The Best Movies on Max Right Now
HBO Max is now Max, but don’t fret — the movies you loved to watch on HBO Max all survived the transition. The new streaming service combines what was on HBO Max and Discovery+ into one giant streamer, but it maintains the stellar library of films that made HBO Max a favorite of cinephiles. And if you’re trying to figure out what to watch on Max, you’ve come to the right place.
Below, we’ve assembled a list of the best movies available to stream on Max right now, from comedies to blockbusters to rom-coms to Oscar-winning dramas and beyond. Since first launching in 2020, HBO Max quickly solidified itself as lowkey one of the best streaming services around, with a robust library of some genuinely great movies past and present to choose from. It now has a different name, but it’s a true bounty of choice with plenty of older films alongside bona fide new releases.
Take a look at our curated list of the best movies on Max below. This list will be updated weekly with new titles, so be sure to check back often.
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North by Northwest
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, “North by Northwest” is a rollicking adventure thriller that boasts a pair of terrific performances from Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. Released in 1958, the film follows an advertising executive who is mistaken for someone else and kidnapped, putting him in the center of a Cold War conspiracy that finds him crossing the country, all while on the run. This one’s a blast and a half.
The Harry Potter Franchise
All eight films in the “Harry Potter” franchise are currently streaming on Max, making for a fulfilling binge-viewing if you so desire. The eight-part series still stands as one of the best and most complete film franchises of all time, as it charts the adventures of a boy wizard from his very beginnings to his final showdown with the evil Lord Voldemort. What makes “Harry Potter” so brilliant is the films evolve and mature along with the characters, so while the first few films are bright and cheery – just like their young protagonists – the latter films are dark and complex, reflecting the characters being forced into adulthood.
Edge of Tomorrow
One of the best films in Tom Cruise’s career (and that’s saying something), “Edge of Tomorrow” is also low-key the best video game movie ever made. The sci-fi film takes place in a near future where an alien invasion threatens to wipe out the globe. Cruise plays a cowardly public relations officer who is thrust onto the battlefront in London, where he is killed – only to wake up to relive the same day over again. And again. And again. He finds a companion in the toughest warrior on the field, played by Emily Blunt, who previously went through the same experience he did. Together, the two must find a way to win this unwinnable battle as the “Groundhog Day” clock starts running out. Doug Liman of “The Bourne Identity” fame directs.
Swiss Army Man
If you love “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” you owe it to yourself to watch the last film made by the directing duo Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, “Swiss Army Man.” Similarly unique, the film stars Paul Dano as a man stranded on an island who comes across a dead body (played by Daniel Radcliffe). He begins using the body as a utility (hence the film’s title), and the lifeless character starts to speak back to him and respond to what’s going on. This one’s really hard to explain in a way that makes it sound palatable, but it’s equal parts hilarious and emotional, with an incredible original score by Manchester Orchestra.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. burst onto the scene with this underrated 2019 drama that thrills and chills in equal measure. The “Waves” actor plays an all-star high school athlete and adopted son of a white couple living in the U.S., having been rescued from war-torn Eritrea. But when his history teacher (played by Octavia Spencer) brings up concerns about Luce’s behavior and possibly more sinister intentions, his parents (played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) don’t want to hear it. This one doesn’t provide any easy answers, but is a terrific acting showcase for all involved. Julius Onah directs.
“Goldeneye” is one of the best James Bond films, period. Filmmaker Martin Campbell successfully rebooted the franchise with this 1995 film that introduced Pierce Brosnan’s new take on 007 and a more adventurous spirit than the prior two Timothy Dalton films. Sean Bean, Famke Janssen and Alan Cumming all deliver memorable performances, but perhaps the greatest legacy of “Goldeneye” is the N64 game it spawned.
All That Breathes
You can watch one of the documentaries up for this year’s Best Documentary Feature Oscar on HBO Max this month, and it’s a great one. “All That Breathes” follows two brothers living in New Delhi who capture and treat birds that are dropping from the sky due to the increasing pollution. What really makes this doc soar, though, is director Shaunauk Sen’s cinematic approach to the film. Long takes, slow pans and evocative cinematography capture life in New Delhi in a transfixing way, making the emotional twists and turns all the more impactful.
