The 20 best movies on HBO Max right now

What’s the difference between HBO and HBO Max? Volume and selection. HBO and its previous streaming options, HBO Now and HBO Go, were constrained by the programming that was currently available for HBO’s cable channel. But that restraint is no longer in place with HBO Max, and that’s allowed Warner Bros. to throw open its film vaults and add some of the greatest movies ever made to the lineup.

At this very moment, an incredible selection of movies is waiting for you, from the classics of decades past to the unforgettable animated films by Studio Ghibli. To maximize your HBO Max experience, we’ve assembled the top 20 films currently available to stream at a moment’s notice.

Looking for additional suggestions? We also have guides to best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Amazon Prime, and the best movies on Disney+.

Elizabeth Moss in The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man (2020)

Universal wisely moved away from its shared universe ambitions with its stand-alone horror flick The Invisible Man. Director Leigh Whannell re-envisioned H.G. Wells’ classic novel into a more modern story of terror. The actual invisible man isn’t the focus at all. Instead, the spotlight drops on Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss), a woman who is desperate to get out of her abusive relationship with the cruel Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy entrepreneur. Upon Adrian’s death, Cecilia finds herself haunted by an unseen force that slowly destroys her life and threatens her sanity. The movie is particularly terrifying in the small moments where the audience can discern the Invisible Man’s presence right before he strikes again. The Invisible Man is a triumph, and it’s a horror film that elevates the entire genre.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Sci-fi, Horror, Thriller
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid
Director: Leigh Whannell
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Upon its release, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? shocked audiences with its frank and even profane dialogue, as well as its portrait of two volatile marriages. The cinematic adaptation of the hit Broadway play still has its power more than five decades later. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s Martha and George dominate the film as they share drinks with a young couple, Nick (George Segal) and Honey (Sandy Dennis). To hurt each other, Martha and George reveal painful secrets to their younger counterparts. However, Nick and Honey have more than a few skeletons of their own, and the verbal jousts between the couples are riveting. It’s an unforgettable experience, to say the least.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, Sandy Dennis
Director: Mike Nichols
Rating: NR
Runtime: 124 minutes

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It: Chapter Two

It: Chapter Two (2019)

For reasons we can’t explain, the excellent It: Chapter One is not currently on HBO Max. However, the sequel, It: Chapter Two, is available, and it brings Stephen King’s novel to a successful close. Director Andy Muschietti assembled an incredible cast to play the Losers as adults, including Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, and Isaiah Mustafa. Their younger counterparts also appear one last time as the kids return to the town of Derry 27 years after Pennywise the Clown was defeated. However, Pennywise has been waiting for the Losers, and he uses their personal demons against them in a horrific fashion. The only thing that the Losers can count on is each other, and that gives the film its humanity.

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Genre: Horror, Drama
Stars: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader
Director: Andy Muschietti
Rating: R
Runtime: 169 minutes

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When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally asks whether men and women can truly be friends, especially if sex gets in the way. Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) share differing views on the issue, and it colors their on-and-off friendship over the course of 12 years. Harry and Sally have a lot of conflicting emotions about each other, but they keep finding themselves in a shared orbit. One of the things that makes this movie pop is the instantly quotable dialogue between the pair. Especially that scene in the deli. Let’s just say we’ll have what she’s having.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Stars: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher
Director: Rob Reiner
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

In 1789, Fletcher Christian led a mutiny on the HMS Bounty against its cruel Captain, William Bligh, and attempted to form his own colony with the survivors. That tale captured the imagination of early Hollywood studios when director Frank Lloyd adapted Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s novel about the events. Clark Gable played Fletcher Christian, while Charles Laughton had an unforgettable turn as Captain Bligh. The film’s historical accuracy is questionable, and Christian was guilty of some crimes of his own. Regardless, this was a rousing retelling that earned Mutiny on the Bounty the Best Picture Oscar in 1936. If you’re looking to brush up on your old Hollywood flicks, this is a good place to start.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Charles Laughton, Clark Gable, Franchot Tone
Director: Frank Lloyd
Rating: NR
Runtime: 132 minutes

