24 Best Movies To Watch On HBO Max (September 2021)
HBO Max launched in May 2020, and has continued to expand over the past year, adding original movies and TV shows, anime, kids content, and catalog items from both Warner Bros.' vault and licensed content from other companies. As with other streaming platforms that offer a lot of content, the problem isn't lack of things to watch--it's knowing what to choose.
There are hundreds of movies on HBO Max, from practically every genre you can think of. It's a daunting amount, so we've been through the catalog to pick out some must-watch titles. Not all of these films will appeal to every viewer, but all are great movies in their own genres.
There are Oscar-winning epics, influential sci-fi movies, ground-breaking '70s films, world cinema classics, and some of the biggest movies from the past two decades. All are available to watch right now on HBO Max, so if you're stuck for something to check out, you could do a lot worse than pick something new from this list...
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick's 1968 epic is one of the most mysterious and visually stunning sci-fi movies ever made. It's packed with iconic imagery--from early man encountering the mysterious monolith to the mind-bending stargate sequence--as well as a gripping central plot in which the crew of the Discovery One must deal with their malfunctioning AI HAL 9000. It's an amazing experience, even when you're not entirely sure what's going on.
Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)
John Carpenter's gripping second movie is a lean, mean thriller, in which a police station on the verge of closing down is besieged by LA street gangs over the course of one long, bloody night. Carpenter keeps the tension high as the handful of mostly civilian staff use their ingenuity to overcome the relentless stream of attacks from a seemingless endless stream of ruthless adversaries.
Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott's cyberpunk classic might not have been a commercial success when it was first released, but it now stands as one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made. Based on Phillip K.Dick's novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, it follows Harrison Ford's cynical cop through futuristic LA, as he hunts down a group of rogue killer androids.
The Dark Knight (2008)
The best of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, this sprawling Gotham crime drama features an unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker. Aaron Eckhart is a memorably tragic Two-Face, while Christopher Bale growls and punches his way through some thrillingly staged action sequences.
Dirty Harry (1971)
One of the '70s great crime movies, Dirty Harry stars Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, a ruthless LA cop who respects his bosses only slightly more than he does the criminal filth he's paid to keep off the streets. While the four Dirty Harry sequels got increasingly silly, director Don Siegel's first entry is a violent and gripping thriller, as Callahan hunts down a psychopathic sniper tormenting the city.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Sidney Lumet made several great New York-set crime dramas over his career, including Serpico and Prince of the City. The gripping Dog Day Afternoon is the best--it focuses on a bungled bank robbery over the course of a single day, with Al Pacino incredible as the hapless man who attempts to steal millions of dollars but instead finds himself trapped in the building with hundreds of cops, reporters, and residents outside.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Not so much a sequel but a totally unhinged remake, Sam Raimi's dazzling horror-comedy took the basic plot and lead actor from his 1981 indie breakthrough and cranked everything to 10. From Bruce Campbell's unforgettable performance as he overcomes demonic possession and fights back against undead evil to Rami's wild, inventive direction, Evil Dead 2 is a masterclass in how to scare, thrill, and generate huge laughs.
Martin Scorsese once compared his approach to making Goodfellas to making "a two-and-a-half-hour trailer," and it's easy to see what he means. The energy, editing, music, and relentless pace make it one of the most compelling gangster movies ever made. Ray Liotta is electric in his breakout role as real-life mobster Henry Hill, while Robert De Niro and scary Joe Pesci deliver two of their best-ever performances as Hill's closest accomplices.
The Graduate (1967)
Mike Nichols' offbeat and inventive romantic comedy was part of a big change in American cinema in the late '60s when a younger generation of directors began taking a more progressive and sometimes controversial approach to filmmaking. The movie also made a star of Dustin Hoffman, who plays a troubled young man dealing with pressure from his parents and the advances of much older Mrs. Robinson. The Graduate might be over 50 years old, but it still feels as fresh, funny, and inventive as it did back then.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Steven Spielberg's blockbuster helped change cinema forever when the decision was made to use CGI dinosaurs instead of the planned stop-motion. The result was a box office conquering phenomenon, which combined the old-school monster movie thrills of Jaws with cutting-edge digital effects. There have been four sequels so far, with a fifth due next year, but none have come close to matching the peerless original.
