The Best Movies and Shows on Hulu Right Now

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The Disney-owned Hulu streaming service is still, more than 15 years into its existence, thought of first as a repository for new television (and, for many cord-cutters, the “live TV” option of choice) and second as a library of indisputable TV classics, usually in their entirety. But savvy viewers can also find a rotating library of movies, both new releases and recent classics, rivaling the collections of many of its competitors — if they know where to look. We’re here to help.

We also have lists of the best movies and TV shows on Netflix, the best of both on Disney+ and the best movies on Amazon Prime Video.

Ariela Barer in “How to Blow Up a Pipeline.”Credit…Neon

‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ (2023)

Daniel Goldhaber’s eco-thriller is one of the best films of the year thus far — a gripping combination of nihilistic manifesto and suspenseful genre picture. The tautly constructed narrative follows a group of geographically disparate but like-minded activists who team up to, well, you can guess from the title. Goldhaber, working with a script he wrote alongside Ariela Barer and Jordan Sjol (inspired by Andreas Malm’s nonfiction book of the same name), puts the pieces together with the intricacy and structural ingenuity of a heist movie, while relying on our familiarity with those tropes to subvert expectations and smuggle in a deadly serious message.

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From left, Rachel True, Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney and Neve Campbell in “The Craft.”Credit…Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

‘The Craft’ (1996)

Misfits and weirdos will love this supernatural thriller-drama, in which a nervous new girl (Robin Tunney) at a Catholic high school turns to a trio of outcasts (Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk and Rachel True) for friendship, and their tight-knit group turns into a witches’ coven. The witty script (by Peter Filardi and Andrew Fleming, the film’s director) nicely quenches one’s thirst for teenage vengeance, with all the proper parties getting their deserved comeuppance. But it’s not just a gimmick movie; all four protagonists create distinctive characters of genuine depth, lending weight to what could have been a throwaway genre exercise.

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Lakeith Stanfield, left, and Donald Glover in “Atlanta.”Credit…Guy D’Alema/FX

‘Atlanta’ (2016-2022)

In a scant two seasons, Donald Glover’s FX comedy/drama has established itself as a true force in modern television — thoughtful, peculiar, cinematic, relentlessly entertaining. Glover (who also created the show, and frequently writes and directs) stars as Earn, a small-timer with big dreams who takes the reins of his cousin’s burgeoning hip-hop career, with mixed results. The supporting cast is top-notch, with Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz as nuanced characters interpreted with fierce precision, but the show is most dazzling for its tonal improvisations; it feels like Glover and company can go anywhere, at any time, and the results are exhilarating. (Pamela Adlon’s acclaimed “Better Things,” also from FX, is a similarly personality-driven comedy/drama.)

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Jennifer Connelly in “Labyrinth.”Credit…The Jim Henson Company

‘Labyrinth’ (1986)

The phrase “ahead of its time” is bandied about with abandon, but it certainly applies to the 1980s output of Jim Henson, who expanded his reach with non-Muppet, dark fantasy entertainment that was met with critical and commercial indifference but has gained considerable cult followings over the passing years. This musical fantasy — which Henson directed from a screenplay by the Monty Python member Terry Jones and which he made in collaboration with George Lucas — is a fine example. Jennifer Connelly stars as a slightly spoiled teenager who takes a journey into a dark world to rescue her baby brother; David Bowie is unforgettable, scary and seductive as the Goblin King who stands in her way. Our critic deemed it “a fabulous film” and “a remarkable achievement.”

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Sigourney Weaver and Yaphet Kotto in the 1979 film “Alien.”Credit…20th Century Fox, via Associated Press

‘Alien’ (1979)

The director Ridley Scott and the actress Sigourney Weaver had their mainstream breakthroughs with this hit, which ingeniously fused two of the most durable genres: the lost-in-space sci-fi thriller and the haunted-house horror chiller. Weaver is among the crew members of the commercial spaceship Nostromo, headed back home when a creature starts killing her colleagues. Jolting scares and skin-crawling moments ensue, to great effect. Our critic called it “an old-fashioned scare movie” and praised Scott’s “very stylish” direction. (The first and best of its sequels, “Aliens,” is also on Hulu.)

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Bruce Willis in “Die Hard.”Credit…20th Century Fox, via Getty Images

‘Die Hard’ (1988)

This loose adaptation of the 1979 novel “Nothing Lasts Forever” was a game-changer for shoot-‘em-up cinema, shifting the paradigm for the action hero from the superhuman likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to the vulnerable everyman — here brought to wisecracking life by Bruce Willis. It also created a new kind of action formula, prompting “Die Hard” riffs on a battleship (“Under Siege”), an airplane (“Passenger 57”) and a bus (“Speed”), among others. But it retains its chokehold on pop culture not because of its influence, but its quality; this is a crackerjack thriller, cleverly constructed and directed with quicksilver intensity by the great John McTiernan. (For more fast-paced action, stream “Enemy of the State” on Hulu.)

