Entertainment

The Best Movies on HBO Max Right Now (April 2022)

Another streaming service means another vast library of titles to sift through to find what you want to watch. HBO Max is the streaming service from WarnerMedia, hosting not just titles from the pay cable channel HBO, but a bevy of films from the Warner Bros. library and other studios. In truth, the HBO Max movies that are available at launch are actually pretty terrific. There’s a great selection of classics, fairly new releases, quirky indies, and yes, superhero movies. The studio behind The Dark Knight and Man of Steel has a solid number of DC films available to stream.

But if you’re daunted by the over 600 movies available to stream, we’ve got your back. Below, we’ve put together a curated list of the absolute best movies on HBO Max. Films that will be well worth your time, with our writers making the case for why each film is special. Some you may have heard of but haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, and some you may have already seen countless times. Whatever the case, we guarantee you’ll find something you enjoy.

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So check out our list of the best movies on HBO Max streaming below.

Editor’s note: Last updated on April 1st to add West Side Story

RELATED: The Best Shows on HBO Max Right No

West Side Story


Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez in'West Side Story'

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Tony Kushner

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno

While the pandemic hindered the box office success of Steven Spielberg‘s remake of West Side Story, that doesn’t take away from this refreshing reimagining of this Romeo and Juliet story. Spielberg updates the beloved musical with changes befitting a modern remake, including putting Rita Moreno in the cast as the new character Valentina. While Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler succeed as a new Tony and Maria, it really is Ariana DeBose‘s Anita that steals the show with here vivacious energy. From dancing up the streets of New York to her heartbreaking declaration at the end of the film, DeBose gives a performance that inspires and proves it with her Oscar win. A rare remake that is perhaps even better than its original, Spielberg’s West Side Story is a must-watch for musical lovers. — Therese Lacson


In the Heights


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Jon M. Chu

Writers: Quiara Alegría Hudes

Cast: Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, and Jimmy Smits.

Before Lin-Manuel Miranda rocked the world with Hamilton, he happened to rack up a bunch of Tony Awards for his musical In the Heights. The story chronicles a group of dreamers in Washington Heights as they strive to either leave the barrio or reestablish their roots there. Miranda and director Jon M. Chu make an electric pair as the duo take Miranda’s terrific songs and find a way to make them sing on the big screen. The cinematography is inventive, the performances are stunning, and like any good Broadway show, the songs are bound to get stuck in your head. However, we take no responsibility when you can’t stop humming “96,000”. – Matt Goldberg


Watch In the Heights on HBO Max

The Last Duel


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Image via 20th Century Studios

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon

Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck

Ridley Scott’s historical drama is a fascinating, Rashomon-like tale of varying viewpoints and contradictions. Told in three chapters, The Last Duel tells the story of Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon), a knight who confronts his old friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) in a duel when Jean’s wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) accuses Jacuqes of rape. As Scott shows each side of this story, the perspectives alter the series of events, the intentions of each scene shift, and truths become uncertain. While Damon, Driver, and Ben Affleck, as the flamboyant Count Pierre de’Alençon, are great, The Last Duel is Comer’s film, as her chapter tells the true reality of this scenario in a performance that deserves awards consideration. The Last Duel is one of Scott’s best, and one of the most underrated films of 2021. — Ross Bonaime


Watch The Last Duel on HBO Max

Promising Young Woman


Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman
Image via Focus Features

Writer/Director: Emerald Fennell

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, and Connie Britton

A film that’s sure to get you talking, the 2020 Best Original Screenplay winner is as searing as it is scathing. The film follows Cassie (Carey Mulligan in arguably the best performance of her career thus far), a college dropout who is obviously haunted by the rape of her late best friend. As a way of coping with the trauma, Cassie will go out to a club, pretend to be drunk, and wait for some “nice guy” to take her back to his place where she then springs the trap. However, her ongoing mission of vengeance when she falls for a guy who appears to be actually nice and worth giving up a life of revenge. Emerald Fennell‘s film turns the rape-revenge genre on its head to take an incisive look at rape culture and how much it costs everyone to perpetuate it. Promising Young Woman is far from an easy movie, but it’s one that demands to be seen. — Matt Goldberg


Watch Promising Young Woman on HBO Max

Oblivion


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Image via Universal

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Writers: Karl Gajdusek and Michael deBruyn

Cast: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

My esteem for the 2013 sci-fi film Oblivion has grown over the years. At the very least, it’s a joy to look at as director Joseph Kosinski (who previously helmed TRON: Legacy) has an eye for production design. Coupled with an oustanding score from M83, you’ve got a worthwhile watch on a Sunday afternoon. The film follows a technician (Tom Cruise) on an alien-ravaged planet who makes a startling discovery about his existence and what he’s been led to believe. If you missed this one in theaters, it’s worth popping on, especially since Cruise and Kosinski reunited for the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick. — Matt Goldberg

Watch Oblivion on HBO Max

Drive My Car


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Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Writers: Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe

Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tōko Miura, Reika Kirishima, Park Yu-rim, Jin Dae-yeon, Sonia Yuan, Ahn Hwitae, Perry DIzon, Satoko Abe, and Masaki Okada

When the 2022 Academy Award nominations were announced, Drive My Car‘s nomination in Best Picture might have been a surprise to many, but the powerful Japanese drama from Ryusuke Hamaguchi is by far one of the best films of 2021. Based on a Haruki Murakami short story of the same name, Drive My Car tells the story of actor and theatre director Yūsuke Kafuku as he directs an adaptation of Uncle Vanya soon after his wife’s death. At close to three hours, Drive My Car takes its time capturing Yūsuke’s heartbreak and the beautiful stories of those he meets through this production. Spending so much time with Yūsuke only enriches this story with more compassion in Drive My Car, one of the most wonderful character studies in years. — Ross Bonaime


Watch Drive My Car on HBO Max

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Writers: Steve Kloves

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint

Before he went on to win a couple of Best Directing Oscars, Alfonso Cuaron directed the best Harry Potter movie (do not DM me to tell me why I am wrong). While Chris Columbus did an admirable job of setting up the Harry Potter world and deserves credit for following the books and finding the right actors, Cuaron wisely knew that by the time the third film came around, it was time to start taking some creative chances or else the films would never be able to take on a life of their own. Thankfully, he found that pulse and gives the Harry Potter series not only some of its best emotional beats but finally makes them feel cinematic rather than simply trying to transfer the books to a new medium. — Matt Goldberg

Watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on HBO Max

The Jurassic Park Trilogy


Sam Neill in Jurassic Park 3
Image via Universal Pictures

Directors: Steven Spielberg and Joe Johnston

Writers: Michael Crichton, David Koepp, Peter Buchman, Alexander Payne, and Jim Taylor

Cast: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough

Okay so really and truly the first Jurassic Park is unmatched in terms of quality, but the entire Jurassic Park trilogy is now streaming on HBO Max if you feel like a marathon. Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film is movie magic plain and simple – a classic, perfect movie. His 1997 sequel The Lost World is a step down in quality story-wise, but still has some compelling sequences (that dual T. rex scene with the trailers on the cliff is incredible). And 2001’s Jurassic Park III, directed by Joe Johnston, well you can take or leave that one.


