The best documentaries on Hulu right now

The best documentaries on Hulu right now

From cultural commentary to animated marvels, there’s plenty to love about these titles streaming on Hulu.

By Kevin Jacobsen and Devin Herenda August 08, 2023 at 08:18 PM EDT

As far as cinema goes, documentaries are one of the most fascinating, wide-reaching genres out there. For any cinephile who’s looking to add more docs to their must-watch list, look no further than Hulu. The streaming service has plenty of true-to-life films that cover many areas of interest, whether you’re seeking out scintillating thrillers, artistic gems, or sentimental reflections on history. Without further ado, here are the best documentaries on Hulu.

Apollo 11 (2019)

To watch Apollo 11 is to time travel back to 1969, when astronauts and spectators alike anxiously anticipated the eponymous mission to the Moon. Using previously unreleased 70mm footage of the trek from start to finish, the filmmakers are able to build suspense even if viewers already know the final outcome. The images alone are astonishing, depicting the journey of the astronauts, the diligent workers behind Mission Control, the curious Florida observers, and the climactic Moon landing with full clarity. EW’s critic praised the film as “an inspiring, magical, and transcendent testament to human know-how, ambition, and achievement of the seemingly impossible.” —Kevin Jacobsen

Where to watch Apollo 11: Hulu

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

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Blackfish (2013)

While some documentaries try to stay as objective as possible, Blackfish has a clear-cut point of view, and it’s certainly not in favor of SeaWorld. The film centers on animal captivity at the controversial theme park, specifically an incident in which Tilikum, an aggressive orca, killed three people including a SeaWorld trainer. It further explores how the company would seek out killer whales and why being held captive in the park fed their hostility. For those concerned with the inhumane treatment of animals, this is a tough but essential watch, one that has led to ramifications for SeaWorld since the film’s initial release. —K.J.

Where to watch Blackfish: Hulu

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

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Collective (2019)

Following a devastating 2015 fire at a nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, the country’s healthcare system and its leaders fell under question. Of the 64 individuals who lost their lives, 37 died in the months after the tragedy due to infections from negligent medical treatment, contradictory to government officials publicly defending the quality of care. Director Alexander Nanau follows a group of Sports Gazette journalists who investigate this issue in hopes of bringing justice to the sordid case. As EW observed in 2020, Collective was proof of how we “living in a glorious time for documentaries,” as the Oscar-nominated film highlights their unwavering journalistic pursuits against harmful systemic corruption. —D.H.

Where to watch Collective: Hulu

Director: Alexander Nanau

Fire of Love (2022)

Burning desire has never been quite so literal. This Oscar-nominated nature documentary tells the story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, French volcanologists who made a name for themselves in the ’70s and ’80s with their stunning reels of volcanic eruptions. The film weaves in the Kraffts’ own love story with some of the most dazzling archival footage of fire and ash ever captured, made all the more stunning when you remember it was filmed decades ago. Miranda July’s lyrical narration brings what EW’s critic called a “hushed awe and diaristic intimacy” to the film, making the Kraffts’ story all the more bittersweet. —K.J.

Where to watch Fire of Love: Hulu

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Sara Dosa

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Flee (2021)

As he prepares for a new stage of life with his soon-to-be husband, Amin Nawabi opens up for the first time about his experience as a child refugee emigrating from Afghanistan to Denmark in this acclaimed documentary. Nawabi’s harrowing expedition, which is recreated through affecting animation, saw him separate from family members for protection and form a whole new identity. Flee is a gripping meditation on identity and the undeniable power and catharsis of sharing your story, as Nawabi’s intimate recollections are finally revealed. The film also made Oscar history as the first film to receive nominations for Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature, and Best Animated Feature all in the same year. —D.H.

Where to watch Flee: Hulu

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

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Free Solo (2018)

Documentaries centered on single-minded people continue to be subjects of fascination for audiences and filmmakers alike. One such case is this tense Oscar-winning doc about rock climber Alex Honnold and his determination to conquer the El Capitan rock formation at Yosemite National Park via free solo climb, which is to say, without any ropes to protect him. While Honnold’s efforts are gripping to behold, we also get a fascinating glimpse into what it means to love a person who is constantly putting himself in harm’s way, as seen through the eyes of his girlfriend Sanni, whose perspective adds even higher stakes to Honnold’s perilous journey to the clouds. As EW’s critic wrote, “What makes it more than just ghoulish voyeurism is how it paints a surprisingly rich character study of a young man and the obsession that drives him.” —K.J.

Where to watch Free Solo: Hulu

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Directors: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

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Fyre Fraud (2019)

This true crime documentary details how entrepreneur Billy McFarland organized the infamous Fyre Festival, a supposedly luxurious music event in the Bahamas that cost attendees thousands and boasted endorsements from celebrities like rapper Ja Rule, Kendall Jenner, and Bella Hadid. Upon arrival, however, guests found that their accommodations were nothing close to glamorous. Instead, the festival consisted of unorganized travel protocols, cold cheese sandwiches for dinner, and a limited amount of shelter. Fyre Fraud explores the class-action lawsuits and tarnished reputations that followed, offering a commentary on the dominance of influencer culture and social media propaganda. —D.H.

