The best HBO Max movies and shows deliver high-quality streaming entertainment right into the comfort of your home. HBO Max is our top choice among the best streaming services, thanks to a deep library of great content culled from WarnerMedia's archives, prestige series from HBO and its own edgy originals.
The best HBO Max shows and movies offer something for everybody. Watch HBO dramas like Succession, animated comedies, feel-good reality shows, gripping documentaries and stand-up specials. They've also got their own originals, too, such as the Emmy-nominated comedies Hacks and The Flight Attendant. And more come out every month.
It's a lot, even if the HBO Max apps still need serious work. So, Tom's Guide has compiled a list of the best HBO Max movies and shows, so you don't get lost endlessly browsing through the catalog. You should also check out our guide to the 3 HBO Max shows you need to binge-watch this month.
HBO Max 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.
Best new movies and shows on HBO Max in May 2022
Before Serial, before The Jinx, before Making a Murder, there was The Staircase. The true crime documentary series chronicled the case of novelist Michael Peterson, who was accused and later convicted of murdering his wife Kathleen (he claimed her death was the result of her falling down the stairs). French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade had extraordinarily intimate access to Peterson, his family and his legal team, which made the resulting footage so enthralling.
Now, The Staircase is getting fictionalized in a star-studded docu-drama. Colin Firth stars as Michael, with Toni Collette as Kathleen and Sophie Turner as daughter Margaret. The documentary crew are characters, too, since the series is less of a whodunnit and more of an examination of how storytelling affects subjectivity.
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.
Best shows on HBO Max
The Gilded Age
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes sets his new period drama in the opulent era of the title, 1880s New York. New money is flooding the city, but looked down upon by old wealth. Leading the latter’s charge against the grasping mushrooms is snobby socialite Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski). Her well-defined world order is threatened by the arrival of new neighbors, the filthy rich industrialist George Russell (Morgan Spector) and his ambitious wife Bertha (Carrie Coon).
Into this social war enters Agnes’ orphaned niece Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson). She may have old money in her blood, but she and her friend, aspiring Black writer Peggy Scott (Denée Benton), have dreams that don’t fit into the established system. — Kelly Woo
The DCEU is following Disney Plus' lead, giving a spinoff show from James Gunn's The Suicide Squad. And while the movie had so many interesting misfit villains to choose from, nobody should be surprised to see that it's WWE champion John Cena's Peacemaker who got the call to extend the DC Universe to HBO Max.
The series follows Peacemaker as he leaves the hospital we saw him wind up in, to a life continuing to work with Amanda Waller's agents (yes, Steve Agee and Jennifer Holland) are back for this round. The Peacemaker series will also follow that Marvel-on-Disney Plus tradition of showing us more of these characters' personal lives, as we meet Peacemaker's dad, a curmudgeon (played by Robert Patrick) who doesn't respect his son at all. — Henry T. Casey
The premise of the new limited series Station Eleven may seem like it was inspired by the current pandemic, but in reality, the show is adapted from an extraordinarily prescient 2014 novel by Emily St. John Mandel. A deadly flu kills 99 percent of Earth’s population, wiping out civilization as we know it.
Twenty years later, a roving troupe performs the works of Shakespeare for small communities of survivors. The Traveling Symphony ensemble, which includes Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis), is committed to spreading theater, music and culture, even if the world is in shambles. But they still grapple with what’s happened to them and to society. It all feels so vividly, achingly similar to the current moment. Can art make sense of catastrophe? Station Eleven tries and succeeds. - Kelly Woo
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts
Emotional cast reunions seem to be something HBO Max is specializing in. The streamer made everyone laugh and cry with the Friends reunion; now, they’re doing the same with the Harry Potter movie franchise.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 2001 release of The Sorcerer’s Stone, the special brings together cast members and director Chris Columbus to talk about the magic of their magical film franchise. (J.K. Rowling also shows up, FYI.) Of course, the primary draw is seeing the three leads — Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint — together again. They’ve all continued working, so it’s not surprising to see them all grown up. But it is nice to see the warmth, camaraderie and genuine delight they feel for one another.
