The 28 Best Movies on Max (aka HBO Max) Right Now

The 28 Best Movies on Max (aka HBO Max) Right Now 1

As the birthplace of prestige TV shows like The Sopranos and The Wire, HBO—and, by extension, Max (aka the streamer formerly known as HBO Max)—is best known for its impressive lineup of original series. The network has also been upping the ante with feature-length content that is the stuff of Oscar dreams. However, because Max is not (yet) a production powerhouse like, say, Netflix, hundreds of great movies come and go each month. So if you see something you want to watch, don’t let it linger in your queue for too long.

Below is a list of some of our favorite films streaming on Max—from iconic Westerns to recent Oscar nominees you’ll see near the top of any Best Movies of the Year list. If you decide you’re in more of a TV mood, head over to our picks for the best shows on Max. If you’re looking for even more recommendations, check out our lists of the best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Amazon Prime, and the best movies on Disney+.

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Stop Making Sense

Forty years ago, Oscar-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads revolutionized the rockumentary format with Stop Making Sense. The 1984 concert film was shot over the course of four performances at Los Angeles’ iconic Pantages Theatre, and made independently on a budget of just over $1 million, which David Byrne and company raised on their own. What makes it so memorable (in addition to Byrne’s iconic oversize suit) is the simplicity with which it is shot, allowing the band’s creativity to take center stage and lead audiences on an unforgettable journey that feels as much like a piece of performance art as it does a straightforward concert.

Mad Max

Before you watch Anya Taylor-Joy take over the role of Imperator Furiosa, a badass emancipator who dares to challenge gender conventions in a postapocalyptic world, take a look back at the film that started it all. It’s very likely that even writer-director George Miller didn’t know what he was igniting with Mad Max. Mel Gibson stars as Max Rockatansky, a kind of police officer (in dystopian dramas, authorities aren’t so clearly defined) who is seeking revenge from a biker gang after the brutal murder of his wife and child. In the 45 years since, the film has morphed into a full-on franchise with its fifth film, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, set to premiere later this month, and another one in development. You can watch all of the released films—1981’s The Road Warrior, 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome, and 2015’s Fury Road—on Max now, too.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

If you’re a fan of the absurdly dark work of Yorgos Lanthimos (Poor Things) and/or are just discovering the uncomfortable brilliance of Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer has got your name written all over it. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a highly esteemed surgeon with a loving wife (Nicole Kidman) and children whose life is turned upside down after he befriends Martin (Keoghan), an awkward teen who Steven learns lost his father a few years earlier. What begins as a seeming act of kindness on Steven’s part soon turns into a truly demented version of Sophie’s Choice. As always, Lanthimos’ ability to mix humor with pathos remains unmatched—perhaps never more so than here.

The Zone of Interest

In 1943, Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) was the commandant of Auschwitz who spent his days playing god with the lives of the concentration camp’s innocent prisoners. But what happened when Höss went home? That’s the reality Jonathan Glazer’s Oscar-winning film examines, and the answer is: Not much. Höss lives right next door to the camp, in the so-called Zone of Interest, with his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller) and their five children. Within those four walls, they strive to build a dream life for their family—while the sound of gunshots, incoming trains, and furnaces being lit are just a part of daily life. Yes, it’s every bit as brutal—and necessary—as it sounds.

Black Swan

Natalie Portman gave what might very well end up being the defining performance of her career in this dark dance drama from Darren Aronofsky. Nina Sayers (Portman) is a dancer with the New York City Ballet whose entire life has been dedicated to her art, in large part due to her overprotective mother (Barbara Hershey), who was also a ballerina and pushes her daughter to have the career she wanted for herself. Nina’s life is turned upside down when she lands the lead in a new production of Swan Lake, only to realize that she’ll be splitting the part with the free-spirited Lily (Mila Kunis) who quickly becomes both the only friend Nina has ever really had and her most bitter rival. Soon, she descends into a dizzying madness that is reflected in Aronofsky’s directorial choices, which make the audience feel every bit of her emotions.

