With all the streaming options out there and exclusives dropping on each platform every day, it can be hard to figure out just what to watch. Luckily, ONE37pm has you covered with this list of the 100 best movies currently streaming on HBO Max. Whether you want to watch classic dramas or modern comedies, the massive platform has you covered. Before you plop down on the couch and let your dinner get cold as you try to figure out what to watch, check out this assortment of the 100 best movies on HBO Max!
Not all movies are supposed to be Oscar bait; sometimes audiences just want to watch an over-the-top, action-packed B-movie like Snakes on a Plane. In order to prevent a witness from making it to Los Angeles via plane, a crime lord rigs a series of snake cages to be unleashed on an unsuspecting flight midair. Starring Samuel Jackson as Agent Neville Flynn, this adrenaline-filled flick features iconic lines and some pretty spectacular man versus snake fight scenes.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel, Inherent Vice tracks Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) as the stoner investigator suddenly finds himself on a far-reaching case having to do with his ex-girlfriend. A stylized look at corruption and the Los Angeles underbelly during the 1970s, this star-studded drama is a must-watch for anyone with a bit of time on their hands.
Directed by puppet legend Frank Oz, Little Shop of Horrors is a fantastic adaptation of the off-broadway comedic musical. The film follows flower shop assistant Seymour (Rick Moranis) who is suddenly thrown in over his head when he discovers a terrifying, man-eating venus plant he has to try and satiate.
Comic book characters appear on screen all the time, but it’s uncommon for a movie to focus on a comic book writer. In Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s American Splendor, a super stylized biography of Harvey Pekar, Paul Giamatti plays the underground writer as he advances in his career, but he is often joined at times by the real-life Pekar and even animated versions of himself to add different perspectives to Pekar’s experiences.
A rockin’ good time through history, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure follows high-school students Bill Preston (Alex Winter) and Ted Logan (Keanu Reeves) as they suddenly come into possession of a time machine to help them better prepare for a history presentation. Filled with great vignettes in different historical periods, the hilarious film plays with time-travel tropes.
Even for viewers who never watched David Lynch’s Twin Peaks television series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is an entertaining, twisted film that will stick with you. In Fire Walk With Me, Lynch follows investigations into the death of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley) and the final seven days of iconic Twin Peaks’ character Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) life in this multi-layered psychological horror film.
Even without Batman hunting him down, director Todd Philips showed the world that the Joker is a fascinating character who can carry a movie on his own shoulders. Joker is a Martin Scorcese-influenced take on the Clown Prince of Crime’s origin that sees Gotham City on the edge of violence and a counter-culture revolution building against the wealthy elites. Joaquin Phoenix’s intense turn behind the nihilist makeup won him both an Oscar and Golden Globe in 2019.
A lesser-known Martin Scorcese film, After Hours is a comical film that follows Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) on one night full of building negative circumstances. Paul has to deal with everything from accidentally losing his $20 bill out of a taxi window to overcoming a random punk gang trying to give him a mohawk. At this point, Scorsese somewhat focuses on large ensemble pieces, but After Hours, released in 1985, is a nice reminder of when the maestro did very small-scale character-focused films.
A Steve McQueen classic, Bullitt is an adrenaline-filled ride with some of the most iconic car chases ever put on film. Lt. Frank Bullitt (McQueen) is pulled into a political and action-packed nightmare after the witness he is protecting is murdered by hitmen as he tries to stay alive and investigate exactly what happened.
This movie is so money, and it doesn’t even know it. Directed by Doug Liman, Swingers follows Mike Peters (Jon Favreau) a single twenty-something man in Los Angeles who is still reeling from a breakup. Thanks to his friends, but especially Trent Walker (Vince Vaughn), Mike is brought out on numerous late-nights and a Vegas trip to help him rebuild his self-esteem and get a taste of the good life.
Stanley Kubrick’s history of man, stretching from the discovery of fire all the way up to man floating in space stuck as a victim to a self-righteous computer, 2001: A Space Odyssey is an incredibly intelligent, sci-fi romp. Co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the book and a series of stories that inspired the film, 2001 features sparse dialogue and is praised for its practical effects.
Rather than a simple story where Superman has to stop a big, spooky villain, the animated All-Star Superman sees Superman confront something else entirely: his own mortality. A beautiful adaption of the limited comic series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly, All-Star Superman is the perfect embodiment of why Superman is such a fantastic character and so easy to root for.
