True to its name, HBO has always aimed to bring the box office into people’s homes. That’s easier than ever now, thanks to the network’s three streaming options: HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max. At any given time, the services offer hundreds of films, from obscure documentaries to summer blockbusters — but not all of them qualify as “great.” If you feel like streaming a movie and don’t want to waste your time on something subpar, we’ve rounded up the best movies currently on HBO.
Additional streaming guides
- Best HBO series
- Best movies on HBO Max
- Best shows on HBO Max
- Best movies on Netflix
- Best movies on Amazon Prime
Continuing the tradition of Seth Rogen dating women so, so far out of his league, Long Shot is another fine example of the chubby, charming underdog winning the girl in the end. When writer Fred Flarsky (Rogen) meets presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), he slowly comes to realize that she is his former babysitter, whom he was completely smitten with. The awkward recognition leads to Fred joining Charlotte’s team as a speechwriter and, as you might expect, an “unexpected” romance blooms. Sure, it’s predictable, but it’s also raunchy, hilarious, and unleashes surprising chemistry between the two stars that makes for a lot of fun.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%Genre: ComedyStars: Charlize Theron, Seth RogenDirector: Jonathan LevineRating: RRuntime: 115 minutes
After the success of 7 Days in Hell, a mockumentary about a legendary tennis match between two fictional idiots, the Andy Samberg-led team earned a second go-round via HBO. The result? Tour de Pharmacy, a story that spoofs the Tour de France by focusing on competitors’ use of performance-enhancing substances in the early 1980s. Samberg returns to play Nigerian rider Marty Hass, while Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore, Daveed Diggs, and John Cena appear as the other made-up competitors. Tour de Pharmacy is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and the concept is bolstered by the inclusion of several veteran actors — we won’t spoil the hilarious surprises here — who play the “modern-day” versions of the film’s protagonists. Lance Armstrong’s cameo doesn’t hurt, either.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%Genre: ComedyStars: Andy Samberg, Orlando Bloom, Freddie HighmoreDirector: Jake SzymanskiRating: Not RatedRuntime: 50 minutes
“Donde esta la biblioteca, Pedro?” Globo Gym magnate White Goodman (Ben Stiller) may be a real jerk who is hell-bent on expanding his high-end fitness empire to Mexico but he’s also a fantastic dodgeball team recruiter. Dodgeball is one of a slew of heavyweight comedies from the mid-aughts that continues to impact the zeitgeist in quotable lines, ridiculous attire, and themed events. Vince Vaughan stars as Peter La Fleur, owner of the somewhat decrepit Average Joe’s gymnasium, where local misfits go to work out judgment-free. But when La Fleur can no longer pay the bills, Goodman threatens to buy Average Joe’s and shame its patrons out onto the street. Rather than go down without a fight, La Fleur and his teammates enter a dodgeball tournament, hoping to win enough prize money to save the beloved gym. Goodman, however, assembles his own team to ensure Average Joe’s come up short.
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%Genre: ComedyStars: Ben Stiller, Christine Taylor, Vince VaughnDirector: Rawson Marshall ThurberRating: PG-13Runtime: 98 minutes
Based on the popular manga series Gunnm and its original video animation adaptation in 1993, Battle Angel, Alita: Battle Angel was produced by sci-fi legend James Cameron and directed by Grindhouse stalwart Robert Rodriguez from a script by him and Shutter Island writer Laeta Kalogridis. With a team like that, fans had pretty huge expectations. It didn’t quite meet those high critical and fan standards, but Alita: Battle Angel is nonetheless a highly engaging, electric visual experience that pushes the boundaries of special effects. Set several centuries in the future, the film follows cyborg Alita, who is abandoned in a scrapyard of Iron City and revitalized by the compassionate cyber-doctor Ido. Although she has no memory of who she is or recognition of the world as she finds it, Alita soon discovers she has immense powers that she doesn’t fully understand and sets off on a journey to navigate her new life and understand her past.
