Best documentaries and docuseries to watch on Hulu

If you’ve ever browsed Hulu’s on-demand catalog, you’ll have noticed that the streaming service has a big focus on one particular genre: documentaries. Whether it’s topical docuseries or stunning nature films, Hulu’s real-life content will leave you open-mouthed.

The best part? There’s constantly more being added to the platform’s library. So when you feel like you’ve exhausted every true crime show or biographical movie, you’ll always find another to add to your list. Seeing as there’s so much to choose from, we’ve decided to give you a helping hand and pick out the best documentaries to watch on Hulu right now. Remember: Sometimes, reality really is weirder than fiction. 

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How we evaluated Hulu’s best documentaries and docuseries

There are thousands of titles in Hulu’s streaming library, so we had to implement a strategy to narrow them down. Selecting the crème de la crème of documentary titles involved considering a few different things. We examined the buzz surrounding each show or movie. For example, was it nominated for, or did it win any major awards? Was there a lot of chat on social media about the storyline a la Netflix’s Tiger King? And what did viewers say when writing reviews? Were they wholly positive, or did some people think the title wasn’t worth their time?

Finally, we turned to the professionals. What did IMDb and the almighty Tomatometer rate the documentary? And what did esteemed critics think? Combining all of these scores, thoughts and opinions allowed us to come up with 10 of the best documentaries in Hulu’s arsenal. 

Best documentaries on Hulu

A lot of Hulu documentaries come in feature film format. Some are biographical, honing in on an influential figure from the political or creative sphere. Others focus on a particular event, such as the disastrous Fyre Festival or the Parkland school shooting. And a few explore what it is to be human as well as investigating the natural world around us. Below, you’ll find five of the greatest documentary movies Hulu has to offer. Take a look at more of our recommended Hulu movies.

After Parkland (2019)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 59%
  • Length: 92 minutes
  • Rating: Not rated
  • Featured actors: David Hogg, Brooke Harrison, Victoria Gonzalez

In 2018, 17 people were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the immediate aftermath, filmmakers began to follow the journeys of the students and families who rose up to end gun violence. This intimate depiction of grief and courage proves the power of youth-led movements and their hope for a better future.

Fyre Fraud (2019)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 58%
  • Length: 96 minutes
  • Rating: Not rated
  • Featured actors: Billy McFarland

Everyone remembers the 2017 Fyre Festival disaster. Promoted by celebrities, this expensive experience was meant to transform a tropical island into a high-end music event. The result was very, very different. Fraud, jail sentences and an investigation into how one man spectacularly failed are all part of the Fyre Festival story. And unlike Netflix’s rival documentary, Hulu managed to get an interview with the man behind the controversy, Billy McFarland. 

Jane (2017)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 84%
  • Length: 90 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Featured actors: Jane Goodall

More than 100 hours of unseen footage from the National Geographic archives were used to make this environmental masterpiece. Naturally, it focuses on the achievements of conservationist Jane Goodall — a woman whose work with chimpanzees forever changed how we understand the natural world.

Minding the Gap (2018)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 92%
  • Length: 93 minutes
  • Rating: Not rated
  • Featured actors: Keire Johnson, Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan

A group of young men in Rockford, Illinois create an unshakeable bond through their love of skateboarding. But their fraught family backgrounds begin to catch up with them, threatening their friendship as they enter adult life.

RBG (2018)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 78%
  • Length: 98 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Featured actors: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton

The life and work of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg is celebrated in this intimate documentary film. The second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Bader Ginsburg became a surprise pop culture icon, leaving behind an astounding legacy for women across the world.

Best docuseries on Hulu

When it comes to docuseries, you’ll find plenty of gripping true crime stories on Hulu. Close-knit communities and murders are examined in minute detail over the course of several episodes, often leaving you to figure out your own verdict. From systemic racism investigations to criminal charges against manipulative cults, here are the Hulu docuseries to hit play on. For more highly rated Hulu shows, head here.

Casey Anthony: An American Murder Mystery (2017)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: N/A
  • Number of seasons: 1
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Featured actors: Dylan Howard, Cindy Anthony

A 22-year-old Florida woman, Casey Anthony, was accused of murdering her daughter. However, a jury found her not guilty of murder, child abuse and manslaughter at trial. In this docuseries, the Anthony family speaks out about the death of two-year-old Caylee. The investigation and surprise verdict is also examined, shedding new light on a case that shocked the nation.

Hillary (2020)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 49%
  • Number of seasons: 1
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Featured actors: Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton

Combining biographic moments with exclusive interviews, Hillary takes on the life story of former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But rather than focusing on her past, present and future, this docuseries attempts to uncover whether a woman could ever become president of the United States.

The New York Times Presents (2020)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: N/A
  • Number of seasons: 1
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Featured actors: Tamika Palmer, Dominic Fike 

This standalone documentary series centers on The New York Times’ breaking news and investigations teams as they take a deep dive into society’s most vital stories. From an exploration of how coronavirus hit New York City the hardest to a look at the killing of Breonna Taylor by police in Louisville, Kentucky, The New York Times Presents is a hard-hitter that will leave you thinking for days.

The Vow (2020)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 67%
  • Number of seasons: 1
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Featured actors: Anthony Ames, Sarah Edmondson, Bonnie Piesse

NXIVM was touted as a self-improvement community, but its founder and highest members were later charged with sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy. In this eye-opening docuseries, several of its members tell their stories of early involvement and unsettling manipulation.

A Wilderness of Error (2020)

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%
  • Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 40%
  • Number of seasons: 1
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Featured actors: Clay Boulware, John Morgan, Logan Stearns

Split into five parts, A Wilderness of Error is based on Errol Morris’ true crime book of the same name. The complex case of army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald — a man convicted of killing his family — is reinvestigated as doubts over his guilt come to the forefront once again.

How to watch documentaries and docuseries on Hulu

It’s easy to watch Hulu’s documentary selection. But before you can find your favorites, you’ll need to subscribe to the streaming giant. Thankfully, you don’t need to part with your money straight away. You can try out Hulu’s on-demand service for free for a whopping 30 days, or see what its live TV (and on-demand) selection is like for a week without paying. (Read our in-depth Hulu review for more information.) Once your free trial has started, you’ll be able to see all of Hulu’s documentaries via the home screen. 

The platform handily categorizes content by genre, meaning all the real-life titles will be grouped in one place. However, you can ensure these appear in your recommended list by liking documentary films and shows and consistently watching true life titles. The more you use your Hulu profile, the more personalized your experience will be.

Luckily, Hulu works with a broad range of devices, so you probably won’t need to go and buy a new model. Here’s the full compatible device list:

  • Amazon Fire tablets
  • Amazon Fire TV devices
  • Android phones and tablets
  • Android TVs (select models)
  • Apple TV (4th generation or later)
  • Chromecast
  • Echo Show
  • iOS phones and tablets
  • LG TVs (select models)
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PlayStation 4
  • Roku devices (select models)
  • Samsung TVs (select models)
  • VIZIO SmartCast TVs
  • Web browsers (both on Mac and PC)
  • Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Our hot take

Hulu’s documentary selection aims to rival Netflix’s. And, unlike other platforms, it doesn’t just cater to fans of true crime content. On the list, you’ll also find wildlife movies, intimate depictions of human lives and hard-hitting political studies. Don’t forget that the streaming service’s library is always expanding, too, almost guaranteeing that you’ll never run out of real-life titles to watch. 

*Current as of October 2020

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Lauren Sharkey