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The 50 best movies on HBO right now

HBO has been around for so long that it’s easy to forget that its name is an abbreviation of Home Box Office. This year, HBO has expanded its brand even further with HBO Max, a new streaming service that has vastly improved its library of films.

From the very beginning of its existence, HBO has had some of the best movies available. The big difference now is that we can watch many of these films on demand at a moment’s notice. It’s a wonderful change from staying up late to catch your favorite flick at 3 a.m. But it also makes it a little trickier to find the best of the best.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go far to find the best movies on HBO. We’ve already put the list together!

Additional streaming guides

High Fidelity, best movies on HBO right now

High Fidelity (2000)

Pop quiz: What are your top five favorite John Cusack movies? Chances are good that High Fidelity is on that list. That’s fitting because Cusack’s Rob Gordon loves making top five lists all throughout the movie. Poor Rob also loves Laura (Iben Hjejle), but not as much as he loves music. With his relationship on the rocks, Rob tries to figure out how he can improve himself. Regardless, the real joy in the movie comes during the moments when Rob just can’t help embracing his inner music geek. The man’s got good taste!

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Stars: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Tim Robbins
Director: Stephen Frears
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

The Iron Giant, best movies on HBO right now

The Iron Giant (1999)

Warner Bros. Animation doesn’t make a lot of theatrical films anymore, but The Iron Giant is something special. This beautifully animated flick has the heart and soul that we commonly expect from a Pixar movie. Small wonder that writer and director Brad Bird was subsequently swooped up by Pixar. Vin Diesel voices the titular Iron Giant, an alien weapon from another world who befriends a young boy named Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) at the height of the communist paranoia in the ’50s. Hogarth teaches the Giant that he can choose who he wants to be, and it’s a lesson that the Giant takes to heart. This is an all-time classic, and every family should watch it.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Sci-fi
Stars: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel
Director: Brad Bird
Rating: PG
Runtime: 87 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

The Mask, best movies on HBO right now

The Mask (1994)

“Somebody stop me!” Trust us, there was no stopping Jim Carrey in The Mask. The rubber-faced comedian played Stanley Ipkiss, a hapless banker who was transformed by a magic mask into … The Mask. Unlike the violent comic that inspired it, The Mask leaned far more heavily toward Carrey’s brand of comedy, as he literally swept lounge singer Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) off her feet while making life hell for her crime-boss boyfriend. This movie had a star-making turn by Diaz, and one of our all-time favorite movie dogs. But we always come back for Carrey’s hilarious performance.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Stars: Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Riegert
Director: Charles Russell
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 101 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

East of Eden, best movies on HBO right now

East of Eden (1955)

John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden, had only been published three years prior to the book’s first cinematic adaptation. And a young James Dean gave an emotionally charged performance in his first-ever theatrical film. Dean plays Caleb Trask, a son desperate to gain the love of his father, Adam (Raymond Massey). But Adam favors his other son, Aron (Richard Davalos), so strongly that it drives the brothers apart. It doesn’t help that both brothers have fallen for the same girl, Abra Bacon (Julie Harris). Caleb’s trump card is a secret that he’s kept from his brother. But releasing that secret in anger may destroy the entire Trask family. Even after several decades, this movie retains its power.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey
Director: Elia Kazan
Rating: PG
Runtime: 117 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

An American Pickle on HBO

An American Pickle (2020)

The first HBO Max Original film, An American Pickle stars Seth Rogen in two roles — a 1920s immigrant who is accidentally pickled and woken up in the present day, and his computer-coding great-grandson. As you might expect, the two men have nothing in common except that they look exactly alike. Initially planned as a Sony release, An American Pickle likely garnered greater hype when it pivoted to HBO Max. The film is based on a 2013 novella by Simon Rich and showcases Rogen at the peak of his talents.

Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook
Director: Brandon Trost
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 90 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

John Cena in Tour de Pharmacy

Tour de Pharmacy (2017)

After the success of 7 Days in Hell, a mockumentary about a legendary tennis match between two fictional idiots, the Andy Samberg-led team earned a second go-round via HBO. The result? Tour de Pharmacy, a story that spoofs the Tour de France by focusing on competitors’ use of performance-enhancing substances in the early 1980s. Samberg returns to play Nigerian rider Marty Hass, while Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore, Daveed Diggs, and John Cena appear as the other made-up competitors. Tour de Pharmacy is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and the concept is bolstered by the inclusion of several veteran actors — we won’t spoil the hilarious surprises here — who play the “modern-day” versions of the film’s protagonists. Lance Armstrong’s cameo doesn’t hurt, either.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Genre: Comedy, Sports
Stars: Andy Samberg, Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore
Director: Jake Szymanski
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 50 minutes

 Watch on HBO MAX

Pick Flick in Election!