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%Genre: Action & Adventure, RomanceStars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer ConnellyDirector: Robert RodriguezRating: PG-13Runtime: 125 minutes
Chris O’Dowd (IT Crowd, The Incredible Jessica James) stars as Ray, a time-travel nerd who is fired from his job at an amusement park after terrifying a group of children, in this quirky British film. While drowning his sorrows in a pub with some friends (Dean Lennox Kelly and Marc Wootton), Ray meets a woman (Anna Faris) who claims to be from the future. This run-in sets the stage for an adventure of a lifetime, which has the trio attempting to navigate a time-travel conundrum, avoid alternate versions of themselves, and find out who is trying to kill them. While this HBO-produced comedy may not be the most prestigious film out there, its quirky humor and dissection of classic science fiction tropes make for a funny and engaging film-watching experience.
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%Genre: Comedy, Science FictionStars: Chris O’Dowd, Marc Wootton, Dean Lennox KellyDirector: Garreth CarrivickRating: PG-13Runtime: 83 minutes
In 2001, Pearl Harbor practically redefined what a movie could be. Director Michael Bay provided a glimpse into his action movie future with his depiction of the date that would “live in infamy.” The movie won a Best Sound Editing Oscar for its pulse-pounding action sequences illustrating the sheer terror of an air raid. With remarkable special effects that stand the test of time and emotional performances from Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Josh Hartnett, Pearl Harbor weaves a nice yarn of American life on the eve of Pearl Harbor and the gut-wrenching haymaker that was required to draw America into the war.
Rotten Tomatoes: 24%Genre: Action & Adventure, Drama, RomanceStars: Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsdale, Josh HartnettDirector: Michael BayRating: PG-13Runtime: 183 minutes
Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman whose cancer cells, biopsied during treatment for cervical cancer in 1951, became one of the most important cell lines in medical research. Lacks’ family was not made aware of her unwitting contributions to modern medicine, however, until 1975. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is based on the nonfiction book of the same name, which documents the story of Lacks (Renee Elise Goldsberry) as told by author Rebecca Skloot (portrayed by Rose Byrne in the film) and Lacks’ daughter, Deborah Lacks (Oprah Winfrey). The HBO film was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for an Outstanding Television Movie, and Winfrey went on to be nominated for multiple awards for her role in the film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%Genre: DramaStars: Oprah Winfrey, Rose ByrneDirector: George C. WolfeRating: Not RatedRuntime: 94 minutes
This biopic of legendary rock band Queen was a Best Picture nominee and earned four Oscar wins, including Best Actor for Rami Malek’s electric performance as Freddie Mercury. The film follows the formation and ascendance of Queen, with a special focus on Mercury, who became a rock and cultural icon for his flamboyant style and truly awe-inspiring voice. The film captures Mercury’s voice with a combination of Malek, clips of Mercury himself signing, and clips from Mercury impersonator Marc Martel, producing a sound that’s both deeply familiar yet original. Culminating with Queen’s iconic performance at the 1985 Live Aid concert, the film’s two hours crescendo with one of the most impressive and beautiful musical set pieces in 21st-century film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%Genre: DramaStars: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym LeeDirector: Bryan SingerRating: PG-13Runtime: 134 minutes
NBA star Ray Allen turns in a surprisingly compelling performance in Spike Lee’s classic about a star high school basketball player left to find for himself after his father is sent away to prison. Jake Shuttleworth (Denzel Washington) spent the last six years in prison after accidentally killing his wife during a violent domestic dispute and, in that time, his son Jesus has blossomed into one of the most highly-touted basketball prospects in the nation — so highly-touted that the governor offers Jake a week of parole in order to convince Jesus to attend the governor’s alma mater. If he succeeds, Jake will receive a shortened sentence.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%Genre: DramaStars: Denzel Washington, Ray AllenDirector: Spike LeeRating: RRuntime: 138 minutes
The most recent remake of the classic Hollywood story is one of its most successful to date. Nominated for eight Oscars, including a win for Best Original Song, A Star is Born is an emotional tour de force, ferociously pushed onward by awe-inspiring performances by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Cooper, who also directed the movie, proves a capable singer while Lady Gaga demonstrates excellent acting chops while infusing the movie with iconic music. If you didn’t hear “Shallow” on the radio when the movie was in theaters, you’ve definitely heard someone sing it at karaoke night. A Star is Born is more than a movie about music, it’s more than a romance, and it’s more than a dramatic tale about fame. It’s just darn good.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Genre: DramaStars: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam ElliottDirector: Bradley CooperRating: RRuntime: 135 minutes
A thoroughly modern adaptation of Richard Wright’s groundbreaking novel, this HBO original tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African-American man living in Chicago who stumbles into a frightening new world of wealth and whiteness. Despite the new age clubs, music, and drugs, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the 1940 novel, yet doesn’t feel dated or coerced — arguably the most damning and upsetting aspect of the film. It’s a harrowing reminder that, while times change, some haven’t changed nearly enough.
