HBO’s finally entered the streaming game with its new platform, HBO Max, and for anyone still confused over how this new service differs from the O.G. HBO Now and HBO Go, we’ve just got one word for you: more.
More movies. More original series. More classic sitcoms and documentaries. Just more. That’s because HBO Max contains the full catalog of HBO’s original works and all the best stuff from Warner Brothers too — think Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, Watchmen and Wonder Woman. Of course, because there’s more, you’ll probably need help deciding what to watch first. That’s where we come in.
Here’s a roundup of the best movies currently streaming on HBO Max. Get to bingeing.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Peter Jackson gave fantasy fans a stunning adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic book series which deserves to be watched in chronological order, hence why we can’t pick just one film to shout out here. The main story follows Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a young hobbit faced with an impossible burden – to destroy the ring of Sauron, a Dark Lord with plans to destroy Middle Earth. He’s joined on his journey by wizards and elves and dwarves along the way as each faction fights their own battle against Sauron’s massive army.
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.
Run Time: 135 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Spike Lee does some of the best work of his long, impressive career with this true story about the first Black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, an African-American cop struggling to balance his duties on the job with his personal life and his involvement in the Black Panther movement. Stallworth is able to pass as a white man over the phone and soon launches an undercover operation, infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan and befriending its leader, David Duke (a brilliant Topher Grace). When Stallworth is forced to meet members of the Klan face-to-face, his partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) assumes his undercover identity, and both men lead an investigation that exposes the sinister core of the local KKK chapter.
The Harry Potter Series
There’s no YA fantasy series bigger than J.K. Rowling wizarding franchise, on paper or onscreen. It took a bit of magic to create a film adaptation that did this story justice but Warner Bros managed to pull it off, recruiting directors like Alfonso Cuaron and David Yates to thread the story of a boy wizard who must defeat a dark lord – and manage to pass his O.W.L.s – with bigger themes of friendship, loss, found family, and power. It’s epic. It’s our collective childhood. It’s everything a film series about magic and monsters should be.
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 onscreen, quickly follow.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Run Time: 167 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo 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.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Run Time: 149 min, IMDb: 7.5/10
Embraced by critics and filmgoers alike, Wonder Woman is living, breathing, ass-kicking proof that the DCEU is capable of providing superhero fare that doesn’t have to lead to shouty arguments over a Rotten Tomatoes score. Gal Gadot stars as Diana Prince (the titular woman of wonder) in Patty Jenkins’ exhilarating comic book motion picture set during World War I. Leaning into charm and fun alongside scenes of villain thumping, Wonder Woman sees our heroine as something too special not to stand out in her surroundings and the film is all the more captivating for it.
Run Time: 102 min | IMDb: 8.5/10
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Berman star in this cinematic classic. It’s on every must-watch list. It’s a national treasure. We really don’t need to sell it at this point but in case you’re unfamiliar, it’s the story of a cynical American expatriate who struggles to decide whether or not he should help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape French Morocco. Bogart and Berman’s chemistry is off the charts and the writing here is so smooth, so well-done, it makes you wonder why any other film ever tried after this thing came out.
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.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Run Time: 170 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
This ’90s sports documentary remains one of the most inspiring looks at the game of basketball, even 30 years after it first premiered. The film follows the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional. It’s filled with grit and emotion, joyous triumphs and devastating loss, and it feels like a relevant watch, especially right now.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Run Time: 132 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this sports drama that catapulted Hillary Swank into the ranks of Oscar-worthy echelon. Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a woman determined to dominate inside the ring. To do that, she needs to put in hard work and find herself a hardened coach who believes in her. Enter Eastwood. The two have a combative, emotionally heavy relationship that only gets more complicated as Maggie begins taking on dangerous fights.
Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Run Time: 120 min | IMDb: 7/10
John Chu’s Asian-led romcom became a breakout hit, so it’s only right that HBO let us binge-watch it whenever we choose. Constance Wu plays Rachel, an economics professor at NYU who travels to Singapore with her long-term boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) and discovers he’s been less-than-honest with her about just how many zeroes reside in his bank account. Faced with a wealthy family who refuses to accept her American roots, Rachel goes to extreme lengths to impress Nick’s mother and learns a valuable lesson about family and heritage in the process. Awkwafina and Michelle Yeoh are highlights here, but it’s Wu who carries this flick and elevates it beyond just a two-hour laugh riot.
