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MoviesThe 25 best movies on HBO and Max right now

The 25 best movies on HBO and Max right now

In the beginning, there was HBO Max. Actually, if you want to go all the way back, in the true beginning, there was HBO Go, but that’s ancient history at this point. Anyway, it used to be that HBO Max was the place to go if you were itching to watch old episodes of The Sopranos or Sex and the City, or stream major current blockbusters without leaving your living room. 

A lot of things have changed since then, the first being the name. Now it’s just Max, a reflection of the merger that formed Warner Bros. Discovery in 2022. And you won’t see those huge movies in your home until they’re out of theatres for a few months. But you can still spend plenty of nights getting reacquainted with Carrie Bradshaw and Tony Soprano – and you can still get access to a ton of awesome movies. 

Thanks to licensing deals with the likes of Turner Classic Movies, Criterion Collection and Studio Ghibli, the platform is currently a major repository of truly great films new and old. Need help navigating the catalogue? Here are the 25 movies on Max you absolutely need to watch. 

Recommended:

💻 The 35 best movies on Netflix right now
🗓 The best movies of 2024 so far
🌎 The best films on Apple TV
🔥 The 100 best movies of all-time 

Best movies on Max

The Zone of Interest (2023)

A24

1. The Zone of Interest (2023)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Cast: Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller

No shade to Oppenheimer, but in the coming years, Jonathan Glazer’s quietly disquieting Holocaust drama may very well come to be seen as the actual best movie of 2023. It’s already probably the most important, not just for the unique perspective it brings to the atrocity but for the parallels it holds to the modern-day atrocities occurring just over our own proverbial walls too many of us would rather not acknowledge. 

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Spirited Away (2001)

Photograph: Studio Ghibli

2. Spirited Away (2001)

  • Film
  • Animation

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Voice cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Animator Hayao Miyazaki has many contenders for the best movie in his repertoire, but his fantastical 2001 masterpiece about a girl fighting to save her family from a witch’s spell probably has the best argument for the top spot. It was the first foreign film to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature and the second highest-grossing picture in Japanese history. Beyond the accolades, it’s simply delightful: wide-eyed, witty and full of warmth.

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Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

Photo: Courtesy of Janus Films

3. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

  • Film

Director: Chantal Akerman

Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte, Henri Storck

The best film ever made – according to Sight & Sound’s 2022 poll – is the slowburniest of slowburn classics. Widowed housewife Jeanne (played by Delphine Seyrig) sticks like glue to her daily routine as Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s static camera observes her doing chores, preparing meals and receiving a male client every afternoon. And then, from nowhere, something snaps. Don’t let its 200-minute runtime deter you – this is a landmark in feminist cinema. 

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M (1931)

M

4. M (1931)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Gründgens

One of the most influential movies ever made, German auteur Fritz Lang’s expressionist noir is the crime movie from which all other crime movies are descended. A disturbed yet somehow sympathetic Peter Lorre is a child killer on the loose in Berlin, pursued not just by the police but the city’s criminal element and an angry mob of citizens. Released at the birth of the sound era, it’s still a movie that communicates primarily through visuals – many of which remain jarring almost 100 years later.

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High and Low (1963)

5. High and Low (1963)

  • Film
  • Thrillers

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yutaka Sada

Second only to Ikiru in the subgenre of Kurosawa masterworks with modern settings, the Japanese legend’s adaptation of a 1959 Ed McBain novel has admirers that would likely argue for its primacy, including Spike Lee, who’s planning a remake. A wealthy businessman (Mifune) learns his son has been kidnapped. When he discovers it’s actually his chauffeur’s son who’s been abducted, he must decide what’s more important: his conscience or his bank account. It’s a class-conscious, mixed-genre thriller that also clearly influenced Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite

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Office Space (1999)

Photograph: 20th Century Studios

6. Office Space (1999)

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Mike Judge

Cast: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole

As more and more Americans choose to work remotely, Mike Judge’s vicious skewering of beige-collar drudgery grows increasingly anachronistic – and yet, its observations about the indignities of suburban life remain brilliantly scabrous. If you’ve ever dealt with a dickhead boss or dined at a middling chain restaurant filled with depressed employees covered in ‘flair’, you’ll find it brutally hilarious, even if you’ve never filed a TPS report or have any idea what ‘PC Load Letter’ means.

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Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)

7. Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden

‘Gentleman, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!’ No movie has ever been as unsettling and uproarious as Stanley Kubrick’s absurdist skewering of Cold War logic and McCarthyite paranoia. He’s aided by three sublime Peter Sellers performances – as a polite RAF officer, mild-mannered US President and barking mad atomic scientist – and a pair of against-type turns from George C Scott and Sterling Hayden. The ending is an all-timer, too. Yee-haw!

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

© Jasin Boland

8. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

It’s rare for a filmmaker to use new tech to revitalise an old franchise and retain the grit, pulse and aesthetic of the stripped-down original, but damned if George Miller’s fourth Mad Max film isn’t the best of the series. It’s certainly the craziest, a nonstop, amphetamine-fueled blast of fire, sand and petrol that makes the next most insane blockbuster look like Fried Green Tomatoes. Can he keep up the pace with the upcoming prequel, focused on Charlize Theron’s scene-stealing Imperator Furiosa? If so, the MPAA may need to require a doctor’s note before viewing. 