If you’re into darkly comic satires, serve up “The Menu.” Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult star as a well-to-do couple who travel to a remote island near New York to have a premiere dining experience, in which Ralph Fiennes and his teams of chefs will prepare a multi-course meal right in front of these exclusive guests. All is not what it seems, however, and Joy’s character discovers she’s in for something much different than she expected. To say more would spoil the fun, but this one’s a treat.
Catch Me If You Can
Low-key one of Steven Spielberg’s most personal films, 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can” finds Leonardo DiCaprio filling the role of a real-life con man who impersonated a pilot, doctor and lawyer all while still being a teenager. Tom Hanks plays the FBI agent hot on his trail, and Spielberg delights in chronicling the jet-set era of the 1960s. Like many of Spielberg’s films, divorce is a theme here, but unlike those other movies this one finds DiCaprio’s father (played by Christopher Walken) as the jilted one while his mother leaves to start a new family. This was rooted in Spielberg’s discovery that his parents’ divorce was not, as he and his siblings were led to believe, because his father left, but instead because his mother fell in love with someone else and his father didn’t want the kids to blame her. In that way, “Catch Me If You Can” is something of a love letter to Spielberg’s own father after his string of “Bad Dad” movies like “E.T.” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
Arguably the best James Bond movie ever made, 2006’s “Casino Royale” forever changed the franchise and introduced Daniel Craig as a more vulnerable iteration of the character. It’s also a blast and a half. The film is a semi-origin story for 007 as it rebooted the series to focus on a younger and more green James Bond who is tasked with sniffing out a bankrupt terrorist financier (played by Mads Mikkelsen), and along the way he teams up with a treasury employee played by Eva Green. The film is intense but also surprisingly humanistic and sensitive, with Bond and Vesper considering the impact of actually killing another human being. And yet, given that this is a James Bond movie, it’s also suave and thrilling.
If you’re looking to get absolutely messed up, watch “Hereditary”! Filmmaker Ari Aster’s breakout 2018 horror film stars Toni Collette as the matriarch of a family who finds themselves haunted (both literally and figuratively) after the death of her mother. It’s hard to explain why “Hereditary” is worth watching without spoiling its twists and turns, but Collette delivers an astoundingly good performance and Aster brings a patient command of the screen that makes the horrors within all the more unsettling.
The Cabin in the Woods
Still one of the best horror movies of the 21st century, “The Cabin in the Woods” is a refreshingly exciting and unique entry into the genre that served as something of a dare for other horror filmmakers to shake their reliance on old tropes and try something new. The 2011 film follows group of young people (including a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth and Jesse Williams) who go to a remote cabin in the woods. All is not what it appears to be, however, as they’re hounded by haunted delights that seem like tropes straight out of a bad horror movie. That’s the point of this meta story, which takes a number of twists and turns before arriving at its bold, unforgettable ending. Drew Goddard directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Joss Whedon.
The Banshees of Inisherin
The “In Bruges” trio of Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and writer/director Martin McDonagh reunite for the darkly hilarious new film “The Banshees of Inisherin,” which is a worthy follow-up to their raucous 2008 dark comedy. Set in 1923 during the waning days of the Irish Civil War, the story begins when a man played by Gleeson tells another man, played by Farrell, that he doesn’t want to be friends with him anymore. This sends Farrell’s character down a spiral, as Gleeson’s character tries to left him off easy but both learn that cutting off a friendship has dire consequences. Supporting turns by Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan round out this sad yet bitingly funny tale of friendship, loneliness and frivolity.
Burn After Reading
The Coen Brothers followed up their dark, Oscar-winning Cormac McCarthy adaptation “No Country for Old Men” with a hysterical farce that feels somewhat underrated. “Burn After Reading” looks and feels like a hard-boiled espionage thriller, but its premise is so dumb – which makes it so funny. Frances McDormand plays a gym employee who comes into possession of a disc from a jobless CIA analyst (John Malkovich) and mistakes it for an important document, when in reality it’s the CIA analyst’s in-progress memoirs. Brad Pitt is incredible as a dim-witted friend of McDormand’s, and George Clooney plays a womanizing U.S. marshal. This whole movie is one giant, terrific joke.
