Make sure you’re getting the most out of your HBO subscription.
We’ve been shelling out for a subscription to HBO (or its 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 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.)
The best movies on HBO Go and HBO Now
1) Back to the Future
Few movies have the replay value of Back to the Future, and even less have the same first-viewing impact. Marty, Doc, George, Lorraine, Einstein, and Biff are returning to HBO Go, and I don’t know how long it will be there, but I do know that it will be the best movie on HBO Go for the entirety of its run. Anytime is a good time to go back to the 1950s via 1985 and watch Marty play amateur matchmaker and amateur time traveler. —Eddie Strait
2) La La Land
La La Land is an entertaining throwback musical about two people chasing their dreams. It’s an ode to persistence, and Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (who won an Oscar for her work) do some of their best work as dreamers Sebastian and Mia. Their easy report carries the movie. Similar to writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, La La Land has strong replay value. From the opening freeway set piece to the excellent final 10-15 minutes, La La Land is sure to entertain. —E.S.
3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
If you can’t get enough of the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts will help scratch that itch for you. If you’re a fan of the series, I assume you already know that it’s about Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) and the adventures and creatures he would go on to write about, and Harry Potter would eventually read. It’s hardly essential as a film, but for anyone with an insatiable thirst for all things Potter, it is a fun trip back to the magical world of J.K. Rowling. —E.S.
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4) The Fate of the Furious
Dom and the gang are back for more globetrotting auto action to sate your thirst for logic and physics-defying action. Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren join the fray, but unfortunately, their villains are underwhelming. But nevermind that, the bad guys in these movies are just speed bumps on the way to a good time. Fate doesn’t reach the emotional or action bars set by James Wan’s seventh installment, but director F. Gary Gray is a welcome addition to the family.
5) 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. —M.J.
6) Get Out
Jordan Peele’s pivot from comedy to more dramatic material is one of the biggest surprises, and successes, of 2017. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya in a breakout performance) goes away for a weekend trip with his girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her family (Katherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, and Caleb Landry Jones). Chris is black and everyone else is white; what could go wrong? Well, plenty. Peele milks the setup for all the awkwardness possible, building off of Key & Peele’s sharper commentary to deliver a uniquely satisfying film. —E.S.
7) Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures is a crowdpleaser in the vein of The Help and The Blind Side, only better. Where those movies came up short (usually by disproportionately focusing on the white people), Hidden Figures excels. It’s about a team of mathematicians (played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, all excellent) who helped put man on the moon. The movie isn’t totally immune to the pratfalls of PG-13 inspirational tales of overcoming racism (see Jim Parson’s cartoonish antagonist or the big bathroom moment), but it overcomes those broad elements by excelling in its quieter moments. —E.S.
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.” —M.J.
9) John Wick 2
Keanu Reeves adds another notch on his action movie belt with this hit sequel to 2014’s sleeper hit John Wick. This time out a bounty has been put on Wick’s head so he has to take on hitters from home and abroad. The John Wick mythology is expanded enough to fill in some backstory gaps and set up future installments. What matters most here, of course, are the action scenes, and the movie delivers the goods multiple times over. While the prospect of recommending a movie that fetishizes gun violence is a bit queasy, if you liked the first one, you’ll certainly dig this one. —E.S.
10) Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman isn’t just a great movie. It’s a cultural phenomenon. It managed the near-impossible achievement of telling a fresh and entertaining origin story in 2017, after we all thought we were sick of the genre. It proved that women heroes can make bank at the box office. It even delivered a ray of hope for Warner Bros.’ DC franchise, whose other offerings are consistently sub-par. Romance, jokes, great action scenes—Wonder Woman had everything. This was surely a formative moment for the next generation of women filmmakers, and we can’t wait to see what Patty Jenkins does with the sequel. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
Jackie isn’t your usual biopic. There are enough tweaks to the formula to keep it from feeling like a history lesson. It’s a gripping account of someone taking command of their own narrative and becoming legendary in the process. Natalie Portman gives one of her best performances as Jacqueline Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Special shout out to composer Mica Levi for delivering another incomparable score (after Under the Skin).
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12) 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. —M.J.
Ben Stiller does dumb-comedy-by-smart-people as well as anyone this side of Mike Judge. In the easily corruptible world of male modeling, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) is an aging star fighting the inevitable as upstart Hansel (he’s so hot right now) comes for the throne. Does anybody really need a parody of the modeling world? No, but now that we have it, I can’t imagine how we made it so long without Zoolander. From walk-offs to gasoline fights to funeral crashing to assassination attempts, Zoolander surely has something for everybody. —E.S.
