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HBO Max: The 21 Absolute Best Movies to Watch

This October, check out Edgar Wright's 2021 horror-thriller Last Night in Soho.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith hold hands in Last Night in Soho.
Last Night in Soho's cast includes Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith, who's currently starring as Daemon Targaryen in HBO's House of the Dragon.
Parisa Taghizadeh/Focus Features

If you're new to HBO Max or haven't explored the streaming service in a while, it's time to check it out. 

Starting at $10 a month, a subscription gives you access to everything HBO offers, including movies recently in theaters. And like all its streaming rivals, HBO Max's library of movies changes constantly. 

We track what's coming to HBO Max each week and keep a running list of the service's standout originals, which you can check out below. And if you're still searching for something to watch, the platform also offers tons of art-house classics from the prestigious Criterion Collection.

What's new on HBO Max this month

Here are the highlights.

Oct. 1

  • Spotlight (2015) -- Drama starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams. A team of journalists in Boston exposes the Catholic church's systematic coverup of widespread child molestation perpetrated by more than 70 local priests.
  • Nightcrawler (2014) -- Thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal. A Los Angeles resident stumbles into a new career as a cameraman and begins nocturnal forays across the city in search of shocking and grisly crimes.
  • The Witch (2015) -- Horror film starring Anya Taylor-Joy. It brings together the age-old concepts of witchcraft, black magic and possession to tell the story of one family's frightful unraveling.
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) -- War drama. When British POWs build a vital railway bridge in enemy-occupied Burma, Allied commandos are assigned to destroy it.
  • Hoosiers (1986) -- Sports drama. A failed college coach is hired to direct the basketball program at a high school in a tiny Indiana town.
  • Yvonne Orji: A Whole Me (2022) -- Comedy special. Emmy-nominated actor Yvonne Orji talks pandemic, estate planning, being the child of Nigerian immigrants and the brutal realities of dating.

Oct. 15

  • Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! (2022) -- Animated family film. It's up to the meddling kids and an unlikely new partner to unmask the latest scoundrel and save Halloween.

Oct. 18

  • Mama's Boy (2022) -- Documentary. It centers around the upbringing of Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Milk.

Oct. 24

  • Green Lantern: Beware My Power (2022) -- Animated superhero film. Recently discharged Marine sniper John Stewart receives an extraterrestrial ring which grants him the powers of the Green Lantern of Earth.

Read more: Best TV Shows to Watch on HBO Max

Best HBO Max originals and blockbusters

At time of writing, these films all score around 65 or higher on Metacritic.

Thriller


Universal Pictures

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Dreaming of a great movie night? Last Night in Soho, the latest movie from Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Shaun of the Dead) is here to provide. The film begins in the present day, where a style-loving Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) sets out for the London College of Fashion. Eventually, sleep transports her to the '60s, where she encounters an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Snag a seat for this story dripping with mystery, horror and neon lights.

HBO Max

No Sudden Move (2021)

A new Steven Soderbergh movie? Aka the great director behind Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven and, more recently, Logan Lucky? Twists, thrills and desperate characters populate this crime thriller set in 1950s Detroit. When a seemingly simple job gets out of hand, a group of criminals must work together to uncover what's really going on. Take in the incredible cast: Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm and Amy Seimetz. While the plot can be a little convoluted and some won't be able to get past the fish-eye lens cinematography, Soderbergh's sense of humor and immersive direction make this crime caper an entertaining night in.

Drama


HBO Max

Kimi (2022)

Steven Soderbergh directs this engaging tech thriller set during the COVID-19 pandemic. Angela, a Seattle tech worker played by a neon blue-haired Zoë Kravitz, has agoraphobia, a fear that prevents her from making it past the front door of her apartment. But when she uncovers an unsettling recording while doing her job, she's pushed to make the leap. Kimi is a stylish thriller complete with eye-catching cinematography, a solid score and a protagonist you'll be rooting for.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Judas and the Black Messiah made waves at the Oscars, earning a best supporting actor win for Daniel Kaluuya, among its many nominations. It was much deserved. Kaluuya is mesmerizing as Fred Hampton, chairman of the Black Panther chapter in Illinois, lighting up the screen alongside Lakeith Stanfield, who plays an FBI informant sent to infiltrate the party. The biopic, dramatizing real-life events in the late '60s, is riveting, shocking and sizzles with themes about racial injustice. A big, hefty film that demands your full attention.

