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Hbomax Suggestions

Discover the very best Hbomax suggestions. Everything you see here follows the agoodmovietowatch criteria: a viewer score of at least 7/10 (on IMDb for example) and at the same time a critic score of at least 70% (on Rotten Tomatoes).

When Castro took over Cuba in the 1950s, Havana’s nightlife shifted as clubs and casinos were closed down, leading to certain traditional step-based genres like son, bolero, and danzón to decline. A few decades later, prominent American musician Ry Cooder travelled to Cuba with his friend documentarian Wim Wenders, to pay homage to traditional Cuban music in an album and its respective documentary. Wenders weaves in illuminating interviews and shots of Cuba today in between the band’s Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall performances, with a certain intuition that makes each song feel like a triumph. While the documentary does focus more on Cooder, Buena Vista Social Club is a delight to watch, even with its 90s digital grain.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Compay Segundo, Eliades Ochoa, Ibrahim Ferrer, Joachim Cooder, Omara Portuondo, Ry Cooder

Director: Wim Wenders

Rating: G

Before Wong Kar Wai made his signature romantic dramas, he first made his directorial debut As Tears Go By, a film that wouldn’t be out of place in the crime and action flicks that characterized 1980s cinema. There are moments that feel a tad derivative, such as the use of Take My Breath Away from 1986’s Top Gun, and the gangster love triangle reminiscent of Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets, but Wong’s style starts to peek through with his use of color and light, and of course, the distinctive blurred action that transforms movement into lines. It’s not as sleek as Wong’s better known works, but As Tears Go By is still a good film to watch, marking Wong as one of the biggest names in the then-emerging Hong Kong New Wave.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Man, Andy Lau, Benz Kong To-Hoi, Chan Chi-Fai, Chow Gam-Kong, Ho Wing-Cheung, Hui Fan, Jacky Cheung, Lam Kau, Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Pak Yan, Ronald Wong Ban, William Chang Suk-Ping, Wong Aau, Wong Chi-Wai

Director: Wong Kar-wai

There are a few instances that prove the merit of one’s friendship, and one of those instances is a roadtrip. Withnail and I is considered one of the greatest British comedies of all time, but there’s a certain melancholy to it, as two unemployed actors have gone on holiday due to an offer from one of their uncles, though this offer doesn’t come without strings, which the titular “I”, Marwood, whose name is never mentioned, has only found out on the trip. As the holiday goes wrong, with the two making the worst of every new situation, the two share somewhat of a dysfunctional, slightly homoerotic relationship, as Withnail deals with everything in the most drunken, unserious manner, and Marwood anxiously realizes how much he’s outgrown their friendship. The film’s humor may be a tad too dry for those outside the country, but cult favorite Withnail and I still resonates with its endlessly quotable lines, memorable scenes, and its bitter understanding of how life can diverge.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anthony Wise, Daragh O'Malley, Eddie Tagoe, Irene Sutcliffe, Llewellyn Rees, Michael Elphick, Michael Wardle, Noel Johnson, Paul McGann, Ralph Brown, Richard E. Grant, Richard Griffiths, Robert Oates, Una Brandon-Jones

Director: Bruce Robinson

Rating: R

The Great Lillian Hall doesn’t do anything particularly great to a familiar premise, but it’s still worth watching for the knockout performances. There’s Lange, whose dementia both complicates her desire to mount one last performance and resurfaces her guilt for being an absent mother. There’s Bates, who offers both sympathy and tough love. And then there’s Rabe, who’s gut-punching as the pained daughter crawling her way into her mother’s stiff arms. Everything else about the film is not as noteworthy as it drags the film for way longer than it should be. But that trifecta of performances makes it all worthwhile.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allison Mackie, Blaque Fowler, Bryan McClure, Cindy Hogan, Clayton Landey, David Chin, David Marshall Silverman, David Vaughn, Derrick LeMont, Erik Parillo, Jesse Williams, Jessica Lange, Jonathan Horne, Kathy Bates, Keith Arthur Bolden, Kenneth Trujillo, Lauren Buglioli, Lily Rabe, Meg Gillentine, Michael Rose, Noshir Dalal, Pierce Brosnan, Rebecca Watson, Robert Stevens Wayne, Tenz McCall, Zele Avradopoulos