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Terry Notary, center, in “The Square.”Credit…Magnolia Pictures.

‘The Square’ (2017)

The Swedish director Ruben Ostlund followed up his pointed social satire “Force Majeure” with this arch, uproarious and bitter attack on the pretensions of the art world. He adds a few famous faces to the mix (including Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West), but his biting voice is not tempered — if anything, the blatant discomfort and inescapable embarrassment are cranked up. That doesn’t sound like much fun, granted, and at times, it is not. Yet Ostlund’s refusal to soften (or redeem) his characters is admirable, and if you have the right kind of darkly comic sensibility, it’s a deeply funny piece of work.

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Charlie Day and Mary Elizabeth Ellis in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”Credit…Patrick McElhenney/FXX

‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ (2005-Present)

Countless television series tried and failed to take on the mantle of “Seinfeld,” but none did as successfully — or for as long — as “the gang” from Paddy’s Pub. The show began like a low-budget, indie riff on Jerry Seinfeld’s smash, with a similar three-guys-and-a-girl configuration and snarky, insular spirit. But the arrival of Danny DeVito in Season 2 opened up the show to wilder possibilities; it got stranger, and on occasion, nastier. But “It’s Always Sunny” has remained fresh, funny and pointed for 15 seasons and counting. Our critic wrote that the actors “are as in sync as an ensemble cast can get.” (For more comedy with an edge, try “Difficult People” and “Key & Peele.”)

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Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston and “Only Lovers Left Alive.”Credit…Gordon A Timpen/Sony Pictures Classics

‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2014)

Plenty of authors and filmmakers have explored the day-to-day logistics of living one’s life as a vampire, but perhaps only Jim Jarmusch could’ve looked at the undead and marveled at how much more time they’d have to read great books, watch wonderful movies and listen to cool albums. In his film “Only Lovers Left Alive,” the chic bloodsuckers Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston find this elegant existence erupted by her wild-child sister (a potent Mia Wasikowska). But mostly, it’s a vibe, a mood, a breezy hangout movie that also spills gallons of blood.

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Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice.”Credit…AMC

‘Sophie’s Choice’ (1982)

Meryl Streep won her second Oscar for this elegiac adaptation of the William Styron novel of the same name, directed by Alan J. Pakula (“All the President’s Men”). What begins as a folksy story of a would-be writer and his friendship with the couple upstairs grows into something far more traumatic, as the naïve, young Stingo (Peter MacNicol) discovers exactly what led Sophie (Streep), a Polish immigrant, to lose her two children before immigrating to the United States. Our critic wrote, “It’s a film that casts a powerful, uninterrupted spell.” (For more Meryl, stream “The Devil Wears Prada”; for more Oscar-friendly drama, check out “Unfaithful.”)

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Philippe Petit as seen in the documentary “Man on Wire.”Credit…Jean-Louis Blondeau/Polaris

‘Man On Wire’ (2008)

James Marsh’s Academy Award winner for best documentary tells the exhilarating story of the French daredevil Philippe Petit, whose team of friends and accomplices sneaked into the World Trade Center one night in 1974 to run a high-wire between the twin towers, so that Petit could dazzle downtown New York with an early-morning tightrope walk. Marsh ingeniously meshes archival footage and contemporary interviews with stylish re-enactments, framing Petit’s daring feat as a heist movie where the payoff is the possibility of death. It’s a thrilling and fascinating film, and a quiet valentine to the vanished skyscrapers. (Documentary lovers should also check out “The Wolfpack.”)

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Aisling Franciosi in “The Nightingale.”Credit…Matt Nettheim/IFC Films

‘The Nightingale’ (2019)

Jennifer Kent, the writer and director of the terrifying “The Babadook,” returned with this “rigorous, relentless” riff on revenge narratives and Hollywood westerns, refracted through the prism of white supremacy and violent patriarchy. Aisling Franciosi stars as an Irish woman in 19th-century Tasmania who embarks on a perhaps ill-advised crusade for justice after a brutal assault by a powerful commander. But such a summary makes “The Nightingale” sound like a straightforward story of good and evil; Kent complicates her characters at every turn and causes us to question which side we’re on. It’s a long, brutal, difficult picture, but an undeniably powerful one.

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From left, Steve Buscemi, Adrian McLoughlin (on the floor), Jeffrey Tambor, Dermot Crowley and Simon Russell Beale in “The Death of Stalin.”Credit…Nicola Dove/IFC Films

‘The Death of Stalin’ (2018)

The director Armando Iannucci honed his ruthless sense of political satire on the television shows “Veep” and “The Thick of It” (and in the latter’s cinematic spinoff “In the Loop”). Those projects were all set in something resembling our present; this adaptation of graphic novels by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin is set in the historical past, but the period trappings do nothing to dull Iannucci’s razor-sharp wit (or to stop viewers from connecting the text to the present day). Set in the days immediately preceding and following the titular event, Iannucci masterfully orchestrates the farcical comings and goings, as well as the back-stabbings and power plays, of a marvelous ensemble cast, including Simon Russell Beale, Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor. Our critic praised the picture’s “brilliantly arranged mix of savage one-liners, lacerating dialogue and perfectly timed slapstick.”

