Last updated: October 4, 2020
What are the best movies on HBO? Subscription streaming services are the fastest growing sector of the entertainment landscape, but before Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu came to dominate that arena, premium cable companies like HBO were offering consumers a way to watch movies and TV shows without commercials for a set monthly fee. Not content to let streaming run away with their market share, HBO also now allows people to subscribe to an entirely online version of their service called HBO Now, after fans begged for such an option for years.
Nowadays, cutting the cable cord is the preferred way to go for many, especially younger pop culture devotees. Cable packages are bloated, full of content very few people want, and contain multiple additional fees. Still, whether one subscribes to HBO through cable or via streaming, the service offers a great selection of movies with which to pass the time, even if the line-up isn’t quite as robust as those of the subscription streaming big three.
Before the list of the best movies on HBO begins proper, there are some important notes to be made. First, the movies below are available to watch on HBO and stream on HBO Now at the time of this writing. As movies expire, the list will be updated, and new great options will be added. Also, the 15 films below, while numbered for convenience, are not ranked.
There are many iconic movies about vampires, ghosts, witches, and demons, but unfortunately, the werewolf tends to come up short in that department, starring in more stinkers than hits. Arguably the best werewolf movie of all time is 1981’s An American Werewolf in London, directed by John Landis, and now it’s one of the best movies on HBO. Boasting amazing practical creature effects that hold up today, the film tells the story of David Kessler (David Naughton), an American backpacking in Europe that ends up surviving a werewolf attack that kills his best friend. Unfortunately, it’s not too long before David realizes he’s now cursed to kill during the full moon.
The fourth feature to be directed by perennial critical darling Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love offered a showcase for comedy icon Adam Sandler’s then-unknown dramatic chops as Barry Egan, a desperately lonely man with severe rage issues. Sadly, said chops have only been glimpsed a few times since, with Sandler mostly content to stick to his usual wheelhouse of slapstick comedies like Grown Ups. Still fans of Sandler the actor will always have this critically acclaimed film to remember him by, one of the best movies on HBO.
While the two sequels quickly degenerated into the realm of campy slashers, 1987’s The Stepfather (now on HBO) is a movie best not overlooked by those who enjoy a good mix of suspense and horror. Directed by Joseph Ruben, The Stepfather sports a healthy 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, and no doubt a lot of that is due to Terry O’Quinn’s (long before Lost made him a household name) terrific lead performance as “Jerry Blake,” a man obsessed with achieving the idealized American family life seen on shows like Leave It to Beaver. When Jerry’s various attempts inevitably fail, nobody in his path is safe.
While by no means the greatest DC movie of all time, there’s something undoubtedly appealing about director James Wan’s Aquaman solo film, one of the most successful superhero outings in recent memory and new to HBO. Jason Momoa stars as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, who’s forced to face his destiny and return to Atlantis after a lifetime above the surface. Arthur is recruited by Mera (Amber Heard) to unseat his villainous half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson), who’s assumed the throne and rules with an iron fist.
Starring two popular heartthrobs of the era, and revolving in part around surfing, 1991’s Point Break might at first appear to be a disposable action flick. Directed by future Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow though, what Point Break is is a very good action flick that features a compelling relationship between its two leads, and a great choice for a HBO streaming session. Keanu Reeves stars as FBI agent Johnny Utah, a rookie lawman tasked with infiltrating a gang of masked banked robbers dubbed the Ex-Presidents. That gang is led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), a charismatic criminal that Utah forms a surprising connection with.
For those who love a good neo-noir mystery – and don’t mind it being infused with some psychological horror – 1987’s Angel Heart could be a great choice to give a spin on HBO. Director Alan Parker’s film stars Mickey Rourke as Harry Angel, a private detective in 1955 tasked by the mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) with tracking down a man called Johnny Favorite. The search leads to New Orleans, and as things progress, Harry’s world spirals downward. Lisa Bonet also stars, in a role that famously got her kicked off The Cosby Show.
