Thanks to the ever-growing list of streaming services, it’s harder than ever to decide on a movie to watch. Sure, you could spend hours mindlessly scrolling through movies on Netflix, or even use your Amazon Prime membership to find a flick. But you may be overlooking the streamer that arguably has the most best movies of all time—HBO Max.
The streamer boasts one hell of a movie library, making it quite the challenge to narrow down to just 34 films. But we did it anyway—after scouring through critics’ reviews, award nominations, and chatting up fellow pop culture fans and movie buffs to come up with the best movies on HBO Max. Ahead you’ll find everything from classics like Casablanca and The Shining to modern blockbuster hits like Elvis and The Batman. No genre is excluded either, so whether you’re in the mood for a murder mystery or a rom-com (or anything in between), we’ve got you covered. Ahead, in no particular order, are the best movies to watch on HBO Max right now.
Best Action Movies on HBO Max
'Black Hawk Down'
If war movies aren’t your cup of tea, you’re seriously missing out on this Ridley Scott film. This film tells the true story of two Black Hawk helicopter crews shot down in the middle of war-torn Somalia. There’s plenty of pulse-pounding moments and life-like action scenes that will entice any thrill seekers.
Yes, this is another Batman movie in a long list, but Matt Reeves’ iteration is seriously good. The most recent Batman film is edgier, darker, and grittier than ever before with a Gotham City that looks downright eerie. Robert Pattinson brings a brooding, emo-boy take to Bruce Wayne and I ate it up. Overall, Reeves' The Batman is a must-watch for fans of crime thrillers and comic book films alike.
'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Car chases onscreen are guaranteed to be exhilarating, but nothing will prepare you for the adrenaline rush that is Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller’s latest installment in the Mad Max franchise sees Max (Tom Hardy) team up with oil tanker driver Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to outrun or, in this case out-drive, a brutal warlord. What results is a heart-pounding action film with over-the-top visuals and a surprisingly thought-provoking story.
If you ever wondered why Steven Spielberg is considered one of Hollywood’s most influential directors, look no further than Jurassic Park. Spielberg created movie magic when he combined terrifying dinosaurs with Jeff Goldblum and an iconic score. Who knew animatronics from 1993 could be so scary?
Best Dramas on HBO Max
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower'
Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky (who also wrote the book), you can expect a faithful page-to-screen adaptation in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The film follows Charlie (played to perfection by Logan Lerman), an introverted freshman struggling with mental illness. Soon, Charlie is taken under the wing of two seniors and learns to step into his own. It’s an incredible coming-of-age story that perfectly captures the joyful highs and many lows of first love, high school, and youthfulness.
Maybe Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis isn’t as much of an Elvis Presley biopic as it is a peak into the complex relationship with his sketchy manager, Colonel Tom Parker. However, Luhrmann delivers his usual glitz and glam style that truly works in a movie about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Come for the modern musical mash-ups and stay for Austin Butler’s incredible transformation and powerhouse performance.
Casablanca is the true definition of an oldie but a goodie. The old Hollywood classic film follows Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a nightclub owner who runs into trouble when a former flame and her new husband show up. Despite being made a whopping eight decades ago, Casablanca still holds up as one of Hollywood’s best love stories.
Martin Scorsese is one of the most well-known directors out there, and it's all thanks to masterpieces like Goodfellas. This crime drama follows the life of newbie mob member Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) from childhood up through the 1980s. This film is worth a rewatch for that intense final sequence alone, but also for the incredible ensemble cast, script, and cinematography. Overall, it’s easy to see why some say Goodfellas is Scorsese’s best.
'No Country For Old Men'
If you like your dramas especially dark and thrilling, No Country for Old Men is the film for you. Josh Brolin stars as a man who stumbled upon the aftermath of a shootout and decides to take a bag of money left behind, however, he soon finds himself on the path of a brutal killer. This Coen Brothers film took home four Oscars in 2008, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem.
'The Shawshank Redemption'
You’ll find The Shawshank Redemption on just about every movie ranking list there is and for good reason. The film follows a man’s sentence at the high-security prison Shawshank after he’s been convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. It’s filled with emotion, powerful performances, a terrific score, and an unforgettable ending. You have to see why The Shawshank Redemption is considered one of (if not the) best dramas ever made.
Quentin Tarantino solidified his name among Hollywood’s most influential directors thanks to Pulp Fiction. Part comedy, part crime drama, Pulp Fiction is an interwoven story of the lives of two hitmen, their mob boss and his wife, a boxer, and a pair of bandits. At times, the film can seem like a lot, but that’s just Tarantino’s style and it’s a sight to see onscreen.