Warner Bros.

The Fallout (2022)

After a shooting occurs at her high school, 16-year-old Vada Cavell must navigate friendships, school and her relationship with her family. The Fallout skillfully approaches serious subject matter with realistic dialogue and compassion for its characters. With strong performances from stars Jenna Ortega, as Vada, and Maddie Ziegler, as her new friend Mia Reed, the feature will keep you glued to the screen for the entirety of its 90-minute runtime.

Screenshot by CNET

Bad Education (2019)

Based on a magazine article by journalist Robert Kolker, this tale about a public school embezzlement scandal and the student journalists who broke the news is captivating from start to finish. Allison Janney and Hugh Jackman are phenomenal in their roles as the school officials who took part in the scheme. It also won the 2020 Emmy award for Outstanding Television Movie. 

Janus Films

Drive My Car (2021)

What can we say about acclaimed Japanese drama Drive My Car? Well, it snagged an Oscar for best international feature film at this year's Academy Awards. It's also a three-hour movie that people are sitting and watching all the way through, which, to me, speaks volumes. But seriously, Drive My Car is a powerful film that explores loss and letting go. If you missed it before the Oscars, stream it now.

Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures

King Richard (2021)

King Richard is a feel-good biopic about the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. The film winds back the clock to before the sisters became household names, giving us a glimpse of their upbringing in Compton and time spent practicing on run-down courts with their father, Richard Williams (Will Smith). Convinced his daughters are going to be successful, Richard works tirelessly to get their star potential noticed by professional coaches. A complicated man with a tremendous personality, Richard is fascinating to get to know, and his unwavering belief in Venus and Serena is inspiring. 

Warner Bros.

Elvis (2022)

Want to see Austin Butler rock out in a pink suit? How about one of the 89 other costumes the actor dons in the dazzling, jam-packed two hour and 40 minute film? Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby), Elvis is a grand, exhilarating biopic that's all about the King of Rock 'n' Roll. If you didn't catch it in theaters, now's your chance to find a spot in the crowd.

Scott Free

The Last Duel (2021)

The Last Duel notably didn't win a lot of eyeballs when it debuted in theaters in October. But it's on HBO Max now, where audiences can watch from the comfort of their couch as Adam Driver and Matt Damon battle it out. Directed by Ridley Scott, The Last Duel is a historical drama set in the Middle Ages with an A-list cast that also includes Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck. If any of these details pique your interest, and you're prepared to sit through its two and half hour runtime, pull out some popcorn and put on this flick. 

Imaginal Disc

Son of Monarchs (2020)

A rare (nowadays) 90-minute film, American Mexican drama Son of Monarchs will stay with you long after the end credits roll. This deep character study follows two brothers who are changed in markedly different ways by the trauma they suffered in childhood. This story, folding in magical realism, follows how they move forward in life -- the butterfly metaphors are strong, with biologist Mendel returning to his hometown surrounded by majestic monarch butterfly forests.

Comedy


Searchlight Pictures

The French Dispatch (2021)

Settle in for another eccentric, fantastic-looking feature from director Wes Anderson. The auteur behind "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" sets his sights on an alluring new story -- or rather, three. The French Dispatch, dubbed a "love letter to journalists," takes viewers through a triad of separate tales, straight from the pages of a fictional magazine. If you missed this highly original installment when it hit theaters last October, now's the time to get in on its captivating story.

Father of the Bride (2022)

HBO Max's Father of the Bride introduces a Cuban American family that includes patriarch Billy, a traditional guy who struggles to digest surprising news from his eldest daughter: She's met a guy, and she wants to marry and move away with him. The third film adaptation of a 1949 novel of the same name by Edward Streeter, the movie is an enjoyable iteration that includes stars like Andy Garcia and singer Gloria Estefan.