Director: Michael Cristofer

Rating: PG-13

While being known for co-writing the Dogme 95 manifesto, Lars von Trier’s first film after breaks his rules with built sets and music added in post. Still, Breaking the Waves has plenty of von Trier’s thematic preoccupations, challenging the notions between faithfulness and sexuality by positing a married couple who cannot indulge in marital pleasure, due to being paralyzed. While the premise leads to explicit scenes, it’s more harrowing than sexy, really. It’s terribly heartbreaking as Bess does all she can for her marriage, first by praying for her husband’s return, and then following his perverse wish, partly from guilt, but partly from pleasure, even when it goes contrary to her repressive church and community. Breaking the Waves may not be an easy watch, but regardless of what you personally feel about the morality of Bess’ actions, von Trier will nevertheless bring you to empathy.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Rawlins, David Bateson, Dorte Rømer, Emily Watson, Finlay Welsh, Gavin Mitchell, Jean-Marc Barr, John Wark, Jonathan Hackett, Katrin Cartlidge, Mikkel Gaup, Phil McCall, Robert Robertson, Roef Ragas, Sandra Voe, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: R

While billed as a “ramen western”, Tampopo satirizes plenty of other American genres, including, but not limited to: 1) the inspirational sports film, with Tampopo’s diligent training, 2) the erotic, arthouse drama through its egg yolk kiss, 3) the witty, social comedy pointing out the absurd in dinnertime tables, and 4) the melodramatic mafia romance with its room-serviced hotel getaway. But the film doesn’t buckle under the weight of carrying all these genres– instead, the customer vignettes are all delicately plated to balance out the hearty journey of a store owner learning about ramen and the bemused, yet cohesive contemplation about food. Tampopo is one of a kind.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Akio Tanaka, Chōei Takahashi, Fukumi Kuroda, Gō Awazu, Hideji Ōtaki, Hisashi Igawa, Hitoshi Takagi, Hyōe Enoki, Isao Hashizume, Izumi Hara, Ken Watanabe, Kenso Kato, Kinzō Sakura, Kōji Yakusho, Mariko Okada, Masahiko Tsugawa, Naritoshi Hayashi, Nobuko Miyamoto, Nobuo Nakamura, Rikiya Yasuoka, Ryutaro Otomo, Toshimune Kato, Toshiya Fujita, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Yoriko Dōguchi, Yoshi Katō, Zenpaku Kato

Director: Jūzō Itami

Rating: NR

The story of the Von Erich family is excruciatingly sad, but Iron Claw doesn’t dive right into the tragedy. Instead, it takes care to paint a picture of a close-knit family that’s filled with just as much warmth, jealousy, affection, and resentment as the next bunch. Durkin masterfully draws you into their circle so that everything that happens next is sure to cut deep. The choreography, chemistry, color—everything is carefully and beautifully set up, but the casting is what stands out the most. This wouldn’t have worked as well if it weren’t for the inspired move to pair Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons as brothers and partners. On the internet, people have been dubbing The Iron Claw as “Little Women and The Virgin Suicides for men” and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from the sibling bond over glory and growing pains, all these films are also powerful explorations of gender. Iron Claw is a vicious takedown of toxic masculinity, while also being a searing family drama and an incredible showcase for Efron and company.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Brian Hite, Cazzey Louis Cereghino, Chad Governale, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Chelsea Edmundson, Christina Michelle Williams, Garrett Hammond, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Jeremy Allen White, Jim Gleason, Jullian Dulce Vida, Kevin Anton, Kristina Kingston, Lily James, Maura Tierney, Maxwell Friedman, Michael Harney, Michael Papajohn, Mike Dell, Ryan Nemeth, Scott Innes, Stanley Simons, Zac Efron

