Last Updated: June 29th
In addition to being America’s most trusted source of Carnivale episodes, HBO has a lovely collection of movies available ranging from trashy action thrills to elegant period pieces to star-studded comedies. Here is a ranking of the 30 best movies on HBO that you could and should be watching right now.
Related: The Best Shows On HBO Ranked
1. Deadwood: The Movie (2019)
Run Time: 110 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
HBO managed to pull off the seemingly impossible with this follow-up movie based on a series that left us too soon. Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, and the rest of the residents of the camp are back to celebrate the South Dakota’s statehood in the only way this dusty drama knows how — with reignited rivalries, betrayals, bloodshed, and lots of swearin.’ The show became a fan favorite thanks to its gritty performances and nuanced storytelling, and the movie continues the tradition, investigating the lives of these pioneers who’ve endured plenty of hardship for their piece of the American dream.
2. Jaws (1975)
Run Time: 124 min | IMDb: 8.0/10
With just a few bars on the piano and an oversized mechanical shark, Steven Spielberg terrorized generations of moviegoers with Jaws. The film follows a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer who team up to hunt a great white shark who has a worrisome bloodlust and seems to be targeting a small beach town during the busiest time of the year. Spielberg’s camera work — the lingering, underwater shots, the quick cuts of flesh being torn from bone and rows of teeth flashing to the surface — make this exercise in inciting aquaphobia even more chilling. You’ll never look at a carefree day at the beach the same way again.
3. Us (2018)
Run Time: 116min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Jordan Peele’s nightmarish follow-up to Get Out cements the director’s status as a master of horror. This twisted tale follows an African-American family on vacation who encounter evil doppelgangers of themselves that hint at an even darker conspiracy. Lupita Nyong’o, and Winston Duke play a married couple, Adelaide and Gabe Wilson, who must protect their family from beings known as the “Tethered,” clones of themselves who have been trapped underground for decades and who are ready to take over on the surface. Peele takes fans on a thrilling ride, causing us to constantly question what’s real and who’s who but you probably won’t get a good night’s sleep after watching this thing.
4. Blindspotting (2018)
Run Time: 95 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Hamilton alum Daveed Diggs writes and stars in this crime drama that’s as funny as it is critical of our current justice system. Diggs plays Collin, a man with three days left on a probation sentence who’s trying to stay out of trouble on the streets of Oakland. His best friend, Miles (Rafael Casal), is also an Oakland native, but he’s white and the difference in how the two are treated when they too catch the attention of police makes up the bulk of the message here, as does Miles’ struggle to contend with a devastating choice he’s forced to make early on in the film. There’s humor, some emotional monologues performed as rap lyrics by Diggs, and beautiful cinematography to go along with it.
5. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Run Time: 147 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
Francis Ford Coppola’s war epic starring Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen is a feat of filmmaking and a wild, gory ride. It’s basically a reinventing of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness — a truly bonkers novel — with the bloody conflict in the Congo being swapped out for the then-timely Vietnam War. Sheen plays Captain Benjamin Willard, an Army officer tasked with assassinating Brando’s Colonel Kurtz, a renegade Army officer accused of murder. Most of the film’s action centers on Sheen’s secret mission, his journey from Vietnam to Cambodia, and his showdown with Brando’s Kurtz, who’s been driven mad with power.
6. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 7/10
Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and a handful of other embarrassingly talented actors carry this heartwarming family drama about two kids in search of their father. Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska play Laser and Joni, siblings conceived by artificial insemination. Their moms Jules (Moore) and Nic (Bening) each used the same sperm donor to have them and now, as the kids have grown up, they’ve become curious about this mystery paternal figure. Enter Ruffalo who plays a hippie restaurant owner named Paul that seems more interested in hooking up with Jules than getting to know his kids. It’s messy and difficult, but it’s a relatable story about unconventional family dynamics that feels refreshingly original.
7. Boy Erased (2018)
Run Time: 115 min | IMDb: 7/10
Nicole Kidman, Lucas Hedges, and Joel Edgerton star in this queer drama directed by Edgerton based off the memoir of author Garrad Conley. The film follows the son of a Baptist preacher (Hedges) who is outed to his strictly religious family and forced to undergo his church’s gay conversion therapy camp. There, he’s abused mentally and physically because of his queerness and his bonds with his family are tested.