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Jason Segel in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”Credit…Glen Wilson/Universal Pictures

‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ (2008)

The actor turned screenwriter Jason Segel and his collaborator Nicholas Stoller first teamed up for this romantic comedy from the producer Judd Apatow. Segal stars as Peter, a sad-sack composer in a perpetual funk after his breakup with the title character (Kristen Bell), a famous TV actress. In an attempt to escape his depression, he takes a vacation to Hawaii — only to find Sarah at the same resort with her new beau (Russell Brand), a pretentious British pop star. Mila Kunis co-stars as the resort receptionist who presents a new opportunity for love; Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Paul Rudd and Jack McBrayer turn up in small but uproarious supporting roles. (For more romantic comedy, try Sliding Doors and The Weekend.”)

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Julia Roberts and Jude Law in “Closer.”Credit…Clive Coote

‘Closer’ (2004)

Early in his career, the director Mike Nichols scored one of his greatest critical and commercial successes with “Carnal Knowledge,” a savagely funny and brutally candid account of the war between the sexes, as seen through the broken relationships of two men and two women. Near the end of his career, Nichols revisited the subject matter with a similar cast makeup, adapting the play “Closer,” by Patrick Marber, into a tough four-hander of sexual desire and emotional betrayal. Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts play a full range of ruthlessness, cruelty, sensitivity and brokenness. It’s a challenging movie, but a great one. (“What’s Love Got to Do With It” and Her Smellare similarly harrowing dramas.)

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Jakob Cedergren in “The Guilty.”Credit…Nikolaj Moeller/Magnolia Pictures

‘The Guilty’ (2018)

This low-budget thriller from the Danish director Gustav Moller begins with an elegantly simple premise: A police officer takes an emergency call from a woman who’s been kidnapped, and he spends the rest of the film at his desk attempting to save her. Rather than ramping up the melodrama by intercutting outside action, Moller pushes in, tightening the tension by sharing no more than what his protagonist can hear over his phone lines. That choice underlines the character’s helplessness and psychological need for heroism (and redemption for his own sins). Our critic wrote, “This immediately involving story bends and turns in surprising, sometimes horrifying ways.”

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Sally Hawkins, left, and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water.”Credit…Fox Searchlight Pictures, via Associated Press

‘The Shape of Water’ (2017)

Guillermo del Toro won Oscars for best director and best picture for this gleeful, romantic and “altogether wonderful” stew of monster movie, fairy tale and Cold War thriller. Sally Hawkins stars as a mute cleaning woman at a government research lab who accidentally glimpses, and becomes enchanted by, a mysterious sea monster with a marked resemblance to the creature in “The Creature From the Black Lagoon.” As she moves from curiosity to emotional attachment, she must find a way to free the creature from his prison, and from the sadistic government agent (Michael Shannon) who wants to destroy him.

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From left, Selena Gomez, Martin Short and Steve Martin in “Only Murders in the Building.”Credit…Hulu

‘Only Murders in the Building’ (2021-present)

In this jazzy, entertaining comic thriller, Steve Martin has his first continuing television role (he also created the series with John Hoffman), alongside his frequent collaborator Martin Short and the pop star Selena Gomez. They play a trio of disengaged neighbors in an Upper West Side co-op who are thrown together by their affection for true-crime podcasts; when a fellow resident turns up dead, they decide to create one themselves. It’s wildly funny, along with being a well-crafted mystery and a keenly observed character piece. All three leads shine (as do such well-utilized supporting players as Amy Ryan and Nathan Lane), though as our critic noted, Short “steals every scene.”

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Kristen Stewart in “Spencer.”Credit…Pablo Larrain/Neon, via Associated Press

‘Spencer’ (2021)

Kristen Stewart picked up her first Academy Award nomination for her subtle yet affecting turn as Princess Diana in this atypical biographical fantasy from the director Pablo Larraín. Like his earlier “Jackie,” a character sketch of Jacqueline Kennedy told only through the lens of the days after her husband’s assassination, “Spencer” confines its time frame to a single holiday weekend near the end of Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, and its action to a remote mansion inhabited by both the royalty of the present and the ghosts of the past. A.O. Scott praised it as “an allegory of powerlessness, revolt and liberation.” (Stewart is also in top form in “Personal Shopper.”)

