The streaming universe will grow even more vast with HBO Max‘s May 27 launch, which arrives with a 10,000+ title library of movies and TV shows. The catalog will go a long way toward rivaling the likes of Netflix and Disney+, and waves of original programming should prove to be an enticing addition for anyone on the fence about subscribing. This will also be the only place to watch the future “Snyder Cut” of Justice League, so it’s safe to say that HBO Max is serious about offering an experience like no other streaming service that currently exists.
You may have questions about whether your existing HBO subscription will get you in the HBO Max door at no extra charge, and we’ve got answers for you here. Right now, though, it’s time to talk about what we’re excited about watching. There’s almost too much to choose from. No really, it’s a lot: HBO’s full catalog, Warner Bros. movies and TV shows, in addition to titles from Comedy Central, Studio Ghibli, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Cartoon Network, Looney Tunes, and more. But never fear, as our TV experts have dug through the vast content mine and made their top picks.
An American Pickle
HBO Max is banking on the universal appeal of Seth Rogen to make its first streaming film a success. It’s not a bad business move, especially when Rogen, who’s capable of injecting a bit of humor into even the dullest of storylines (here’s looking at you, Green Hornet), but he should have an easier time making us laugh with this movie based on a short story by Simon Rich. Rogen will play a 1920s immigrant named Herschel Greenbaum who comes to America in pursuit of a dream, ends up falling into a vat of pickles, his body brined and preserved for 100 years, until he finally wakes up to find modern life — including his lone descendant — is not what he expected. Rogen pulls double duty here, but he’s joined by an impressive roster of supporting players including Succession’s Sarah Snook and PEN15’s Maya Erskine. — Jessica Toomer
The “Snyder Cut” Of Justice League
I actually like a lot of the Joss Whedon-finished theatrical cut of Justice League. Moreso upon rewatch. I also like Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman. It sorta sucks that the theatrical cut will now forever have an asterisk attached to it or be thought of as “less than.” On the other hand, this means more Cavil as Superman and Affleck as Batman — which we weren’t going to see again. More Gadot, more Momoa, more everything! Based on Snyder’s estimates, only about one-quarter of the previously released film counted as his, so we’re going to essentially get a completely new Justice League in a few months time (2021, to be exact) while, before this announcement, it didn’t seem like there were any firm plans with Superman or future DCEU team-up films. This is going to be three hours of escapism made with other people’s money — let’s all take the W. — Jason Tabrys
Looney Tunes Cartoons
In a more perfect world, this would be “the entire Looney Tunes archive plus new episodes,” because there are hours/days/weeks of classic Looney Tunes content just sitting out there waiting to be archived. You’re telling me you wouldn’t watch an hour of Wile E. Coyote flattening himself or Bugs Bunny being an unrepentant carrot-chomping rascal? Don’t lie. Do not lie. But this could be cool, too, and it could bring a whole crew of fun characters to a new generation of kids. Something they can share with their parents. The Looney Tunes are the best. Bugs, especially. Every generation should get to experience Bugs Bunny. This solves that problem. And if it’s popular enough, maybe I’ll get my archive eventually, so that would solve that problem, too. There is no better way to spend a Saturday morning. — Brian Grubb
The Matrix Trilogy
More than 20 years after the Wachowskis launched their 1999 sci-fi juggernaut, I’m full of anticipation for the fourth installment starring O.G. duo Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss (even though we almost certainly won’t be seeing Laurence Fishburne making a comeback). Yet because most film release dates are up in the air, I’m feeling the urge to revisit the trilogy now more than ever. They’re still thematically relevant pieces of art, but even more than that, these are the films that made Keanu an honest-to-god action star. There would probably be no John Wick franchise if not for The Matrix, and let’s not forget that Moss is as much of an ass-kicking badass as her leading male co-stars. Catsuits and leather coats and cooler-than-cool sunglasses can’t be beat here, so dodge that bullet and enjoy the kung fu fighting all over again. –Kimberly Ricci
For those wondering why Danai Gurira left The Walking Dead after ten seasons, it was partially to work on Americanah, a television series that Gurira created and wrote. Gurira is a successful Tony-nominated playwright, and in Americanah, she reteams with Lupita Nyong’o (Us), who starred in Gurira’s Eclipsed. Corey Hawkins (Gurira’s co-star in The Walking Dead) and Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) also star in a story about pair of young Nigerian immigrants who face a lifetime of struggle while their relationship endures. It’s based on the award-winning novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and it’s the kind of prestige project for which HBO is best known. — Dustin Rowles
