10 Best Depressing Movies On Hulu

Staff & contributors

Have you got the tissues ready? Some of the most memorable watches are the ones that tug at our heart strings. Here are the best depressing movies to stream right now.

It's heartbreaking to realize that Happening, a film set in 1960s France tracking a young woman's journey to dangerously and desperately terminating her pregnancy, is still very much relevant and relatable to this day. Around the world, abortion is still inaccessible, if not completely illegal, and women still struggle to lay full claim to their bodies. A lot of girls grow up with pregnancy statistics meant to instill fear, but Happening brings all that to brilliant life in intimate and unrestrained detail. The fears and wants of our protagonist Anne (played precisely by Anamaria Vartolomei) are palpable throughout. Nothing is held back in this film, and if you find yourself sick in parts, then it has achieved its goal of realistically conveying what it's like to stay alive in a society that fails to recognize your needs. 

 

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alice de Lencquesaing, Anamaria Vartolomei, Anna Mouglalis, Cyril Metzger, Édouard Sulpice, Fabrizio Rongione, Francois Loriquet, Isabelle Mazin, Julien Frison, Kacey Mottet Klein, Leïla Muse, Leonor Oberson, Louise Chevillotte, Louise Orry-Diquéro, Luàna Bajrami, Madeleine Baudot, Pio Marmaï, Sandrine Bonnaire

Director: Audrey Diwan

Rating: R

, 2021

In the first few minutes of Mass, hushed tones, solemn movements, and awkwardly averted eyes hint at an unspoken tragedy that haunts everyone in the film. The four main characters discuss it during a sit-down, but even then it remains unspeakable; such is the dedication of first-time full-length director Fran Kranz in depicting the reality of tragic events. Not much is done in the way of plot twists and shocks, but in place of those, Mass makes clever use of close-up shots and unmoving settings to portray the privacy and paralysis of grief. For this reason, Mass often feels like a masterful play brought to life, but also more than that, a brilliant portrait of healing—or at the very least, coping with the everlasting aftermath of loss. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ann Dowd, Breeda Wool, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Michelle N. Carter, Reed Birney

Director: Fran Kranz

Using the documentary form with supreme clarity and righteous fury, Lakota Nation vs. United States distills hundreds of years of American history into two powerful, consistently engaging hours of film. The information presented in this movie has always been available to the public, but directors Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli do an excellent job at allowing these historical accounts and more recent headlines to cumulatively take on a truly emotional—almost spiritual—resonance. The enormity of the losses that Native Americans have endured physically, culturally, and economically is genuinely horrifying, and every new obstacle that the Oceti Sakowin peoples face feels heavy with the struggle of all of their ancestors before them.

Short Bull and Tomaselli stick to a generally conventional structure, but are able to weave together together personal stories and factual legal arguments through archival footage, majestic shots of the frontier, and the poetry of Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier. The whole film, then, begins to take on more of a lyrical quality—as if every tragic moment has permanently become part of the tapestry of Native life, impossible to forget and always driving efforts for reparation forward. Still the Native struggle continues, but with much more hope than despair.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Candi Brings Plenty, Krystal Two Bulls, Layli Long Soldier, Nick Tilsen, Phyllis Young

Director: Jesse Short Bull, Laura Tomaselli

Focusing squarely on two families and a select few health workers, The First Wave gets intimate access to the fears and anxieties of individuals trying to contend with the effects of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in New York. That these characters also tend to belong to already vulnerable sectors in the United States isn't a superfluous detail—as director Matthew Heineman illustrates (without the use of detached talking heads interviews) how proper responses to a global pandemic like this one are still hampered by capitalist interests, and racist and xenophobic institutions built into American society. All of these obstacles make every setback and every moment of progress in these characters' lives feel absolutely crucial, making for an emotionally overwhelming experience.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Al Sharpton, Andrew Cuomo

Director: Matthew Heineman

In this documentary by Bianca Stigter, a three-minute home video of a nondescript Jewish town in Poland is examined in great detail to reveal the history and humanity behind it. Taken just before the Holocaust, it’s one of the few remaining proofs of life the town has before its population was decimated in the war. And so the footage is repeated and stretched in this documentary, because as the narrator puts it, “as long as we are watching, history is not over yet,” and the people have yet to be gone.

