50 Best Must-watch Movies on HBO Max

50 Best Must-watch Movies on HBO Max

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Love it or hate it (the latter of which is understandable, considering its buggy interface), HBO Max is one of the best streaming platforms for cinephiles. Thanks to its affiliation with Warner Bros. Studios and Tuner Media, among other production studios, it has a vast collection of blockbusters and classics alike. It even has a hold of international gems, including the vast majority of the Studio Ghibli catalog. 

It’s hard to go wrong when selecting from this platform, but if you’re looking for the crème de la crème of cinema, then we have you covered. Below, we gather the very best, must-watch movies that are on right now, on-demand, on HBO Max.

30. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

best

8.2

Country

Canada, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Andrew Dominik

Actors

Alison Elliott, Anthony Harrison, Brad Pitt, Brooklynn Proulx

Moods

Dramatic, Slow, Suspenseful

Robert Ford is an aspiring gangster who idolizes Jesse James, leader of the notorious James gang. When that admiration reaches a level where it can transform to challenge and resentment, he starts considering the unthinkable. The cast is excellent- Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, and Garret Dillahunt. Brad Pitt delivers an amazing performance which truly captures the presence that Jesse James brought to a room, one that seemed to overcome those around him. In addition the soundtrack is superb, one of the most memorable I have ever heard. This is a very unique, thrilling, and well-shot movie, it is easily one of the most underrated films of the past 10 years.

29. Win Win (2011)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Tom McCarthy

Actors

Alex Shaffer, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young

Moods

Dramatic, Easy, Funny

Paul Giamatti knocks in out of the park in Win Win. The movie has so much humanity in it as well as a fantastic story that’s rooted in normalcy. At last a movie about second chances that is anything but cheesy. The rhythm of the humor in this movie helps you move through the serious themes unscathed (for the most part). In sum, the jokes are spot-on and the acting is excellent.

28. Babette’s Feast (1987)

best

8.3

Country

d, Denmark

Director

Gabriel Axel

Actors

Asta Esper Hagen Andersen, Axel Strøbye, Bendt Rothe, Bibi Andersson

Moods

Dramatic, Heart-warming, Lovely

Sisters Martine and Filippa, daughters of a founder of a religious sect, live a simple and quiet life in a remote coastal village in Denmark. Throughout the course of their lives, they reject possible romances and fame as part of their commitment to deny earthly attachments. This is upended by the sudden arrival of a French immigrant named Babette, who served as their house help to escape the civil war raging in her country.

Babette’s Feast is an inquiry into simplicity and kindness, and whether these would be sufficient to achieve a life of contentment. The religious undertones perfectly fit with the film’s parable-like structure, where bodily and spiritual appetites are satisfied through a sumptuous feast of love, forgiveness, and gratitude.

27. Whisper of the Heart (1995)

best

8.3

Country

Japan

Director

Yoshifumi Kondô, Yoshifumi Kondou

Actors

Issey Takahashi, Kazuo Takahashi, Keiju Kobayashi, Maiko Kayama

Moods

Feel-Good, Lighthearted, Romantic

Studio Ghibli has brought us moving, remarkable animated films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. One of Studio Ghibli’s most overlooked movies is Yoshifumi Kondou’s Whisper of the Heart, which finds magic in the ordinary every day. Shizuku is a young girl with great aspirations to become a writer—the only thing stopping her is herself. When she comes across a curious antique shop, she befriends a mysterious boy and his grandfather, who are just the push she needs to look inward and discover her own artistic capabilities.

If you have ever wanted to create something bigger and better than yourself—a story, a song, a poem, a painting, a work of art—then Whisper of the Heart will excite you, will call to you, will remind you to answer your heart’s calling.

26. Diego Maradona (2019)

best

8.4

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Director

Asif Kapadia

Actors

Alberto Bigon, Ciro Ferrara, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive

Asif Kapadia, the genius of biopics who gave us Senna, is back with this documentary on an even bigger sports personality: Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona. Considered as possibly the best soccer player of all time, Maradona’s footage on the pitch is pure wizardry, and you’ll feel that way whether you are a soccer fan or not. But that’s not the focus of this documentary. What happens outside the pitch is more interesting: from Maradona’s modest beginnings to the passionate hatred (and love) that entire countries develop of him. And it doesn’t make his story less interesting that during his time in Naples he was affiliated with the mafia.