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From left, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin and Ed Harris in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”Credit…Zupnik Enterprises

‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (1992)

David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, about real estate salesmen and the desperate measures they’ll take to keep their lousy jobs, was adapted into one of the most potent pictures of the ’90s, thanks to the brute force of Mamet’s dialogue and one of the most remarkable ensemble casts of the era: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce and Alan Arkin. It’s something of a profanity-laden counterpart to “Death of a Salesman,” its scorched-earth monologues and inventive insults providing the flashy surface to a melancholy indictment of empty capitalism and toxic masculinity. Our critic called it “a movie for which everybody deserves awards.” (“The Descendants” is a similarly nuanced character study.)

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Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg living it up in “Palm Springs.”Credit…Jessica Perez/Hulu, via Associated Press

‘Palm Springs’ (2020)

The “Groundhog Day”-style time loop comedy gets an update and rom-com twist with Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti as a pair of wedding guests stuck reliving the same day, over and over — but together, falling in and out of something resembling love while for everyone around them it’s déjà vu. Samberg and Milioti shine, and the supporting cast is filled out with valuable players (including J.K. Simmons and June Squibb). The director Max Barbakow and the writer Andy Siara work out plenty of clever variations on the premise while gingerly tiptoeing into unexpectedly serious waters. Our critic called it “wildly funny” and “admirably inventive.” (For more of Samberg in rom-com mode, try “Celeste and Jesse Forever.”)

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From left, Joel McHale, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover and Danny Pudi in “Community.”Credit…Justin Lubin/NBC

‘Community’ (2009-2015)

Loners at a subpar community college join in a study group to muddle through their joke of a Spanish class and end up forging unexpected bonds from their shared misery. It sounds like the setup for a crushingly typical TV sitcom, but “Community” is anything but; over its six tempestuous seasons, the creator, Dan Harmon, and his inventive writers, turned the classroom laugher into a “bracingly funny” and slyly surreal blend of sketch comedy, science fiction and metatelevision — while simultaneously creating the kind of complicated but sympathetic characters and delicate relationships it seemed too cool to indulge. (“Community” fans will also enjoy Harmon’s cult cartoon series “Rick and Morty.”)

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Rick Rubin, left, and Paul McCartney as seen in “McCartney 3, 2, 1.”Credit…Hulu

‘McCartney 3, 2, 1’ (2021)

The life and music of Paul McCartney are not exactly unexplored territory, but this engaging docu-series finds a refreshing way to approach his unparalleled body of work. The focus is on process rather than biography, as he’s joined by the producer and music savant Rick Rubin to break down the nuts and bolts of McCartney’s most memorable songs, with the aid of the original masters (with which they’re able to isolate and discuss individual elements). If it sounds egg-headed, it is, and gloriously so; McCartney has been an icon for so long, it’s wonderful to instead see him simply as a musician, who creates not via divine intervention but hard work, experimentation and trial and error.

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Ted Danson and Shelley Long in “Cheers.”Credit…NBC

‘Cheers’ (1982-1993)

Few television series run more than a decade without losing their flavor, their laughs, or their heart — but then again, few television series are as special as “Cheers.” Set in a Boston bar owned and tended by a former baseball star and recovering alcoholic (Ted Danson, in the role that understandably made him a star), “Cheers” took the conventions of the character-driven hangout sitcom and perfected them. Thanks to consistently razor-sharp writing and a flawless ensemble cast, the result was “pure comedy that was sophisticated but not pretentious.” Running 275 episodes (without a clunker in the bunch), “Cheers” has gone on to charm subsequent generations of viewers, who have found it as comforting and reliable as … well, as a trip to the neighborhood watering hole. (The show’s long-running spinoff series “Frasier” is also on Hulu.)

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Ethan Hawke, left, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”Credit…Will Hart/ThinkFilm

‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’ (2007)

The director Sidney Lumet (“Network,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “12 Angry Men”) capped off a 50-year filmmaking career with this 2007 caper drama, released four years before his death. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are beautifully matched as ill-tempered brothers, both in desperate need of cash, who attempt to stage a robbery of their family jewelry store — a bad idea even if executed perfectly, which it is not. Albert Finney is staggeringly good as their perpetually disappointed father, while Marisa Tomei finds the right, difficult notes for her work as Hoffman’s wife (and Hawke’s girlfriend). It’s a tough and uncompromising swan song from a true modern master.

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Joséphine Sanz, left, and Gabrielle Sanz in “Petite Maman.”Credit…Neon, via Associated Press

‘Petite Maman’ (2022)

Céline Sciamma, the writer and director of the heart-wrenching epic “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (also on Hulu) follows up with a film far smaller in scope but just as emotionally devastating. Joséphine Sanz stars as Nelly, an independent and charming 8-year-old who is left to entertain herself as her parents pack up the remote home of her recently deceased grandmother. Wandering in the nearby woods, she befriends another young girl (played by Joséphine’s real-life twin sister, Gabrielle Sanz), and as they play together … actually, to reveal more than that is to rob this affecting story of its delicate power. It’s a short but spellbinding work from a master filmmaker.

