Subscribers to Max (formerly HBO Max) can browse a vast library of movies and television shows to satisfy every taste, from action to drama to comedy. If you’ve already made your way through their superhero selections and popular catalog titles, take a look at some of the best of the rest.
1. Elvis (2022)
Baz Luhrmann’s big, loud, wild fever dream of the King is less a biopic than a frenzied fast-forward of his highs and lows. But that’s all right: Anchored by a potent Austin Butler, who resists falling into a parody of Presley, the film is an adrenaline shot.
According to Luhrmann, Butler became a frontrunner for the role when he received a call from the actor’s co-star on stage in The Iceman Cometh. The call was from Denzel Washington, who told Luhrmann that Butler had an incredible work ethic.
2. The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson team up for another Martin McDonagh fable about two Irish pals who seem to get along swimmingly—until one decides he’s simply bored of the other. McDonagh said he wrote a version of the script a number of years ago that Farrell liked and Gleeson didn’t. So he kept the first five minutes of the original idea, but scrapped the rest of the script.
3. Blood Simple (1984)
Joel and Ethan Coen’s debut feature is a neo-noir about a bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who enlists a private detective to kill his wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). Naturally, things don’t go as planned. That was mirrored off-screen, too, when the Coens went looking to raise money for production and accidentally hit the car of one potential investor.
4. Gravity (2013)
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in this nail-biting thriller about two astronauts cast adrift who have to use every resource available to make it back home. The light box—a special effects rig that projected LED lights onto Bullock to simulate space—was named one of the 25 Best Inventions of 2013 by TIME.
5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Despite advances in special effects, few films have come close to the grandeur and visual impact of director Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film, which was co-written with Arthur C. Clarke, takes viewers on a psychedelic journey through space in the guise of a manned mission to Jupiter that’s soon thrown off-balance by the sentient HAL—a computer with plans of its own. Kubrick and Clarke went through a few prospective titles, including Project: Space and Tunnel to the Stars.
6. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
A seemingly mundane story of a blue-collar Italian worker (Lamberto Maggiorani) who finds his job in jeopardy when his only mode of transportation—a bicycle—is stolen turns into a meditation on the challenges of morality and ethics in the face of desperation. The film is regularly found on lists ranking the best films of all time.
7. Joker (2019)
Joaquin Phoenix followed in the oversized footsteps of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger with his own distinctive take on the infamous Batman villain. This time, performance clown Arthur Fleck finds himself in a seedy metropolis and drawn to the darker side of life. The result was a critical winner, albeit one that became the first Batman film to receive an R rating.
8. Gone Girl (2014)
David Fincher directs this thriller based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name about a woman (Rosamund Pike) who goes missing, leaving her bereaved husband (Ben Affleck) juggling the media and questions over his possible culpability. Boston native and avowed Red Sox fan Affleck reportedly clashed with Fincher after the director asked him to wear a Yankees cap while in character. The actor refused, insisting he’d never hear the end of it from fans. After four days of negotiations, the two compromised: Affleck wore a Mets hat.
9. Parasite (2019)
Bong Joon-ho helmed this Oscar winner about a family of have-nots who commandeer the residence of a wealthy clan. A black-and-white version was released in 2020; Joon-ho felt it gave more weight to the performances.
10. Barbarian (2022)
A young professional (Georgina Campbell) finds her Airbnb double-booked and the stranger (Bill Skarsgård) a little too accommodating in this effective horror thriller. Though set in Detroit, the film was actually shot mostly in Bulgaria.
11. Breaking the Waves (1996)
A nuanced story of love in a time of crisis, Breaking the Waves features Emily Watson as Bess McNeil, a Scottish woman who falls for an oil rig worker named Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgård). When tragedy befalls Jan, Bess must navigate their relationship through uncharted emotional waters. Helena Bonham Carter was slated to play Bess but backed out before filming again, reportedly due to the intensity of the sex scenes.
12. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Tom Cruise is a man doomed to relive a disastrous alien invasion until he figures it out. The film was originally titled All You Need Is Kill after the Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka it’s adapted from, but Warner Bros. eventually changed it.
13. Office Space (1999)
Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head) directed this cult classic about office worker bee Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), who decides the 9-to-5 life isn’t for him and launches a covert embezzling operation on his employers. The movie sprung out of a series of animated shorts Judge produced for MTV and Saturday Night Live about Milton, the stapler-obsessed employee who gets no respect.
14. The Menu (2022)
Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult are two patrons of an exclusive new restaurant hosted by chef Ralph Fiennes. On the menu? Horror. Emma Stone was originally set to star.
15. The Wages of Fear (1953)
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot offers a riveting example of sustained suspense in this fascinating story of four men who volunteer to drive two trucks of volatile nitroglycerine to the site of an oil field fire in South America. One bump in the road too many and they’ll explode. Consider it a predecessor to 1994’s Speed—only far more stressful to watch. The film suffered from edits during its initial U.S. release because distributors felt it was too long and that some scenes were anti-American. It was restored in 1992.
16. Fanny and Alexander (1982)
Writer-director Ingmar Bergman received great acclaim for this enchanting period drama of two children (Pernilla Allwin and Bertil Guve) who find their happy home in ruins after their father dies and their mother remarries. Only their sibling bond and an indomitable will to survive can help them endure the upheaval. Bergman originally conceived the project as a television production and edited a 320-minute version down to 188 minutes for the theatrical release available on Max.
17. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are on opposite sides of the dodgeball court in this send-up of sports tropes. Chuck Norris, who makes a memorable cameo in the film, has said he didn’t read the script: He did the movie as a favor to Stiller.
18. Casablanca (1942)
Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman co-star in this wartime romance that has become an American classic. It’s also one of the most quoted movies, though one memorable line (“Play it again, Sam”) is an example of the Mandela Effect. Bergman actually says, “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’”
19. Eyes Without a Face (1960)
This unsettling French film about a surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) who kidnaps young women in the hopes of helping his daughter (Édith Scob)—who was in a disfiguring car accident—by grafting their faces to hers is a study in restraint. There’s little gore but plenty of unease in what amounts to a highbrow take on the mad scientist genre. The film inspired Billy Idol to record a song with the same title in 1983.
20. Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro achieved a career highlight in this gripping story based on the life of troubled boxer Jake LaMotta. Director Martin Scorsese had LaMotta on set for the fight sequences but asked him not to come when he was shooting dramatic scenes. Scorsese also changed the size of the ring to subversively mirror LaMotta’s darkening moods.
A version of this story ran in 2020; it has been updated for 2023.