The 5 Best Movies on HBO Max Right Now

The 5 Best Movies on HBO Max Right Now

Here are our top five movies available on HBO Max at the moment.

Spirited Away

What makes Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away one of his greatest films? For example, the spiritual fight of personal and cultural forgetfulness with Japanese society, and the redeeming power of love.

Maybe it’s because the film’s tale is so archetypically recognized, a spiritual recreation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, a childhood voyage in a place that feels both familiar and exotic.

There’s nothing like seeing Spirited Away for the first time. The scene of Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi), franticly racing through the streets as the town around her comes to life, lights flashing and spirits rising from the earth, is nothing short of spectacular. While films like Nausicaä, Princess Mononoke, and My Neighbor Totoro introduced the world to Hayao Miyazaki, it was Spirited Away that cemented his place among the greatest animators of all time.


Casablanca is a perfect film. The production team didn’t think much of it; it was one of the hundreds of films made that year (despite a major league cast and great writers). It did well but not spectacularly at the box office. Then it got a bunch of Oscars. Then it gained a reputation. The story feels as fresh and real today as it did in 1945.

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, and Paul Henreid appear in this love story with political overtones (for starters). One of the most iconic cinematic moments of our time (both of my kids were born after 9/11 and they rejoiced when the chorus of La Marseillaise drowned out the Nazis). Smart, sweet, and witty; one of the best feel-good movies of the 20th century.

The Dark Knight

Following Joel Schumacher’s neon-disco nightmare on ice that was Batman & Robin, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) deservedly resurrected the Caped Crusader’s cinematic reputation. And if Batman Begins reflects the character’s tonal evolution, The Dark Knight rehabilitated his arch-nemesis, the Joker. Despite not committing a Schumacherian crime, Jack Nicholson’s Joker failed to establish a benchmark for the character.

A criminal story sprung from the pages of Detective Comics, The Dark Knight is less Spider-Man than Heat, in a spectacular outfit. Heath Ledger’s portrayal as the Clown Prince of Criminal is a force of nature, masterfully crafted as a crime leader who seeks nothing less than Gotham’s very soul. Ledger’s Joker is a disturbing reminder of why he’s the World’s Greatest Detective’s most infamous enemy.

Malcolm X

Lee’s other creative best moment is his controversial 1960s activist movie. Washington’s powerful performance is the film’s heart, with a fierce charm throbbing behind a cool exterior.

Lee demythologizes a contemporary legend, not afraid to expose his ideological and personal flaws. The haunting usage of Otis Redding’s A Change is Gonna Come juxtaposes the rousing cry for racial rights with the tragic lead-up to Malcolm X’s murder.


The “it was all a dream” cliche is one of cinema’s most groan-inducing. Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, is a thrilling sci-fi drama where the idea isn’t simply a narrative device, but the tale itself. The story and images develop with controlled precision, and Nolan staple wally Pfister’s stunning, globe-spanning on-location photography suggests near-obsessive attention to detail.

The film coils up and plays out like a mechanical beast, each little detail adding up to a massive totality. Toy with our sense of reality is the goal of both Nolan’s films and Inception’s dream-delving. As a summer popcorn picture, Inception works excellently, leaving behind visuals and memories that pull and twist our senses, tempting us to wonder whether we’ve grasped everything, or are merely half-remembering a waking dream. Sculpting in Time is Andrei Tarkovsky’s filmmaking concept; Nolan deconstructs, not sculpts. He utilizes filmmaking to dissect time and reassemble it as he pleases.

Tarkovsky’s films reflected his spirituality and lyrical transcendence. For Nolan, a rationalist, time and death are cheats. His films generally avoid confronting death, despite they represent it. Nolan is able to express the weight of time and how fleeting and fragile our hold on life is. A ticking clock is a frequent element in Nolan’s films, one that Hans Zimmer audibly literalized in the soundtracks for Interstellar and Dunkirk. The film is Nolan’s weapon, his instrument, the paradox stairs or mirror-on-mirror of Inception.

He creates patterns that stress time pressure while still allowing for escape. The dream world in Inception has levels, and the further one delves into the subconscious, the longer one’s mental experience of time. One may spend an eternity in their own bottomless hole if they went deep enough. “To sleep perchance to dream”: Nolan’s closest encounter with the afterlife.

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