The Last Emperor (1987)
Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning epic tells the story of Puyi, the last Emperor of China in the early 20th century. It's a big film in every sense of the word, with incredible production design, a hefty nearly 3-hour running time, 19,000 extras, and a story that spans 60 years. But it's also a powerful drama about one man looking back on his life from a prison cell, who faced incredible challenges as the world around him changed.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover make an unforgettable double-act in this classic '80s action thriller. Gibson is unpredictable and suicidal cop Riggs, while Glover is his steady, reliable new partner Murtaugh, who is approaching retirement and has no interest in getting into the sort of dangerous trouble that Riggs inevitably finds himself in. The late Richard Donner delivers some thrilling action sequences, while the script from then-upcoming Shane Black crackles with energy.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2000-2002)
Peter Jackson's timeless adaptation of JRR Tolkien's novels is the yardstick by which all modern fantasy cinema is judged. Across more than nine hours of cinema, Jackson delivers everything Tolkien fans were hoping for, with Middle Earth stunningly created on-screen and an amazing cast breathing life into Tolkien's iconic characters. From the biggest battles to the smallest character moments, these movies rarely put a foot wrong.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
It took director George Miller many years to get Fury Road to the screen, but the wait was worth it. With Max (now played by Tom Hardy) turned into a supporting character, Charlize Theron's Furiosa becomes a fantastic new action hero, trying to save a group of women from the insane Immortan Joe and find a mythical paradise beyond the vast desert. Fury Road features some of the most insane and exciting vehicular stunt work ever filmed, making it that rare move--the fourth part of a series that's also the very best.
The Matrix (1999)
With the much-anticipated The Matrix Resurrections due for release in December, now is a great time to revisit the game-changing original. Unlike the bloated and tiresome sequels released four years later, this first movie perfectly balances cerebral concepts, a gripping sci-fi plot, and incredible action. The Matrix is one of the most influential sci-fi movies of the last 20 years, and it's never been topped.
Point Break (1991)
This ludicrously enjoyable action thriller stars Keanu Reeves as Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who infiltrates a criminal gang responsible for a number of bank robberies. When they're not robbing banks, the gang is busy hitting the surf, led by the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). It's a silly, gripping, exciting, and strangely emotional experience, with iconic performances and knock-out direction from Kathryn Bigelow.
Police Story (1985)
Jackie Chan's action classic is one his best-loved and most exciting movies. It marked Chan's return to Hong Kong after an unsuccessful initial attempt to break into the US market, and saw the actor and director deliver some of the most outlandishly dangerous stunt work and action scenes ever seen. Chan plays a cop who tries to take down a drug lord after he is framed for murder.
The Red Shoes (1948)
The Red Shoes tells the story of a young dancer who must choose between the pressures of her career and a love affair with a rising composer. The stunning cinematography, inventive and often fantastical dance sequences and a striking debut performance from star Moira Shearer--a trained dancer who had never acted before--make this the high point of directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's career and one of the greatest British movies ever made.
Reservoir Dogs (1991)
Quentin Tarantino's debut movie is a lean, mean crime drama that focuses on the aftermath of a bank robbery gone wrong. From the amazing cast (including Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth) and razor-sharp dialogue to the '70s-themed soundtrack and infamous ear-slicing scene, this '90s classic remains as compelling today as it did 30 years ago.
Sylvester Stallone's boxing classic made Sly a huge star and created one of cinema's most enduring characters. The Rocky sequels that followed over the next decade got more and more ridiculous, but this first movie is much more a low-key blue-collar character drama than fist-pumping sports crowd-pleaser, with Stallone's sensitive script and John G. Alvidsen's evocative direction keeping things grounded.
The Seven Samurai (1954)
Kurosawa's Seven Samurai isn't just one of the greatest samurai films, it's one of the best action movies ever made. This epic tale of a group of ronin who team up to protect a village from bandits set a new standard for action filmmaking, with Kurosawa's mastery of editing and choreography influencing filmmakers for decades to come. The action is matched by the compelling drama, with the three-hour running time allowing Kurosawa to really explore all seven of his heroes, while the location photography gives it a realistic look that still feels fresh.
Spirited Away (2001)
Director Hayao Miyazaki's eighth movie was an absolute phenomenon when it arrived in 2001. It broke all box office records in Japan, remaining the biggest film ever released there until last year's Dragon Slayer: Mugen Train, and in the US became the first (and to date, only) non-English language movie to win Best Animated Film at the Oscars. It's the story of a young girl who enters a strange spirit world that combines stunning animation and a unique sense of wonder, and it's easy to see why it captured the hearts of millions of viewers across the world.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Audiences didn't know what to make of David Lynch's Twin Peaks prequel when it arrived in 1992, a year after the show ended. Gone was the quirky comedy and soapy melodrama of the show, leaving just a terrifying, disturbing exploration of Laura Palmer's final few days. The film is perhaps as close as Lynch ever came to making a horror movie and is now a vital part of his filmography.
Clint Eastwood's revisionist western won nine Oscars and is one of the high points of his long career. It's a dark, brooding tale of a veteran killer who is brought out of retirement to collect a bounty in order to support his family, but finds himself drawn back into a violent world he thought he left long behind. It's got brilliant supporting performances from Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris, and themes of vengeance and redemption are powerfully told.