The Best Movies Currently on HBO Now and HBO Max
You want movies? They've got you covered.
Let's face it: You can only watch so much Netflix. At a certain point, all those little floating movie posters start to blend together, and you groan, "I've already watched The Irishman a dozen times."
Well, that's what HBO Now and the recently unveiled HBO Max are for. Dig into these beloved classics, box office hits, hidden gems, and recent award-winners currently showing on the premium sibling services.
*Denotes titles that are only available on HBO Max. All other titles are available across all HBO platforms.
A Star Is Born (2018)
This is a movie of competing voices: On one end of the spectrum you have the guttural croak of Jackson Maine, the hard-living, cowboy-rock troubadour played by the film's director, producer, and co-writer Bradley Cooper; on the other end is the soulful roar of Ally, the waitress harboring dreams of pop stardom played by IRL pop icon Lady Gaga. The contrast between the two vocal deliveries is part of what makes the film's Oscar-winning power ballad "Shallow" so immediately alluring, the sonic equivalent of your goosebumps getting goosebumps, and that same tension drives the film's most compelling scenes. A claustrophobic movie about fame, A Star Is Born works best in its tightly focused and completely captivating first hour, which explores the creative and romantic spark of Jackson and Ally's relationship. Even with these new voices, the song remains the same. (The previous versions of A Star is Born are also available to stream on HBO Max.)
Ad Astra (2019)
Despite the galaxy-spanning, mankind-saving mission at its center, James Gray's ruminative adventure Ad Astra feels spare, like a rocket stripped of all its inessential parts. There are thrilling moments of suspense you'd expect from a blockbuster -- like a buggy-chase on the surface of the moon, a zero-gravity brawl, and a jump-scare involving a wild animal -- but there's a concision and grace to how even these pulpier science-fiction elements are presented. As a filmmaker, Gray isn't interested in ambiguity, instead choosing to explore his timeless existential themes with a startling sense of purpose. Brad Pitt's buttoned-up, goal-oriented astronaut Roy McBride is constantly performing acts of self-assessment, engaging in corporate-mandated personal inventories and more melodramatic musings delivered in voiceover. With his square jaw and calm eyes, Pitt turns this inner struggle into a gripping journey of self-discovery.
Ridley Scott's chest-bursting, nerve-frying science-fiction classic doesn't mess around. After introducing us to the chatty blue collar workers aboard a commercial rig floating through the vastness of the galaxy, the movie goes into stealth mode and picks off characters one by one as the tension rises, leaving Sigourney Weaver's Ripley to fend for herself against some of the nastiest special effects ever dreamed up. James Cameron's militarized sequel Aliens is also on HBO Go at the moment, and some argue it's even better, but we're partial to the original. Check them both out and decide for yourself.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
The first thing you notice are the large eyes, beckoning like portals to another dimension. Alita, a cyborg discovered in a junkyard by a possibly mad scientist consumed with grief over the death of his daughter, is played by the actress Rosa Salazar, who appeared in two of the Maze Runner YA adaptions and last year's Netflix hit Bird Box, but she's brought to uncanny life via technology Alita producer and co-writer James Cameron developed for his alien environmental opus Avatar. Cameron was originally going to direct Alita but he got sidetracked by the world of the Na'vi, and handed duties to Robert Rodriguez, who brings his own touch to the ridiculous and kinetic "motorball" sequence which finds our hero fending off brutish attackers in a violent game of X-Games tag. It's as exhilarating as this type of reality-altering, money-burning sci-fi blockbuster gets.
All the President's Men* (1976)
In a political climate that's called on the media to dig up no shortage of controversies, it seems fitting to revisit the newspaper heroes of yore. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford co-star as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, respectively, the two Washington Post reporters who unearthed the details of President Richard Nixon's now-infamous Watergate scandal. This Alan J. Pakula-helmed drama is a psychologically piercing classic that'll make you view the current political landscape with a healthy amount of cynicism and hope.
