The best Max movies deliver theatrical-quality films right into the comfort of your home. Max, formerly known as HBO Max, is our top choice among the best streaming services because it pulls classic films from the century-old WarnerMedia library as well as new releases.
The movies on Max include some of the biggest franchises in the movie industry, like the DC superhero smashes and the Lord of the Rings epics.
We would be remiss if we didn't point out the excellent TV shows on the service, so check out our guide to the best Max shows.
OK, now without further ado, here are our picks for the best Max movies.
Best movies on Max right now
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Shakespeare in Love
Romantic comedies don’t tend to get a lot of love at the Oscars, but this period piece was an exception thanks to the use of historical figures, lavish costumes, sumptuous production design and star-studded cast.
A young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is suffering from writer’s block, but the theatre owner decides to move forward with his unfinished play. Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), the daughter of a wealthy merchant, attends the auditions — dressed as a man. Shakespeare’s experiences with Viola and her alter ego lead him to pen one of his greatest works, Romeo and Juliet.
Avatar: The Way of Water
James Cameron took his sweet time making a sequel to his top-grossing hit Avatar, but it was worth it. The Way of Water is a stunning spectacle that not only charted as the third biggest movie of all time, but earned four Oscar nominations (including Best Picture).
Most of the voice cast reprise their roles. Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, the story focuses on the Sully family: Jake (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and their children. The Na’Vi are dismayed when the RDA returns to colonize Pandora. Under threat again, Jake and Neytiri seek refuge with the aquatic Metkayina clan and learn their ways.
The surprise Best Picture Oscar winner — to everyone's delight — comes from genius Korean director Bong Joon-Ho (now an Oscar winner himself). The film defies categorization; it's a mix of thriller, horror, comedy and melodrama. It is a taut, intricately-plotted tale full of twists and turns, and on top of that, is an affecting allegory about the rich and the poor and how we're all connected as human beings in the end.
Parasite's excellent cast didn't get the Oscar love they should've but they did get both a standing ovation and the Best Ensemble prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The appreciation for this movie runs wide and deep, and if you haven't seen it yet, now's your chance.
The start of Daniel Craig's sting as 007 is almost universally believed to be one of the best James Bond movies of all time, as well as one of the best action movies of its era. The film is a sort of reboot, as we see the newly licensed-to-kill British Secret Service agent in one of his early missions. Thankfully, he's got a fantastic foe in the bloody-eyed Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen).
The two cross paths after Bond goes to Madagascar, and before they duel with weapons they must first play poker. Released shortly after the height of the World Series of Poker's popularity, these tense scenes show off some of Craig and Mikkelsen's acting chops. Thankfully, there is one holdover from the previous era of Bond films, as Judi Dench reprises the role of M.
It's hard to resist this delectable "eat the rich" thriller, which comes just under at 89%. Half thriller, half extremely dark comedy, The Menu skewers a number of topical morsels, including capitalism, fine dining, chef-auteurs, restaurant critics, tech bros, Hollywood and men.
A group of wealthy diners travel to an island that houses an exclusive restaurant run by Chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). To their growing dismay, they discover that Slowik has planned a very different kind of culinary experience — a deadly one. - KW
The Banshees of Inisherin
Awards season usually brings a ton of great movies to the theaters, but with the rise of streaming, those films are arriving on our home screens sooner than ever. This complex, nuanced tragicomedy features some of the best performances of the year and you are almost certainly going to see Oscar nominations go to Colin Ferrell and Brendan Gleeson.
They play longtime drinking buddies on a remote fictional Irish island in 1923. When Colm (Gleeson) suddenly and inexplicably ends their friendship, Pádraic (Farrell) is left confused and hurt. With the help of sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), he tries to mend things with Colm. Things come to a head — and a shocking conclusion. - KW
Tess (Georgina Campbell) is in a bad neighborhood on a rainy night, but at least she found her way to the porch of the Airbnb she's staying at. There's only one problem: someone else is already staying here. And he (Bill Skarsgård) is both awkward and nice. He can't be a bad guy, right? Well, I'd tell you more, but I actually saw Barbarian and know I really should keep the details of what happens in that house at a bare minimum. Other than to say Barbarian is a horror movie with a big twist.
One of my absolute favorite movies of 2022, Barbarian is a whole lot of horror. And to see HBO Max get it relatively soon after its theatrical release? What a Halloween miracle. - Henry T. Casey
I'm as shocked as anyone that I'm writing this. I wrote Elvis off as just Baz Lurhman's latest bit of exhausting maximalist spectacle. And while it is definitely that kind of movie, it's so much more thanks to the performance of one Austin Butler, who plays The King himself, Elvis Pressley. While Butler is far from a new face on the scene — he's been acting since 2005 — Elvis is truly a star-making role for him. As someone far too young to have seen the Elvis phenomenon when it happened, the film Elvis is the first time where I understood what had happened. Once Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) sees an electric performance from Elvis on stage, he sees all the money in the world in this kid, and so will you. Butler's on-screen charisma and electricity as he plays Elvis' hits is unlike anything I've witnessed in ages. — Henry T. Casey
Venus and Serena Williams are two of the greatest tennis players of all time. Sorry, that’s kind of a spoiler (kidding) for this biopic, which focuses on their father and coach, Richard Williams. Will Smith puts the full force of his charisma into playing the mercurial, demanding dad who has a vision for his two talented daughters (Yes, this is the role that earned him an Oscar handed to him before he delivered The Slap heard 'round the world to Chris Rock).