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From left, Mark Proksch, Harvey Guillén (back to camera), Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak and Natasia Demetriou in “What We Do in the Shadows.”Credit…Russ Martin/FX

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (2019-present)

Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi adapted their hilarious 2015 mockumentary film into this FX sitcom, with “perfectly fun” results, finding the day-to-day lives (and irritations) of a group of Staten Island vampires to be a source for endless comic invention. Its quartet of undead housemates must wrestle with not only the logistics of bloodsucking but the general annoyance of roommates, and that incongruity gives the show its juice. Every member of the stellar ensemble shines, but special praise is due to Matt Berry, who finds just the right mixture of ornate theatricality and unapologetic horniness as the dandyish Laszlo.

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Renate Reinsve in “The Worst Person in the World.”Credit…Kasper Tuxen/Neon, via Associated Press

‘The Worst Person in the World’ (2021)

The director Joachim Trier pulls a bit of a fast one with this “fast-moving, irreverent quasi-comedy” that earned two Oscar nominations this year (best international film and best original screenplay), at first seemingly following his heroine, Julie (Renate Reinsve), through the familiar beats of the modern romantic comedy. But by granting her a complexity uncommon to the genre, the narrative is scrambled — she doesn’t adhere to the expected behaviors, giving the picture a lived-in unpredictability. She’s not, of course, the worst person in the world; she’s messy, chaotic and doesn’t know what she wants. And who among us can say different? (If you like edgy comedy-dramas, try “The Grand Budapest Hotel” or “Triangle of Sadness.”)

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Quinta Brunson in “Abbott Elementary.”Credit…Gilles Mingasson/ABC, via Associated Press

‘Abbott Elementary’ (2021-present)

Quinta Brunson’s new, yet already acclaimed, workplace comedy is more than a little reminiscent of “Parks and Recreation,” from its style (mockumentary) to its setting (a barely functioning government service) to its focal character (a cheerful optimist, also played by Brunson). But “Abbott Elementary” separates itself from such clear influences via the specificity of its storytelling; in detailing the true-to-life day-to-day woes of Philadelphia public schoolteachers, Brunson and her cast tap into a deeper well of resignation and desperation, while exploring the delightful character quirks that provide the show’s biggest laughs. (For more workplace comedy, check out “Superstore” and the original version of “The Office.”)

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Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth in “Bergman Island.”Credit…IFC Films

‘Bergman Island’ (2021)

“I don’t like it when artists I love don’t behave so well in real life,” notes Chris (Vicky Krieps), a filmmaker married to another filmmaker, Tony (Tim Roth); they’re taking a working vacation on the island of Faro in the Baltic Sea, where Ingmar Bergman, their shared hero, lived and made his films. It’s a conundrum of interest to the writer and director Mia Hansen-Love, who uses Chris’s journey to ask perpetually pointed questions about separating art from artists. But Hansen-Love’s film is also “slippery and enchanting,” as A.O. Scott noted — particularly in its second half, when we get a glimpse at the deeply personal screenplay that Chris is drafting while on the trip. Krieps and Roth have exactly the right handle on their characters and their prickly dynamics, as the two of them love, stimulate and annoy each other, all at once. (For more indie drama, stream “Saint Omer” on Hulu.)

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David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the “X-Files” reboot.Credit…Robert Falconer/Fox

‘The X-Files’ (1993-2002, 2016-2018)

Chris Carter’s sci-fi procedural has been through the creative wringer — cast changes, movie spinoffs, a two-season reboot — but it’s remained a steady presence not only on televisions, but in popular culture. The premise is simple enough: Two F.B.I. special agents, one (David Duchovny) a believer in the supernatural and the other (Gillian Anderson) a skeptic, are teamed up to investigate cases involving unexplained paranormal activities. The mythology and conspiracy theories of the show are rich, but they’re not what keep it together — it’s the explosive chemistry between its leads, who pack exasperation, intrigue and sexual tension into every interaction. (For more thrills and chills, try “Castle Rock.”)

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Nicholas Hoult and Elle Fanning in Season 2 of “The Great.”Credit…Hulu

‘The Great’ (2020-present)

Tony McNamara, who co-wrote the 2018 hit movie “The Favourite,” brings his bawdy and irreverent approach to historical costume dramas to this uproariously funny and unapologetically fictionalized take on the rise of Empress Catherine II, aka Catherine the Great. She’s played by Elle Fanning, who seems to have a fantastic time shaking off the shackles of the quiet waifs she typically plays to embrace Catherine’s calculated cool; “Favourite” co-star Nicholas Hoult is similarly, wickedly fun to watch. (Costume-drama fans may also enjoy the “Sense and Sensibility” mini-series.)

