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) The Revenant
I don’t consider myself a fan of director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s work. I think his movies are kind of abrasive and his storytelling style is flashier than substantive. The Revenant is both of those things to a tee, and that’s part of why it’s so enjoyable. Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his Oscar (as if you don’t already know this) playing a man almost literally coming back from the dead to exact revenge on his son’s killer, played by Tom Hardy. Iñárritu is at his best here, and his penchant for pairing long takes with intricately choreographed action is a perfect match for this material. —Eddie Strait
2) The Blues Brothers
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd brought the Blues Brothers to Saturday Night Live as a musical sketch long before they starred in this cult classic about the brothers’ quest to try and raise enough money to save the Catholic orphanage where they grew up from being foreclosed. Between run-ins with the police, neo-Nazis, and a mystery woman (Carrie Fisher) who’s set on killing them, the Blues Brothers truly have something to sing about. —Michelle Jaworski
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. —M.J.
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. —M.J.
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On the cusp of the launch of the third Spider-Man franchise of the 21st century, it’s a good time to revisit the first, Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire’s performance as Peter Parker is endearingly goofy, and Kirsten Dunst’s work is similarly charming. While the world will never lack for superhero origin stories, Spider-Man remains one of the gold standards and holds up remarkably well. The movie is still funny, thrilling, and provides the kind of spectacle that would become issue within a decade.
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. —M.J.
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. —M.J.
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) 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.
10) Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
With Chappelle in the midst of a mini-resurgence, do yourself a favor and revisit Michel Gondry’s 2005 concert documentary. It’s loose, fun, and incredibly entertaining. So, in other words, it’s a great representation of the Chappelle’s persona. The doc does a good job capturing the spirit of the party and translating it to the audience. Watching people have fun on screen isn’t all the exciting, but Gondry and Chappelle capturing something intangible makes it all click. —E.S.
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. —M.J.
12) Do the Right Thing Photo via Roger Ebert
Spike Lee’s magnum opus remains as vital today as it was in 1989. It’s a masterclass in human observation and social commentary, and every other compliment you’ve ever heard about the movie still holds true. Lee’s finest joint puts a community’s differences in a pot and cranks up the heat until Mookie, Radio Raheem, Sal, Buggin’ Out, and everyone else reaches their boiling point. Aside from being an iconic film, it’s also really entertaining and it encapsulates everything that makes Spike Lee an all-timer, even if his more recent joints aren’t as potent. —E.S.
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. —M.J.
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. —M.J.
15) The Breakfast Club
A Saturday detention turns into something deeper and meaningful as five students who didn’t know one another bond, form friendships, and push one another in-between messing around with the vice principal. It’s not so much about why they’re all in detention—though that’s covered in the film—but how one day together can change how you see others. —M.J.
16) Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
Neighbors 2 represents the tiny overlap in the Venn Diagram of “Sequels We Didn’t Need” and “Sequels We Didn’t Know We Needed.” It more or less copies the blueprint of the first one, even down to pitting Zac Efron’s lovable frat-bro Teddy against Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne’s married couple. While watching the three lock horns again is a lot of fun, the movie’s real success comes when the three team up to take down the sorority of awkward young women led by Chloe Grace Moretz. Rose Byrne and Zac Efron steal the show again, but the generous script gives everyone a moment to shine. On top of all the high jinks, the film even offers some social commentary that sticks. Judging from the box office numbers, a lot of people that liked the first Neighbors skipped this one, but now it’s time to rectify that mistake. —E.S.
17) My Cousin Vinny
After two New Yorkers are arrested and put on trial for a crime they never committed, a new lawyer with no criminal court experience has to prove their innocence while he and his fiancée are a fish out of water in rural Alabama. While it’s known for its laughs, it’s also got accuracy on its side: The film is often praised by lawyers and law professionals for how it portrayed different aspects of a trial. —M.J.
18) Straight Outta Compton
The early career of the rap group N.W.A. is explored in the biopic (which had support from some of its members behind the scenes) as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and MC Ren form the group and try to make it in the music industry, but not without huge obstacles in their path. —M.J.
19) Crimson Peak
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance the first time I watched it, but I’ve caught random chunks on TV enough to make me reconsider. Even after a proper rewatch, I’m still not sure if it’s good, but I am convinced that it has enough interesting ideas and there’s enough going on to make it worthwhile. This is one that’s best enjoyed with a group of friends, as the film’s campy elements will certainly play better to a crowd than a solitary viewer. —E.S.
20) The Sixth Sense
HBO has the bulk of wunderkind-turned-whipping-boy-turned-comeback-story M. Night Shyamalan filmography available to stream, so you have plenty to choose from if you’re interested in revisited his work. For me, The Sixth Sense will always be his best movie. It’s still creepy and effective and feels pretty fresh for a nearly 20-year-old movie starring Bruce Willis. The film’s dominance over pop culture means anyone seeing it for the first time now certainly already knows the ending, but you know what? Despite what naysayers will tell you, The Sixth Sense is more than a twist ending. —E.S.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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