Watch Jurassic Park on HBO Max

The Hangover


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Todd Phillips

Writers: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, and Justin Bartha

The Hangover is one of those lighting-in-a-bottle comedies whose success is impossible to replicate—as evidenced by the sequels. The film is anchored by a terrific ticking clock as three friends wake up hungover after a night in Vegas with no memory of the night before, and a missing groom-to-be. They’re forced to retrace their insane steps to find their friend Doug before the wedding gets underway. Hilarity ensues, obviously, but the comedy here is hard to describe. The film is hilarious not in a traditional “set up and punchline” sort of way, but largely due to the chemistry between Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms, and how the trio react to the increasingly ridiculous situations they’re put in. While the sequels failed to capture what made the original special, this film remains a fun watch. – Adam Chitwood

Watch The Hangover on HBO Max

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Mel Stuart

Writer: Roald Dahl

Cast: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, and Julie Dawn Cole

Don’t you dare let your kids watch that terrible Johnny Depp adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic—1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is the way to go. The film toes a devilishly fun line between delightful and terrifying, largely thanks to Gene Wilder’s lead performance, but it’s tame enough to prevent any serious traumatization. Besides, the off-kilter nature will make your kid think he or she is in on some sort of secret. It’s a strange film to be sure, but it has a big heart. And Dahl himself wrote the screenplay, so this is definitely the version you’ll want to go with. – Adam Chitwood


Watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on HBO Max

Collateral


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Image via DreamWorks Pictures

Director: Michael Mann

Writer: Stuart Beattie

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tom Cruise, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, and Javier Bardem

Tom Cruise so rarely plays “the bad guy” that his performance in Michael Mann’s masterful 2004 thriller Collateral remains a unique thing of beauty. The story takes place largely over one night in Los Angeles when an average cab driver (played by Jamie Foxx) gives a ride to a sharply dressed man (Tom Cruise), only to realize after the fact that he’s an assassin and he just drove him to a hit. The destiny of these two men becomes intertwined, but Mann laces the thriller with touches of beauty throughout, elevating above a simple “assassin movie” and into one of the best films of the 21st century, full-stop. – Adam Chitwood

Watch Collateral on HBO Max

You’ve Got Mail


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Nora Ephron

Writers: Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron

Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Dave Chappelle, Steve Zahn, and Greg Kinnear

Sometimes you just want to watch something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and that’s exactly what You’ve Got Mail does. The 1998 film was released at the height of “internet mania,” as the internet and the concept of email were taking the world by storm. Meg Ryan plays the owner of a small, independent children’s book store while Tom Hanks plays the heir apparent to a major book store chain that threatens to put her out of business. In person, they have a flirtily antagonistic relationship. But unbeknownst to them, they’re actually secret pen pals, emailing each other under pseudonyms. This movie is incredibly cheesy and flawed and yet it’s also kind of irresistible. – Adam Chitwood


Watch You’ve Got Mail on HBO Max

The Suicide Squad


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: James Gunn

Cast: Idris Elba, Daniela Melchior, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Viola Davis, Steve Agee, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, and Flula Borg

The Suicide Squad is not just the best DCEU movie yet, it’s one of the best films of 2021 hands down. This semi-sequel to the 2016 film is more a reboot than anything, as Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker James Gunn envisions a Dirty Dozen-type war movie starring these DC outcasts. The members of Task Force X are sent into hostile territory on a secret mission from which they almost certainly will not return, and plenty of violence, action, and humor ensues. This is R-rated insanity through Gunn’s meticulous lens – the film is endlessly surprising and nutty, but never without purpose. A truly joyous, darkly comedic blockbuster that refuses to apologize for being so, well, weird. – Adam Chitwood

Watch The Suicide Squad on HBO Max

The Great Gatsby


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Writers: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Debicki, and Jason Clarke

If you’ve never seen Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, you’re in for a treat. This is a nearly $200 million glitzy and glamorous take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel, with Luhrmann bringing the same frenetic energy he brought to Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rogue! to this story of love and class. Leonardo DiCaprio is dapper as the titular Gatsby, Carey Mulligan is lovely as Daisy, and Tobey Maguire is… well he’s Nick. Luhrmann shot the whole thing in 3D and the visual spectacle really pops, as he used a mixture of practical locations and stunning CG to bring this story to life in vivid color. – Adam Chitwood

Watch The Great Gatsby on HBO Max

Best in Show


Best in Show
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Guest

Writers: Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy

Cast: Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Michael Hitchcock, Jim Piddock, Fred Willard, and Michael McKean

Best in Show is one of the best comedies ever made. Released in 2000, the film follows director Christopher Guest’s “mockumentary” format and is presented as a fake documentary of individuals preparing for and participating in the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show. The absurdity of the affair and dog grooming in general is the backdrop for the colorful characters that populate the film, with this absolutely stellar ensemble turning in a host of brilliant comedic performances. Each character would likely be the comedy scene-stealer of any other film, but in Best in Show these MVPs are all grouped together to form a comedic tour de force. – Adam Chitwood


Watch Best in Show on HBO Max

The Shawshank Redemption


Director/Writer: Frank Darabont

Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Gil Bellows, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, James Whitmore

The populist pick for the best movie of all time, The Shawshank Redemption is one of those films that never seems to get old. Filmmaker Frank Darabont’s adaptation of a Stephen King short story takes place in the mid-20th century and revolves around a man (Tim Robbins) serving two consecutive life sentences in prison for murdering his wife. The story chronicles his journey at Shawshank, which is colored by the friends (and enemies) he makes while the audience is left to guess whether he actually committed the crime or not. It’s an expertly told drama packed with memorable performances and a terrific score by Thomas Newman. There’s a reason so many people choose The Shawshank Redemption as their favorite film ever made. – Adam Chitwood

Watch The Shawshank Redemption on HBO Max

Inception


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

After making one of the most critically acclaimed superhero movies in history, filmmaker Christopher Nolan set out to test whether Hollywood could still bet big on original ideas with his 2010 sci-fi actioner Inception. To the tune of $828.3 million at the box office and multiple Oscar nominations, audiences and critics alike responded enthusiastically, and thus a new classic was born. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a professional thief haunted by his past who takes on one last job. The catch? His heists take place inside people’s minds, as he’s tasked with either stealing or planting information in someone’s head. Inception is a visually stunning affair that also boasts one of the most exciting endings in recent memory. – Adam Chitwood


Watch Inception on HBO Max

The Matrix


Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves in The Matrix
Image via Warner Bros.