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 life form intent upon 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.
The Goonies (1985)
Run Time: 114 min | IMDb: 7.8/10
Josh Brolin and Sean Astin star in this beloved family-friendly film developed by Steven Spielberg. The movie follows a group of misfit kids who discover an ancient treasure map and set out to find a pirate’s long-lost booty. Along the way, they fight villains intent on stealing the treasure for themselves and dig into the history surrounding the gold and its previous owner.
That Thing You Do (1996)
Run Time: 108 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Tom Hanks stars in and directs this musical drama with Liv Tyler and Tom Everett Scott. The film follows a local Pennsylvania band who scores a one-hit wonder that launches them to fame. Scott plays a drummer hopelessly in love with Tyler’s Faye, who’s the girlfriend of the band’s leader, and Hanks plays the group’s fast-talking, hustling manager, Mr. White.
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix star in M. Night Shyamalan’s alien thriller about a family plagued by supernatural signs sent from space. The buildup is worth more than the reveal with this one, and Gibson, in particular, sells the scared-sh*tless-single-dad trying to parent his children while battling an invading alien race.
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.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Run Time: 116 min, IMDb: 8.3/10
Stanley Kubrick returned to the topic of war and what it does to those who fight it with this bifurcated story of the war in Vietnam. As with his great 1958 film, Paths of Glory, Kubrick opted to take the long view and look at war as an enterprise in all its dehumanizing absurdity. It’s a film less about a particular conflict than what it means to prepare for war (the first half of the movie) and what it means to fight it (the film’s second half). Both keep returning to the notion that to become a soldier is to surrender some essential part of one conscience, and that war at its heart makes us lesser beings than we might be without it. It’s a tough film filled with black comedy that captures the dark heart of what it means to take up arms against others.
Gone With The Wind (1939)
Run Time: 238 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
If you’re old enough to remember VHS players, then you’ll probably have not-so-fond memories of having to switch out tapes midway through this behemoth of a movie. That’s because there’s a lot to get through — the American Civil War, the Reconstruction — and it all plays a part in the movie’s main romance between a Southern heiress and her roguish lover. Luckily, since it’s on HBO Max now, you won’t have to press pause on all of the action, drama, and romance contained in this thing.
Home Alone (1990)
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 7.6/10
Sure, the best time to watching this Christmas comedy is around the holidays but the yuletide season plays just a small part in this slapstick romp about an eight-year-old troublemaker, who fends off a pair of would-be burglars when his family accidentally goes on vacation without him. The film launched Macaulay Culkin’s career, and he’s brilliant as Kevin McCallister — a clever kid saddled with an annoying family and the responsibility of protecting his home from two idiot thieves.
Wizard Of Oz (1939)
Run Time: 102 min | IMDb: 8/10
Another classic, this Judy Garland starring staple is a fantasy adventure that never gets old. Garland plays Dorothy, a restless young woman, tired of living on her family’s farm, who gets swept by a tornado to a magical land filled with witches and cowardly lions and scarecrows and tinmen and all-powerful wizards. It’s a childhood classic and a nostalgic re-watch.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Run Time: 149 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
Another Kubrik classic, this sci-fi adventure set the tone for so many space flicks that followed it. The film follows a crew of galactic explorers, who set out to find the origins of a mysterious object buried beneath the Lunar surface. Part thriller, part futuristic drama, there’s a lot to love about this genre entry, even if some of the special effects are a bit outdated.
Studio Ghibli Collection
So, Studio Ghibli is one of the most legendary Japanese animation house in the film industry and fans have begged for years for some of its most popular films — Ponyo, Spirited Away, and Castle in the Sky — to be made available. Well, beg no more animae geeks, because HBO Max has got pretty much every Ghibli creation you can think of.
Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
If you’re looking for some nightmare fuel, HBO Max has this horror classic which should do the trick. From the truly disturbed mind of Wes Craven, this story follows a small town terrorized by a murderous spirit that invades people’s dreams, and well, you can probably guess the rest.
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Why is a movie about a talking pig, who’s raised by a sheepdog and dreams of managing his own herd, on this list you ask? Because it’s a damn masterpiece, that’s why. Babe is a farm animal who has dreams of a better life, and he works to make it happen with help from his friends James Cromwell’s Farmer Hoggett. If you don’t cry at least five times while watching this movie, then you’re not human.