Election (1999)

Is there a better villain for our time than Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick? After escaping the consequences of an affair with a teacher, Tracy earns the ire of Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), the teacher charged with overseeing the election for school president. In Election, Jim takes his largely one-sided feud with Tracy too far, much to his detriment. Chris Klein is a comedic standout as football player Paul Metzler, who inadvertently becomes Tracy’s rival at Jim’s behest. Paul’s sister, Tammy Metzler (Jessica Campbell), is also hilarious as her attempts to openly destroy student government only makes her more popular. The consequences catch up to everyone … except for Tracy, of course.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein
Director: Alexander Payne
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Elisabeth Moss in The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man (2020)

One of the best movies of 2020 is a modern update of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. This loose adaptation follows Elisabeth Moss’ Cecilia Kass, a woman desperate to escape an abusive relationship with Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). Even Adrian’s apparent death isn’t enough to free Cecilia from his shadow, especially when she’s plagued by an unseen assailant. The Invisible Man has several moments of sheer suspense and terror as Cecilia’s tormentor finds new ways to get under her skin. It’s genuinely terrifying at times, but the best thing about it is Cecilia’s refusal to be a victim. Cecilia fights to save herself, and it’s a riveting conflict all the way to the end.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid
Director: Leigh Whannell
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

 Watch on HBO MAX

Clerks on HBO Max

Clerks (1994)

Clerks was the film that famously launched the career of writer and director Kevin Smith, who also co-stars in the movie as Silent Bob alongside Jason Mewes’ Jay. While Jay and Silent Bob became staples of Smith’s later films, Clerks belongs to Brian O’Halloran’s Dante Hicks and Jeff Anderson’s Randal Graves. Dante and Randal’s banter showed off Smith’s gift for dialogue, but it also allowed them to be more than just Smith’s pop culture sounding board. The duo justifiably have contempt for their dead-end jobs, but they don’t necessarily appreciate the good things they do have. It’s a hard lesson for Dante to learn, but he does get the point in the end.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes
Director: Kevin Smith
Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Dave on HBO Max

Dave (1993)

Imagine if politicians really cared about the people they represent. It’s a wonderful dream, isn’t it? Dave allows us to buy into the fantasy by casting Kevin Kline in a dual role as President William Harrison Mitchell and his every-man doppelganger, Dave Kovic. The President’s unscrupulous Chief of Staff, Bob Alexander (Frank Langella), recruits Dave to stand in for the President during public appearances. And when Mitchell suffers a stroke, Dave is roped into the job of a lifetime.

However, Dave turns out to be a great President, much to Bob’s chagrin. He’s so good at playing his role that even the President’s wife, Ellen (Sigourney Weaver), is fooled … for a while. But even this great deception has to come to an end. Trust us, this is as sweet and funny as political comedies get.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella
Director: Ivan Reitman
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 110 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Oprah Winfrey in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017)

Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cancer cells, biopsied during treatment for cervical cancer in 1951, became one of the most important cell lines in medical research. Lacks’ family was not made aware of her unwitting contributions to modern medicine, however, until 1975. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on the nonfiction book of the same name, which documents the story of Lacks (Renee Elise Goldsberry) as told by author Rebecca Skloot (portrayed by Rose Byrne in the film) and Lacks’ daughter, Deborah Lacks (Oprah Winfrey). The HBO film was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for an Outstanding Television Movie, and Winfrey went on to be nominated for multiple awards for her role in the film.

