Out of all the streaming platforms currently available, HBO Max might just have the most impressive assortment of classic movies available to stream right now. From Golden Age Hollywood classics to award-winning foreign films, HBO Max offers a huge array of films worth watching. Don’t believe us? Just visit the TCM section of HBO Max’s homepage, and you’ll find dozens of must-watch movies from various decades and countries across the globe.
We put together a list of the top 14 must-watch classic films on HBO Max you are currently able to stream and that we highly recommend.
14 Classic Films to Stream on HBO Max
The Lady Vanishes
One of Hitchcock’s final British films, and commonly ranked as one of the director’s best, the plot of this movie follows a young, rich female passenger (Margaret Lockwood) on a continental European train, who soon discovers her elderly company has disappeared without a trace.
In many ways, this early Hitchcock film feels almost like an Agatha Christie adaptation, from its general air of mystery and setting (reminiscent of Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express), with Hitchcock’s signature style of psychological suspense added into the mix. Overall, it’s a great mystery thriller, and a must-watch for fans of the Master of Suspense.
The Treasure of Sierra Madre
Legendary director John Huston’s followup to his incredible debut film, The Maltese Falcon, his 1948 movie–commonly named his magnum opus–follows a group of three would-be gold prospectors in Mexico trying to make their fortune, all the while battling bandits, rival parties, and even each other. Lead actor Humphrey Bogart and Huston’s second collaboration, The Treasure of Sierra Madre brilliantly depicts the inherent greed present in some people and how it can manifest into extreme paranoia and violence.
The film won numerous accolades upon release (including Oscars for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay), not to mention it also features some of Bogart’s best acting in his entire career.
2001: A Space Odyssey
No “best of” film list is complete without Stanley Kubrick. The iconic director is now seen as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, with his movies frequently cited as some of the most influential ever. There are quite a few of Kubrick’s impressive movies on HBO Max currently, but we opted to go for the wildly innovative 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is still seen today as one of the best sci-fi films in existence.
The premise of the film focuses on a strange alien monolith that randomly appears throughout human history, and the subsequent space expedition that is launched to further study it. Kubrick’s movie was praised for its realistic take on science fiction and never-before-seen special effects, as well as his exploration of space travel, evolution, AI, and existentialism.
The Philadelphia Story
A fantastic romantic comedy that frankly doesn’t get enough attention, The Philadelphia Story features an all-star cast of screen legends Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and James Stewart. When wealthy socialite Tracy’s (Hepburn) current wedding plans are put on hold by the arrival of her ex-husband (Grant) and a tabloid writer (Stewart), she develops feelings for both of them, forcing her to choose between her current fiancee and these two other suitors.
One of the most celebrated rom coms of its time, The Philadelphia Story remains a fantastic, lighthearted movie full of great performances between the three main actors, all of whom have exceptional chemistry with one another.
Rebel Without a Cause
James Dean’s last film (he died nearly a month before the movie’s release), Rebel Without a Cause offered the young actor his most celebrated role in a feature film, helping cement Dean as a cultural icon in the process. Dean plays Jim Stark, a teenager who’s just moved to the Los Angeles suburbs with his parents to escape a troubled past.
As Jim tries to create a new life for himself, he is forced to live out the rough life he’s tried so hard to leave behind. Innovative for its time, Rebel Without a Cause offers a more serious depiction and exploration of teenagers’ emotional struggles and the generational differences between themselves and their parents.
Planet of the Apes
One of the most groundbreaking science fiction movies of all time, when Planet of the Apes was first released in 1968, absolutely no one had seen anything like it. After astronaut George Taylor crash lands on a remote planet in the distant future, he finds the dominant species to be hyper-intelligent apes who are able to speak like humans.
Planet of the Apes was a global phenomenon when it first appeared, earning the film widespread acclaim for its practical effects, makeup, and twist ending, with the film’s popularity resulting in several sequels and a successful reboot series decades later.
The Lord of the Rings
It may be a little too soon to call this classic, but there’s no doubting that Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the extremely popular J.R.R. Tolkien series was universally acclaimed when it first hit the big screen in 2001.
Released one year apart from one another, The Lord of the Rings follows a group of characters from various fantastical races attempting to destroy a mythical ring that might cause the destruction of their world. Epic in so many ways, The Lord of the Rings remains one of the most popular franchises in all of pop culture, and earned numerous awards upon its initial release, including the Oscar for Best Picture for the trilogy’s final installment, The Return of the King.
