The Best Documentaries on Hulu Right Now (July 2021)

by newsup

July is a good month to get outside — unless you’re one of the millions of people who just suffered through an intense heatwave. If that’s you, it may be time to get back inside and experience summer from the comfort of your couch. It’s the perfect month to do so, with one of the best new documentaries coming to Hulu, featuring a summer concert that didn’t get its proper due decades ago but should now be the soundtrack to any sunny day. Outside of that, Hulu has a treasure trove of documentaries, a seemingly never-ending array of library titles to check out at the touch of a button. These are the best documentaries Hulu has to offer this month.

If Hulu doesn’t have what you’re looking for, we’ve also rounded up the best documentaries on Amazon Prime Video and the best documentaries on Netflix.

Summer of Soul (2021)

Everyone knows about Woodstock and the indelible legacy the festival left on the American psyche. Not enough people know about 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival, though. Behind director Questlove, audiences get a front-row seat to a concert that seems to have rivaled Woodstock in terms of musical cache, featuring the likes of Stevie Wonder, The 5th Dimension, and Gladys Knight & the Pips. While the film is partly an action-jammed concert, the documentarians don’t shy away from trying to understand why the Harlem Cultural Festival didn’t resonate in the same way Woodstock did. The movie also doesn’t feel like a vestige of the 1960s so much as an application of 1960s soul into present-day air. The documentary has already cleaned up during awards season, picking up the Audience Award and Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, David Ruffin
Director: Questlove
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 117 minutes

Watch on Hulu

McCartney 3, 2, 1 (2021)

This series focuses on Beatles legend Paul McCartney as he does a deep dive into his life with famed producer Rick Rubin in a series of intimate interviews. Over six episodes, McCartney discusses everything from his work with The Beatles and Wings to how he comes up with the solo singles he’s still pumping out now after numerous decades in the industry. With Summer of Soul also coming to Hulu in July, it’s the perfect month to reflect on the music that defined a generation and continues to influence musical artists across the industry today. McCartney 3, 2, 1 may be of particular interest to Beatles and McCartney super fans, but it’s always interesting to see a master at work. Check it out beginning July 16.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Stars: Paul McCartney, Rick Rubin
Director: N/A
Rating: N/A
No. of episodes: 6 episodes

Watch on Hulu July 16

Unacknowledged (2017)

This documentary came out over four years ago but suddenly feels more relevant than ever before. In Unacknowledged, Dr. Steven M. Greer does the dirty work of going through documents, top-secret testimony, and covert footage, trying to get to the bottom of unexplained UFO sightings. Greer is the founder of the Disclosure Project, which seeks the release of information allegedly withheld by the government about UFO sightings — so he has a vested interest here. At times, Unacknowledged gets too deep into conspiracy theories that seem beyond plausible, taking the edge off of the very legitimate conversation taking place about UFOs. A recent report from the American government admitted that there have been many UFO sightings over the years that remain mysterious without specifically pointing toward aliens. But that disclosure should bring renewed interest to this documentary as the world continues to seek answers about one of the universe’s greatest unknowns.

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Steven M. Greer, Giancarlo Esposito
Director: Michael Mazzola
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Changing the Game (2021)

Despite many gains made over the years, the transgender community continues to fight for recognition and acceptance every day in an attempt to simply be themselves. In Changing the Game, three brave high school athletes offer a window into their stories as they face numerous obstacles to compete in the sport they love, simply because of their gender identity. One of the film’s stars, Mack Beggs, becomes a state champion in girls’ wrestling despite identifying as male. Each story in the film is incredibly personal, with the athletes showing the vulnerability and grace needed to compete with both other athletes and the forces of historic bias working against them. As some states move to restrict transgender athletes — particularly transgender girls — from competing at the high school level in the sport matching their identity, this documentary feels more important than ever.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Mack Beggs, Andraya Yearwood, Sarah Rose Huckman
Director: Michael Barnett
Rating: NR
Runtime: 88 minutes

Watch on Hulu

A Glitch in the Matrix (2021)

