Hulu’s stock in trade may be television, but it’s also the home of a healthy selection of feature films. While it doesn’t boast as many essential titles as HBO Max or the sheer volume of Netflix or Amazon Prime, Hulu maintains a steady rotation of recent releases from major studios to bolster its library of independent films and forgotten gems. If you filter through to the Sci-Fi Movies section of Hulu this month, you’ll find underrated franchise sequels, international critical darlings, and a few bulletproof classics, plus a handful of hip titles gained from Hulu’s partnership with indie distributor Neon. Hulu’s sci-fi offerings tend to be geared toward a more mature audience, but within those parameters there’s a fair amount of variety to be found, from grim space epics to goofy tongue-in-cheek comedies.
Updated September 28, 2021: Hulu’s movie offerings change frequently, so we’ll be keeping our list up to date with the latest arrivals and departures. Check back each month to see what box office hits and festival darlings have come to the big green streaming machine.
Meet David, the first-ever android with the capacity to perfectly emulate — perhaps even experience — love. Given the form and emotional maturity of an 11-year old boy, David embarks on a quest to reunite with his “mother,” the human woman who he’s programmed to love unconditionally. Divisive for its often misunderstood ending and for being by far the most bleak feature in Steven Spielberg’s filmography, “A.I.” is nevertheless fascinating for its unsettling post-climate change future, its unique style synthesis of Spielberg and his late friend Stanley Kubrick, and its haunting lead performance by young actor Haley Joel Osment.
In the futuristic dystopia of Neo-Tokyo, a street punk named Tetsuo is abducted by a government agency seeking to unlock his psychokinetic potential. Kaneda, Tetsuo’s surrogate older brother from their motorcycle gang, is determined to rescue him, but if Tetsuo is as powerful as he seems, then no force on Earth may be able to save him from himself. “Akira” is a monumental achievement in animation, one of the best-designed and best-rendered films of all time. Its influence has reverberated throughout animation, cinema, and pop culture in general for decades.
Spacecraft have landed across the planet carrying visitors so alien that communication seems impossible. The US military recruits Dr. Louise Banks, one of the world’s most brilliant linguists, to establish an understanding before international tensions boil over into full-scale war.
“Arrival” was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. The film impresses with its grounded, convincing approach to interspecies communication, but it’s as much an emotional exercise as an intellectual one. Amy Adams delivers a compelling lead performance that is only more impressive on repeat viewings.
An East London housing project becomes ground zero for an alien invasion. The authorities are indifferent and disbelieving, but a local street gang is ready and eager to step up and protect their block from the extraterrestrial beasties. “Attack the Block” is a clever action-comedy with a lot of heart and some terrific thrills, particularly given its very limited budget. While a box office failure, “Attack the Block” became an immediate cult favorite and helped to launch the careers of modern sci-fi royals John Boyega and Jodie Whitaker.
A group of old friends throw a dinner party on the night that a comet is set to pass overhead. Soon, a strange phenomenon begins to unravel their reality, as well as their relationships with each other. “Coherence” is a truly unique sci-fi thriller, produced on a tiny budget in a single location with no script, only a detailed outline to which even the actors had limited access. A mind-bending, semi-improvised narrative unfolds that is best experienced fresh and unspoiled, and while we don’t think it’s too hard to follow, don’t worry — there are charts out there to explain what happens.
Magazine writer and party girl Gloria has burned up all her money and goodwill in New York, and is forced to move back to the small town where she grew up. It’s all shaping up to be a charming but run-of-the-mill dramedy, until Gloria realizes that walking across her old playground at a certain hour of the day causes a giant monster to appear in Seoul, South Korea and mimic her exact actions. “Colossal” is more than it appears on the surface. It’s a comic fantasy, but it’s also a heartfelt, sometimes very tense drama about the damage people inflict on each other and how to find redemption and self-worth.
Mega-City One is a cruel, nightmarish metropolis where rampant violent crime is met with equally brutal policing. Judge Dredd, a cop empowered to convict and execute criminals at will, brings psychic trainee Cassandra Anderson on a mission to a massive tenement building ruled by vicious drug lord Ma-Ma. “Dredd” is a dark, damp ultra-violent visual spectacle, inspired by its satirical comic book source material and enhanced with remarkable slow-motion effects that draw unsettling beauty from unreserved carnage.
Like her mother Bo before her, Ruth was born with uncanny telekinetic abilities. Unlike Bo, Ruth has never gained control of her powers, and the terrifying earthquakes she creates have forced her into a life of isolation and despair. When a malevolent scientist attempts to capture her, Ruth has no choice but to return to her childhood home and face Bo and her own estranged daughter. “Fast Color” is like a great, character-driven issue of “X-Men,” an intimate exploration of family, otherness, hope, and loss — but with superpowers.
What if aliens picked up broadcasts of “Star Trek” and thought it was a documentary? In “Galaxy Quest,” an advanced extraterrestrial culture conscripts the bickering cast of their favorite TV show to help save their planet from a vicious foe, totally unaware that their heroes are in way over their heads. “Galaxy Quest” is a fish-out-of-water comedy that, not unlike “Ghostbusters,” plays its genre conceits straight so the laughs never undercut the story’s grand stakes. While Tim Allen enjoys top billing, the real stars are Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and a young Sam Rockwell, who all deliver career-high comedic performances.
