The 42 Best Movies on HBO Max Right Now (May 2021)

Presuming that AT&T’s blockbuster deal with Discovery goes through, HBO Max may get a massive influx of unscripted content in the future. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait to get the real value out of HBO Max: The movies. There’s an incredible advantage to having the vast Warner Bros. library at your fingertips. Yet, HBO Max doesn’t stop there. Instead, it assembles one of the strongest lineups of films from other studios to go along with its ever-shifting catalog. In short, it’s a film lover’s dream, and you’ve come to the right place to enjoy some flicks. We’ve even put together a list of the best movies you can watch on HBO Max right now. You’ll never be bored if you stick with us!

Looking for more suggestions? We also have guides to the best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Amazon Prime Video, and the best movies on Disney+

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, received a slight name change for the big screen. Instead, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory wisely put Gene Wilder’s mischievous candy factory owner in the title. It’s just as well, because Wilder’s manic performance carries the movie through Willy’s wild shifts in tone and attitude. Peter Ostrum also stars in the film as Charlie Bucket, one of five children from around the world who have located one of Wonka’s golden tickets. The winner will get a lifetime supply of chocolate, but first Charlie and the rest of the kids have to pass Willy’s demented morality tests. Spoiler alert: Most of the children don’t pass, and Willy seems to delight in their bizarre and outlandish fates.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Genre: Musical, Fantasy
Stars: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole. Leonard Stone
Director: Mel Stuart
Rating: G
Runtime: 100 minutes

Happy Feet

Happy Feet (2006)

Would you believe that Mad Max director George Miller helmed the animated film Happy Feet? Not only did Miller expand into new, all-ages territory, but it’s a great example that other studios beyond Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks can make terrific animated movies as well. Elijah Wood stars as Mumble, a penguin born without the ability to sing. Fortunately, Mumble was also born with the gift of dance, and he uses it to pursue the penguin of his dreams, Gloria (Brittany Murphy). Mumble’s elders may not understand his dancing gestures, but they can’t stifle his moves forever.

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Genre: Musical, Comedy
Stars: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman
Director: George Miller
Rating: PG
Runtime: 108 minutes

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

For several generations of television viewers, Fred Rogers wasn’t simply the host of a children’s TV show. He was “Mister Rogers,” a beloved icon of public television who had a unique gift for connecting with a young audience. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood also taught kids valuable life lessons and didn’t shy away from difficult topics. Morgan Neville’s documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, is a wonderful look at not only the legacy of that show, but the man behind it. Fred Rogers was a rare individual who practiced what he preached. His warmth and kindness are still evident through his archival appearances here.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Biography, Documentary
Stars: Fred Rogers, François Clemmons, Yo-Yo Ma, Joe Negri, David Newell
Director: Morgan Neville
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes

Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Barry Lyndon isn’t as highly regarded as some of director Stanley Kubrick’s other movies, but it’s still a beautifully shot film that has found its audience over time. The story takes place in the 18th century and follows Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), an Irishman who was born into nothing. After fleeing from a duel, Redmond befriends a fellow rogue named Chevalier du Balibari (Patrick Magee) and decides to marry for money. Upon meeting the soon-to-be widowed Lady Lyndon (Marisa Berenson), Redmond reinvents himself and woos her before taking the name Barry Lyndon. However, staying in high society isn’t as easy as Barry thought it would be. And his good fortune won’t last forever.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Krüger, Diana Koerner
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Rating: PG
Runtime: 187 minutes


Dreamgirls (2006)

Dreamgirls is an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name, and it plays just as well on the silver screen as it did on the stage. The story is loosely inspired by the history of Motown, and it focuses on the rise of a girl group called the Dreams. Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) quickly realizes that the trio of Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé), and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) can become major stars. The Dreams’ success soon eclipses their associated act, Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). However, Curtis’ manipulations also splinter the unity of the Dreams when he elevates Deena at Effie’s expense.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Genre: Musical, Drama
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson
Director: Bill Condon
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 130 minutes

The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)

Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver burn up the screen in The Year of Living Dangerously, a movie that was made relatively early in their careers. The film is set in 1965, when Australian correspondent Guy Hamilton (Gibson) is sent to Jakarta on assignment. Guy soon meets and falls for Jill Bryant (Weaver), an assistant at the British embassy. But their newfound love is tested when a coup attempt is made against President Sukarno. Guy disregards warnings to leave the country, and he gets a firsthand look at the brutality of Sukarno’s reign … which may cost him his life.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Romance, Drama
Stars: Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Kerr, Michael Murphy, Linda Hunt, Noel Ferrier
Director: Peter Weir
Rating: PG
Runtime: 114 minutes

