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The top 14 best HBO Max movies
HBO Max has become a major player in the streaming game since launching in 2020. The service offers hit HBO series, brand new originals, library titles from Warner Bros., and a host of third-party films. So which of the HBO Max movies are the best?
Read on for our list of the best HBO Max movies, including HBO Max originals, recent hits, and Hollywood classics.
The best HBO Max movies
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best HBO Max movies regularly as new ones launch.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick directed and co-wrote (with Arthur C. Clarke) this 1968 sci-fi epic. Even in this age of CGI, this film still holds up extremely well. The themes of evolution and the discovery of a vastly superior alien civilization stand out, as humanity takes its first few steps beyond Earth.
Of course, the movie’s highlight is HAL, the AI in charge of the Jupiter-bound spaceship Discovery. HAL doesn’t want anything to stop this mission, even the human astronauts who HAL sees as threats. It’s definitely one of the best HBO Max movies.
The 1942 classic WWII-themed romantic movie is still highly emotional to watch. Rick, played perfectly by Humphrey Bogart, is the owner of a bar in Casablanca, Morocco, where all sorts of “business” is taken care of under the table. However, Rick never thought he would have to encounter his lost love Ilsa, played equally perfectly by Ingrid Bergman.
Ilsa and her husband are on the run from the Nazis, and they both need Rick’s help to get away from them. Can Rick keep his feelings for Ilsa at bay? Will Ilsa abandon her husband for Rick? This movie is perhaps the first great romantic film, and it’s still one of the best you can watch on HBO Max.
The Dark Knight
This 2008 movie is definitely the best of the Batman films you can watch on HBO Max. It’s also one of the best HBO Max movies you can watch, full stop. Christopher Nolan makes the idea of a rich man who dresses up as a bat-man to fight crime in Gotham City believable, and that’s no small feat.
However, the main reason for the greatness of this film is Heath Ledger. His performance as a total anarchist Joker is perfect. Unfortunately, he died before the movie was released, but he still won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his now-iconic role.
We can’t talk about Batman without mentioning his most popular enemy, the Joker. The movie received an onslaught of great reviews and plenty of accolades. Joaquin Phoenix plays the Joker, for which he won an Academy Award, like his predecessor Heath Ledger.
The film follows the Joker’s early story as he becomes the villain we all know so well. His dark story digs deep into the psychological and emotional problems he must endure, and gives you a better understanding of how he became Batman’s biggest rival. It’s definitely among the best HBO Max movies.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
You still should watch The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers on HBO Max before watching the final film in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel trilogy. However, it’s clear that The Return of the King is the best film in this series (it did win the Academy Award for Best Film in 2004). From the massive battles to defend Middle Earth from the forces of evil to the more personal story of Frodo and Sam venturing into Mordor to finally destroy the One Ring, this is an epic film that also pulls at the heartstrings.
This movie clocks in at 3 hours and 20 minutes. However, you can also watch the even longer Extended Edition (4 hours and 23 minutes) of this movie on HBO Max too.
No Sudden Move
An HBO Max original, No Sudden Move boasts a stacked cast, including Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, Kieran Culkin, Noah Jupe, Craig Grant, Julia Fox, Frankie Shaw, Ray Liotta, and Bill Duke. Behind the camera are writer Ed Solomon and director Steven Soderbergh.
When a simple robbery goes wrong in 1950s Detroit, a group of gangsters has to figure out who’s pulling their strings, how to get paid, and what the booming automotive industry has to do with it.
Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in this 1941 classic movie, which many folks still believe is the best film ever made. It certainly tried to do some different things that had not been done in movies at that time, with wild camera angles and an unconventional narrative structure. We see the life of the fictional media mogul Charles Foster Kang in flashbacks, as people try to figure out why he used a specific word as the last he would use before he passed away. It remains one of the most important movies of all time.
Singin’ in the Rain
Is there a better movie musical than this 1952 classic? Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds are all at the top of their game as they play movie performers in 1920s Hollywood. The plot doesn’t really matter. What matters is this movie has lots of great songs, lots of great singing by the leads, and some memorable dance and set pieces that really can’t be topped, even today.