Good Time

Back in 2020, we named Good Time as one of the most underrated movies of the past 20 years, and absolutely still stand by that claim. Fortunately, as Robert Pattinson and the Safdie Brothers have continued to establish themselves as some of the most interesting actors (Pattinson and Benny Safdie) and directors (Benny again and his brother Josh) working today, more people have discovered the film, and even more will, now that it’s on Max. Connie Nikas (Pattinson) is a small-time criminal who is always looking for his next big score, and typically employs his developmentally disabled brother Nick (Safdie) as his partner. When a bank robbery goes wrong and Nick is nabbed by the police, Connie must fight for their survival. Much like Uncut Gems, which would later come to define the Safdies’ style, Good Time is a fast-moving, visceral crime thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat as Connie works to reunite with his brother, whatever the cost.

Wonka

Timothée Chalamet stars as Willy Wonka in this perfectly entertaining origin story of Roald Dahl’s quirky chocolatier, directed by Paddington’s Paul King. While it doesn’t hit the same as Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory—really, who could match Gene Wilder’s somersaulting candy maker?—it also far surpasses Tim Burton’s fairly needless 2005 remake.

Dream Scenario

Like Forrest Gump’s famed box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get from a Nicolas Cage performance. But he’s a one-of-a-kind actor whose roles tend to fall into one of two categories: totally transcendent, or scenery-chewing at its most voracious. Dream Scenario is very much the former, and has been heralded as one of the Oscar-winning actor’s best performances by some critics. Rightfully so. Cage stars as Paul Matthews, an unassuming biology professor who suddenly begins appearing in strangers’ dreams and achieves viral fame as a result of it. Like any good Cage performance, this one is multifaceted and examines the downside of sudden fame and what it really costs.

The Green Knight

Writer-director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon, Peter Pan & Wendy) is a master of reimagining well-trodden material in ways that feel inventive and wholly new. That’s exactly what he did with this award-winning fantasy-adventure that sees Dev Patel in the role of Arthurian hero. Sir Gawain (Patel) is the nephew of King Arthur who has spent his life sheltered by his own privilege and decides it’s time to change that. So when the opportunity comes for Gawain to prove himself as a warrior befitting of his seat at the Round Table, he takes it—despite being woefully unprepared for the challenges that will come his way.

Dicks: The Musical

A24—the studio known for its edgy, award-winning indies like Moonlight and Ex Machina (which are both streaming on Max)—takes a dive into the musical genre with this adaptation of the off-Broadway hit Fucking Identical Twins (and you thought Dicks: The Musical was a raunchy title). Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp cowrote and costar in this over-the-top musical as two coworkers who discover that they’re long-lost twin brothers, and they attempt to Parent Trap their parents (played by Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally). Megan Thee Stallion plays their boss. Anyone offended by an f-bomb—or dozens of them—might want to give this one a skip.

Barbie

Greta Gerwig is a master of breathing new life into old properties (see: Little Women). With Barbie, she has ignited a revolution. Barbie (Margot Robbie) is living her best life in Barbieland—until one day, when her perfectly plastic world, and heels, suddenly begin to collapse. To get her fabulous life back, Barbie must travel to the real world—well, Los Angeles—to determine who or what is causing her existential crisis. The film has grossed nearly $1.5 billion worldwide, meaning you likely may have already seen it. But even if you did, it’s absolutely worth a second watch—if only to lament its many Oscar snubs.

Fargo

Frances McDormand won her first of four (and counting) Oscars for her role as Marge Gunderson, the extremely pregnant and no-nonsense chief of police in Brainerd, Minnesota. When a mysterious crime scene puts Marge on the trail of a car salesman (William H. Macy) with a terrible plan for getting his hands on a boatload of cash, it also puts Marge in the crosshairs of a couple of career thieves (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) with little regard for human life. As is often the case in any Coen brothers movie, there’s a perfectly balanced mix of very bad things and very funny moments, which somehow makes seeing a murderer attempt to dispose of a body in a wood chipper a laugh-out-loud moment.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone is the undisputed master of spaghetti Westerns, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is his masterpiece. A mysterious stranger (Clint Eastwood) decides to partner up with a Mexican outlaw (Eli Wallach), but their kinship is not what it seems. With its clever twists, superb acting, and unforgettable score by Ennio Morricone, the film is a classic for a very good reason.

