What are the best Hulu documentaries? Well, we’re living in the golden age of television and the quality of documentaries has also happily reached platinum level too.
While all the streamers have upped their game when it comes to non-fictional story-telling, Hulu - which launched in the US in 2007 - has particularly become the home for genre-pushing documentaries that redefine “must-watch” TV.
Hulu, which is part owned by Disney and Universal, is able to draw content from a huge array of broadcasters and studios and often gets the best of both worlds, couple with own original programming.
That gives it a huge array of great Hulu shows (opens in new tab) and great Hulu movies (opens in new tab), and, as well as that, a fantastic range of documentaries.
From unearthing long-forgotten cultural events and walking in the shoes of pop’s biggest icons through to emotional, intimate histories of people at a crossroads in their life; there’s always an engaging tale to switch on and learn about.
Here are our favorite documentaries streaming on Hulu right now...
WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Of all the documentaries - and dramatizations - devoted to the spate of scammers that popped up in the past few years, one of the most jaw-dropping has to be the true story of the Adam Neumann, his wife Rebekah Neumann (did she mention Gwyneth Paltrow’s her cousin?) and their company, WeWork.
Touted as “The We revolution” - which basically meant living, working and socialising with the same group of people in the same building…anybody else think ‘cult’? - this tech start-up was seen as a unicorn; valued at $47 billion as it enticed co-working millennials to drink from their inhouse Kombucha bar.
But, it was all an illusion. This film documents the wild ride from boom to bust; explores the bizarre figure of Neumann (who still claims he’ll be the world’s first trillionaire) and makes an excellent companion piece to Apple TV Plus' WeCrashed (opens in new tab), the fictionalized reality drama of the whole saga, featuring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as the namaste Neumanns.
Speaking of scammers, step forward Billy McFarland. Fyre Fraud - directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason - is the second of two documentaries that came out around the same time about the ill-fated event; which was totally fine by us as no-one could get enough of stories about tricking rich influencers out to a music festival that didn’t really exist.
It looked like a humanitarian disaster, and served up that infamous open-cheese sandwich as gourmet food. The schadenfreude was real, until the real human cost of McFarland’s blagging was exposed in this film. A nation never looked at Ja Rule in the same way again.
Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Think of music festivals, and you’ll probably think of Glastonbury, Coachella, or if you go way back, Woodstock. But director Questlove - a.k.a. Ahmir Thompson - reminded the world of a long-forgotten great when he opened up a treasure trove of musical history with his movie on the epic 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival.
Celebrating the event - which ran for six Sundays over the course of the summer - the documentary pulls together some incredible live footage from the event; killer performances from the likes of Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and The Fifth Dimension while perfectly capturing the colours, fashions and vibe of the entire historic event.
Like time-travelling back to a joyous moment in history, it's obvious why this movie ended up winning Best Documentary at the 2022 Oscars as well a whole mantlepiece's worth of other awards.
Minding the Gap
This is one of those documentaries that shouldn’t be passed by just because the initial subject matter doesn’t seem like it will instantly appeal to you. Why should I care about some skateboarding kids, you might think? Well, because this film - directed by Bing Liu - takes a story so much further.
This is a snapshot of life in the ‘rust belt’ of America; of three young men who yes, are skateboarders, but are also dealing with racism, abuse and intergenerational trauma. It all plays out through the ramps and rails of Rockford, Illinois, over the course of a decade but you’re unlikely to find a more affecting example of what life is like in 21st Century America, and how a younger generation are attempting to deal with it.
McCartney 3, 2, 1
What else needs to be said about Paul McCartney that hasn’t already been said? If that was a dilemma for the producers of this six-part series, then it was swiftly allayed by the casting of another music great, iconic producer Rick Rubin, to lead this intimate conversation all about the life and times of the Beatles legend.
Shot in black and white - and with Rubin expertly lifting the lid on the tunes - there’s no topic off-limits with Macca, who is remarkably candid about his time in one of the biggest pop bands of all time; and even now, 60 years on, there’s still new anecdotes to uncover.
Who knew a can of Ambrosia rice pudding on a camping trip arguably solidified the brotherhood of the band? Just don’t go expecting any playbacks on the lighter side of Macca’s opus - Rubin steers clear of Frog Chorus and Wonderful Christmastime; the coward...
With 1990s nostalgia currently at its peak, this documentary is a must-watch for any super fans of the era. 1980s child star Soleil Moon Frye (famous for her role as Punky Brewster) had the canny foresight to capture all of her and her famous teen friends’ antics on a big clunky camcorder for posterity; walking so Instagram influencers could run.
What she ended up editing - with her old pal Leonardo Di Caprio on executive producer duties - is an intimate coming-of-age film about growing up in Hollywood as a famous kid. Yes, it obviously has its perks, but ultimately, all the kids were trying to find their own sense of identity and self-worth in a warped industry. It wraps up in a melancholy manner, but as story-telling goes, this true-life tale will really stick with you.
Known to his mum as Martin Shkreli, Pharma Bro is essentially the real-life poster boy villain for the ills of late capitalism. You’ll know him from his heinous acts such as raising the price of an AIDS drug 5,500 percent, committing security fraud and, in a lesser crime but still a crypto dick move, buying the sole copy of a Wu-Tang album for $2 million, then refusing to release it, essentially creating the NFT market for music.
This documentary - directed by Brent Hodge - examines the person behind “America’s most hated man”; trying to psychoanalyse how he became the person he is today. Was it the internship on Wall St aged 17 or the interest in chemistry when a family member suffered from depression? Who knows, really, but it’s interesting to speculate.
Sometimes it takes a Freedom Of Information act to reveal the true nature of an event, and the doors were really blown off when it was revealed that the FBI tried to destroy Martin Luther King with wiretaps and blackmail. The civil rights icon was targeted by the government agency as he was viewed as a threat: galvanised voices and a movement to create a fairer and equal America for all.
But investigators harassed King - bugging and tapping his hotel rooms, catching him out having affairs - and eventually wrote him a letter suggesting he killed himself. While the documentary - directed by Sam Pollard - doesn’t linger too long on the question of who really killed MLK, the evidence presented will make the audience re-evaluate what they’ve been taught in history class.
The art of animation is truly pushed to its most emotive heights in this Oscar-nominated documentary from 2021. Flee tells the story of Amin Nawabi, a refugee who escaped from Afghanistan to live in Denmark.
While the real-life voice you hear is that of Amin (a pseudonym) - recorded by director Jonas Poher Rasmussen - the images on the screen fully convey the trauma and danger of his passage to a new country; but also his inner turmoil at making this transition.
A masterclass in handling delicate personal histories, it pushes the boundaries of the genre of documentary making, too.
Before Big Brother and the reality TV juggernaut, there was Biosphere 2; a 1991 experiment that saw eight people live inside a dome (set up to replicate Earth’s ecosystem) for two years in an Arizona desert. Spaceship Earth is the documentary that covers this wild experiment that has largely been forgotten since, using archive footage and interviews of the people who signed up for this challenge under the eye of the curious leader; the writer and ecologist John Allen.
The fact that we’re not all living up on pods on the moon now obviously suggests that not everything went to plan and this film documents how, ironically, humanity ruined humanity’s great hopes for the future.