Singin’ in the Rain
Dance icon Gene Kelly’s most fondly remembered film, Singin’ in the Rain remains one of the best musical movies of all time, full of memorable songs, performances, and dance numbers. The movie features Kelly as silent film star Don Lockwood, an actor struggling to transition to the sound movies that are sweeping the nation in 1920s Hollywood.
Hoping to break into the talkies with his newest project, Lockwood recruits a young woman (Debbie Reynolds) as a singer, eventually leading to a romance developing between the two. Singin’ in the Rain remains an incredibly enjoyable movie nearly 60 years after its release in 1952, and a must-watch for musical fans.
The Great Dictator
Perhaps the most easily recognizable figure in all of silent film, Charlie Chaplin’s feature-length movies are just fantastic–especially movies like The Kid, The Gold Rush, and Modern Times. It was hard to pick just one Chaplin movie we recommend watching, but we decided on including The Great Dictator for its powerful political and anti-authoritarian message.
Satirizing the fascism that was rapidly growing through Europe at the time, The Great Dictator features Chaplin as a Jewish barber and a ruthless tyrannical dictator in two separate roles. The movie’s strong anti-Nazi themes won the film notable acclaim, earning five Academy Award nominations in 1940.
This highly influential Japanese film from acclaimed director Akira Kurosawa was a huge critical success when it first came out in 1954, with its esteem only growing as time went on. Seven Samurai tells the story of a group of poor villagers who hire seven ronin (essentially rogue samurai) to protect them from a group of marauding bandits in 1586.
Quite possibly Kurosawa’s best film, critics have credited Seven Samurai as being one of the most influential movies ever, with the movie being a huge inspiration for later generations of filmmakers, and have a noted influence on the Western genre (it was eventually remade in America as The Magnificent Seven).
A classic of Italian cinema, Bicycle Thieves is widely acknowledged as being one of the most influential Italian neorealist films to ever come out of the country. At the heart of the film is a father and his young son’s quest to reclaim a stolen bicycle, which could mean the end of the father’s employment and the financial lifeline his family needs to survive.
A somewhat quieter film, Bicycle Thieves was praised for its minimalism and portrayal of working-class life in Italy following World War 2, with TCM naming it the most influential movie of all time.
Along with 1933’s King Kong, the original Japanese Godzilla can be considered one of the original monster movies that put the genre on the map. The film’s action begins when a team of scientists come face to face with a giant reptilian monster mutated from the nuclear fallout of underwater hydrogen bomb tests, who begins attacking Japanese cities and wreaking havoc across the country.
While it may initially appear as just a cheesy giant monster movie, the original Godzilla is still one of the best kaiju movies of its time, offering a surprisingly powerful anti-nuclear weapon message behind the now-iconic movie monster’s reign of terror.
Likely director Howard Hawks’ best Western, Rio Bravo features an incredible cast, and remains ridiculously fun to watch, even for non-Western fans. Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) arrests a powerful land baron’s brother for murder and must hold him in jail until US Marshals arrive.
Aiding him in his valiant effort is a recovering alcoholic (Dean Martin), his elderly deputy (Walter Brennan), a young gunslinger (Ricky Nelson), and a mysterious female traveler (Angie Dickinson) whom Chance soon develops feelings for. Rio Bravo remains a favorite of many notable Hollywood filmmakers, including John Carpenter and Quentin Tarantino, who called it the greatest “hangout” movie of all time.
Horror of Dracula
The first Hammer Horror production starring Christopher Lee as everyone’s favorite vampiric Transylvanian, Horror of Dracula has become one of Hammer’s most popular movies and helped establish Lee as an actor synonymous with the role of Count Dracula. The story of Horror of Dracula closely parallels most versions of the classic Bram Stoker story, following a group of humans led by the occult expert, Dr. Van Helsing (Hammer Horror icon, Peter Cushing), as they try to destroy an evil centuries-old vampire. Critics have praised Lee for revamping (no pun intended) the mythic Count and helping transition the 19th-century villain to a modern audience.
With how impressive HBO Max’s assortment of classic films is, it wasn’t easy picking just 14 movies we feel are watching. However, for those curious about where to start, we feel this list provides 14 must-watch classic films to stream on HBO Max for a variety of reasons. If you’re wondering what other classic movies might be on HBO Max right now, we recommend you visit the TCM hub on HBO Max’s homepage to find a great collection of films from around the world.
For horror fans, we also encourage you to check out the early horror film, Freaks, following a group of circus performers seeking revenge against would-be criminals who try to murder one of their own. We also loved the John Ford classic, Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, widely credited with helping make the Duke a mainstream actor and establishing the Western genre in Hollywood.