The annual summer blockbuster season for movies is just something audiences take for granted nowadays, but it wasn’t even that long ago that such a season didn’t exist. That was until director Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough hit Jaws came along to set the standard in 1975. Everyone knows Jaws’ story: three men – Sheriff Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and grizzled fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) set out on a journey to kill a massive great white shark after it makes a snack out of those swimming near Amity Island. Those who haven’t seen it should fire it up on HBO now, and those who have should watch it again. It’s that good.
Director Kevin Smith’s path to his current exalted status among geeks began with 1994 indie hit Clerks, his film debut. Shot in black and white and made on a tiny budget, the recently added to HBO film introduced Smith’s rapid fire, foul-mouthed, joke-filled writing style, while focusing on a day in the working life of best friends Dante (Brian O’Halloran), and Randal (Jeff Anderson). It also served as the debut of Smith’s trademark characters Jay and Silent Bob, played by Jason Mewes and Smith himself.
While 2019’s theatrical arrival of director M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, the highly anticipated Glass, didn’t exactly light the world on fire, that doesn’t diminish the greatness of the two films Glass functions as a sequel to, including 2000’s Unbreakable. After surviving a deadly train crash without a scratch, mild-mannered security guard and family man David Dunn (Bruce Willis) comes to discover that he possesses powers beyond normal men, and that he’s destined for greatness as a superhero. Guiding him down this path is Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a mysterious man with secrets of his own.
The film that established Ridley Scott as a future all-time great director, 1979’s Alien is arguably the best blend of sci-fi and horror ever made. Sigourney Weaver stars as Ellen Ripley, a crew member on the Nostromo, essentially a space tow truck. The Nostromo is forced by its bosses to answer a distress beacon on an alien planet, and before long, events are set in motion that leads to the Xenomorph killing nearly the entire crew. Alien is still as effective over 40 years later, and is one of the best movies on HBO.
The inspiration for Syfy’s recent TV series of the same name, director Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys is one of the more unusual time travel tales one is likely to encounter. Bruce Willis stars as James Cole, a prisoner conscripted into service to try and prevent a catastrophic event. In Cole’s future of 2035, a virus has wiped out most of mankind, and he’s sent back to try and prevent the outbreak. The problem is that he’s sent to 1990 instead of the planned 1996. Or is he? Brad Pitt and Madeline Stowe also star in this twisty sci-fi thriller now on HBO.
After the Oscar-winning success of his debut film Get Out, the eyes of the world’s moviegoers looked to director Jordan Peele’s second film, Us, in the hopes it would prove his talents behind the camera weren’t a fluke. While maybe not quite as good as Get Out, Us is a great horror film in its own right, presenting an ingenious concept: everyone on Earth has a secret duplicate, and those duplicates now want to take over their counterparts’ lives. Black Panther‘s Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star in this new to HBO selection.
Those looking for a creepy ghost movie would be advised to cue up 2001’s The Others during their next HBO excursion, as it’s one of the best horror efforts to emerge from its decade. Directed by Alejandro Amenabar, The Others is set in 1945, and stars Nicole Kidman as Grace Stewart, who lives with her children Anne and Nicholas at a remote country house. Grace’s children have a rare condition which makes them averse to light, a circumstance that’s not helpful once chilling supernatural occurrences start happening.
Joker was one of the most controversial movies of 2019, and for odd reasons, as most people seemed to decide it had a certain viewpoint before even seeing the finished film. While Joker is definitely a violent, downbeat film, it’s more than worth seeing due to Joaquin Phoenix’s excellent performance as the titular character, also known as a failed clown named Arthur Fleck. Phoenix deservedly won an Oscar for his work, and Joker is a compelling addition to the HBO movie line-up.
There’s not much left to say about Die Hard, one of the best action movies of all time, and certainly one of the best movies on HBO. Bruce Willis’ heroic New York City cop John McClane is an iconic hero, and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is an equally iconic villain. Full of exciting sequences, crazy stunts, lots of general carnage, and a surprising amount of humor, Die Hard is an excellent choice for any time of the year, although Christmas works best. Now he has a machine gun, ho ho ho.
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