The Sex Lives of College Girls
The provocative, salacious title is the first joke of the comedy series created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble. Don’t expect softcore porn or smut; do expect a witty and warm coming-of-age story about college freshman forging new paths in young adulthood.
Four young women move into a suite at the fictional Essex University in Vermont. Whitney (Alyah Chanelle Scott) is a star athlete and senator’s daughter, Leighton (Renée Rapp) is a closeted legacy, Bela (Amrit Kaur) is a comedy nerd and Kimberly (Pauline Chalamet, Timothée’s sister) is a a smart scholarship student. The suitemates embark on individual journeys of self-discovery — which, yes, does include sex and romance. But The Sex Lives of College Girls is also about friendship, parental expectations, class, anxiety and all the complicated issues that come with growing up.
The lifestyles of the rich and the Roys are once again on display in the third season of Succession, the premier example of the genre “wealthy people who are fascinating in their horribleness” (see also: The White Lotus). All of the Roys are awful — and I love each and every one of them. The story picks up where it left: the immediate aftermath of Kendall throwing his father under the corporate bus for the cruise line scandals. Of course, this means war, with both Logan and Kendall attempting to marshal the troops aka their family members to their side. Shiv and Roman have their own agendas, per usual. The new episodes bring in some fresh faces, Alexander Skarsgard and Adrien Brody. Bring on all the tall men!
The Other Two
The comedy about fame was never a huge hit when it aired on Comedy Central, so a lot of people haven’t even heard of it. Now, the show has moved to HBO Max, where I hope it can find more of an audience because it’s genuinely funny. To catch you up, it follows two siblings — gay aspiring actor Cary (Drew Tarver) and former pro dancer Brooke (Heléne Yorke) — after their younger brother, Chase (Case Walker), suddenly become a YouTube-famous singer. Season 2 finds mom Pat (Molly Shannon) bringing in the big bucks as a daytime talk show host. Cary is working as the video host of a gossip segment and has a boyfriend. Meanwhile, Brooke scours TikTok, looking for a rising star she can manage. Are they famous? Kinda, sorta. Are they happy? It’s complicated.
Take Notting Hill, center it around a Fleabag-style hot mess and you've got this endlessly charming romantic comedy. Jessie (Rose Matafeo) is a twentysomething New Zealander who's living in London and working odd jobs as a nanny and a cinema clerk. On New Year's Eve, she meets a handsome stranger who turns out to be movie star Tom Kapoor (Nikesh Patel). Their one-night stand becomes something more, though misunderstandings and obstacles get in the way.
The White Lotus
Mike White returns to HBO, a decade after he created Enlightened for the network, with a new satirical comedy set at a lush, decadent resort. On the surface, it’s paradise; but darker things are happening behind the scenes. Resort manager Arnomd (Murray Bartlett) and his team of quirky employees welcome a new round of oddball guests, played by a dream cast including Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton, Steve Zahn, Jake Lacy and Alexandra Daddario. The show is the perfect vehicle for the creator's signature blend of comedy and drama, realism and eccentricity — and we can't wait for White Lotus season 2.
The Jean Smart-aissance is here and we are loving it. She steals every scene she's in, even from Kate Winslet, on Mare of Easttown (more on that show below). In Hacks, one of the best HBO Max shows, she takes center stage as aging comedian Deborah Vance, whose Vegas residency needs some freshening up. Her agent sends millennial comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) to help her brainstorm jokes, but the two women immediately clash. Yet, their snarky banter and acid repartee could be the inspiration that both need for their careers.
