Hulu may be looked upon as the smaller version of Netflix, but the truth is that the premium streaming service has a lot of great TV shows and movies that are not available on its bigger competitor. The service’s cheapest subscription tier (with commercials) is just $5.99 a month. If you can stomach some ads, you will be able to access the complete runs of some of the best shows on Hulu.
Read more: Best Hulu originals
Which shows should you watch on Hulu? We have picked our selections for the 12 best TV shows on Hulu that are currently available to stream on the service. Just a quick note: We selected TV shows with full season runs, and it’s a mix of both original Hulu series and older shows that are available to stream on the service. You can check out the service at the link below, with a 30-day free trial to get you started.
Best TV Shows on Hulu:
Editor’s note: We will update this article as more great TV shows are added to Hulu’s catalog and others are removed.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale
Based on the 1985 Margaret Atwood novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary look at a possible future United States that lets an ultra-Christian theocracy take over the country. In this version of the future, women are seen as no more than servants, wives and, in the case of Handmaids, birth mothers. As the title character Offred, Elizabeth Moss gives the performance of her career as a woman who fights this horrible life in her own way — with dignity and grace.
This is a Hulu-exclusive series, and it’s also the first-ever streaming series to win an Emmy for Best Drama. Three seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale are available on Hulu now, and a fourth is coming in 2020. It’s one of the best shows on Hulu that’s an original series for the streaming service as well.
2. The X-Files
Creator Chris Carter’s sci-fi/horror show was an instant hit when it premiered in 1993. Combining elements of The Outer Limits with an investigative procedural, the show (mostly) followed the FBI files that no one else wanted. No one, that is, until Special Agent Mulder decided to go check them out. He gets lots of help from his reluctant and skeptical partner, Special Agent Scully. While the series ran out of steam, and mostly out of Mulder, in its final couple of seasons out of its original nine-season run, it’s still worth watching. The show was also revived with its original cast more recently for a couple of shortened seasons (10 and 11), and Hulu has those as well, but don’t expect them to be nearly as good as the classic seasons of this show.
Who knew that Donald Glover, best known for his role in the sitcom Community, would create one of the best TV series in recent years? Atlanta is a dramedy that focuses on two cousins, played by Glover and Brian Tyree Henry, who are trying to make it big in the huge hip-hop market in Atlanta. The show not only turned Glover into a major TV artistic talent, but would also be the big break for other actors like Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz.
The show is hard to categorize, but it is funny and takes some chances with storylines, particularly in the acclaimed second season episode “Teddy Perkins.” Two seasons of Atlanta are available now. This is definitely one of the best shows on Hulu.
The show about nothing certainly turned into something: one of the funniest sitcoms ever. Created by comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, this show took a little while to find its audience, or rather it took a while for its massive audience to find it. In any case, the tales of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were ones that seem on the outside to be outrageous and over-the top. The truth is, Seinfeld’s humor mostly comes from the fact that many people might actually live their lives like this foursome did in New York City for nine seasons. From dealing with mean lunch cooks (“No soup for you”), to creating a new holiday (Festivus), to running a highly unusual contest among these friends (“Are you still master of your domain?”), the classic episodes, lines, and situations in Seinfeld are available to stream. Without a doubt, it’s a worthy addition to our best shows on Hulu list.
Like Atlanta, Legion comes from the FX network. At first, these two series don’t seem to have a lot in common. The title character of David Haller, based loosely on the Marvel Comics X-Men character, is a man who has massive telepathic and telekinetic abilities, but who also suffers from serious mental health issues. However, like Atlanta, Legion is not afraid to make some changes to the typical superhero TV show story. It messes with time and narrative, and it also has some very weird psychedelic sequences. You can watch all three seasons of Legion now on Hulu.
6. What We Do In The Shadows
In 2014, the “mockumentary” movie What We Do In The Shadows was released. It didn’t make a huge impact at the time, but it slowly became a cult hit. In 2019, FX launched the first season of the TV adaptation, and it’s become a critical darling as well. Like the movie, the TV version is filmed like a documentary, except that the subjects are vampires. They are hundreds of years old but are now living on Staten Island. It’s simply one of the funniest TV shows you can watch right now, as we see these vampires do normal things, like shopping at the grocery store, while also trying to feed on humans. It’s one of the best shows on Hulu.