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%Genre: DramaStars: Ashton Sanders, Margaret Qualley, Nick RobinsonDirector: Rashid JohnsonRating: Not RatedRuntime: 110 minutes
You thought catching augmented reality Pokémon with your smartphone in your backyard was cool? The fictional world of Rhyme City will blow your mind. In Detective Pikachu, Rhyme City is a place where humans and Pokémon are united, bonded to one another sort of like a dog and its human. They work together to fight crime, put out fires, and govern their world. There’s a beautiful harmony. However, when ace detective Harry Goldman goes mysteriously missing, his amnesiac Pokémon partner, Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), discovers Harry’s son, Tim, can actually understand him. Together, they set out to discover what really happened to Harry and, in the process, uncover a deep, dark conspiracy that threatens to unravel the balance between humans and Pokémon forever. With realistic-looking CGI-generated Pokémon in nearly every shot, this movie is a visual delight, and the story holds water enough for fans of all ages.
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%Genre: Action & Adventure, Kids & FamilyStars: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn NewtonDirector: Rob LettermanRating: PGRuntime: 104 minutes
Fans of Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, and the Scripps National Spelling Bee will love this charming, uplifting family dramedy about an 11-year-old girl from South Los Angeles who aims to compete in the National Spelling Bee. Although bright, Akeelah is unmotivated, and her peers and teachers don’t exactly expect much of her. However, when an altercation with her stern English teacher (Fishburne) reveals a knack for spelling and memorization, Akeelah is encouraged to pursue this surprising new talent. As you might expect, the results come with loads of smiles and positive vibes.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%Genre: Drama, Kids & FamilyStars: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Keke PalmerDirector: Doug AtchisonRating: PGRuntime: 112 minutes
Not to be confused with SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water, this film was made at the peak of SpongeBob’s popularity in the early aughts and is entirely animated. (That is, SpongeBob does not go live-action.) In this family-friendly adventure under the sea, Mr. Krabs stands accused of stealing King Neptune’s crown, and only SpongeBob and his trusty starfish sidekick Patrick can clear his name. The film progresses like the longest, most fun SpongeBob episode you’ve ever seen, standing as the gold standard of Nickelodeon animated shows adapted to movies. This is a great one for the whole family, especially for young parents who grew up with SpongeBob themselves.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%Genre: Comedy, Kids & FamilyStars: Tom Kenny, Jeffrey Tambor, Rodger BumpassDirector: Stephen HillenburgRating: PGRuntime: 90 minutes
One of the most acclaimed and discussed films from the past year, 2019’s Joker isn’t for the faint of heart. There are moments that would disturb even the most hardened sensibilities within people. That being said, Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the iconic villain is impossible to look away from, as there’s something surprisingly human about Arthur Fleck’s descent into madness and as he becomes the Joker. Fleck’s inability to control his laughter creates a maniacal character rooted in deep sadness, one who can’t get out of his own way despite often having good intentions. There’s a reason Joker ascended the usual bias against comic book films, earning 11 Oscar nominations and a Best Actor win for Phoenix.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%Genre: Drama, crimeStars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De NiroDirector: Todd PhillipsRating: RRuntime: 122 minutes
One of the funniest films of the last decade, 2011’s Bridesmaids raunchily runs through a series of hilarious scenarios, led by some of the greatest female comedians alive. Single woman Annie Walker (Kristen Wiig) is asked to be the maid of honor at Lillian Donovan’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding, a role she accepts, becoming part of the wedding party along with Donovan’s eccentric and wild bridesmaids. Jealousy and distrust are rampant among this group of women, leading to incidents of backstabbing and sabotage all-around. Rose Byrne and Ellie Kemper are among the cast of hilarious bridesmaids, but the scene-stealer throughout is Melissa McCarthy. Wiig gets the best line in the film, though: “There’s a colonial woman on the wing!”