8. Winter’s Bone (2010)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
A film noir set in the Ozarks of Missouri, Winter’s Bone was the breakthrough role for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old who looks after her family since her father disappeared. With the looming threat of losing her home, Ree goes in search of her missing father, ending up in a world of distrust and violence. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and though it didn’t take any Oscars home, it did win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
9. The Tale (2018)
Run Time: 114 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Laura Dern gives a hauntingly beautiful performance in Jennifer Fox’s autobiographical drama, The Tale. The film recounts Fox’s own history of sexual abuse at the hands of a riding instructor who was three times her age. Dern plays a grown-up version of Fox, a woman struggling to recall illicit memories of her past, to reconcile the relationship she thought she had as a teenager with a man old enough to be her father with what actually happened — years of grooming, mental, and physical abuse at the hands of adults she had put her trust in. It’s a brutal but necessary watch.
10. Casino Royale (2006)
Run Time: 144 min | IMDb: 8/10
Casino Royale marks Daniel Craig’s first James Bond entry, but he plays the suave MI6 agent like he’s been doing it for decades. The film gives fans of the spy franchise a soft reset, as we’re introduced to the new Bond when he sets off on his first mission as 007. Bond’s tasked with catching a private banker funding terrorist operations by beating him in a high-stakes game of poker in Montenegro, and he’s joined by Vesper Lynd (a terrific Eva Green), an MI6 accountant with a secret that threatens to derail the mission and may cost Bond his life.
11. Temple Grandin (2010)
Run Time: 120 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Inspirational without being self-congratulatory or condescending, Mick Jackson’s Temple Grandin places Claire Danes in the role of the real-life title character as she develops into a voice in animal science that cannot be ignored. A world that’s unaccommodating to autism and women in the ranching industry does not make things easy for Grandin and Danes portrays her with detail, intelligence and heart. Bonus points awarded for having the courage to include comedy and taking the effort to make something with warmth. You don’t get that too often in movies featuring the inner workings of slaughterhouses.
12. Joker (2019)
Run Time: 122 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
In case you didn’t catch it in theaters, or you just want to revisit the chaos and mayhem of Joaquin Phoenix’s troubled clown, Todd Phillips’ Joker is now on HBO Max. This gritty origin story imagines the DC supervillain as a mentally-ill clown-for-hire named Arthur, who spirals when his stand-up career turns sour, and he discovers some details about his lineage. Really, it doesn’t take much to put this guy over the edge.
13. Fight Club (1999)
Run Time: 139 min | IMDb: 8.8/10
There are timeless classics and then there’s David Fincher’s exercise in understanding modern masculinity (a.k.a. Fight Club). The film has managed to remain relevant over the decades, with fans finding new themes and messages to dig into when it comes to Edward Norton’s depressed, unfulfilled office worker and his machismo friend, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). The two start an underground fight club — with a now-famous set of rules — and wreak havoc on the city as they let loose their aggression and search for the meaning in life. But it’s the film’s surprise, introspective ending that really elevates this bloody drama.
14. Gangs of New York (2002)
Run Time: 167 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonard DiCaprio, and Cameron Diaz star in Martin Scorsese’s historical epic that re-imagines the birth of New York City. DiCaprio plays Amsterdam, an Irish immigrant who returns to the Five Points years following his father’s murder, looking for revenge. To get it, he infiltrates Bill the Butcher’s (Lewis) gang, a group of proud natives tired of the influx of foreigners in their city. Diaz plays a prostitute who forms a relationship with Amsterdam as he befriends Bill, then struggles to follow-through with his plan to kill the man who murdered his father and lead the Five Points in a rebellion against the city’s elite.
15. Alien (1979)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8.4/10
Ridley Scott basically invented sci-fi horror with this alien thriller about a crew on a commercial space tug who must battle a violent extraterrestrial being that’s infiltrated their ship. Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, an officer aboard the Nostromo, who’s forced to face down the titular Alien, an aggressive lifeform intent on killing the ship’s human crew. Most of the action revolves around Weaver’s attempts to destroy the creature and save her shipmates but it’s Scott’s direction behind the camera that creates the suspense and terror this film has become known for.
