21 Best Intense Movies On Hulu

Staff & contributors

When it comes to great entertainment, it’s all about the scenes that grip both your attentiion and emotions with full force. Whether you’re into suspenseful thrillers or emotional dramas, we’ve rounded up the best intense movies and shows to stream.

Before you press play on this movie, we highly recommend you take a few very deep breaths. This 2018 thriller is wound so tight, you will need the extra oxygen to get through it without fainting. In his directorial debut, Swedish-danish filmmaker Gustav Möller uses very little in terms of resources to create this breath-taking atmosphere. While The Guilty feels like it was made on a $100 million budget, all it physically brings to the table is one man in a dark room. It plays with our imagination instead of blinding it with special effects. Similarly, the plot is also short and sweet: a police officer is temporarily sent to do emergency dispatch, when he receives a call that turns an ordinary shift into a hell ride. This is all we are going to give away before you've completed your breathing exercises. The movie's minimalist approach is held together by great acting from Jakob Cedergre, a screenplay to match, and incredible sound design. A real white-knuckle ride.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Clement, Anders Brink Madsen, Camilla Lau, Gustav Möller, Gustav Möller, Jacob Lohmann, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Jakob Cedergren, Jeanette Lindbæk, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen, Laura Bro, Morten Suurballe, Morten Thunbo, Omar Shargawi, Peter Christoffersen, Simon Bennebjerg

Director: Gustav Möller

Rating: R

Nothing about Saint Omer is easy. A female Senegalese migrant (Guslagie Malanga) is put to trial for committing infanticide, but throughout the film, it becomes clear how much of a victim she is too, of an uncaring and deeply prejudiced society. “What drove her to madness?” Her attorney asks at one point. We’re not sure. We're not necessarily asked to side with her, nor answer the many hard-hitting questions brought up in the film, but we sit with the uneasiness of it all and, in that silence, confront our ideas about motherhood, womanhood, personhood. 

This confusion is what makes the film so compelling. Despite the court’s best efforts, Laurence isn’t meant to be understood. She’s meant to be an example of the ever-ambiguous, forever-complicated, always-hurt person. It’s human nature after all to be this complex and messed up. The film shows us that the best that we can do in situations like this is to listen, understand, and as our protagonist Rama (Kayije Kagame) does, make peace with the noise. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adama Diallo Tamba, Alain Payen, Aurelia Petit, Charlotte Clamens, Guslagie Malanda, Kayije Kagame, Louise Lemoine Torrès, Roald Iamonte, Robert Cantarella, Salimata Kamate, Seyna Kane, Thomas De Pourquery, Valérie Dréville, Xavier Maly

Director: Alice Diop

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

The Royal Hotel sees Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) resorting to take up a dire live-in job behind the bar in a remote desert part of Western Australia. Although they're warned that they'd "have to be okay with a little male attention" in the outcast mining town, their financial precarity overrides the potential fear. Curiously enough, the fiction film is based on a real story, already told in the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, but The Assistant director Kitty Green pulls no punches when representing how suffocating it must feel to be encircled by such unmediated male aggression. The brawls, the spilled beer, the c-word as a greeting all form the unnerving paraphernalia of life then and there. For Australian independent film devotees, there is actor Toby Wallace, who reprises his bad boy role from Babyteeth, and he's joined by the ranks of Herbert Nordrum (The Worst Person in the World) and an utterly terrifying Hugo Weaving (The Matrix).

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Malone, Barbara Lowing, Baykali Ganambarr, Bree Bain, Bruce R. Carter, Daniel Henshall, Herbert Nordrum, Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Kate Cheel, Patrick Frost, Toby Wallace, Ursula Yovich, Valerie Berry

Director: Kitty Green

Rating: R

On the one hand, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a tense thriller—an excellently set-up heist that makes you wonder, until the end, whether the low-budget operation succeeds or not. On the other hand, it’s a thoughtful rumination on the evil and influence of Big Oil, which despite its relentless destruction of environments and communities, continues to run scot-free. 

Together, these parts make for a powerful, nerve-racking film about both the danger and necessity of eco-terrorism—a radical act that is impressively humanized and spared from caricature here. How to Blow Up a Pipeline's themes may be big and its means explosive, but its rich characterizations of the young activists ground it into a relatable reality. One is dying due to toxins released by the nearby plant, another is forced to give up his property to make way for the construction of a pipeline. All are tired of the fruitlessness of government promises and peaceful protests. Rousing and relevant, there's never been a more timelier film than this. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ariela Barer, Brian Landis Folkins, Calhoun Koenig, Christopher Hagen, Clint Obenchain, Forrest Goodluck, Giancarlo Beltran, Grayson Berry, Irene Bedard, Jake Weary, Jasper Keen, Jayme Lawson, Kim S. Monti, Kristine Froseth, Loren Anthony, Lukas Gage, Marcus Scribner, Mark Dalton, Mary Kay Riley, Melissa Chambers, Mike Miller, Paris Peterson, Sam Quinn, Sarah Minnich, Sasha Lane, Travis Hammer

