The Finest Films on HBO Max Proper Now

Another streaming service is launching, which means another vast library of titles to sift through to find what you want to watch. HBO Max is the new streaming service from WarnerMedia, hosting not just titles from the pay cable channel HBO, but a bevy of films from the Warner Bros. library and other studios. In truth, the HBO Max movies that are available at launch are actually pretty terrific. There’s a great selection of classics, fairly new releases, quirky indies, and yes, superhero movies. The studio behind The Dark Knight and Man of Steel has a solid number of DC films available to stream on launch day.

But if you’re daunted by the over 600 movies available to stream, we’ve got your back. Below, we’ve put together a curated list of the absolute best movies on HBO Max. Films that will be well worth your time, with our writers making the case for why each film is special. Some you may have heard of but haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, and some you may have already seen countless times. Whatever the case, we guarantee you’ll find something you enjoy.

So check out our list of the best movies on HBO Max streaming below, and for more recommendations check out our list of the best shows to watch on HBO Max.

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Citizen Kane

Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Orson Welles

Writers: Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz

Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, and Ray Collins

Yes, Citizen Kane is one of the greatest movies of all time. No, it is not boring. On the contrary, if you like investigative dramas and stories about damaged individuals, Orson Welles’ acclaimed 1941 drama is a damn entertaining film. The story starts with the death of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Welles) and his cryptic last word, “Rosebud.” Even if you know what “Rosebud” is, the film loses none of its impact as Welles, by pioneering new cinematic techniques like Deep Focus, is able to weave a captivating and tragic narrative about a man who gains the world but loses his soul by being unable to buy the things he truly wants out of life. Packed with terrific performances and a timeless story, Citizen Kane is a classic that shouldn’t intimidate you from finally giving it a shot. – Matt Goldberg

The Invisible Man

Image via Universal Pictures

Director/Writer: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen

From the ashes of the Dark Universe came one of the best horror remakes ever made, 2020’s The Invisible Man. Instead of blowing out a huge budget or eventizing the property, writer/director Leigh Whannell actually takes a microscope to the iconic horror story and crafts a tale of an abuse survivor haunted by her abuser. Elisabeth Moss plays a PTSD-riddled woman who is haunted – both literally and figuratively – by her dead, abusive husband. No one believes her when she says he’s not only still alive but invisible, and things go from bad to worse as she’s forced to fight on. It’s absolutely terrifying in every conceivable way, and Moss delivers a tremendous performance. – Adam Chitwood

Ready or Not

Samara Weaving in the film READY OR NOT. Photo by Eric Zachanowich. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Directors: Radio Silence

Writers: Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell

If you saw Knives Out and thought “what if this were a horror movie?” then you’ll love Ready or Not. The 2019 film follows a pair of newlyweds who assemble at the groom’s parents’ vast mansion for a celebration, only for the bride (Samara Weaving) to learn that it’s a time-honored tradition for the family to hunt the bride. If she survives until sun-up, she’s part of the family. If not, well. Chaos ensues, but the film has a dry, dark humor running throughout that makes it a blast and a half without knee-capping the stakes of the whole thing. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s a darn good time. – Adam Chitwood

Emma.

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Image via Focus Features

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Writer: Eleanor Catton

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, and Bill Nighy

This 2020 adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Emma is as sumptuous as it is delightful – and it is extremely sumptuous. Directed exquisitely by Autumn de Wilde, this new adaptation is called Emma. and stars The Witch breakout Anya Taylor-Joy in the titular role of a young woman in Regency-era England who decides to meddle in the personal lives of her friends and family – ultimately playing matchmaker. There’s a wit to the film to be sure, but also a naughtiness (for lack of a better word) to Taylor-Joy’s performance that really makes this thing soar. It’s also just absolutely gorgeous to look at. – Adam Chitwood

Doctor Sleep

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, and Cliff Curtis

This sequel to The Shining is certainly scary, but it’s more of a horror-drama than your average horror film. The extended director’s cut of Doctor Sleep is the superioer version of this story, which picks up with young Danny Torrance as a grown man (played by Ewan McGregor) struggling with alcoholism and PTSD from his time at the Overlook Hotel. Meanwhile, a cult led by Rebecca Ferguson is murdering and sucking the lifeforces out of children, and Danny makes a connection with a bright and “shining” young girl named Abra who just might be next. The film is tremendously effective and it builds to a fantastic finale at the Overlook Hotel that will make fans of The Shining extremely happy. – Adam Chitwood

Bridesmaids

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Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumalo

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Wendy McClendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Jon Hamm, and Chris O’Dowd