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Genre: Comedy, romanceStars: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthyDirector: Paul FeigRating: RRuntime: 132 minutes
Apocalypse Now is a picture of hell. Heavily inspired by Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, Francis Ford Coppola’s epic tale about the moral quagmire of war is a disturbing journey that takes its subjects to the edge of insanity and beyond. Martin Sheen plays Captain Benjamin Willard, a US Army officer during the Vietnam War tasked with plunging into the jungles of Cambodia to eliminate Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) — a rogue Special Forces officer who’s waging his own private war with men who worship him like a god. Featuring memorable performances by Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now is one of the greatest war films you’re likely to see.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Action & Adventure, DramaStars: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert DuvallDirector: Francis Ford CoppolaRating: RRuntime: 153 minutes
Regardless of how you feel about its many sequels and prequels, 1979’s Alien — the film that started it all — is a wonderfully crafted tale of horror and paranoia in the void of space. The crew of the Nostromo is ordered to investigate a signal from a nearby planet, but one of them brings back an unexpected passenger attached to his face. The shrinking crew find themselves acting as prey to a perfect alien killing machine while at the same time dealing with the ship’s artificial intelligence that’s willing to sacrifice everyone on board to get this new specimen back to Earth. Terrifying and suspenseful, Alien is a great watch for fans of horror and science fiction.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Science FictionStars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John HurtDirector: Ridley ScottRating: RRuntime: 117 minutes
If we followed the first rule of Fight Club, we wouldn’t be able to say much about it. Starring Edward Norton as an uptight insurance specialist and Brad Pitt as an off-the-grid salesman who purports to see through all of society’s polite falsehoods, 1999’s Fight Club is a thought-provoking film exploring manhood and commercial consumerism. While the edicts of Tyler Durden are often mistaken as calls to action to audiences who forget that the charismatic Durden is out of his space monkey mind, the film is still a powerful look at forces in society that impact the way we think and feel without us ever realizing it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Meat LoafDirector: David FincherRating: RRuntime: 139 minutes
Long before Nicolas Cage built a reputation for saying yes to any script within range, there was 1987’s Raising Arizona. After he serves time for robbery, H.I. McDunnough (Cage) marries Ed (Holly Hunter), the police officer who took his mugshots. Their wedded bliss is marred when they learn Ed can’t conceive children, and H.I. foolishly tries to fix things by kidnapping one the famous Arizona Quints — quintuplet sons of Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson). When the wealthy Arizona posts a reward for the return of his son, H.I. and Ed find themselves on the run from cops, envious couples, H.I.’s prison buddies, and a motorcycle-riding bounty hunter. An early example of the Coen brothers’ mix of humor and suspense, Raising Arizona is a great way to spend an hour and a half.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: ComedyStars: Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter, Trey WilsonDirector: Joel CoenRating: PG-13Runtime: 94 minutes
A Fish Called Wanda is a heist comedy starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda, the only woman in a gang of jewel thieves all infatuated with the young American. When Wanda and Otto (Kevin Kline) turn the gang leader Georges into the police after a successful heist, they discover he hid the diamonds. Wanda seduces Georges’ barrister Archie Leach (John Cleese) in hopes of finding the diamonds’ location, and everything gets complicated once the jealous anglophobe Otto starts thinking with his fists. Kline is particularly funny as the clueless but deadly Otto. Cleese and fellow Monty Python alum Michael Palin share only one scene, and consequently it’s the funniest part of the flick.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: ComedyStars: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin KlineDirector: Charles CrichtonRating: RRuntime: 98 minutes
The Oscar-winning drama My Left Foot is a large part of what made Daniel Day-Lewis a household name. The film is based on the autobiography of writer and painter Christy Brown, who was born with cerebral palsy and could only write, type, or paint with his left foot. Day-Lewis’ immersion into the character is complete, showing you Brown’s personality flaws along with his physical limitations. My Left Foot is inspiring and upbeat despite Brown’s often difficult journey, and is absolutely a film everyone should see at least once.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: DramaStars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Alison WhelanDirector: Jim SheridanRating: RRuntime: 103 minutes
How often do you get to enjoy a movie whose stars are too young to see the movie without parental supervision? In 2019’s Good Boys, a trio of best friends in the sixth grade get into a lot more than they bargained for when they’re invited to a party hosted by a popular student. Hoping to learn the art of kissing, the boys spy on a pair of teenage girls with a drone, sparking a series of events that finds them running from the ruthless teen girls and the cops, while forcing them into hilarious situations they barely understand. Good Boys is a perfect blend of adult humor and childlike innocence and it will have you laughing for hours.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%Genre: ComedyStars: Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams, Brady NoonDirector: Gene StupnitskyRating: RRuntime: 95 minutes
When Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first African-American officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department, he does the unexpected — he infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. To make face-to-face contact with the hate group, Stallworth recruits Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver). As unlikely as it sounds, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is based on the true story that the real Stallworth chronicles in his 2014 memoir. With his signature wit and cutting insight, Lee forges a powerful message about the nature of American racism along with a constantly entertaining comedy/crime drama.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura HarrierDirector: Spike LeeRating: RRuntime: 135 minutes
Rachel (Constance Wu) is excited to go to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick (Henry Golding) for his best friend’s wedding, but when they get there she’s in for a few big shocks. For one, her boyfriend is one of the most hotly sought-after bachelors in Singapore. For another, his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) is dead set against Rachel having anything to do with her son. Crazy Rich Asians became an awards magnet after its release, earning all its hype as a beautiful, engaging rom-com that stands out as the pinnacle of the often-trashed genre. Yeoh in particular delivers an all-star performance as the stubborn matriarch standing in the way of the heroine’s romantic aspirations.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: ComedyStars: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle YeohDirector: Jon M. ChuRating: PG-13Runtime: 120 minutes
You might not pick the unlikely pair of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as leads for a black comedy like Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, but they make a surprisingly hilarious pair. Crowe plays professional strongarm Jackson Healy while Gosling is the terminally incompetent private eye Holland March. Initially at odds, the heroes join forces as they find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy involving the supposed suicide of a porn star. Brutally funny and filled with suspenseful action, 2016’s The Nice Guys is an infectious buddy movie that will make you glad you went along for the ride.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Russell Crowe, Ryan GoslingDirector: Shane BlackRating: RRuntime: 116 minutes
In 2000’s Cast Away, FedEx systems analyst Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is forced to slow down. Noland is traveling the globe, getting FedEx offices in other countries to manage their time better, when his plane goes down over the Pacific Ocean. Noland goes from making the fast modern world even faster to struggling to survive on an island where his only companion is Wilson — a volleyball that washes ashore and that Noland talks to in his isolation. While Helen Hunt plays his longtime partner Kelly back in civilization, Hanks carries the movie almost completely on his own, showing us what we’re capable of when things get primal.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%Genre: Adventure, DramaStars: Tom Hanks, Helen HuntDirector: Robert ZemeckisRating: PG-13Runtime: 143 minutes
Not all comic book movies are about interstellar despots or boys made heroes from spider bites. Case in point — 2003’s American Splendor about the late Harvey Pekar. Rather than superheroes saving the world, Pekar mostly wrote about his own life, ignoring the drama of fiction for the poignancy he found in his everyday existence as a file clerk. Paul Giamatti plays Pekar to perfection while Hope Davis plays Joyce Brabner, who goes from being Pekar’s fan and pen-pal to his wife. Whether or not you’ve ever picked up a comic book in your life, you’ll enjoy American Splendor as a unique and moving look at a singular writer.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Paul Giamatti, Hope DavisDirectors: Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer BermanRating: RRuntime: 100 minutes
With a stellar cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, you expect great things from the 2007 crime drama Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and it doesn’t disappoint. Hoffman plays Andy, an embezzling executive who ropes his younger brother Hank (Hawke) into a scheme to rob their family’s jewelry store to escape the wolves at both their doors. Andy doesn’t know his wife Gina (Tomei) is having an affair with Hank, and that’s just one of many things that complicate matters once the robbery goes sideways. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a great, tense, heist-gone-wrong film with top-notch actors portraying its deeply flawed characters.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%Genre: Drama, SuspenseStars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa TomeiDirector: Sidney LumetRating: RRuntime: 116 minutes
