This past May, the HBO Max streaming service rebranded as Max, creating a single platform offering content from the many entertainment companies under the Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) corporate umbrella. By dropping "HBO" from the name, WBD hoped to highlight that the new Max service was more than just films, with thousands of hours of programming from networks including HGTV, TLC, Food Network, and The Travel Channel. With 18 "hubs" of categorized content, there is now literally something for everyone on the expanded streaming platform.
The main draw of Max, however, remains the movie libraries of HBO and Turner Classic Movies. According to JustWatch, there are nearly 2,200 movies offered on Max, less than half of what Netflix offers. However, what Max lacks in volume, it makes up for in the sheer quality of classic films. We found Max carries 30 of the American Film Institute's Top 100 Films of All Time, far more than any other streaming service.
We've ranked the top movies available to stream on Max below. Rather than picking films on the AFI list, we chose a variety of movies from a number of genres and film eras, including crowd-pleasing blockbusters.
Updated on August 11th, 2023, by Vic Medina: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.
30 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey certainly takes its time to unfold its epic story of man's first encounter with extraterrestrial life. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood play astronauts en route to Jupiter to explore the origins of an alien artifact.
Along for the ride is the spacecraft's computer, HAL-9000, which Kubrick used to warn us over half a century ago of the dangers of relying on technology. If you want to jump down a philosophical rabbit hole, search online for discussions of the film's symbolism and meaning, particularly the infamous ending.
29 American Honey (2016)
A truly fascinating coming-of-age tale about American teens and teens across the world who only yearn for freedom and belonging, American Honey follows Star, a rebellious teenage girl who, on a whim, joins a traveling sales crew cruising across America’s heartland. Star has had a troubled home life and has lived in a province all her life, so it is natural that she finds this new escapism and instant connection with the crew’s main guy, Jake, to be healthy and comfortable.
As they crisscross the dusty backroads, visiting towns and encountering colorful characters, Star discovers adventure, liberation, and first love. The movie is visually very stunning and it also has an empowering feminist message. What’s more, Shia LaBeouf and Sasha Lane elevate this poetic tale with their restless and relatable performances.
28 Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall is the film that won the 1977 Best Picture Oscar instead of Star Wars, which still rubs fans of the space opera the wrong way. It's hard to deny the timeless appeal of Woody Allen's comedy, however. It's an insanely witty look at love and life and how people manage to ruin both.
The film features an effervescent Diane Keaton in her Oscar-winning role as Annie. She's the soulmate of the painfully neurotic Alvy Singer (Allen), who sabotages their relationship with his many character flaws. Watching Allen constantly break the fourth wall to speak with the audience is comedic perfection, and he would go on to win Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
27 The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
The Best Picture nominee and winner of many other awards, this poignant drama is set on a small island off the coast of Ireland in the 1920s. The Banshees of Inisherin tells the story of two lifelong best friends, Pádraic and Colm, who find themselves at an impasse when Colm abruptly decides to end their friendship. Pádraic is a kind and good-natured farmer and Colm is his neighbor. As Pádraic tries desperately to rekindle their relationship, Colm remains resolute and sends the close-knit community of the island into confusion and turmoil.
From the premise itself, one can hear the darkly comedic notes present in the film. And yet, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson imbue the simple story with deeper themes and subtle emotion as they navigate the many struggles of human connection, and the ending of Banshees of Inisherin is a haunting and poetic study of 20th-century wars and divisions in Ireland.
26 Blood Simple (1984)
The Coen brothers' first film is a neo-noir masterpiece of tension with an incredible early performance from the great Frances McDormand (Joel Coen's wife). Blood Simple is a modern tale of deception and betrayal.
The dark Texas thriller follows a businessman who hires a disturbing scumbag (played to perfection by M. Emmet Walsh) to kill his wife, and things go horribly (and sometimes humorously) wrong in the fantastic entry in the Coen's filmography.
25 Braveheart (1995)
Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning film Braveheart is old-school epic filmmaking at its finest. The film dramatizes the true story of William Wallace, the famed rebel who fought for Scotland's freedom from the brutal English king Edward the Longshanks in the late 1200s and early 1300s.
It remains Gibson's best film as a director, which is truly saying something, considering he directed both The Passion of the Christ and Hacksaw Ridge in later years. It may not be a totally historically accurate film, but it's best to not worry about the details and focus on the fantastic script by Randall Wallace, the cinematography by John Toll, and the legendary score by the late James Horner.