16. Mommy Dead And Dearest (2017)
Run Time: 82 min IMDb: 7.4/10
Erin Lee Carr’s spellbinding crime doc Mommy Dead and Dearest plunges into the bizarre and absorbing true story surrounding the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard. It’s an absorbing, strange and disturbing watch that doles out enough jaw-dropping moments in 83 minutes to put full seasons of TV to shame. Sundance hopefuls would have a field day with the visuals in this documentary if they were to try and adapt this stranger-than-fiction tale of manipulation, murder, and motherhood.
17. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Run Time: 131 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Keanu Reeves is back as everyone’s favorite dog-loving assassin but this time, he’s the bad guy on the run after he kills a member of the guild. While every killer worth their salt is gunning for him, Wick must reach out to some old friends for help. He dispatches handfuls of his comrades, rides the streets of New York City on horseback, and wanders through the desert, searching for a way to clear his name. It’s full of the high-concept action the franchise is known for and Reeves is having a blast playing the badass character he’s made iconic.
18. Die Hard (1988)
Run Time: 132 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Bruce Willis stars in this action classic that gave birth to a genre-defining franchise. Willis plays John McClane, an NYPD officer tasked with rescuing his wife and children from a group of German terrorists who hold a Christmas gathering hostage at an LA hotel. Alan Rickman plays the group’s leader, and it’s his bad guy that makes this thing so enjoyable to watch. That, and Willis’ iconic one-liners.
19. Moulin Rouge (2001)
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Baz Luhrmann’s bohemian rhapsody set in 1900s France follows the tale of a struggling writer who falls for a beautiful courtesan. Ewan McGregor plays Christian, a poet with grand ideas on love who move to the Montmarte district to write a novel and truly experience life. A trip to a pleasure theater called the Moulin Rouge introduces him to Satine (Nicole Kidman), a gorgeous performer who’s also caught the eye of a rich duke. Torn between her love for Christian and the trappings of her luxurious life, the pair embark on a forbidden romance that has disastrous consequences for everyone.
20. Real Women Have Curves (2002)
Run Time: 93 min IMDb: 7/10
Living up to the immense hype it earned at Sundance that year, Real Women Have Curves is a coming-of-age tale that balances drama and comedy while shining a spotlight on the acting skills of future Superstore star America Ferrera. (The film marked the actress’s cinematic debut.) Ferrera plays Ana García, a young Mexican-American woman navigating cultural, societal and familial expectations in Los Angeles as she works toward her goal of heading to college. Smart, dignified and occasionally bittersweet, Real Women Have Curves is a movie unafraid of its warmth and humanity.
21. A Star Is Born (2018)
Run Time: 136 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut racked up plenty of awards earlier this year, and now you can finally find out why (if you haven’t seen it in theaters like pretty much everyone else already has). Cooper plays a washed-up musician who finds inspiration in a talented singer played by Lady Gaga. The two have a whirlwind romance sprinkled with fame, mentions of addiction and mental illness, but ultimately, it ends in tragedy. Still, the soundtrack is a banger.
22. The Mighty Ducks (1992)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 6.5/10
Emilio Estevez stars in this family-favorite film, playing a self-centered lawyer from Minnesota who’s sentenced to community service coaching a youth hockey team. Gordon Bombay (Estevez) gets pulled for drunk-driving and must suffer his penance by returning to the sport of his youth, one that doesn’t hold nice memories. He ends up bonding with the rag-tag group of youngsters on his team, inspiring them to be better as they teach him something about not giving up and facing your demons. It’s a feel-good exercise in nostalgia.
23. Yesterday (2019)
Run Time: 116 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
What would you do if you woke up to a world without The Beatles? Well, if you had any musical talent you’d recreate their songs. That’s what Himesh Patel’s Jack does when an accident lands him in the hospital and he comes to in a world that doesn’t recognize some classic tunes — think “Hey Jude” and “Come Together.” Jack, an aspiring singer/songwriter, begins recording every Beatles number he can remember while his manager/best friend Ellie (Lily James) starts to think he’s some kind of lyrical genius. (Even Ed Sheeran can’t compete.) Really, this movie’s just an excuse to enjoy some classic Beatles medleys, but it’s also a heartwarming, surprisingly funny comedy that’s well-cast.
