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Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Dune Image: Warner Bros.

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The best movies on HBO Max right now

What to watch on HBO Max, from sweeping sci-fi epics to brooding superhero dramas

HBO Max has gone through quite a transformation since the days of its initial launch in 2020. Following the unprecedented day-and-date release of the studio’s entire film slate in 2021, HBO Max’s reach has continued to grow thanks to its direct-to-streaming releases and ongoing TV series like House of the Dragon, Succession, Westworld, The Rehearsal. And, thanks to the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery, it’s also courted controversy.

But at the end of the day, HBO Max is a service brimming with great movies, from pop culture mainstays like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Matrix series to canonical classics like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane and The Shining. there are a ton of awesome titles to choose from across the service as more and more continued to be added each month. With that said, there’s a lot to choose from and only so many hours in the day.

Don’t sweat it, we’ve got you covered: Here are the best movies on HBO Max to stream so you can finally start whittling down that watchlist.


Editor’s pick: To Be or Not to Be

A group of people stand together, with one touching a tissue to their face, in Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be. Image: United Artists

Genre: Comedy
Run time: 1h 39m
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Cast: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack

This one’s on my short list of favorite movies of all time. Carole Lombard and Jack Benny star as a pair of well-known actors in war-time Poland using their skills to deceive the invading Nazis (unless their egos get in the way). Lubitsch was always able to nail a seemingly impossible balance between humor and pathos, and To Be or Not to Be remains one of the funniest movies you will ever see. It’s also a moving portrayal of wartime resistance. Can’t go wrong with that! —Pete Volk


2001: A Space Odyssey

A man in a space helmet stares up at rows of red illuminated columns of light. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

Genre: Sci-fi
Run time: 2h 19m
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

2001: A Space Odyssey is an unassailable classic of science-fiction cinema, a work of stunning visual achievement and operatic scale whose legacy looms as far and wide over the expanse of film history as the shadow of one of its iconic monoliths. Co-written by science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 1968 film follows the epic voyage of the Discovery One from Earth to Jupiter following the discovery of a mysterious artifact on the surface of the Moon. As humanity attempts to grasp after an understanding of an inscrutable alien intelligence far older and vast than their own, the journey is complicated when the onboard AI in charge of Discovery One gains sentience and attempts to imperil the lives of its crew. From the film’s opening flashback to the dawn of human evolution to its dazzling and iconic “star gate” sequence, 2001: A Space Odyssey is an absolute must-watch for any serious sci-fi fan. —Toussaint Egan

The Batman

A man in black armor wearing a mask with bat-like horns (Robert Pattinson) in front of a wall plastered with newspaper clippings and graffiti. Photo: Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros.

Genre: Superhero
Run time: 2h 56m
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano

Robert Pattinson (Twilight) stars in Matt Reeves’ “gritty” new take on Batman as a young and sullen version of the eponymous Dark Knight. Two years into his crusade against the criminals of Gotham City’s underworld, billionaire orphan-turned-nocturnal vigilante Bruce Wayne finds himself is challenged by a new nemesis in the form of the Riddler (Dano), a sadistic killer with a vendetta against the city’s upper crust. To uncover a conspiracy at the heart of his family’s legacy and stop the Riddle from wreaking havoc on the city, Batman will have to turn to the help of Selina Kyle (Kravitz), a cat burglar with her own grudge against the city’s criminal elite.

A brooding, propulsive superhero action thriller that focuses on Batman’s deductive skills, pugilistic aptitude, and penchant for dramatic entrances and exits, The Batman is confidently one of the best films of 2022. —TE

Black Narcissus

A nun hiding behind a pillar, illuminated by a light off-screen. Image: The Archers

Genre: Psychological melodrama
Run time: 1h 40m
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Sabu Dastagir, David Farrar

Centered on a cloister of nuns attempting to establish a convent in the Himalayas, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 film Black Narcissus is a sensuous, psychological melodrama of the effects of isolation and mortal temptation, the harrowing of the elements, the nature of faith, madness, and sin. Heralded as one of the greatest achievements of cinema, the film won two Oscars for best art direction and cinematography at the 20th Academy Awards. —TE