14) 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. —M.J.
The Hugh Jackman run as Wolverine comes to a close with Logan. It’s a worthy end for a character that helped kick off the superhero movie run with the first X-Men back in 2000. A visibly tired Logan lives in relative solitude with Professor X, until he’s yanked from his quiet existence by the threat, and possibility, of a younger mutant, Laura (a breakout performance by Dafne Keen). The movie feels more like a Western than a typical superhero joint, and it’s a fitting swan song for the rugged character.
16) Where the Wild Things Are
Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book is nearly perfect. The movie captures all of the wonder and story of the book (Max leaves home and goes to an island with the Wild Things before returning home), and imbues it with soulfulness and sadness in a way that is certain to strike a chord with viewers. Jonze is one of the best American filmmakers of the last 20 years, and Wild Things encapsulates everything that is great about his movies, from the energetic filmmaking to the fully formed characters.
17) Jackass: The Movie
The Jackass films are some of the best comedies of the last 20 years. The films do much more than offer cheap shocks and thrills. The physical punishment endured by Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Wee Man, Steve-O, and the rest of the crew is breathtaking. They’re doing the best slapstick, and the choreography and imagination that goes into most stunts would make Chaplin and Keaton proud. Few comedies hit their targets as frequently and thoroughly as Jackass. —E.S.
18) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Any time is a good time to watch and Edgar Wright movie. He’s a technical master on par with the best filmmakers in the world. His whiz-bam energy and encyclopedic pop culture knowledge makes him the perfect filmmaker to tackle a comic book adaptation. Bryan O’Malley’s story of an emo kid chasing his manic pixie dream girl should make for a grating experience, but Wright’s sharp direction and the cast’s sharper wit (Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Brie Larson, Mae Whitman, Kieran Culkin, and a boatload more) make Scott Pilgrim more than just an exercise in style.
19) Scream 2
This is the last great horror movie the late Wes Craven made. (Red Eye is a blast, but that’s a thriller.) A year removed from the bloodbath in Woodsboro, Sidney (Neve Campbell) heads off to college, but she can’t escape the ghost (mask) from her past. The film ranks high in the horror-sequel pantheon in part because Campbell does legitimately great work, making Sidney a sympathetic figure. The series lost much of its luster in subsequent sequels (and TV show), but Scream 2 matches its predecessor laugh for laugh and kill and kill.
20) The LEGO Batman
Like all LEGO movies, LEGO Batman shouldn’t work, and yet it does. The Will Arnett-voiced Caped Crusader made a strong impression in The LEGO Movie, and that carries over here. Anyone and everyone you know from Batman shows up here, and while the movie is deliriously entertaining, there’s a touch of dramatic heft unpinning the whole thing that makes The LEGO Batman more than a pastiche. —E.S.
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21) Stuck on You
Matt Damon is perennially underrated as a comic actor. Even with the Ocean’s 11 films on his resume and a slew of hilarious appearances on sitcoms and talk shows, Damon doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Stuck on You is a perfect showcase for his skill set. He and Greg Kinnear play Siamese twins, one loves being a small town guy running a dinner and the other aspires to fame and glory in Hollywood. —E.S.
22) 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. —M.J.
23) Collateral Beauty
This movie is a complete disaster, and it’s amazing that it was ever made, and even more baffling considering the top-tier talent involved (Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, Helen Mirren). Smith stars as a man dealing with a personal tragedy that has him reconsidering everything in his life. The film grows increasingly bizarre with each plot reveal. Collateral Beauty is a movie that aims for transcendence and understanding but lands squarely on maudlin. Obviously, you have to see it. —E.S.
24) Role Models
The ubiquitous Paul Rudd stars alongside Seann William Scott as Danny and Wheeler, respectively, two guys who take a young nerd, Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), under their wing as part of their court-mandated community service. For a relatively successful comedy, it feels like Role Models has kind of been forgotten, but it’s a consistently funny movie with enough heart to redeem the leads and it features a glorious LARP-finale. Do you need anything else in a comedy? —E.S.
Holes, the novel by Louis Sachar, is one of the great youth novels of the last 20 years, and Holes, the movie, is one of the best family-friendly films of the 2000s. Stanley Yelnats IV ends up at a juvenile camp where he’s forced to dig holes as part of a court-ordered rehabilitation. There he meets Zero, Armpit, Zig Zag, X-Ray, and the rest of the Camp Green Lake crew, a lovable, eclectic bunch. The camaraderie between the boys is infectious. The adult villains (played by Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, and Tim Blake Nelson) are threatening without being scary. Holes is funny and adventurous. It aims for the 8-12 crowd, and it has just about everything you could want in a family movie. —E.S.
26) Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Popstar was destined for cult status well before it tanked at the box office. Nearly a decade after the debut of “Lazy Sunday,” you know where you stand with The Lonely Island. The trio (Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer) pack everything you expect from them into Popstar: a potent mix of pop culture satire and lowbrow humor, slick production values, and a personal best set of songs. Popstar is the group’s crowning achievement. —M. J.
27) Tokyo Project
Tokyo Project is a short film by Richard Shepard (who worked on HBO’s Girls, among his other credits) that follows two strangers, Sebastian (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Claire (Elizabeth Moss) who keep running into each other in Tokyo. The movie jumps back and forth in time and their relationship but is anchored by the emotional truths it gets at. Tokyo Project runs less than 40 minutes, so the time investment is minimal, and the movie is easily worth it. —E.S.
A should’ve been Oscar contender, Loving went largely unrecognized by the Academy and audiences. It’s a quiet, measured film based on the relationship of Richard and Mildred Loving. The Lovings went to the Supreme Court in their fight against the prohibition of interracial marriages. Writer-director Jeff Nichols has built his career on strong characters and intense examinations of family dynamics. Loving gets that same treatment. The film could’ve easily been a “rah-rah” history lesson, but Nichols keeps the focus on the everyday lives of the Lovings.
29) Die Hard
It’s Die Hard. Do you need any other reason to watch it again? At this point it’s hard to divorce the movie from the talk around the movie: the praise as the best action movie of all time, the silly debate over whether it’s a Christmas movie or not, but who cares? Die Hard is entertaining every time you watch it. From the moment Hans Gruber enters Nakatomi Plaza until he leaves, Die Hard is packed with action and memorable performances. It’s the total package.
30) Silence of the Lambs
While much has been written about Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, the real joy of the film is Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill. Whether driving home the importance of lotion or dancing to new wave, each of his scenes helps build a sense of dread that will stick with you long after you’ve run out of Chianti. —John-Michael Bond
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31) Nocturnal Animals
Fashion icon turned acclaimed filmmaker Tom Ford’s second film, Nocturnal Animals, is pure pulp. It’s a surprise given the higher ambitions of his debut, A Single Man. Nocturnal Animals stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal in dual roles. In real life they are exes, but they also represent the characters in a novel written by Gyllenhaal’s character. It’s a film that lives down in the slop, and the messier the narrative gets, the more interesting the movie becomes.
32) Dumb & Dumber
It’s been awhile since Jim Carrey and/or the Farrelly brothers made something worth remembering, so it’s a good time to revisit the classic that will live forever. Lloyd (Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) generate enough laughs and facepalms for a lifetime in Dumb & Dumber. The band got back together for the 2014 sequel, which isn’t the disaster most long-gestating sequels turn out to be, but that movie mainly goes to show how special the magic they captured in 1994 was and still is.
33) Lights Out
This is low-budget horror done right. Lights Out is a supernatural spookfest about things going bump in night—or dark in this case. Teresa Palmer stars as Rebecca, a young woman whose family is being terrorized by something that attacks in the dark. The film gets good mileage out of the light gimmick, if you’re on board with it. At 80 minutes, Lights Out doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it keeps the scares coming. It’s better than you’d expect, and it’s a pretty fun ride. —E.S.
34) Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island is a movie that prioritizes fun and is all the better for it. The story is nonsense and hardly worth paying attention to. All you need to know is that people are on Skull Island and they have to get off it before Kong and a litany of creatures rip them apart. There’s a shot where a gas mask-clad Tom Hiddleston runs through a green gas cloud while swinging a machete. What more do you need?
35) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Prisoner of Azkaban is the highlight of the Boy Who Lived’s story, at least on film. Alfonso Cuaron helped the Harry Potter series transition from lighter tone of Chris Columbus’s first two films to the edgier, more somber style that dictates the rest of the series. Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is marked by the introduction of Sirius Black, the trial of Buckbeak, and Hermione’s spell as a traveler. The Harry Potter series would reach more thrilling action heights (Goblet of Fire) and deliver harsher emotional blows (every movie from 4-7pt 2), but Azkaban is the best single dose distillation of everything great about Harry Potter. —E.S.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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