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Malcolm X

Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X biopic is a masterpiece that brings together the various stages of his life, including his difficult childhood, his time as a criminal, and his transformative experience in prison that led Malcolm Little to become Malcolm X. Denzel Washington carries the movie on his shoulders and gives Malcolm a nuanced portrayal that includes both his failings and triumphs. Lee wasn’t afraid to show Malcolm’s vulnerable side, and he didn’t attempt to gloss over his imperfections. Malcolm is simply a man who made choices that turned him into a symbol. Malcolm X’s story is compelling, and this remains one of Lee’s greatest films to date.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall
Director: Spike Lee
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 201 minutes

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Galaxy Quest

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Galaxy Quest has been called one of the greatest Star Trek films ever made. And that’s not an inaccurate description. Galaxy Quest deftly balances sci-fi and comedy while offering a loving tribute to the original Star Trek series. Tim Allen leads the cast as Jason Nesmith, the star of a canceled sci-fi series, Galaxy Quest. After aliens who have been receiving broadcasts of the show in deep space confuse the TV show with real “historical documents,” Nesmith and his convention-hopping former co-stars find themselves thrust into a very real outer space adventure. The late Alan Rickman shines as Alexander Dane, a dramatic British actor forced to take on the role of the Spock-like Dr. Lazarus. Dane’s portrayal of Lazarus means so much to the aliens that he gradually embraces and becomes the iconic Doctor, leading him to embrace the character’s marquee (albeit cheesy) catchphrase: “By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the Sons Of Warvan, you shall be avenged!”

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Genre: Sci-fi, Comedy
Stars: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub
Director: Dean Parisot
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Us (2019)

Jordan Peele’s second feature film, Us, is less grounded than Get Out. But it also has a very unique premise. Decades ago, a young girl named Adelaide met her exact doppelgänger in an amusement park house of mirrors. In the present, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), and their children, Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), are confronted by a family of horrific, nearly-identical counterparts. Adelaide’s double, Red, explains that the clones are “tethered” to their surface-world selves, and they’ve come for revenge. Unfortunately for Adelaide and her family, this isn’t an isolated incident. Us dramatically increases the stakes over the course of the movie. And you’ll never look at Hands Across America the same way again.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Horror
Stars: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss
Director: Jordan Peele
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

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Training Day

Training Day (2001)

Denzel Washington was long overdue to win the Oscar for Best Actor before landing the lead in Training Day. Washington finally got that Oscar for his portrayal of Alonzo Harris, a corrupt LAPD officer. Harris is so magnetic that it’s understandable why rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) finds it so difficult to challenge his training officer. Over the course of a day, Hoyt gets a firsthand view of just how dirty Harris really is, and it nearly brings Hoyt down, too. Even when Harris lets his mask drop, Washington is in full command of the screen. Training Day gave cinema one of its all-time great antiheroes, and it still works two decades later.

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Stars: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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Se7en (1995)

Director David Fincher’s Se7en remains a haunting thriller 25 years after its initial release. The film follows veteran detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and his new partner, David Mills (Brad Pitt). Somerset also forms a friendship with Mills’ wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), as the two detectives are drawn into a serial killer’s deadly web. The killer has set up elaborately staged deaths that represent the seven deadly sins. And he’s always one step ahead of the cops. Se7en’s ending has been parodied numerous times, but it dared to go to dark places that most films would have steered away from. “What’s in the box? What’s in the box?!”

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Stars: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: David Fincher
Rating: R
Runtime: 127 minutes

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2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi drama is widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made and follows the crew of a spacecraft bound for Jupiter to investigate a mysterious alien monolith. Along with offering a chilling tale of artificial intelligence gone awry, it also explores some complicated philosophical themes pertaining to extraterrestrial life and human evolution with Oscar-winning visual effects that make a great film even better.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Sci-fi, Drama
Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Rating: G
Runtime: 139 minutes

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Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca, the Oscar-winning film that gave the world the iconic line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” casts Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as a pair of star-crossed lovers caught up in the dire events of World War II. Bogart portrays an American expatriate who’s forced to choose between the love of his life and the life he’s grown to love in the city of Casablanca.