One of the best films of the year is one you should know as little about as possible going in. Suffice it to say “Barbarian” is a creepy horror thriller that surprises at every turn – it’s incredibly difficult to predict what happens next, but with each wild twist the film digs its nails deeper and deeper into your skin, building to an unforgettable climax. The most basic setup of the plot is Georgina Campbell plays a young woman who shows up to an Airbnb to discover it’s been double booked, as a man played by Bill Skarsgård opens the door. Turn out the lights, flip this one on and buckle up.
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A Star Is Born
If you’re in a musical mood but are in the market for a combo of great songs and great drama, Bradley Cooper’s phenomenal 2018 version of “A Star Is Born” will do the trick. Cooper co-wrote, directed and stars in the film as an alcoholic musician on the decline who discovers a star in the making, played by Lady Gaga. As her career takes off he guides her – both as a mentor and a romantic partner – but the question becomes whether he himself can survive the journey. Cooper and Gaga turn in spectacular performances, the original songs are genuinely great, and Cooper proves he’s an incredible filmmaker as he captures it all with an intimate gaze.
David Fincher’s 2014 paperback thriller “Gone Girl” is a dark, thrilling and bitingly funny ode to relationships that is perfectly cast. Based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel, Ben Affleck plays a man whose wife (played by Rosamund Pike) goes missing and is presumed dead. He eventually becomes the prime suspect, only for him to presume his wife is setting him up and is very much alive. This is a story about the people we tell others we are versus the real versions of ourselves that eventually bubble to the surface, especially in longterm relationships. Affleck and Pike are dynamite, while Carrie Coon is stellar in her first major role.
Director David Fincher is known for making dark films, but his 1995 thriller “Seven” remains his darkest – and one of his best. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, the film stars Brad Pitt as a young detective who is partnered up with a veteran on the brink of retirement (played by Morgan Freeman), and for the latter’s final case the two find themselves chasing a serial killer who is killing according to the Seven Deadly Sins. The film takes place in a slightly exaggerated version of reality, all reflective of the themes of futility, morality and justice explored within.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
One of the best and funniest comedies of the 21st century, full-stop, “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” finds The Lonely Island putting their own twist on a “Spinal Tap”-style story. Andy Samberg stars as a Justin Bieber-esque pop star who used to be part of a three-person group in the vein of the Beastie Boys. “Popstar” is a mockumentary, following Samberg’s character on tour after the disastrous release of his new album. The laughs are plenty and hearty throughout, but the film is also a sweet story of friendship. And the songs – written and performed by The Lonely Island – are legitimate bops.
If you’re in the mood for a dark thriller with a powerhouse lead performance, check out 2014’s “Nightcrawler.” Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, the film is a darkly comic look at the world of local news media, as Jake Gyllenhaal plays a stringer named Lou who records violent events and sells them to a local Los Angeles news station. But as Lou’s ambition grows, his motives become murky. The film certainly has shades of a modern “Taxi Driver” with Gyllenhaal delivering a transformative performance that gets under your skin. The whole thing is anchored by terrific co-starring turns by Renee Russo and Riz Ahmed.
If you’re in the mood for a twisty and tight little thriller, M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old” will do the trick. The 2021 film stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Vicky Krieps as a couple considering divorce who take their kids to a tropical resort for one last family vacation. But when they go down to a secret beach one day, they not only find themselves unable to leave, but also discover that they all start aging rapidly. Like, very rapidly. The family and a few other strangers must try and figure out what’s going on and if there’s a way out before they literally grow old and die.