Glenn Kurtz, the grandson of the person who shot the home video, takes it upon himself to investigate the history of the town and its citizens: what they were and what became of them. The results are often grim and unsettling, and the eerie editing matches them with great effect. But when it's not haunting, the film is oddly hopeful—for a future that remembers its past and preserves it in meaningful ways. Couple this sentiment with the narrator’s own poetic observations, and you get a powerfully moving elegy about loss and memory. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Helena Bonham Carter

Director: Bianca Stigter

It may not teach us anything that we don't already know by now, but the documentary Totally Under Control—filmed in secret, in defiance of the Trump administration—still stands as a valuable historical document so that the same mistakes can be avoided in the future. Boiled down to simple terms by doctors and other experts, the film's explanation of the United States' failure to adequately contain their own COVID-19 outbreak is always science- and fact-oriented first. And in its own classy, level-headed way, the film emphasizes that every politician, celebrity, and media outlet has a crucial part to play in making sure nobody panics and chases any counterproductive agendas. It should be obvious by now that we're all on the same team.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alex Gibney, Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Fauci, Barack Obama, Deborah Birx, Donald Trump, Joe Kennedy III, John R. Bolton, Michael Bowen, Mike Pence, Narendra Modi, Scott Becker, Taison Bell

Director: Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger

Surreal, off-putting, and extremely disturbing, Infinity Pool plays with the concepts of cloning and the death penalty to craft an examination on colonial tourism. It’s a thematically rich horror film, with hazy neon-lit sex scenes and absolutely terrible behavior, enabled by their wealth and advanced technology that could have been put to better use. Mia Goth, in particular, is strikingly unhinged, as Gabi taunts and lures James into bigger and more terrible crimes, crimes that he can only pay off with the wealth of his father-in-law. And Alexander Skarsgård as James believably gets sucked into this extremely libertine lifestyle, fuelled by the nepotistic anxiety of not living up to his own potential. The film presents a scary notion that pushed by wealth and playground tactics, one will willingly kill their own conscience, again and again, to belong to their cohort.

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Alexandra Tóth, Amanda Brugel, Amar Bukvić, Caroline Boulton, Cleopatra Coleman, Gergely Trócsányi, Géza Kovács, Jalil Lespert, Jeff Ricketts, John Ralston, Mia Goth, Roderick Hill, Romina Tonković, Thomas Kretschmann

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Rating: R

What Black Ice lacks in comprehensive research about the structures that maintain institutionalized racism inside major hockey leagues, it partly makes up for with one painful testimonial after another. This is a documentary that aims for the personal and the emotional over the intellectual—still an effective strategy as the film makes its point through repetition, to show just how commonplace racism is within hockey culture. And though it begins to feel somewhat plain in its execution (and without as much momentum leading into its concluding statements), Black Ice makes for a fiery, impassioned wake-up call especially to Canada's own seemingly "progressive" racial politics.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Jashvina Shah, P.K. Subban, Sarah Nurse, Willie O'Ree

Director: Hubert Davis

Based on the novel by Women Talking author Miriam Toews, this adaptation of All My Puny Sorrows holds clear reverence for its source material but falls short of making a case for its existence as a film. Toews's prose—significant parts of which writer/director Michael McGowan has kept intact in the dialogue—may be appropriate for a book that allows full internal access to its narrator, but on film her words come across as overly articulate and artificial, even if they speak beautiful, harsh truths about grief. And without a defined visual identity or proper flow of ideas to back up its admittedly complex characters (played with authentic tenderness and force by Alison Pill, Sarah Gadon, and Mare Winningham), the film ends up stuck in its own darkness, unable to give a proper form to all its thoughts.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alison Pill, Aly Mawji, Amybeth McNulty, Boyd Banks, Donal Logue, Elizabeth Saunders, Mare Winningham, Marin Almasi, Martin Roach, Michael Musi, Mimi Kuzyk, Morgan Bedard, Racine Bebamikawe, Sarah Gadon

Director: Michael McGowan

Rating: R

With inconsistent pacing and a deeply unpleasant protagonist, it’s hard to recommend The Seeding to every viewer. It’s really slow-paced, deeply uncomfortable, and it starts with, of all things, a baby eating a finger. But there’s an interesting style to this arthouse horror, a marriage of desert survival thriller and folk horror that restricts all possible modes of escape through its claustrophobic canyon. As Wyndham gradually discovers a secret community driven back to primitive instincts, director Barnaby Clay inverts the idea of what it means to be one’s fundamental self. Most viewers might not appreciate the story, and the ideas aren’t as cohesive as it could be, but horror fans looking for something new in the genre might find The Seeding fairly interesting.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alex Montaldo, Charlie Avink, Kate Lyn Sheil, Scott Haze, SoKo, Thatcher Jacobs

Director: Barnaby Clay

Rating: R