Looking for your next film obsession? Then we can’t recommend HBO Max highly enough, as the new streaming service on the block has everything from classic films from Hollywood’s golden age to new releases like In The Heights. The best movies on HBO Max start with black-and-white classics from Turner Classic Movies to contemporary blockbusters like Godzilla vs Kong and Wonder Woman 1984. In fact, there are so many movies on HBO Max that it reminds us of visiting Blockbuster, when we would spend hours walking the aisles looking for the perfect movie to watch.
Thanks to the emergence of more and more streaming services, a library of cinematic greats is now at our fingertips, and HBO Max is no exception. While the steamer shot out of the gate with the promises of a Friends reunion and a Gossip Girl revival (among other TV offerings), it has since established itself as the home of big-budget productions like Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Godzilla vs. Kong.
The service also happens to house a wealth of other notable films, movies that you’ve probably always intended to see but just never got around to. From offerings from the Coen brothers and Hitchcock contributions to satires, coming-of-age films and downright classics, we wanted to take a stab at narrowing down the choices.
While you may have seen some of the movies below, we’re guessing the average HBO Max customer hasn’t seen them all. So after watching Godzilla fight King Kong, here are 12 of the best movies on HBO Max to watch next. What’s next on your streaming watch list? Let us know in the comments and we’ll consider adding your favorites to this post. To start streaming, click the button below to sign up for HBO Max.
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1. The Graduate
You totally get the whole “Mrs. Robinson” reference in terms of an attractive older woman, but have you ever actually gotten the full Mrs. Robinson experience? We mean the 1967 film, of course, which is now available on the streaming service. The movie follows a much younger Dustin Hoffman as a college graduate who finds himself choosing between his older lover (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter (Katharine Ross). The Graduate was nominated for seven Oscars following its debut, with director Mike Nichols taking home that coveted win. It’s a classic watch filled with all kinds of memorable scenes, scenes you’ll probably recognize from all of the parodies over the years.
2. Citizen Kane
How do you measure a life? And who writes that story? Sure those themes are omnipresent in film and television these days, but back in 1941 it was this classic Orson Welles movie that showed just how powerful they can be. You’ve probably heard of the Oscar-nominated movie (one of the most critically acclaimed in cinematic history), but have you ever sat down to watch it? The story of a mighty man’s rise and fall, his death, and those who attempt to define him is compelling stuff. And at the very least it’s safe to say you’ll never hear the word “rosebud” again without immediately conjuring up memories of this lasting film.
3. Night of the Living Dead
Can you truly call yourself a horror fan if you’ve never seen this classic, low-budget horror flick from George Romero? When the movie was released in 1968 the fresh documentary style of shooting and the sheer lack of setup made these hungry flesh-eaters that much more terrifying. To say that it changed the zombie film game would be an understatement. If you’ve feasted on offerings like 28 Days Later, The Evil Dead or even The Cabin in the Woods, you’ll recognize plenty of homages and tropes that were first popularized with Romero’s creative eye. As avid movie watchers may already know there are three versions of the film in circulation, but it’s the restored version from the film’s original negative that you can currently enjoy on HBO Max.
4. Shaun of the Dead
Long after Night of the Living Dead and its sequel Dawn of the Dead proved audiences have an insatiable appetite for zombie thrillers (but before The Walking Dead oversaturated that market) there was this witty take on the genre. Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, a self-absorbed Londoner who is so caught up in his own stuff that he barely notices the apocalypse happening outside his door. It’s got satire, social commentary, and lots of those traditional zombie tropes that you probably know and love, and as a result this 2004 film is largely considered one of the greatest parodies of all-time.
Before director David Fincher blew everyone’s minds with Fight Club there was this dark serial killer drama starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Gwyneth Paltrow. The 1995 movie revolves around a murderer who uses the seven deadly sins to justify his gruesome crimes, and the two detectives (Freeman and Pitt) who are so obsessed with finding him that they upend their own lives in the process. The movie isn’t one of Fincher’s best known, nor did it make a huge impact on the awards circuit that year, but the psychological thriller sits with you well after those final credits roll.
