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These 7 must-watch HBO Max movies are 95% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes

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The wide array of excellent movies on HBO Max is one of the reasons why it's our picks for the best streaming service. Yes, we love the excellent array of HBO and HBO Max original programming (though I'm worried about House of the Dragon), as well as older TV shows, but its back catalogue of films (and some recent releases) help it stand out.

And just like when you browse the Netflixes and Hulus out there, finding the best movies on HBO Max, isn't always easy. Fortunately, the review-aggregators at Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) do the work of separating the top picks from the rest of the pack. 

But since HBO Max has such a strong library, we don't have to just limit ourselves to the best titles with scores of 90% or up. Sure, that's what we needed to do for the best Netflix shows rated 90% and up, the best Apple TV Plus shows rated 90% and up and the best Hulu movies with 90% and up. This time, we're setting the bar at 95%.

So, let's dive into what we love about seven of the best movies on HBO Max. All you'll need after reading this is an HBO Max subscription (opens in new tab) (and some popcorn or whatever your snack of choice is).

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max was a trilogy of films that seemed rightfully finished. No extra touch was needed once they went Beyond Thunderdome. Or at least that's what we thought until the phrase "Shiny and chrome!" was etched into our minds permanently. An utter delight of madness, Fury Road begins with Max Rockatansky (now played by Tom Hardy), stuck in the post-apocalyptic desert and captured by the disturbing-looking Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Max finds an escape through the rebellion of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and an epic adventure begins. Amazingly shot, basically the cinematic equivalent of adrenaline, Mad Max Fury Road proved there's a lot more gas in this series' tank. 

Genre: Action epic
Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

12 Years a Slave (2013)

Director Steve McQueen won applause left and right (rightfully so, we might add), for 12 Years A Slave, a phenomenal drama based on a 1853 slave memoir of the same name written by Solomon Northup, a free-man who was kidnapped and sold back into slavery in 1841. The winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, 12 Years A Slave is bolstered by a trio of instantly iconic performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a mixture of emotional strength and fear that makes Northup an iconic protagonist, and MIchael Fassbender's portrayal of slaveholder Edwin Epps is haunting to say the least. The biggest performance came from Lupita Nyong'o, though, whose work as the enslaved and tortured Patsey made for a star-making role.

Genre: Historic drama
Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Whimsy, thy name is Totoro. One of director Hayao Miyazaki's most beloved films, My Neighbor Totoro blends a universal experience with the fantastic (which, admittedly is Miyazaki's favorite thing to do). Here, we meet Satsuki (voiced by Dakota Fanning) and Mei (Elle Fanning), young sisters who have moved to a new home in a new town, and feel a little out of their element. That vibe only grows when they realize that the animals here are far from what they're used to. Chief among them is the giant, furry and rotund Totoro. Oh, and there's also a cat bus. The sisters and Totoro go on a series of playful adventures, aided by their Catbus. While My Neighbor Totoro is primarily remembered for its charming, it does offer some stakes and tension near the end, so it's not too boring, either.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Genre: Fantasy
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

Goodfellas (1990)

"How is Goodfellas funny?" you might ask. Well, it's not a clown that's here to amuse you, but this Martin Scorsese film is iconic nonetheless. Based on the non-fiction book Wiseguy — tracking the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), who worked with the Mafia before he became a government informant — Goodfellas is one of those tour-de-force movies that you really ought to have seen, especially if you're a self-described movie buff. Not only is it filled with masterful touches such as the iconic one-shot opening scene, but it has a murderer's row of stars, with Robert De Niro starring alongside Liotta, and the likes of Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Samuel L. Jackson and Illeana Douglas filling out the cast.

Genre: Crime drama 
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

The Iron Giant (1999)

There are great kids movies, and then there are simply fantastic animated films that just so happen to appeal to both kids and adults alike. The Iron Giant falls in both categories. Set in Rockwell, Maine in 1957, The Iron Giant is all about a boy and his new pet robot. After 9-year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) discovers a titan has crash-landed in his town, the boy does his best to help and protect his new friend. Beautifully animated, The Iron Giant will remind some of E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, and those who pay attention to the credits will note that the Giant is voiced by Groot himself, Vin Diesel.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
Genre: Family adventure
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

The Janes (2022)

This documentary — which examines the nightmare that was abortion access in America before Roe v. Wade — was released at exactly the right time for it to be a must-watch. The film shows how a group of women in Chicago formed a coalition to help other women get abortions. And while this topic stirs (justifiably) loud and vociferous debate, The Janes is a winning documentary because of all of the plainly spoken interviews it provides to tell this story. The women who are finally telling these stories do so with a calm simplicity that makes them all the more relatable.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
Genre: Documentary
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

Blue Velvet (1986)

While Blue Velvet isn't David Lynch's first piece of cinematic excellence, it is still one of his best. Set in Lumberton (a real town) in North Carolina, college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) has returned home following a medical emergency in the family. But once he's home, everything doesn't quite feel like home. For starters, he finds a severed ear in a vacant lot. This leads him into a winding rabbit hole of mystery involving a nightclub singer named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and a dangerous gangster named Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). 

While critics may not have understood Blue Velvet at the start, it's become a classic — as it took some years for people to recognize that Lynch was ahead of his time. Rossellini's performance is the most notable of the bunch, challenging audiences by being quite a bit more brave — in a movie that's already difficult-to-watch for some — than you might expect. If you're willing to have your brain broken for two hours, tune into Blue Velvet to see why some critics raved (while some weren't ready).

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%
Genre: Mystery
Stream it on HBO Max (opens in new tab)

More HBO Max movies with a 90% or higher Rotten Tomatoes score

If, say, you've seen all of the above? Here's a second list of critically adored films on HBO Max.

  • Paddington 2 — 99%
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — 97%
  • The Fugitive — 96%
  • The Dark Knight — 94%
  • No Country For Old Men — 93%
  • Room — 93%
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day — 93%
  • Whiplash — 94%
  • Ex Machina — 92%
  • Pulp Fiction — 92%
  • The Shawshank Redemption — 91%
  • The Suicide Squad — 90%
  • The Departed — 90%
  • Moon — 90%

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Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.