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Paris Is Burning (1990)

9. Paris Is Burning (1990)

  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Jennie Livingston

A testament to the power of allowing marginalised people to speak for themselves, this landmark documentary brought drag culture into the mainstream, which not everyone in the LGBTQ community agrees is a good thing. But there’s no denying that the wildly expressive performances vibrate with a joy that leaps right off the screen. More than even the routines, director Livingston gave her subjects space to discuss the pleasure and pain of queer existence with unvarnished honesty – a radical act at the time, and still striking today.

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Dream Scenario (2023)

Photograph: A24

10. Dream Scenario (2023)

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Kristoffer Borgli

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Dylan Gelula

The Charlie Kaufman vibes are strong with this wonderfully weird treatise on the surreality of fleeting fame (and, yes, cancel culture) right down to casting Adaptation alum Nic Cage as a balding, unassuming college professor who inexplicably begins making cameos in the dreams of random strangers around the world. It’s a movie bursting with ideas, to the degree that it almost seems to bulge against its runtime, but Cage carries the whole affair – especially when his own dreams turn to nightmares, along with everybody else’s.

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Barbie (2023)

Barbie

11. Barbie (2023)

  • Film

Director: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell

Whatever your expectations were for a live-action Barbie movie, writer-director Greta Gerwig managed to either exceed or completely confound them, delivering a fantastical feminist satire that dominated the box office and became the first true post-pandemic event picture. Sadly, its lasting legacy may end up being a deluge of films based on old toys that aren’t nearly as fun or funny, but at least we’ll always have Ryan Gosling’s Ken.

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Shiva Baby (2020)

Photograph: Mubi

12. Shiva Baby (2020)

Director: Emma Seligman

Cast: Rachel Sennott, Molly Gordon, Polly Draper

A buzzy breakout for both director Emma Seligman and star Rachel Sennott, this indie comedy has everything from Cassavetes to Mike Nichols in its genes, but filtered through the perspective of a young, Jewish bisexual sex worker, it becomes entirely its own thing. Sennott is the young woman in question, forced to attend a shiva with her parents and endure awkward interactions with her parents’ friends, her ex-girlfriend and, worst of all, her sugar daddy and his wife. It’s a hilariously sharp coming out for two creatives whose profiles are likely to expand in coming years.   

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North by Northwest (1959)

13. North by Northwest (1959)

  • Film
  • Thrillers

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

Declaring the most ‘definitive’ Hitchcock film is a nearly impossible task, but North By Northwest is perhaps the best example of his wide-ranging appeal. It’s his purest popcorn flick, a suave, sexy caper starring Cary Grant at his most Cary Grant. It’s also genuinely suspenseful, with a handful of the most bravura action sequences in his oeuvre that are also among the most iconic of all time. (Most filmmakers would kill for just the crop duster scene, but then he follows it up with the climax at Mt Rushmore.) And it ends with the most juvenile sex joke anyone could get away with in the ‘50s. Truly, the guy could do it all.

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Hereditary (2018)

Foto: Cortesía Diamond Films

14. Hereditary (2018)

  • Film
  • Horror

Director: Ari Aster

Cast: Toni Collette, Milly Shapiro, Gabriel Byrne

Ari Aster’s terrifying debut feature is an instant horror classic not necessarily for its shocks – of which there are many – but for how it builds to them, with a sense of creeping, nerve-shredding dread that becomes nearly unbearable the longer it goes on. Colette is tremendous as a mother whose mental state swiftly erodes following a family tragedy. It’ll stay with you a long time – consider that a warning.

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RoboCop (1987)

15. RoboCop (1987)

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Cast: Paul Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy

Dutch iconoclast Paul Verhoeven set out to satirise ‘80s corporate greed with this ultraviolent sci-fi shoot-’em-up and ended up predicting the future. Sure, the streets aren’t yet being patrolled by formerly human cops resurrected as nigh-indestructible titanium law enforcement cyborgs, but with the increasing militarisation of the American police force, how far off can we be? In all seriousness, it’s a much smarter and scathing film than its setup suggests – a Verhoeven signature.

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Slacker (1990)

Photograph: Orion Classics

16. Slacker (1990)

  • Film
  • Comedy

Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Richard Linklater, Rudy Basquez, Jean Caffeine

What came first: slackers or Slacker? It’s hard to say if Richard Linklater’s meandering debut defined a generation or helped create it, but regardless, there is perhaps no greater Gen X time capsule that exists. Made for the relative pittance of $23,000, it plays out essentially as a series of barely-connected vignettes, starring actual disaffected twentysomethings from Linklater’s hometown of Austin, Texas. It doesn’t sound like much, but its unfakeable authenticity proved to be the spark that ignited the indie film boom of the ‘90s.    