While it’s set in modern-day Los Angeles, 2016’s La La Land hearkens back to earlier eras of Hollywood when the musical ruled the screen. Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) are lovers whose romance is strained by their ambitions. Mia is struggling to make a name for herself as an actress while Sebastian is an aspiring jazz musician. What follows is a visually gorgeous and enchanting romantic musical comedy, with a standout performance by Stone, for which she won a more-than-deserved Oscar for Best Actress. If you want to know why La La Land was nominated for an amazing fourteen Oscars, including six wins, now would be a good time to take a look.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Comedy, Drama, MusicalStars: Ryan Gosling, Emma StoneDirector: Damien ChazelleRating: PG-13Runtime: 128 minutes
All great artists have to start somewhere and for Joel and Ethan Coen — the collaborators who have given us a diverse library of great films including The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and Fargo — that beginning is the 1984 crime thriller Blood Simple. Frances McDormand stars in her feature film debut as Abby, a woman in a fruitless marriage who starts an affair with Ray (John Getz). When Abby’s jealous husband Marty (Dan Hedaya) finds out, he hires the ruthless private eye Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill them both. Along with giving Coen fans a glimpse at signatures repeated in later films, Blood Simple gives a wonderful cast of character actors a chance to shine — particularly Walsh, who is remarkably chilling as the killer Visser.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: Drama, SuspenseStars: Frances McDormand, John Getz, M. Emmet WalshDirector: Joel CoenRating: RRuntime: 97 minutes
Unless you’re fluent in Italian, you’ll need the subtitles for 1988’s Cinema Paradiso, but the drama is worth the extra work. We follow Salvatore from childhood when he spends every free moment in the local theater, learning to run the projector from Alfredo (Philippe Noiret), to his adulthood when he becomes an acclaimed film director. An epic drama stretching from the end of World War II to the late ’80s, Cinema Paradiso is a touching and powerful movie about film, love, and making peace with your younger days.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceStars: Salvatore Cascio, Philippe NoiretDirector: Guiseppe TornatoreRating: RRuntime: 86 minutes
You’re unlikely to find a more human boxing film than 2010’s The Fighter. Based on the 1995 documentary High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, The Fighter stars Christian Bale as boxing has-been Dicky Eklund and Mark Wahlberg plays his younger half-brother Micky Ward — an up-and-coming welterweight fighter. While Dicky starts off as Micky’s trainer, the former boxer’s addiction to crack gets in the way and Micky is forced into impossible decisions between loyalty and his future. Amy Adams plays Charlene, Micky’s love interest who comes under the harsh scrutiny of Dicky and Micky’s mother Alice (Melissa Leo). Even if you’ve never cared about boxing a day in your life, The Fighter is a wonderful film you’ll be glad you watched.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Drama, SportsStars: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy AdamsDirector: David O. RussellRating: RRuntime: 115 minutes
Regardless of how you feel about the franchise it spawned (including future entries) or where you land in the ceaseless debate about whether or not it’s a Christmas movie, 1988’s Die Hard is still one of the best action movies out there. In an era when actors with bodybuilder physiques like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone cornered the market on the action genre, Bruce Willis — who was still largely seen as a comic actor because of his work on the ABC dramedy Moonlighting — gave audiences a more flawed and believable hero in the form of unlucky New York cop John McClane. Not to mention the film gives us the devilishly fun villain Hans Gruber, played by the late Alan Rickman. It may not have as much fancy CGI as more contemporary action flicks, but Die Hard still holds up as one of the best.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%Genre: Action, SuspenseStars: Bruce Willis, Alan RickmanDirector: John McTiernanRating: RRuntime: 114 minutes
What happens when your conscience makes a surprise appearance but your rivals suffer from no such trifles? That’s the problem facing Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) in 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons. In 18th century Paris, Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) make a remorseless wager over whether or not Valmont can seduce the married Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer). The closer Valmont gets to his goal, the more his honor begins to nag at him. Dangerous Liaisons is an erotic and witty film, with gorgeous photography transplanting you centuries back to the strange world of these manipulative French nobles.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%Genre: DramaStars: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle PfeifferDirector: Stephen FrearsRating: RRuntime: 120 minutes
The iconic “left behind” Christmas movie (and all of its sequels) is on HBO. Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) is the odd boy out when his family takes off for a vacation in France over the holiday season. After getting in trouble, Kevin’s mom banishes him to the attic, only to realize on the plane that she forgot to grab Kevin before they left. Still angry at his family for being punished, Kevin is delighted to have free rein over the house until he realizes that two holiday burglars are determined to rob every house in Kevin’s neighborhood. Kevin has to learn to fend for himself and protect his house against the two bumbling, increasingly dangerous burglars as they do their darnedest to rob the house blind.