24 Casablanca (1942)
Set against the backdrop of French Morocco in World War II, Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick, an American expatriate who owns a café in the city of Casablanca. Both the Nazis and the French authorities are present in the city, and Rick rides a fine line of neutrality while allowing French Resistance to use his café to organize their efforts. Rick soon realizes his former lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) is in his café with her husband Victor (Paul Henreid), who is being hunted by the Nazis. As we see Rick and Ilsa's past relationship play out in a series of flashbacks, the question becomes whether Rick will help Victor escape to America, or allow him to be captured, giving him a second chance to be with Ilsa.
Bogart was not the ideal romantic lead, but in Casablanca, he and Bergman are electric, and the supporting cast is equally good. The film's ending is legendary, but the most powerful moment comes early in the third act when the diners at Rick's drown out the singing of Nazi officers by singing "La Marseillaise." For a film released at the height of the war, it is a moment of defiance that resonated with audiences then and carries equal weight even now. Casablanca is more than a romantic masterpiece — it's one of the greatest films ever made.
23 The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman fans define themselves by which actor is their favorite live-action Caped Crusader. Some swear by Adam West's TV icon, while others make a worthy argument that Michael Keaton's gothic turn in Tim Burton's film was groundbreaking. In 2008, however, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight features Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne. His portrayal works because everything around him is perfect, and the film is an achievement that stood apart from every cinematic incarnation of Batman before or since.
Combining the crime genre with comic book elements, Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins also gave us Heath Ledger's Joker, a charismatic, twisted genius who only wanted to see the world burn. Ledger earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, although he died unexpectedly before he was even nominated.
22 Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, is adapted from a Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Despite being a far from perfect-adaptation, its execution outweighs the originality, making it one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. When an alien race starts an unrelenting assault on Earth, destroying every nation with each passing day, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), who has never seen a battle up close, is thrown into a suicide mission and dies abruptly.
However, he soon finds himself in a time loop where he lives the same day over and over until he decides to utilize the bizarre phenomenon to nip the enemies in the bud, ridding the Earth of the threat with the help of Special Forces warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). With both the main cast members being great actors and giving their hundred percent in the film, its seemingly endless action and thrills contribute only a small portion to its success.
21 Enter the Dragon (1973)
Enter the Dragon is an iconic martial arts classic with cultural impact that helped launch a global craze for the genre, and established Bruce Lee as an international legend. Starring Lee himself as a Shaolin Martial artist who is sent undercover by British Intelligence to investigate a mysterious tournament, we’re introduced to the host – evil Han – on a secret island.
As the story unfolds and Lee confronts a gallery of mad henchmen and lethal combatants, the film brilliantly showcases his lightning-fast speed and unpredictable but equally astonishing fighting techniques and other styles. Another talent that cannot be ignored is Jim Kelly, who gives his best as the second lead. Moreover, the movie has an incredible early score by funk legend Lalo Schifrin to make the fights and action more interesting than it already is.
20 First Reformed (2017)
Paul Schrader's late masterpiece First Reformed takes a lot of the Taxi Driver writer's perpetual themes (the sacred and the profane, lonely men discovering a transcendental connection) and perfects them.
A loose remake of Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light and Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest, the film has wonderful performances from Ethan Hawke as a depressed priest and Amanda Seyfried as a recent widow. Hawke's tortured character in this dark, beautiful drama is a perfect stand-in for the modern world.
19 Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
Jim Jarmusch's impeccably cool '90s film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, is a brilliant blend of hip-hop, gangster film, and samurai classic. The movie studies Forest Whitaker's lone urban samurai.
The titular character gets involved in an overcomplicated hit job that threatens his life. With a killer score from RZA and great performances all around, Ghost Dog is a truly cool, melancholic, and suspenseful meditation on film genre and isolation.
18 Gone with the Wind (1939)
When it comes to grand, old-Hollywood epics, Best Picture winner Gone with the Wind still reigns supreme. Vivien Leigh won an Oscar for Best Actress playing the feisty, iconic character of Scarlett O'Hara.
Hattie McDaniel took home Best Supporting Actress playing Mammy, the sympathetic voice of reason to both Scarlett and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable, who lost his bid for Best Actor). The film's problematic racial content caused Max to add a video introduction to the film, which provides more context.