24. Behind The Candelabra (2013)
Run Time: 118 min | IMDb: 7/10
It’d be rude for a Liberace-focused film not to be showered in sparkly awards upon release, don’t you think? Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Films take on Scott Thorson’s memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace earned Emmys galore for its blend of effective drama and dark comedy. Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, and Scott Bakula all scored well-deserved praise and trophies for their work in this gripping (and appropriately stylish) drama that will have you scrambling down many a Wikipedia rabbit hole after.
25. Love, Actually (2003)
Run Time: 133 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Kiera Knightley, and a host of other famous faces star in this beloved holiday rom-com. The film follows a few different storylines, all connected by six degrees of separation that converge around Christmas. Knightley plays a recently-married woman who discovers her husband’s best friend is in love with her. Neeson plays a widower trying to care for his young son. Firth plays a writer scorned by love and given a second chance when he retreats abroad to finish his book. And Grant plays the newly-elected Prime Minister who falls for a member of his staff. There are more love stories in here, but really, just watch it if you’re that curious.
26. Grey Gardens (2009)
Run Time: 104 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore star in this HBO remake of the 1975 documentary of the same name. Lange plays “Big Eddie,” aunt to former First Lady Jackie Kennedy, while Barrymore plays “Little Edie,” Kennedy’s first cousin. The two women became famous when it was revealed that their estate, Grey Gardens, was in ruin and they’d been living there in squalor for years. The film chronicles their journey to destitution, following “Little Edie” as she tries and fails to make a name for herself away from her mother while “Big Eddie” tries to prevent the end of her marriage. It’s a gripping, tragic tale, one made more visceral thanks to some stellar performances by Lange and Barrymore.
27. Brexit (2019)
Run Time: 92 min | IMDb: 7/10
Benedict Cumberbatch plays political strategist Dominic Cummings, the man largely responsible for Britain’s Brexit mess. The guy spearheaded the campaign for the U.K. to separate from the European Union in 2015 but managed to skirt most of the bad press by ducking out after the vote passed. instead, he left it to the Prime Minister and party leaders to figure out what’s next. Cumberbatch plays the mastermind, a socially awkward, data-driven genius who seems to delight in the destruction of his own government, with a certain reserved glee that feels even more chilling than the boisterous nationalism his colleagues are known for.
28. In Bruges (2007)
Run Time: 107 min | IMDb: 7.9/10
In Bruges was the movie that revealed Colin Farrell could be funny. A character actor stuck in a leading man’s body, Farrell gives arguably the best performance of his career as Ray, a rookie Irish hitman on the run with his partner and mentor, Ken (Brendan Gleeson), after accidentally killing a kid while executing a priest. While that may not sound much like the premise of a comedy, director Martin McDonagh crafted a truly hilarious movie. Farrell and Gleeson play off each other wonderfully all the way to the film’s dark finale. But as great as they are, they’re overshadowed at times by an incredible performance from Ralph Fiennes as their boss, Harry. Fiennes is at once funny and terrifying as a man steadfast in his principles, even when that involves committing murder.
29. Contagion (2011)
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
It’s always surreal when life imitates art but watching Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded thriller during the age of Corona feels more like a warning than anything. That’s because Soderbergh approaches the film’s plot — a deadly virus originating in China ravages the planet forcing regular civilians and CDC workers to do the unthinkable in order to survive — with a methodical, scientific formula. There are real stakes, especially when we watch Matt Damon’s character scramble to save what’s left of his family or Laurence Fishburne fail to manage the crisis as a CDC head, but there’s also so much scientific jargon that this could be taught in schools. It probably should.
30. Bridesmaids (2011)
Run Time: 125 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph star in this raunchy comedy about a woman on the brink of marriage and her best friend who’s struggling through a series of failures in her life. Wiig plays Annie, a woman who lost her bakery and relationship in one fell swoop right before her friend Lillian (Rudolph) gets engaged. To make matters worse, there’s competition for the maid of honor spot when Lillian finds a new friend in the wife of her fiancé’s boss (played by the excellent Rose Byrne). Ruined bachelorette parties, Parisian wedding showers, and quite possibly the funniest, most disgusting poop explosion to ever happen on screen, quickly follow.
Recent Changes Through July 2020:
Removed: BlacKkKlansman, Shutter Island
Added: Jaws, Gangs of New York