Directors/Writers: The Wachowskis

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

When The Matrix was released in 1999, it completely altered the landscape of action films. The Wachowskis crafted a film that was both cerebral and completely kick-ass, and even after all these years, The Matrix still holds up as one of the finest action films ever made. Starring Keanu Reeves as the hacker-turned-savior Neo, The Matrix blended a cyberpunk aesthetic with martial arts choreography and groundbreaking special effects to make a film unlike anyone had seen before. Even after several sequels, plenty of imitators, and years of technical innovations, few films are as enthralling and mind-blowing as The Matrix. – Ross Bonaime

Watch The Matrix on HBO Max

The Empty Man


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Image via 20th Century Studios

Director/Writer: David Prior

Cast: James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Ron Canada, Robert Aramayo, and sasha Frolova

If you’re into thrillers like Se7en but are also open to complex, heady narratives like The Ritual or Midsommar, then The Empty Man may be right up your alley. Released in 2020, this underrated gem stars James Badge Dale as a former detective who, in trying to track down a missing teenager, stumbles upon a conspiracy much larger and more disturbing than he could ever imagine. This is a horror-thriller packed with tension and atmosphere, where the scares come not from gore or boogeymen (although there’s a great creature design) but from the story and characters themselves. – Adam Chitwood

Watch The Empty Man on HBO Max

Spielberg


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Image via HBO

Director: Susan Lacy

If you call yourself a cinephile, then the documentary Spielberg is required viewing. Released in 2017, the two-and-a-half-hour film features a rare sitdown interview with Steven Spielberg himself as it charts his life and career from his childhood up through his most recent efforts, contextualizing the choices he made along the way. This is not just a great behind-the-scenes look at the making of movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Minority Report or Munich, but a deeply personal chronicle of Spielberg’s journey through each of these movies. It also has a surprise or two, as Spielberg makes a revelation about his parents that recontexualizes his penchant for telling stories about absent fathers. – Adam Chitwood

Watch Spielberg on HBO Max

No Sudden Move


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Image via HBO Max

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Ed Solomon

Cast: Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, David Harbour, Amy Seimetz, Kieran Culkin, Ray Liotta, Julia Fox, Frankie Shaw, and Bill Duke

Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh’s second original film for HBO Max, No Sudden Move, is one of the Ocean’s Eleven and Traffic director’s best. The 1950s-set crime thriller revolves around a heist gone wrong, and specifically follows two criminals played by Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro who must not only deal with the fallout, but try to figure out why they were hired and by whom before they get killed. This is a twist-filled heist thriller that also has much to say about the world we live in, as the 50s Detroit setting offers a backdrop in which Black neighborhoods were being dismantled in the name of “progress.” It’s thrilling, funny, surprising, and smart, and it builds to a finale you do not see coming. — Adam Chitwood


Watch No Sudden Move on HBO Max

Memento


Guy-Pearce-Memento
Image Via Newmarket

Director/Writer: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano

With his second film, Memento, Christopher Nolan presented many of the ideas he’d return to throughout his career. Nolan’s interest in playing with time is arguably at its most mind-bending here in this story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce), a man with no short-term memory attempting to solve the murder of his wife. Nolan would also return quite frequently to films about unreliable protagonists and open-ended conclusions, but rarely has Nolan been as great as he was with this early film. With Memento, Nolan became a rule-breaking filmmaker who could completely screw with the viewer’s head in wild and exciting ways. – Ross Bonaime

Watch Memento on HBO Max

Mad Max: Fury Road


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: George Miller

Writers: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nico Lathouris

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and Zoë Kravitz

After watching Mad Max: Fury Road, Steven Soderbergh once said, “I don’t understand two things: I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.” That’s just a testament to George Miller’s insane action masterpiece, a film so over-the-top and insane that it’s remarkable it even exists. It’s no wonder that soon after its release in 2015, Fury Road was being considered one of the greatest action films ever made. By returning to the Max Mad franchise decades after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Miller made an absurd and remarkable film that hits the gas hard and never lets up. – Ross Bonaime


Watch Mad Max: Fury Road on HBO Max

Love and Basketball


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New Line Cinema

Director/Writer: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Omar Epps, Sanaa Lathan, Alfre Woodard, and Dennis Haysbert

This absolutely charming romance/sports film/drama stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as Quincy McCall and Monica Wright, respectively, two neighbors who attempt to become basketball stars. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s film would be fantastic even if it just followed these two on their climb to the top, but with the romance between Quincy and Monica, Prince-Bythewood also makes Love and Basketball sexy as hell, and one of the most romantic films of the 2000s. It’s no wonder that Prince-Bythewood’s first film has become a cult classic of the romance genre. – Ross Bonaime

Watch Love & Basketball on HBO Max

Clueless


Image via Paramount Pictures

Director/Writer: Amy Heckerling

Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Stacey Dash, and Dan Hedaya

It’s a testament to the strength of Clueless’ story and characters that it is as funny, compelling, and relevant today as it was in 1995, especially given how steeped in 90s culture it is. Filmmaker Amy Heckerling’s film is a riff on the Jane Austen novel Emma but with a modern teen sensibility, as Alicia Silverstone plays a beautiful and privileged girl named Cher who decides to give new student Tai (Brittany Murphy) a makeover. The film speaks directly to teens in an almost supernatural way, and the cast is absolutely perfect. Trust me, this one holds up. — Adam Chitwood

Watch Clueless on HBO Max

The 40-Year-Old Virgin


Image via Universal Pictures

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Written by: Steve Carell and Judd Apatow

Cast: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, Jane Lynch, Elizabeth Banks, Kat Dennings, and Mindy Kaling

When The 40-Year-Old-Virgin was released in 2005, it was a huge hit. But in hindsight we can clearly see this was also a game-changer for the comedy genre. Judd Apatow’s heavily improvised style led to a looseness from scene to scene, and the film’s tone—which was equal parts raunchy and heartwarming—felt unique. You usually had your sex comedies and your emotional romantic comedies separate, but here Apatow combined the two sensibilities and had the perfect actor for the titular lead: Steve Carell. The result is a hilarious, very R-rated, but also oddly sweet and sensitive story of a mild-mannered 40-year-old man looking to get laid who ends up finding love, complete with outstanding supporting performances by folks like Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen. – Adam Chitwood

Watch The 40-Year-Old Virgin on HBO Max

Stoker


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Image via Searchlight Pictures

Director: Park Chan-wook

Writer: Wentworth Miller

Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, and Jackie Weaver

If you’re looking to watch something that’s a bit off the beaten path, a bit weird, but also exciting, I highly recommend Stoker. Released in 2013, the film marked Oldboy and The Handmaiden director Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut, and it’s a spicy Gothic romance that blends sex and violence in a really poetic way. Loosely inspired by Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, the story revolves around an 18-year-old girl (Mia Wasikowska) living with her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) in the immediate aftermath of her father’s death. A mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) enters the frame, but the question is whether he’s just charismatic or is actually dangerous. The film blends various genres and plays out like a dramatic, Gothic psychological thriller, but it’s also just gorgeous to look at. Give it a whirl. – Adam Chitwood

Watch Stoker on HBO Max

The Mummy


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Image via Universal Pictures

Director/Writer: Stephen Sommers

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, John Hannah, and Kevin J. O’Connor

The Mummy is quite possibly one of the most purely fun blockbusters ever made. Not the 2017 Tom Cruise version, mind you. I’m talking about Stephen Sommers’ 1999 movie, which took the iconic Universal monster and built a swashbuckling adventure story around him. Set in 1926, Brendan Fraser plays an American adventurer who is wrapped up in a search for a lost city, led by a librarian and aspiring archaeologist played by Rachel Weisz. They and other treasure hunters end up awaking a terrifying monster, who unleashes a series of plagues on those who dared enter his tomb. With thrills, spills, and chills in equal measure – plus more than a few belly laughs – The Mummy is nothing but a good time. – Adam Chitwood