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

There aren’t many films that can command a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, but The Treasure of the Sierra Madre lives up to its lofty reputation. Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt co-headline the film as Fred C. Dobbs and Bob Curtin, a pair of broke drifters making their way through Mexico. After encountering an old prospector named Howard (Walter Huston), the trio make their way to the Sierra Madre mountains and finds a fortune in gold. Unfortunately, their good luck soon turns sour as greed tears them apart. And even their bonds of friendship are ripped to shreds with alarming ease.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Western, Drama
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Bruce Bennett
Director: John Huston
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 126 minutes

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Nearly two decades after World War II, several veterans of that conflict were cast in The Dirty Dozen. Lee Marvin led the impressive ensemble performers including Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and more. Marvin played Major John Reisman, the man in charge of turning 12 of the army’s worst convicts into a fighting unit for a critical mission behind enemy lines. Through a grueling training experience, the men come together as a team. But going through with the operation ahead of D-Day leads to unforeseen complications. And not everyone will make it home from this suicide mission.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Genre: War, Action, Adventure
Stars: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel
Director: Robert Aldrich
Rating: N/A
Runtime: 150 minutes

Jackie Brown

Jackie Brown (1997)

Pop quiz: What’s the best Quentin Tarantino movie? The director’s earliest films and his most recent hits have their ardent defenders. Yet his third movie, Jackie Brown, is arguably his greatest. This adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch features Blaxploitation star Pam Grier in the title role as Jackie Brown. Jackie’s a flight attendant who is in a tough situation. Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) and the feds catch Jackie smuggling money for Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). With her life and her freedom on the line, Jackie teams up with bail bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) to con the men holding her strings.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Genre: Drama, Crime
Stars: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, Robert De Niro
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Rating: R
Runtime: 154 minutes


Rudy (1993)

There are feel-good sports movies, and then there’s Rudy. This lightly embellished story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (Sean Astin) is inspiring, but not because of the athletic talents of its title character. Rudy isn’t a great physical specimen, but his heart is unmatched. After the death of his best friend, Pete (Christopher Reed), Rudy defies his family in a bid to achieve his dream of being a Notre Dame football player. While chasing the impossible, Rudy befriends Dennis “D-Bob” McGowan (Jon Favreau) and the stadium groundskeeper, Fortune (Charles S. Dutton). When Rudy’s spirit briefly falters, his friends lift him back up.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Genre: Drama, Sports
Stars: Sean Astin, Ned Beatty, Charles S. Dutton, Lili Taylor, Robert Prosky
Director: David Anspaugh
Rating: PG
Runtime: 116 minutes

Good Morning, Vietnam

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

The late Robin Williams received an Oscar nomination for his performance as Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam. In 1965, the real Adrian was a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service in Saigon. Instead of toeing the official military line, Adrian’s unique brand of comedy and his willingness to tell the truth quickly earns him a following. He also forms an unlikely friendship with a local, Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran), while romantically pursuing Tuan’s sister, Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana). Naturally, Adrian’s antics enrage his superior officer, Sgt. Maj. Phillip Dickerson (J. T. Walsh), who plots to get rid of Adrian in a way that endangers his life.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Stars: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tung Thanh Tran, Chintara Sukapatana, Bruno Kirby
Director: Barry Levinson
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Dumb and Dumber isn’t exactly a cinematic masterpiece. However, it is a very funny movie with Jim Carrey at the height of his comedic powers. Carrey stars as Lloyd Christmas, a clueless limo driver who develops a crush on Mary Swanson (Lauren Holly) after chauffeuring her to the airport. Lloyd inadvertently ruins Mary’s attempt to pay a ransom for her husband, and soon finds himself flush with cash. That’s why Lloyd and his best friend, Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), go on a cross-country road trip to reunite with Mary. But they fail to realize that the kidnapper has sent hired killers to take them out.