Eastern Promises

Come for David Cronenberg’s iconic style, stay for Viggo Mortensen’s naked ass-kicking. Nikolai (Mortensen) is a strongman for one of the most ruthless crime families in London. But when a well-meaning midwife (Naomi Watts) comes around, asking questions about the death of a woman who may or may not be connected to Nikolai’s employers, he finds himself at a crossroads. The film is more action-packed than a typical Cronenberg film, which tend to lean toward the side of “bizarre,” and is all the more compelling because of it.

RoboCop

From Total Recall to Showgirls and back to Basic Instinct, director Paul Verhoeven has a track record almost unmatched in modern cinema. RoboCop, his dystopian take on law enforcement, is proof. Set in a bleak vision of Detroit overrun with crime, it follows a cop (Peter Weller) who gets fatally wounded and turned into, yes, a robot cop, who you might think is good at fighting crime, but of course is not. Some of the visual effects may look a little beat up now, but in 1987, they looked like the future. Also, if RoboCop leaves you wanting more, the film’s two sequels and 2014 reboot—none of which, sadly, were directed by Verhoeven—are also available on Max.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

In reality, a great many of the Star Trek films are now on Max, but it’s Wrath of Khan that you need to watch before it leaves the streaming service. The movie that gave a kick in the teeth to the whole franchise and paved the way for Star Trek: The Next Generation, it’s the one held up as the Trek film. J. J. Abrams tried rebooting this one with Star Trek Into Darkness but ultimately couldn’t beat the original.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

For years, Chilean-French director Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to make an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune. He intended for H. R. Giger to do character designs, and Pink Floyd to make the soundtrack. He wanted Salvador Dalí to play a role. He had an outline for the film, at one point, that would have come in at around 14 hours. As you might imagine, this movie ultimately never came to pass, but director Frank Pavich’s documentary about Jodorowsky’s efforts is a masterpiece all its own.

Albert Brooks: Defending My Life

Albert Brooks is a comedian’s comedian. Though he might be best known as the filmmaker behind such celebrated comedies as Defending Your Life, Lost in America, Real Life, and Mother, he’s also a brilliant actor (with an Oscar nomination to prove it). Brooks’ longtime pal Rob Reiner directs this charming documentary, which documents Brooks’ one-of-a-kind talent, with a stunning lineup of A-listers—including David Letterman, Steven Spielberg, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, Chris Rock, Larry David, and Ben Stiller—all ready to sing his praises.

Dune

Frank Herbert’s Dune is one of those iconic novels that several directors have attempted to bring to the screen and ended up abandoning. Nearly 40 years before Denis Villeneuve won six Oscars for his 2021 adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel (which is also streaming on Max—and you should absolutely watch it, along with its sequel, which arrives on May 21), David Lynch gave it a go—and the results weren’t as admired at the time. But Lynch’s Dune has experienced a bit of a critical reappraisal in recent years, particularly for what we now know to be its very Lynchian style. (Back then, it just seemed strange and surreal.) The film, which is set in the year 10191, sees the fate of the planet Arrakis—and its supply of melange, a unique spice and the most valuable substance in the universe—in the hands of young Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), the untested son of a powerful duke.

Furious 7

You’d be forgiven for thinking a lot of the Fast & Furious movies start to run together. Car chase, fistfight, street race, big booms, Corona, “family”—the end. But this one is special. For starters, it’s the one where the gang parachutes a bunch of souped-up cars out of the back of a cargo plane. For another, it marks Paul Walker’s final appearance in a Fast movie. (He died in a car accident in 2013.) It’s a bittersweet film, and also one of the franchise’s best.

Carrie

Four directors have attempted to mine Stephen King’s debut novel for cinematic inspiration, which ultimately seems pointless after Brian De Palma’s 1976 original. Nearly 50 years after its debut, the film still manages to scare the pants off audiences. Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is a shy, sheltered, and, yeah, kinda weird teen who is a favorite target of her high school’s clique of mean girls. When one of said mean girls (Nancy Allen) is barred from attending her own senior prom because of her behavior, she and her boyfriend make a plan to get revenge on poor ol’ Carrie. But Carrie has the last laugh when, after being doused by a bucket full of pig’s blood, she shows a gymnasium full of prom-goers why her “Creepy Carrie” nickname is well earned. The film also features an ending that can still make audiences quite literally jump out of their seats.