If you already have a headache, skip this next paragraph. Imagine that nothing around you really exists. It can also just fall away in an instant, faster than a snap of Thanos’ fingers. Instead, we’re all just living in a simulation. That’s the mind-numbing premise behind A Glitch in the Matrix, a documentary that almost plays out like a horror story. The movie pulls plenty from science fiction, allowing for the possibility that maybe the simulation theory is just another fantasy. Then again, there are forces out that might counter the simulation theory because they hold all the power and don’t want to be exposed as the simulation begins to crumble. Yes, the rabbit hole is deep. As much about the power of belief as anything else, A Glitch in the Matrix arrived on Hulu’s digital database on June 3.

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Nick Bostrom, Joshua Cooke, Erik Davis, Paul Gude
Director: Rodney Ascher
Rating: NR
Runtime: 108 minutes

Watch on Hulu

The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story (2020)

A child of the 1990s likely pivoted their television between three preset channels: Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. The latter, a powerhouse in the industry now, is subject to the documentary treatment in The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story. The documentary looks at the origin story of the network and how it became a behemoth around the world. Various actors and key figures from the network take part in the documentary, which sometimes takes on the heft of a Wikipedia entry. It’s not a hard-hitting look but instead an acknowledgment of how important the network is in the annals of television history. Nostalgia is not difficult to come by these days, but The Orange Years sticks as much of it into its runtime as humanly possible, making a joyous ride for Nickelodeon lovers.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Star: Larisa Oleynik
Director: Scott Barber
Rating: NR
Runtime: 102 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Neat: The Story of Bourbon (2018)

Bourbon whiskey is a product of American ingenuity — Congress even formally recognized it as a “distinctive product of the United States” in the ’60s. Neat: The Story of Bourbon explores this American product, from the way it’s created to what makes it unique among its spirit brethren. The film does an excellent job of documenting the people who put their hearts into making bourbon, a slow process that differs greatly from the brisk 76-minute runtime of the documentary. The short duration helps keep gives audience members plenty of time to indulge in a drink of their own after the credits roll.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Freddie Johnson, Marianne Barnes, Jimmy Russell
Director: David M. Altrogge
Rating: NR
Runtime: 76 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Some Kind of Heaven (2020)

The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community, appears to have something for everybody in its Florida oasis. Filmmaker Lance Oppenheim’s view of the community quickly shows that not everything is as it’s cracked up to be, though. The film shines a light on some of the stereotypes elderly people in America are often subjected to (from the wise old man to the zany grandma), while reminding us that, like people of any age, seniors also struggle with issues surrounding love and loss, accentuated by the reality that is mortality. While The Villages isn’t necessarily the ideal home for some of the residents Oppenheim highlights, it does allow many to evaluate their own dreams as they reach their metaphorical “back nine.” Oppenheim also creates a very stylistic world, rooted in both reality and eccentricity, which further layers the depiction of the retirement community in a way that should make the director one to watch in the future.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Dennis Dean, Lynn Henry, Anne Kincer
Director: Lance Oppenheim
Rating: NR
Runtime: 83 minutes

Watch on Hulu

MLK/FBI (2020)

Today, Martin Luther King Jr. is recognized as one of the most important figures in the history of American civil rights. But King didn’t have the best relationship with authorities during his lifetime, to put it mildly. MLK/FBI digs into formerly declassified documents and archival footage to show how J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI attempted to discredit King throughout his life, including gathering intelligence related to alleged extramarital affairs. The documentary remains poignant as protesters continue to speak about injustices today and face similar resistance from those in power. The movie also references that more FBI documents related to King are set to be declassified in 2027, perhaps setting up a follow-up documentary down the road.