HBO Max

Let Them All Talk (2020)

Meryl Streep playing an eccentric author in a Steven Soderbergh comedy. What more do you need to know? If you do want to know more: Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Alice Hughes (Streep) is struggling to finish her next book, chased by her literary agent (Gemma Chan). She boards a cruise ship with old friends, who inspired her best-known work. Tensions are strong. It looks great -- Soderbergh uses crisp, natural light -- and most of the dialogue is improvised. See how Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen, Lucas Hedges and the rest of the impeccable cast have fun with that.

Warner Bros.

8-Bit Christmas (2021)

A playful comedy set in the '80s, 8-bit Christmas follows the story of a young Jake Doyle, a dedicated 10-year-old who desperately seeks a Nintendo. The film is delightfully narrated by Neil Patrick Harris, an older Jake reminiscing on his past quest to secure the gaming console. Yes, there's a Christmas backdrop to the story, but Jake's unyielding commitment to his mission, and what he learns along the way, make this cheery feature a must-watch even after the holiday season. 

Documentary


CNN/Focus Features

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (2021)

This film about beloved author, chef and globe-traveling TV host Anthony Bourdain comes from documentary filmmaker Morgan Neville, who also directed 2018's Won't You Be My Neighbor? and the Oscar-winning film Twenty Feet from Stardom. In interviews with people who knew Bourdain, like his friends, former partners and longtime colleagues, the doc tracks his career path, relationships and personal struggles. Bourdain fans and those less acquainted with the star will likely appreciate this two-hour look at his life.

HBO Max

Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off (2022)

Tune into this HBO doc for the mesmerizing, gravity-defying skateboard stunts, a time capsule of the '80s skateboarding scene, and a version of Hawk you've probably never seen. We get to know the renowned athlete as a lanky, stubborn but determined kid who adopted his own skateboarding style. Hawk's persistence is something to marvel at, along with all the stunning skateboard moves this film packs in. Hang on for a memorable ride.

Superhero


Warner Bros.

The Suicide Squad (2021)

Over-the-top violence abounds in this DC film about supervillains who agree to help the US government in exchange for some time off their prison sentences. Their mission is to destroy something alluded to as Project Starfish, harbored in the fictional island country of Corto Maltese. With a notable cast that includes Margot Robbie, Idris Elba and John Cena, 2021's The Suicide Squad is a wickedly entertaining, darkly funny bloodbath that differs from what you usually see in superhero movies. (Peacemaker, a spinoff TV series, is also available on HBO Max.)

Jonathan Olley/DC

The Batman (2022)

Less than two months after Robert Pattinson stepped out as Batman in theaters, Matt Reeves' satisfying superhero flick hit HBO Max. The movie takes place in a perpetually gray and rain-soaked Gotham City, where our bat-channeling protagonist starts to seek out a mysterious murderer with an affinity for riddles. Catwoman, played by a swaggering Zoë Kravitz, gets entwined in the affair when her friend goes missing. Great scene-setting and storytelling make this dark mystery unmissable. 

Musical drama


Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios

West Side Story (2021)

Steven Spielberg's reimagining of the classic musical has triumphantly leapt and twirled its way onto HBO Max. The film scored seven Academy Award nominations and Ariana DeBose won best supporting actress for her role as Anita. Young Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler) cross paths at a high school dance and begin a forbidden love affair, escalating tensions between two rival gangs. Eye-catching musical numbers and stunning production design transport viewers to 1950s New York. The film darkens in its second half, but with Spielberg at the helm, you'll willingly absorb it all.

Macall Polay/Warner Bros.

In the Heights (2021)

In the Heights stars Anthony Ramos (whom you might recognize as John Laurens in Hamilton) playing Usnavi, a bodega owner struggling to keep his business afloat while a heatwave strikes Washington Heights. Secretly in love with his neighbor Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who dreams of getting out of the salon and out of the neighborhood, Usnavi serves the people of Washington Heights with a whole lot of love, lottery tickets and cafe con leche. Between the choreographed twirls and fireworks, In the Heights is an examination of wealth disparity, immigration, classism and the importance of culture.