American Splendor (2003)
Paul Giamatti plays the perfect curmudgeon in this quirky biopic of Harvey Pekar, the illustrator behind the self-deprecating comic book strip also called American Splendor. Pekar shot to national fame thanks to combative appearances on David Letterman's late-night show, the last of which effectively turned into an on-air argument that ended their tense friendship. Part-documentary (with appearances from Pekar himself), part comic book, and part fictional biopic, there's nothing quite like American Splendor -- a fitting tribute, because there was no one quite like Harvey Pekar.
For those of us who weren't born early enough for the Space Race, there's Armageddon. While it might seem like an outlier in the Criterion Collection, Michael Bay's sci-fi spectacle is lean, expertly crafted, and rowdy, with scenes of meteoric destruction that channel Michelangelo. The final ludicrous mission to blow up the plummeting space rock is the closest we'll come to a Bay-directed opera. But it's the cast -- Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, Steve Buscemi, and so many more -- that makes Armageddon a ride. Bay's drill-team heroes add red and white to their blue collars for a fist-pumping display of patriotism, no international enemy required.
Batman Begins* (2005)
Hot take: Christopher Nolan's first base jump into the Batman universe is even better than 2008's acclaimed The Dark Knight. Squarely focused on Bruce Wayne -- an orphaned boy, a troubled youth, a reluctant millionaire, a hero teetering on the edge of villainy -- the verismo popcorn movie stripped away the cartoon pizazz of previous entries and not only revived Caped Crusader's darkest moment, but exacerbated it with the moral manipulation of Ra's Al Ghul and the psychedelic nightmares of The Scarecrow. Every movie mimicked Nolan's "dark, gritty" reinvention. No movie lives up to Batman Begins' grandeur.
Blade II* (2002)
It's difficult to picture a movie like Blade II being made in today's Marvel Cinematic Universe. From its vampiric rave aesthetic to the icky effects, Guillermo del Toro's bloodbath of a sequel has only grown more impressive with the passage of time. Wesley Snipes, decked out in his Oakleys and leather trench coat, gives one of his most badass performances as the heroic daywalker, staking vamps and tossing off one-liners with an effortlessly cool demeanor. This is slick, corporate-approved entertainment with gonzo, cult-film soul.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut* (1982)
Director Ridley Scott went out of his way to imagine 2019 Los Angeles as a pretty terrible place to be, and yet the look, sound, and feel of the world are so seductive that we want to visit regardless. Same goes for the story: Blade Runner's plot is a barely warmed-over detective yarn with Harrison Ford in the role of the hard-boiled investigator, but we can feel glimmers of the pain and confusion of artificial humans who realize they are powerless against their pre-determined fate. The movie is a triumph of world-building that still makes a mark on viewers and filmmakers years later.
Blazing Saddles* (1974)
Comedy often ages about as well as Benjamin Button on rewind, but this mid-'70s Western spoof -- in which a black sheriff arrives in an all-white town destined for destruction to make way for a railroad -- holds up. That's thanks largely to the writing of Richard Pryor and Mel Brooks, unquestioned comedy geniuses bolstered by the onscreen work of Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little.
The spiritual and scientific swirl through a space-time-breaching wormhole in this adaptation of Carl Sagan's best-selling novel. Contact stars Jodie Foster as a SETI scientist who discovers a signal from the star system Vega that, when decoded, translates into plans for a space-travel device. Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) takes a pensive approach when asking Sagan's existential, extraterrestrial "what ifs," and Contact is one of the very best "hard science" sci-fi movies for it.
The Departed* (2006)
Don't let your annoying friend's affection for The Departed ruin the movie for you -- it's an enormously entertaining crime film. Leonardo DiCaprio's expert slow-boil performance as undercover cop Billy Costigan is a big reason for that and marked a major career step forward; he stood tall against the Martin Scorsese film's many big-name scenery chewers and kept his Boston accent under control. Just try to forgive the little rat at the end.