Mare of Easttown
If you liked Broadchurch, Mare of Easttown will be right up your small-town murder alley. Kate Winslet deploys an excellent Pennsylvania accent as Detective Mare Sheehan, who is investigating the death or a teen mom. The case seems to involve every person in her orbit, since everyone in the area knows or is related to everyone else. Oh, and Mare's personal life is in shambles. There's nothing new or groundbreaking here, just well-written and well-performed work that will keep you absorbed every Sunday night.
Made for Love
Cristin Milioti starred in one of Black Mirror's best episodes, USS Callister, and her new HBO Max comedy has a similar vibe and theme. She plays Hazel, who flees her tech billionaire husband Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen) after learning he's implanted his latest tech gadget in her head. It essentially creates a "network for two," so that couples can share (and monitor) each other's every thought and feeling. Yeah, super messed up. Hazel runs away, back home to her estranged father (Ray Romano), but escaping isn't easy when Byron can read her mind.
The Flight Attendant
Kaley Cuoco spreads her acting wings in this dark comedic thriller, playing a hard-partying flight attendant named Cassie Bowden. On a flight to Bangkok, she meets a handsome first class passenger, Alex Sokolov (Michiel Huisman) and ends up spending the night with him. When she finds him murdered in the bed next to her, a hungover Cassie freaks out and runs. That puts her in hot water with both law enforcement and shady business figures.
The zany, mile-a-minute plot twists make The Flight Attendant an easy binge. But it's the depth of the writing and appealing characters (including Cassie's BFF Annie, played by Zozia Mamet) that make it one of the best shows on HBO Max. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
The HBO horror series comes from executive producers Jordan Peele, and J. J. Abrams, so you know the supernatural scares will be very real. Much like its HBO sibling Watchmen, Lovecraft Country is a racial commentary. The show is set in the segregated Jim Crow era of the United States of the 1950s and the characters face all sorts of monsters — both the supernatural kind and the racist human kind.
Lovecraft Country centers on Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), who embarks on a road trip with friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) to search for his missing father. Along the way, they encounter vampire-like creatures and menacing cops. The show balances a fantastical tale with the (still) dangerous reality of being Black. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
Say it with us: Zendaya, Emmy winner. The rising star is the youngest winner ever of the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series category and she beat out the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Laura Linney and Olivia Colman. She did it with her raw, nuanced, sensitive portrayal of Rue, a recovering drug addict who returns home from rehab to try to navigate "regular" high school life. She forms a bond with new girl Jules (Hunter Schafer) and their roller coaster relationship takes place against a backdrop of sex, drugs, bullying, assault and identity issues. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
No one told us life was gonna be this way. It hasn't been our day, our week, our month and it sure hasn't been our year. You may not be able to see your friends due to the pandemic, but at least we can all see Friends. Everyone wailed and gnashed their teeth when the beloved sitcom left Netflix at the top of 2020. Now, it's the centerpiece of HBO Max's content. Relive Ross and Rachel's first kiss (and infamous "break"), every Thanksgiving episode and "PIVOT!" These Friends will be there for us in these quarantine times. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
Game of Thrones
Winter is coming. Well, technically, winter already came and went over the course of eight years on HBO. But now is the perfect time to watch it for the first time if you're new to HBO Max or revisit it if you're a longtime HBO subscriber. Even if you haven't seen the series before, you probably know quite a lot about it — Game of Thrones is one of the last pieces of monoculture around. Millions of viewers couldn't stop talking about the bloody battles for the Iron Throne, Daenerys Targaryen's dragons, how the Lannisters pay their debts and the brutal misfortunes of House Stark. Even complete newbies probably heard about the disappointing finale. Still, focus on the well-told, well-made, well-acted journey and you'll enjoy a fantastic ride. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
You don't need to know how to do the Carlton to know it's not unusual to fall in love with a show as much as America fell in love with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will Smith (playing a character of the same name) is the too-funky-fresh teen who lived in West Philadelphia until his mom got scared when he got into a fight, and sent him to live with his auntie (Viv) and uncle (Phil) in the hoity-toity neighborhood of Bel Air Los Angeles.