In the near future, human genetic engineering has become the norm, and people made the old-fashioned way are dismissed as an inferior caste. And that makes things a bit difficult for our main character. Vincent is among the space program’s best — a peak physical and intellectual specimen. But his hard-earned opportunities could disappear if his superiors discover the truth: He’s a natural-born human living under the assumed identity of an engineered man. “Gattaca” is a stirring character drama anchored by terrific performances from its three lead actors. It was also years ahead of its time, presaging real-life debates on the ethics of genetic profiling.
A huge amphibious monster created by American scientific negligence runs wild in Seoul, eating several people and capturing adolescent girl Park Hyun-Seo. Hyun-Seo’s family must put aside years of drama and band together to get her home safely, contending with both the monster and the United States military along the way. “The Host” is a grand slam — scary, funny, heartbreaking, and exciting, each in good measure. “The Host” was the international breakthrough for director Bong Joon-ho, who would later helm the sci-fi thriller “Snowpiercer” and win unmatched acclaim for “Parasite.”
The world is struck by a pandemic that destroys memory, afflicting people of all ages with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. When music photographer Jude contracts the sickness, he and his wife Emma find themselves fighting to save a relationship that one of them may soon forget ever happened. “Little Fish” is a beautiful, heart-wrenching romance that would have been compelling in any era but it is remarkably poignant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Little Fish” may be the most emotionally arresting sci-fi drama since “Children of Men,” likely to bring all but the most cynical of viewers to tears.
Every time Nyles wakes up, it’s November 9, the day of his girlfriend’s friend’s wedding. It’s one of those infinite time loop situations you might have heard about. Now Sarah, the sister of the bride, has also been caught in the loop, and they’re stuck reliving the same day over and over together for all eternity — that is, unless one of them can find a way out. Brought to life by terrific performances from Andy Samberg and the often undervalued Cristin Milioti, “Palm Springs” lends a fresh comedic sensibility and a “buddy movie” twist to the time loop concept.
Tasya Vos is a specialized assassin who kills her targets by hijacking the bodies of someone close to them. The physical and emotional toll of the job is slowly destroying Tasya’s life, but she’s pressured to continue, taking on another demanding contract that may well claim her sanity as well as her victims’ lives. “Possessor” is a cruel and unsettling psychological thriller, a grim portrait of contemporary work culture painted in blood.
Frank Weld is an elderly, retired jewel thief living alone in upstate New York. Concerned that his solitude is contributing to his poor mental and physical health, Frank’s son buys him a live-in robotic health aide who Frank simply calls Robot. At first, Frank sees Robot as a nuisance, but he comes around when he realizes that he can teach his new companion to help him pull off a daring heist. “Robot and Frank” is fairly light viewing, a cute, quiet comedy about age, memory, and relationships.
Cassius “Cash” Green thrives at his new job as a telemarketer for a massive corporation where there is definitely more going on than meets the eye. As he climbs the ladder, he becomes privy to more and more of the bizarre world of the rich and powerful and the terrifying inner workings of our increasingly exploitative economic system. “Sorry to Bother You” is a snappy, surreal comedy that goes to some truly wild places that we don’t dare spoil here. Don’t look it up, just watch, and keep your mind open — and your head on a swivel.
In 1983, a Soviet space mission departs Earth with two passengers and returns with three. Heroic cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov now carries an alien parasite that leaves his body each night and kills whoever it sees. In an attempt to understand Konstantin and the creature’s strange connection, the military summons a scientist whose unorthodox methods get results at any cost. “Sputnik” is a tense sci-fi/horror film with unsettling creature effects and blood to spare, but it also has a strong sense of character and an emotional core.
Over a decade ago, intrepid space explorer James T. Kirk marooned the despotic superhuman Khan and his genetically engineered followers on an uninhabited planet. Now, Khan has escaped, and his quest for revenge threatens the survival of entire worlds. “The Wrath of Khan” is an exciting and emotionally charged space adventure, easily the most approachable chapter in the original “Star Trek” film series. Watching the classic episode “Space Seed” (also on Hulu) beforehand is recommended but not required.
Years into their mission to explore deep space, life has gotten pretty routine aboard the USS Enterprise, so much so that the intrepid Captain James T. Kirk is thinking about hanging it up and taking a desk job. When the Enterprise is dispatched on an urgent rescue mission, Kirk and his crew must rediscover the spirit of adventure and save the galaxy one more time. “Star Trek Beyond” is a lively space opera that combines the exciting visuals of the previous J.J. Abrams-directed “Star Trek” films with the sweetness and charm of the original television show. “Beyond” is best enjoyed if you’ve already seen the 2009 “Star Trek” film, but there are no other franchise prerequisites.
The spaceship Icarus II is on a mission to deliver a massive bomb to the dying sun, rescuing Earth from an icy death. A technical error puts the voyage in jeopardy, requiring that the crew take increasingly greater risks to put the mission back on track. Meanwhile, the long journey in space has taken a psychological toll on the crew, who are beginning to break under the strain. “Sunshine” is a dark sci-fi thriller that evokes the creeping terror of “Alien” with no monster required, just the deadly isolation of space and the imposing, godlike presence of the sun.