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HBO Max has a new must-watch documentary with 83% on Rotten Tomatoes

A hand holds a phone with the HBO Max logo on it in front of a grid of other images
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The latest HBO Max original documentary, How to Survive a Pandemic, takes an inside look at the creation and distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, and is a hugely important watch. 

While the idea of reliving the last two years of human history via a documentary may not sound like the most appealing idea, the feature length film is a true testament to what a scientific achievement the currently available Covid-19 vaccines are. It's not always enjoyable, but it's most definitely vital viewing. 

The documentary starts out focusing on the research and development stage, as scientists grapple with the fact that vaccine creation usually takes more than five years, but in this case must be achieved at warp speed. Filming for the doc began in early 2020, and the early footage is a sobering reminder of just how bleak the public health situation was exactly two years ago.

Even once a successful vaccine had been created, rolling it out across entire countries was another logistical nightmare that needed to be overcome in a rapid timeframe. How to Survive a Pandemic examines the various health agencies and organisations that came together in order to get as many shots in arms as quickly as possible. 

While How to Survive a Pandemic focuses on the impact of Covid-19 on the U.S., it does also look at the global impact of the pandemic and explores the necessity of an equitable vaccine rollout to avoid future virus variants. A problem that global leaders are still trying to solve to this day. 

The documentary released on the streaming service on Tuesday, March 29 and has already proved a hit with critics. It’s currently rated 83% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) with several top critics praising the feature for its look behind the scenes during some of the most unprecedented times in modern history. 

How to Survive a Pandemic has received some criticism however for its relatively bleak conclusion, with Devika Girish of the New York Times (opens in new tab) declaring the film “ends on a note of uncertainty that feels defeatist rather than urgent.” Nevertheless, by most accounts it’s still very much worth your time and if you have a HBO Max subscription it deserves a spot on your watchlist.  

We currently rank HBO Max as one of the best streaming services available. While we love it primarily for its thrilling dramas and blockbuster movies, documentaries like How to Survive a Pandemic give its library some much-needed variety.  

How to Survive a Pandemic is not the only new doc hitting HBO Max over the next couple of weeks. Tony Hawk: Until The Wheels Fall Off hits the service on April 5, and it forms part of our what to watch in April roundup. It recaps the career of the legendary skateboarder but also looks at his behind the scenes troubles and the pressure of becoming the face of an entire sport. If you loved Hawk's video game series back in the day, this doc is certainly worth a look. 

Rory Mellon

Rory is a Deals Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on deals, gaming and streaming. When he’s not scouring retailers for PS5 restock or writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found attending music festivals and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.