The 20 Best Movies Streaming on HBO Max Right Now
By Jake Rossen
HBO Max subscribers 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 has said he wrote a version a number of years ago that Farrell liked and Gleeson didn’t. The director kept the first five minutes 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. A special effects rig dubbed “the light box” 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 mediation 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. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece takes a harsh look at the realities of the Vietnam War. Standout R. Lee Ermey got into a car accident during filming and broke his ribs, forcing a halt in the production.
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. The Town (2010)
Ben Affleck directed this taut thriller about a group of professional bank thieves who find themselves at odds when one of their own (Affleck) falls for a former hostage (Rebecca Hall). Affleck told The Hollywood Reporter in 2010 that Warner Bros. had given him a 170-page script and asked him to cut 50 pages as well as 50 percent of the budget in order for it to get made.
13. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982)
Ridley Scott directs Harrison Ford in what is arguably one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. In 2019 Los Angeles, Rick Deckard (Ford) hunts Replicants, synthetic humans who have fled from servitude to cause havoc in the streets. The Final Cut is Scott’s preferred version.
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)
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 HBO Max.
17. Back to School (1986)
Rodney Dangerfield scored the biggest hit of his career as Thornton Mellon, a middle-aged man who enrolls in college so that his son doesn’t drop out. Robert Downey Jr. co-stars; Jim Carrey was considered for the role of a put-upon professor, but it eventually went to Sam Kinison.
18. Chef (2014)
Jon Favreau took a break from MCU and Star Wars duties with this small-scale charmer about a superstar chef who rediscovers his passion for food after downsizing to a food truck. Favreau requested cooking lessons from mobile food master Roy Choi for the film.
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. Rush Hour (1997)
Jackie Chan had his first big Hollywood hit with this buddy comedy about a Hong Kong cop (Chan) forced to team with an LAPD cop (Chris Tucker) to rescue a diplomat’s kidnapped daughter. The movie actually helped inspire the creation of the Rotten Tomatoes website: Co-founder Senh Duong was anticipating the movie but was frustrated he couldn’t find many reviews for it easily. He envisioned an aggregate review site, and RT was born.
A version of this story ran in 2020; it has been updated for 2023.