. The Italian Job
Year: 2003
Director: F. Gary Gray
The Italian Job is different from other heist movies in that it’s not all about the money or even the challenge of just trying to steal something without getting caught. Thought it still has the requisite wise-cracking and motley- yet-somehow close-knit-crew of thieves like countless other heist movies, The Italian Job is refreshingly different because it’s primarily about betrayal and revenge, rather than just money. Plus, Mini Coopers have never looked so cool.—Anita George

frances-ha.jpg 56. Frances Ha
Year: 2012
Director: Noah Baumbach 
Frances Ha is endearing, kind and, in many ways, Noah Baumbach’s best movie to date. One could trace his films, from his debut (Kicking and Screaming) to his most recent (Greenberg) and see a slow but steady focus on the individual, as well as his abandonment of an ironic, sometimes caustic stance against the very characters he writes. It is as if Baumbach could only write a certain type of person—the privileged, socially crippled intellectual with either too much self-awareness or none at all—and for a while it seemed like even the writer himself couldn’t stand to be in the same room with such characters. This anger has faded, and what has emerged over his last few films, and culminated in Frances Ha, is an embrace of not only the flaws of his characters, but also his flaws as a filmmaker. He has settled down and created a film imbued with love, fun and melancholy. It feels simple and open and is a joy to watch.—Joe Peeler

dear-white-people.jpg 55. Dear White People
Year: 2014
Director: Justin Simien
While Dear White People anchors its perspective in the struggles of its black leads, it argues that racism is a universal issue—or that, at least, dealing with the implications of racism, rooting it out at its source, is a personal task for every single human being to undertake. Who hasn’t, at one point or another, felt like they didn’t fit in with their peers? Who doesn’t feel the tug of social pressure when they’re in school? These aren’t questions about racism, but they do inch us collectively closer to targeting the very deep-seated core of what it is that still makes racism so prevalent today. Simien stumbles in the third act thanks to an amalgam of plot complications (a stroke of simplicity could have smoothed over Dear White People’s landing), but maybe a diluted ending would have glossed over the truth at the film’s core: that race politics are more complex than pretty much any one of us realizes.—Andy Crump

son-of-rambow.jpg 54. Son of Rambow
Year: 2013
Director: Garth Jennings
Son of Rambow was an audience favorite at Sundance in 2007, managing to upstage Stallone with a funny little movie that uses his action franchise as a springboard for something far more rewarding. Two boys attending an English middle school, Will and Lee (played by perfectly cast newcomers Bill Milner and Will Poulter), are brought together by a slight altercation outside the headmaster’s office. Otherwise, they might not have become friends—they’re complete opposites, Lee a Huck Finn-type miscreant who’s no stranger to the principal’s office, and Will part of a family that belongs to a strict Christian denomination known as “The Brethren.” The boys’ chance meeting in the hallway eventually leads them to Lee’s house, where Will stumbles across a bootleg of First Blood, Stallone’s original Rambo film, the sight of which nearly burns his long-sheltered eyes and stokes his already fertile imagination, giving him fantasies of bombs and bowie knives and missions in the jungle. Inspired by what they’ve seen, Lee and Will set out to make their own sequel to Stallone’s film, directed by Lee and starring Will as the skinny, camouflaged “Son of Rambow.” Jennings’ sensibilities lie closest to Gondry’s, not just in the belief in camaraderie—the ever-endangered spine of this movie—but also in the way he blends whimsy with fact and can’t pass up the chance for a cute visual flourish. He has a lot of plates to keep spinning—the growing cast, the various modes of fashion—but he syncs them using plain-old traditional friendship. When all’s said and done, the do-it-yourself-video sequel is an excuse for Jennings to tell a nice little story about buddies.—Robert Davis

american-beauty.jpg 53. American Beauty
Year: 1999
Director: Sam Mendes 
Screenwriter Alan Ball mined his experience as an unsatisfied member of the television industry to pen American Beauty—a beautiful meditation on the hollowness of American suburbia and its materialism. Although Ball originally intended it for the stage, director Sam Mendes made the film intensely personal for each character, adding the kind of emotional heft that only a film—when expertly executed—can provide. This is the story of Lester Burnham’s complete journey from imprisoned office worker to carefree teenager to enlightened adult, although each character undergoes a similar transformation. The film may nominally be about Burnham’s obsession with the titular Angela Hayes, but its real message is that a more powerful beauty can be found in unexpected places. You just have to look closer.—Allie Conti

truman-show.jpg 52. The Truman Show
Year: 1998
Director: Peter Weir
Before reality shows took over the world and VH1, there was a prescient little movie called The Truman Show. Strange, that there was a time in our culture when the thought of putting someone on television and watching their life unfold in a somewhat (or completely) falsified manner was morally wrong. But The Truman Show was more than just a critique on the reality shows of the future; Jim Carrey was the everyman hero, weary of living a life where he took no risks and saw no change. As he attempted to make new moves, he was met with such resistance that it made the very act of living a revolutionary process in itself. Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich and Ed Harris (as Christof, the all-powerful man behind the curtain) made up Truman’s world and the cast of one of the most captivating and triumphant stories ever told.—Shannon M. Houston

jiro-sushi.jpg 51. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Year: 2012
Director: David Gelb
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary about one of the greatest masters of the culinary world, one whom casual foodies have never even heard of. Although Jiro’s work is ostensibly the focus of the documentary, the film is really propelled by the story of his relationship with his two sons; the youngest of whom has started his own restaurant, and the oldest of whom, at the age of 50, continues to work with his father, training to one day take over his restaurant. Devoid of the typical familial jealousy you may expect, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is instead a beautifully filmed documentary about a father and his sons who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of the perfect piece of sushi. —Emily Kirkpatrick