Dune

An extreme close-up a sullen-looking young man (Timothée Chalamet) against an out-of-focus desert background. Image: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Genre: Sci-fi
Run time: 2h 35m
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac

Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel stars Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) as Paul Atreides, the scion of a noble house who is plagued by mysterious visions involving a desert planet known as Arrakis and a galaxy-spanning war to come. When his father, Duke Leto Atreides (Isaac) is betrayed in a plot orchestrated by their family’s long-time enemy Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård), Paul and his mother Jessica (Ferguson) must flee into desert and seek refuge from the planet’s local inhabitants, all while Paul comes into his newfound power as a messianic warrior and the soon-to-be future ruler of humanity. A sweeping sci-fi epic packed with beautiful, minimalist vistas accompanied by a thunderous orchestral score, Dune is a spectacle well worth witnessing — and Part II can’t come soon enough. —TE

F for Fake

A bearded man (Orson Welles) wearing a black hat, coat, and a white glove holding his right hand against his face. Image: Les Films de l’Astrophore/SACI

Genre: Docudrama
Run time: 1h 28m
Director: Orson Welles; François Reichenbach, Gary Graver, Oja Kodar (uncredited)
Cast: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, Elmyr de Hory

One of the last films completed before his death, Orson Welles’ 1973 experiment docudrama on the lives and legacies of two of history’s greatest “fakes”: The world-renowned art forger Elmyr de Hory and his biographer Clifford Irving, is a whimsical and mischievous work of sleight-of-hand filmmaking. Welles’ film inevitably circles back on the subject the filmmaker himself through its examination of both Hory and Irving’s lives, transforming into an irreverently charming and gleefully farcical meta-treatise on the nature of performance, illusion, and art. —TE

Goodfellas

A sweaty and sullen-looking man (Ray Liotta) with a bruised eye standing against a dark wall. Image: Warner Home Video

Genre: Crime
Run time: 2h 26m
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci

One of Martin Scorsese’s most celebrated and memorable films, and possibly his last unimpeachable classic, Goodfellas charts the rise and fall of a wannabe gangster who works his way into the Mob in 1950s Brooklyn, then finds the organization’s focus and fortunes changing radically over the decades that follow. Packed with storytelling devices that Scorsese went on to repeat over and over — particularly the monologue-voiceover introduction of a whole pack of colorful gangster characters who don’t much matter — Goodfellas is full of indelible dialogue and familiar comic bits (“I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you?”), it’s the sprawling saga of a criminal watching the world change around him until he doesn’t recognize it anymore, made before any of these tropes, lines, and devices became clichés because so many people imitated Goodfellas. —Tasha Robinson

The Hidden Fortress

Three men stand on cliffside with one of them pointing and shouting at something off-screen Image: Toho Company

Genre: Historical adventure
Run time: 2h 6m
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki

Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 adventure film The Hidden Fortress is perhaps best known by contemporary audiences for its role as one of the key inspirations behind George Lucas’ 1977 sci-fi juggernaut Star Wars. The similarities are clear from the film’s premise alone: following a princess (Misa Uehara) disguised as a mute farmer who is led through enemy territory by her loyal general and bodyguard (Toshiro Mifune) to retrieve a secret cache of gold with the gold of rebuilding her kingdom. The two are led by a pair of comical peasants, Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara) who, unbeknownst to their companion’s true identity, lead them through danger in hopes of sharing in the gold as a reward. The Hidden Fortress ranks among the very best of Kurosawa’s oeuvre; a grand-scale adventure filled with moments of gripping excitement, action, and disarming levity. —TE

Hoop Dreams

The basketball players in Hoop Dreams think and listen to their coach in between plays. Image: Fine Line Features

Genre: Documentary
Run time: 2h 51m
Director: Steve James
Cast: William Gates, Arthur Agee

One of the great American documentaries, Hoop Dreams follows two high school basketball stars as they inch closer to their goal: to breakthrough into the NBA. If you’re not all that interested in basketball, don’t let that keep you away — it’s a moving, incisive depiction of American life that uses basketball as a way in to talk about all sorts of broader issues that still face our society today. —PV