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Oprah Winfrey, Rose Byrne
Director: George C. Wolfe
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 94 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Denzel Washington and Ray Allen in He Got Game

He Got Game (1998)

NBA star Ray Allen turns in a surprisingly compelling performance in Spike Lee’s classic about a star high school basketball player left to find for himself after his father is sent away to prison. Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) spent the last six years in prison after accidentally killing his wife during a violent domestic dispute and, in that time, his son Jesus has blossomed into one of the most highly-touted basketball prospects in the nation — so highly-touted that the governor offers Jake a week of parole in order to convince Jesus to attend the governor’s alma mater. If he succeeds, Jake will receive a shortened sentence.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Denzel Washington, Ray Allen
Director: Spike Lee
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Native Son on HBO

Native Son (2019)

A thoroughly modern adaptation of Richard Wright’s groundbreaking novel, this HBO original tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American man living in Chicago who stumbles into a frightening new world of wealth and whiteness. Despite the new age clubs, music, and drugs, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the 1940 novel, yet doesn’t feel dated or coerced — arguably the most damning and upsetting aspect of the film. It’s a harrowing reminder that, while times change, some haven’t changed nearly enough.

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Ashton Sanders, Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson
Director: Rashid Johnson
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 110 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu

Detective Pikachu (2019)

You thought catching augmented reality Pokémon with your smartphone in your backyard was cool? The fictional world of Rhyme City will blow your mind. In Detective Pikachu, Rhyme City is a place where humans and Pokémon are united, bonded to one another sort of like a dog and its human. They work together to fight crime, put out fires, and govern their world. There’s a beautiful harmony. However, when ace detective Harry Goldman goes mysteriously missing, his amnesiac Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), discovers Harry’s son, Tim, can actually understand him. Together, they set out to discover what really happened to Harry and, in the process, uncover a deep, dark conspiracy that threatens to unravel the balance between humans and Pokémon forever. With realistic-looking CGI-generated Pokémon in nearly every shot, this movie is a visual delight, and the story holds water enough for fans of all ages.

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Kids & Family
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton
Director: Rob Letterman
Rating: PG
Runtime: 104 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise (1995)

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy star as two young people from very different worlds in this dreamy depiction of falling in love in Vienna from Richard Linklater. The first in a decades-spanning trilogy that follows the couple throughout their lives, Before Sunrise is one of the most awe-inspiringly banal and raw romances you’ll ever see. It’s light-hearted, sweet, innocent, and funny while also fierce and explosive. Hawke and Delpy are both brilliant, fully knowing that they only have this night together to remember one another for the rest of their lives.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Drama, Romance
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Rating: R
Runtime: 101 minutes

 Watch on HBO MAX

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunset

Before Sunset (2004)

The second film in The Before trilogy is also on HBO. But, unfortunately, the final film — Before Midnight — is not. Picking up nine years after the events of the first film, Jesse and Celine cross paths again in Paris, getting the chance most people never do: To see what might have been. Unfortunately, they both have nine years of baggage and just a few hours to figure out if they really do belong together.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Drama, Romance
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Rating: R
Runtime: 81 minutes

Watch on HBO MAX

Joker on HBO Max

Joker (2019)

One of the most acclaimed and discussed films from the past year, 2019’s Joker isn’t for the faint of heart. There are moments that would disturb even the most hardened sensibilities within people. That being said, Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the iconic villain is impossible to look away from, as there’s something surprisingly human about Arthur Fleck’s descent into madness and as he becomes the Joker. Fleck’s inability to control his laughter creates a maniacal character rooted in deep sadness, one who can’t get out of his own way despite often having good intentions. There’s a reason Joker ascended the usual bias against comic book films, earning 11 Oscar nominations and a Best Actor win for Phoenix.

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Genre: Drama, crime
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro
Director: Todd Phillips
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Bridesmaids on HBO

Bridesmaids (2011)

One of the funniest films of the last decade, 2011’s Bridesmaids raunchily runs through a series of hilarious scenarios, led by some of the greatest female comedians alive. Single woman Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is asked to be the maid of honor at Lillian Donovan’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding, a role she accepts, becoming part of the wedding party along with Donovan’s eccentric and wild bridesmaids. Jealousy and distrust are rampant among this group of women, leading to incidents of backstabbing and sabotage all-around. Rose Byrne and Ellie Kemper are among the cast of hilarious bridesmaids, but the scene-stealer throughout is Melissa McCarthy. Wiig gets the best line in the film, though: “There’s a colonial woman on the wing!”