Quentin Tarantino’s debut feature film, Reservoir Dogs follows a group of criminals after their planned heist of a jewelry store goes awry. Featuring a stellar ensemble of performers like Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, Reservoir Dogs is full of the long-winded dialogue, intense action, and nonlinear storytelling that has come to define Taratino’s storytelling sensibilities.
A spoof on James Bond and other aspects of British pop culture, Austin Powers is a hilarious, over-the-top hit that sees an English secret agent from the 1960s cryogenically frozen and awakened in the 1990s. Starring Mike Meyers as both the charismatic, womanizing secret agent Austin Powers and the conniving, laser-loving Dr. Evil, Austin Powers is especially delightful for fans of the early Bond films, but everyone who watches will likely find themselves laughing throughout it.
A horror film that sees a group of people suddenly victims of a twisted man named Jigsaw’s sadistic game, Saw sees its characters be compelled to kill others or hurt themselves in order to survive. The James Wan helmed film went on to spawn a franchise and a reemergence of slaughter horror in the U.S., but the original and its low-budget shocks stand above all of its sequels.
A low-key HBO original documentary, Becoming Warren Buffet tracks the slow-burning rise of the so-called “Oracle of Omaha.” An entertaining and enlightening ride, this look inside the life of one of America’s most notorious businessmen and best investors is worth watching for people who are interested in investing and those who aren’t alike.
Even though the character debuted in another film when Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman hit theaters the classic heroine finally got to share her origin story with the general audience. Ditching the modern setting of the film that established her, Wonder Woman explores the character’s first interactions with the outside world and men in general as the enchanted island Themyscira is breached during the outbreak of World War 1.
In The Great Dictator, a film written, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin, Chaplin plays a satirical version of Adolf Hitler. When the silent comedy was released in 1940, the U.S. was formally still at peace with Nazi Germany, showing just how ahead of the curve Chaplin was on calling out and skewering fascism and antisemitism.
Elvis Presley shaking his hips and singing songs in Las Vegas, what more do you need to know? Directed by George Sidney and released in 1964, Viva Las Vegas follows Lucky Jackson (Presley) as he heads to Vegas to compete in a Grand Prix Race.
Released in 2012, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild follows six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) who is suddenly forced to become independent when her father falls ill, and the climate seems to go haywire alongside his illness. Hushpuppy must endure storms and outmaneuver fanciful beasts as she searches for her distant mother.
A Terry Gillam classic, 12 Monkeys is a time-travel-filled story that centers around attempts to prevent the 1996 release of a deadly virus that wipes out most of humanity. Starring Bruce Willis as James Cole, a prisoner sent back in time from 2030 to find a sample of the original virus to help scientists develop a cure, 12 Monkeys is a zany, complex film that sees James struggle to find information or get any cooperation into his mission aside from mental health patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt).
A super-stylized and silly film, House is a 1977 Japanese horror movie about a group of girls who are all eaten by a countryside manor one-by-one while on vacation. Cheesy and awesome in all the best ways, House does a great job giving each character their own sharp, distinguished personality as the audience gets to watch them react to the slow-building madness taking place around them.
Another silly look at the horror genre, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead follows Shaun (played by the film’s co-writer Simon Pegg), a regular dude who is all of a sudden caught unaware by a zombie apocalypse. A hilarious film full of physical comedy and impressive choreography, Shaun of the Dead sees Shaun and a small group of loved ones try to survive and wait out the zombie outbreak in their local pub.
A good old-fashioned 90s action movie, Jan de Bont’s Speed follows Officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) as he tries to rescue a hostage-filled bus that can’t fall under a certain speed or a series of explosives that have been strapped to it will go off. Thanks to charismatic performances from Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper, Speed’s intense yet silly concept comes off as awesome rather than farcical.
An adaptation of Dick King-Smith’s book, Babe is a family-friendly, silly movie about a pig whose dream is to do the work of a sheepdog. All of the different kinds of farm animals talk to each other and have relationships, but it’s really Babe (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) who carries the movie on his little shoulders.
In 1999, Universal Pictures launched a new movie franchise revolving around one of its classic monsters with The Mummy. Set in the 1920s, the movie follows adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Egyptologist Evelyn O’Connell (Rachel Weisz) as they explore and accidentally awaken an ancient mummy. The movie is full of exciting action and cheesy 90s goodness, but the chemistry between Fraser and Weisz is equally noteworthy.