6. Spirited Away
Famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki breathes life into this animated story from Studio Ghibli. When a kind 10-year-old girl becomes trapped in another world after she and her parents stumble into a seemingly deserted amusement park, she experiences all kinds of magical adventures (think a bathhouse witch and her parents turning into pigs, among other things). This 2001 story is one of the studio’s better known hits, especially after it won a Best Animated Film at the Oscars. But if you’re just getting started in the Japanese animated world and haven’t seen much of it yet then this story is a great first choice.
7. Singin’ in the Rain
You know the tune, but have you ever stopped to see the Golden Globe-nominated movie? This movie is widely considered to be the greatest movie musical of all time, and it holds up incredibly well. Fasten up your raincoat because this 1952 flick is all kinds of Hollywood meta. The story revolves around a group of filmmakers who navigate the transition from silent film to talkies. And while Don (Gene Kelly) and Lina (Jean Hagen) are the coveted actor couple at the center of it all, only Don’s singing voice is good enough to take that leap. Enter Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), a young actor with big dreams and the vocals that could save the flick. This one is part comedy, part romance, and all kinds of memorable.
If awkward coming-of-age movies are on-brand for you but you’ve never seen this star-studded affair, it’s time to add it to your list. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a post-grad kid named James whose dreams of a European vacay are cut short when his parents announce a new financial situation. With few real-world skills he eventually winds up at an amusement park, where a slew of characters (including Kristen Stewart as his love interest Em) are about to transform his life. Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig also star.
9. Just Mercy
The story of a wrongly convicted man on death row and the lawyer working overtime to save him isn’t a new story, but this particular tale — based on true events — unfortunately, remains as relevant as ever. The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival entry stars Michael B. Jordan as Harvard Law grad Bryan Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian. Together they paint a grim and honest portrayal of Black life in 1980-90s Alabama. The movie tackles issues of systemic racism, justice, prejudice and more, making it an important and timely watch.
10. Blood Simple
Before the Coen brothers established themselves as major filmmakers with projects like Fargo, True Grit and The Big Lebowski, there was this debut 1984 entry starring John Getz, M. Emmet Walsh, Frances McDormand and Dan Hedaya. The movie is hailed as one of the best noir films of the time (or, ever), with a story that revolves around the owner of a bar who suspects his wife is having an affair. What unravels is a psychological thriller involving murder and misunderstanding, one that proves great movies don’t need a massive budget in order to be successful. Meanwhile, the film not only set up the Coens for their future successes, but it also launched McDormand’s Oscar-winning career.
There are few old-timey movies that hold up today, but Casablanca is certainly one of them. In fact, even if you’ve never seen the 1942 offering odds are you’ve probably quoted it. (“Here’s looking at you, kid,” “We’ll always have Paris” or “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world she walks into mine” ring a bell?) The deeply romantic war drama stars Humphrey Bogart as a bar owner who has to decide if he’ll help his former girlfriend (Ingrid Bergman) and her fugitive husband (Paul Henreid) escape the Nazis in French Morocco. The best picture winner is the kind of movie that makes people fall in love with movies and is considered an essential addition to any film buff’s library.
12. North by Northwest
There are many flashier Alfred Hitchcock films to write home about, including notable entries like Psycho, The Birds and Vertigo. But this 1959 offering is often overlooked when examining the master of suspense’s overall library. The story of an ad man who is mistaken for a secret agent was the director’s fourth and final time working with Cary Grant, and it gave us everything from a steamy train sex scene with Eva Marie Saint, to a caper on Mount Rushmore, to that memorable crop duster attack scene. In fact, the movie has a bit of everything (humor, action, sweeping cinematography and of course suspense), making it an integral part of filmmaking history.
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While HBO Max doesn’t currently offer a free trial, it only costs $14.99 a month to start streaming. And considering the size of the TV and movie library, it’s one of the most impressive streaming services available in 2021. Add in the fact that new blockbuster movies like Godzilla vs Kong, In The Heights and Mortal Kombat are premiering on the platform at no additional cost, and the price tag suddenly seems like a total steal.