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Martin Luther King Jr., J. Edgar Hoover
Director: Sam Pollard
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch on Hulu

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn (2021)

WeWork is a fascinating company built on the idea of providing flexible real estate spaces around the globe, particularly for tech startups. It was founded by an even more fascinating man, Israeli American Adam Neumann. The documentary demonstrates a cult of personality around Neumann, whose eccentric ways worked for a while, only for it to all crash down around him due to a scandal involving disclosures needed for an IPO. As a result, Neumann was forced out of his company, and the value of WeWork plummeted (hence the title). The documentary has drawn comparisons to Fyre Fraud, although WeWork arguably suffers from focusing too much on Neumann and not enough on the machinations of his company and employees. Nevertheless, WeWork is one of the most intriguing businesses in recent memory (Apple TV+ is also dramatizing much of the same ground with an upcoming project with Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway), and seeing its rise and fall is appealing.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Star: Adam Neumann
Director: Jed Rothstein
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 102 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Sasquatch (2021)

People often fear what they don’t know. The idea of a Sasquatch has often terrified people, that there could be something bigger than us and scarier than us lurking in the shadows of our forests, out of sight until it decides to wreak havoc on our lives. But documentaries don’t usually dive into the supernatural … so could Sasquatches be real after all? Sasquatch, which takes the form of a limited series rather than a feature-length documentary, follows an investigative journalist jumping into the Redwoods 25 years after a triple homicide that was allegedly committed by a Sasquatch. As he investigates, journalist David Holthouse also finds himself among the violent criminals of the region, which generate just as much terror as the mythical creature.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Star: David Holthouse
Director: Joshua Rofé
Rating: TV-MA
No. of episodes: 3

Watch on Hulu

Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World (2021)

If you’re a fan of Hulu’s original documentary I Am Greta, you may find this PBS documentary doesn’t tread upon a ton of new ground. But that’s fitting for a young activist trying to reduce our carbon footprint on the world, not expand it. In this PBS documentary, Greta Thunberg continues her mission to sound the alarm about climate change and demand better from the leaders who haven’t done enough to address the threat. Because it’s PBS, there are plenty of experts and academics who pop up and give solid explanations for everything being shown in the documentary series. Climate change is set to be one of the defining issues of the next century, and there’s always plenty of alarms to be rung.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Star: Greta Thunberg
Director: Joe Myerscough
Rating: TV-PG
No. of episodes: 3

Watch on Hulu

Kid 90 (2021)

Soleil Moon Frye is having a moment. Fresh off the heels of starring in Peacock’s revival of Punky Brewster, the former child star gets behind the camera with Kid 90, a documentary built from the videos Frye recorded herself when she was a child actor and growing up in the limelight with fellow kid stars such as Saved By the Bell‘s Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Beverly Hills 90210‘s Brian Austin Green. Most people watch home videos now with glee with the family’s one working VCR, but it’s always interesting to peer into the private lives of others, especially someone who was riding the fame train like Frye was at the time. For those nostalgic about all things ’90s pop culture, Kid 90 will take you on a fascinating trip down memory lane.

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Stars: Soleil Moon Frye, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Stephen Dorff, Brian Austin Green, Jenny Lewis, David Arquette
Director: Soleil Moon Frye
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 72 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006)

Neil Young is a legendary musician, and like most legendary musicians, he received the concert film treatment once upon a time. Neil Young: Heart of Gold captures the classic rocker’s performances at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville in the summer of 2005. Half of the film consists of performances from the album Prairie Wind, which was released between the performances and the release of the film. The other half has performances of some of Young’s classics, including Heart of Gold and Old Man. Concert films aren’t for everyone, but this one really captures the essence of Young, in large part due to the handiwork of The Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme, whose earlier work includes such stunning music films as Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and music shorts about New Order and Bruce Springsteen.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Star: Neil Young
Director: Jonathan Demme
Rating: PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Collective (2019)

Nothing hits harder than a documentary following journalists on the dogged pursuit of exposing a system that will do anything to silence scandal. The journalists in Collective work primarily at Gazette, a daily newspaper in Romania slowly uncovering corruption and public healthcare fraud in the wake of a fire that kills dozens, only for more to succumb to injuries due to a lack of good medical care. The primary focus of disinfectant dilution isn’t eye-popping, but the importance of the product grows throughout the movie, leading all the way to the top of both Hexi Pharma and the government. The Romanian documentary won numerous awards around the world and was shortlisted in two categories for the 93rd Academy Awards.