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy, Mike Starr, Charles Rocket
Director: Peter Farrelly
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 106 minutes

All Is Lost

All Is Lost (2013)

Robert Redford is the only actor who appears in All Is Lost, and we never learn the name of his character. In fact, he barely even speaks in the entire film. Yet that doesn’t diminish the drama at all, If anything, it heightens the life-or-death struggle of the man whose solo trip across the Indian Ocean becomes derailed after his ship collides with a shipping container. Redford is riveting as his character battles for survival while fighting the elements and his own despair. The human spirit can overcome almost any adversity, but this is a harrowing tale that may make you glad that you’re still on dry land.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Robert Redford
Director: J. C. Chandor
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 105 minutes

Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry (1971)

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?” Clint Eastwood was already a cinematic icon when he stepped into the role of Inspector Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry. But his performance as the renegade cop quickly created a franchise that spawned four sequels. In his inaugural movie, Harry is on the hunt for a sniper who goes by the alias Scorpio (Andy Robinson). As Scorpio terrorizes San Francisco with his seemingly random murders for ransom, Harry has to step outside the law to see justice done.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Clint Eastwood, Andy Robinson, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon
Director: Don Siegel
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

Kramer vs. Kramer

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Kramer vs. Kramer is an acclaimed family drama that successfully humanizes both sides of the conflict. Dustin Hoffman’s Ted Kramer suddenly finds himself a single father to his son, Billy (Justin Henry), when his wife, Joanna (Meryl Streep), walks out on both of them. Although Ted and Billy eventually overcome Joanna’s absence, her sudden return throws their lives into turmoil. The subsequent court battle for custody of Billy also pushes the bonds of this family to their breaking point. There can be no winner in this war, but there is some hope for empathy from the former spouses.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Justin Henry, Jane Alexander, Petra King
Director: Robert Benton
Rating: PG
Runtime: 105 minutes

You Can't Take It With You

You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

Almost everyone has seen Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, but he also directed You Can’t Take It With You, which won the Oscar for Best Picture nearly a decade earlier. This is an unusual romantic comedy that not only focuses on the relationship between Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) and her fiancé, Tony Kirby (James Stewart), but also develops a friendship between Alice’s grandfather, Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore), and Tony’s father, Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold). Anthony is buying up homes to expand his factory empire, while Martin’s family is the last holdout. As Alice and Tony try to endure the family conflict, Martin offers Anthony some fresh perspective that gives him a new outlook on life.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Stars: Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Edward Arnold
Director: Frank Capra
Rating: TV-G
Runtime: 126 minutes

Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Don’t let the title of Rachel Getting Married fool you. Rachel Buchman (Rosemarie DeWitt) may be the titular character, but this movie belongs to her sister, Kym (Anne Hathaway). Hathaway has a powerhouse performance as an addict who has lost 10 years of her life to rehab and addiction relapses. On the weekend of Rachel’s wedding, Kym gets a temporary discharge to reunite with her family. Yet old grudges and simmering distrust openly erupt between the sisters, in addition to the lingering resentment between Kym and her mother, Abby (Debra Winger). The Buchman family drama threatens to overshadow Rachel’s wedding, but it’s a reckoning that has been coming for years.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Tunde Adebimpe, Debra Winger
Director: Jonathan Demme
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes


Goodfellas (2008)

Where would we be without the crime epics of Martin Scorsese? Cinema would certainly be less interesting if films like Goodfellas didn’t explore such dark and compelling territory. This movie was based on the life of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), a criminal who was part of the Gambino crime family for 25 years. Henry’s illegally obtained wealth helps him woo his wife, Karen (Lorraine Bracco), and gives him a taste of the good life alongside his friends, Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). Yet even these bonds of friendship can be shattered when money and power are at stake.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Drama, Crime
Stars: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Runtime: 146 minutes

Walk Hard

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Think about every musical biopic you’ve ever seen. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is essentially a parody of all of the previous biographical films about musicians. Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) has a ridiculous life story that weaves in and out of different musical eras and styles. Following a family tragedy, Dewey has a rapid rise to fame and an equally fast fall into infamy. Along the way, he finds love with both Edith (Kristen Wiig) and Darlene (Jenna Fischer), as well as a deadly grudge held by his father, Pa Cox (Raymond J. Barry).

Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig
Director: Jake Kasdan
Rating: R
Runtime: 96 minutes

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition (2001)

Nearly two decades ago, Peter Jackson unleashed the first film in his adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. But this isn’t The Fellowship of the Ring that you experienced in theaters. The Extended Edition is a nearly four-hour affair that greatly expands on the early story of Frodo (Elijah Wood), the young Hobbit who comes into possession of the One Ring. To keep this malevolent object out of enemy hands, Frodo and his eight companions embark on a dangerous quest to destroy the ring. Yet the greatest threat to the Fellowship may come from within.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Sean Bean
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 228 minutes


Ted (2012)

The titular talking teddy bear of Ted would probably find it hilarious that his film has a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In the world of the film, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) wished his favorite bear into sentience when he was a young child. Years later, Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John are still close friends, much to the annoyance of John’s girlfriend, Lori Collins (Mila Kunis). When Ted goes too far, John and Lori try to set him up with an independent life of his own. But these friends just can’t stay separated for long, regardless of the consequences.

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Joel McHale, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain (2003)

Cold Mountain could almost be called a romantic film if its leading characters didn’t suffer so much. But this is a sweeping period film that finds young lovers William “W. P.” Inman (Jude Law) and Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) promising to find each other after the Civil War. William even deserts from the Confederacy to keep his vow, while Ada struggles to maintain her farm on Cold Mountain with the help of her friend, Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger). William and Ada go to great lengths to find each other again, even in the face of overwhelming adversity. Now that’s a love story.

Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Renée Zellweger, Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Anthony Minghella
Rating: R
Runtime: 154 minutes

Big Fish

Big Fish (2003)

Big Fish is arguably Tim Burton’s best movie, and it’s certainly one of his most emotional. As Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) faces his death in the present, his estranged son, Will (Billy Crudup), learns more about young Edward (Ewan McGregor) and his seemingly tall tales about the people he met throughout his life. Edward’s love for Will’s mother, Sandra (Alison Lohman), takes on a mythology of its own. The truth isn’t always the way that Edward presented it, but his stories force Will to everything he thought he knew about his father.

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Drama
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Lohman
Director: Tim Burton
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 125 minutes

The Mask of Zorro

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

There’s no shortage of superheroes on HBO Max, but Zorro is one of the pulp heroes who predates all of them. The Mask of Zorro also happens to be a nearly perfect reintroduction to the classic character. Anthony Hopkins plays the original Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega, as he is exposed and imprisoned for decades. Fortunately, Don Diego finds an ally named Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), whom he trains to be the new Zorro. Along the way, Alejandro falls for Elena Montero (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Don Diego’s long-lost daughter, who was raised by his greatest enemy, Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson).

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Genre: Action, Adventure
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson
Director: Martin Campbell
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 137 minutes

Black Dynamite

Black Dynamite (2009)

Black Dynamite is a modern sendup of ‘70s blaxploitation films, but it’s also a really terrific example of the genre. Michael Jai White stars as Black Dynamite, a Vietnam veteran and former CIA operative who comes home and takes it upon himself to avenge his brother and clean up the streets. Alongside his new love, Gloria Gray (Salli Richardson), and his ally, Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson), Black Dynamite discovers a government plot that sends him off to Kung Fu Island to confront an old nemesis. And the film only gets wilder as it goes along.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Genre: Action, Comedy
Stars: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson
Director: Scott Sanders
Rating: R
Runtime: 84 minutes

La Bamba

La Bamba (1987)

Ritchie Valens is more famous for the way he died than for the music he created, but La Bamba flips the script by largely on how Ritchie lived. Lou Diamond Phillips stars as Ritchie, as he navigates his contentious relationship with his half-brother, Bob (Esai Morales). The story also explores Ritchie’s romance with his eventual wife, Donna Ludwig (Danielle von Zerneck). As Ritchie’s star rises, his fears threaten to overwhelm him. Yet his indomitable spirit allows him to rise above and become one of rock’s first superstars.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Romance, Drama, Biographical
Stars: Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, Rosanna DeSoto, Elizabeth Peña, Joe Pantoliano
Director: Luis Valdez
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 108 minutes

A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own is the fictionalized story of the women’s baseball league that emerged during World War II. Geena Davis stars as Dorothy “Dottie” Hinson, a catcher who would have turned away from her chance at baseball stardom if not for her sister and fellow player, Kit Keller (Lori Petty). Former Cubs player Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) is tasked with managing the sisters on the Rockford Peaches, which also includes Doris Murphy (Rosie O’Donnell) and Mae Mordabito (Madonna). Just remember, there’s no crying in baseball. But there is a lot of heart.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sports
Stars: Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, Jon Lovitz
Director: Penny Marshall
Rating: PG
Runtime: 128 minutes