Director: Sean Durkin

Rating: R

Though the drag scene is alive and well today, Paris is Burning is an important reminder that it didn’t always used to be that way. Over the course of seven years, Director Jennie Livingston leads us underneath the crime-ridden streets of 80s New York, where a glittery drag subculture is flourishing, despite all odds. Leading the community are the so-called mothers, the best performers and most fashionable of them all, tasked with inspiring and caring for newcomers. Nevermind that they’re shunned by society and suffocated (sometimes literally) by hateful homophobes and racists; when there is a ball, all that matters is that they strut, dance, and put on the best damn show of their lives. What they do is art, and Livingston makes sure to exalt the craft and pride that goes into it. At the same time, intimate interviews with iconic queens like Pepper LaBeija and Willi Ninja reveal the heartbreaking nature of the community. Most, if not all, have endured some form of abuse, and many risk their lives to earn a decent living. But again, Livingston refuses to reduce them to pure tragedy; she gets them to share their wonderfully big dreams, then gets us to hope along with them that they might just come true.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dorian Corey, Kim Pendavis, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Sol Williams Pendavis, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja

Director: Jennie Livingston

Rating: R

After the 1975 release of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens, Big and Little Edie Beale’s story captivated viewers and spawned a musical and a dramatized biopic about the reclusive, impoverished socialite mother-daughter duo. The Beales of Grey Gardens is a compilation of the remaining unreleased archival footage, released after the death of both subjects and David Maysles. For those unfamiliar with their story, the film might feel a bit random and contextless. But for Beale fans, and those familiar with their first documentary, this sticks close to the classic cinema vérité style of the Maysles, while also uncovering other sides of these interesting, eccentric former socialites, becoming a lovely tribute for them and their fans.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Edith Bouvier Beale, Jerry Torre, Lois Wright

Director: Albert Maysles, David Maysles

Rating: NR

When Moviepass announced that it would allow you to watch at least one theater film a day for just $10/month, the deal seemed too good to be true. And it was, though it wouldn’t be apparent till a couple years later after top executives Mitch Lowe and Ted Farnsworth burned through the company’s funding and ultimately ran the company down to the ground. That’s one story MoviePass, MovieCrash tells, that of a business that bit too much than it could chew. But the documentary also brings to the fore the overlooked story of Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt, the company’s Black co-founders who built something special and innovative, but who were shoved off in a frustrating move of greed and racial politics. That’s the more interesting part of the film, especially since Spikes eventually reclaims what’s his. It’s also what gives the documentary more heart than the usual tale of a business’s downfall.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Daymond John, Hamet Watt, Mitch Lowe, Stacy Spikes, Ted Farnsworth

Director: Muta'Ali Muhammad

Far From the Madding Crowd is a classic tale, but in terms of story, it has the familiar thread of a lady having to choose between multiple swoon-worthy suitors, which is a common story of many lengthy, overly melodramatic period dramas. However, with the restrained direction of Thomas Vinterberg, and the writing of David Nicholls, known best for his decades sprawling romance in One Day, the fifth film adaptation captures the magic of the classic countryside novel, elevating the old-fashioned romance with an easier, faster flow, and carried by the powerful performance of its cast. Fans of the novel or the 1967 adaptation might feel disappointed at how much was removed, but overall, Far From the Madding Crowd is an exemplary drama adaptation.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Bradley Hall, Carey Mulligan, David Golt, Dorian Lough, Eloise Oliver, Harry Peacock, Hilton McRae, Jessica Barden, Jody Halse, Jon Gunn, Juno Temple, Mark Wingett, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Pauline Whitaker, Richard Dixon, Sam Phillips, Stuart Davidson, Thomas Arnold, Tilly Vosburgh, Tom Sturridge, Victor McGuire