It's hard to remember a time when Will Ferrell wasn't one of comedy's biggest stars. While Anchorman made him a dorm room favorite, Elf was the film that turned him into a candy-gobbling, box office-conquering phenomenon. Ferrell's Buddy, an adult man who grew up thinking he's an elf, travels to New York to find his biological father, played with greasy smarm by James Caan. By tapping the child-like sense of mischief present in his best SNL characters, director Jon Favreau weaponizes Ferrell's manic energy for a Christmas movie that's sweeter than a candy cane but doesn't give you a post-sugar-rush headache. It's the perfect stocking stuffer: thoughtful, funny, small, and not a pair of socks.
The Exorcist* (1973)
The original, unquestionable, undisputed great grandpappy of "possession" horror, and one hell of a brutally good time, William Friedkin's The Exorcist is not just one of the scariest films ever made, it's also one of the most well-constructed horror movies of all time. The story of demon-inhabited Regan, her distraught mother, and the two priests working their religious mojo to save her life holds up to repeat viewings -- partially because the horrific set pieces still hold up resoundingly well, and also because the actors create realistic, believable characters who are worthy of our empathy.
Fahrenheit 451 (2018)
Technically a TV movie, since it was made for HBO, but we'll let it slide. Ray Bradbury's essential dystopian novel where books are banned gets the small screen treatment, starring Michael B. Jordan as Montag, a fireman who ultimately questions the value and purpose behind the book-burning mission. He teams with Michael Shannon, an actor with the unhinged commitment to pull off an evil delivery of a simple line: "Burn it."
The Fighter (2010)
David O. Russell’s (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) The Fighter packs a punch. The Oscar-nominated biographical drama stars Mark Wahlberg as underdog boxer Micky Ward alongside Christian Bale, in yet another transformative role as Ward’s older half-brother/trainer Dicky Eklund. Lined with action and grit, the film follows Ward’s unpredictable rise in the ranks in the world of championship welterweight boxing with the contested help of his washed up brother who descended into drug addiction and a life of seedy crime. Tethered to his success is the strength of the destructive closeness of his family, including his mother played by Melissa Leo, and the relationships outside of it, like that of his girlfriend played by a scene-stealing Amy Adams -- meaning The Fighter is a hard knocks lesson in what it means to look out for someone, as well as a masterclass in acting.
A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
Many crime movies have funny scenes -- for example, Jackie Browne is frequently hilarious -- but few are as consistently funny as the fiendishly clever heist comedy A Fish Called Wanda. When a pair of English low-lifes recruit Americans Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Otto (Kevin Kline) to help them steal some diamonds, they end up getting betrayed and setting off a series of ridiculous (and increasingly violent) events. With a script by John Cleese and a scene-stealing performance from Kline, it's the rare madcap farce that doesn't overstay its welcome. Each twist makes sense on a comedic and plot level. Just don't call it stupid.
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
With their emphasis on motion and duration, the movies are great at selling the idea of velocity. Ford v Ferrari, an often workmanlike and occasionally wonderful account of the Ford Motor Company's quest to win the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France, is a movie that knows when to slam its foot on the gas, when to hit the brakes, and when to cruise on charm. As you'd expect, a degree of showmanship is necessary. As iconoclastic American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and hot-headed British racer Ken Miles (Bale), the two stars get to play characters that fit them like a pair of racing gloves, teaming up to take on the corporate suits and marketing executives that want to rein in their rugged brilliance. Smells like a metaphor for something, right?