Pulp Fiction

If you’re a movie buff, chances are you’ve already seen Quentin Tarantino’s seminal Pulp Fiction. But, if you’re a movie buff, you’re also probably the kind of person who likes to revisit it often. But be warned: If you think this might inspire you to indulge in a Tarantino marathon, you’re out of luck. It’s one of the only Tarantino flicks on Max. (This depends a lot on whether you count the director’s appearance in From Dusk Till Dawn.) Still, enjoy your time with Jules and Vincent (and Honey Bunny and the gimp and Marsellus Wallace and Butch) while you can.

Avatar: The Way of Water

James Cameron’s Avatar sequel felt like a movie centuries in the making. In reality, just over a dozen years passed between the original 2009 movie and last year’s The Way of Water. That timeline adds up: The second in a scheduled series of five films takes place 16 years after the events of the original and catches up with Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana)—now married with children, and still blue. Though the movie didn’t seem to make as loud a splash as its predecessor, it managed to wipe Cameron’s own Titanic out of the water—plus all the Star Wars movies—to become the third-highest-grossing movie of all time (with Avatar in the top spot, followed by Avengers: Endgame).

Reality

In 2017, an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election was leaked anonymously. One year later, former NSA translator Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name) was sentenced to more than five years in prison for the crime—the longest sentence ever received by a government whistleblower. HBO’s reigning muse, Sydney Sweeney (EuphoriaThe White Lotus), shines in this gripping true story, which plays out mostly in real time as the FBI knocks on the 25-year-old’s door and spends more than an hour questioning her.

Parasite

Even if you don’t care about awards, the fact that Parasite is the first—and still only—non-English-language movie to win a Best Picture Oscar should tell you something about the universality of its themes. The Kims, a family struggling to make ends meet, set their scheming sights on the Parks, a well-to-do family with plenty of problems of their own, but also plenty of money to muffle their dysfunction. At least for a time. Just when you think you know how class warfare is playing out in this black comedy, it changes course to reach an unexpected conclusion. As always, Bong Joon-ho knows just how to lead his audience down one path, only to open a trapdoor into another.

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

Finding success in one’s lifetime might seem like the dream of every artist, but Nan Goldin has bigger ambitions. Though she’s a photographer by trade, she’s an activist by calling and has long used her camera to capture painfully intimate moments of America in crisis, including extensive work focused on the HIV/AIDS and opioid epidemics. But All the Beauty and the Bloodshed reveals the artist in conflict: Should she allow her work to be showcased in one of the prominent museums or galleries that have received endowments from the Sackler family—the Big Pharma family that many blame for America’s opioid crisis? It’s a moving portrait of an artist willing to risk it all for her beliefs.

The Dark Knight

First things first: All three of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are currently on Max, and binge-watching all of them in a row is certainly one way to spend an evening. But if you’re opting to watch just one, the second film in the series is the one to beat. Though Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader gets top billing, it’s Heath Ledger’s now-iconic performance as the Joker that makes The Dark Knight the most compulsively watchable Batman movie (even beyond Nolan’s entries). Though Ledger tragically passed away six months before the film’s release, he posthumously won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his villainous turn, in which he managed to find the perfect balance between dark humor and outright insanity.

Hereditary

Ari Aster made a splash—and one memorable splat—with his directorial debut, which took psychological horror to new heights. Annie Graham (Toni Collette) is a miniature artist living a seemingly contented life with her psychiatrist husband (Gabriel Byrne) and their two teenagers, Peter (Alex Wolff) and Charlie (Milly Shapiro). But any sense of normalcy disappears almost immediately following the death of Annie’s mom, with whom she had a challenging relationship. Is Annie crazy? Is her husband a terrible shrink? Is Peter a terrible person? Why does Charlie make that clicking noise? What’s that in the back seat of the car? These are all valid questions that are answered by Aster, whose deft directorial style has made him an instant Hollywood icon. Aster’s follow-up film, 2019’s equally disturbing Midsommar, is also available to stream.