Director: Daniel Goldhaber

Rating: R

Alex Honnold might not be the most relatable guy ever, but his obsession with free solo climbing and his single-minded approach to life makes him so interesting. He's precisely the type of person that chooses to follow his goals, at the expense of everything else. To a certain extent, he has to be — without whole-hearted commitment to the sport, he could literally die. It’s no wonder someone decided to document his climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan wall—a wall that’s 3,000 feet high and hasn’t been free-climbed alone before. The journey is visually stunning and a technical marvel in and of itself. However, what’s most memorable about this film is the character study of Honnold: he has an indescribable instinct that outsiders could only call a death wish. His emotional detachment might make this a frustrating film to watch, but Free Solo serves as a unique portrait of a man who spits at the face of death.

Genre: Adventure, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alex Honnold, Jimmy Chin, Tommy Caldwell

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG-13

So far, chemical waste hasn't mutated amphibious creatures enough to create giant monsters large enough to swallow people whole… yet. This sort of monster film premise is familiar, especially for fans of 1950s sci-fi movies, but in the hands of director Bong Joon-ho, The Host transforms what could have been B-movie schlock into a drama examining the ways generations within a family, as well as generations within a country and within the world, have failed each other. As the Park family try to save their own, the actions they take feel all the more important, knowing what’s at stake on multiple levels. While at the time, there were doubts that Bong Joon-ho and the Korean film industry could pull off the monster, The Host proved that there was more to come from the then emerging film giant.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Ah-sung Ko, Bae Doona, Baek Do-bin, Bong Joon-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Byun Heebong, Choi Dae-sung, Choi Jae-sup, David Anselmo, David Joseph Anselmo, Doona Bae, Go A-sung, Hae-il Park, Hie-bong Byeon, Jeong In-gi, Jeong Kang-hee, Jung Seo-yoon, Kang-ho Song, Kim Bi-bi, Kim Choo-wol, Kim Hak-seon, Kim Jin-seon, Kim Nan-hee, Kim Roi-ha, Ko A-sung, Ko Chang-seok, Koh Soo-hee, Kwon Byung-gil, Kwon Hyeok-Pung, Lee Dong-ho, Lee Dong-yong, Lee Eung-jae, Lee Jae-eung, Lee Jong-yoon, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Dal-su, Park Hae-il, Park Jin-woo, Park No-shik, Paul Lazar, Philip Hersh, Pil-sung Yim, Ra Mi-ran, Scott Wilson, Seo Young-ju, Shin Hyeon-jong, Son Jin-ho, Son Young-soon, Song Kang-ho, Yim Pil-sung, Yoo Seung-mok, Yoo Yeon-soo, Yoon Je Moon

Director: Bong Joon-ho, Joon-ho Bong

Rating: R

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

When we think about dog films, we think about overly sentimental, feel-good flicks, with the dogs sometimes voiced by famous actors, that affirm the relationship between man and his best friend. White God is a dog movie, but it’s not that kind of dog movie. The dogs are not voiced, but yet they feel so personable as co-writer and director Kornél Mundruczó turns Hagen’s time in the street into a series of escapades, some exciting and some downright terrifying, where he evades the cruelty of man. And as the film alternates between Hagen and the young Lili, Mundruczó questions the ways we treat our furball best friends, the way we also treat those that are in our care.

Genre: Drama

Actor: András Hidvégi, András Réthelyi, Attila Mokos, Body, Diána Magdolna Kiss, Edit Frajt, Erika Bodnár, Ervin Nagy, Gera Marina, Gergely Bánki, Gergely Kovács, János Derzsi, Károly Ascher, Kata Wéber, Kornél Mundruczó, Krisztián Vranik, László Gálffi, László Melis, Lili Horvát, Lili Monori, Luke, Natasa Stork, Orsolya Tóth, Roland Rába, Sándor Terhes, Sándor Zsótér, Szabolcs Thuróczy, Tamás Polgár, Thuróczy Szabolcs, Virág Marjai, Zsófia Psotta

Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Rating: R

Many films that deal with the advent of some sort of apocalypse usually hit the ground running, but When Evil Lurks also keeps its sense of panic and paranoia right up to its bitter end. Even during moments of downtime—as this small group of "survivors" tries to keep moving—there is an overwhelming sense that they're only delaying their inevitable suffering, or that evil has existed long before  any of them. There are passing mentions of this demonic presence having originated in the city, and how it manages to infiltrate the lives of those on the outskirts through modern things like electricity and gunfire. It's an intriguing angle that gives possession a new texture: these demons aren't just randomly manifesting, but invading and occupying.