The Fugitive* (1993)
"You'll never find him -- he's too smart." That's the apt description Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) gets in Andrew Davis' '90s masterpiece. Kimble's on the run from the authorities because he's been wrongfully accused of killing his wife, and through a series of unlikely escapes, the doc-turned-fugitive tries to hunt down his mysterious nemesis and prove his innocence. Fortunately, he really is something like the offspring of Carmen Sandiego and MacGyver. Ford is pitch-perfect as the jack-of-all-trades hero, playing opposite a ruthless Tommy Lee Jones. Together, they weave a satisfying balancing act of high-octane action (there's crazy shit with a train, a bus, and a helicopter), heart (Kimble somehow finds time to save other people's lives), and intrigue (freaking drug companies, I tell ya), making for a legit nail-biter.
Gangs of New York (2002)
In his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio shakes off his heartthrob Titanic reputation by getting down and dirty as goatee-sporting tough guy Amsterdam Vallon. But Leo has an iceberg-sized problem: Daniel Day-Lewis. As the violent, ill-tempered Bill the Butcher, the method actor extraordinaire is a terror in a top hat, stealing the whole movie with his wild-eyed magnetism. He slices, he dices, and he makes this 168 minute 19th-century period piece fly by.
Joe Dante's creature feature hits that sweet spot between kid-friendly entertainment and cruel-and-unusual violent delight. For Christmas, Billy (Zach Galligan) receives an adorable "mogwai" as a pet. The one rule: Don't get the damn thing wet. When the inevitable happens, Gizmo the Adorable Furry Gremlin spawns five Mischievous Razor-Toothed Gremlins, who live for destruction, and threaten to rip apart the most wonderful time of the year.
Good Will Hunting* (1997)
It might be hard to believe now, but once upon a time, Jason Bourne and Batfleck wrote an Academy Award-winning script. As the titular Will Hunting, a directionless MIT janitor with a jaw-dropping gift for mathematics, Matt Damon sparred with the late Robin Williams' beautifully portrayed psychologist to create a moving picture that weighs embracing ambition with remembering one's roots. Minnie Driver, South Boston accents, and quality dive bar scenes are also in the mix -- the movie's still a must-see, or must-re-see.
Her Smell (2019)
Becky Something, the lead singer of fictional alt-rock mainstays Something She, is a whirlwind of emotional chaos. As played by Elizabeth Moss, the captivating star of Mad Men, The Handmaid's Tale, and director Alex Ross Perry's previous psychological thriller riff Queen of Earth, she's constantly fighting a war on all fronts: against her exasperated bandmates, her watchful manager, her hopeful proteges, her wounded ex-boyfriend, and anyone else who gets in her way. Conflicts fold in on each other; enemies become allies. Divided into distinct sections that each unfold in a single location, Her Smell is a music business recovery story conceptualized and shot by cinematographer Sean Price Williams as a combat film that keeps you locked in for every beat.
In Bruges (2008)
Colin Farrell is a seriously funny actor. In playwright Martin McDonagh's sly directorial debut, Farrell plays Ray, an Irish hitman wracked with guilt over the accidental killing of a young boy. Instead of using his rugged good looks to play yet another "badass" assassin character, Farrell goes full neurotic, twitching his eyes and fidgeting like a child struggling to stay still in class. It's a hilarious, manic performance that makes the film's comic moments pop, and allows its somber, reflective moments to sneak up on you like a dark stranger approaching in an alley. You won't know what hit you.
Gremlins director Joe Dante gave this take on the old Fantastic Voyage framing of the human body as the next expanse for exploration a necessary shot of comedy in the arm. Dennis Quaid plays an ex-naval pilot who signs up to be the test subject in a miniaturization project. Shrunk down to the size of a single cell, the pilot finds himself accidentally injected into the bloodstream of Martin Short, a manic grocery clerk. Working together -- Jack navigating a world of espionage and assassins as Quaid does what he can from inside the cranial region -- the two foil a plan to steal the miniaturization technology, and we have a ball watching it.
"Da-dum… da-dum… da-dum da-dum da-dum!" You know the music. You know the "bigger boat" line. Maybe you even remember that dolly zoom shot of Roy Scheider sitting on the beach with his family when the screams of terror ring out and everyone runs like hell. But no matter how much pop culture chomps on the remains of this classic, there's no stripping this understated, fundamentally humanist monster picture of its primal power. Even in the age of Sharknado and The Shallows, Jaws is still scary, funny, and essential viewing. These are waters you'll want to get back into.