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The Witch (2015)

17. The Witch (2015)

  • Film
  • Horror

Director: Robert Eggers

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

The devil is in the details, they say, and that’s never been more literal than in Robert Eggers’ folk-horror insta-classic. In telling the tale of a Puritan family in 1600s New England whose home is encroached upon by demonic forces, Eggers extreme attention to period accuracy creates a singularly immersive experience that allows the slow burn of the story to worm its way gradually under your skin. You’ll never approach a goat at a petting zoo the same way again. 

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Hoop Dreams (1994)

Photograph: Alamy

18. Hoop Dreams (1994)

  • Film
  • Documentaries

Director: Steve James

At once one of the greatest documentaries of all-time and also one of the best sports movies everHoop Dreams follows two basketball-obsessed kids from inner city Chicago as they attempt to transcend their surroundings and make it to the NBA. But it’s not just a movie about basketball – in fact, you don’t have to care a lick about it to be drawn in by its narrative and the wider view it takes on issues related to race, class and opportunity in America. Much has changed about the sports world in the decades since. Many other things, sadly, have not.

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Parasite (2019)

Photograph: Neon

19. Parasite (2019)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong

Delivering a searing capitalist critique inside a thrilling, funny, often disturbing piece of entertainment, Korean visionary Bong Joon-ho’s career highlight, about a poor family that surreptitiously attaches itself to a rich one, is a landmark of world cinema. Its global success also turned into a semi-accidental act of subterfuge: as it racked up awards, including the first ever Best Picture Oscar for a non-English production, it forced Hollywood’s oblivious elites to stand up and cheer. You can’t really blame them, though. It’s awesome.

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Citizen Kane (1941)

Image: RKO Radio Pictures

20. Citizen Kane (1941)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Orson Welles

Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore

It may have been unseated in the most recent Sight & Sound poll, but there are plenty of scholars and critics who’d argue Orson Welles’ magnum opus is still the greatest movie of all-time – and they wouldn’t be wrong. Generations of having its technical and narrative innovations folded into the common language of cinema may have dampened its impact, but watching today, it’s striking just how sweeping, engrossing and modern it feels: after all, power-hungry media moguls like Charles Foster Kane haven’t exactly faded into history.

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The Battle of Algiers (1966)

21. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Gillo Pontecorvo

Cast: Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Brahim Haggiag

‘Depressingly relevant’ isn’t maybe the most fun endorsement of a film, but Gillo Pontecorvo’s seminal Algerian War flick delivers fresh resonance every time you see it. It was studied by the Bush administration before the invasion of Iraq (not that they picked much up) and as a visceral insurgency story, it remains eerily prescient. It also helped establish the grammar of the modern political action-thriller. Not many movies can claim to be equally influential in Hollywood and the Pentagon.

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Beau Travail (1999)

22. Beau Travail (1999)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Claire Denis

Cast: Denis Lavant, Michel Subor, Grégoire Colin

Claire Denis’s adaptation of Herman Melville’s novella ‘Billy Budd’ is an existential masterpiece full of simmering homoeroticism, grappling bodies and sunbaked African landscapes. It’s also tinged, hauntingly, with regret, as Denis Lavant’s ex-Legionnaire reflects on how his desires and sense of self got lost in the brutal regimentation of military life. The famous ending – in which a demobbed Levant hits the dance floor – will make you reevaluate Corona’s cheesy anthem ‘The Rhythm of the Night’.

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Black Girl (1966)

23. Black Girl (1966)

  • Film

Director: Ousmane Sembene

Cast: Mbissine Thérèse Diop, Anne-Marie Jelinek, Robert Fontaine

A landmark in world cinema, the debut from the godfather of African film is a stark depiction of the tragedies of post-colonialism. A young Senegalese woman moves to Antibes in Southeastern France with dreams of a better life, only to find herself consistently othered by the couple she nannies for. It’s a strikingly honest portrayal of racism and the immigrant experience across Europe in the late ‘60s that remains sadly relevant today.

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In the Mood for Love (2000)

Photograph: Courtesy Jet Tone Films/Emperor Cinemas

24. In the Mood for Love (2000)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Wong Kar-wai

Cast: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung

Is there a more romantic movie in cinema? Wong Kar-wai’s seductive story of two lonely (and incredibly good-looking) souls connecting in 1960s Hong Kong is a total heartbreaker. Tony Leung’s journalist meets secretary Maggie Cheung. Tantalising, flirtatious encounters ensue in a nocturnal cityscape that’s gloriously photographed by the great Christopher Doyle as this pair of married but lonely people tiptoe toward each other and the world stands still around them.

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Moonlight (2016)

Photograph: A24

25. Moonlight (2016)

  • Film
  • Drama

Director: Barry Jenkins

Cast: Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Janelle Monáe

It’ll forever be associated with the Great Oscar Mix-Up of 2017, and that’s a shame, because a movie so sensitive, tender and subtly powerful deserves to stand separate from any controversy. It did, however, absolutely deserve the Best Picture award it eventually took home. Following the life of its main character, a troubled kid from Miami named Chiron, it’s a coming-of-age drama that understands maturation is an ongoing process that continues our whole lives. It’s one of the 21st century’s greatest quiet stunners.

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