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Genre: Comedy, romance
Stars: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy
Director: Paul Feig
Rating: R
Runtime: 132 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Alien (1979)

Regardless of how you feel about its many sequels and prequels, 1979’s Alien — the sci-fi film that started it all — is a wonderfully crafted tale of horror and paranoia in the void of space. The crew of the Nostromo is ordered to investigate a signal from a nearby planet, but one of them brings back an unexpected passenger attached to his face. The shrinking crew find themselves acting as prey to a perfect alien killing machine while at the same time dealing with the ship’s artificial intelligence that’s willing to sacrifice everyone on board to get this new specimen back to Earth. Terrifying and suspenseful, Alien is a great watch for fans of horror and science fiction.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
Director: Ridley Scott
Rating: R
Runtime: 117 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

A Fish Called Wanda is a heist comedy starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda, the only woman in a gang of jewel thieves all infatuated with the young American. When Wanda and Otto (Kevin Kline) turn the gang leader Georges into the police after a successful heist, they discover he hid the diamonds. Wanda seduces Georges’ barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese) in hopes of finding the diamonds’ location, and everything gets complicated once the jealous anglophobe Otto starts thinking with his fists. Kline is particularly funny as the clueless but deadly Otto. Cleese and fellow Monty Python alum Michael Palin share only one scene, and consequently it’s the funniest part of the flick.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline
Director: Charles Crichton
Rating: R
Runtime: 98 minutes

Watch on HBO MAX

My Left Foot (1989)

The Oscar-winning drama My Left Foot is a large part of what made Daniel Day-Lewis a household name. The film is based on the autobiography of writer and painter Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy and could only write, type, or paint with his left foot. Day-Lewis’ immersion into the character is complete, showing you Brown’s personality flaws along with his physical limitations. My Left Foot is inspiring and upbeat despite Brown’s often difficult journey, and is absolutely a film everyone should see at least once.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison Whelan
Director: Jim Sheridan
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Good Boys on HBO

Good Boys (2019)

How often do you get to enjoy a movie whose stars are too young to see the movie without parental supervision? In 2019’s Good Boys, a trio of best friends in the sixth grade get into a lot more than they bargained for when they’re invited to a party hosted by a popular student. Hoping to learn the art of kissing, the boys spy on a pair of teenage girls with a drone, sparking a series of events that finds them running from the ruthless teen girls and the cops, while forcing them into hilarious situations they barely understand. Good Boys is a perfect blend of adult humor and childlike innocence and it will have you laughing for hours.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady Noon
Director: Gene Stupnitsky
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Jojo Rabbit on HBO

Jojo Rabbit (2019)

A 2020 nominee for Best Picture, Jojo Rabbit is likely the most light-hearted film you’ll ever see about Nazi Germany. This World War II satire follows a young German boy, Jojo, who is extremely passionate about his involvement in the Hitler Youth. His imaginary friend is even Adolf Hitler himself! But when he discovers his mother is harboring a Jewish girl in their home, his entire world is turned upside down. Everything he’s learned about the Jewish people appears to be utterly false, and Jojo is forced to confront his blind nationalism as the Nazi party gets increasingly, dangerously desperate around him.

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Stars: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 108 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Richard Jewell on HBO

Richard Jewell (2019)

In 1996, security guard Richard Jewell was the first person to report finding the device at the Atlanta bombing. His report makes him a hero whose swift actions saved lives. However, he soon becomes the FBI’s number one suspect, becoming the subject of the wrath of the press and public alike as suspicions are reported as truth. With the help of anti-establishment attorney Watson Bryant, Jewell staunchly proclaims his innocence while Bryant is completely overwhelmed by the combined might of the FBI, GBI, and APD, and struggles mightily to keep Richard from trusting the people who are trying to destroy him.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: R
Runtime: 129 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Cast Away (2000)

In 2000’s Cast Away, FedEx systems analyst Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is forced to slow down. Noland is traveling the globe, getting FedEx offices in other countries to manage their time better, when his plane goes down over the Pacific Ocean. Noland goes from making the fast modern world even faster to struggling to survive on an island where his only companion is Wilson — a volleyball that washes ashore and that Noland talks to in his isolation. While Helen Hunt plays his longtime partner Kelly back in civilization, Hanks carries the movie almost completely on his own, showing us what we’re capable of when things get primal.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Stars: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 143 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Ed Skrein in Midway

Midway (2019)

Roland Emmerich brings his bombastic style to World War II in Midway, this action-packed triumph centered on the Battle of Midway. The real Midway marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater as an overmatched American fleet defeated the Imperial Japanese Navy to establish a greater foothold in the Pacific. This star-studded film is filled with nonstop, ultra-patriotic naval and aerial warfare.