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Nicolas Cage in “Pig.”Credit…David Reamer/Neon

‘Pig’ (2021)

Nicolas Cage is magnificent in this “fiercely controlled character drama” from the first-time feature director Michael Sarnoski. As a revered Pacific Northwest chef who went off the grid for 15 years, Cage plays many of his scenes in silence and barely raises his voice above a rasp when he decides to speak; he makes his character an enigma, leaving the audience to wonder whether he chose to remove himself from his comfortable life or someone (or something) broke him. He returns to civilization when his truffle pig — and only friend — is kidnapped, but “Pig” is not the “John Wick” riff its ads promised. This is a rich, textured character study, with some of the finest work of Cage’s career. (For more character-focused drama, stream “Ford vs. Ferrari” or “Moscow on the Hudson.”)

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B.B. King at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, as seen in “Summer of Soul.”Credit…Searchlight Pictures, via Associated Press

‘Summer of Soul’ (2021)

The musician (and leader of the “Tonight Show” house band, the Roots) Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson makes a smooth transition to filmmaking with this Oscar-winning documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of weekend concerts in Mount Morris Park featuring some of the most important musical acts of the era, including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the Staples Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. The performances were recorded but never widely released, as the Woodstock festival upstate dominated the discourse. Thompson combines that long-unseen (and fabulous) archival material with new interviews and valuable historical context. “It’s an extraordinary event not just of musical history,” Wesley Morris wrote. “It’s a mind-blowing moment of American history.” (Documentary fans should also stream “Flee” and “MLK/FBI.”)

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A still from the Mike Judge animated sitcom “King of the Hill.”Credit…Fox

‘King of the Hill’ (1997-2010)

When the “Beavis & Butt-Head” creator Mike Judge landed a half-hour animated series on the Fox network, most viewers and critics were expecting more of the same. No one could have predicted that Judge would deliver one of the most nuanced family sitcoms of its era. Judge voices the central character himself, a straight-laced patriarch of a Texas family struggling to maintain his values in a changing world. Judge is uproarious and Kathy Najimy is delightful as his wife, but the stand-out is Pamela Adlon — later of “Louie” and “Better Things” — as the Hills’ sweet and strange son, Bobby.

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Mads Mikkelsen in “Another Round.”Credit…Henrik Ohsten/Samuel Goldwyn Films

‘Another Round’ (2020)

Mads Mikkelsen stars in this Oscar-winning comedy-drama as a burned-out high school teacher who finds that he and his friends are simultaneously tumbling into their midlife crises. Their solution: an experiment in carefully controlled day-drinking, which they believe will loosen up their inhibitions and make their lives exciting again. It sounds like the premise for a 1990s Jim Carrey movie, but the director Thomas Vinterberg’s innate sense of cinematic naturalism keeps the picture grounded in emotional truth. Our critic deemed it “a sweet, strangely modest tragicomedy about the pleasures of (mostly banal) excess.” (For more character-driven comedy-drama, check out “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” or Fire Island.”)

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Frances McDormand in “Nomadland.”Credit…Searchlight Pictures, via Associated Press

‘Nomadland’ (2021)

Frances McDormand builds another nuanced, sometimes prickly performance (and won a third Oscar in the process) as a widow who roams America living “the van life,” working temporary and seasonal jobs, making just enough to get by and keep moving. The Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao uses real people who live that life in supporting roles, crafting the picture as something of a snapshot of this subculture; by its end, it feels as though you know how this scene works and how these lives are lived. But within that, “Nomadland” is a sensitive and intelligent meditation on solitude, mortality (and thus, on grief and loss) and making the best of what’s left. A.O. Scott called it “patient, compassionate and open.” (For more Oscar-winning acting, stream “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Fugitive.”)

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Linda Cardellini and Jason Segel in an episode of “Freaks and Geeks.”Credit…Chris Haston/NBC

‘Freaks and Geeks’ (1999-2000)

A pre-“Knocked Up” Judd Apatow and a pre-“Bridesmaids” Paul Feig teamed up for this cult hit comedy-drama, which looks back at high school life circa 1980 through the eyes of Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), a math wiz who falls in with the slacker “freaks,” and her brother Sam (John Frances Daly), a perpetually picked-on “geek.” High school nostalgia is nothing new, but Feig, Apatow and their writers approach those years with a verisimilitude that frequently feels like an open wound, finding the quiet truth in these comic situations, and only then going for the laugh, almost as an afterthought. Bonus: a cast of future stars in their early years, including Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, Sam Levine, Ben Foster, Lizzy Caplan and Martin Starr. (For a more contemporary coming-of-age story, try “Reservation Dogs” or “PEN15.”)

