From award-winners to fascinating curiosities, there’s something for everyone.
There’s just something about a great documentary. Whether it’s a chance to explore a slice of the world you’ll never personally experience, or a jaw-dropping reminder that truth is very often stranger than fiction, a good documentary will often leave you eager to dive even deeper into the subject than the film did. Hulu’s documentary selection shines in this regard, offering a diverse mixture of award-winners and fascinating curiosities. From the high-pressure newsroom of the New York Times to a high-wire act between the Twin Towers, Hulu has a solid lineup of documentaries on tap and just waiting for you to dive in.
But there’s no need to spend half an hour scrolling through the Hulu catalog. We did the legwork for you. Here are some amazing documentaries on Hulu you can stream right now.
The best documentaries on Hulu
After his tragic death at the age of 32 from pancreatic cancer, Bill Hicks left behind a legacy that has inspired countless comedians that have come after him. American: The Bill Hicks Story explores Bill through the eyes of those who knew him best: family, friends, and trusted colleagues. Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas chronicle Hicks’ transformation from standard stand-up to righteous cultural prophet, shouting down the madnesses of our society and daring us to be something better. If ever we could have used Bill, it’s now.
In Batman and Bill, author Marc Tyler Nobleman details his years-long quest to get Batman co-creator Bill Finger the credit he deserves. Most people don’t even know Finger’s name, but any element that comes to mind when you think of Batman, there’s a good chance Finger had a hand in it. Like a Batman comic, the documentary has secret identities, mysteries, injustices demanding to be brought into the light, and even a conniving villain determined to steamroll the meek for his own personal gain.
- Hulu with Live TV offers everything you miss about cable
- The best movies on Hulu
- What’s new on Hulu
- The best documentaries of 2017 you can stream right now
With his starring role in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, an Australian male model and former used car salesman named George Lazenby entered the small fraternity of men who’ve played James Bond on the big screen. But then Lazenby just walked away from a seven-film contract and a million-dollar bonus. Decoding the enigma of Lazenby is the focus of Hulu’s original documentary, Becoming Bond. It’s a funny, compelling look at a man determined to go his own way, even if his choices make no sense to the rest of the world.
Over footage of abandoned hospital hallways and discussions of abducted children, the trailer for the 2009 documentary Cropsey poses a chilling question: What if your urban legends were true? Cropsey explores the legend of the titular New York boogeyman that became all too real during a series of kidnappings and murders involving a former custodian for a notorious shuttered mental institution called the Willowbrook State School. It’s by turns unsettling and tragic, offering a stark reminder that sometimes the real-life monsters are more frightening than anything we can conjure up around the campfire.
Ron Howard directed this 2016 documentary look at the Fab Five during the height of their touring years in the mid-‘60s. That period includes some of the Beatles’ most memorable shows, taking the band from their early days playing gigs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, all the way up to their 1966 concert in San Francisco. Eight Days a Week was produced in full cooperation with the surviving Beatles and their spouses, and the documentary even includes a half-hour of footage from the band’s 1965 concert at Shea Stadium in New York City. All of that 35mm footage has been digitally restored and remastered up to 4K resolution.
Hulu’s marketing leaned heavily on the whole “Jackass: Origins” angle, but there’s a lot more to Big Brother Magazine’s legacy than just helping make Johnny Knoxville famous. Dumb is a ride through the history of a weird little publication that kickflipped over every sacred cow it could find, redefining skater culture in the process. Even if you don’t know Tony Hawk from Tony Robbins, Dumb is fast, slick, and a lot of fun.
Who is Banksy? Unless you’d boned up on the street-art scene, there’s a good chance you hadn’t heard the name at all until this 2010 film earned a Best Documentary Oscar nomination. The mystery of that infamous street artist’s identity is just one element of this acclaimed documentary. Exit follows Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles whose obsession with street art jumpstarts the film. Viewers follow Thierry as he teams up with artist Shepard Fairey and travel around the country, profiling artists with names like Neck Face, Sweet Toof, and Borf.
8. Man on Wire
Joseph Gordon-Levitt introduced many to the story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s infamous 1974 walk between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in 2015’s The Walk. This documentary, however, beat him and Robert Zemeckis to the punch by nearly a decade. Directed by James Marsh, Man on Wire chronicles the planning and execution of Petit’s breath-taking stunt, as well as diving into the psychology of why the hell Petit wanted to attempt such an insane display in the first place. It might not be as vertigo-inducing as Zemeckis’ staging in the feature film, but this documentary is even more affecting because it’s real.
- The best TV shows on Hulu
- The sexiest movies on Hulu right now
- 12 must-see Hulu originals
- All the movies on Hulu that will give you goosebumps
The New York Times has never been more in the spotlight than it has been during the Trump presidency, with Trump’s brash anti-media approach seemingly having lit a fire under the ass of the fourth estate. That makes this 2011 documentary more timely than ever. Director Andrew Rossi and his crew got to spend a year inside the New York Times’ bullpen, watching the staff as they struggled to deal with declining readership, the strain between good business and good journalism, and the question of what journalism’s place would be in the 21st century.
10. Room 237
Critics and fans have been dissecting Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining for nearly 40 years now, and it’s no surprise that a film as dense and laden with surreal imagery would inspire countless theories as to what it all means. Room 237 dives into that web of interpretation, presenting nine segments exploring possibilities ranging from condemnations of American imperialism to proof that Kubrick helped NASA fake the Apollo 11 moon landing. Like the film that inspired it, Room 237 will leave you unsettled and with more questions than answers, but that’s not a bad thing.
Michael Moore is never going to change his stripes as an activist or filmmaker. But his 2015 documentary tweaks his tactics enough to make you think maybe change is possible. Moore looks at various issues plaguing America, then finds other countries who have seemingly got it right as an example of a solution. It’s the least “preaching to the choir” Moore has been in a long time, and it makes Where to Invade Next feel like a conversation starter rather than a screed. —Eddie Strait
Too Funny to Fail continues a streak of outstanding niche original documentaries from Hulu this year. Too Funny to Fail dives deep into the conception, execution, and failure of The Dana Carvey Show, a one-season wonder that featured the talents of Louis C.K., Robert Smigel, Charlie Kaufman, and both Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell. The documentary also examines the origins and assembly of individual sketches—both those that worked and those that didn’t.
13. Behind the Mask
Not to be confused with the 2006 mockumentary horror film, this documentary examines a group of sports heroes who never seem to get their due: the mascots. Behind the Mask introduces viewers to seven different sports mascots, operating at all levels of the field, from enthusiastic high school amateurs, all the way up to the major leagues. Following the mascots’ lives both in and out of their colorful costumes, the show earned Hulu a nomination at the Sports Emmy Awards in 2014.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.