Make Money: The Best Movies on HBO Max

HBO Max may be one of the newest platforms to enter the streaming world, but already it’s one of the best. Not only does the service offer a ton of exclusive content related to its hit properties — like Game of Thrones, The Wireand The Sopranos — it also has a ton of fantastic films strengthening its online catalog.

Thanks to HBO’s partnerships with standout companies and networks like TCM, Studio Ghibli, and DC, the service has an absolutely stacked selection of films you’re able to choose from.

Whether you’re in the mood for a classic black and white monster movie from the ‘30s, a beloved anime film from Hayao Miyazaki, or a recent blockbuster from this past summer, there’s no end to the number of great films you’re able to choose from.

From universally praised films like Donnie Darko and Chinatown to celebrated modern films like Drive My Car and Spotlighthere are some of the best films you can find currently streaming on HBO Max.

Updated: January 24.

Drama: Drive My Car

Drive My Car was quite possibly the most celebrated film that came out in 2021. Adapted from a short story by the award-winning Haruki Murakami, it’s a tense and expertly-made meditation on grief and the healing process, built around a narrative that’s both complex and thought-provoking.

Upon receiving an offer to direct a theatrical production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanyaa brilliant actor and director (Hidetoshi Nishijima) experiences intense remorse over his wife’s recent death.

At nearly three hours, Drive My Car is obviously on the longer side. But like all the best movies, the movie’s runtime coasts by, fully absorbing you in its main storyline and holding you in rapt attention. Lulling you with its calming imagery, its heaviest scenes are enough to knock the breath out of your lungs. Nishijima and Tōko Miura display everything going through their characters’ minds without ever having to utter a word.

Horror: Donnie Darko

One of the most frustratingly open-ended movies ever made, Donnie Darko is nevertheless considered a cult masterpiece among hardcore horror buffs. Its ambiguous narrative, dreamlike tone, and surreal imagery make it either a film you either emphatically love or intensely hate (but no matter what, you’re bound to have some sort of emotional reaction after the fact).

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an emotionally despondent young man who lives in a world mixed between fact and fantasy. As his parents try to help him receive psychiatric support, Donnie starts experiencing vivid hallucinations of a mysterious man in a bunny suit (James Duval) who warns Donnie of a coming apocalyptic event.

It’s helpful to think of Donnie Darko as the film equivalent of Twin Peaks or Silent Hill. Despite its allusive, hard-to-penetrate narrative, it serves as a clever combination between science fiction, horror, surrealism, and subtle characteristics of a teen movie.

Comedy: 9 to 5

If you’ve ever worked a nine-to-five job (or really any job at all), it’s likely you’ve imagined some elaborate fantasy where you finally told off your boss. Channeling every working person’s adult daydream is 9 to 5the ultimate escapist movie for anyone who has to deal with a domineering employer.

Tired of being abused by their sexist, ill-tempered, arrogant boss (Dabney Coleman), three underappreciated women (Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton) at a large company decide to overthrow him, secretly installing themselves as surrogate managers of the workplace.

If you’ve never seen 9 to 5it’s almost a given you’ve heard Parton’s Academy Award-winning theme song of the same name. As catchy as Parton’s song is, we recommend tuning into this underrated 1980 gem — a satisfying and succinct comedy ensemble if ever there was one.

Romance: Chungking Express

Commonly named one of the most heartfelt romance movies there is, Chungking Express offers not one, but two love stories in its breezy hour-and-a-half-long runtime, each of which are as tender and emotionally gripping as Casablanca or Annie Hall.

Split into two sections, each part of Chungking Express follows separate policemen (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) as they search for love in their lives, finding it in the arms of an elusive woman smuggling drugs (Brigitte Lin) and a peculiar convenience store worker (Faye Wong).

It’s not often you see a movie succeed in telling two stories at once. But like most successful anthology movies, Chungking Express alternates between its two central narratives with ease and precision, allowing you to easily bond with every character and relate to the storylines presented in each section of the movie.

Biopic: Spotlight

In the early 2000s, the staff of The Boston Globe uncover a lengthy history of cover-ups by the Catholic Church related to allegations of priests sexually assaulting children in the city.

The investigation on the decades-long sexual misconduct by Catholic priests was one of the most shocking exposés ever conducted by a media organization. Facing continuous pressure to silence their story, the intrepid team at The Boston Globe continued with their probing, unearthing a legacy of startling allegations against official members of the Church.