Rotten Tomatoes: 41%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama
Stars: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans
Directors: Roland Emmerich
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 138 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead on HBO

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

With a stellar cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, you expect great things from the 2007 crime drama Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and it doesn’t disappoint. Hoffman plays Andy, an embezzling executive who ropes his younger brother Hank (Hawke) into a scheme to rob their family’s jewelry store to escape the wolves at both their doors. Andy doesn’t know his wife Gina (Tomei) is having an affair with Hank, and that’s just one of many things that complicate matters once the robbery goes sideways. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a great, tense, heist-gone-wrong film with top-notch actors portraying its deeply flawed characters.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei
Director: Sidney Lumet
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

La La Land (2016)

While it’s set in modern-day Los Angeles, 2016’s La La Land hearkens back to earlier eras of Hollywood when the musical ruled the screen. Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) are lovers whose romance is strained by their ambitions. Mia is struggling to make a name for herself as an actress while Sebastian is an aspiring jazz musician. What follows is a visually gorgeous and enchanting romantic musical comedy, with a standout performance by Stone, for which she won a more-than-deserved Oscar for Best Actress. If you want to know why La La Land was nominated for an amazing fourteen Oscars, including six wins, now would be a good time to take a look.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Director: Damien Chazelle
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 128 minutes

Watch on HBO Max

Blood Simple on HBO

Blood Simple (1984)

All great artists have to start somewhere and for Joel and Ethan Coen — the collaborators who have given us a diverse library of great films including The Big LebowskiNo Country for Old Men, and Fargo — that beginning is the 1984 crime thriller Blood Simple. Frances McDormand stars in her feature film debut as Abby, a woman in a fruitless marriage who starts an affair with Ray (John Getz). When Abby’s jealous husband Marty (Dan Hedaya) finds out, he hires the ruthless private eye Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill them both. Along with giving Coen fans a glimpse at signatures repeated in later films, Blood Simple gives a wonderful cast of character actors a chance to shine — particularly Walsh, who is remarkably chilling as the killer Visser.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Stars: Frances McDormand, John Getz, M. Emmet Walsh
Director: Joel Coen
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

Watch on HBO MAX

Cinema Paradiso on HBO

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Unless you’re fluent in Italian, you’ll need the subtitles for 1988’s Cinema Paradiso, but the drama is worth the extra work. We follow Salvatore from childhood when he spends every free moment in the local theater, learning to run the projector from Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), to his adulthood when he becomes an acclaimed film director. An epic drama stretching from the end of World War II to the late ’80s, Cinema Paradiso is a touching and powerful movie about film, love, and making peace with your younger days.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars: Salvatore Cascio, Philippe Noiret
Director: Guiseppe Tornatore
Rating: R
Runtime: 86 minutes

 Watch on HBO MAX

Die Hard (1988)

Regardless of how you feel about the franchise it spawned (including future entries) or where you land in the ceaseless debate about whether or not it’s a Christmas movie, 1988’s Die Hard is still one of the best 80s action movies out there. In an era when actors with bodybuilder physiques like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone cornered the market on the action genre, Bruce Willis — who was still largely seen as a comic actor because of his work on the ABC dramedy Moonlighting — gave audiences a more flawed and believable hero in the form of unlucky New York cop John McClane. Not to mention the film gives us the devilishly fun villain Hans Gruber, played by the late Alan Rickman. It may not have as much fancy CGI as more contemporary action flicks, but Die Hard still holds up as one of the best.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Action, Suspense
Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman
Director: John McTiernan
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

The title gives it away — this is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part picks up where the original left off, with Emmet (Chris Pratt) trying to stave off an alien invasion, only to learn that a heart isn’t enough to stop the destruction of everything he knows and the start of a post-apocalyptic world. He then has to save his friends from the Systar System while continuing to build Apocalypseburg — it’s a lot. The zingers allow this to be a fun ride for children and parents alike, though you’ll have to look elsewhere for the first installment.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Genre: Family, Animation
Stars: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett
Director: Mike Mitchell
Rating: PG
Runtime: 107 minutes