7. Normal People
This is not only one of the best shows on Hulu, it may also be one of its most romantic. Based on the popular novel by Sally Rooney, it follows two people, Marianne and Connell, in a town in Ireland. They first encounter each other at school. Connell is popular, while Marianne is not. However, these two “normal people” discover each other and fall in love. The series follows the couple through the years as they connect, and then disconnect, with each other time and again. There’s no melodrama here; it’s just life between two people who ultimately are supposed to have a connection.
Many of us of a certain age remember when we watched the pilot episode of Lost. All of a sudden, we were the witnesses to the survivors of a crashed airliner on what we thought was an uncharted Pacific island. The creation of Jeffrey Lieber, Damon Lindelof, and J.J. Abrams (the latter of whom directed that pilot episode), Lost played around with serialized storytelling in TV shows and would become a major influence on TV drama in the years to come. Some people may have gotten tired of some of Lost’s issues with wrapping up storylines and characters, but there’s no denying this show remains an excellent example of making an “event” series.
9. The Office (UK)
While the American version of The Office may have lasted much longer, the original UK version of this workplace comedy is still one of the funniest sitcoms ever created. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant had the brilliant idea of having the show be filmed like it was the subject of a long-form documentary, and that format has been picked up by so many other sitcoms. The show made Gervais a worldwide comedy star, and his portrayal of Wernham Hogg paper company manager David Brent made him one of the best characters made for TV. That makes this one of the best shows on Hulu.
Joss Whedon has a number of his great TV shows on Hulu, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Yet, it’s Firefly that remains our favorite, because it really took sci-fi television cliches and turned them around 180 degrees. Instead of a pristine Enterprise-like spaceship, the show centers on the crew of the Firefly-class vessel named Serenity — an old vessel about to fall apart. The crew members aren’t explorers, rather a group of misfits (some might even call them criminals) who just try to get by while avoiding engagements with law enforcement. The mix of sci-fi and Western is a perfect fit, and the characters all have deep dark secrets that are sometimes only hinted at in the show’s too-short run.
11. Rick and Morty
Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon created this adult animated series as a (kind of) spoof of the Doc Brown and Marty McFly characters from Back to the Future. The resulting show veers very far away from that initial concept, as mad scientists Rick drags his grandson Morty (along with other members of his family) on a series of wild space and interdimensional adventures. You never quite know what you will see from episode to episode, and that’s part of the fun of this show. Roiland and Harmon seem to be having a ball in creating new aliens, threats, and more that Rick and Morty have to deal with (anyone remember Pickle Rick?).
This is an example of the new FX on Hulu shows, which were originally developed for the FX cable network, but will be available just on the Hulu service. Written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina), this surreal sci-fi series is all about a fictional Silicon Vallery tech company. The company’s secret computing division, Devs, has been working on a project that is so powerful the company is willing to kill for it. It’s a show that rewards its audience with some deep themes of what it means to have free will.
Best TV shows on Hulu: Honorable mentions
There are lots of other great TV shows on Hulu that didn’t quite make our best list. Here’s a look at just a few more of the best shows on Hulu that didn’t make the cut.
- 30 Rock: This could have been just another workplace sitcom, but this show about the creation of a comedy sketch show broke free of its premise, thanks in part to performances of cast members like creator Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: It’s our personal favorite of the six live-action Star Trek TV shows, as we follow the tales of this alien space station manned by a mix of Federation, Bajoran, and other alien crew members.
- Castle Rock: Here’s another Hulu original series, which attempts to create a kind of central universe around the many tales and characters in novels from Stephen King. The result is pretty awesome.
- Friday Night Lights: This show was never a huge hit in the ratings but has an intense cult following, which is easy to understand once you watch this drama about a fictional Texas high school football team.
- The Twilight Zone: You could stream this on Netflix, or you could watch it on Hulu, because it has the fourth season of this classic sci-fi anthology series with the one-hour episodes that Netflix does not show.
These are our picks for the 12 best shows on Hulu. We’ll add new ones to the list once they launch.