Throughout the series, the show found humor in exploring class differences and Will's fish-out-of-water situation, as he charms his way through prep school and other upper class opportunities. While the series will mostly make you laugh, you'll tear up when Will asks "Why he don't want me?" — Henry T. Casey (Watch now)
If you've never started this guilty-pleasure teen soap, now's a good time to get familiar. When bad boy Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) gets taken in by the Cohen family, he's a little too rough around the edges for the scene, despite everyone's individual drama. Ryan quickly makes friends with Seth Cohen (Adam Brody), who's too fast-spoken for his own good, and the two become trouble magnets to a high degree.
The boys quickly develop girl problems with Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) and Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson), and the latter's antics often steal the show and become memes for their time. Peter Gallagher anchors the series as "Sandy" Cohen, the patriarch who's also the moral compass of the series. And you'll keep hitting Play on new episodes, not just to see how Seth and Summer bicker, but to hear the crooning Phantom Planet song "California," one of the best opening themes. — Henry T. Casey (Watch now)
Doctor Who has everything you'd want in a quarantine binge: Adventure. Sci-fi. Humor. Aliens. Monsters. History. Romance. British accents. And HBO Max has 12 seasons of time traveling goodness (from the modern era revival), so you can settle down with a cup of tea and enjoy the Doctor's adventures for many hours.
Each of the five Doctors in the revival era (Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker) all bring unique takes to their regenerated version of the character. The show can often be deeply silly, but also extremely clever and creative. More than that, it's so positive and humane — comfort food at a time when the world really needs it. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
If you shied away from watching the award-winning limited series when it first came out, it's time to buckle up your grownup pants. Not only is it one of the best HBO Max shows, Chernobyl is a timely piece of extraordinary art that resonates with what's going on in the world right now. Chernobyl is a truly harrowing tale of disaster and death, compounded by gross negligence of higher-ups, the hesitance and save-face tactics of government officials and a political culture dominated by egos, lies and secrecy. Yes, we all want to escape with mindless entertainment, but it's also important to use the lens of history to synthesize the current events around us. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
Best movies on HBO Max
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. — Henry T. Casey
Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s classic gothic novel hits HBO Max this month after a limited theatrical release in late 2021. The film stars Bradley Cooper as an opportunistic hustler who finds himself working at a carnival in the 1939s and subsequently forming a partnership with a female psychiatrist in an effort to swindle a ruthless tycoon.
Alongside Cooper, the film features Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara and Willem Dafoe. The impressive cast all have their part to play in a twisty noir thriller that slowly builds to an ending you won’t soon forget. As you’d expect the filmmaking from del Toro is impeccable, and while the two and half hour run time is a little indulgent each thread pays off in the end. — Rory Mellon
Streaming now on HBO Max
The Dark Knight trilogy
There's a new Bat time and a new Bat channel: Whenever you want on HBO Max. The streaming service has Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
While we await Robert Pattinson's turn inside the cowl, check out Christian Bale's take on the iconic Caped Crusader. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
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.
In the Heights
After gifting us with Hamilton 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.
An American Pickle
If you're a fan of Seth Rogen, you can order up a double helping in An American Pickle, one of the best HBO Max movies that's also an original. The film follows Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling Ashkenazi worker who emigrates from his shtetl to America in 1920. He dreams of building a better life for himself and his family. While working at his factory job, he falls into a vat of pickles and is preserved for 100 years. When he emerges in present-day Brooklyn, Herschel — who hasn't aged a day — looks for his family. But he's horrified to meet his only surviving relative, great-grandson, Ben Greenbaum, a mild-mannered computer programmer whom Herschel can’t even begin to understand. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
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. — Henry T. Casey (Watch now)
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. — Kelly Woo (Watch now)
You can also read about why we would cancel HBO Max even though we love it.