We’ve been shelling out for a subscription to HBO (or its recently launched streaming counterpart, HBO Now) to get our legal fix of Game of Thrones, True Detective, Veep, and Silicon Valley for years, but many of us are far from getting our money’s worth.
Before streaming became our medium of choice, HBO offered a wide variety of premium content for subscribers. New films debuted on HBO every Saturday night, offering a variety of popular and prestigious movies months after they left movie theaters. Add in the slew of of original programming, primetime boxing, and sports talk shows, and HBO’s status as a powerhouse was cemented even further.
The introduction of HBO Go and NOW brought its great original content to the streaming forefront. While there are many TV shows, miniseries, and documentaries on HBO to choose from, there are just as many movies worth watching. We’ve picked out a few movies to kickstart your binge-watching session. (Original HBO Films are marked with an asterisk.)
1) All the President’s Men
All the President’s Men, which explores the months-long investigation by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, remains one of journalism’s quintessential films. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman star as in the classic film, providing a still-relevant lesson of what good journalism can accomplish.
2) Charlotte’s Web
Many of us have read the classic tale of “some pig” and the spider who saw more potential in him, but the 1973 animated classic breathes new life into it with some songs and charm. You might recognize a couple of voices for those revisiting it as an adult: Charlotte is voiced by iconic actress Debbie Reynolds.
The Merc with a Mouth’s big screen debut is rather forgettable, so luckily Ryan Reynolds was able to capture the crude, hilarious, and fourth-wall-breaking essence that makes Deadpool the assassin we love in an origin story that also pokes fun at origin stories. While you may have already seen it in theaters, you can now watch it with plenty of chimichangas within reach, just like Deadpool intended.
4) The NeverEnding Story
The NeverEnding Story created a magical world that we wanted to be real. Follow Atreyu and Falkor’s journey to find a cure for the Empress alongside Bastian, the boy who discovered their book. Plus there’s an HBO show that pretty much used one of this film’s biggest scenes as inspiration.
Say hello to this classic one time. Scarface, the remake of the 1932 film depicting Tony Montana’s rise and fall as a drug kingpin, seems to get better with every viewing. Al Pacino delivers a powerful, career-defining performance.6) 101 Dalmatians
Even if you’ve seen the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians (and its sequel, 102 Dalmatians, which is also streaming on HBO), it’s certainly worth revisiting. Released nearly two decades before Disney’s current live-action renaissance, it’s fun and silly while not straying too far from the original animated version. Glenn Close captures the essence of Cruella de Vil, while Hugh Laurie and Mark Williams—better known for portraying Gregory House and Arthur Weasley, respectively—are the bumbling henchmen Jasper and Horace.
7) All the Way *
All the Way depicts President Lyndon B. Johnson’s push to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed through Congress while seeking the support of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. It was already a critically acclaimed play on Broadway before its television debut in May. Bryan Cranston, who won a Tony for his portrayal of Johnson on Broadway, reprised his role for the film (he’s likely a top contender for the Emmy) and is joined by Anthony Mackie, Melissa Leo, and Frank Langella.
8) Bessie *
Queen Latifah, Mo’Nique, Khandi Alexander, and Michael Kenneth Williams star in the HBO biopic about American blues singer Bessie Smith. Ambitious and complex, it paints an extensive picture of the singer from struggling in the early days of her career to becoming “The Empress of the Blues.”
9) Confirmation *
Kerry Washington stars in the film adaptation of Anita Hill courtroom battle against Clarence Thomas, who was then nominated to join the Supreme Court, sexually harassed her. It’s harrowing and highlights the importance of the hearings for those who were too young to remember Hill's sexual assault allegations, which had real-life ramifications—even if Thomas ultimately did get confirmed.
Based on the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, Coraline is one girl’s escape into a parallel world that’s not as wonderful and perfect as it first seems, followed by her attempt to save her parents.
11) Game Change *
The stories that emerged from the 2008 presidential election after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) named Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate feel like a much simpler time given the current political landscape. With Julianne Moore taking on Palin, it’s a more nuanced portrayal than Tina Fey gives on Saturday Night Live, but is every bit as scathing.
12) The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant didn’t make much of an impact at the box office when it was first released, but it’s since become a beloved cult classic. Set during the Cold War, a young boy finds and befriends a massive metal robot that fell from space, and together they have to withstand the military forces trying to destroy the Giant.
13) The Normal Heart *
Glee creator Ryan Murphy directs an all-star cast in The Normal Heart, which started out as a play and focuses on the early days of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s as a group of people come together and create an organization calling for research on the disease that’s killing their friends.
Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig are a Hollywood power duo, and in Spy that’s no different. Yes, it’s a spy movie, but it’s also a smart comedy that turns the tropes of an action/spy movie on its head, in part due to great performances from McCarthy and Rose Byrne.
Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.