A strong free press is one of the best defenses against government overreach, and the 1976 film All the President’s Men tells a real-world story of investigative reporting helping bring about substantial change. Based directly on Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s book about the events, the film follows Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Woodward (Robert Redford) as they investigate the details of the Watergate scandal and ultimately help bring down then-President Richard Nixon.
A Christopher Guest-directed mockumentary, Best in Show follows five dog owners before they enter a prestigious dog show. Stacked with an ensemble cast including Schitt’s Creek co-stars Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, Best in Show is full of hilarious dialogue and gorgeous dogs.
A Studio Ghibli classic, Hayao Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle is set in a fantastical, magic-filled world where modernish technology has a firm footing inside the various fictional kingdoms. The film follows Sophie, a young woman who is cursed and turned into an old woman, as she tries to reverse the curse while inadvertently getting swept up into a larger anti-war movement.
Wedding Crashers, a hilarious R-rated comedy that takes full advantage of its adult rating, follows friends John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) in their favorite time of year: wedding season. These two wedding crashers make a habit of creating personas for themselves and slipping into the best parties to pick up women, but things suddenly turn upside down when John falls for Claire (Rachel McAdams), the daughter of a U.S. Senator who is in a long-term relationship.
Long before he was caught potentially snoozing at the Golden Globes, Al Pacino was starring in dramatic, Oscar-winning films like Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon. The story tells the real story of a 1972 Brooklyn bank robbery and hostage situation initiated by John Wojtowicz (Pacino) and Sal Naturile (John Cazale). Nothing goes quite as expected though, as the robbers realize the bank just had all of its cash picked up and are forced to improvise their way out of the tense situation as the police start to arrive.
An HBO original, Cory Finley’s Bad Education is a dramedy that follows the real-world story of the largest public school embezzlement scheme in American history. Starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney as a Long Island school district superintendent and assistant superintendent, Bad Education sees the two characters who are used to being in control scramble to cover-up a massive embezzlement scheme from an inquiring student reporter.
Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, Argo is a historical drama that follows an elaborate scheme that was backed by the CIA in the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis. Tony Mendez (Affleck) is allowed into Tehran under the assumption that he is producing a sci-fi movie, but he is actually part of an elaborate scheme that is trying to rescue the six diplomats that were being held hostage at the time.
In a future Gotham City where an older Bruce Wayne is mentoring a younger Batman, everything is all of a sudden thrown out of whack when the Joker makes a shocking and very public return. Featuring a stellar voice ensemble and fantastic animation throughout, Return of the Joker is an emotionally charged, explosive film that pushes all of its characters and the resilience of the Bat-mythos to the limits.
A Martin Scorsese gangster film that touches on the cat-and-mouse game between organized crime and the police, The Departed is a twist-filled movie that makes the audience question everything and everyone’s motivations. The Departed won multiple Oscars, including Best Picture, and is an entertaining, tense ride full of stellar performances from actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.
Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman origin story and the superhero’s early days on the job, Batman Begins is a gritty, action-packed film that leans into the protagonist’s darker qualities. After an old figure from Bruce Wayne’s (Christian Bale) time training around the world reappears to wreak havoc in Gotham City, he is forced to push himself to the limits in order to save his home city before it’s completely destroyed.
A historical biography about President Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to abolish slavery through the 13th amendment, Steven Speilberg’s Lincoln is a detailed, beautiful drama. Rather than focus on every moment of the President’s life or his time in office, the film does the historical giant a great service by just focusing on the last four months of his life-giving audiences an interesting look at one of the most divisive times in American history.
A Star Is Born already appeared on the big screen three times before Bradley Cooper directed the 2018 remake, but this film strongly distinguishes itself from the pack. Starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as two musicians who meet at radically different points in their career, the film is an emotional rollercoaster about fame, addiction, and the power of love.
A modern Christmas classic, Jon Favreau’s Elf follows Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) as he makes a big journey from the North Pole to New York City to try and find his long-lost father. Full of over-the-top laughs and holiday heart, Elf is entertaining and worth watching any time of the year.
Unforgiven may star Clint Eastwood as a retired outlaw, but it’s markedly different from many of the actor’s other westerns. More of a revisionist western film than just a traditional entry in the genre, this Eastwood helmed movie sees William Munny (Eastwood) pause his farm life to return to the life of crime for one more job. As he tries to hunt down a murderer, he comes into conflict with Sheriff Daggett (Gene Hackman), a lawman who despises the vigilante justice that defines most western features.
Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread is a film about a fashion designer named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the intense, unhealthy relationship he develops with a woman named Alma Elson(Vicky Krieps). The meticulous film not only does a wonderful job exploring the fashion world of 1950s London, but it features the supposedly final performance Day-Lewis, who received an Oscar nom for his obsessive performance.
Starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as iconic real-world outlaw lovers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Bonnie & Clyde is a dramatic and slick flick set during the Great Depression. A counterculture touchstone that spurred what some call the New Hollywood era, the 1967 film is often praised for its openness in its presentation of sexuality and violence.
Released back in 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is set in the futuristic world of 2019 and follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) a former blade runner whose job was to track down humanoid replicants and “put them down” before they cause harm or havoc in human society. Based on the world created in Philip K. Dick’s Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner is a philosophical, noir crime story that works even separately from its sci-fi qualities.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Cast Away follows Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) after a plane crash leaves him stranded alone on a remote island. An excellent movie that tracks his attempts at survival and recovery while simultaneously tracking his mental deterioration, Cast Away earned Hanks an Academy Award nomination for his harrowing, believable performance.
An Antonine Fuqua helmed crime thriller, Training Day is a twist-filled look at fictional narcotics officers. Officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) is assigned to work with and be reviewed by Detective Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington), a corrupt cop whose activities are known to several on their beat. Full of intense action scenes and PCP-laced joints, Training Day will keep viewers on the edge of their seats as they fall deeper into the corrupt world of the Los Angeles Police Department.
A romantic-comedy released in 1967, Mike Nichols’ The Graduate follows Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who feels like he’s floating through a boring existence up until he develops an affair with an older woman who lives on his block. The film really captures the aimless feeling of post-college life and does a wonderful job adapting the novel written by Charles Webb shortly after he himself graduated from Williams College.
A star-studded adaptation of a French play, Dangerous Liaisons, is set in pre-Revolutionary Paris and sees Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) plot her romantic revenge on her former lover. Both to soothe her own pain and embarrass her former lover, she tries to arrange the seduction and hopeful disgrace of his new virgin fiancee Cécile de Volanges (Uma Thurman). The period piece is full of drama and low-key laughs, but it especially deserves praise for its excellent portrayal of mundane, jealous feelings among an aristocratic class that is normally shown as emotionless and stiff.
In 1993, the creative team behind Batman: The Animated Series was given the green-ligt to create a feature film. In Mask of the Phantasm, viewers get to see the Dark Knight’s earliest days as a masked vigilante from a different light thanks to the introduction of Andrea Beaumont, a romantic partner of Bruce’s whose affection makes him question his vengeful vow. Otherwise, the inclusion of Mark Hamill’s vengeance-seeking Joker and some old-fashioned mobster elements make this a must-watch for any fans of pulpy action stories.
A 1941 noir adaptation of the classic Dashiell Hammett novel, The Maltese Falcon follows private investigator Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) as he is suddenly forced into a deadly mission to discover a jewel-studded statue of a falcon. Full of femme fatale fueled intrigue and fantastic, moody cinematography, this John Huston-directed movie is a must-watch for anyone who appreciates classic detective stories.
Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is a samurai epic that follows seven ronin who assemble to combat a gang of bandits trying to steal a village’s crops after a harvest. An intricate production, Seven Samurai is an incredibly entertaining film, but it deserves extra praise for its excellent use of massive numbers of extras and constantly making sure every shot looks dynamic and eye-popping.
An Italian production co-written, directed, and starring Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful is a touching yet comedic story about a father and son who are forced into a holocaust concentration camp. As things become increasingly dark and dire, Guido Orefice (Benigni) relies on his goofy imagination and close-knit relationship with his son to try and shield the young boy from the horrible reality the two of them find themselves in.
Loosely based on Channing Tatum’s own experiences as a young stripper, Magic Mike follows 18-year old Michael “Magic Mike” Lane (Tatum) as he enters the male-strip club industry for the first time. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this ensemble film is incredibly dramatic and full of impressive choreography that will leave both fans of male strippers and non-fans entertained alike.