Watch The Mummy on HBO Max

King Kong


King Kong 1933
Image via RKO

Directors: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack

Writers: James Creelman and Ruth Rose

Cast: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot

With it’s impressive stop-motion effects, gigantic scale, and heartfelt conclusion, the impact that King Kong had on the future of monster films is tremendous. Almost 90 years later, King Kong is still an icon of cinema, whether through Peter Jackson’s remake, or by having the eighth wonder of the world fight Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Kong. While King Kong is still quite spectacular, given the restraints of the time, it’s the emotional heft of love and loss at the end that has stuck with viewers for almost a century, King Kong isn’t just one of the greatest monsters films, it’s also one of the cinema’s greatest tragedies. – Ross Bonaime

Watch King Kong on HBO Max

KIMI


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Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: David Koepp

Cast: Zoë Kravitz, Rita Wilson, Derek DelGaudio, Byron Bowers, and Devin Ratray

Steven Soderbergh’s small-scale thriller, KIMI, feels like a combination of The Conversation and Home Alone. Zoë Kravitz starrs as Angela Childs, who has to face the tech corporation she works for after she hears what she believes to be a violent attack recorded by one of the company’s virtual assistant machines. Soderbergh shifts this story in unique and interesting ways, while keeping the audience guessing every step of the way. It’s proof that Soderbergh is not only great at these type of smaller stories, but that he’s still one of the most interesting directors working today.Steven Soderbergh’s small-scale thriller, KIMI, feels like a combination of The Conversation and Home Alone. Zoë Kravitz starrs as Angela Childs, who has to face the tech corporation she works for after she hears what she believes to be a violent attack recorded by one of the company’s virtual assistant machines. Soderbergh shifts this story in unique and interesting ways, while keeping the audience guessing every step of the way. It’s proof that Soderbergh is not only great at these type of smaller stories, but that he’s still one of the most interesting directors working today. – Ross Bonaime


Watch KIMI on HBO Max

Kill Bill


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Image via Miramax

Director/Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, David Carradine, Michael Madsen, and Daryl Hannah

Quentin Tarantino‘s homage to samurai and martial arts films is a fascinating achievement for the director, an action film for a director whose action usually relies on quick wits and smart dialogue. With Kill Bill Vol. 1, Tarantino focuses on the action, as Uma Thurman‘s The Bride kills her way to revenge, leaving a bloody mess in her wake. But with Kill Bill Vol. 2, Tarantino goes more into his wheelhouse, dedicating this second half more to intriguing conversations that are arguably just as compelling as the action. These two parts make for one incredible whole, a remarkable accomplishment from an impressive filmmaker. Now fingers crossed he will eventually make the much-rumored Kill Bill Vol. 3Ross Bonaime

Watch Kill Bill on HBO Max

The French Dispatch


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Director/Writer: Wes Anderson

Cast: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Muray

Wes Anderson’s films are frequently about storytellers and how those stories are passed on to others, whether through the book-within-a-book nature of The Grand Budapest Hotel or Royal Tenenbaum’s grave at the end of the film, claiming he rescued his family from a sinking battleship. But with his tenth film, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, Anderson puts us directly in the pages of the title publication, presenting the stories of an artist in jail, a series of student riots, and a kidnapping. This anthology series allows Anderson to try out new techniques and ideas, but also praise the writers that he clearly loves so much. However, it’s the film’s “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner” segment that is a surprising gut punch, as Jeffrey Wright’s wonderful Roebuck Wright explores the love of art and why writers do what they do. Anderson films always work thanks to their small, intimate, moving moments, and in this moment, The French Dispatch deserves to be put amongst Anderson’s best. – Ross Bonaime


Watch The French Dispatch on HBO Max

Dumb and Dumber


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Image via New Line Pictures

Directors: Peter and Bobby Farrell

Writers: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, and Bennett Yellin

Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket, and Teri Garr

A comedy classic if there ever was one, Dumb and Dumber remains one of the funniest movies ever made. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as a pair of fools who decide to return a lost briefcase to a woman Carrey drove to the airport, all the way in Aspen. Along the way, they get mistaken for criminal masterminds as the briefcase actually contains ransom money for the woman’s husband. That’s it. That’s the plot. Dumb and Dumber succeeds largely because of the buffoonery of Carrey and Daniels, who deliver a pair of go-for-broke performances. And yes, the Peter Farrelly who wrote and directed Dumb and Dumber is the same Peter Farrelly who co-wrote and directed Best Picture winner Green Book. – Adam Chitwood

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The Truman Show


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Image via Paramount

Director: Peter Weir

Writer: Andrew Niccol

Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Holland Taylor, and Ed Harris

Predating the reality television boom, The Truman Show remains an enthralling look at our voyeuristic instincts, and gave Jim Carrey one of his first opportunities at more dramatic work. As Truman Burbank, a man whose entire life has been broadcast on television without him knowing it, Carrey gives one of his best performances, as Truman tries to figure out what is going on with the false world around him. With The Truman Show, Peter Weir crafted an entire world around one man and made it not just believable, but seemingly like an inevitability to the future of entertainment. While we haven’t gotten to this point yet, The Truman Show still might be one of the best films Weir and Carrey have ever made. – Ross Bonaime


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The Aviator


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Image via Warner Bros.

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Written by: John Logan

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, and Jude Law

Legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese had wanted to make a film about iconic aviator and filmmaker Howard Hughes for a long time, and he finally saw that dream become a reality with The Aviator. The film finds Leonardo DiCaprio stepping into the role of Hughes, who went from pioneer to filmmaker to recluse over the course of a lengthy career. As the title suggests, Scorsese’s film sees Hughes through the lens of his passion for aviation, and DiCaprio delivers a towering performance that spans decades. Moreover, in a nod to his love of film, Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson present each section of the film in the manner in which it would’ve been presented at the time. The result is a vibrant and engaging affair, even as the film stretches on for nearly three hours. – Adam Chitwood

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Speed


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Image via 20th Century Fox

Director: Jan de Bont

Writer: Graham Yost

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Hopper

Speed is not just one of the best Die Hard knock-offs of the 90s, it’s one of the best action movies ever made. The premise is simple: There’s a bomb on a public transportation bus in Los Angeles, and it will go off if the bus goes below 50 miles per hour. LAPD SWAT officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) makes it his mission to board the bus as he has a personal vendetta against the bomber (played by Dennis Hopper), and when the bus driver becomes injured, a passenger played by Sandra Bullock is forced to take over driving duties. It’s absolutely thrilling from beginning to end and the chemistry between Reeves and Bullock is palpable. Moreover, it came at a time when CG technology was just starting to arrive, so the practical effects and miniature work for all the big action scenes feels tangible and unique compared to today’s CG-filled blockbusters. With character, heart, and high-octane in equal measure, Speed is a must-see. – Adam Chitwood


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Ocean’s Eleven


Julia Roberts and George Clooney in Ocean's Eleven
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Ted Griffin