The 2011 comedy Bridesmaids holds up tremendously well, and remains one of the funniest movies of the 21st century. It’s a tale of female friendship as Kristen Wiig plays a single woman in her mid-thirties whose best friend (Maya Rudolph) is getting married, but planning the bridesmaid festivities with the bride’s rich new friend (Rose Byrne) proves to be a struggle. Bridesmaids is downright hilarious, but also has a heart to it that makes the characters human and relatable – especially when it comes to friendship dynamics. And then there’s also a scene where the women all have diarrhea while wearing bridesmaid dresses. – Adam Chitwood

Jojo Rabbit

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Image via Fox Searchlight

Director/Writer: Taika Waititi

Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Sam Rockwell, and Alfie Allen

The 2020 Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay, Jojo Rabbit is a funny, sad, and ultimately hopeful “anti-hate satire” that will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. Told entirely from the point of view of a ten-year-old boy living in Germany towards the end of World War II, the film chronicles how hate is learned through indoctrination and not a born trait. 10-year-old Jojo is an aspiring Nazi who frequently converses with his imaginary friend Hitler (Waititi), but his worldview is challenged when he comes face-to-face with a young Jewish girl being hidden in his house. The movie perfectly illustrates empathy for our fellow human beings is our default, and is a must-see for young children. – Adam Chitwood

Ocean’s Eleven

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Ted Griffin

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, and Shaobo Qin

There’s an effortlessly cool vibe to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven that makes it one of the most rewatchable movies ever made, and while it’s certainly a heist film, it’s also hilarious. Soderbergh’s cast plays the whole thing with a dryness that suits the suave con men looking to rob a Las Vegas casino, and clearly George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, etc. are having a blast. So yes, while Ocean’s Eleven is a thrilling heist movie all its own, it’s also sneakily one of the best comedies of the 21st century. – Adam Chitwood

Ford v Ferrari

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Director: James Mangold

Writers: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller

Cast: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, and Noah Jupe

The 2019 Best Picture Oscar nominated film Ford v Ferrari is one of the most “Dad movies” in recent memory, and it’s all the better for it. The film chronicles the true story of when Ford Motor Company decided it wanted to build a racecar to compete with Ferrari in the upcoming 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Matt Damon plays the engineer tasked with designing the vehicle, who then tracks down a volatile but talented driver played by Christian Bale to help him build and drive it. Don’t let the 152-minute runtime deter you – this movie absolutely flies. – Adam Chitwood

Batman Begins

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and Ken Watanabe

Before he crafted the masterful sequel The Dark Knight, filmmaker Christopher Nolan had to first reinvent the Batman franchise from the ground up with the “gritty reboot” Batman Begins. This movie came on the heels of the exceedingly goofy Batman & Robin and thus had to prove to audiences a grounded, realistic Batman story was one worth watching. Casting Christian Bale in the lead role helped, but Nolan’s sprawling, Gotham-centric story feels more in line with a compelling character drama than a superhero movie—and that was by design. Batman Begins spawned not only two direct sequels but a trend in Hollywood of revitalizing franchises with the “gritty reboot” treatment, and this wholly influential redo still holds up over a decade later as a terrific Batman origin story. – Adam Chitwood

All the President’s Men

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Alan J. Pakula

Writer: William Goldman

Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook, and Jason Robards

They don’t really make many movies like All the President’s Men anymore. Filmmaker Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 masterpiece came out just two years after President Richard Nixon resigned from the White House in disgrace, and it chronicles how the dogged investigative skills of journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein helped expose the Watergate scandal for what it truly was, and how high up it went. The film is tremendously thrilling and wildly tense, all without any explosions, stunts, or visual effects spectacle. It’s a series of scenes of people talking in rooms (and parking garages), but it’s more interesting than most blockbusters released nowadays. So if you’re in the mood for a classic throwback that epitomizes 70s cinema, give All the President’s Men a spin. – Adam Chitwood

X-Men: First Class

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Writers: Zack Stentz, Ashley Miller, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Kevin Bacon, January Jones, and Rose Byrne

Arguably the best of the X-Men franchise, 2011’s X-Men: First Class went all the way back to the 1960s to essentially tell the origin story of Professor X, Magneto, Mystique and Beast. Backed by an all-star cast, the story finds Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his BFF Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) teaming up with disgruntled mutant Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) to form a team of sorts to take on mutant supremicist Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and his cohorts. It’s sexy and stylish, like a 60s James Bond film, but also shockingly emotional as it heads towards its climax and reveals what tore Charles and Erik apart in the first place. – Adam Chitwood

The School of Rock

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Image via Paramount Pictures

Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Mike White

Cast: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, and Miranda Cosgrove

Richard Linklater‘s 2003 family-friendly love letter to rock remains as vibrant and joyful as ever. Jack Black stars as guitarist Dewey Finn, a rocker who has just been kicked out of his band and is struggling to pay the rent. He decides to swipe a substitute-teaching job from his roommate Ned (Mike White), and while he’s bored at first, he gets energized when he sees his classroom is full of potential rockers and therefore a chance to win the battle of bands. However, as he starts teaching them about rock, he realizes that he cares about more than just winning the rock competition. The film is charming, but it comes alive thanks to Black’s winning performance that lets you feel like you’re getting in on some mischief as the kids learn about rock rather than math. – Matt Goldberg

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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Image via Paramount

Director/Writer: Anthony Minghella

Cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jack Davenport

For some insane reason The Talented Mr. Ripley feels like an underrated movie, but make no mistake: it’s one of the best films of the past 50 years. Set in the 1950s, Matt Damon plays the titular character, who is tasked with bringing Dickie (Jude Law), a young man living it up in Italy, home by Dickie’s father. The problem? Dickie’s father made a mistake in thinking Tom actually knew Dickie. Tom becomes infatuated with Dickie and his lifestyle, subtly taking on Dickie’s persona as his own. Deadly twists ensue and Damon proves here that he’s one of the greatest actors of his generation. The film delves into themes of identity, lust, and morality with a brilliantly deft touch, and the cinematography is astounding. – Adam Chitwood

La La Land

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Image via Lionsgate

Director/Writer: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie DeWitt, and John Legend

This lavish, colorful, Oscar-winning musical is certainly vibrant and full of life, but at heart La La Land is very much a drama. Set in modern day Los Angeles, it tells a love story between an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and an aspiring jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) who meet by chance, fall in love, and then must choose between their dreams and their relationship. It’s heavy stuff, but Chazelle captures it all with a masterful eye, using the musical numbers to express the emotions at the heart of the story. This is one of the best love stories ever told. – Adam Chitwood

Notting Hill

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Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Roger Michell

Writer: Richard Curtis

Cast: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, Emma Chambers, James Dreyfus, and Rhys Ifans

Rather than tripping into wish fulfillment of dating a celebrity, Notting Hill never loses its sweet and charming tone thanks to leads Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Grant plays a humble bookshop owner who starts dating the Hollywood actress Anna Scott (Roberts). The film doesn’t shy away from the complications such a relationship would encounter, but the movie star charisma of its leads plus a strong supporting cast helps anchor the movie so that you buy it more as an enchanting love story rather than a “What if?” about dating a star. It’s a movie that probably shouldn’t work, which makes it all the more impressive that it works so well. – Matt Goldberg

Night of the Living Dead

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Image by Ten/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Director: George A. Romero

Writers: John Russo and George A. Romero

Cast: Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, and Keith Wayne

Yes, George A. Romero basically invented the zombie movie with Night of the Living Dead. We can quibble about proto-zombie movies and influences, but Romero changed an entire genre with his horror film, but rather than just introduce a creature, he injected it with social meaning. When you look at zombie movies like 28 Days Later or TV shows like The Walking Dead, they all owe a debt to Night of the Living Dead, which is about some survivors hunking down in a barn trying to fend off the undead. But it’s the social message, particularly with regards to race that gives Night of the Living Dead, its enduring power. – Matt Goldberg

Batman Returns

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Image via Warner Bros.

Directed by: Tim Burton

Written by: Daniel Waters

Cast: Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, and Christopher Walken

Batman Returns is an insane movie, but it’s also terrific. After scoring success with 1989’s Batman, director Tim Burton felt more free to let his freak flag fly, so to speak, so Batman Returns leans fully into the Gothic madness that served as the foundation for Burton’s take on the Dark Knight. The film features some of the best superhero movie villains of all time, with Michelle Pfeiffer’s dynamic, complex Catwoman, Danny DeVito’s grotesque Penguin, and Christopher Walken’s most menacing of all, Max Schreck. Burton wisely uses Catwoman as a mirror to the duality of the Batman/Bruce Wayne persona, mining a lot of drama from her dynamic with Michael Keaton and resulting in a character-rich viewing experience. Plus there are penguins with rockets. – Adam Chitwood

Michael Clayton

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Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Tony Gilroy

Cast: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sidney Pollack, and Michael O’Keefe

The 2007 drama Michael Clayton still holds up tremendously well. The story centers on an attorney (played by George Clooney) who’s trying to cope with a colleague’s apparent breakdown all while a major client that his law firm is representing is being sued in a class action case. It’s a potboiler thriller, but Tony Gilroy’s director elevates it above your standard John Grisham adaptation into something far more cinematic and introspective. – Adam Chitwood

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