Want to know what’s inside this box? A fantastic movie. One of David Fincher’s darkest films, Se7en follows rookie detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) and veteran detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) as they investigate a string of murders all related to the seven deadly sins. Released in 1995, the movie is delightfully tense and full of twists that keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
The final entry in Peter Jackson’s adapted Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King is an emotional, action-packed conclusion. The Best Picture Oscar winner features some massive action sequences in addition to some smaller, quieter moments that make the viewer’s final outing with their favorite hobbits an extremely dramatic and rewarding film.
While this movie doesn’t feature any fantasy battles to lead a nation, Kevin Macdonald’s Last King of Scotland is another incredibly acted film that touches on the consequences of leading a nation and the violence that can accompany it. Loosely based on Giles Foden’s novel of the same name, the film follows Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a Scottish doctor who becomes Ugandan President Idi Amin’s (Forest Whitaker) personal physician. Despite Nicholas’ beliefs that Amin, who gained his power through a coup, is a good man, he slowly discovers that he is working for a dangerous individual who uses brute force to control his country.
The James Cameron penned and helmed sequel to Alien, Aliens also stars Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley as she and a crew of marines return to the moon base from the first film after a new group stationed there suddenly drops communications. This action-packed sequel not only garnered Weaver an Oscar nomination, but it opened the door for more lore that has carried the franchise forward to today.
Released in 2019, Queen & Slim sees Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) quickly have to hit the road together after a first-date goes terribly wrong with a racist cop at a traffic stop. The film was director Melina Matsoukas’ feature directorial debut, and she excels at making sure the movie stays energetic and engaging without ever straying from the racist themes that propel the movie forward.
Another Hayao Miyazaki classic, Princess Mononoke is a fantastical story about a young prince named Ashitaka who is cursed by a demon boar god and must find a cure before it kills him. A film about the symbiotic and splintering relationships between humans and nature, Princess Mononoke is both emotionally touching and visually stunning.
After actor Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) goes through a divorce and suddenly finds himself spending a lot less time with his kids, he disguises himself as an old-fashioned British nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire and gets to spend time with his kids from a completely different perspective. A heartwarming movie, Mrs. Doubtfire excels at being incredibly silly and also talking about important themes like family change and separation anxiety.
A sci-fi twist on the heist genre, Christopher Nolan’s Inception sees Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) lead a group of operatives on a dangerous mission inside a businessman’s dreams in an attempt to subconsciously plant an idea. Inception is an emotionally charged, action-packed film that gives each member of its impressive ensemble a moment to shine.
Decades before social media put creators and their fans in too close of contact, Rob Reiner’s adaptation of the Stephen King book Misery tells a harrowing story that explores the blurred boundaries between writers/celebrities and superfans. Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a famous novelist whose car spins out of control in a blizzard and he awakens to find himself under the care of Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), a nurse and obsessive fan. Instead of simply caring for the hurt man, Annie traps and torments Paul as she pushes her literary desires on the writer in this psychological thriller.
A stop-motion animated film, Corpse Bride follows Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), a nervous man on the verge of entering an arranged marriage, who accidentally marries a reanimated corpse named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter) while practicing his vows in a forest. Co-directed by Tim Burton, the film is full of beautiful set design and silly dialogue that makes it worth watching again and again.
Directed and co-written by Steve McQueen, Shame is an intimate look at sexual addiction. Starring Michael Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, a well off executive and long-term bachelor who struggles with keeping his sexual appetite under control, Shame sees what happens when his life is all of a sudden thrown out of whack by his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who is struggling with her own mental health issues.
George Romero’s first foray into zombie film-making, Night of the Living Dead is a slow-burning, delightful horror film. Originally released in 1968, the black-and-white film follows a group of strangers who suddenly find themselves trapped inside a farmhouse as a group of mindless killers gathers outside.
Steven Soderbergh’s stylized remake of the rat pack classic, Ocean’s Eleven sees Danny Ocean (George Clooney) put together a special team of skilled criminals to pull off a multi-casino heist in Las Vegas. Stacked with an incredible ensemble featuring everyone from Brad Pitt to Bernie Mac, the film is incredibly charming but also adept at keeping its viewers on their toes as the heist finally gets going.
One of the best mockumentaries of all time, This is Spinal Tap follows the fictional rock band Spinal Tap as they embark on their American tour and try to recapture some of their past success. Directed and co-written by Rob Reiner, the film not only nails the documentary aesthetic it was going for, but it also does a wonderful job at making fun of some of the ridiculous eccentricities that accompany bands on the road.