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Rating: PG-13

, 2015

In Amy, Kapadia eschews talking heads for something more intimate: home videos, photographs, and phone messages from Winehouse’s earliest and closest friends, which he stitches together to reintroduce a version of the singer that has, up till this point, been ignored by the public. It’s an attempt to reverse Winehouse’s vilified public persona, not by denying her struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, but by showing as many parts of her as possible. The musical prodigy, jazz fanatic, and sweet friend, as well as the troubled soul, hurt child, and obsessive lover. She’s far from perfect, but she is human, not some punching bag caricature the media has made her out to be. Though Kapadia’s methods sometimes get a little too close for comfort (using phone messages intended for her friends and private clips of her being high feels borderline voyeuristic), they also feel necessary in reclaiming an identity that’s closer to her true self. During these questionable moments, Amy feels not just hard but wrong to watch, but that discomfort is also the point. It should be unsettling to get to know a real person.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Amy Winehouse, Blake Fielder, Frankie Boyle, Jay Leno, Juliette Ashby, Mark Ronson, Mitch Winehouse, Pete Doherty, Russell Brand, Salaam Remi, Tom Myers, Tony Bennett, Tyler James, Yasiin Bey

Director: Asif Kapadia

Rating: R

Arrietty may not be as epic as other Ghibli movies, both in the literal and figurative sense, but its tiny world is so richly detailed that you could spend hours studying a single frame of the film. In Arrietty’s lovely house-underneath-a-house, stamps are hung on the walls like paintings, a flowerpot serves as the hearth, a tea canister is a cabinet, an olive a chair, a sewing pin a sword, a clothespin a hair tie, and so on. The possibilities are endless, but the film tries to exhaust them as much as it can. This alone makes Arrietty a delightful watch, but the simple story at the heart of it—one of survival, empathy, and faith—elevates into a timeless classic.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Amy Poehler, Bridgit Mendler, Carol Burnett, David Henrie, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Keiko Takeshita, Kirin Kiki, Mirai Shida, Moises Arias, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shinichi Hatori, Shinobu Otake, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tomokazu Miura, Will Arnett

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Rating: G

Rosetta begins fiercely, with a shaky handheld camera chasing the eponymous teenager (Émilie Dequenne) as she storms across a factory floor and bursts into a room to confront the person she believes has just lost her her job. The film seldom relents from this tone of desperate fury, as we watch Rosetta — whose mother is a barely functioning alcoholic — fight to find the job that she needs to keep the two alive.

As tough as their situation is, though, Rosetta’s fierce sense of dignity refuses to allow her to accept any charity. A stranger to kindness and vulnerability, her abject desperation leads her to mistake these qualities for opportunities to exploit, leading her to make a gutting decision. But for all her apparent unlikeability, the movie (an early film from empathy endurance testers the Dardenne brothers) slots in slivers of startling vulnerability amongst the grimness so that we never lose sight of Rosetta’s ultimate blamelessness. Its profound emotional effect is corroborated by two things: that it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and that it helped usher in a law protecting the rights of teenage employees in its setting of Belgium.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Yernaux, Bernard Marbaix, Émilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Frédéric Bodson, Mireille Bailly, Olivier Gourmet

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Rating: R

The sunniest installment of Éric Rohmer’s Tales of the Four Seasons series is a sly, slow burn of a character study. Everything looks sensuously beautiful in the honey-toned French sunshine, except for the ugly egotism of Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), the full extent of which is gradually revealed over the film’s runtime to amusing — if maddening — effect.

A brooding twenty-something, Gaspard has the traumatic task of having to decide between three beautiful and brilliant young women while vacationing alone on the French coast one summer. He dithers and delays his choice, each woman appealing to a different insecurity of his — but, as frustrating and plainly calculating as he is, you can’t help but be charmed by Gaspard. That’s partly because of Poupaud’s natural charisma, but also because Rohmer grants Gaspard as many searingly honest moments as he does deceitful ones. These come through Rohmer’s hallmark naturalistic walking and talking scenes (a big influence on the films of Richard Linklater), coastal rambles that produce conversations of startling, timeless candor. That inimitable blend of breeziness and frankness is never better matched in the director’s films than by the summer setting of this one, the sharp truths going down a lot smoother in the gorgeous sunlight.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aimé Lefèvre, Amanda Langlet, Aurelia Nolin, Gwenaëlle Simon, Melvil Poupaud

Director: Éric Rohmer

With his final film, octogenarian master filmmaker Robert Bresson found the violent, chilling truth in that old cliché, “money is the root of all evil.” L’Argent extends the simplicity of its title (literally, “Money”) into the fabric of the film, using an extremely bare style to track the devastating domino effect that a childish ruse has on one man’s life. When a shopkeeper realizes two schoolboys swindled him out of 500 francs with a counterfeit note, he decides to pass the problem on by paying delivery man Yvon (Christian Patey) with the false note. But when Yvon tries to pay for his lunch with the money, the police are called and his life unravels.

