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The 10 Best Criterion Collection Movies on Hulu

Some of the greatest films of all time are right at your fingertips.

Kyle Smith


September 13, 2013 - 9:30 am

If you’re a subscriber to Hulu Plus, one of the side benefits is free access to the many dazzling jewels of the Criterion Collection, which restores classic films, mainly from other countries, many of which are not available on Netflix. The vast majority are seldom shown on cable or pay TV. Of the 869 Criterion titles currently available on Hulu Plus — the full list is available here – these are ten of the best.

10. Burden of Dreams (1982)

A crazy ode to the love of filmmaking stars the gifted and driven German director Werner Herzog as he struggles to make his baggy masterpiece Fitzcarraldo, which originally starred Jack Nicholson and Mick Jagger until both dropped out. The film is about a demented genius who attempts to drag a full-sized ship over a mountain in the Amazonian rainforest, and being the perfectionist he was Herzog decided, using rudimentary native tools and muscle, to do the same. The film has a rating of 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

9. The Great Dictator (1940).

The first satiric attack Hollywood ever launched on Adolf Hitler is still the best. In his first-ever talkie, Charlie Chaplin (who also wrote and directed, at a time when there was an informal rule against provoking Germany with anti-Nazi films) spoofs “Adenoid Hynkel” as the madman he was. Chaplin also plays a Jewish barber with amnesia unaware that anti-semitic forces have taken over his country.

8. Three Colors: Red (1994)

The best of the trilogy of movies by Poland’s Krzysztof Kieślowski named after the colors in the French flag, this brilliantly plotted drama about seemingly unrelated lives that turn out to be intertwined stars the startling beauty Irene Jacob as a model and the legendary Jean-Louis Trintignant (Amour) as the mysterious retired judge she meets after she runs over his dog. Nominated for three Oscars including two for Kieślowski for best director and screenplay.

7. Love on the Run (1979)

France’s François Truffaut made somber melodramas, Hitchcockian thrillers and a film about being obsessed with death, but this romantic comedy is a superb piece of light entertainment. It’s the fifth and last film in Truffaut’s series about his alter ego Antoine Doinel, who was introduced as an alienated juvenile delinquent in The 400 Blows but grew into a thoughtful romantic with a habit of falling in love far too easily.

6. My Life as a Dog (1985)

One of the most endearing films about childhood ever made, this one marked the arrival of Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (who got his start directing ABBA videos and later turned into a Hollywood hack). Though the central character, an adolescent boy, is about to lose his mother to disease as the story begins, he typifies the resilience of youth as he develops a crush on a local tomboy (who pastes him in the boxing ring) and begins to wonder about his place in the world. Sweet but not cloying, this one brings back childhood in all its confusion and wonder.

5. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Another one about childhood and movies, this film by Victor Erice has a much more eerie, somber tone. It explores the inner life of a little girl who, in a sleepy corner of 1940 Spain, develops a fascination with the 1931 classic big-screen version of Frankenstein, which has just come to town. Life starts to take on the quality of a movie when she befriends a fugitive soldier who parallels the Hollywood monster.

4. Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Among the greatest film noirs ever made, this nasty, lean one by Louis Malle stars the durable temptress Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet as a couple of adulterous lovers plotting to kill her husband, Double Indemnity-style. Things begin to go wrong almost immediately in this twisty delight.

3. Hoop Dreams (1994)

By turns exhilarating, depressing and ultimately heartbreaking, this monumental documentary takes in the entire adolescence of two talented young boys from the streets of Chicago who are so skilled that they could be future NBA players. Neither of them makes it, and this painstakingly detailed document makes it clear just how hard it is to climb that mountain.

2. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Everyone knows Ingmar Bergman made pretentious, ponderous works about death and insanity. But he did make one bright, fizzy comedy (albeit one that contains a Russian Roulette scene), this nutty lovers’ farce that was later adapted into the Broadway musical A Little Night Music. It’s about a frustrated middle-aged man whose young bride won’t give him any love as his son lusts after the maid and he rekindles the spark with an old girlfriend who is now the mistress of a scary military officer.

1. Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

Truffaut’s second film after the overrated The 400 Blows, this hybrid anticipated Quentin Tarantino in its mix of gruesome noir and comedy. A wry Charles Aznavour plays a down-on-his luck piano player working in a shabby dive who gets mixed up with gangsters.

Kyle Smith is a film critic for the the New York Post. His website is at

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All Comments   (12)
All Comments   (12)
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Anna. I see what you mean... Alice`s st0ry is something... last tuesday I got a gorgeous Citroën 2CV when I got my cheque for $5209 this-last/five weeks and-a little over, ten/k last munth. it's by-far my favourite work I've ever done. I actually started six months/ago and pretty much straight away started bringing in at least $87, per-hr. website here
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51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Much obliged for the list!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hoop Dreams is a great movie, but I the Criterion Collection is not the reason you should get Hulu Plus. It's all about the great anime selection and foreign films that this service gets that keeps me a faithful subscriber.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Read the article, watched the trailers.

Remembered why, I never go by another person's opinion on movies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have seen most of these, but I would replace #2 with Portrait of Jennie>. That movie haunted me since I first saw it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
>>"Swedish director Lasse Hallstrom (who got his start directing ABBA videos and later turned into a Hollywood hack)"

What a stupid remark. Since "My Life as a Dog", Hallstrom has directed "Once Around," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The Cider House Rules," "Chocolat", "The Hoax," "Hachi," and "Salmon Fishing on the Yemen" -- all unusual and often luminous films. He's directed a number of forgettable commercial films as well, not terrible, but not as ambitious or unconventional. He seems to one of the few filmmakers who's balanced the artistic and commercial or more popularly accessible. He is no way, by any definition, a "hack."

And Truffaut is overrrated. So is Chaplin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I think Jack Oakie as Mussolini nearly stole the show in "The Great Dictator." Certainly that was the masterpiece performance of his career.

And I don't mean that to take anything away from Chaplin's brilliance in the movie.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm going to second Monkey's comment, Yojimbo and The Seven Samurai are two of my favorite Kurosawa films, and both got Criterion releases.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm a little miffed there's nothing b Kurosawa in this list, nor Jean-Luc Goddard, but I suppose it's a matter of taste. Concerning no. 4, Ascenseur pour l'echafaud, the soundtrack was composed and played by Miles Davis and is worth owning in it's own right.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Unfortunately, the only way to get movies here in Israel without stealing them is to have a US iTunes account; it appears Apple is the only company not to check your IP.

It's still probably illegal, but at least I'm payign for it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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