House

An ominous portrait of a cat sprays a geyser of blood from its mouth Image: PSC/Toho Company

Genre: Horror
Run time: 1h 50m
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Cast: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Oba

Watching Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House is like watching a live-action cartoon. The bonkers cult horror classic bursts off of the screen with bold experimentalism and charming surrealism from the first frame and at no point ever lets up. The film follows a group of eccentric schoolgirls who travelled to the haunted country home of one of their ailing aunts, only to be menaced by preternatural forces and apparitions as the house gradually begins to take on a life of its own. Oddball comedy meets architectural horror in what is likely to be one of the most hilarious and memorable movie experiences you’ll ever have. —TE

Jurassic Park

A man in a brown hat and blue shirt (Sam Neill) waves a lit emergency flare to distract a Tyrannosaurus Rex standing next to an overturned green and yellow truck next to a broken wire gate. Image: Amblin Entertainment/ Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Genre: Sci-fi
Run time: 2h 7m
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum

The blockbuster movie that sparked a three decade-spanning franchise, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park is marvel of late 20th century special effects that dazzle audiences to this day for its memorable performances as well as its stunning visuals. The film follows paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), along with paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), who is recruited by eccentric industrialist John Hammond to serve as consultants on his latest venture: a secluded Costa Rican theme park that houses genetically resurrected dinosaurs. Filled with horror, suspense, action, and adventure, Jurassic Park is more than just a thriller movie; it’s a bonafide classic and arguably one of Spielberg’s best. —TE

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx

A samurai in a brown outfit with a knot-top haircut (Tomisaburo Wakayama) sit by a fire with his baby son (Akihiro Tomikawa) in a field of reeds. Image: Katsu Production/Toho Company

Genre: Action
Run time: 1h 25m
Director: Kenji Misumi
Cast: Tomisaburō Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa

Based on Kazuo Koike’s popular manga series of the same name, The Lone Wolf and Cub series is an undisputed classic of Japanese cinema. Tomisaburo Wakayama, in his most iconic role, inhabits the assassin-turned-itinerant-ronin-warrior Ittō Ogami, who travels the countryside of feudal Japan righting wrongs, felling foes, and raising his young son Daigorō. You honestly can’t go wrong with any installment of the Lone Wolf and Cub series (they’re held up as classics for a reason, after all), though most fans and film scholars would hold up 1972’s Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx as the high-water mark for the series, with Ogami tasked with assassinate a Shogunate rogue while pursued by a formidable clan of relentless female assassins. If you’re a fan of either Samurai Jack or the Wu-Tang Clan, you owe it to yourself to sit down and watch the Lone Wolf and Cub series. —TE

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

A short man (Elijah Wood) sits on a cart next to a tall wizard (Ian McKellen) in a gray hat holding the reins of a horse. Image: New Line Home Entertainment

Genre: Fantasy
Run time: 2h 58m
Director: Peter Jackson
Cast: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen

Director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy remains one of the most peerless cinematic works of our time. Though there’s no choosing one favorite out of the bunch, The Fellowship of the Ring, which kicks things off as hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) begins his quest to save Middle Earth, is perhaps the most evenly built. Fellowship is certainly the most light-hearted, as its characters diving into trouble rather than being caught in the middle of it. If you haven’t watched the series recently, give it a whirl, then dive into our year-long tribute to the Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens’ series, which we call “Year of the Ring.”

The Matrix series

A man (Keanu Reeves) stands in a hallway with his right hand outstretched as a hail of bullets trailed by visible rings of motion are suspended in motion in front of him. Image: Warner Home Video

Genre: Sci-fi/action
Run time: 2h 16m (The Matrix); 2h 18m (The Matrix Reloaded); 2h 10m (The Matrix Revolutions); 2h 28m (The Matrix Resurrections)
Director: Lana and Lilly Wachowski (The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions); Lana Wachowski (The Matrix Resurrections)
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s sci-fi action film series is nothing short of revolutionary. The original trilogy of films, along with the 2021 sequel The Matrix Resurrections, follows the story of Neo (Reeves), a computer hacker living in 1999 who awakens to the realization that the world is not what it seems. Recruited by Trinity (Anne-Moss) and Morpheus (Fishburne), rebel fighters in a post-apocalyptic world where human beings have been mentally enslaved inside a computer program known as the Matrix, Neo must accept his role as “The One” — a messianic figure capable of bending the Matrix to his whim — if he has any hope of securing humanity’s future.