This is just the start of L’Argent’s clinical exploration of the meanness and littleness of man’s greedy spirit. Yvon’s downfall is chronicled with matter-of-fact coldness: everything onscreen is minimal, from the precise cinematography and frugal editing to the non-professional actors’ expressionlessness. This detached style encourages us to absorb all the bitter emotion of the story, which feels — in such an economical format as this — like a moral tale as old as time, but no less cutting.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alain Aptekman, Caroline Lang, Christian Patey, Didier Baussy, François-Marie Banier, Gilles Durieux, Jean-Frédéric Ducasse, Jeanne Aptekman, Michel Briguet, Sylvie Van Den Elsen, Vincent Risterucci

Director: Robert Bresson

Initially, A Revolution on Canvas is about the Nodjoumi family’s quest to retrieve the patriarch’s missing paintings in post-Islamic Revolution Iran. Necessarily, it goes through Nodjoumi’s troubled childhood and shocking life as a resilient revolutionary. But the documentary eventually evolves into a knotty and heartbreaking tale about family, specifically about the sacrifices the partner of a rebel genius like Nodjoumi has to make to let the other shine. Nodjoumi’s daughter, Sara, confronts her father about his absence during their family’s formative years and, more importantly, shines a light on the sacrifices her mother--the artist Nahid Hagigat--had to make to keep them all afloat. The documentary could’ve easily been a straightforward portrait of Nodjoumi, but because it's told through such a specifically intimate lens, it’s elevated into something even more relatable and revealing.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Nahid Hagigat, Nicky Nodjoumi, Sara Nodjoumi

Director: Sara Nodjoumi, Till Schauder

Rating: NR

, 2021

A music documentary with its star as one of its main talking heads runs the risk of coming off like cheap PR, but Tina Turner's own articulate insights never restrict this retrospective on her life. If anything, she assists directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin in expanding the film's scope to cover the origins of rock music and the struggles of so many women in the public eye who only ever seem to be defined according to their abusers. Even if Tina is still ultimately a conventional doc that relies on interviews and archival footage, it has a strong emotional core that gives the film a relatively unique psychological edge.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Angela Bassett, Erwin Bach, Katori Hall, Kurt Loder, Oprah Winfrey, Roger Davies, Tina Turner

Director: Daniel Lindsay, T. J. Martin

Rating: R

As documentaries go, They Called Him Mostly Harmless is pretty standard, if not forgettable, fare. There isn’t a lot of information regarding the case it focuses on, so it relies heavily on interviews with related persons and “internet sleuths” who have taken it upon themselves to solve the mystery of this hiker’s identity. It moves slowly, bogged even further down by unnecessary backstories that do nothing to get us closer to cracking the case. To be sure, it’s impressive that the missing man in question was able to scrub all evidence of his existence in this digital age, but the documentary fails to build on that intrigue and instead gives us something that sputters till the end.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Patricia E. Gillespie

A documentary told entirely through animated avatars can be a hard sell, but instead of playing into the expected jokes, director Joe Hunting takes this digital environment extremely seriously, and that makes all the difference. He doesn't downplay how absurd it is to see what are essentially 3D characters going on dates and having bellydance classes together, and yet Hunting still takes time to emphasize how freeing this virtual existence is for all involved. It's disappointing that the film never addresses the many real concerns people have about purely online relationships (deception, exploitation, and abuse, among others), but as a positive and perhaps overly romanticized view of this new, 21st-century social space, the documentary remains fresh and vital.

Genre: Animation, Documentary

Actor: DragonHeart, Dust Bunny, DylanP, IsYourBoi, Jenny0629

Director: Joe Hunting

Rating: R

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