Best HBO Max movies in December 2022

Justin Long holds a flashlight in Barbarian
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The best HBO Max movies deliver theatrical-quality films right into the comfort of your home. 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 HBO Max include some of the biggest franchises in the movie industry, like the DC superhero smashes and the Lord of the Rings epics. And you can save big with HBO Max's $1.99 Black Friday deal.

Without further ado, here are our picks for the best HBO Max movies. If you want the best of the best, check out these HBO Max movies with 95% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes. We've also got a more personal take on this list, with the 5 HBO Max movies you should watch tonight. Further, 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 HBO Max shows.

HBO Max (opens in new tab)

HBO Max (opens in new tab) is our favorite streaming service because of its excellent, large library, which includes all of HBO's prestige series, like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and The Wire. Plus, the service has its own originals like American Pickle and The Flight Attendant. HBO Max costs $15 per month but they added a plan with ads that's just $10.

Need TV recommendations? Check out our guide to the best HBO Max shows.

Best movies on HBO Max right now

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Barbarian

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

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Elvis

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

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Call Me by Your Name

Armie Hammer as Oliver and Timothee Chalamet as Elio are seated at a table in Call me by your name

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Classic)

17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) experiences a personal awakening during a stay in Northern Italy with his parents. There, he meets the attractive Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is an intern for his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an accomplished archeology professor. After Elio brushes off physical contact from Oliver, he soon realizes he might care about the 24-year-old more than he first thought. After he confesses his feelings, the two begin a secret romantic entanglement. While Call Me by Your Name gets a lot right, Chalamet's performance — especially as Elio is both confused, heartbroken and obsessed — is superb  – HTC

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King Richard

Will Smith as Richard Williams in King Richard, with Saniyya Sidney as Venus Williams in background

(Image credit: Chiabella James / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

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. - Kelly Woo

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It

A red balloon obscures the face of Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsgård) in It.

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Stephen King's IT is the kind of book that's almost impossible to adapt. That's why the 2017 remake is only the first of two chapters (both are on HBO Max). We love the first chapter for its excellent ensemble cast of kids that comprise the Losers Club that's terrorized by Pennywise, the being that appears as a clown when it preys on their fears. Jeremy Ray Taylor's performance as the shy Ben, who has a crush on Beverly (Sophia Lillis), is particularly memorable, but Lillis herself is a character you'll have a hard time not rooting for. She hides her personality, and these friends might help her break out of her shell. Of course, Bill Skarsgård's terrifying and unsettling performance of Pennywise — especially his eerie voice — ties the whole movie together, as it would be a fraction of itself without him. – HTC

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Spring Awakening: Those You've Known

The 2006 Broadway production of Spring Awakening was a smash success that won eight Tony Awards and a Grammy for the cast album. Fifteen years later, the original cast came together for a one-night only reunion concert. Those You’ve Known documents their journey back to the stage.

The film includes reunion performances by stars Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele, as well as interviews, archival video and footage from the original production. As the cast and creative team rehearse for the reunion, they reflect on the hit musical’s origins and themes of teen angst, repression, abuse and sexual identity. - KW

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The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl 

Junior (voiced by Gen Hoshino and Kellen Goff) holding a wine glass that's being filled by four bottles in The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

(Image credit: GKids)

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

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Free Guy

If your Disney Plus account has been collecting digital dust, we've got good news. Arguably one of the most anticipated goofy movies to hit streaming, the former theatrical exclusive Free Guy is now streaming on HBO Max. 

While its marketing makes it appear to just be a movie about one of the non-playable bystander characters in a Grand Theft Auto game, this comedy has a stellar cast that could turn doubters into curious streamers. Where else will you see Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), Stranger Things' Steve (Joe Keery), Killing Eve's Villanelle (Jodie Comer) and Get Out's Rod the TSA agent (Lil Rel Howery)? Oh, and Taika freaking Waititi is in it as a megalomaniacal video game developer. — HTC

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The Suicide Squad

Best HBO Max movies: The Suicide SquadTom's Guide Awards 2022 logo

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

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.

The Suicide Squad won the 2022 Tom's Guide Award for Best Streaming Movie, as it delivered a fantastic blockbuster straight to your TV. - HTC

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In the Heights

Anthony Ramos and Melissa Barrera dance in In the Heights

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

After gifting us with Hamilton on Disney Plus last summer, Lin-Manuel Miranda delivers another treat — the adaptation of his first Broadway musical, In the Heights. Director Jon M. Chu oversees a large cast, led by Anthony Ramos in the lead role of bodega owner Usnavi. He and fellow residents of Washington Heights dream of improving their lives. The neighborhood is undergoing many changes, as businesses close, new ones open and people move on up ... or out of NYC altogether. As for Usnavi, he feels pulled back to the Dominican Republic, but a blossoming romance tempts him to stay put. - KW

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The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Lord of the Rings

(Image credit: New Line)

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

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Birds of Prey

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

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

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My Neighbor Totoro

Totoro, Satsuki and Mei eat watermelon in My Neighbor Totoro

(Image credit: Studio Ghibli)

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 

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Goodfellas

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

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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 

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Kelly Woo
Senior Writer

Kelly is a senior writer covering streaming media for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.

With contributions from