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, and Shaobo Qin

There’s an effortlessly cool vibe to Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven that makes it one of the most rewatchable movies ever made, and while it’s certainly a heist film, it’s also hilarious. Soderbergh’s cast plays the whole thing with a dryness that suits the suave con men looking to rob a Las Vegas casino, and clearly George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, etc. are having a blast. So yes, while Ocean’s Eleven is a thrilling heist movie all its own, it’s also sneakily one of the best comedies of the 21st century. – Adam Chitwood

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Ocean’s Twelve


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: George Nolfi

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, and Elliott Gould

Yes, really. When it was released, Ocean’s Twelve was not nearly as warmly received as its predecessor, but that’s because Soderbergh opted to try something entirely different. The plot is purposefully convoluted, and if you read Ocean’s Twelve’s story as a metaphor for how hard it is to make a good sequel, it is immensely more satisfying. The story mirrors Soderbergh’s task of following up a huge hit film with a movie that’s the same but different: Benedict (the studio) demands Ocean’s Eleven (Soderbergh and his cast) form once again to pay him back his money. Hilarity ensues, and the film never takes itself too seriously as the cast is all in on the joke. It’s divisive to be sure, but give the film another shot. It may surprise you. – Adam Chitwood


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RELATED: Why ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ Is an Underrated Gem

Ocean’s Thirteen


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writers: Brian Koppelman and David Levien

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Ellen Barkin, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan, Vincent Cassel, Eddie Jemison, Carl Reiner, and Elliott Gould

For everyone upset that Ocean’s Twelve wasn’t just Ocean’s Eleven again, that’s kind of what you get with Ocean’s Thirteen. The least-good Ocean’s movie isn’t a bad one — it’s still fun and flirty and has that cast you love. It just lacks the originality of the first two films. Al Pacino chews the scenery as a hotel magnate who stiffs Reuben in the worst way, spurring the gang to reunite to take him down on the eve oft he opening of his new casino. The production design is spectacular, and at the end of the day it’s still an Ocean’s movie. – Adam Chitwood

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Nightmare Alley


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Image via Searchlight

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn

Based on the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name, Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley is a bleak drama exploring the life of the circus, a world full of lies, deception, and opportunities. Bradley Cooper stars as Stanton Carlisle, a carny who moves his way up the ladder of the circus, and then sets out on his own with a psychic act. Once Stan meets Dr. Lillith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), his opportunistic streak gets the best of him, as he goes down a path that could cause him to lose everything. Del Toro’s Best Picture nominee is one of his darkest films, complete with an extraordinary ensemble, and a haunting conclusion that will stick with the audience long after the credits roll. — Ross Bonaime

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Risky Business


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director/Writer: Paul Brickman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, and Joe Pantoliano

This is the film that officially launched Tom Cruise into movie stardom, and for good reason. The actor’s turn in Risky Business is the very definition of a star-making performance, at once charming, relatable, and unforgettable. But it helps that writer/director Paul Brickman’s satire is so confidently realized. While Risky Business hit the zeitgeist for Cruise’s good looks and the classic underwear moment, the film itself is really a brilliant and thoughtful treatise on adolescent sexuality, guilt, and capitalism. Through Joel Goodson, we experience the pressures and shame of teenage sexuality, and Brickman’s handle of the satire here is perfectly on point. It’s an incredibly tricky tone to pull off, but Brickman does it beautifully within the conceit of a coming-of-age teen drama as Cruise carries the film onscreen with his thoughtful, layered performance. Add in the incomparable Rebecce De Mornay as the “hooker with a heart of gold” who’s able to transcend the cliché, plus a killer soundtrack, and Risky Business remains one of Cruise’s absolute best films. – Adam Chitwood


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When Harry Met Sally…


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Image via Columbia Pictures

Director: Rob Reiner

Writer: Nora Ephron

Cast: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, and Bruno Kirby

While so many romantic comedies tend to ask “will they or won’t they?,” When Harry Met Sally… instead asks the question “when will they?” So much of love isn’t just about finding the right one, but it’s also about finding the right person at the right place and time. With When Harry Met Sally…, we follow the title characters, played by Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, as they go from two people who can’t stand each other, to reluctant friends, into one of the greatest romances ever captured on film. Thanks to Nora Ephron’s hilarious and charming script, and two fantastic lead performances, When Harry Met Sally… shows how finding the one isn’t always necessarily the most important part of a great love story. – Ross Bonaime

Watch When Harry Met Sally… on HBO Max

Punch-Drunk Love


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Image via New Line Cinema

Director/Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Luis Guzmán

When Paul Thomas Anderson, the then-director of films like Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia, decided to make Adam Sandler the star of his fourth film, it seemed like a joke. Yet with Punch-Drunk Love, not only did Anderson show he could tell smaller, singular-focused stories, it also showed that Sandler was a hell of an actor. Anderson focuses on the quiet, simmering anger that exists in most Sandler performances and makes this key to his role as Barry Egan, a small business owner who falls in love and has to deal with scammers coming after him. Punch-Drunk Love showed that Sandler was more than just the goofy comedian, and that Anderson could make a film more intimate than his sprawling ensemble films. The result is one of the best films from both Anderson and Sandler. – Ross Bonaime


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GoodFellas


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writers: Nicholas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese

Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Pesci, and Paul Sorvino

Any director would be happy to make one masterpiece in his or her career, but filmmaker Martin Scorsese has several. Surely Goodfellas is towards the top of the heap, as the director’s 1990 mob drama still stands today as a stone-cold classic. The film tells the true rise and fall story of mob associate Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), tracking his life of crime from childhood up through the 1980s. It’s an epic saga told with vigor—this thing moves, and it’s all thanks to Scorsese’s kinetic camerawork and editing style. The soundtrack is killer, the performances are incredible (Joe Pesci!), and it’s a film that’s been mimicked countless times since. But there’s no touching the original. – Adam Chitwood

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Wonder Woman


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Patty Jenkins

Writer: Allan Heinberg

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, and Elena Anaya

The best DCEU superhero movie by far, Patty Jenkins crafted a terrific origin story for Diana’s first lead outing on the big screen. The story puts the Amazonian (Gal Gadot) into World War I where she goes hunting for Ares, the God of War, to try and bring peace to mankind. However, her journey has her confronting the world in all its beauty and terror while also falling for pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Wonder Woman embraces the heroism of its female superhero while also challenging her beliefs and forcing her to grow and change. It’s a difficult balancing act, especially as it carries the weight of being a feminist icon, but Jenkins pulls it off with style to spare. – Matt Goldberg


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A Trip to the Moon


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Director/Writer: Georges Méliès

Cast: George Méliès, Bleuette Bernon, François Lallement, and Henri Delannoy

Turning 120 years old this year, Georges Méliès’ sci-fi short is still an iconic and impressive achievement of early cinema. Méliès proves that he’s a magician of this then-new art form, with groundbreaking special effects, unbelievable sets, and an incredible amount of adventure all crammed into 14 minutes. Through A Trip to the Moon, Méliès is quite literally utilizing techniques and ideas that will still be influential a century later. Méliès might very well be the first director to see the incredible potential of film and put all those possibilities on screen. – Ross Bonaime