17 Hereditary (2018)
Hereditary, featuring The Sixth Sense’s Toni Collette, demonstrates what horror is actually capable of when taken seriously, with genuine nightmares akin to the old-fashioned films. Most of the time, it feels like two separate films, with one half being peak horror while the other is very much like a brooding drama, but in a good sense.
In the film, Annie (Toni Collette) and her family are mourning the loss of her mentally ill mother, and each turn to different means to handle their grief. However, their discoveries about ancestry unravel some terrifying secrets that lead to a sinister presence, worsening their situation. Hereditary is a slow-burn horror that takes its time to pick up the pace, but it creeps the hell out of you, which is why it is a must-see.
16 Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
A spy thriller based on a hit comic book might not seem all that impressive, given how every modern espionage movie is often compared to James Bond films. However, there is no comparison with Kingsman: The Secret Service, as it is entirely unique, embracing the British heritage to the fullest while featuring some of the most insane and brutal action scenes we’ve ever seen in film history.
The story is about a young boy named Gary Eggsy, who has to deal with a creep living with his mother after his father dies abruptly. After doing something stupid to one of the creep’s friends, he gets into trouble and is saved by a man named Harry, who reveals himself as his father’s friend. Apparently, Eggsy’s father died while saving the world and is part of a secret organization named “The Kingsman.” When Harry presents him with the same opportunity, Eggsy accepts it without hesitation and embarks on a new adventure fraught with violence and responsibilities.
15 The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Yes, this is technically three movies, and yes, there are technically better-reviewed films offered on Max than Peter Jackson's epic adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic books. However, The Lord of the Rings is a must-see, landmark film series.
It's perfect for anyone looking for a supremely entertaining weekend movie marathon. Max offers The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003) in both its theatrical versions and extended versions, which dive deeper into the lore of Middle Earth.
14 Modern Times (1936)
The films of Charlie Chaplin have been largely forgotten by today's new generation of film fans, but thankfully, Max has most of his available to stream and discover. Modern Times is a great introduction to Chaplin's "Little Tramp," offering some iconic scenes and a surprisingly timely story about worker's rights.
Chaplin plays an assembly line worker at a cold, impersonal corporation. As automation takes over, the Tramp goes manic in an attempt to keep up, and in one hilariously ironic scene, literally becomes a cog in a company machine. Paulette Goddard is a vision as the feisty young girl struggling to stay off of the streets, who falls in love with the Tramp.
13 Moneyball (2011)
What better time to watch a baseball movie than summer at its peak and the season at its finest? As far as underdog stories go, Moneyball is an excellent one. It follows Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane and his ardent attempts to assemble a baseball team on a shoestring budget. But the catch is that he wishes to employ a computer-generated analysis in order to acquire the players previously overlooked by the traditional selection process.
Brad Pitt stars as the progressive, forward-thinking Beane who must stay strong as he fights the long-standing baseball conventions to pursue a new strategy that goes against the “gut” instincts of his scouts. However, the movie is a success because of the way it celebrates the spirit of innovation and offers chances to methods, and eventually players, others often fail to.
12 Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
There are some who might wonder why Napoleon Dynamite is on a list with some of the greatest films ever made. These people have obviously never seen the film and reveled in the cinematic delights of Jared Hess' quirky comedic wonder. Set in the odd but magical land of Idaho, high schooler Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) seeks acceptance, companionship, and a chance to try out his sweet nunchuck skills.
When he befriends a new student (Efrem Ramirez) and an aspiring fashion designer/photographer (Tina Majorino), at least some of his dreams begin to come true. The film's devoted cult following is enough to put the film on this list, which also needed more comedies on it, and if we get to choose, we vote for Pedro.
11 The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc is a haunting silent film masterpiece that reiterates an important event in history. We see the trial and condemnation of Joan of Arc for heresy in 1431. Renee Jeanne Falconetti gives an emotional, raw, and resonant performance as the teenage peasant girl who hears heavenly voices that urge her to do something and save France from the clutches of England. She is charged with witchcraft by the authorities and is threatened by this spiritual presence, and eventually, Joan of Arc retracts her confession.
For the time, the film’s use of lighting and framing is truly commendable. Moreover, Falconetti has a way with her facial expression that leaves a lasting effect on you. The film delivers themes of oppression and the saving grace of truth in a way that remains fiercely relevant even today.