A serious musical biopic, Taylor Hackford’s Ray focuses on the roller-coaster life of Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx). Touching on everything from his emotional struggles being blind to intense drug use, the film isn’t afraid to shine a light on some of the artist’s harder moments. Foxx won the Academy Award for his fantastic leading performance and the film’s sound mixing team also won an Academy Award for their important work in this sound-emphasized project.
An adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an emotional story about a group of patients at a strict mental hospital whose lives are suddenly turned upside down by the introduction of Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a veteran who has been convicted of numerous crimes and is sent to the institution rather than prison. While Nicholson’s Oscar-winning performance is the heart of the movie, its impressive ensemble also features stellar performances from a young Danny Devito and Christopher Lloyd.
The film that really put Quentin Tarantino on the cultural map, Pulp Fiction is a 1994 neo-noir crime film that pokes fun of its pulpy ancestors while also telling an entertaining, multi-faceted story with numerous entertaining characters. Jumping back and forth between character perspectives and sequential chronology, the film is full of snappy dialogue and over-the-top violence that the director is now known for.
One of the films most recently released both in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously is X’s Judas and the Black Messiah, a story that explores the life of Freddy Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), a Black Panther Party leader who gained the attention of the FBI and was ultimately being betrayed by FBI informant William O’Neil (Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya recently won a supporting actor Golden Globe for playing the forward-thinking Hampton, and his fantastic performance alone is reason enough to watch.
The last year has been full of awkwardly tough days, but Kevin Smith’s first feature film Clerks follows Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) as he embarks on an all too familiar struggle: a long day at work when he’s not even supposed to be there. Released in 1994, Clerks is a straight-shooting, raunchy comedy about Dante, a convenience store employee, and his friend, a video-rental employee named Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), who talk crap to each other all day and do whatever they can to avoid actually working.
Directed and written by Ingmar Bergman, Persona is a Swedish psychological drama that follows Alma (Bibi Andersson), a nurse, and her famous patient Elisabet Vogler (Liv Ullmann), as they move to a cottage as part of her care after Elisabet suddenly stops speaking. As the trip unfolds, Elisabet starts sharing secrets with Alma, and the two form a deep emotional bond that causes the nurse’s understanding of her own self to start slipping in this black-and-white classic.
Say what you want about Suicide Squad, but at least it introduced Margot Robbie’s take on the zany Harley Quinn to the world. Directed by Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey is a colorful and humorous tour-de-force that pushes Harley into a leadership role as she joined forces with some of DC’s other classic street-level heroines to defeat the villainous Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
Written by and starring Sylvester Stalone, Rocky is a sports film that tells the inspiring rags-to-riches story of fictional boxer Rocky Balboa. An average joe, Rocky is all of a sudden given a shot at the world heavyweight championship and has to kick his old-fashioned training into overdrive in order to stand a chance at winning the title.
At this point, David Lynch’s name is associated with strange, dark stories, but the 1977 film Eraserhead was the first time feature audiences were exposed to the director’s strange ideas. A twisted metaphor about the stresses of fatherhood, Eraserhead is a tense and horrific story that pushes its main character Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) to his mental limits.
Struggling rocker Dewey Finn (Jack Black) finagles his way into a substitute music teacher gig and suddenly turns all of the private school students’ lives upside down when he decides to turn them into his new rock band for an upcoming contest. Directed by Richard Linklater, School of Rock is a hilarious film about the power of self-expression filled with some fantastic performances from its young ensemble members.
Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa, is an inter-weaving he-said-she-said story that tells multiple people’s accounts of an incident rotating around the murder of a man and the sexual assaulting of his wife. Like so many Kurosawa movies, Rashomon has an amazing cast, but it is really held together by an amazing, sometimes unhinged performance by the always iconic Toshiro Mifune as the outlaw Tajōmaru, one of the four individuals who share their interpretation of the incident that highlights their ideal selves.
Forget Mank, because I’m talking about Orson Welles’ debut feature film Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane tracks the life of media magnate Charles Foster Kane (portrayed by Welles himself) by cutting back and forth between flashbacks and various interviews that flesh out his feelings and motivations at different times in his life. Often praised for its editing, the film itself is laid out as a journalistic investigation as a young reporter is tasked with deciphering the meaning of Kane’s final word: Rosebud.