HBO Max’s biggest star isn’t the Bazinga guy, or Zack Snyder, or some unholy Rachel/Monica/Phoebe/Chandler/Joey/Ross/Marcel the Monkey hybrid. It’s Totoro. HBO Max acquired the U.S. streaming rights to the Studio Ghibli library for the first time, making it that much easier for children (and adults) to watch some of the most majestic animated films of all-time. And all it took was Hayao Miyazaki needing lots of money to make his next masterpiece! There’s Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo (did you hear she loves ham?), and My Neighbor Totoro. No offense to Disney+, but Totoro is way better than the mouse fellow. — Josh Kurp
Search Party is, for all intents and purposes, the spiritual predecessor of shows like Russian Doll. A just-as-bleak, equally funny romp that stuffs murder, mystery, and the meaningless of life into a too-cool package. But now that it’s moving to HBO Max, people might actually watch it and discover addictively delicious it is. I’m not sure how I feel about that as I like to horde my underrated shows like Smaug hordes a dwarf’s treasure, but I’ll welcome people on the bandwagon if it means this cast — including Alia Shawkat, John Early, Meredith Hagner, and John Reynolds — and this story, about a group of out-of-touch Brooklyn hipsters-turned-clueless-millennial-P.I.’s gets the recognition it deserves. The show’s second season went a bit off the rails (an accidental murder can do that), but HBO’s planned third season seems to have righted itself, with the gang on trial for their respective crimes, dealing with the fallout of their misadventures. — Jessica Toomer
The first wave of HBO Max Originals is upon us, and Anna Kendrick delivers a pitch-perfect performance in this romantic dramedy series alongside the always great Scoot McNairy (as a wealthy, martini-sipping entrepreneur) and the scene-stealing Zoë Chao (as far more than the stereotypical BFF in these type of stories). At first, the anthology series superficially resembles some shows and movies (unrealistically lucrative job and ridiculously nice NYC apartment for a 20-something) that you’ve seen previously, but there’s a fresh, “case study” approach that celebrates growth and transformation and everything that a lot of romcom heroines really don’t experience. Kendrick, as Darby, digs deep while undergoing a series of different formative relationships. It’s slightly tart, escapist fare that still feels grounded in reality, in a mostly pleasant way. –Kimberly Ricci
Grease: Rydell High
Two things are important here:
1. Grease: Rydell High is a kind of series continuation of the popular musical and movie, with the same 1950s setting and musical style. It’s not the first time that the powers that be have tried mining this story in recent years, as there was that live musical a few years ago, too. A series-length musical is hard, though, especially an earnest one, so best of luck to everyone involved. If this all sounds like a half-hearted recommendation, that’s because I’m writing this blurb solely because of the second thing, which I’m about to get to right now and would like to apologize for preemptively to you and to everyone involved with the making of the show.
2. Until they announce the cast, we simply cannot rule out the possibility of a 66-year-old John Travolta reprising his role as teen bad boy Danny Zuko. — Brian Grubb
Best Picture Winners
One quarantine activity that I can’t recommend enough: watching every Best Picture winner. It takes forever to accomplish (92 films and counting), but that’s not a bad thing right now, and HBO Max can help get you there. The Best Picture winners on the streaming service include Gone with the Wind, Casablanca (and hopefully the Looney Tunes parody, “Carrotblanca”), An American in Paris, and Ben-Hur. Million Dollar Baby isn’t on there, but 1952’s Million Dollar Mermaid is, and let’s face it, depressing boxing movies could use more mermaids. HBO Max will also have a lot of movies that should have been nominated for Best Picture, like A Nightmare on Elm Street, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. Not A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, though. Maybe a Golden Globe nomination, but not an Oscar win. — Josh Kurp
The Fresh Prince
Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air.
In West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground is where I spent most of my days. Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool and shooting some b-ball outside of the school. When a couple of guys who were up to no good, started making trouble in my neighborhood. I got in one little fight and my moms got scared, she said you’re moving to your auntie and uncles in Bel-Air.
Okay, so that was from memory because I don’t think I’ve seen an episode of Fresh Prince in probably 20 years. But perhaps now is the time to re-experience the origins of The Carlton Dance, watch that time Geoffrey thought he won the lotto, absorb the dad wisdom of Uncle Phil, rage RAGE against the oppression of youth with Ashley, ponder the purpose of Avery, and cry with Will when Ben Vereen abandons him, perhaps triggering thoughts about your own disappointing father-son situation. If nothing else, you can get that earworm theme song STUCK. The classics never lose their luster. — Jason Tabrys
Like AMC, BBC is one of the few free agents in the streaming wars, meaning that their shows do not automatically align with a particular studio-owned streaming service. With 11 seasons and new generations of Who fans coming on board every year, landing Doctor Who is a big coup for HBO Max. It is the holy grail of sci-fi series. It’s a hugely bingeable series that turns its cast over every few years, which makes it almost impossible to stop watching. This deal will also be good for Doctor Who in America, as it will give potential fans who don’t have BBC America their first opportunity to watch the series. — Dustin Rowles