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag, Catalin Tolontan
Director: Alexander Nanau
Rating: NR
Runtime: 114 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Apollo 11 (2019)

Most Americans know the basics of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the first time a human stepped on the moon. Older Americans remember where they were when it happened, as the moon landing became one the biggest media crazes of the 20th century. But nobody has experienced it quite like this. This extraordinary documentary is pieced together using never-before-seen footage and audio from the NASA archives, taking you right back to 1969 as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins embark on their historic trip.

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Stars: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Rating: G
Runtime: 93 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself (2021)

This documentary is unique in and of itself. Directed by Frank Oz, the movie is essentially a filmed version of Derek DelGaudio’s one-man illusionist show, which ran Off-Broadway for an incredible 72 weeks. DelGaudio has won numerous awards and has worked with the likes of Disney and TruTV. This movie, however, will likely be his biggest exposure to a national audience yet. The film takes a more existential path than just a simple show of illusions, creating a more powerful story. It helps having the backing of big names like Stephen Colbert and Frank Oz.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Star: Derek DelGaudio
Director: Frank Oz
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Framing John DeLorean (2019)

The story of John DeLorean is shocking and provocative: An auto magnate caught up in his own quest for power and profit. The best way to tell the outlandish tale is through a quasi-documentary style, complete with reenactments that create a more visceral connection to the events. DeLorean is played by Alec Baldwin with flair and pizzazz, yet the movie also features behind-the-scenes footage of the documentary being prepared and filmed, making the movie fold in on itself. Perhaps that’s the most fitting way to talk about a man who made international headlines at the height of his career when he was charged with trafficking cocaine by the American government.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Alec Baldwin, Morena Baccarin
Directors: Sheena M. Joyce, Don Argott
Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 109 minutes

Watch on Hulu

You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

Thankfully, nobody actually wants to murder the Scream actor. But David Arquette is trying to resurrect his professional wrestling career, which stalled around the turn of the century. Despite pushing 50 years old, Arquette is determined to get back into the business, even if it comes at the expense of his physical health and the emotional expense of his family, who care about Arquette too much to want him risking life and limb. Arquette is portrayed as an underdog for his wrestling comeback story, though his Hollywood success may not quite make him as sympathetic of a character as the movie portends. You Cannot Kill David Arquette made its Hulu debut on December 22.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Star: David Arquette
Directors: David Darg, Price James
Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch on Hulu

I Am Greta (2020)

There are a number of existential crises facing the world right now, one just as dire as the next. The effects of climate change are particularly dangerous, with the warming of the Earth already creating massive consequences, both for now and the future. Stepping into a void of notable public figures tackling the crisis is Greta Thunberg, an 18-year-old from Sweden who has spent the past couple of years demanding action, both in public forums and in private conversations with major politicians. I Am Greta follows the passionate activist closely, from her school strikes to her famous UN speech. Debuting at the Venice Film Festival in September, I Am Greta received its wide release exclusively on Hulu on November 13.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Star: Greta Thunberg
Director: Nathan Grossman
Rating: TV-14
Runtime: 102 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Slay the Dragon (2019)

Contrary to the title, this is not a documentary about killing fire-breathing monsters before they wreak havoc on small island villages. Instead, it tackles the topic of gerrymandering, which is not necessarily exciting to all, but it should be vital to everyone. The practice of resetting district boundaries to artificially impact election results is viewed as a dire topic by the filmmakers, who see it as a path towards eroding democracy and keeping those in power entrenched in their positions. In the wake of a contentious election, there may be no more important political documentary to watch than Slay the Dragon.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Stephen Wolf, Rick Pluta, Charles Williams II
Directors: Chris Durrance, Barak Goodman
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 101 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Minding the Gap (2018)

Skateboarding may not strike everyone as the most fascinating prism to view life through, but those people haven’t seen Minding the Gap. Bing Liu spends the movie documenting the lives of his skateboarding friends, Keire and Zack. The stories of all have tragic elements, with Zack trapped in a vicious cycle of abuse and struggling in a contentious relationship with a child involved. Meanwhile, Keire is trying to find a way to leave Illinois and move to Denver to better himself and start on the next chapter of his life. The film is understated and nuanced, finding ways to constantly connect with an audience. The movie was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 91st Academy Awards.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Keire Johnson, Zack Mulligan, Bing Liu
Director: Bing Liu
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 100 minutes

