Hulu has come a long way since its initial launch in 2007 and is now one of the premier streaming services. Its current lineup of movies is impressive, including the 2020 Academy Award Best Picture winner Parasite, but let’s not forget that the service also has Emmy and Golden Globe-winning original television shows and a massive library of content from networks.
Now that the service’s interface has been updated to make it easier to use, here are some of the best original and non-original shows on Hulu — without needing to buy any of its add-on services like Hulu with Showtime, Hulu with HBO, or Hulu with Starz.
1-The Handmaid's Tale' (2017)
Lost were a wild ride for six seasons and its first season or two were some of the most gripping television of the early Aughts. When a plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean, the survivors are left not just to fight for their lives and hope for a rescue, but, each week one of them was the subject of a deep backstory dive, and we learn how their lives all intertwined and connected before they even stepped on the plane. Add to those elements of magic, time travel, and bizarre theories on the manipulation of time thanks to the secretive Dharma Initiative, a research facility that also exists on the island. The show meandered occasionally and has one of the more controversial finales of all time, but it’s still an immensely satisfying way to burn a cool hundred hours or so.
3-'The Great' (2020)
The Great is Hulu’s irreverent take on the rise of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning). The show opens with the optimistic German princess happily leaving her homeland to wedding Russia’s Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult). As soon as she arrives, it seems that her fairy tale vision of the future won’t come true. Peter is a selfish narcissist, prone to violent outbursts and public meltdowns. The Great‘s title card comes with an asterisk explaining that Hulu’s deliriously fun take on Catherine the Great is actually “an occasionally true story.” That means that while there was a real Catherine who married the real Peter III and then plotted a coup against him, many of the characters in The Great are works of fiction designed to delight the audience. — Meghan O’Keefe
4-'Normal People' (2020)
Co-created by Keith Knight and Marshall Todd and based on Knight’s experience as a cartoonist, Woke revolves around the deeply painful evolution of Lamorne Morris’ Keef. A beloved cartoonist is known for his comic strip Toast and Butter, Keef’s entire life seems to be devoted to being inoffensive. All he wants to do is work on his cartoons and largely ignore politics or anything too controversial. That changes the minute Keef is held up at gunpoint by a group of officers who misidentify him as a suspected robber. This terrifying encounter bursts Keef’s bubble and forces him to recognize his own blackness and the deeply unfair way he’s been treated. To paraphrase Keef’s best friend Clovis (T. Murph) once you wake, you can’t go back.
That heavy premise is offset by the main reason Woke is worth your time: Keef’s hallucinations. As Keef tries to fight against recognizing the systematic oppression around him, his newfound anger takes the form of adorable talking objects and cartoons voiced by performers like Cedric The Entertainer, Nicole Byer, and Sam Richardson. — Kayla Cobb
6-'A Teacher' (2020)
In the past, tales of teachers engaging in inappropriate relationships with their students have been treated in one of two extremes. They’re either portrayed as “not acceptable but a fact of life,” or the teacher is portrayed as a weird creep. But the reality has more subtlety than that, which is what Hannah Fidell explored in her 2013 film A Teacher, which she adapted into a miniseries for FX on Hulu. A Teacher doesn’t try to spare its audience when it comes to how its core relationship develops; its banal portrait of a predator and the affair she creates does a good job accomplishing its goal, which is to make its audience squirm. —Joel Keller
8-'Little Fires Everywhere' (2020)
It seems that Reese Witherspoon has latched onto something over the last few years, producing adaptations of popular novels and nonfiction books. Little Fires Everywhere is an adaptation of Celeste Ng’s novel; Witherspoon and Washington are among the executive producers, and veteran producer Liz Tigelaar is the showrunner. Like Witherspoon’s last two shows, Big Little Lies and The Morning Show, Little Fires Everywhere tries to couch serious issues in a frothy, soapy environment, where every word uttered can be a possible misunderstanding and tension run high. — Joel Keller
9-'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (2019)
We all know that Mindy Kaling can’t resist a classic rom-com, and none are more classic than the original 1994 movie version of Four Weddings and a Funeral. She and co-EP Matt Warburton truly lean into the more “magical” aspects of the genre, with meet-cutes and coincidences galore. Also, there are so many entanglements — especially involving Maya — that it’s hard to keep track of the status of who’s crushing on who. Yes, the original movie involved some of these complications, but it feels like Kaling makes the knots even tighter and with more loops, making them even more cumbersome to untie.
We give Kaling and Warburton credit for diversifying the cast, and everyone does a decent job with the material they’re given, especially Nathalie Emmanuel as Maya. But it feels a lot like yet another show about annoying millennial angst and unnecessarily complicated romantic entanglements that could just be solved if people, you know, actually grew the heck up and said how they felt about the other person. — Joel Keller
WATCH FOUR WEDDINGS AND A
10-'Killing Eve' (2018)
Killing Eve is a spy story, a murder mystery, a spellbinding character drama, and a gloriously wicked comedy. It all comes together to make one of the year’s most delightful and captivating series, starring Sandra Oh as a bored, desk-bound MI-5 agent, and Jodie Comer as the glamorous, mysterious, and completely unhinged international assassin Villanelle. The two women’s fates soon become intertwined, and their cat-and-mouse game is really more like two cats circling each other on the European stage. The series comes from Fleabag creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is based loosely on Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novels. It refreshingly puts women in positions usually reserved for men, or at least, where one man would normally be involved. In many ways, it’s like a gender-swapped version of the Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham dynamic from Hannibal, where obsession, sexual desire, and death all swirl together into one deliciously complicated and dazzlingly entertaining tale. — Allison Keene