The Best Movies on HBO Max

HBO Max may be one of the newest platforms to enter the streaming world, but already it’s one of the best. Not only does the service offer a ton of exclusive content related to its hit properties — like Game of Thrones, The Wire, and The Sopranos — it also has a ton of fantastic films strengthening its online catalog.

Thanks to HBO’s partnerships with standout companies and networks like TCM, Studio Ghibli, and DC, the service has an absolutely stacked selection of films you’re able to choose from.

Whether you’re in the mood for a classic black and white monster movie from the ‘30s, a beloved anime film from Hayao Miyazaki, or a recent blockbuster from this past summer, there’s no end to the number of great films you’re able to choose from.

From universally praised films like Howl’s Moving Castle and Point Break to celebrated modern films like Argo and Borat, here are some of the best films you can find currently streaming on HBO Max.

Updated: March 28.

Thriller: Argo

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

A first-class suspense film, a fine political thriller, and a highly deserving Oscar winner for Best Picture, Argo is also undoubtedly among the best films of the 2010s, a decade filled with strong competition like Boyhood, The Revenant, and The Shape of Water (to name just a few).

In the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis, a CIA operative (Ben Affleck) organizes an effort to extract six Americans hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s residence, entering the country under the guise of a Hollywood producer scouting locations for his upcoming movie.

Based on a fascinating true story, Argo is one of those movies with a plot almost too ridiculous to believe. However, the movie’s basis in reality makes it all the more enjoyable to watch, giving a long overdue spotlight to some of the little-known heroes responsible for the hostages’ extraction in the first place.

Comedy: Borat

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Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

You might love Sacha Baron Cohen’s style of comedy or hate it vehemently, but there’s no denying his influence and popularity among mainstream pop culture today, especially when looking at his most famous creation: the hopelessly offensive, ignorant-minded documentarian, Borat.

Wanting to make a documentary about life in America, clueless Kazakhstani reporter Borat Sagdiyev (Baron Cohen) ventures to the U.S., interviewing many of its citizens on a diverse range of bizarre topics.

Offensive, crude, and often darkly comic, Borat sees Baron Cohen and team at once tell a tongue-in-cheek narrative about American customs from an outside perspective, and offer a more introspective take on distinctly American topics. Just as funny, if not more so, than its later 2020 sequel, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, it easily ranks among the most-watched comedy films of the 2000s.

Drama: Precious

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Image Credit: Lionsgate

Arriving in theaters in 2009, Precious was immediately hailed as one of the best movies of the year, owing to the commanding lead performances of its cast (notably breakout star Gabourey Sidibe) and its powerful central themes.

In the mid 1980s, overweight, neglected 16-year-old Precious (Sidibe) learns that she’s pregnant with her second child. Hoping to escape the impoverished conditions of her childhood, Precious is offered an opportunity to attend an alternative school program — something she believes will ensure a better future for herself and her children.

Precious is a film that emphasizes the idea that, no matter how difficult or seemingly hopeless your situation in life is, things can always get better. Improvement does not always come easily, but if you’re willing to commit yourself, with time, you’ll be able to rise above the most arduous of circumstances (as Sidibe’s Precious does here).

Horror: Sinister

Image Credit: Summit Entertainment

Annoyingly high number of jump scares aside, Sinister is one of the more bone-chilling movies of the 2010s — if not of all time. Downbeat and depressing throughout, its eerie atmosphere, gradual pace, and believable performances make it a nightmarish horror movie you’re not likely to forget, even if you tried.

Moving his family into a home where the previous occupants were violently murdered, a true crime writer (Ethan Hawke) starts to experience some disturbing, unexplained phenomena around the house.

According to a 2020 study, Sinister was deemed the certifiably scariest movie of all time, based on observation of viewers’ heart rates (other films measured include The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). Even if the movie relies a little too much on jump scares, it's an unforgivably haunting film that’s as terrifying as it is upsetting.

Crime: Point Break

Point Break 1991
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

In 1991, director Kathryn Bigelow churned out her first major film in the form of Point Break. A highly stylized police procedural film that doubles as a heist movie, it’s a far cry from the gritty, realistic movies of Bigelow’s later career (The Hurt Locker, Detroit), but nevertheless demonstrates her immense talents as a filmmaker.

After several high-publicity bank robberies, a rookie FBI agent (Keanu Reeves) is sent undercover to infiltrate the local surfing community, discovering the robbers may in fact be a group of carefree thrill-seekers.