 Watch on HBO MAX

Ad Astra (2019)

The big space movie in 2019 — because there’s a big space movie annually now — was Ad Astra. Starring Brad Pitt as Roy McBride, the sci-fi stunner sees Pitt travel into space in search of his father, who disappeared during a dangerous mission decades prior. The younger McBride must now find his father, the key to saving the solar system from power surges that have the potential to wipe out all of humanity. The narrative isn’t the most inventive, but Gray finds a way to mine emotion from minimalism and examine what it means to be human in a place so far from home. If slow, contemplative works aren’t for you, however, rest assured the visuals are mesmerizing.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Stars: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: James Gray
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 124 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Liberace is unmasked like never before in this HBO original film from 2013. The movie doesn’t give the full picture of the famous singer and pianist, but instead chooses to focus on the last decade of his life. Liberace (Michael Douglas) is introduced to animal trainer Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), who becomes an employee of Liberace and, eventually, one of his last great loves. The film is a haunting portrayal of celebrity isolation as well as the effects that homophobia and the AIDS crisis had on the world in the ’70s and ’80s. Douglas and Damon were both nominated for Emmy Awards, with Douglas winning.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Romance, Drama
Stars: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott Bakula
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 118 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

Jaws on HBO

Jaws (1975)

For fans of classic monster flicks, it doesn’t get much better than Jaws, a film about a ragtag group of individuals hell-bent on tracking down the man-eating great white plaguing a small resort town. Frankly, however, Jaws is less about the plot and more about how visceral and frightening a shark attack can be. Although rare in real life, the image remains seared in our minds by a movie nearly 50 years old, likely owing to the film’s score and penchant for delivering terror even when there’s no shark to be found. Needless to say, Steven Spielberg set a high bar for himself and all horror films to follow.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Stars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rating: PG
Runtime: 130 minutes

 Watch on HBO Max

School of Rock (2003)

If you want to be a teacher’s pet, watching School of Rock is probably a good place to start. Outside of gifting the world with one of the best original songs of the century so far, the film is iconic among a generation of people who grew up alongside Nickelodeon. Centered on Dewey Finn (Jack Black) and his quest to win the all-important Battle of the Bands, the film chronicles his formation of a new band, one that happens to revolve around students at the private school where he serves as a substitute teacher. Black perfectly embodies the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Finn, while a young Miranda Cosgrove makes her film debut as Summer, a character who would go on to share plenty of similarities with her Drake & Josh character in the succeeding years.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Comedy, Music
Stars: Jack Black, Joan Cusack
Director: Richard Linklater
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Hugh Jackman in Bad Education

Bad Education (2013)

The inner workings of the school system of a typical Long Island town may not sound like the most exciting backdrop for the dramatizing of a real-life event. Then again, it doesn’t get any more exciting than the biggest public school embezzlement in American history. In Bad Education, Hugh Jackman stars as Dr. Frank Tassone, a superintendent who can seemingly do no wrong in getting the Roslyn School District on the map. There are dark layers to Tassone, however, which start to unravel when assistant superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) is exposed for stealing money from the district. From there, things only get worse as student journalist Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan) works to discover the truth behind the district’s disappearing money.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Crime
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney
Director: Cory Finley
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 108 minutes

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Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line

Walk the Line (2005)

This musical biopic follows the early years of the legendary Johnny Cash. Battered by his brother’s accidental death and his abusive father, who blames him for the accident, Cash sets out for success on his own. After rising to fame with hits like “Ring of Fire” and “A Boy Named Sue,” Cash battles with substance abuse, financial instability, and emotional turmoil and risks losing it all. But when he crosses paths with June Carter, her devotion and support becomes his salvation.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin
Director: James Mangold
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep (2019)

What happened when little Danny Torrance — the boy writing “Red Rum” on the walls of the Overlook Hotel in The Shining — grew up? That’s the question that Doctor Sleep aims to answer. Forty years after the events of The Shining, Dan Torrance is still emotionally scarred by the trauma he endured at the Overlook, but he’s begun to find a little peace. That peace is shattered, however, when he meets Abra, a bold teenager with a powerful extrasensory gift known as the shine. Abra has sought Dan out, instinctively recognizing that Dan shares her power, and hopes that he can help her against the merciless Rose the Hat and her followers, who feed off the shine of innocents in their quest for immortality. Forming an unlikely alliance, Abra helps Dan discover and amplify his powers in a life-and-death struggle against Rose and The True Knot.

Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Genre: Horror
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson
Director: Mike Flanagan
Rating: R
Runtime: 151 minutes

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Precious (2009)

Based on Sapphire’s novel Push, Precious introduced the world to a future star in Gabourey Sidibe. In it, she plays the titular Precious, a young, impoverished teenager who has to deal with constant taunts and physical abuse at home. After becoming pregnant a second time, arrangements are made for Precious to go to an alternate school, where Ms. Blu Rain (Paula Patton) teaches Precious to read and write. With an assist from Ms. Weiss (Mariah Carey), Precious escapes her abusive situation and sets out to start a new life away from her mother (Mo’Nique). This was the acting debut for Sidibe, and Mo’Nique won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton
Director: Lee Daniels
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

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American Pie on HBO

American Pie (1999)

The genre of crude teen comedies submitted one of its most wild entries at the turn of the century with 1999’s American Pie. Four teenage boys are determined not to enter college without having lost their collective virginities, so they vow to do the deed by prom night. The movie is crass throughout its quick run and might not be a great watch for the whole family. Nevertheless, American Pie inspired a franchise that’s still going strong today, in addition to countless memes and jokes surrounding a boy and what he decides to do with a pie, much to the chagrin of his serious-faced father.

Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Stars: Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy
Director: Paul Weitz
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 minutes

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Birds of Prey on HBO

Birds of Prey (2020)

Introduced to the role in 2016’s critical bomb, but commercial home run, Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie gets another turn as fan-favorite Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. Told from Harley’s smart but certifiable point of view, Birds of Prey shows us how Harley goes from being the spurned lover of Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, to forgetting her “puddin'” and becoming her own gun-toting, butt-kicking self. Along the way, she gathers a team of former cops, killers, and super-powered singers to help her face down the endless criminal hordes of Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), aka Black Mask. McGregor is perfect as the brutal Sionis, who’s just as twisted as Harley or her ex-boyfriend, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is another standout as the lethal vigilante Huntress.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Genre: Action
Stars: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Director: Cathy Yan
Rating: R
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Conspiracy on HBO

Conspiracy (2001)

There are few films that you could find on HBO, or any other streaming service, more disturbing than Conspiracy — a dramatic retelling of the 1942 Wannsee Conference, during which high-ranking German officials met to ensure the cooperation of all the Reich’s departments over the so-called “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Using the only surviving transcript from the meeting, Conspiracy brings into focus the obscenely casual inhumanity of the various players, as well as the political rivalries within the Reich. Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as the skillfully manipulative Reinhard Heydrich, and Stanley Tucci is utterly chilling as the officiously cruel Adolf Eichmann.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth
Director: Frank Pierson
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

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Idiocracy on HBO MAX

Idiocracy (2006)

You may have heard the phrase “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Well in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, we learn that in the land of the morons, the one who’s not a complete moron is king … or at least, the President’s closest adviser. Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph play citizens from 2005 who’ve been frozen in suspended animation for 500 years only to be thawed out in a world where rampant consumerism has turned the nation into a collection of idiots. Skyscraper-sized piles of garbage are everywhere, most citizens can barely speak in complete sentences, and the executive office is run by President Camacho (Terry Crews), who comes off more like a modern-day professional wrestler. The modestly intelligent Joe Bauers (Wilson) is soon revealed to have the highest IQ in the land and is recruited by the government to dole out such groundbreaking advice as recommending the nation’s crops should be fed water instead of a sports drink. Along with being absolutely hilarious, Idiocracy can’t help but show us a world that looks more familiar than we’d like to admit.