Where to watch Fyre Fraud: Hulu

Directors: Jenner Furt and Julia Willoughby Nason

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I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

This thought-provoking examination of the systemic oppression against Black Americans is made all the more powerful by its central figure: James Baldwin. Our narrative anchor is the influential writer’s perspective on racism being intrinsically linked to the soul of America, as evidenced during the tumultuous civil rights movement of the 1960s and beyond. In Baldwin’s words, “It is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face and deal with and embrace this stranger whom they maligned so long.” The poetically assembled film delves into several facets of racism in the 20th-century, from segregation to harmful portrayals in the media to the prison-industrial complex. “It’s impossible not to think: The more things change, the more they stay the same,” EW’s critic wrote of the film. “It’s enough to make you weep.” —K.J.

Where to watch I Am Not Your Negro: Hulu

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Raoul Peck

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Man on Wire (2008)

Frequently compared to a heist movie, this engrossing documentary tells the unbelievable true story of a Frenchman’s high-wire act walking across the World Trade Center towers. Philippe Petit’s unauthorized stunt captured the attention of wonderstruck New Yorkers, and Man on Wire transports us back to that indescribable hour on the morning of Aug. 7, 1974, while also showing all the anxiety-inducing steps leading up to the event. The film was universally acclaimed upon its 2008 release, winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, with EW calling it “breathtaking” and praising director James Marsh’s “lovely sense of rhythm, wit, and wonder.” —K.J.

Where to watch Man on Wire: Hulu

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: James Marsh

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Minding the Gap (2018)

Director Bing Liu reflects on his adolescent years for Minding the Gap, capturing the skateboarding culture in the Illinois Rust Belt region, where he and friends Zack Mulligan and Keire Johnson faced economic struggles as they transitioned into adulthood. Amid memories of childhood abuse and strained relationships, skating was a cathartic outlet for the trio, whose most revealing moments appear through flashback footage and more recent recordings. Liu’s gritty coming-of-age film tugs at the heartstrings of audiences, with EW’s review calling it an embodiment of “youthful escapism, personal expression, and the cold realization that you can’t stay a kid forever.” —D.H.

Where to watch Minding the Gap: Hulu

EW grade: A– (read the review)

Director: Bing Liu

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MLK/FBI (2020)

This historical film explores how the FBI hunted for damaging information against Martin Luther King Jr., probing the civil rights leader’s romantic entanglements outside of his marriage and other condemnatory allegations. Decades later, MLK/FBI revisits King’s story while exposing the government’s history of prejudicially probing Black organizers whose influence threatens established systems. As director Sam Pollard told EW, “even though we’re dealing with some very sensitive stuff in terms of Dr. King’s personal life, I felt it was an opportunity for us to have a way to see Dr. King as a human being, who was not deified as an icon or a saint,” adding that, “We had a responsibility to try to tell that story, and the story of what the FBI was trying to do to discredit and destroy his reputation.” —D.H.

Where to watch MLK/FBI: Hulu

Director: Sam Pollard

The Mole Agent (2020)

This charming Chilean documentary starts with a cheeky setup — a private investigator hires an elderly man named Sergio to go undercover at a nursing home suspected of mistreating its residents — and settles into something far more profound than expected. As Sergio searches for evidence of malpractice, he develops close relationships with the lonely women living at the facility who value him for the company he provides. The magic of The Mole Agent, which earned a Best Documentary Feature Oscar nomination, is its ability to be tender but not cloying, honing in on the stories of residents whom society tends to dismiss. —K.J.

Where to watch The Mole Agent: Hulu

Director: Maite Alberdi

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Summer of Soul (2021)

Many of us associate 1969 with the “Summer of Love” thanks to Woodstock, but that pivotal year was also the “Summer of Soul” thanks to a lesser-known but equally impactful music event: the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. With powerful performances by B.B. King, Nina Simone, the 5th Dimension, and Stevie Wonder to name a few, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Oscar-winning documentary explores how the gathering honored Black artistry, marked a cultural movement, and continues to ripple through music today. As EW critic writes, “The interviews are their own historical document, though it’s the visceral thrill of being inside all those archival clips — the flick of Simone’s wrist, an ecstatic face in the crowd — that makes Summer of Soul comes most fully alive, somehow both as fresh as yesterday and as far away as the moon.” —D.H.

Where to watch Summer of Soul: Hulu

EW grade: B (read the review)

Director: Questlove

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Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Falling somewhere between true crime and drama, this documentary is one you’ll have to see to believe. The film shares how triplets who were separated at birth — Robert Shafran, Edward Galland, and David Kellman — randomly find one another during the early-1980s. They soon gain media fame for their unique reunion story, and the brothers grow even closer as they open an East Coast restaurant. Tragedy eventually befalls the siblings, however, when they discover that their childhood separation story is even more complex than it originally appeared. The documentary was all the rage at Sundance in 2018, and a miniseries adaptation starring Ben Stiller is currently in the works. —D.H.

Where to watch Three Identical Strangers: Hulu

EW grade: A (read the review)

Director: Tim Wardle

    • By Kevin Jacobsen and Devin Herenda

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