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“Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” on location in Chile.Credit…Travel Channel

‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ (2005-2012)

This long-running showcase for the late, great celebrity chef, author and raconteur is a globe-trotting celebration of the cultures and cuisines of the world, a well-balanced mixture of destinations close (Maine, New Orleans, New York’s outer boroughs) and far (Vietnam, Russia, Egypt, Turkey), which Bourdain explores with both curiosity and bravado. He combines history, political commentary, observation and (of course) food appreciation into an undeniably appealing mix, often propelled by the sheer force of his personality. Bourdain’s willingness to go wherever the journey takes him gives his show an inspired unpredictability and infectious energy.

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Jason Bateman, left, and Will Arnett in “Arrested Development.”Credit…Isabella Vosmikova/Fox

‘Arrested Development’ (2003-2006)

Many a dysfunctional family has graced our televisions, but few boasted as many problems as Michael Bluth’s: His father is in prison, his mother is blissfully out of touch, one brother is a blowhard, the other seems to be from another planet, his sister is a dime-store Gwyneth Paltrow and his son is in love with his cousin. This “sharply satirical comedy” steadfastly refused to make its horrifying central family lovable or relatable, save for Michael (played wryly, and winningly, by Jason Bateman), whose dry, bemused reactions make him a useful audience surrogate. Hulu is only streaming the original three seasons of the series (Netflix financed, and thus hosts, its revival), but these are the best ones anyway.

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A scene from “Bob’s Burgers.”Credit…Fox

‘Bob’s Burgers’ (2011-present)

Though separated by nearly two decades, “Bob’s Burgers” is something of a “Cheers” for the 21st century — television comfort food, centering on a neighborhood mainstay and the weirdos who float through its doors (though this show’s characters are allowed to veer into even stranger territory by the animated format). But it’s also a clever riff on the family sitcom, as the establishment’s proprietor is the patriarch of a decidedly oddball family; most surprisingly, it treats that family with genuine affection, peccadilloes and all. Our critic compared it to a go-to restaurant, “reliably good, visit after visit.” (For more animation with grown-up wit, try “The Lego Movie.”)

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Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin in “30 Rock.”Credit…Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

‘30 Rock’ (2006-2013)

Tina Fey co-created and starred in this long-running NBC metasitcom, inspired by her own experiences as head writer for “Saturday Night Live.” It’s written and played with the wink and nudge of knowing showbiz gossip and inside jokes, delivered at lightning pace. She came into her own as a performer over the show’s seven seasons, with the help of an unbeatable ensemble cast: Jane Krakowski as the show’s uproariously vain star, Tracy Morgan as a gleefully hedonistic superstar brought in to boost ratings, Jack McBrayer as the delightfully naïve network page, and (especially) Alec Baldwin as the gruff and cynical network executive in charge of the program. (For more fast-paced comedy, try “Broad City” and “Happy Endings.”)

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Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”Credit…Richard Cartwright/WB

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (1997-2003)

Few shows in television history sounded less promising than a series adaptation of an unloved, unsuccessful teen horror/comedy, launching midseason on a network no one had heard of. But from the ashes of the (vastly compromised, it’s said) 1992 feature film came Joss Whedon’s reimagined and recalibrated seven-season triumph, which slyly conflated the conventions of supernatural horror and high school life, and asked which was truly the fiery hellscape. Though a little bumpy early on — it took some time for Whedon and company to find their tone (and access to convincing special effects) — once “Buffy” finds its footing, it’s unstoppable. (Whedon’s short-lived but much-loved space opera “Firefly” is also available on Hulu.)

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Daniel J. Travanti and Dennis Franz in “Hill Street Blues.”Credit…Shout! Factory/20th Century Fox

‘Hill Street Blues’ (1981-1987)

Few series of the 1980s were as influential or acclaimed as Steven Bochco andMichael Kozoll’s seven-season cop drama, which shunned the flash and sizzle typical of police series of the era for something closer to the ground-level realism of ’70s cinema. There were sprawling, complicated narratives, messy and not altogether sympathetic “heroes” and a visual style that seemed to stumble upon scenes rather than stage them. “Hill Street” was operatic yet intimate, institutional but personal; it changed the look, feel and flavor of cop shows for decades to come. (Bochco’s later series “NYPD Blue” treads into darker territory.)

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Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers and Loretta Swit in “M*A*S*H.”Credit…CBS

‘M*A*S*H’ (1972-1983)

Robert Altman’s hit 1970 antiwar comedy didn’t seem like a slam-dunk for television adaptation, thanks to its raw style and bawdy humor. The series creator and TV comedy veteran Larry Gelbart sanded away most of those edges, yet found a way to ground the show in the horrors of war while keeping the laughs digestible. Much of that was because of the chemistry and camaraderie of the flawless cast — particularly Alan Alda’s brilliantly realized characterization of “Hawkeye” Pierce, the unflappable wiseguy who found, over the course of the show’s 11 seasons, that there were some things even he couldn’t manage to make light of. (If you’re looking for a more serious medical series, stream the ’90s fave “ER.”)