'The Last Duel'
Fair warning here: This period drama deals with some pretty heavy material, but still warrants a watch. Set in the 1400s, a woman (Jodie Comer) accuses her husband’s former friend and rival of rape, which sets off a series of events and ultimately ends in a duel. The story is interestingly told from the point of view of each person involved: the woman, her husband, and the accused rapist. It’s fascinating to see how the events shift with each perspective and the differing views reveal just how much of a man’s world we live in.
'Promising Young Woman'
Carey Mulligan delivers a masterclass on acting in what may be her best performance yet. She stars as a college dropout traumatized from her best friend’s rape who is on a mission to get revenge on predatorial men. Combined with bits of sinister humor and commentary on our country’s rape culture, this Best Original Screenplay winner will leave you thinking long after the credits role.
'The Truman Show'
Back in 1998 when reality TV shows weren’t all the rage, the concept of cameras following your every move seemed creepier. Hence is the premise of The Truman Show. In one of his best performances, Jim Carrey stars as a seemingly normal man named Truman except he’s living in a reality show unbeknownst to him. It’s smart, inventive, and a true cautionary tale on the dangers of celebrity culture.
Fans of Guillermo del Toro are in for a ride in Nightmare Alley, the visionary director’s darkest film yet. Bradley Cooper stars as Stanton Carlisle, a carny who picks up a mentalist act and later finds fame with it. However, things soon start to unravel when he meets therapist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). Del Toro’s Best Picture nominee shows the fascinating shady side of carnivals and boy, that ending will stick with you.
'The Green Mile'
Prepare to have the tears flowing in this Stephen King adaptation. Tom Hanks plays Paul Edgecomb, a prison guard who walks alongside inmates and their last steps toward the electric chair. However, none of the other inmates are like John Coffey, (Michael Clarke Duncan) a man convicted of killing two young sisters, and Paul is left to grapple with John’s conviction. It’s inspiring, emotional, and sad all wrapped up in one big tear fest.
Heath Ledger may take the cake for the best Joker, but Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the iconic Batman villain is a close runner-up. You won’t be seeing the Caped Crusader in this film. Instead, The Joker serves as the origin story of the criminal mastermind and his descent into madness. Phoenix took home the Oscar for Best Leading Actor for his brilliant performance as the sinister villain.
Christian Bale has plenty of notable movies under his belt, but he delivers a character study unlike any other in American Psycho. Bale kills as Patrick Bateman, a banking exec who slowly starts to reveal his psychopathic tendencies. Bateman has just as many layers to him as his impressive skincare routine, and Bale acts through them flawlessly. The script is filled with quotable lines and that ambiguous ending will leave you questioning everything.
'West Side Story'
Another Spielberg gem, 2021’s West Side Story somehow manages to keep the old-school magic of the 1961 version while feeling completely modern. It's a classic tale of two young people (played by Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler) falling in love despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks. The singing and dancing are some of the best of the musical genre and prepare to be awestruck by Ariana Debose as Anita, whose performance won her an Oscar.
Best Romance Movies on HBO Max
Do we even need to elaborate on why this romance made this list? Ryan Gosling. Rachel McAdams. That steamy kiss in the rain. The ending! The love story between Noah and Ally will go down in history as one of the best ever, period.
'The Spectacular Now'
Miles Teller became the internet’s boyfriend after Top Gun: Maverick, but he was dreamy long before starring in the action film, case in point—The Spectacular Now. It’s your typical story of a popular, party-loving boy meeting and eventually falling in love with the normal nerdy girl. It’s a sweet and sensitive high school drama that’s perfect for a girl's wine night in.
'Sleepless in Seattle'
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have appeared in four films together, and three happen to be some of the most beloved rom-coms ever. One of these is Sleepless in Seattle, a film in which Hanks and Ryan’s unique chemistry is on full display. Ryan stars as Annie Reed, a reporter who hears a widower named Sam (Hanks) talk about his grief on the radio. She feels a strange connection to him and proposes that the two meet on Valentine’s Day in New York City. Despite hardly appearing on screen together, Hanks and Ryan are seriously charming.
Best Fantasy/Sci-Fi Movies on HBO Max
'The Lord of the Rings' Trilogy
Peter Jackson knew what he was doing when he adapted J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy series. The story of Frodo and his friends on a quest to destroy the One Ring of Power changed the fantasy genre forever. The three films are full of action, emotion, beautiful scenery, and stunning special effects. But if the theatrical versions aren’t enough, HBO Max even has the extended versions of all three films, meaning even more Middle-Earth magic.