This is an excellent documentary that distills 500 hours of footage into 2, giving you all you need to know about a character who captured the imagination of a big part of the world for decades. 

25. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

best

8.5

Country

Japan

Director

Hayao Miyazaki

Actors

Akio Otsuka, Chika Sakamoto, Haruko Kato, Hiroko Maruyama

Moods

Heart-warming, Inspiring

Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to the fantastical. Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away conjure worlds of spirits and demons, monsters and witches, imaginary wars and extraordinary heroes. But in Kiki’s Delivery Service, the real magic arises from the mundane.

The titular teenaged Kiki leaves home, setting out to become a better witch. She arrives in the idyllic seaside town of Koriko with only her broom and best friend, a black cat named Jiji. When she serendipitously meets Osono, the gentle owner of a bakery, Kiki begins a delivery service as part of her training.

Kiki’s Delivery Service may be one of Miyazaki’s more understated films, but it’s a beautiful reminder that believing in oneself is a magical act of courage that we should all undertake.

24. The Crying Game (1992)

8.5

Country

Ireland, Japan, United Kingdom

Director

Neil Jordan

Actors

Adrian Dunbar, Andrée Bernard, Birdy Sweeney, Breffni McKenna

Moods

A-list actors, Gripping, Thought-provoking

IRA terrorists kidnap a British soldier to negotiate an exchange for one of their own imprisoned members. Among them is Fergus (Stephen Rea), whose ambivalence is amplified by his interactions with the hostage soldier Jody (Forest Whitaker) while guarding him. After the terrorists’ plan goes awry, Fergus tracks down a woman Jody spoke of during his captivity, only to become confronted with even more complications.

The film, its cast and crew won a slew of awards and nominations in 1993, including the Academy award for Best Original Screenplay. It’s a knockout. Each act presents an increasingly challenging psychological and emotional conflict for Fergus: conflicts that require him to question the choices he makes and his beliefs, even about himself. It’s a dark but deeply touching thriller that is ultimately unforgettable.

23. Wings of Desire (1987)

best

8.5

Country

France, Germany

Director

Wim Wenders

Actors

Annelinde Gerstl, Beatrice Manowski, Bernard Eisenschitz, Blixa Bargeld

Two angels wander the streets of a monochrome Berlin, invisible to the colorful world that bustles around them. When one of them falls in love, he begins to question his place and yearns to give up immortality to join the ranks of the living. Wim Wender’s exceptional film is a poetic meditation on faith, cinema, and a mournful tour of a city in the grip of the Cold War. 

Wings of Desire is bursting with poetry and heartbreaking humanism emphasized by the tender performances by Bruno Ganz, Otto Sander, and Peter Falk, while serving as a beautiful love letter to a city yearning for change. If you’ve only seen City of Angels, the loose American remake, then you owe it to yourself to experience the raw poetic power of the real deal.

22. Cameraperson (2016)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Kirsten Johnson

Actors

Jacques Derrida, Kirsten Johnson, Michael Moore, Roger Phenix

Moods

Original

In Cameraperson, documentarian and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson creates an incredible patchwork of her life—and her life’s work. Johnson has been behind the camera of seminal documentaries like Citizenfour, The Invisible War, and The Edge of Joy. Here, Johnson stitches together fragments of footage, shot over 25 years, reframes them to reveal the silent but influential ways in which she has been an invisible participant in her work. 

In one segment, Johnson places the camera down in the grass. A hand reaches into the frame briefly, pulling up weeds that would otherwise obscure the shot. Cameraperson is a must-see documentary that challenges us to reconsider and reflect upon how we see ourselves and others through the camera lens, and beyond it.

21. Moon (2009)

best

8.5

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Duncan Jones

Actors

Adrienne Shaw, Benedict Wong, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario

Moods

Mind-blowing, Thought-provoking

Moon is a sci-fi movie that doesn’t care that it’s a sci-fi movie. It’s not about space exploration or aliens. It’s about a man struggling to understand what and who he is and the dehumanizing effect of industrialization. Moon leaves you with a pit in your stomach and an incredible feeling of melancholy. It is perfectly acted by Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey. Moon keeps you guessing and deeply enthralled. A true masterpiece I would recommend to anyone, whether they are sci-fi nerds or just movie lovers.

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