In 2001, director Peter Jackson brought Middle Earth to life for the first time in Fellowship of the Ring. The first of three Lord of the Rings films, Fellowship of the Ring may be lighter on the action side compared to its two sequels, but it does an amazing job at establishing the complex setting and exploring the emotional motivations of the large ensemble as they are tasked with destroying a legendary ring in a far-off volcano.
Wes Craven’s satirical yet seriously twisted take on the slasher genre that he helped establish, Scream follows a group of high school students after a mysterious killer strikes in their town. The film not only breaks down and examines the genre’s tropes, but it twists them just enough to make the film a refreshing film in its own right rather than an exhausting in-joke for long-term horror fans.
Even in “normal times” the political and business arenas are dirty places with multiple parties constantly vying for power and influence. In Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton, George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a fixer for a top legal firm who suddenly finds himself over his head as a colleague loses his mind while approaching the end of a year’s long, multi-million dollar lawsuit for a chemical conglomerate. Clayton is forced to put his ethics – and potentially own well-being- aside in order to get things back in order and finish the job.
Elia Kazan’s adaptation of the Pulitzer-Prize winning play of the same name, A Streetcar Named Desire follows Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) as she ditches her small-town setting and moves in with her sister and brother-in-law in New Orleans. Blanche’s southern belle charm ends up exacerbating marital problems in her new household, opening the door for some good old-fashioned 1950s conflict. An entertaining film in its own right, it is often credited with making the then-unknown Marlon Brando an A-list actor for playing Blanche’s host and brother-in-law.
With massive sci-fi blockbusters dropping on an almost annual basis now, it’s hard to understate just how big a deal The Matrix was when it first dropped in 1999. Directed by the Wachowski sisters, the film is set in a dystopian world where people are trapped in a simulated reality without them knowing it. It’s only when a hacker who goes by the name Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers the truth and joins a rebellion does humanity stand a chance to reassert their control over their own destinies. This cult classic is equal parts heady philosophy and awesome fight scenes.
When it was announced director Denis Villeneuve was making a sequel to Blade Runner, the internet nearly broke in half. Set 30 years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 is every bit as gritty and entertaining as the original, but it is also visually stunning and filled with great performances from original franchise star Harrison Ford and newcomer Ryan Gosling as K, a new blade runner who gets pulled into a large conspiracy involving the corporation that creates replicants.
Before superhero films dominated the box office and every streaming service, director Richard Donner brought the granddaddy of all superheroes, Superman, to the big screen for the first time in 1978. Superman is wonderfully charming and features an iconic score from John Williams, but the whole thing is propped up by Christopher Reeve’s fantastic performances as both Clark Kent and Superman that exemplify just why the big blue Boy Scout and his affable alter-ego are so easy to fall in love with.
A visually stunning adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, this Stanley Kubrick helmed psychological horror film follows the Torrance family after they suddenly move to the remote Overlook Hotel during the off-season. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), the patriarch of the family, takes a job as a caretaker there and thinks the isolation will allow him to spend some time writing. As the family settles in for the winter, things start to unfold around them as the hotel turns out to be a place filled with dark spirits that infect Jack and test the supernatural abilities of the young Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd).
Holocaust comedies isn’t necessarily a genre I seek out, but Taika Waitit’s Jojo Rabbit, falls right on the dramatic, goofy sweet spot. The 2020 Oscar winner for best-adapted screenplay, based on a book by Christine Leunen, Jojo Rabbit tells the tender story of Johannes “Jojo” Beltzer (Roman Davis ), a 10-year old member of the Hitler Youth, whose life and understanding of the world is suddenly thrown out of whack when he discovers his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their walls.
Not only does Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman feature some of the most beautiful gothic set designs I’ve ever seen, but it also unlocked the door for even more dark superhero stories to hit the big screen throughout the next two decades. Starring Michael Keaton as the titular hero, Batman follows the early days of Bruce Wayne’s crime-fighting career. While on patrol, Batman fails to save Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson), a mobster who falls into a vat of chemicals and is inadvertently transformed into a devilish crime lord named the Joker.
Maybe it’s cheating putting The Dark Knight this close to Batman, but the tonally different movies both do a wonderful job showing audiences just why the Caped Crusader is such an iconic, empathetic character. The second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy, The Dark Knight also sees Batman (Christian Bale) confront a chaos seeking Joker (Heath Ledger), but Ledger’s twister performance and the film’s ability to display the psychological torment protecting Gotham City has on Bruce Wayne helps it stand out from its counterparts.