Jon Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum (2019)
Whether he's slamming an enemy in the face with a book in a library or dodging stray bullets while galloping down a Manhattan street on horseback, John Wick remains calm. The always-on-the-run assassin, returning for the third entry in this surprisingly resilient series, shows weakness, pain, and even vulnerability, but no weapon can puncture the armor of stillness Keanu Reeves brings to the role, and his performance is what makes these movies so gripping. Even if some of the original's underworld grit has been shined away, replaced with scuff-free comic-book opulence and whiskey commercial ambiance, the series stays committed to simple pleasures. Alongside Tom Cruise's more outwardly stressed Ethan Hunt, Wick remains the best action hero Hollywood has to offer.
Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2* (2003, 2004)
Arguably the movie that established Quentin Tarantino as a full-fledged mainstream auteur, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 possesses some of the filmmaker’s most iconic set pieces and visual tableau, from the Bride rocking Bruce Lee's Round 5 jumpsuit to the animated O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) backstory sequence. The relatively quiet, reflective sequel was viewed by many as a leisurely paced come-down from the frenzied blood-letting high of the action-packed first half. But, like Beatrix Kiddo herself, the movie has only gotten wiser with age.
Michael Clayton (2007)
George Clooney made a career out of playing gray knights, and his work as the title character in this icy New York thriller might be the pinnacle of his work. Clayton is a super-cynical, debt-ravaged "fixer," stuck doing damage control amid a massive class-action lawsuit. (Think Olivia Pope from Scandal, but somehow more intense.) He also plays poker, drives cars that explode, and does his best impression of Shiva, god of death. Tony Gilroy's Oscar-winning legal drama is addictive fun in that way complex conspiracy yarns can be, and it has a handful of memorable exchanges to boot -- wait till you see the final confrontation with Tilda Swinton.
Modern blockbusters are filled with tough-guy musings about the moral weight of vengeance -- just watch any random 10 minutes from a "dark" superhero movie-- but they rarely grapple with the outcome of violence in a self-reflective, genuine way. Munich, the story of a secret team of Israeli assassins led by Eric Bana, is a different type of thriller. With the help of a complex, profound script by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, director Steven Spielberg delivers the white-knuckle tension of a spy film without letting his characters off the ethical hook. Instead of rah-rah patriotism, you get a queasy ethical conundrum awash in ambiguity, history drawn with the bloody tip of a knife.
Native Son (2019)
In updating Richard Wright's Native Son for our current age, visual artist Rashid Johnson and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks largely hew to the outline of the novel's plot, down to the inclusion of a disturbing moment that made the audience at Sundance's opening night murmur in shock. The 2019 Bigger Thomas (Ashton Sanders) is a green-haired punk who gets a job working as a driver for a wealthy white man, Henry Dalton and his family. There he meets Mary Dalton (Margaret Qualley), Henry's beautiful daughter whose attempts at inclusivity are racist and vapid. But Bigger and his girlfriend Bessie (KiKi Layne) are driven deeper into her orbit until a tragedy unfolds. What results is a film full of arresting images and strong performances from the likes of Moonlight's Sanders and If Beale Street Could Talk's Layne, driven by the enduring power of Wright's prose.
Notting Hill (1999)
In an appeal to nerdy women everywhere, Hugh Grant plays a London bookshop owner who falls in love with famous American actress Julia Roberts (who more or less plays herself). Let's be honest: we all wanted to move to London and haunt bookstores for our own Hugh Grant after seeing this movie. There are many hilarious moments throughout Notting Hill, all made funnier by Grant's straight face, but the wacky Welsh roommate posing in his underwear for the paparazzi slays. Grant and Roberts have the predictable struggles of a commoner dating an A-lister, but their at-first tentative, then enduring love for one another makes us root for them to live happily ever after.