“Elvis” is a biopic of The King by way of “Moulin Rouge!” and “Romeo + Juliet” filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. Which is to say it’s wildly kinetic, exciting and unlike any take on Elvis Presley’s life before. There are the usual Luhrmann flourishes, especially in the first half of the film, but they fit snugly with the chronicle of a larger-than-life figure. Austin Butler transforms into the role of Elvis, delivering a jaw-dropping performance, while Tom Hanks anchors the film as Presley’s conniving business manager Colonel Tom Parker. The story is told from Parker’s perspective, which offers an interesting twist to the storytelling, but it’s clear Luhrmann cares deeply about doing justice to Elvis’ story. And that soundtrack!
If anyone can pull off commanding an entire movie set inside a car, it’s Tom Hardy. Filmmaker Steven Knight’s 2013 film “Locke” follows a successful construction manager in Birmingham who gets a phone call on his way home that dismantles his life. The rest of the story plays out inside the car as the man drives and makes a series of phone calls in an effort to control the fallout, with Hardy serving as the only character you see onscreen while Tom Holland, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott and others fill the roles on the other end of the phone. This thing is riveting.
Tim Burton’s comedy classic is a great watch pretty much anytime. “Beetlejuice” revolves around a couple who die in a car accident (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) and become ghosts trapped inside their home where they’re forced to witness its sale and renovation by a gauche family from the city. They enlist the help of a “bio-exorcist” named Beetlejuice (played by Michael Keaton), and all hell breaks loose. The film is a colorful and inventive twist on the afterlife, offering up a darkly comic spin on the living dead.
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A heady sci-fi two-hander with an iconic dance break from Oscar Isaac, 2014’s “Ex Machina” contains multitudes. The film hails from writer/director Alex Garland, whose knack for telling smart (and thought-provoking) sci-fi stories ranges from “Annihilation” to “Devs.” In “Ex Machina,” Isaac plays an enigmatic billionaire who summons a programmer (played by Domhnall Gleeson) to his remote compound to assess whether his A.I. creation (played by Alicia Vikander). Philosophical conversations are interspersed with feelings of dread and horror, as Garland masterfully weaves a tale about what it means to be human.
One of filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s many classics, 1990’s “Goodfellas” is a quintessential gangster film. Based on a true story, it chronicles the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill, as played by the late Ray Liotta. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino co-star in what is essentially a prototype for “The Sopranos,” with Scorsese drawing the audience into the world of the mob through the eyes of a wannabe gangster. The filmmaking is some of the best of Scorsese’s career, from the iconic oner at the Copacabana night club to a cocaine-fueled third act sequence that’ll have you on edge no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Tim Burton’s 1992 sequel remains one of the boldest, most interesting and sexiest Batman movies ever made – and it holds up tremendously well. “Batman Returns” is the superior follow-up to Burton’s 1989 hit, with Michael Keaton reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Michelle Pfeiffer is phenomenal as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, with the character serving as a tempting mirror of Bruce Wayne’s own dichotomy — a more violent path towards vigilantism and revenge. There’s also Danny DeVito’s snarling Penguin, and perhaps most terrifying of all Christopher Walken’s soulless businessman Max Schreck. With a Christmas setting and Burton pushing the Gothic aesthetics to the extreme, this is one of the best Batman movies ever made.
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A riff on the buddy cop formula, “The Heat” is a hilarious comedy that pairs Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, under the direction of “Bridesmaids” and “Spy” filmmaker Paul Feig. Bullock plays a tight-laced FBI agent who’s forced to let loose when she’s partnered with a tough-as-nails cop who doesn’t play by the rules, played by McCarthy. Together they try to take down a mobster in Boston, with each learning a little something about themselves in the process.
Under the Skin
If you’re an adventurous sci-fi fan, “Under the Skin” is a must-see. This singular, unnerving film from director Jonathan Glazer stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien woman who preys on men in Scotland. But instead of high-flying theatrics, CGI or predictable plot structure, “Under the Skin” surprises at every turn. Johansson’s performance is predatory and elegant all at once, and the way Glazer captures her character’s kills will keep you up at night. Add in a transfixing score by composer Mica Levi, and this one will have you under its spell.