A Ridley Scott classic, Alien is best described as a good-old-fashioned suspenseful horror film set on the Nostromo spaceship. Instead of zombies or a giant bear, the Nostromo crew is awakened from their cryo-chambers to deal with a sudden alien distress signal. As the crew investigates the signal, they discover a host of alien eggs and a dangerous, fully-grown creature that is driven to hunt down each and every one of them. The film has a fantastic ensemble, but it’s really Sigourney Weaver’s performance as the uber-badass Ripley who gives the audience someone to root for in the terrifying fight for survival.
A Brazilian production, City of God tells the multi-layered story of multiple people inside Rio de Janeiro suburbs as organized crime and the spread of drugs slowly take hold of people’s lives. Taking place between the late 1960s and 1980s, the film shifts between different point of view protagonists, allowing the audience to see certain figures from different lenses as the story unfolds, and is full of incredible performances that make it easy to empathize with every character as the action unfolds.
The final Hayao Miyazaki film on the list, Spirited Away follows a 10-year old girl named Chihiro Ogino whose life falls apart after she and her family move to a new city and inadvertently enter a different dimension while taking a shortcut. After stopping at a restaurant in this strange setting, her parents are turned into pigs by an evil witch, and Chihiro is forced to work for her until she can figure out how to free her parents and return back to the normal world.
The second Edgar Wright film on the list, Hot Fuzz is an action-comedy satire film that follows Office Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) as he shakes up a quaint English town with his intense dedication to the job. The hilarious film ultimately tells a compelling story about the evils associated with trying to keep things the same and not allowing areas and people to change or grow.
Not only is Mad Max: Fury Road the best and first Mel Gibson-less Mad Max film, it is one of the most visually stunning films ever made. Set in a desert wasteland where civilization has fallen and resources are scarce, Max (Tom Hardy) is suddenly dragged into the crossfires of the evil Immortan Joe when he crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who is smuggling away Joe’s five slave wives. Directed and co-written by franchise creator George Miller, Fury Road features incredible choreography and practical effects that make every action scene feel larger than life.
The center-piece in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, many fans consider The Two Towers to be the most entertaining chapter. With the Fellowship splintered, Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their quest to transport the ring to Mt. Doom as Mordor’s evil forces continue to gather and prepare for war against the Kingdom of Rohan. Featuring some incredible action and incredibly emotional scenes, The Two Towers is a must-watch for any cinephile.
A Stanley Kubrick adaptation of a novel by Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange sees Alex (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of a small gang who delight in spreading ultra-violence and sexual assaults, jailed and forced to submit to behavior modification therapies to be eligible to return to normal society. Full of shocking images, classical music, and incredible performances, A Clockwork Orange is a brutally honest social commentary that doesn’t hesitate to say how nasty people can be and the long-winded mental consequences of violence on victims.
Directed by Steven Speilberg and released in 1975, Jaws is often called the first summer blockbuster. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley, who co-wrote the screenplay, the film follows what happens after a giant great white shark starts attacking beach-going tourists during summer vacation. Jaws does a great job utilizing less is more, making the moments the shark does appear to feel much more terrifying and is full of fantastic performances from its ensemble cast.
A horror classic, The Exorcist is a tense, dramatic film all about the demonic possession of the young Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair ) and the exorcist attempts by investigating priests. While the visuals might not appease modern horror fans who are addicted to CGI jumpscares, The Exorcist still stands up as one of the most compelling, mentally terrifying films of all time.
The Producers is a witty, over the top story following Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) and Zero Mostel (Max Bialystock), two producers who devise a plan to release a failing musical all about Hitler in an accounting scheme that should land them more money than if they developed a hit show. Shockingly, this bold concept was actually Mel Brooks’ debut directorial film and landed him an Academy Award for best screenplay.
Another amazing Akira Kurosawa movie featuring another iconic Toshiro Mifune performance, Yojomibo follows a wandering ronin who happens into a small village on the brink of civil war between its rival gangs. The master swordsman plays both sides, using his charisma to make everyone believe he’s working for them, and does whatever he has to do to return peace to the village. Full of expressive performances and entertaining, tense action scenes, Yojimbo is one of the few movies I sincerely rate a 10/10 and tell everyone they have to watch.