The Wizard of Oz
1939 not only brought us Gone with the Wind, but also this children’s musical classic that is still great to watch to this day. Ok, Judy Garland might have been a tad too old to play Dorothy Gale, but you can ignore that for the most part. What you get are excellent songs, some fantastic performances by Garland and the rest of the cast, and some superb visual effects and art design.
You also get one of the best movie villains of all time, with Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West. Anyone who threatens a dog is automatically someone to be feared.
Let Them All Talk
Steven Soderbergh has become well known for overcoming challenges he sets for himself. Most of his recent films have been shot entirely on iPhones, for instance, and they look terrific.
For Let Them All Talk, he used very little equipment, natural lighting, and improvised dialogue from his cast, all aboard the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner on one of its transatlantic voyages. That meant production was limited to two weeks. And on top of all that, the film tells a smart and engaging story of a famous author who seeks to reconnect with old friends on her way to an awards ceremony in the UK.
With stellar performances by Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen, Lucas Hedges, and Gemma Chan, it’s one of the best movies on HBO Max.
One of the first films to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic dead-on, Locked Down is an HBO Max original movie set in London soon after the city went into lockdown in 2020. A couple who have separated, but are still stuck living together until restrictions ease up, have to adjust to the new normal in less than ideal circumstances.
But then a golden opportunity comes up. With things in a constant state of flux, they may be able to pull off a major heist using their various work connections and knowledge of security weak spots. Locked Down is a terrific heist movie that makes intelligent and tasteful use of a rather traumatic moment in history.
You’ve heard plenty of bachelor party stories, but none of them are as wild as this one. Doug and his three friends go on a wild night in Vegas. The only problem is they don’t remember a thing the day after, and it seems they made some terrible decisions. Especially considering the soon-to-be groom is nowhere to be found. Join them in this wild adventure as they try to retrace what they did to find Doug.
An American Pickle
Seth Rogen is on double duty in this surprisingly touching comedy. A young designer living in Brooklyn has his world turned upside down when he meets a distant relative who was preserved in pickle brine for over a century. An Orthodox Jewish factory worker fell into the brine at the pickling plant where he worked and was presumed dead, until he came to in the 21st century. It’s an absurd premise, but stay with me here.
Playing both men, Seth Rogen gives layered performances as a man out of time and his present-day guide in a film that looks at the powerful bonds of family. It’s one of the best films on HBO Max and one of the streamer’s first original films.
Martin Scorsese may be the best modern movie director, and this 1990 film may be the best movie he has ever made. Based on the life of a real-life East Coast mobster, Henry Hill, the film depicts his life and rise in organized crime circles from the 1950s to 1980. While the movie got tons of Academy Award nominations at the time, it only won one award for Joe Pesci’s incredible supporting actor performance as the hotheaded mobster Tony DeVito. His classic “I’m funny how?” section of the movie remains one of the best introductions of a film character in history.
The best HBO Max movies – Honorable mentions
There are a lot of classic and great HBO Max movies to watch on this service. Here are just a few more to check out.
- King Kong (1933) – The original film about the discovery of a massive ape remains the best Kong film ever made.
- Rebel Without a Cause – James Dean was an immediate star in this instant classic film from 1955 about real teenage life at the time.
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League – After controversial reshoots and edits, HBO Max green-lit an extended director’s cut of The Justice League, and the end result was a huge improvement.
- Rocky – The first and best of the long-running series about a down-on-his-luck boxer that has an opportunity to fight the heavyweight champ can still tug on the heartstrings.
- Magic Mike – Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum team up in this heartfelt workplace comedy about male strippers in Tampa.
- No Country for New Men – A man finds a ton of cash in the Texas desert, not knowing that a sinister hitman is also going after the money in this incredible film from directors Joel and Ethan Coen.
- Judas and the Black Messiah – The story of Fred Hampton, the activist and head of the Illinois Black Panther Party, is well told in this 2021 film.