If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, check out the 2016 film “Colossal.” This darkly comic sci-fi film stars Anne Hathaway as a self-destructive alcoholic who realizes she controls a giant kaiju monster in Seoul. At the same time, she’s working out a relationship with her childhood friend Oscar (played by Jason Sudeikis), whose “nice guy” exterior hides a more toxic underbelly. Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, the film reveals itself to be a smart and impactful story of toxic masculinity and alcoholism. It’s also a ton of fun.
If you yearn for the days when a new legal thriller was in theaters every few months, it’s a great time to revisit the Tom Cruise-fronted John Grisham adaptation “The Firm.” The 1993 film follows a young Harvard law school soon-to-be-graduate who is recruited to join one of the top law firms in Tennessee. But once he’s inside, he learns more sinister works may be at play. Sydney Pollack directs an A-list cast that includes Gene Hackman, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook, Wilfred Brimley and Holly Hunter.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
One of the best sequels ever made, James Cameron’s 1991 film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is hailed by many as even better than its predecessor. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns as a killer robot sent from the future, only this time he’s sent to protect a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) who is destined to lead the human revolt against the machine uprising. Linda Hamilton is a full-on action hero in this follow-up, traumatized by the events of the first film in which she was told that her son was the key to humanity’s future. This film pioneered CGI characters with Robert Patrick’s T-1000 antagonist, but still manages to keep a beating human heart among all the spectacle.
Putting a new spin on a character like Batman is incredibly difficult, but director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson accomplish this and much more in the 2022 reboot “The Batman.” The film picks up in Bruce Wayne’s second year of prowling the streets as the caped crusader, and finds him roped into an investigation into a series of killings committed by The Riddler (Paul Dano). Reeves draws from films like “Zodiac” and “All the President’s Men” to result in a process-driven (and wildly compelling) crime thriller that packs some of the most striking cinematography in the character’s history thanks to Oscar-winner Greig Fraser. And that score by Michael Giacchino is a new classic. At three hours in length this one’s quite long, but it’s the detective-driven Batman story fans have long been waiting for.
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William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet
“Moulin Rogue!” and “The Great Gatsby” filmmaker Baz Luhrmann has always had a flair for the theatrical, which made him a brilliant fit for 1996’s reimagining of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Aptly named “Romeo + Juliet,” the film retains much of Shakespeare’s dialogue but features a contemporary setting and characters, trading swords for guns and Verona for “Verona Beach.” The freshly popular duo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes make a firecracker pairing at the center of the film, and a hip soundtrack pairs nicely with Luhrmann’s fast-paced visual approach.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” is the kind of prestige, epic sci-fi adaptation that studios rarely make, and for that alone it’s worth seeking out. Based on the Frank Herbert novel of the same name, the film stars Timothee Chalamet as the young Paul Atreides, a man who accompanies his family House Atreides as they’re tasked with overseeing the mining of a valuable resource on the planet Arrakis. But once they arrive, they struggle against the planet’s native population and the nefarious House Harkonnen who wants its position back at all costs. This film, gorgeously crafted, is the first half of the “Dune” story with the second half due to be adapted in the forthcoming sequel “Dune: Part Two.”
West Side Story
Steven Spielberg’s first-ever musical “West Side Story” is one of the best films he’s ever made, and that’s saying something. This new adaptation of the Broadway hit is set in 1957 New York, where two warring gangs – the Polish youths The Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks – battle for control over a strip of land that’s due to be gentrified anyway. Caught in the middle are Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler) who fall in love despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks. Spielberg crafts a film set in the past that speaks to the tensions we face today, grounded in an emotional and tragic love story.
If you’re in the mood for a contained action movie, Bob Odenkirk’s “Nobody” will do the trick. The “Better Call Saul” actor trained for over a year to get in fighting shape to play a family man who, after experiencing a home invasion, returns to his dangerous former life. Directed by Ilya Naishuller, the film boasts some jaw-dropping action scenes in the vein of “John Wick” (and it’s no surprise to find that the film was written and produced by “John Wick” alums).