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%Genre: Comedy, Kids & FamilyStars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel SternDirector: Chris ColumbusRating: PGRuntime: 103 minutes
The title gives it away — this is a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part picks up where the original left off, with Emmet (Chris Pratt) trying to stave off an alien invasion, only to learn that a heart isn’t enough to stop the destruction of everything he knows and the start of a post-apocalyptic world. He then has to save his friends from the Systar System while continuing to build Apocalypseburg — it’s a lot. The zingers allow this to be a fun ride for children and parents alike, though you’ll have to look elsewhere for the first installment.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%Genre: Family, AnimationStars: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will ArnettDirector: Mike MitchellRating: PGRuntime: 107 minutes
The big space movie in 2019 — because there’s a big space movie annually now — was Ad Astra. Starring Brad Pitt as Roy McBride, the sci-fi stunner sees Pitt travel into space in search of his father, who disappeared during a dangerous mission decades prior. The younger McBride must now find his father, the key to saving the solar system from power surges that have the potential to wipe out all of humanity. The narrative isn’t the most inventive, but Gray finds a way to mine emotion from minimalism and examine what it means to be human in a place so far from home. If slow, contemplative works aren’t for you, however, rest assured the visuals are mesmerizing.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%Genre: Science Fiction, ThrillerStars: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee JonesDirector: James GrayRating: PG-13Runtime: 124 minutes
More than any other character in cinema history, the character of James Bond is defined by the actor who embodies his gusto and swagger. In 2006, Daniel Craig took on the role for the first time in Casino Royale, taking over for Pierce Brosnan. The film feels like your typical origin film, as Bond is still learning the ropes and earning his license to kill. At the same time, it plays off the same familiar tropes that have defined spies throughout the decades. With No Time to Die currently set for 2020, there’s no better time than now to revisit Craig’s first performance as Bond.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%Genre: Action, AdventureStars: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi DenchDirector: Martin CampbellRating: PG-13Runtime: 145 minutes
Liberace is unmasked like never before in this HBO original film from 2013. The movie doesn’t give the full picture of the famous singer and pianist, but instead chooses to focus on the last decade of his life. Liberace (Michael Douglas) is introduced to animal trainer Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), who becomes an employee of Liberace and, eventually, one of his last great loves. The film is a haunting portrayal of celebrity isolation as well as the effects that homophobia and the AIDS crisis had on the world in the ’70s and ’80s. Douglas and Damon were both nominated for Emmy Awards, with Douglas winning.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%Genre: Romance, DramaStars: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Scott BakulaDirector: Steven SoderberghRating: TV-MARuntime: 118 minutes
For fans of classic monster flicks, it doesn’t get much better than Jaws, a film about a ragtag group of individuals hell-bent on tracking down the man-eating great white plaguing a small resort town. Frankly, however, Jaws is less about the plot and more about how visceral and frightening a shark attack can be. Although rare in real life, the image remains seared in our minds by a movie nearly 50 years old, likely owing to the film’s score and penchant for delivering terror even when there’s no shark to be found. Needless to say, Steven Spielberg set a high bar for himself and all horror films to follow.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Thriller, HorrorStars: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard DreyfussDirector: Steven SpielbergRating: PGRuntime: 130 minutes
It’s time to free Kevin McCallister from the tyranny of being part of a Christmas movie. Yes, the events of Home Alone take place during the holidays, which play an integral part of the plot, but Macaulay Culkin’s turn as 8-year-old Kevin — who fends off would-be robberies with mischievous wit — has lessons that can be learned year-round. Thirty years have passed since the original Home Alone premiered; it’s time to recognize it as more than just a Christmas movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 65%Genre: Family, ComedyStars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe PesciDirector: Chris ColumbusRating: PGRuntime: 103 minutes
One of the greatest — and most literal — rags-to-riches tales in cinema history comes courtesy of Slumdog Millionaire. The film follows teenager Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), who stuns the world by succeeding in India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Instead of being celebrated for his achievement, however, he’s jailed and beaten, accused of cheating to win the grand prize. Malik is then forced to dive into his life story to explain just how he accumulated his knowledge and earned the opportunity to escape poverty and turn his life around. Come for the drama, stay for the Bollywood ending.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Romance, DramaStars: Dev Patel, Freida PintoDirector: Danny BoyleRating: RRuntime: 123 minutes
If you want to be a teacher’s pet, watching School of Rock is probably a good place to start. Outside of gifting the world with one of the best original songs of t
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