The 25 best movies streaming on HBO Max – Yardbarker

Let’s be honest: there are only so many movies you can watch on Netflix. After a few days of Adam Sandler comedies and Cameron Diaz rom-coms, you kinda want to watch something that’s, like, actually good. That’s the advantage of subscribing to HBO Max. Not only do they have a number of new titles premiering every month, they also have access to the Warner Bros, Studio Ghibili, and TCM archives. The options are endless, but where to start?
That’s where our guide to the best titles on HBO Max comes in. Scroll down and see all the best movies streaming on HBO Max.
Martin Scorsese’s gangster flick is best served with garlic, gravy, and a table full of friends. No movie on our list has more hangout potential than this one — the story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his journey from child to made man is one of the most joyous experiences in all of cinema. 
Not all heroes wear capes…but the best ones often do. Christian Bale stands head and shoulders above all other heroes in this dark, twisted adventure that takes us into a shady underworld of cops, criminals, and billionaires. He’s one of the few actors who could take a masked man and make him human, and his performance is only matched by an Oscar-winning turn from the late Heath Ledger. 
You thought Gotham City was bad. Wait till you see New York in the ’70s. The opening montage of this movie shows us a city on the brink of explosion: an explosion of heat, rage, trash, and people. The entire city’s frustration comes oozing out of the pores of Al Pacino, who’s dragged his friends along to a bank robbery and soon realizes he’s surrounded on all sides. There’s a reason every heist movie has stolen from Lumet: he’s the first director to realize that heists are not about money; they’re about people. 
Some films create their own world, with their own laws and rules. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those films. The movie is populated with kooky eccentrics, lobbies filled with can-colored plants, and doormen who look like they’ve just come in from the 1800s. There’s no rhyme or reason to any of this, and yet it all makes sense. Such is the magic of Wes Anderson. 
The movie you’ve watched 1,000 times on TNT still holds up. The way it shifts from action — see: the motorcycle chase — to emotion never gets old. Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s robot might be a blank face, but he’s also a perfect character for others to emote off.  
There’s nothing like an hour or two in the company of Paddington to lift your spirits. A bear hug of a character, he’s one of the most lovable creatures to ever grace the silver screen. He’s a mix between Charlie Chaplin and Winnie the Pooh. You can’t help but want to be his friend. 
This film about protest on the streets of Casbah echoes in your bones. It explodes with white-hot rage, neo-realist techniques, and visceral camera movements, and it stays with you long after the credits role. The film was so effective, it was shown in the Pentagon for tactics, a fact that can’t be said about any other war movie ever made. 
Play it again, Sam! There are few movies on this list we’ve played more than Casablanca, the World War II drama about an American expatriate (Humphrey Bogart) discovering his ex (Ingrid Bergman) is back in town. It’s one of the most quotable movies ever, with a number of lines you know by heart. It’s also one of the most moving, with a romance you root for more than anything in the world. 
How do you follow up a masterpiece? That was the challenge Francois Truffaut faced after he made The 400 Blows. The result is a story that follows two best friends, Jules and Jim, and their mutual love interest, Catherine, who might be the most radiant woman this side of a Botticelli angel. There’s a constant stream of visual delights, from the look of the characters to the French countryside to the never-ending spool of camera tricks, and there’s even a musical number that comes halfway in. It’s a moment you won’t soon forget. 
Georges Fanju scared moviegoers when he adapted Jean Readon’s novel to the big screen. No one had ever seen someone kidnap girls and skin them alive before. The movie took slashers to a whole ‘nother level. But what really stands out is the emotional crore — proof that horror characters can be more than just objects. They can be flesh and blood humans with eyes that blink, faces that feel, and hearts that yearn for more. 
While the pandemic might have pushed back certain releases, the year 2021 saw multiple musicals hit the big screen. Along with West Side Story, Tick, Tick…Boom!, and Dear Evan Hansen, there was one entry so massive it made us think movie theaters were back for good. You’d have to go back to MGM’s Golden Age to find something as catchy, colorful, and cyclical as In the Heights, a confetti-egg of a movie that bursts open with visual delights.