A fusion of dystopian cyberpunk sci-fi, wuxia wire-fu martial arts, and anime-inspired spectacle, there was nothing quite like the Matrix series before it first premiered and there honestly hasn’t been anything quite like it since. If you’ve somehow never experienced Wachowski’s magnum opus, brace yourself for one hell of a ride. —TE

Mikey and Nicky

A haggard looking man (John Cassavetes) sits next to another man (Peter Falk) on a bus seat late at night, staring forward at something off-screen. Image: Paramount Pictures

Genre: Crime
Run time: 1h 59m
Director: Elaine May
Cast: John Cassavetes, Peter Falk

In the 1970s, Elaine May was known for laughs. Much like her Nichols and May partner Mike Nichols, May leveraged her sketch comedy career into a life of acting, writing, and directing. She starred in her own directorial debut, 1971’s A New Leaf, opposite Walter Matthau, and soon found commercial success with the Neil Simon adaptation The Heartbreak Kid. So there’s reason to think 1976’s Mikey and Nicky, which pairs longtime collaborators John Cassavetes and Peter Falk, would be a romp across a seedy mob setting. Nope! May’s film is a nuclear attack on toxic masculinity, and among the more challenging films I’ve ever watched.

In the middle of the night, Nicky (Cassavetes) calls Mikey (Falk) and begs for his help. He’s stolen money from a mob boss, and now he’s convinced he’s as good as dead. And he’s right — in fact, Mikey is actually assisting the hitman (Ned Beatty) assigned to take out his best bud by coaxing Nicky out of a barricaded apartment. Something of a coward, Mikey won’t pull the trigger himself, so the two wind up cavorting around Philadelphia for the night. Their exploits are a maelstrom of rancid, brutal, paranoid behavior. A stop at a bar in a predominantly Black part of town immediately gets ugly. A bus driver winds up a target of their misplaced aggression. A meetup with Nicky’s girlfriend turns to sexual violence, even from Mikey, who is, in theory, the clear-headed of the two. It’s a nightmare, and May traps viewers inside it.

Mikey and Nicky is hard to recommend — it’s not enjoyable — but like great art, the film peers into the shadows of everyday life that we all know exist, but rarely see in mainstream storytelling. The film was shot in 1973, around the time Mean Streets hit theaters, and it now feels like the ultimate condemnation of how Martin Scorsese’s films (perhaps unintentionally) glamorized mob violence and life. These are terrible men doing terrible things. They are familiar, and the women in their orbit are trapped. That’s not the kind of character study most people want out of a laid-back night at the movies. But it’s necessary. Seeing is believing. —Matt Patches

Princess Mononoke

An anime girl wearing war paint and a fur hat rides atop a gigantic wolf creature while holding a spear. Image: GKIDS/Studio Ghibli

Genre: Animated historical fantasy
Run time: 2h 13m
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Yōji Matsuda, Yuirko Ishida, Yūko Tanaka

Princess Mononoke is one of Studio Ghibli’s best films. The lush, dark fairy tale follows cursed Prince Ashitaka as he leaves his village seeking a cure. In his quest, he finds himself in Irontown, a village of outcasts led by Lady Eboshi, whose deforestation techniques put the town at odds with the local forest spirits, including San, a wild girl raised by wolves. Like many Ghibli movies, there is an environmentalist message at the movie’s core, as modernity and progress duel with nature and preservation. Unlike many Ghibli movies, it actually gets pretty gory in order to emphasize its message and doesn’t hold back in the consequences the characters face for some devastating actions. Powerful and movie, Princess Mononoke lingers in the way many Ghibli films do, with the same sort of bittersweet poignance. — Petrana Radulovic

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