Gone Baby Gone

Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Ben Affleck’s comeback hit its stride with Gone Baby Gone, his feature-length directorial . However, it’s Affleck’s younger brother, Casey Affleck, who headlines the film as private investigator Patrick Kenzie. Patrick and his partner, Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), are drawn into the case of a kidnapped four-year-old girl, Amanda McCready (Madeline O’Brien). Amanda’s mother has connections to organized crime, which forces Patrick and Angie to enlist Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and his partner, Nick Poole (John Ashton), to back them up. But the case is anything but straightforward, and finding Amanda proves to be far more complicated than anyone expected.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Stars: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, John Ashton
Director: Ben Affleck
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes


Labyrinth (1986)

The Muppets creator Jim Henson explored some of his darkest themes on the big screen. His final film, Labyrinth, fully embraces that aspect of his career — and it’s arguably his best movie. Jennifer Connelly has a dazzling turn as Sarah Williams, a 16-year-old girl who resents her new half-brother, Toby (Toby Froud). When Sarah carelessly wishes that the goblins would take Toby away, it actually happens. The Goblin King, Jareth (David Bowie), offers Sarah a chance to reclaim her infant half-brother if she can survive a journey through the labyrinth in 13 hours.

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Genre: Fantasy
Stars: David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly
Director: Jim Henson
Rating: PG
Runtime: 101 minutes

The People vs. Larry Flynt

The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

The real Larry Flynt passed away recently, and he seemed like an odd choice to be a free speech icon. But the founder of Hustler was the subject of The People vs. Larry Flynt, with Woody Harrelson in the title role. By challenging the complaints against his porn magazine in court, Larry pushed the boundaries of what could be put into print. Courtney Love also stars as Althea Leasure, Larry’s longtime lover. Additionally, Edward Norton has a terrific turn as Larry’s lawyer, Alan Isaacman. Love him or hate him, Larry Flynt left an impact on this film and beyond.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Genre: Drama, Biography
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton
Director: Miloš Forman
Rating: R
Runtime: 130 minutes

The Color Purple

The Color Purple (1985)

Steven Spielberg adapted Alice Walker’s seminal novel The Color Purple to great acclaim in the mid-’80s. Whoopi Goldberg stars as Celie, an African American woman who has been abused and put-upon for her entire life. As Celie endures the abuse of her husband, Mister (Danny Glover), she finds solace and inspiration from two women in her life: Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) and a singer named Shug Avery (Margaret Avery). Through the relationships that Celie forms, she finds the strength to stand up for herself and chart her own path.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Adolph Caesar, Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Avery, Rae Dawn Chong
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 153 minutes

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

What if a politician was everything that he or she claims to be? Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is an iconic take on that idea. James Stewart stars as Jefferson “Jeff” Smith, an idealistic young man who is named to the Senate following his predecessor’s unexpected death. Jeff finds a mentor in Senator Joseph Harrison “Joe” Paine (Claude Rains), unaware of the older man’s corruption. When Jeff’s reputation is destroyed by lies and innuendo, he pleads his case on the Senate floor in a classic filibuster scene. This is definitely a fantasy, but it’s nice to believe that happy endings can happen in the political arena.

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Stars: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rain, Edward Arnold
Director: Frank Capra
Rating: TV-G
Runtime: 126 minutes

Risky Business

Risky Business (1983)

Who likes that old-time rock and roll? Everyone! The iconic scene of Risky Business may have Tom Cruise dancing in his briefs, but it’s still a great teen comedy after that sequence. Cruise plays Joel Goodson, an overachieving who takes full advantage of his parents’ extended absence. Joel soon befriends a prostitute named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) and begins a relationship with her. However, Lana’s unsavory pimp, Guido (Joe Pantoliano), causes complications for the young lovers and threatens to derail Joel’s plans for college and his parents’ trust.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Genre: Comedy
Stars: Tom Cruise, Rebecca De Mornay, Joe Pantoliano, Nicholas Pryor
Director: Paul Brickman
Rating: R
Runtime: 99 minutes

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Extended Edition

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Extended Edition (2003)

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was capped off with The Return of the King, which won Best Picture at the Oscars. The Extended Version of the film is now on HBO Max, and it includes several scenes that didn’t make it into the theatrical cut. For example, Saruman’s fate is no longer ambiguous. This is also a thrilling and satisfying wrap-up to the story that began during The Fellowship of the Ring. Just be sure to pace yourself along the way. This one clocks in at nearly four and a half hours, so it can be an endurance test for some. But it’s well worth the commitment.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Drama
Stars: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving
Director: Peter Jackson
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 263 minutes

