HBO Max may have become Max earlier this year, but it’s not all change over at the “Home Box Office.” The streamer is still adding a large quantity of seriously good movies each month, and that’s a big part of the reason we continue to rank it as the best streaming service out there.
Our list of the best Max movies runs the gamut from effects-heavy blockbusters to Oscar-winning masterpieces, but if you’re wanting a more personal take on the flicks added this month, then you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find my list of the nine best movies that have been added to Max in August 2023.
My selection includes a handful of certified cinema classics, as well as a couple of new films that are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression. Plus, there’s a good variety of genres in this roundup from a corny teen slasher to a romantic drama that will have your heart literally aching (in a good way, I promise). So, here are my favorite new to Max movies this month.
Leaving Las Vegas (1996)
Think Nicolas Cage is only capable of hammy over-the-top performances? Then you need to see Leaving Las Vegas where Cage gives arguably his greatest-ever performance. Here the legendary actor plays Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic screenwriter who decides to travel to Las Vegas after losing his job and his family due to his addiction. But Ben isn’t visiting the City of Sin for a vacation, he plans to drink himself to death. While there, he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a sex worker, and the two begin to develop a romantic relationship.
Another big award-winner (including an Oscar for Cage), Leaving Las Vegas is a sobering watch. It goes to some very dark places and is definitely not a movie I would recommend when you need some light entertainment. But it’s a powerful picture and a real showcase of Cage’s talents. Plus, Shue is also phenomenal in her supporting role as a character facing their own personal demons.
Stan & Ollie (2018)
A biopic focusing on the careers of the legendary comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, Stan & Ollie strips away the glitz and the glamor and instead focuses on the later years of the duo as they embarked on a grueling tour of various theater venues around the U.K. in the 1950s. Steve Coogan plays Stanley “Stan” Laurel, while John C. Reilly plays Oliver “Ollie” Hardy, and both are exceptional.
There is an argument to be made that focusing Stan & Ollie around the twilight years of the performer's career results in a biopic that is a little too melancholic, but it also gives the movie real emotional weight. Plus, there are still flashback scenes that show the pair off in their prime. You might be surprised by the bittersweet tone, but overall the movie is a loving and respectful tribute to Laurel and Hardy.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Sitting alongside the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th as one of the most influential slasher movies of all time, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a titan of the subgenre. If you’ve somehow missed the boat with this one, it follows a group of teenagers who are relentlessly staked by a sinister figure named Freddy Krueger in their dreams. The twist is, you won’t wake up at all if you die in the dreamworld.
A Nightmare on Elm Street may seem pretty cheesy compared to the elevated horror hits that have come to dominate the genre in recent years, but it’s still a seriously fun watch with a spooky core premise. Robert Englund is also fantastic as Krueger, and the movie also marks the film debut of Johnny Depp. Plus, six of sequels (and the 2010 remake) have also been added to Max this month, that’s enough nightmares to last you all the way until Halloween.
Annie Hall (1977)
Arguably Woody Allen’s magnum opus, Annie Hall is a comedic take on one man's struggles to move on from a failed relationship. Allen plays Alvy Singer, an everyman who has just broken up Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), the woman he thinks just might be the love of his life. Looking back over their courtship Alvy tries to figure out what he did wrong and muses over whether he should attempt to win her back.
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Pictures, as well as Best Director for Allen, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress for Keaton, Annie Hall was pretty much an instant classic upon its original release in spring of 1977. And the years have been very kind to this one. Its offbeat humor is just as charming as ever, and its impressive screenplay still hits all the right emotional notes. It’s also the perfect watch if you’ve just suffered heartbreak of your own.
Before Midnight (2013)
The cap on Richard Linklater’s stunning Before trilogy, Before Midnight, sees Ethan Hawke and Jule Delpy once again step into the roles of Jesse and Céline. But forewarning, if you’ve not seen the first two installments in the series, please don’t watch one this first. Not only are Before Sunrise and Before Sunset utterly essential watches in their own right, but they are also mandatory viewing before viewing this closer.
This 2013 movie, though, is such a triumph not only because of the beautifully nuanced work by Hawke and Delpy but also because the movie’s exploration of aging and how relationship dynamics shift over time feels deeply personal to these beloved characters, while also being highly relatable. The visually striking setting of Greece also adds an extra dimension to the whole picture. The perfect end to one of the best trilogies ever.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
Speaking of excellent trilogies, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the best installment in the modern Apes prequel series. Set ten years after its predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we follow a group of humans living in the ruins of San Francisco. When they stumble upon the ape leader Caesar and his group, tensions begin to boil between the two factions. At the same time, disharmony brews within the ape's camp as the primates disagree on how to handle their human adversaries.
Directed by Matt Reeves, who would go on to helm last year’s The Batman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes combines impressive visual effects with a remarkably human story, even when the cast is half made up of simians. The action sequences are also thrilling, and the final third fully commits to the admittedly rather silly core premise with some highly impressive moments. Back in 2014, some critics labeled it The Empire Strikes Back of Planet of the Apes movies — which is high praise indeed.
These days many people may know Fargo has a TV show rather than a movie, which is a shame. While the series is fantastic, Fargo the film is a notch above. It focuses on a Minnesota police chief (Frances McDormand), who is tasked with investigating a triple homicide. What follows is a crime caper like no other as the Coen brother weave together a story that is less of a murder mystery and more of a murder tall tale.
Fargo won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for a slew of Oscars (ultimately winning two, for screenplay and McDormand’s performance). Fargo is definitely one of those movies that is even more enjoyable the less you know before watching, so for fear of spoiling too much, I’ll just say this classic crime film deserves a spot in your Max watchlist.
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare may be turning 30 years old next year, but its meta approach to the legendary horror franchise feels remarkably modern. Ditching the increasingly convoluted continuity of the Elm Street sequels, New Nightmare instead takes place on the Hollywood set of a fictional new Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Even better, Heather Langenkamp (Who played Nancy in the original) returns as a heightened version of herself.
While filming this new Elm Street, the cast and crew are haunted by Freddy Krueger for real and Langenkamp must defeat the demon that has come to define her life and career. The movie-within-a-movie structure is used to great effect, and New Nightmare features arguably Robert Englund’s best performance as a more toned-down and less comical Freddy. This is a highly inventive horror flick and still ranks as the best Elm Street sequel to this date.
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)
Often cited as one of the funniest comedy movies ever made and a genius lampooning of police procedurals, The Naked Gun was spun-off from the 80s show Police Squad! and ultimately became even bigger than its forefather. Starring Leslie Nielsen as Lt. Frank Drebin it’s a relentlessly humorous slapstick comedy fest that is so densely packed with comedy that you’ll need to watch it twice just to pick up on all the jokes you missed the first time around.
The Naked Gun follows Frank as he attempts to foil a plot to turn innocent people into assassins via mind control. The rather straightforward narrative is really just a vehicle for some very silly jokes, but there’s a reason that The Naked Gun continues to be quoted all these years later, it’s brilliantly funny throughout. Plus, the lead performance from the late-great Leslie Nielsen is one of the most impressive in any comedy movie ever.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.