Williams was and remains a controversial lightning rod to the public and press, but the movie is more of a rousing ode to extremely dedicated parenthood. Williams' single-minded focus and unconventional methods helped him shepherd his daughters from the streets of Compton to hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon. - KW
The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl fits so much into its 93-minute runtime that it almost feels like it should be called a farce. In it, we follow an unnamed protagonist (dubbed Junior, for her school level) as she meets all the weirdest people in Kyoto. All the while her fellow student "Senpai" — a confused romantic — longs to confess his feelings to her. But their paths keep diverging, as she meets increasingly odder folks, such as the guy at the bar who is collecting adult woodprint drawings. Oh and then there's that encounter with the supernatural Rihaku. Thankfully, Junior's incredible talent for holding her liquor keeps her never-ending night going, as she finds more twists and turns among her peers than she could have expected – HTC
The Suicide Squad
The 2016 Suicide Squad movie cleaned up at the box office, but later became reviled for failing to deliver on the promise of the premise — a team-up of super villains. DC and Warner Bros. clearly didn’t want to let this IP languish, hence this quasi-sequel, quasi-reboot. They turned to Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn to do an extreme movie makeover — and he’s done it. The Suicide Squad 2021 is earning positive reviews from critics and fans alike for its chaotic energy, gory violence and satirical irreverence. Plus, the general consensus is that it’s fun, which is not a label put on most DC movies. Stick around for the Suicide Squad post-credits scenes. - HTC
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films were a massive gamble that paid off in billions of dollars and multiple Oscars. The trilogy kicks off with The Fellowship of the Ring, which introduces the hobbit Frodo Baggins and his friends Sam, Merry and Pippin. When Frodo inherits the extremely dangerous One Ring, the wizard Gandalf urges him to leave the peaceful Shire. Frodo and his friends end up banding together with the ranger Aragorn, the steward-prince Boromir, elf Legolas and dwarf Gimli on a quest to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom. But they must face the forces of the dark lord Sauron to free Middle-Earth of the terrible evil. - KW
Birds of Prey
Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn in the original Suicide Squad was very clearly the best part of the film, so it was only natural that she got her own spin-off film. While Birds of Prey wasn't a hit at the box office, it's still an excellent piece of comedic anti-heroics that everyone should see. Harley's on her own, post-Joker, and trying to make a name for herself isn't easy when Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) is terrorizing Gotham. Robbie is supported by a fantastic cast, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead turning in a phenomenally awkward performance as Huntress and Rosie Perez playing a frustrated cop who can't catch a break. Worth it for the instantly memorable breakfast sandwich scene that will instantly give you a case of the munchies. – HTC
My Neighbor Totoro
Moving to a new city is always rough for kids, but the classic animated film My Neighbor Totoro takes this premise and turns it into a beautiful and trippy delight for the whole family. Siblings Satsuki and Meg find life in the countryside too different for their tastes, but soon a fantastic cast of creatures flip the script. While the gigantic forest spirit Totoro might look intimidating at first, with its giant flaws, its emotive eyes and lovable yawns make fast friends out of these kids and their new ally.
Parents can play a game of spot the voice actor, with the likes of Tim Daly (Wings) and Dakota and Elle Fanning. Everyone in the whole household, however, will likely fall in love with the Studio Ghibli film's hand-drawn aesthetic and lush colors. And then there's the Cat Bus, which should inspire folks everywhere. — HTC
Celebrate the late, great Ray Liotta by watching Goodfellas on HBO Max. Martin Scorsese's crime drama is widely considered one of the best movies ever made, with Liotta lauded for his lead performance as Henry Hill. Based on a true story, Goodfellas tracks Henry's rise from his poor Irish-Italian roots in 1950s New York City to wealth and status as a mafia wiseguy, then an FBI informant in the witness protection program. He starts out pulling off petty crimes, then moves into dealing cocaine and even committing murder. At his peak, he and associates (Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci) spend their nights carousing at the Copacabana club. But it all comes crashing down when Henry is sent to prison and he realizes his family is being targeted. - KW
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film isn't just one of the best HBO Max movies. It's one of the greatest films ever made, period. The ambitious story tracks the evolution of mankind from apes to spacefarers, all while exploring themes around artificial intelligence, technological advancement, extraterrestrial life and humanity's place in the universe. From the monoliths to the computer HAL, there are so many signature elements that provoke thought and discussion.
2001: A Space Odyssey is also hugely influential, within the movie industry and in pop culture overall. The film is celebrated for its painstaking scientific realism, pioneering visual effects and iconic soundtrack. Almost every modern sci-fi movie you've ever seen owes a debt to Kubrick's vision. — KW