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City Lights


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Director/Writer: Charlie Chaplin

Cast: Charlie Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee, Harry Myers, and Al Ernest Garcia

Charlie Chaplin was already one of the most beloved actors in the world after films like The Gold Rush and The Kid, but with 1931’s City Lights, Chaplin made his absolute masterpiece. With City Lights, Chaplin once again plays his iconic Tramp character, who this time falls in love with a blind flower girl. The Tramp does everything he can to raise money in order for the flower girl to have an operation to allow her to see, from befriending a rich man, to fighting in a boxing match. City Lights concludes with one of the best endings in film history, a staggering conclusion to one of the best romance films ever made. – Ross Bonaime


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The Passion of Joan of Arc


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Image via Société Générale des Films

Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer

Writers: Joseph Delteil and Carl Theodor Dreyer

Cast: Maria Falconetti, Eugène Silvain, André Berley, and Maurice Schultz

92 years after its release, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc still features one of the greatest performances of all-time, with Maria Falconetti’s draining and powerful performance as the film’s title character. Based on the actual trial record of Joan of Arc, Falconetti shows the exhaustion and crisis that must have existed within Joan of Arc during this horrific experience. Dreyer often shows Falconetti in extreme close-up, centralizing the entire film around Falconetti’s face, and the absolute terror within. By recreating the nightmare and crisis of faith that Joan of Arc went through, Falconetti gave a performance that a century later is still considered one of the best. – Ross Bonaime

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Batman Begins


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and Ken Watanabe

Before he crafted the masterful sequel The Dark Knight, filmmaker Christopher Nolan had to first reinvent the Batman franchise from the ground up with the “gritty reboot” Batman Begins. This movie came on the heels of the exceedingly goofy Batman & Robin and thus had to prove to audiences a grounded, realistic Batman story was one worth watching. Casting Christian Bale in the lead role helped, but Nolan’s sprawling, Gotham-centric story feels more in line with a compelling character drama than a superhero movie—and that was by design. Batman Begins spawned not only two direct sequels but a trend in Hollywood of revitalizing franchises with the “gritty reboot” treatment, and this wholly influential redo still holds up over a decade later as a terrific Batman origin story. – Adam Chitwood


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The Dark Knight


Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Jonathan Nolan

Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine

One of the best superhero movies ever made, full-stop, The Dark Knight is a masterpiece. Christopher Nolan successfully introduced the world to the idea of a “gritty reboot” with Batman Begins, but for the follow-up he crafted an epic, surprising, and downright thrilling story of escalation. Heath Ledger’s take on The Joker is iconic, offering up an enigmatic villain who consistently throws Christian Bale’s Batman for a loop. Then you have Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent, as The Dark Knight crafts a meaty, fulfilling, and heartbreaking arc for this Bruce Wayne foil. On top of all of that, Nolan is essentially making a film about the post-9/11 world—one in which fighting “the bad guys” only leads to bigger and more severe devastation. How do you confront an enemy that just wants to watch the world burn? There’s a reason The Dark Knight has lingered in the public consciousness for a decade, and it still holds up as the best of the best in the face of the bevy of superhero movies that soon followed. – Adam Chitwood


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Citizen Kane


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Orson Welles

Writers: Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz

Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, and Ray Collins

Yes, Citizen Kane is one of the greatest movies of all time. No, it is not boring. On the contrary, if you like investigative dramas and stories about damaged individuals, Orson Welles‘ acclaimed 1941 drama is a damn entertaining film. The story starts with the death of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Welles) and his cryptic last word, “Rosebud.” Even if you know what “Rosebud” is, the film loses none of its impact as Welles, by pioneering new cinematic techniques like Deep Focus, is able to weave a captivating and tragic narrative about a man who gains the world but loses his soul by being unable to buy the things he truly wants out of life. Packed with terrific performances and a timeless story, Citizen Kane is a classic that shouldn’t intimidate you from finally giving it a shot. – Matt Goldberg

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The Conjuring


Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring
Image via Warner Bros.

Director: James Wan

Writer: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes

Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King, and Hayley McFarland

James Wan had already made a name for himself in the horror genre with mega-franchise starters SAW in 2004 and Insidious in 2010, and he pulled off the impossible once again with the 2013 pic, The Conjuring. This is a film that was “so scary and intense” at the time that Warner Bros. slapped it with an R rating despite the fact that there was no blood, gore, excessive violence, or profanity. I can remember a convention hall full of people muttering to themselves and shifting nervously as the “clapping game” scene played out, to gasps and thunderous applause. You can relive the same terrifying experience in the comfort of your own home. The Conjuring introduces Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga), based on the real-life paranormal investigators. They attempt to help the traumatized Perron family whose farmhouse harbors a dark and deadly presence. The Warrens themselves soon discover that this is no mere hoax, but something much more sinister. The Conjuring is a fantastic addition to the horror genre and the start of a solid franchise, so go back to where it all began with this new Netflix addition. – Dave Trumbore

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F9: The Fast Saga


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Image via Universal Pictures

Director: Justin Lin

Writers: Daniel Casey and Justin Lin

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron

For his return to the Fast & Furious franchise, director Justin Lin basically gave the people what they wanted. Fans didn’t like that Han died? Well, guess what? Sung Kang is back! People have been joking that the only place left for this franchise to go is space? In that case, let’s send Tyrese and Ludacris to space! F9 for some might have been where this franchise finally got too ridiculous for its own good, but one could also argue this is the installment where the series fully embraced its absurdity and went all-in on being one of the most insane action franchises ever. — Ross Bonaime

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M


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Image via Criterion

Director: Fritz Lang

Writers: Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

Cast: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, and Gustaf Gründgens

Fritz Lang’s M is an early icon of crime films, a procedural drama told with limited dialogue and powerful German Expressionistic visuals. Peter Lorre plays a serial killer of children who is hunted by the Berlin police and the criminals of the area. Lang crafts an incredibly tense thriller that escalates to a near breaking point, as Lorre has to reckon with his crimes and the people out to get him. Lang’s greatest film is a masterpiece of crime films and a dark drama that still is still extremely unsettling over 90 years later. – Ross Bonaime

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Night of the Living Dead


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Image by Ten/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Director: George A. Romero

Writers: John Russo and George A. Romero

Cast: Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones, Marilyn Eastman, Karl Hardman, Judith Ridley, and Keith Wayne

Yes, George A. Romero basically invented the zombie movie with Night of the Living Dead. We can quibble about proto-zombie movies and influences, but Romero changed an entire genre with his horror film, but rather than just introduce a creature, he injected it with social meaning. When you look at zombie movies like 28 Days Later or TV shows like The Walking Dead, they all owe a debt to Night of the Living Dead, which is about some survivors hunking down in a barn trying to fend off the undead. But it’s the social message, particularly with regards to race that gives Night of the Living Dead, its enduring power. – Matt Goldberg

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Singin’ in the Rain


Image via Warner Bros.