Ordinary People* (1980)
Many people first hear of Ordinary People in the context of its supposedly unjust Best Picture Oscar win over Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, but that's far from the fairest treatment of this Robert Redford-directed film. It's the rare family drama that pulls no punches; Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, and Timothy Hutton play members of the Jarrett family, who are struggling to cope with the death of a beloved son. And struggle they do -- if you're hoping for a feel-good film about overcoming struggles, Ordinary People won't fulfill your desires, but it offers a nuanced, painful exploration of grief and the wide range of reactions it provokes.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Does Paul Thomas Anderson's furious romantic comedy count as an Adam Sandler movie? The pieces are there: the Billy Madison star plays Barry, a novelty plunger salesmen who battles his malicious sisters, a shadowy phone-sex extortionist, and the crippling effects of depression, all while falling in love with the women of his dreams. With brighter lighting and a top-40 soundtrack, it would follow in the tracks of Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy. In Anderson's hands, it's a melancholic character study that strangles Sandler's persona with his own vocal chords.
Raising Arizona (1987)
"That night I had a dream..." In its closing moments, Raising Arizona takes on a deeply philosophical bent: what if we have alternate selves who live different lives? It's possible to think of the Coen brothers' career in the same way. Coming off Blood Simple, it would've been easy for the pair to dig deeper into the dark, rain-soaked world of noir thrillers, but instead they made a madcap comedy, complete with a Looney Tunes chase sequence, ornate hick dialogue, and a character called "the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse." And it all worked. The movie endures thanks to a love story between Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter, which might be the most life-affirming relationship in the Coens' whole filmography. Watching Hi and Ed struggling to raise a child they kidnapped from a local big shot slowly makes you a part of their bizarre, fucked-up family.
Saving Private Ryan* (1998)
Steven Spielberg's World War II movie solidified itself as an American classic 15 minutes into its runtime, after a grave, pungent staging of the invasion of Normandy Beach. The rest of the film lives up to the sequence, with Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, and an unimaginable list of big-name actors playing out a universal band of brothers. When a life is worth saving, backstory matters, and Spielberg's direction does as much to enrich the lives of his men as it does to enact the terrors of war.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Can you really trust Matt Damon? That's the question driving this tasty soufflé of a psychological thriller adapted from a novel by Patricia Highsmith. The eternally boyish actor was especially innocent and naive here, fresh off the success of Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan, but his Tom Ripley is a monster capable of manipulating Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow with sociopathic ease. Like super-spy Jason Bourne, Ripley is the perfect role for Damon: You never quite know what's lurking under the surface.
With 2019's Glass, M. Night Shyamalan continued to sequelize this underrated pseudo-comic-book movie by converging the worlds of never-sick David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and the frail psychopath Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) with the oddities seen in this year’s Split franchise. Whatever makes him happy! Even if the concept-fusing experiment went awry, nothing will ever change this subdued gem, where palpable feelings of dread, guilt, and empowerment are splashed with moments of rainy day superheroism.
Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning Western inverts the hero mold by turning an aging outlaw into a driven do-gooder. Eastwood stars alongside Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, and the late Richard Harris, who all contribute wisdom and brutality to this portrayal of redemption in the Old West. Everything you know about Eastwood's "Man with No Name" persona is upended when his character, a widowed pig farmer, sets out for the mission of his life.
2001: A Space Odyssey* (1969)
The man-apes. The monolith. The star-gate sequence. Maybe these are elements you vaguely remember from a Film 101 course you slept through in college, or maybe you just never got around to opening the pod-bay doors on Stanley Kubrick's existential sci-fi classic. Well, here's your chance. Sure, your laptop or phone aren't the ideal formats to appreciate 2001's meticulous production design, but if you own a decent-sized TV, it's still possible to go on an odyssey of your own.