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The Best Movies on HBO Max
HBO Max may be one of the newest platforms to enter the streaming world, but already it’s one of the best. Not only does the service offer a ton of exclusive content related to its hit properties — like Game of Thrones, The Wire, and The Sopranos — it also has a ton of fantastic films strengthening its online catalog.
Thanks to HBO’s partnerships with standout companies and networks like TCM, Studio Ghibli, and DC, the service has an absolutely stacked selection of films you’re able to choose from.
Whether you’re in the mood for a classic black and white monster movie from the ‘30s, a beloved anime film from Hayao Miyazaki, or a recent blockbuster from this past summer, there’s no end to the number of great films you’re able to choose from.
From universally praised films like Young Frankenstein and Citizen Kane to celebrated modern films like The Witch and West Side Story, here are some of the best films you can find currently streaming on HBO Max.
Updated: October 27.
Horror: The VVitch
Independent production studio A24 has become almost synonymous with the horror genre in recent years. Looking back at some of their past films like The VVitch, you begin to understand why.
After a disagreement with their Puritan community, a family of English pilgrims settle in the isolated woods of 1630s New England. There, they begin experiencing supernatural encounters with a nearby witch who dwells in the forest.
The most unique thing about The Witch is not necessarily its first-rate suspense (although the movie has that in spades). Rather, it’s director Robert Eggers’ stringent commitment to period authenticity, the movie using an outdated vernacular style unseen in most horror films. The result is one of a kind cinematic experience, one that makes it feel like you’ve actually traveled back in time to its historical setting.
Comedy: Young Frankenstein
We can all agree that Mel Brooks is an undisputed legend of comedy. Like all the best comedians, he has the ability to make you laugh at any one of his films, regardless of your age or the generation you were born to. In addition to his other best-known films (Blazing Saddles, The Producers), Young Frankenstein is a shining example of why Brooks is so often regarded as the comedic genius that he is.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is a gifted yet deeply self-conscious physician trying to distance himself from his infamous family name. Venturing to his family’s Transylvania estate to claim his inheritance, Frederick soon tries to perfect his grandfather’s work, building his own monster (Peter Boyle) with unintentionally hilarious results.
A parody of Universal’s 1930s monster movies, Young Frankenstein is perhaps the greatest film Wilder and Brooks ever worked on together. Cleverly written and energetically acted, it’s regularly referred to as the funniest film ever made.
Martin Scorsese is more famous for his more adult-centric films, like the nihilistic Taxi Driver, the gangster epic, Goodfellas, and his ensemble thriller, The Departed. In a rare career deviation, Scorsese turned to making a movie fit for the whole movie: ushering in his 2011 film, Hugo.
In 1930s Paris, an orphaned boy (Asa Butterfield) lives at the bustling Gare Montparnasse train station. After coming into conflict with a curmudgeonly old vendor (Ben Kingsley), the boy becomes embroiled in a mystery involving an enigmatic automaton, his deceased father, and influential early filmmaker, Georges Méliès.
Based on Brian Selznick’s award-winning novel of the same name, Hugo is completely unlike anything Scorsese has ever worked on before. Bearing absolutely none of the signature qualities of his films, it’s a warming tale of friendship, family, and dreams, employing a look and design reminiscent of early silent films.
Sci-Fi: Ex Machina
While A24 may be more well-known for their contributions to the horror genre, their sci-fi films remain achievements in and of themselves. Case in point with 2013’s Ex Machina, a brilliant and forward-thinking sci-fi thriller reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a talented computer programmer at a massive internet company run by the reclusive Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Winning a company-wide contest to spend time with the company’s founder, Caleb travels to Nathan’s remote woodlands home. There, he comes face to face with Nathan’s newest project: an intelligent, human-like AI (Alicia Vikander).
An acting tour de force for every actor involved, Ex Machina is also a timely meditation on the dangers of AI, examining questions of what separates man and machine. Incredibly well-paced, it’s also an extremely palpable thriller, one where you’re not entirely sure of who to trust at any given point.
Adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic book of the same name, Kick-Ass takes a far more humorous, albeit intrinsically realistic approach to the superhero genre.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is an ordinary New York teenager who decides to become a superhero. Donning the mask and superhero identity of “Kick-Ass,” Dave bites off more than he can chew when he incurs the wrath of a notorious mob boss (Mark Strong).
Released when the superhero genre was still in its relative infancy, Kick-Ass was a far more biting satirization of the superhero film than anything that had come prior. Grounding it in reality and practically Tarantino levels of violence and language, it’s fresh, funny, and hard to stomach throughout.
Drama: Citizen Kane
No single movie is as important in the history of global cinema as Citizen Kane. Orson Welles’ filmmaking debut, it bears all the makings of a genius at work: expertly written, eloquently acted, and innovatively shot.
Charles Foster Kane (Welles) is one of the richest, most powerful men in the world. Passing away at his private residence, a newspaper reporter (William Alland) tries to find out the meaning behind Kane’s final words, interviewing some of Kane’s friends and family members from his past.
It seems cliché to gush about Citizen Kane’s place in the development of film, but Welles’ first feature deserves every little bit of attention it so often receives. Using filmmaking techniques no one had ever seen before, it was one of the most complex and ambitious films ever released at that time. Every single director who’s picked up a camera since owes a serious debt of gratitude to this film.
Musical: West Side Story
It says a lot about Steven Spielberg’s talent as a director that his 2021 remake of West Side Story directly matched the acclaim met by the original musical 50 years prior.
In 1950s New York, a racially divided suburb of New York City is torn apart by the growing conflict between two rival gangs: the predominantly white Jets and the mostly Puerto Rican Sharks. As the situation escalates into a full-on gang war, two combatants (Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler) from opposing sides fall deeply in love.
All too often, remakes of classic films tend to pale in comparison to the original. Spielberg’s take on West Side Story, however, is a magical and heart-rendingly modern translation of the Bernstein-Sondheim musical, every bit as enrapturing as the 1961 film.
It’s crazy to remember a time when Nicolas Cage wasn’t Nicolas Cage — a time when he was just a fresh-faced, bold, energetic young actor first coming into his own in Hollywood. After years of bit roles in frequently glossed-over movies, Cage finally ascended to the elite ranks of the film industry with the 1987 romcom classic Moonstruck.
Loretta (Cher) is a hardworking Brooklyn widow who accepts the marriage proposal of her boyfriend (Danny Aiello). Soon, Loretta’s life is complicated when she begins developing romantic feelings for her boyfriend’s impulsive brother (Cage).
With Moonstruck, Cage established himself as an actor of pure intensity, reminiscent of the early films of Marlon Brando (especially A Streetcar Named Desire). Balanced by Cher’s charming performance as Loretta, Moonstruck is a hilarious and deeply moving portrait of love and all its complexities.
Looking at the course of his career, it seems utterly incredible that Christopher Nolan’s second film is as superb as it is. A crowning achievement in the early 2000s indie film industry, Memento helped propel the director to career stardom by the mid 2000s, showcasing Nolan’s undeniable skills as a filmmaker.
Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffers from a rare form of amnesia, completely forgetting everything that happens to him moments after it’s happened. On the trail of his wife’s killers, Leonard struggles to recall the most minute details of his investigation, having difficulty remembering who exactly he can trust.
Framed from Leonard’s perspective, Memento uses an unorthodox, nonlinear storytelling method to convey most of its narrative. Like all of Nolan’s movies, it requires a few viewings to fully understand, but that’s what makes it so interesting to watch in the first place.
Underrated: Shiva Baby
Two years before her breakout performance in Bodies Bodies Bodies, Rachel Sennott made an immediate impact in the indie scene with her 2020 comedy, Shiva Baby.
Danielle (Sennott) is a bisexual college student who makes her income primarily as a sugar baby. Attending a departed family friend’s shiva, Danielle is shocked to find one of her main sugar daddies (Danny Deferrari) also in attendance.
A comedy so achingly awkward it might as well be a horror film, Shiva Baby effortlessly captures the anxieties so many people feel at family gatherings. It’s a thriller film where the thrills are relatively tame in nature, one where everyday conversations — such as those between a girl and her judgmental relatives — are the subject of profound unease and suspense.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).