Directors: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Writers: Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Cast: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen, and Cyd Charisse

Singin’ in the Rain is considered the greatest musical ever made for a reason. Every musical number is perfect, it actually boasts a compelling and rich story arc, and there’s not a false note in the entire film. It’s also of huge interest to cinephiles, as the 1952 film takes place against the backdrop of Hollywood’s transition from silent films to “talkies,” with Gene Kelly playing a famous silent film star. Kelly is charming as hell, Donald O’Connor is a straight-up magician on the dance floor, and Debbie Reynolds is adorably irresistible. The film is packed with stylish musical numbers that showcase the best of what Hollywood could offer during this golden age of musicals, and the script is hilarious to boot. Singin’ in the Rain isn’t just the best musical ever made, it’s one of the best movies ever made period. — Adam Chitwood


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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


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Image via New Line Cinema

Director: Peter Jackson

Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Sean Bean, Ian Holm, and Andy Serkis

The first Lord of the Rings movie is also the best (don’t @ me). Director Peter Jackson took a tricky, unwieldy novel and managed to hammer it into an unforgettable fantasy epic by using cutting-edge VFX, exquisite practical effects, and the gorgeous scenery of New Zealand. For those unfamiliar with J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous tale, the story centers on Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a hobbit from the Shire who resolves, with the help of a fellowship of friends and allies, to take the One Ring of Power to Mount Doom and cast it into the fires to stop the rise of the dark lord Sauron. Things don’t go quite according to plan (that’s why there are two more movies), but the beginning of this journey includes some of the most powerful moments of the entire franchise like Gandalf’s (Ian McKellen) speech to Frodo about living in difficult times or Samwise (Sean Astin) promising not to leave his friend. It’s a beautiful film that happened to change blockbusters forever. – Matt Goldberg


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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Image via New Line Cinema

Director: Peter Jackson

Writer: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson

Cast: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys-Davies, Miranda Otto, Karl Urban, David, Wenham, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Hugo Weaving, and Cate Blanchett

Real fans know that Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the ultimate LOTR movie. As you’d expect, The Two Towers is based on the second book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien. The Two Towers arrived just one year after Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, with the entire Fellowship cast in tow to tell the continuing adventures of Frodo (Elijah Wood) and his friends attempting to destroy an extremely evil bit of jewelry. The story and world expands exponentially in The Two Towers, but the very rewarding trade-off here is that the new characters brought into the story and the action set-pieces created for this movie absolutely frickin’ rip. And if you need any convincing at all, I will direct your attention to the iconic, incredible, note-perfect opening moments of the Battle of Helm’s Deep sequence. — Allie Gemmill


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Ikiru


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Image via Hulu

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni

Cast: Takashi Shimura and Miki Odagiri

While director Akira Kurosawa is associated with movies featuring samurai and ronin like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Red Beard, and Rashomon, one of his most powerful features centered on a humble government bureaucrat. Kenji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) is that bureaucrat, and when he discovers he has stomach cancer with less than a year to live, he goes on a search to give his life meaning by trying to build a playground. The film is a powerful meditation on what we want our legacies to mean, what it means to live your life to the fullest in service of others, and the ability to find the courage to make a difference. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking masterpiece from a filmmaker whose filmography is filled with masterpieces. – Matt Goldberg

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2001: A Space Odyssey


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Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke

Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter, Leonard Rossiter, Margaret Tyzack, Douglas Rain, and Robert Beatty

Stanley Kubrick’s body of work as a director may be short but it is arguably one of the most venerated in film. Ranking high both amongst this catalogue and in the general scope of film is 2001: A Space Odyssey. Starring Keir Dullea, 2001 is the perfect introduction into the mind of Kubrick as director, screenwriter, and auteur. You can feel Kubrick’s hand in every aspect of 2001 as he fine-tunes so nothing is amiss and all of the pieces come together to make a compelling, visually-arresting story. That story sees Dullea’s character, Dr. Dave Bowman, and a team of other scientists suddenly thrown into a mission searching for mankind’s true origins after a mysterious artifact is discovered on the moon’s surface. 2001 is also just a gorgeous, intelligent bit of sci-fi cinema, providing gorgeous shot after gorgeous shot to sink your teeth into as you ponder your own existence. If you’re looking for a movie to woo you with aesthetics while also making you question the nature of your relationship to the world and technology, 2001 is the movie to watch. — Allie Gemmill


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My Neighbor Totoro


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Image via Studio Ghibli

Writer/Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Hitoshi Takagi, Shigesato Itoi, and Sumi Shimamoto

The fact that you can finally stream any of Hayaoi Miyazaki’s wonderful films animated by Studio Ghibli is a straight-up event, but I know the first one I’ll head for is My Neighbor Totoro. Miyazaki has made a career out of crafting endlessly imaginative stories that will make you believe in magic, and the sense of innocence and discovery in Totoro is awe-inspiring. The film follows two young sisters, Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka) and Mei (Chika Sakamoto), who stumble upon the woodland spirits that live beside the country house they’ve moved into with their father (Shigesato Itoi) while waiting for their mother (Sumi Shimamoto) to recover from an illness. The balance between pure delightfulness and genuine emotion here is breathe-taking, couple with the type of visuals that become instantly iconic. (You’ve almost certainly already seen the rotund gentle giant Totoro standing at the bus stop in the rain.) Grab a box of tissues and get ready to meet your new favorite neighbor. — Vinnie Mancuso

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya


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Image via Studio Ghibli

Director: Isao Takahata

Writers: Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi

Cast: Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, and Takeo Chii

The deal struck between HBO Max and Studio Ghibli not only means that the direct-to-consumer platform will be the streaming home to the films of Hayao Miyazaki but that you’ll also get to check out lesser known films from the studio by equally wonderful filmmakers. And it’s hard to think of a better, non-Miyazaki film than The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (who sadly passed away in 2018), the film is based on a 10th century Japanese folktale and concerns a woodcutter who finds a girl hidden inside a bamboo stalk (he dubs her “Princess”). She eventually grows and discovers her truly otherworldly origins. It gets a little … mystical. But the plot is largely secondary to its amazing visuals, with Takahata and the team at Ghibli rendering the story in the style of watercolor and Japanese ink wash paintings. In short: it’s one of the most beautiful movies (animated or otherwise) you’ll ever see. – Drew Taylor

Watch The Tale of the Princess Kaguya on HBO Max

Blood Simple


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Image via Criterion

Writers/Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, Samm-Art Williams, and M. Emmet Walsh

Few filmmakers make a debut as confident or stunning as Blood Simple, but the Coen Brothers has no problem making their voices heard with their first feature. Dan Hedaya plays a dive bar owner who suspects that his wife (Frances McDormand) is cheating on him with an employee (John Getz). His suspicions confirmed, he asks a P.I. (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill the lovers, but this plot soon spirals out of control and leads to unexpected bloodshed. The Coens made a masterpiece of neo noir and while they would go on to a series of classics like Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men, their first film still ranks among their best.

Watch Blood Simple on HBO Max

The Wizard of Oz


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Image via Warner Bros.