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Genre: Romance, Drama
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Director: Michael Curtiz
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (1941)

Often cited as the greatest movie ever made, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane chronicles the rise and fall of fictional newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, who rose from poverty to become a prominent player in American politics. Welles directed, co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film, which famously explores its titular character’s life in an attempt to discern the meaning of his dying words.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Joseph Cotten
Director: Orson Welles
Rating: PG
Runtime: 119 minutes

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The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The first chapter in filmmaker Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, this film offers the perfect introduction to author J.R.R. Tolkien’s magical world of hobbits, elves, orcs, and wizards. Elijah Wood plays the saga’s reluctant hero, Frodo Baggins, who is swept away on a far-reaching journey by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen), with the ultimate fate of his world at stake.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Fantasy, Action & Adventure
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Bean
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 165 minutes

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The Matrix

The Matrix (1999)

Directing duo The Wachowskis made themselves household names with this 1999 film that cast Keanu Reeves as a mild-mannered computer programmer who discovers that the world he perceives is actually a simulation. Reeves’ character soon finds himself drawn into a rebellion against the machines that have turned humanity into a complicated network of batteries. A seminal classic in the cyberpunk genre, The Matrix blended elements of classic martial arts cinema with modern sci-fi filmmaking techniques to create a film unlike anything else at the time. It’s also one of the best Keanu Reeves movies of all time.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
Director: The Wachowskis
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

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My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki wrote and directed this 1988 Japanese animated feature about a small family who moves to the countryside in postwar Japan. Throughout the film, their experiences there bring them into contact with all sorts of fantastic wood spirits from Japanese lore and help them cope with both tragedy and joy as they acclimate to their new environment. One of the animation shop Studio Ghibli’s most popular films, My Neighbor Totoro is beloved around the world.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Fantasy, Family
Stars: Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: G
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and a long list of other familiar faces team up for this ensemble film that remakes the 1960 movie of the same name. The film follows a pair of friends who put together a team to pull off a daring simultaneous heist of three Las Vegas casinos. It was so successful it spawned not just two sequels but also a female-led 2018 spinoff movie, too.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Genre: Heist, Drama, Comedy
Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy García, Bernie Mac, Julia Roberts
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 117 minutes

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Spirited Away

Spirited Away (2001)

Acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and the animators at Studio Ghibli crafted this tale of a young girl who finds herself drawn into the fantastic world of Japanese Shinto folklore after an encounter with a powerful witch puts her — and her family — in danger. To date, Spirited Away remains the only hand-drawn, non-English film to win the Academy Award for the year’s Best Animated Feature and was ranked the fourth-best film of the 21st century in a 2016 poll of international film critics. You can also check out the best anime series on Netflix if you’re looking for more like this.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Fantasy, Family
Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Mari Natsuki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: PG
Runtime: 124 minutes

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Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman (2017)

The highest-grossing movie of all time from a solo female director and the best-reviewed film in Warner Bros. Pictures’ DC Extended UniverseWonder Woman broke just about every record possible when it hit theaters in 2017. The film casts Gal Gadot as the eponymous DC Comics heroine and follows her journey from her hidden island home of Themyscira to the frontlines of World War I as she attempts to thwart the machinations of a powerful villain manipulating humanity. The film’s sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, is currently scheduled to hit theaters on August 14.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Fantasy
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine
Director: Patty Jenkins
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 141 minutes

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The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Judy Garland famously took on the role of Dorothy Gale in this 1939 adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and her quest to find her way home from the magical world of Oz soon became the stuff of Hollywood legends. Along with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy’s journey took her from Kansas to the Emerald City of Oz and again, freeing an entire kingdom from a wicked witch along the way. Few would argue the film’s status as one of the greatest movies ever made, and its iconic status has spanned generations of audiences.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Genre: Fantasy, Family
Stars: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr
Director: King Vidor, Victor Fleming
Rating: G
Runtime: 101 minutes

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