50 Must-See Documentaries Streaming on Hulu This Month

Thanks to 'Minding the Gap' and 'Crime + Punishment,' it's finally time to do this.

crime and punishment

Nonfics is finally ready to recognize the incredible documentary selection from Hulu. The streaming service is coming into its own with original content that can rival the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, and especially the recent premieres Minding the Gap and Crime + Punishment are cementing Hulu as a notable place for nonfiction film fans.

While Hulu doesn’t seem to have the number of its competitors, its library does have some essential docs that aren’t available on Netflix or Amazon Prime — many of them used to be at those rival services but now can only be found here. As far as I’m aware, Hulu also has no easy tracking like InstantWatcher, so there’s a chance I could be missing some greats.

So, at least to start, we are only listing 50 titles — quality over quantity. Plus I’ve highlighted some docs I believe are just available if you have the Showtime add-on afterward.

Here’s how the list is numerically arranged: the titles are mostly ranked in order of my favor with some objective authority, but there are some clumps throughout the list that obviously fit together. Some are by director, some are by genre or subject matter, and some are by series. In fact, I see this whole list as being best watched in order of the rankings.

First up, though, are the latest noteworthy editions.

  1. Minding the Gap (Bing Liu, 2018)
    “What first seems like a sweet story about a skateboarding community filling the emptiness left behind by broken families, molds layer-by-layer into a piercing excavation of the wide-reaching pain caused by domestic abuse.” – Luke Hicks
  2. Crime + Punishment (Stephen Maing, 2018)
    “In covering the story so intimately, Crime + Punishment shares the nerve-racking personal experiences of people doing what’s right. The result is a rare issue film that is constructive and inspiring.” – Christopher Campbell
  3. The Cage Fighter (Jeff Unay, 2017)
    “A stunningly confident and cinematic feature debut following the dramatic life of Joe Carman, who struggles with the clash between his passion for fighting and his family’s fearful disapproval of the part-time profession. The unscripted film offers a rare case of truth being more riveting than fiction.” – Christopher Campbell
  4. Life Itself (Steve James, 2012)
    “James continues to show that he can really arrange life stories with great clarity and fluidity and with very little filler included just because its a good sound bite. Few directors comprehend their subjects so well let alone make the viewer comprehend them on the same level.” – Christopher Campbell
  5. The House I Live In (Eugene Jarecki, 2012)
  6. Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, 2017)
    “Activist filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Sabaah Jordan have made a powerful doc that excites as it enlightens. It’s not an objective work, but it’s hard to see how it could be.” – Christopher Campbell
  7. Peace Officer (Brad Barber and Scott Christopherson, 2015)
  8. 12 O’Clock Boys (Lotfy Nathan, 2013)
  9. Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield, Barney Broomfield, and Marc Hoeflin, 2014)
    “With its Los Angeles setting and plot filled with sex and murder and police corruption, on the surface Tales might be the closest thing there is to nonfiction noir, with Broomfield an ever-narrating hardboiled detective leading the way. But it’s hardly a pulp story, its complications deeper than warrants a clever line of ‘forget it, Nick, it’s South Central.'” – Christopher Campbell
  10. Cropsey (Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman, 2009)
  11. Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (Joe Berlinger, 2014)
  12. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (Alex Gibney, 2010)
  13. Weiner (Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, 2016)
  14. The Reagan Show (Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez, 2017)
  15. Control Room (Jehane Noujaim, 2004)
  16. The Kill Team (Dan Kraus, 2013)
    “A stunning, powerful film that boldly complicates the conversation around America’s wars.” – Daniel Walber
  17. Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley, 2013)
  18. The Russian Woodpecker (Chad Gracia, 2015)
    “Fedor Alexandrovich might be Don Quixote and he might be Edward Snowden. And before the end of The Russian Woodpecker, filmmaker Chad Gracia’s chronicle of this investigation, you may very well believe him.” – Daniel Walber
  19. Zero Days (Alex Gibney, 2016)
  20. Touching the Void (Kevin Macdonald, 2003)
  21. The Summit (Nick Ryan, 2012)
  22. Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot (Adam Yauch, 2008)
  23. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* (Chris Bell, 2008)
  24. Page One: Inside the New York Times (Andrew Rossi, 2011)
  25. Tabloid (Errol Morris, 2011)
  26. Love & Saucers (Brad Abrahams, 2017)
    “A well-crafted, uncomplicated, accessible documentary that simply allows its subject to tell his story. Abrahams doesn’t try to tip the scales in favor of his subject or against him, which is a refreshing approach when many similarly themed documentaries tend to make their subjects seem either laughable, psychologically troubled, or the only people who know the real truth of what is going on in the universe.” – Joseph Perry
  27. The Visit (Michael Madsen, 2015)
  28. The Final Member (Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math, 2012)
  29. Jane (Brett Morgen, 2017)
    Jane tells an essential story about the exploits and life of Jane Goodall, how a woman was able to make the discovery of our species and its similarities to that of chimpanzees…Morgen has created a wonderful tribute to the life and work of an extraordinary woman.” – Max Covill
  30. Burt’s Buzz (Jody Shapiro, 2015)
  31. The Cove (Louie Psihoyos, 2009)
  32. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011)
  33. City of Gold (Laura Gabbert, 2015)
  34. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman, 2012)
  35. School Life (Neasa Ní Chianáin, 2016)
    “This is a film with tons of charm, from the kids rocking out while performing The Troggs and Ellie Goulding tunes and John’s discernible delight through his deadpan expression to Amanda spending time with her dogs and happening upon a student in the woods taking photographs to the co-ed adventures in the forts during playtime, and so much more. It’s a real joy to watch and invest in the characters.” – Christopher Campbell
  36. October Country (Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, 2009)
  37. Dina (Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles, 2017)
  38. The Flat (Arnon Goldfinger, 2011)
  39. The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield, 2012)
  40. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story (Mark Herzog and Sandrine Orabona, 2014)
  41. Kiki (Sara Jordenö, 2016)
    “Jordenö understands that her greatest strength is the way that her subjects present themselves, and the aesthetic choice to highlight portraiture is what elevates this particular film over other community-focused documentaries. Kiki is a smart, confident debut and a real credit to its polyphonic subject.” – Daniel Walber
  42. Ballet 422 (Jody Lee Lipes, 2014)
  43. Step (Amanda Lipitz, 2017)
  44. Shut Up and Play the Hits (Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, 2012)
  45. Last Days Here (Don Argott, Demian Fenton, 2011)
  46. The Other F Word (Andrea Blaugrund Nevins, 2011)
  47. Seymour: An Introduction (Ethan Hawke, 2014)
    “The least Ethan Hawke-y thing Ethan Hawke has ever done, principally because Hawke has clearly cultivated such an intimate relationship with his subject that he all but erases himself throughout his camera’s encounter with Seymour Bernstein, a classical pianist who long ago left a brightening spotlight for a quiet, more focused relationship with his instrument.” – Landon Palmer
  48. Altman (Ron Mann, 2014)
  49. I Am Divine (Jeffrey Schwarz, 2013)
  50. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Chiemi Karasawa, 2013)

And here are the five best extra docs if you have the Showtime add-on:

  1. Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)
  2. Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002)
  3. Risk (Laura Poitras, 2016)
  4. The Art of the Steal (Don Argott, 2009)
  5. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg, 2010)
    A Piece of Work is an ode not to Rivers but to tenacity and how she refused to go away even when it seems the crowds were finished with her. Which is as great a testament to her spirit as she could have asked for.” – Dan Schindel

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.