Watch on Hulu

RBG (2018)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the most famous Supreme Court justices of all time, serving on the bench through a series of medical hardships prior to her passing in September. Members of the Supreme Court are notoriously private, but RBG gives a great behind-the-scenes look at how Ginsburg elevated her status in American lore. RBG dives into all of the obstacles Ginsburg had to overcome in her career, including rampant gender bias, but it also allows audiences to see a side of the justice previously obscured, including her embrace of the Notorious RBG moniker. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards, RBG remains one of the most important political documentaries in recent years.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Gloria Steinem
Directors: Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Imagine discovering you have a twin brother you never knew about. Now, imagine discovering you’re actually part of a set of triplets. That unbelievable discovery forms the basis for Three Identical Strangers, detailing how Edward Galland, David Kellman, and Robert Shafran came to discover each other by chance after growing up in separate adopted families. Their reunion led to a rise in fame and popularity, but it also brought questions about how they became separated in the first place, adding a sinister and sad element as each brother battles mental health problems. It’s the ultimate “nature vs. nurture” debate, played out in real life before our very own eyes.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Edward Galland, David Kellman, Robert Shafran
Director: Tim Wardle
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 96 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Fyre Fraud (2019)

The Fyre Festival of 2017 was such a spectacular failure that it inspired two very similar documentaries that were released around the same time in 2019. Beating Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened to the punch, Fyre Fraud details the music festival better known for cheese sandwiches and Lord of the Flies vibes than bass beats and mingling singles. The biggest difference between the documentaries is Fyre Fraud‘s inclusion of an interview with festival mastermind Billy McFarland, revealing the fractured yet relentless ego of a man who now sits in a prison cell.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Billy McFarland, Ja Rule
Directors: Jenner Furst, Julia Willoughby Nason
Rating: NR
Runtime: 96 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Blackfish (2013)

For many documentary filmmakers, the goal of creating their movie is to hold a mirror up to society and demand a change be made. There aren’t many better success stories than Blackfish, although it took a tragedy to create that impact. The film looks at the captivity of Tilikum, an orca held and used for performances at SeaWorld. Tilikum was ultimately responsible for the death of its trainer in 2010, although the documentary argues unjust captivity as a reason Tilikum was more likely to be aggressive in certain situations. It took several years, but SeaWorld ultimately decided to end the use of orcas in its performances, as well as its orca breeding program.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Tilikum, John Hargrove, Samantha Berg
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 83 minutes

Watch on Hulu

Hail Satan? (2019)

Satan gets a bad rap, but those working in the devil’s name are not always as evil as they sound. Hail Satan? introduces The Satanic Temple (not to be confused with the Church of Satan), a non-theistic religious group that actually works toward social progress and religious freedom. The Satanic Temple are big believers in the separation of church and state and have been known to counter-protest in favor of abortion rights at Planned Parenthood locations. Director Penny Lane does an admirable job of matching the tone of the film with the tone of the group, who believe in their mission but never take themselves too seriously, despite what their name might suggest.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Jex Blackmore, Chalice Blythe, Nicholas Crowe
Director: Penny Lane
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

Watch on Hulu

We Are Freestyle Love Supreme (2020)

Everyone knows what Lin-Manuel Miranda has been up to lately, but what was he doing before he became the sensation behind In the Heights and Hamilton? He was part of a hip-hop improv group called Freestyle Love Supreme, which engaged audiences and hinted at Miranda’s particular set of skills that would come into focus with Hamilton. The group performed on Broadway for a few months from October 2019 to January 2020, so the documentary focuses on the rise of the group and their individual members, an origin story not known by many outside of the Hamilton die-hard population.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Christopher Jackson, Anthony Veneziale
Director: Andrew Fried
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 86 minutes

Watch on Hulu

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