Imitated and referenced in numerous crime films from the ‘90s onwards, Point Break tends to be a little heavy-handed in its action elements, but that’s exactly what makes it so fun to watch in the first place. Whether you’re seeing Keanu Reeves skydive without a parachute or a charismatic Patrick Swayze hanging ten through massive waves, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

Biopic: Milk

Image Credit: Universal Pictures

A pioneer in the LGBTQ+ movement, Harvey Milk helped push the boundaries for people’s acceptance of homosexuals in societal settings. His ascendance to San Francisco’s political landscape gave him a national spotlight to inspire millions of people across the country — even if his life was cut tragically short.

Nine days before his 1978 assassination, gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) reflects on a life spent advocating equal rights for homosexuals, and his influence in becoming the first openly gay public official in California.

An examination of Milk’s life, political career, and all-important work in LGBTQ+ advocacy, Milk also focuses on the strange personal dynamic that existed between Milk’s colleague and eventual murderer, Dan White, an occasional ally turned fiercely competitive rival.

Anime: Howl’s Moving Castle

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Image Credit Studio Ghibli

If you ask 10 different anime fans what their favorite Studio Ghibli is, it’s probable you’ll walk away with 10 different answers. But even when held up to some of the studio’s best films (Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke), an argument can be made that their 2004 film, Howl’s Moving Castle, is among the company’s strongest releases.

Cursed to inhabit the body of an old woman, a young woman searches for ways to reverse the curse, traveling to the perpetually moving castle of a mysterious young wizard.

Devised by Hayao Miyazaki as his response to the Iraq War, Howl’s Moving Castle is filled to the brim with anti-war subject matter, portraying the harsh reality of battle and the negative effect it has on local communities and societies at large. Not only that, it offers a more sentimentalized portrayal of old age than most other movies, depicting it not as an inevitable inconvenience, but as something natural, healthy, and that you’ll be able to enjoy just as much as youth.

Mystery: Mystic River

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Image Credit: Warner Brothers Entertainment

Clint Eastwood has always been a world-renowned actor and director since his career took off in the mid 1960s. In the decades that followed, Eastwood turned his attention more heavily towards crafting evocative drama films that made use of masterful storytelling and skilled actors, one of his best efforts being the 2003 neo-noir mystery, Mystic River.

When a teenage girl (Emmy Rossum) is murdered in Boston, three former childhood friends (Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins, and Sean Penn) are brought together in the subsequent police investigation.

Analyzing the topic of sexual abuse, trauma, and childhood estrangement, Mystic River is a brilliant, chilling, and at times heartbreaking portrayal of people doing their best to move on from the events that have uprooted their lives. Each of the three principal leads are astounding in their respective roles, able to dwell on their boyhood friendship with one another, and their tragic antagonistic relationship of later years.

Classic: Seven Samurai

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Image Credit: Toho.

In no uncertain terms, every action film released today owes a serious debt of gratitude to Seven Samurai. The defining masterpiece of the legendary Akira Kurosawa’s career, it’s influence can be deeply felt on nearly every action movie that came after it, from ‘60s Westerns like The Magnificent Seven to later blockbusters like Star Wars.

With their food supply threatened by a band of vicious bandits, the residents of a small town recruit seven vastly different ronin to protect their village.

In a career full of unabashedly great films, Seven Samurai is the pinnacle of Kurosawa’s efforts, released when the master was at the height of his technical and artistic prowess. At three and a half hours, it can make for a lengthy watch — but as any self-effacing cinephile will tell you, it deserves to be seen at least once (if not a few times) in everyone’s lifetime.

Underrated: Speed Racer

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

When it first came out in 2008, Speed Racer was instantly dismissed as one of the worst movies ever made. Like so many critically panned movies before it, though, public opinion of the movie has gradually warmed, with many considering it a deliberately cartoonish cult classic.

Pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a high-speed racing star, the 18-year-old Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) rises through the ranks of the sport, earning the attention of an unscrupulous racing mogul (Roger Allam).

Described equally as an “underrated masterpiece” and “misunderstood art film,” whether this 2008 Wachowskis film lives up to the expectations of dedicated Speed Racer anime fans is a matter of opinion. Even if the story or cartoonish nature of the film doesn’t grab you, though, you’ll likely be impressed by its bright colors and incredible visuals — which, for 2008, were truly ahead of their time.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).