Providing a snapshot of this investigative team is the film Spotlight. Relying on an ensemble cast of veteran actors (Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci), the movie portrays the earliest forays of The Globe’s reporters as they unknowingly stumble into the biggest story of the time.

Musical: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

It’s strange to think that a director as famously off-beat as Tim Burton is so effective at handling musicals. Taking Stephen Sondheim’s hit Broadway play to the big screen, Burton’s aesthetic made for an ideal fit with the gothic world of Sweeney Todd — a sharply tuned musical tragedy with elements of a slasher blended in.

In Victorian London, the formerly exiled barber Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) returns home, seeking revenge against the power-mad judge (Alan Rickman) who banished him from England in order to steal his wife.

Perhaps the darkest movie Burton has ever worked on, Burton uses his explicit R-rating to its fullest extent in this film. While some sections of the movie might be hard to stomach, the main narrative of the film and the cast’s performances make it an effective adaptation of Sondheim’s musical.

Mystery: Chinatown

On the surface, Chinatown may seem to have all the glamor and glitz of a classic ‘40s noir film, yet it’s anything but. Far darker, more biting, and incredibly shocking even by today’s standards, it’s a gritty and cynical movie that makes classic Bogart films seem upbeat by comparison.

Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a suave private detective working in 1930s Los Angeles. Hired to follow a man accused of cheating on his wife, Gittes enters a labyrinth of corruption, putting him at the mercy of the city’s most elite officials who want to keep their secrets buried.

Largely considered to have the greatest script ever written, Chinatown comes across as a postmodern takedown of the hard-boiled noir genre. Tackling subjects seen as taboo then and now, it’s a wildly inventive if frequently disturbing mystery film.

Classic: The 400 Blows

The crown jewel of the French New Wave, The 400 Blows is one of the most important international films born out of the 1950s. Prior to its release, no film had ever broken quite so many rules, reexamining what a movie can be and what subjects it can explore within its limited runtime.

Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is a young teenage boy in Paris who loves trouble. Ignored by his bickering parents and misunderstood by his teachers, he spends his days escaping into adolescent adventures in the city.

The French equivalent of Rebel Without a Cause, The 400 Blows was responsible for ushering in a new movement not just in French film, but in the entire world of cinema. Lacking any semblance of a plot, it’s a slow, dramatic film that touches upon the more sobering aspects of childhood, from fear and loneliness to parental fighting and authoritative adults who emphasize conformity.

Family: Kung Fu Panda

There aren’t many DreamWorks movies able to match the popularity of the Shrek franchise, Kung Fu Panda being a rare exception. While each film in the franchise thus far boasts its own individual sets of strengths, the original Kung Fu Panda is more than enough to please viewers, regardless of your age.

In a version of ancient China populated by anthropomorphic animals, Po (Jack Black) — a panda bear noodle chef and an avid fan of kung fu — is unexpectedly named the Dragon Warrior by the wizened master, Oogway (Randall Duk Kim). With a limited time to complete his training, Po is mentored by Oogway’s pupil (Dustin Hoffman), building up to a climactic battle between Po and the fugitive kung fu master, Tai Lung (Ian McShane).

A rare children’s film with a heart, Kung Fu Panda effortlessly vaults between an abundance of laughs, some first-rate action, and plenty of grounded emotion. For audiences young and old, it’s a creative and original martial arts parody with some surprisingly strong undertones and themes permeating throughout.

Underrated: De Palma

Brian De Palma is rarely singled out as the greatest director of his generation. Coming of age during the influential New Hollywood movement, De Palma was a filmmaker who gained prominence the same time his close friends George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese were redefining the American landscape of film.

Unfortunately, De Palma’s later career undermined the success of his earliest projects (Carrie, Blow Out, Dressed to Kill, Phantom of the Paradise), leading to his relative lack of success compared to colleagues like Spielberg. Thankfully, Noah Baumbach’s touching documentary, Palmsheds light on the director’s career and influence in Hollywood.

Comprised almost exclusively of De Palma discussing his start as a director and each of his many films over the years, Palm is just as much an examination of the filmmaker’s rise and fall as it is a portrait of the oppressive and incredibly demanding Hollywood system.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).

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