8 Movies Like La La Land (2016) On Hulu

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In a stunning and vivid (re-) introduction to the Black intellectual, author, and social critic, James Baldwin, this movie digs very deep into the American subconscious and racial history. It tells the story of America by telling the story of “the negro” in America, based on a book Baldwin started to write, which would have studied the famous assassinations of three of Baldwin's friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He wrote about 30 pages before he passed away in 1987. Haitian director and activist Raoul Peck picked up the project and made it into a movie, earning him an Academy Award nomination. Narrated by none other than Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro highlights, at the same time, Baldwin's genius, his unique eloquence, and the beauty of his soul as a human being. It is a sad truth that Baldwin's denouncements feel as relevant today as they did 50 years ago. As such, this movie serves as a sobering reminder of how far America still has to go. A mesmerizing experience!

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Bob Dylan, Dick Cavett, H. Rap Brown, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin, Joey Starr, Malcolm X, Marlon Brando, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, Paul Weiss, Ray Charles, Robert F. Kennedy, Samuel L. Jackson, Sidney Poitier

Director: Raoul Peck

Rating: PG-13

Fire of Love is a documentary that follows Maurice and Katia Krafft, a scientist couple who’ve dedicated their entire professional lives to studying (and marveling at) volcanoes. The two met at university and have been inseparable ever since, chasing explosions around the world until their death at the Mount Unzen eruption in 1991. 

The fiery passion the title refers to is as much about Maurice and Katia as it is about their dedication to volcanoes. Like any love story, it tracks how they were first wonderstruck by the formation and how that awe shaped their lives and led them to each other, as well as how they came to discover hard truths about it and dealt with the heartbreak that soon followed. 

Combining the breathtaking footage the couple left behind with lovely writing and artful animation, director Sara Dosa creates a moving documentary about passion, adventure, and the world itself. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alka Balbir, Guillaume Tremblay, Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft, Miranda July

Director: Sara Dosa

Rating: PG

Tilda Swinton stars in this gorgeous Italian production by Luca Guadagnino, part of the director’s “Desire Trilogy”, together with Call Me By Your Name and A Bigger Splash.

Swinton learned to speak Italian and some Russian for the movie, where she plays - to absolute perfection - the wife of a Milan textile mogul who starts having an affair with a cook.

It’s an elegant family drama that’s definitely more concerned with aesthetics than substance, but the setting in snowy Northern Italy and lush 35mm film make that very easy to look past.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alba Rohrwacher, Diane Fleri, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Flavio Parenti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Honor Swinton Byrne, Maria Paiato, Marisa Berenson, Mattia Zaccaro, Pippo Delbono, Tilda Swinton, Waris Ahluwalia

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Rating: R

Bad Axe is an intimate documentary that follows the Sievs, a tight-knit family that runs a restaurant in the city of Bad Axe, Michigan. When the rise of COVID restrictions and racist hate groups put their business at risk, the Sievs try to hold on to each other while also carefully, in their own way, fighting back.

Mostly shot in the unforgettable year that is 2020, Bad Axe captures the fraught intensity and existential panic we all spiraled into during the global pandemic. It’s a charged film, but underneath all that buzz is a story about a family with its own tensions and histories and contradictions to deal with. Bad Axe is at once simple and complex, and like family, you just kind of love it, flaws and all.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Austin Turmell

Director: David Siev

Similar in spirit and in subject matter to the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, The Wrecking Crew pulls back the curtain on the recording of many of the greatest American songs of the 1960s and '70s: that a single group of unassuming session musicians were responsible for bringing out the sound in these tracks. The film is a treasure trove for musicians and music fans, making you hear certain instrumental nuances in a different light and deepening your perception of music between what was written and what was recorded. Then inevitably and tragically, the realization sets in that few—if any—of these musicians have received the recognition they truly deserve, as essential but unfairly small parts of a music industry ecosystem that often cares more about image and entertainment than musicianship.

Genre: Documentary, Family, Music

Actor: Adam West, Al Casey, Al Jardine, Annette Funicello, Bones Howe, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, Carol Kaye, Cher, Dean Martin, Dick Clark, Don Randi, Eva Gabor, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frankie Avalon, Glen Campbell, Graham Nash, Hal Blaine, Herb Alpert, Jan Berry, Jimmy Webb, Jody McCrea, Lou Adler, Micky Dolenz, Mike Love, Nancy Sinatra, Peter Tork, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny Bono, Tommy Kirk, Tommy Sands

Director: Denny Tedesco

As its title suggests, Steve James’ documentary isn’t shy about its sympathy for its subject. Physicist Ted Hall was just 18 when he was recruited to the Manhattan Project and underwent a crisis of conscience when it became apparent that the atomic bomb’s ostensible target — Nazi Germany — was on the brink of defeat. Concerned by the possibility that, post-WW2, the US would achieve a nuclear monopoly and become a new kind of imperialist power, Ted and friend Saville Sax leaked key information to the USSR.

James’ film takes a decidedly intimate approach: while it dips into archival interviews Ted gave before his death and provides background context via scholars, it’s mostly led by Ted’s wife Joan, a spirited interviewee. Her moving contributions expand the film’s scope, making it as much a portrait of a marriage as a study of the political impact his actions had. James also interviews their children — as well as those of his partner-in-espionage, Saville — to explore the conflicted personal legacy their actions left. In not limiting itself to a macro perspective, the film opens itself up to be more than a look in history’s dusty rear-view mirror, making it a welcome tonic to the Wikipedia-style approach commonly employed for subjects like this.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Ann Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Joseph Stalin, Mickey O'Sullivan, Theodore Hall, Walter Huston

Director: Steve James

There are a lot of laughs to be had in Prom Dates, most of them coming from the funny and actualized characterization of Hannah, the lead’s queer best friend. But everything else about this coming-of-age film feels too familiar and forced to be memorable. Despite leading the film, Jess feels like a hollow copy-paste version of all the delusional, ambitious leads in teen films like Booksmart, Superbad, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, except there’s nothing particularly insightful or likable about her. She comes across as the annoying classmate you know too much about, against your own will. Events unfold in more or less predictable ways, though it’s not hard to imagine that the film could be elevated by a more robust cast. As it is, Prom Dates is a fleeting, forgettable entry in an already stacked genre.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Adam Herschman, Antonia Gentry, Arianna Rivas, Audrey Trullinger, Chelsea Handler, Emery Kelly, John Michael Higgins, Jordan Buhat, JT Neal, Julia Lester, Kenny Ridwan, Kiel Kennedy, Leonardo Cecchi, Patty Guggenheim, Shea Buckner, Terry Hu, Zión Moreno

Director: Kim O. Nguyen

Not to be confused with James Cameron’s 1989 film, The Abyss isn’t the worst disaster film, but it could have been so much more. Inspired by the earthquake that actually happened in the real life town of Kiruna, there’s an important story here about worker safety, responsible mining, improving emergency protocols, and preserving the environment. However, like plenty of disaster movies, the film plays out in the most predictable ways, attaching a frankly irrelevant family drama that takes time away from the terrifying, claustrophobic nightmare that could have been. It does have decent effects, and even some decent scenes, but The Abyss is more interested in using the real life earthquake to manufacture drama, rather than actually looking into the manmade disaster.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Angela Kovács, Edvin Ryding, Felicia Truedsson, Jakob Hultcrantz Hansson, Jakob Öhrman, Kardo Razzazi, Katarina Ewerlöf, Peter Franzén, Tintin Poggats Sarri, Tuva Novotny

Director: Richard Holm

Rating: R