A delightful original blockbuster, “Free Guy” stars Ryan Reynolds as an NPC (aka Non-Playable Character) living in a “Sims”-like video game populated largely by online players. When he suddenly gains consciousness, he begins making decisions for himself outside of his predetermined routine, all the while a female gamer from the outside world played by Jodie Comer enlists his help to find some embedded code within the game. Taika Waititi plays a nefarious video game designer and “Stranger Things” breakout Joe Keery plays an employee at the game company who may or may not be helpful in Reynolds and Comer’s quest. If you’re looking for a delightful and surprisingly emotional film for all ages, check this one out.
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Guillermo del Toro’s 2021 drama “Nightmare Alley” is not for the faint of heart, but it is a rich and disturbing character piece about identity. Set in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Bradley Cooper stars as Stanton Carlisle, a drifter who ends up working for a traveling carnival where he picks up a mentalist act. Years later, he’s now stolen this mentalist act as his own and finds success in the big city, but when he teams up with a mysterious therapist (played by Cate Blanchett), his world begins to crumble. Cooper is terrific in the lead role, and the film builds to one of the most unforgettable endings in recent memory.
You must be on the right wavelength to enjoy “Malignant,” but if you’re down for a horror movie that plays out with a knowing wink, this might become a new favorite. From “Aquaman” and “The Conjuring” director James Wan, the film stars Annabelle Wallis as a woman who begins to have visions of people being murdered, and when she starts digging into her past she discovers disturbing secrets – all while a killer is on the loose. This thing goes from creepy horror film to murder mystery to campy monster movie and never misses a beat, and the third act is a total blast.
The Last Duel
Ridley Scott’s historical drama “The Last Duel” made an early streaming debut on HBO Max, and if you missed this 2021 film in theaters now is a great time to catch up. The story recounts the last officially sanctioned duel in the 1400s, and kicks into gear when a woman (played by Jodie Comer) accuses one of her husband’s (Matt Damon) former friends and semi-rival (played by Adam Driver) of rape. The film plays out in three parts, telling the story from three different points of view — that of the woman, that of her husband, and that of the man she accused of raping her — and in doing so serves as an insightful and unsettling look at the way men view the world and their place in it, and how that impacts women. Damon, Ben Affleck and Nicole Holofencer wrote the screenplay.
Singin’ in the Rain
Quite simply one of the most joyous films ever made, there’s no way that “Singin’ in the Rain” will leave you in a bad mood. Released in 1952, the film is set against the backdrop of the transition from silent films to “talkies” and revolves around three Hollywood performers: Gene Kelly is Don Lockwood, Debbie Reynolds is Kathy Selden and Donald O’Connor is Cosmo Brown. In addition to telling a compelling Hollywood-set story, the film boasts some of the most mesmerizing musical numbers ever put to film, from the acrobatics of “Make ‘Em Laugh” to Kelly’s iconic “Singin’ in the Rain.” This is a perfect feel-good movie.
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The Suicide Squad
While filmmaker James Gunn brought a lighter sensibility to his “Guardians of the Galaxy” films for Marvel Studios, his DC film “The Suicide Squad” harkens back to the darkness of his earlier work. Not quite a sequel and not quite a reboot, the 2021 film largely stands alone as it follows the anti-hero team of Task Force X – which includes Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Idris Elba’s Bloodsport – as they’re assigned to sneak into a foreign country on a top secret mission. R-rating antics abound, but there’s a surprising humanity at the center of this gloriously weird and wild superhero movie.
If you’re a fan of the work of Steven Spielberg, then the documentary “Spielberg” is a must-watch. The film is anchored by an interview with Spielberg himself (and his family members) as it runs through his storied career, with the filmmaker offering candid insight along the way. If you’ve ever wondered how Spielberg took the blow of “1941” or why “Catch Me If You Can” was rooted in a family secret, those answers and more are found within.