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard
Director: Mike Judge
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

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Midnight Run on HBO

Midnight Run (1988)

You don’t get a more unlikely pair than Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, and the combination is hilarious. De Niro plays Jack Walsh, a burnt-out bounty hunter looking to retire, and his target is Jonathan Mardukas (Grodin), an accountant wanted for stealing from a dangerous mob boss. What should be a cakewalk is complicated by a rival bounty hunter, the mob, and the FBI, who all follow Walsh and Mardukas across the country. You could call it Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with guns, as Walsh and his prisoner are forced to take every form of transportation you can think of to make it to Los Angeles. Grodin is perfect as the accountant who nags Walsh about his nutrition and smoking, in between begging to be set free, while De Niro plays his role straight as a nail. The combination is pure comedy gold.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Comedy, Action
Stars: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, John Ashton
Director: Martin Brest
Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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Pearl Harbor on HBO

Pearl Harbor (2001)

In 2001, Pearl Harbor practically redefined what a movie could be. Director Michael Bay provided a glimpse into his action movie future with his depiction of the date that would “live in infamy.” The movie won a Best Sound Editing Oscar for its pulse-pounding action sequences illustrating the sheer terror of an air raid. With remarkable special effects that stand the test of time and emotional performances from Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Josh Hartnett, Pearl Harbor weaves a nice yarn of American life on the eve of Pearl Harbor and the gut-wrenching haymaker that was required to draw America into the war.

Rotten Tomatoes: 24%
Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, Romance
Stars: Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsdale, Josh Hartnett
Director: Michael Bay
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 183 minutes

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Se7en on HBO

Se7en (1995)

Morgan Freeman plays Detective William Somerset in this ’90s classic that looks like a Nine Inch Nails album sounds. In an unnamed city choked with hopelessness, a serial killer commits crimes shocking enough to shake even the most war-weary of detectives. Somerset is ready to pack it in for good when he takes on the case to catch the perpetrator, whose murders are based on the seven deadly sins. Brad Pitt is Mills, Somerset’s eager new partner, and together the pair take a dark journey into the mind of a man who is just as scarred by the world as he is a part of what’s scarring it. Se7en is absolutely mandatory viewing for anyone who loves movies, if for no other reason than to see Freeman in one of his most singular performances.

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

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The Matrix on HBO

The Matrix (1999)

Say what you will about its sequels, but with The Matrix, the Wachowskis not only delivered a visually groundbreaking action flick but one of cinema’s absolutely essential science fiction offerings. While the notion of an apocalyptic future when humans are at war with their robotic descendants doesn’t start or end with The Matrix, the Wachowskis broke the mold, going way, way down the rabbit hole with a decidedly deeper approach. Unlike Terminator or Battlestar Galactica, The Matrix uses the conflict between man and machine to inspire its audience to question reality itself — through a world where humans are literally farmed for energy, their minds placated by a simulated world the human race accepts as real. Until, that is, Neo (Keanu Reeves) shows up to save them. The fact that no more than a few months can go by without another viral article about a prominent scientist theorizing that we do, indeed, live in a Matrix-like simulation is proof that the Wachowskis succeeded.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Director: The Wachowskis
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

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Shazam! on HBO

Shazam! (2019)

Anyone who thinks the recent adaptations of DC superhero comics are too dark should spend some time with Shazam! As much as a comedy as it is a superhero flick, Shazam! renders the superhero fantasy more literal by giving us the young Billy Batson (Asher Angel), who transforms into a superhero with the uttering of a magical word. In the body of Shazam (Zachary Levi), Batson gets into all kinds of ridiculous nonsense that just about any teen would find themselves in if they were inexplicably gifted with superpowers including, of course, buying beer without getting carded. Eventually, though, Batson learns that being a superhero means doing more than just goofing around with his best friend (Jack Dylan Grazer) and showing off on social media, and the arrival of the villainous Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong) gives Shazam the chance to prove it.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Genre: Action, Comedy
Stars: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong
Director: David F. Sandberg
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 132 minutes

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Michael Clayton on HBO

Michael Clayton (2007)

If you haven’t seen Michael Clayton, you owe yourself a viewing of this powerful, intelligent thriller. George Clooney stars as the titular Clayton — the “fixer” for a large law firm, where he specializes in using backroom connections, bribes, and anything else he can muster to make problems go away before they come within 100 miles of a courtroom. His long-dormant conscience is reawakened when he’s tapped to rein in an old friend and colleague, Arthur Edens — played phenomenally by Tom Wilkinson — who’s threatening to leak documents that prove his client is guilty of knowingly producing a carcinogenic weed killer. Tilda Swinton is wonderfully tense and ruthless as Karen Crowder, the lead counsel for U-North who’s willing to do anything to shut Edens up.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Stars: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Tony Gilroy
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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