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Kristen Bell in “Veronica Mars.”Credit…Scott Garfield/Warner Bros.

‘Veronica Mars’ (2004-2019)

The creator Rob Thomas ingeniously fused the conventions of hard-boiled private eye noir with high school drama for this clever, moody and frequently funny three-season marvel (subsequently revived for a 2014 movie and a recent fourth season), which our critics deemed one of the best TV dramas this side of ‘The Sopranos.’ It also made a star out of Kristen Bell, who seamlessly veers from tough to vulnerable as the title character, a postmodern Nancy Drew who answers phones at her dad’s investigation agency and explores the seamy underbelly of her upper-class seaside resort town. The mysteries are top-notch (frequently intermingling season-long puzzlers with one-off cases of the week), but what makes “Mars” special is the relationships — particularly the complex, affectionate byplay between Bell’s thorny Veronica and her protective pop, played by the wonderful Enrico Colantoni. (For more mystery, try “Under the Banner of Heaven.”)

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Evangeline Lilly and Matthew Fox in “Lost.”Credit…Mario Perez/ABC

‘Lost’ (2004-2010)

One of modern television’s most discussed and dissected, analyzed and agonized, loved and loathed programs is this six-season story of a group of plane-crash survivors, trapped on a mysterious and (presumably?) deserted island. This simple setup proved fertile soil for shocking twists and copious fan theories, as well as for an admirably all-rules-are-off sense of storytelling, regularly veering off into extended flashbacks, flash-forwards and even the occasional flash-sideways. Some of its loose ends are frustrating, and some of the answers are unsatisfying. But it’s nonetheless a bold experiment in longform storytelling, and one whose “Wait, WHAT?” cliffhangers make for essential binge-watching.

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Sterling Archer, voiced by H. Jon Benjamin, in “Archer.”Credit…FX

‘Archer’ (2009-present)

When it began in 2009, this “outrageously entertaining” animated FX comedy from Adam Reed sounded like a one-joke premise, and not exactly a fresh one either: an extended spoof on James Bond-style spy stories, set at a secret intelligence agency during an indeterminate and anachronistic pseudo-Cold War period. And yet it took flight (11 seasons and counting) thanks to the show’s frisky writing, winking self-awareness, willingness to reboot itself entirely, and the skills of the uproarious voice cast, including Jessica Walters of “Arrested Development” as another unstable mother and the “Bob’s Burgers” star H. Jon Benjamin as the boozing, womanizing title character. (Fans of this absurd comedy may also enjoy “Futurama” and “Absolutely Fabulous.”)

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Mary Tyler Moore, left, and Betty White in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”Credit…CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ (1970-1977)

You can find the DNA of this sophisticated, influential seven-season classic in everything from “30 Rock” to “The Office” to “Sex and the City.” Moore sparkles as a newly single working woman making her way in the big city of Minneapolis, where she spends her days in a bustling TV newsroom and her nights trying to reassemble her personal life. Midway through its run, our critic wrote, “Consistently tight writing and good acting have made this situation comedy the best of its kind in the history of American television.” He wasn’t wrong. (Co-star Betty White’s classic “The Golden Girls” is also on Hulu.)

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From left, Kyle Chandler and Zach Gilford in the TV series “Friday Night Lights.”Credit…Bill Records/NBC

‘Friday Night Lights’ (2006-2011)

When this series adaptation of the 2004 feature film — itself an adaptation of Buzz Bissinger’s nonfiction book — debuted on NBC in 2006, our critic led her review with a succinct proclamation: “Lord, is ‘Friday Night Lights’ good.” Over the five seasons that followed, this heart-rending drama, set in the world of small-town high school football (though not, in any traditional sense, solely about that world), taught lessons, complicated assumptions, and developed some of the indelible characters in modern television — chief among them Kyle Chandler as the idealistic and committed Coach Taylor and Connie Britton as his no-nonsense wife. (For more character-driven drama, try “The Bear” or “Justified.”)

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Fred Savage and Danica McKellar in “The Wonder Years.”Credit…ABC

‘The Wonder Years’ (1988-1993)

Nostalgia tends to run in 20-year cycles, so filmmakers and television writers spent a good deal of the 1980s meditating on the 1960s — particularly the idealism of the Woodstock era, and how it faded away in the years that followed. This six-season family dramedy certainly trafficked in such wistfulness, but filtered it through a contemporary lens, as the adult iteration of its protagonist (voiced by Daniel Stern, played as a teen by Fred Savage) narrated his journey through middle and high school during this turbulent era. And the show is now seen through a prism of dual nostalgia, recalled with fondness by those who were themselves teenagers when it first aired, confirming that its stories of first love, teen awkwardness and familial rebellion aren’t confined to any specific era. (For more family-based comedy, check out “Malcolm in the Middle.”)

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