'Howl's Moving Castle'
Sure, Spirited Away may be Studio Ghibli’s biggest hit, but I’d argue Howl’s Moving Castle is their real crown jewel. Hayao Miyazaki’s visual work is always stunning, but this movie's beautiful scenery will blow you away—it legitimately looks like paintings worthy of the Louvre. Combined with an understated love story and a swoon-worthy wizard voiced by Christian Bale, you’ll turn back to Howl’s Moving Castle again and again.
Dune is a notoriously dense sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert, but this adaptation starring Timothée Chalamet is much easier to follow. The premise is basically an intergalactic version of Game of Thrones with a much sought-after rare spice thrown in the mix. This version of Dune looks and sounds amazing and we’re already anxiously waiting for the sequel.
The Matrix came out 23 years ago and Keanu Reeves dodging those bullets with an insane backbend is still one of the coolest action shots I’ve ever seen. Reeves stars as Neo, a computer hacker who discovers that the world is way different than it seems and soon finds himself on the run from tech-powered secret agents. After watching you’ll have to decide whether you’re on team red pill or blue pill.
'2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi flick may feel like a product of the ‘60s, but it’s a cinematic achievement nonetheless. The film follows a team of astronauts as they are sent on a mysterious mission, but soon their ship’s computer system starts to weirdly malfunction. Sci-fi lovers will love the psychedelic visuals but everyone will appreciate one of the coolest movie villains ever.
Best Horror Movies on HBO Max
Every kid has a movie that they know they were way too young to be watching, and The Exorcist is mine. This classic horror movie was made nearly 50 years ago yet it still holds up as one of the scariest films of all time thanks to special effects and an incredibly eerie story. When I saw the little girl “spider walk” down the stairs as a kid, I was scarred for life. You will simply never forget how scary this demon possession movie is.
Much like The Exorcist, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining will likely go down in history as one of the scariest films ever made. From the mind of horror genius Stephen King comes this chilling story of a writer (Jack Nicholson) who becomes the caretaker of a desolate hotel in the middle of winter. Soon he becomes stir-crazy, which descends into an all-out murderous mania when he starts to terrorize his family. You’ll no doubt recognize some iconic scenes, but it's definitely worth the watch if you’ve been putting it off.
The Conjuring starts a horror franchise that has some of the most genuine horrors in modern times. The first installment dives into a famous case of the paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorrain Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), of the Perron family. It’s your classic haunted house story but one that’s incredibly effective with jump scares and creepy imagery.
Best Comedies on HBO Max
Plenty of comedies have tried to recreate the hilarity of The Hangover but all have failed. Nothing prepares you for what happens when three friends wake up from a night of partying in Las Vegas to find their groom-to-be pal missing. The trio finds themselves in increasingly outrageous situations as they try to piece together the events of the hazy night and find their friend. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis are comedy gold in this ridiculous watch.
'13 Going on 30'
To be 30, flirty, and thriving was the dream as a kid, so naturally seeing Jennifer Garner live out that dream was (and still is) movie magic. Watching 13-year-old Jenna navigate adulting in a 30-year-old’s body makes for some hilarious moments. Plus, a young and hot Mark Ruffalo also makes this rom-com a must-watch.
Just because Elf is technically a Christmas movie doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it any time of the year. Will Ferrell delivers on the holiday spirit as Buddy the elf, one of Santa’s helpers who travels to New York City to meet his real father. Elf is the kind of feel-good movie that will have you smiling from start to finish.
'Father of the Bride'
Father of the Bride is the rare remake that might be as good or even better than the original. 2022’s version gets a modern remake when the parents of the bride-to-be have to keep their impending divorce a secret throughout their daughter’s nuptials. The third remake features a familiar storyline but with added charm, jokes, and Latinx representation.
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Brooke Knappenberger is the Associate Commerce Editor at Marie Claire, where she writes across the board from fashion and beauty to books and celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, Brooke obsessively consumes and writes about the latest movie releases, streaming TV shows, and celebrity scandals. She has over three years of experience writing on fashion, beauty, and entertainment and her work has appeared on Looper, NickiSwift, The Sun US, and Vox Magazine of Columbia, Missouri. Brooke obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism with an emphasis on Magazine Editing and has a minor in Textile and Apparel Management.
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