The Departed

The Departed (2006)

Would you believe that Martin Scorsese finally won a Best Director Oscar for The Departed? It’s another Best Picture winner on this list as well as a thrilling crime drama starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan Jr. and Matt Damon as Colin Sullivan. Billy is a cop under deep cover within the crime family led by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). But Frank also has Colin as a well-placed mole within the police department. As Billy and Colin become aware of each other, it becomes a race to see who can uncover their counterpart’s identity first.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rating: R
Runtime: 151 minutes

No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men (2007)

The Coen brothers are known for having a deft comedic touch in many of their films. No Country For Old Men is not one of those movies. Instead, this harrowing tale features one of the most terrifying screen villains of recent memory: Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh. After Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) comes across $2 million dollars from a blown drug deal, Anton is hired to retrieve the money at all costs. He leaves a trail of violence in his wake, which forces Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) to question both his faith and whether the world has simply passed him by. There’s no Hollywood ending to be found here, but this is a modern classic.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

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Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Three decades passed between the third and fourth Mad Max movies, but that didn’t stop director George Miller from revitalizing the franchise. Mad Max: Fury Road is a brilliant follow up that casts Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky, a role originated by Mel Gibson. More notably, this film introduced Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and firmly established Theron as an action icon in her own right. Max and Furiosa find themselves in an alliance of convenience against Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a would-be dictator in the post-apocalypse. Fury Road’s visceral action sequences are frequently intense and memorable. Very few movies can match the thrills of this one.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Action
Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne
Director: George Miller
Rating: R
Runtime: 120 minutes

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Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction doesn’t have a traditional narrative, but it does feature some of the most unforgettable characters of the ‘90s. Hitmen Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) just can’t seem to stay out of trouble even in the aftermath of an apparent miracle. In another storyline, aging boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) tries to skip town after ripping off mob boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). Uma Thurman also steals the movie as Marsellus’ wife, Mia. These seemingly disjointed storylines come together beautifully in Tarantino’s incredibly quotable film, which remains one of his very best.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Crime, Comedy
Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Rating: R
Runtime: 154 minutes

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

There have been many Batman movies, but Batman: Mask of the Phantasm may be the best one ever made. This isn’t an exaggeration, as the creative team and the cast behind Batman: The Animated Series created a new adversary for the Dark Knight while opening up a previously unexplored chapter in the life of Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy). In the past, Bruce almost walked away from his destiny as Batman to marry Andrea Beaumont (Dana Delany). But in the present, Bruce’s life is complicated by both Andrea’s return and by the emergence of the Phantasm, a vengeful vigilante whose murder spree has been blamed on Batman himself. Mark Hamill’s chillingly evil Joker is the film’s wild card, and the wonderfully dark animation truly captures the spirit of the comics that inspired this movie.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Genre: Superhero, Action
Stars: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner
Director: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm
Rating: PG
Runtime: 76 minutes

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Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca, the Oscar-winning film that gave the world the iconic line, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” casts Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman as a pair of star-crossed lovers caught up in the dire events of World War II. Bogart portrays an American expatriate who’s forced to choose between the love of his life and the life he’s grown to love in the city of Casablanca.

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Genre: Romance, Drama
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Director: Michael Curtiz
Rating: PG
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane (1941)

Often cited as the greatest movie ever made, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane chronicles the rise and fall of fictional newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane, who rose from poverty to become a prominent player in American politics. Welles directed, co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film, which famously explores its titular character’s life in an attempt to discern the meaning of his dying words.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Drama
Stars: Orson Welles, Dorothy Comingore, Joseph Cotten
Director: Orson Welles
Rating: PG
Runtime: 119 minutes

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Spirited Away

Spirited Away (2001)

Acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki and the animators at Studio Ghibli crafted this tale of a young girl who finds herself drawn into the fantastic world of Japanese Shinto folklore after an encounter with a powerful witch puts her — and her family — in danger. To date, Spirited Away remains the only hand-drawn, non-English film to win the Academy Award for the year’s Best Animated Feature and was ranked the fourth-best film of the 21st century in a 2016 poll of international film critics. You can also check out the best anime series on Netflix if you’re looking for more like this.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Genre: Fantasy, Family
Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Mari Natsuki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: PG
Runtime: 124 minutes

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Editors’ Recommendations

Above article first published by . We curated and re-published.

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