Directors: Victor Fleming and King Vidor

Writers: Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, and Edgar Allan Woolf

Cast: July Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, and Billie Burke

It’s a miracle that The Wizard of Oz exists, let alone is as great as it is. The production was beset by difficulty after difficulty, running through multiple directors and even recastings. But the finished product is a fantasy masterpiece featuring one of the greatest onscreen performances of all time from Judy Garland. It tells the story of a young girl from Kansas who is whisked away to the fantasical world of Oz, where she must join forces with a brainless Scarecrow, a heartless Tin Man, and a cowardly Lion to find her way home, all while saving Oz from a wicked witch with an army of flying monkeys. Released in 1939, the effects still hold up tremendously well today, and the songs are magnificent. This movie is guaranteed to put a smile on your face at any time. — Adam Chitwood


Watch The Wizard of Oz on HBO Max

Casablanca


casablanca
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Director: Michael Curtiz

Writers: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre

The 1942 winner for Best Picture, Casablanca has lost none of its impact over the decades. It really is a movie that has it all—action, adventure, intrigue, romance, patriotism, sacrifice—it’s more than just “Here’s looking at you, kid.” The story follows jaded nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) who just wants to be left alone until the love of his life, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), comes to him looking for help for her husband, a Czech Resistance leader. Don’t be daunted by the film’s prestige; you can still enjoy it for how damned entertaining and surprisingly funny it can be. Casablanca still hits with all the immediacy of its original release as it embraces universal themes about love and self-sacrifice. It’s a beautiful movie, and one worth revisiting. – Matt Goldberg

Watch Casablanca on HBO Max

Spirited Away


spirited-away
Image via Studio Ghibli

Director/Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tsunehiko Kamijō, Takehiko Ono, and Bunta Sugawara

Hayao Miyazaki is one of our greatest animation filmmakers. He’s a master of blending the surreal and fantastical with the humane and emotion-driven — and his visuals never cease to amaze. Everyone who’s a fan of his has a favorite (I’m partial to the pig-in-a-plane pleasures of 1992’s Porco Rosso, myself). But 2001’s Spirited Away continues to linger in the cultural consciousness more than most, perhaps representing the family-friendly accessibility of the picture without sacrificing an inch of Miyazaki’s most authentic impulses. Chihiro Ogino (Rumi Hiiragi) is moving to a new neighborhood with her parents, when something odd happens: After stuffing their faces with food at a mysterious bathhouse, they are transformed into ginormous pigs. How on earth can Chihiro keep living with pig parents? To find her way back (and to change her parents back), she must travel into the world of spirits (kami), encounter all kinds of surreally, beautifully rendered spirits based on traditional Japanese mythology, and figure out a little about herself, too. Spirited Away exudes childlike wonder and terror in equal measure, giving every viewer the perfect entry point to one of our most perfect animation auteurs. — Greg Smith


Watch Spirited Away on HBO Max

Rebel Without a Cause


Image via Warner Bros.

Director: Nicholas Ray

Writers: Stewart Stern, Nicholas Ray, Irving Shulman

Cast: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Ann Doran, Corey Allen, and William Hopper

To this day, Rebel Without a Cause is a shocking watch, though perhaps not for the reasons audiences first found it shocking in 1955. Sure, some of the teenage melodrama’s depictions of youth gone amok may seem dated upon modern eyes (though a lot of it, especially the picture’s dissections of class and generation gaps, still ring true). But I am most shocked by the sheer passion, risk-taking, and verve inherent in Nicholas Ray’s filmmaking. It’s in vogue these days for screen depictions of troubled youth to have a grounded, realistic, and muted approach to their performances and lensing techniques. But Ray, a maestro of classic Hollywood melodrama, is like, “Fuck that.” Rebel Without a Cause screams with primal howls, with Technicolor paintings, with grandiose music from Leonard Rosenman, and especially with its central performances from Natalie Wood and James Dean. Dean tragically died just one month before the film’s release, and the knowledge that this is his last impassioned statement lends the film even more tragically compelling subtext. If you want an example of a classic Hollywood film that just keeps appreciating value in age, look no further. — Greg Smith


Watch Rebel Without a Cause on HBO Max

No Country for Old Men


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Image via Miramax

Writer/Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Cast: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson, Garrett Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Stephen Root, Gene Jones

There’s no shortage of fantastic Coen Brothers films in the first decade of the 21st Century, but No Country for Old Men is the best received and one of the best of their entire career. The country crime thriller took home four Oscars in 2008, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem, who delivers one of the all-time great villainous performances as the chilling assassin of chance, Anton Chigurh. Yet another extraordinary Coen film about simple folk whose ambition outranks their ability, No Country for Old Men is tense and thrilling, funny and bleak, and just strange enough to be distinctly Coen. — Haleigh Foutch

Watch No Country For Old Men on HBO Max

North by Northwest


Image via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Writer: Ernest Lehman

Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, and Jessie Royce Landis

Obviously, Alfred Hitchcock was “The Master of Suspense”, but a film like North by Northwest shows how he could use that suspense in so many different ways. Sometimes it would be horror; other times it could be drama, but here it’s used for one of the best thrillers ever made. The film follows Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant), who is mistaken by some goons for special agent George Kaplan. Kidnapped, drugged, and framed for murder just for a start, poor Roger goes on the run for his life and to find some answers about his predicament. Hitchock puts his action chops on display with some exhilarating set pieces, but never loses sight of the breakneck pacing and exciting narrative of mistaken identity. – Matt Goldberg


Watch North By Northwest on HBO Max

Space Jam


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Director: Joe Pytka

Writers: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Timothy Harris, Herschel Weingrod

Cast: Michael Jordan, Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, Bill Murray, Billy West, Danny DeVito

Nothing is more unequivocally 90s than Space Jam (with the possible exception of Batman Forever, but that film is sadly not currently on Netflix). Essentially a 90-minute commercial for all of basketball legend Michael Jordan’s brand endorsements, the movie throws Jordan together with all of the Looney Tunes to shoot hoops against a gang of aliens trying to throw Bugs Bunny and friends into an intergalactic theme park. It’s bizarre nonsense that was clearly conceived in a single conference call (the Looney Tunes live in a cartoon world at the center of the Earth, giving legitimacy to Halley’s Hollow Earth theory, while the aliens live in space but are somehow also cartoons), but the movie became such a monolith of 90s pop culture that fans are still excited about a sequel over 20 years later. — Tom Reimann

Watch Space Jam on HBO Max

A Hard Day’s Night


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Image via United Artists

Director: Richard Lester

Writer: Alun Owen

Cast: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington, and Anna Quayle

It’s been over 50 years since A Hard Day’s Night was released, but it has aged remarkably well. With tons of dry, British wit to spare, it never gets old taking a trip back in time to the height of Beatlemania to watch The Beatles — Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr — test their acting chops. A Hard Day’s Night is a fun romp, with the story loosely taking the shape of the Beatles trying to make it to their first live TV performance as they encounter the first blushes of fame. Alun Owen’s rapid-fire, joke-rich script sings thanks to the Beatles, whose deadpan wit makes every moment even more fun to watch — and more rewarding on the rewatch. – Allie Gemmill

Watch A Hard Day’s Night on HBO Max


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About The Author

https://collider.com/best-movies-on-hbo-max/ The Best Movies on HBO Max Right Now (April 2022)

Isaiah Colbert

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