And when the violence kicks in, When Evil Lurks really doesn't spare its characters, as shown by some pretty gnarly practical effects and vicious sound design. The constant escalation of the demonic threat can feel contrived at times—as the rules of how things operate in this world keep on being added or modified, at a rate that can be hard to process—but the anguish it leaves its characters in is suffocating all the same. There may not appear to be a moral at the end of all this, but it evokes a sense of hopelessness better than many other films.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Demián Salomón, Emilio Vodanovich, Ezequiel Rodríguez, Federico Liss, Isabel Quinteros, Jorge Prado, Luis Ziembrowski, Marcelo Michinaux, Sebastián Muñiz, Silvina Sabater, Virginia Garófalo

Director: Demián Rugna

Rating: NR

The Two of Us could have been a sweet romantic drama all about lifelong devotion regardless of the circumstances, but instead, first time director Filippo Meneghetti makes it feel more like an unsettling thriller that captures the paranoia and near insanity it feels to be closeted– with Nina having to beg Mado to tell her family, having to hide in what has become her own home, and having to bargain and manipulate her way to Madeleine’s side. Two of Us is quite a stunning debut with such a unique depiction of a lesbian relationship.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aude-Laurence Clermont Biver, Barbara Sukowa, Denis Jousselin, Eugenie Anselin, Jérôme Varanfrain, Léa Drucker, Martine Chevallier, Muriel Bénazéraf

Director: Filippo Meneghetti

Rating: NR

Kenneth Branagh’s third Hercule Poirot movie does everything it can to divorce itself from the quaintness of a typical Agatha Christie adaptation. Loosely based on the novel Hallowe’en Party, this outing swaps exotic locales for the claustrophobic confines of a gothic Venetian palazzo and flirts outright with horror. The film, shot through more Dutch angles than an Amsterdam maths class has ever seen, uses the genre's visual language to credibly suggest that this mystery might actually have paranormal undertones. Forcing Poirot to reconsider his die-hard loyalty to rational explanations is an interesting twist — it punctures the idea of him as a mystery-solving god and gives the film bigger questions to chew on than whodunnit.

What that does, however, is sap the satisfaction of watching him expertly crack the puzzle, because the movie spends so much time centering Poirot’s crisis of confidence. A Haunting in Venice’s tone switch to serious horror is also at odds with the campily bad accents and mostly overwrought acting from the (much less starry than usual) cast. It’s not the same kind of reliable guilty pleasure we expect these vehicles to be, then, but this outing of Branagh’s Poirot is at least an interesting experiment in expanding these stories' usual limits.

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ali Khan, Amir El-Masry, Camille Cottin, David Menkin, Emma Laird, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Kelly Reilly, Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen, Lorenzo Acquaviva, Michelle Yeoh, Riccardo Scamarcio, Rowan Robinson, Tina Fey, Vanessa Ifediora

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Rating: PG-13

Irish director Lorcan Finnegan's follow-up to the social dystopia Vivarium, too, centers around the trials and tribulations of a nuclear family. Overwhelmed by work and struck by an inexplicable disease, Christine (played by Eva Green) seems to have forgotten she employed a caretaker for her daughter Bobs. The plot thickens when a Filipino woman named Diana rings the door bell: what kind of mother forgets something like that? What follows is as nightmarish as it sounds, the film's visual potency summoning one's deepest fears and anxieties about reality slipping away. Green and Chai Fonacier (Diana) play an exquisite game of cat and mouse, but even the psychological thrill of that chase is not significant enough to overthrow the dubious racial politics at play. By the end, Nocebo makes an effort to position itself on the right side of history, but the power of its political critique wanes and wanes.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Falcon, Billie Gadsdon, Cathy Belton, Chai Fonacier, Eva Green, Mark Strong

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Admittedly, being released in theaters a month after Immaculate, The First Omen can almost be accused of being derivative, with similar protagonists, plots, and themes. However, unlike Immaculate, this film captures a bit of the 1970s horror style that was best seen in the original 1976 Omen film, with the paranoia, the investigations, the Eastman Kodak-inspired color grading, and the number of the devil now depicted in striking modern images and clearer digital definition. And, considering that the Roe decision was overturned two years ago, the idea of a forced virgin conception is a great way to reintroduce Gen Z to the horror franchise, as the prequel, and today’s women, now have to deal with religion and authority reducing women only into vessels. The First Omen is a timely adaptation that takes familiar horror tropes and executes them well.

Genre: Horror

Actor: Alessandra Fallucchi, Andrea Arcangeli, Anton Alexander, Bill Nighy, Charles Dance, Dobrila Stojnic, Dora Romano, Eva Ras, Ishtar Currie Wilson, James Swanton, María Caballero, Mario Opinato, Mia McGovern Zaini, Michelangelo Dalisi, Milena Božić, Miodrag Rakočević, Nell Tiger Free, Nicole Sorace, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Ralph Ineson, Sônia Braga, Sylvia Panacione, Tawfeek Barhom

Director: Arkasha Stevenson

Rating: R