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Zack Snyder’s Justice League
At four hours in length, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is really for interested parties only, but for those with even a passing familiarity with “Man of Steel,” “Batman v. Superman” and “Wonder Woman,” this HBO Max exclusive marks a fascinating, rich and wildly different take on “Justice League” than the one that was released in theaters in 2017. Presented in six chapters with an epilogue, everyone gets more story this time around, and it’s for the better. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) provides some emotional heft; Superman (Henry Cavill) actually gets some depth; and Ben Affleck’s Batman gets more to do than half-heartedly pull together a Justice League. This film is director Zack Snyder’s unfiltered vision for better and for worse, and that includes some major teases for sequels that never came to fruition, plenty of violence and lots of slow motion. And honestly? It’s good.
All the President’s Men
One of the best films ever made, 1976’s “All the President’s Men” chronicles the real-life investigation into the Watergate scandal by journalists Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford). Director Alan J. Pakula captures the electric atmosphere of the newsroom but treats the investigation with the seriousness it deserves, as there’s no need for embellishment when the story’s this good. Shades of a paranoid thriller keep the tension up even when you know how the story unfolds, and Hoffman and Redford are stellar as the two journalists at the center.
No Sudden Move
Steven Soderbergh’s HBO Max original film “No Sudden Move” is a heck of a crime thriller. Set in 1954 Detroit, it stars Don Cheadle as a gangster short on cash who wants to leave town, and who reluctantly agrees to do a job that immediately goes sideways. He’s then on the run with a fellow gangster played by Benicio Del Toro, trying to figure out who he can trust and discovering who’s behind it all. The script by Ed Solomon brilliantly weaves a twist-filled story with thematic resonance, as the film uses historical context to add to the complexity of its plot and characters.
No Country for Old Men
If you’re in the mood for a dark, complicated drama, the Coen Brothers’ Oscar-winning 2007 film “No Country for Old Men” will do the trick. The Cormac McCarthy adaptation stars Josh Brolin as a man who happens upon the aftermath of a deadly shootout that has left behind a bag full of money. He takes the money for himself, but in doing so puts him and his wife in the crosshairs of a cold-blooded killer played by Javier Bardem. The film is a harrowing meditation on morality and chance, and won four Oscars including Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay.
Widely hailed as the greatest film of all time, 1941’s “Citizen Kane” is also just tremendously entertaining. The groundbreaking effort from co-writer/producer/director/star Orson Welles traces the life and career of a mysterious and wealthy newspaper publisher by beginning with his death. The film employs techniques that were, at the time, unheard of in order to weave the complicated narrative and immerse viewers into the story. Eighty years after its original release, “Citizen Kane” remains a humdinger of a film. That’s cinema, folks.
2001: A Space Odyssey
If you’re looking to watch a sci-fi classic that may or may not make your head hurt a little bit, try Stanley Kubrick’s masterful 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The epic adventure takes place in the year 2001 (then the future) and follows a crew that’s sent to Jupiter after a mysterious monolith is discovered on Earth. Aboard the ship is a computer named HAL that wreaks havoc on the mission. This is one of the most visually stunning and perplexing films of all-time – a true work of art that’s open to various forms of interpretation by the time you reach the end of the journey.
The Matrix Trilogy
Revisit the original trilogy before taking in the truly bonkers fourth “Matrix” film “The Matrix Resurrections.” “The Matrix,” from 1999, remains the best of the bunch, as Keanu Reeves plays a man named Neo who is awoken to the truth that the world he inhabits is actually a computer program called The Matrix, and the real world is actually a desolate landscape run by machines. The story gets far more complicated from there in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” as the few humans awake in the real world stage a coup against their machine overlords. Writers and directors The Wachowskis break ground both in terms of action and allegorical storytelling, as the films are loaded with heady philosophical ideas.
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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
With the holiday season comes plenty of vacation time, and if you’re in for a really long binge-watch, “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy will do the trick. Peter Jackson’s epic trio of J.R.R. Tolkein adaptations remain some of the most accomplished achievements in the history of moviemaking, as this fantastical tale of a young hobbit who sets out to save the world as he knows it is crafted with ingenuity and passion to spare. Whether it’s your first or fifth time to Middle-earth, it’s a journey well worth taking. As a bonus, HBO Max offers both the theatrical versions and the richer extended versions available to stream.
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