Grab a box of tissues, a family member, and come see why Tokyo Story has been hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made. Over 70 years after its release, Yosujiro Ozu’s tale of a family at all three stages (child, parent, and grandparent) still has the power to make you laugh, cry, and cheer all at once. 
Ah, Paris. Home of some of the greatest artists (and snootiest people) in the world. Even the taxi drivers in Paris treat you like a piece of trash to be picked up and thrown away. That’s what makes Agnes Varda’s Cleo From 5-7 so great: it’s a movie about an artist whose snootiness infects her like a plague.
Boys, do not watch Magic Mike with your girlfriends. Trust me: you’ll spend the entire two hours watching your girlfriend watch Channing Tatum strip naked. It’s an undeniably awkward experience, though the film is made with such skill that even those who decide to watch it with their GF will never not be entertained. 
Director Ridley Scott went out of his way to imagine the future as a terrible place, and yet, the look, sound, and ambiance of this world makes it a place you’d want to visit. The production design mixes modern and Egyptian, ancient and avant-garde, to create a future that stands out of time. Would you want live here? Heck no. But that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to visit. There’s always something new to see in this tale of detective Deckard (Harrison Ford) and his quest to track down killers, androids, and free will.
Daisies is a girls-gone-wild comedy on acid. Food fights, college pranks, night clubs, and time travel ensue — as does a scene in which our two heroines cut each other into pieces. Vera Chytilova set out to break every rule in the cinematic rule book, and break every rule in the Czech rule book that said directors weren't allowed to make fun of society, the government, or the country's food. Safe to say she made fun of all those things….and so much more. 
Steven Spielberg is the master of turning horror flicks into commercial products. With Duel, he turned death into a hit. He made sharks cool in Jaws. And with Jurassic Park, a big, bouncy picture, he turned a bunch of dinosaurs into a staple of family friendly entertainment. I mean, the guy even made D-Day look fun.
Before there was Adaptation or The Player, there was 8 1/2. This satire from Federico Fellini is a deep-dive into the process of filmmaking, writers block, and creative inspiration, but it also functions as a purely entertaining picture. Perhaps even more so than The Player, 8 1/2 takes pleasure in poking fun at the movie industry — the producers, the actors, the headlines — and staging it all as one big circus. 
If there’s one thing you’ve heard about this samurai epic, it’s that it was the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven. The elements are similar: there’s a village under attack, and seven warriors are hired to save them. But there’s so much more to Akira Kurosawa’s version than there is to John Sturges’. From the epic scope to the poetic feel, from the lovable characters to the lyrical action, no one has been able to top what Kurosowa does here. 
There are many reasons we remember this as one of the best comedies of all time. We all know the big ones — the stuff in Queens, the barber shop, the dance party — but our favorite scene in this Eddie Murphy vehicle is a smaller one. It’s a moment he shares with his girlfriend on their first date. Alone in a restaurant, after a long walk on the wharf, Murphy tells his girlfriend that all he wants in a relationship is to be loved. It’s a moment that catches you off guard, in a good way. 
HBO Max has all the chapters in Peter Jackson’s trilogy, but we recommend you start with the first, a rousing adventure that kicks off with Frodo Bagins (Elijah Wood) leaving home for the first time. With a napsack in hand, he soon finds himself in a world of orcs, wizards, and medieval castles. Audiences won’t find themselves far behind. 
Could Dune be this generation’s Lord of the Rings? We’ll have to wait to find out. For now, the series is off to a great start with one of the best blockbusters to come along in years. 
How much more funny can a comedy be? The answer is none. None more funny. If you don’t find yourself rolling on the floor at Jim Carry’s one-liners (“so your saying there’s a chance!”) or Jeff Daniels’ slapstick (the toilet), you may want to head to the nearest funeral home and take a nap. You’re officially dead inside. 
You may also want to head to a funeral home if you don’t find yourself tearing up during My Neighbor Totoro. One of the many Studio Ghibli movies on HBO Max, Totoro also happens to be their best, thanks the movie’s mix of animation, emotion, and creature design. The story of two girls moving to the countryside is an all-time tearjerker, with a cute monster to boot. 
Asher Luberto is a film critic for L.A. Weekly, The Playlist, The Progressive and The Village Voice.
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