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Without HBO, there would be no HBO Max. And while HBO Max boasts a much bigger lineup on its streaming service, there are still some thrills to be had at the original Home Box Office. This is a premium cable network that built its name on its movies … and boy does it have movies! Films of all shapes and sizes, for audiences young and old. The classics and the modern hits are all here, courtesy of the Warner Bros. cinematic library. To get the most out of your old-school cable subscription, check out our list of the best movies on HBO right now.
Additional streaming guides:
Best movies on HBO Max
Best HBO series
Best shows on HBO Max
Best movies on Amazon Prime
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Reservoir Dogs was the movie that made Quentin Tarantino, and he even co-starred in a minor role as Mr. Brown. Local crime boss Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son, Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn), assemble a team of crooks for a jewelry heist. Among the group are Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), and the psychopathic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen). However, one of their number is an undercover cop who gets in way over his head once the heist goes horribly wrong.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: Drama, CrimeStars: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael MadsenDirector: Quentin TarantinoRating: RRuntime: 99 minutes
Watch on HBO
Brubaker (1980)
Here’s a good rule of thumb for movies: If Robert Redford is starring in a film, it’s usually good. Brubaker is somewhat overlooked, given the strength of Redford’s other movies. But this dramatization of a real story features a powerhouse performance by Redford as Henry Brubaker, the new warden of Wakefield State Prison. Henry even goes undercover in his own prison to get a better look at the rampant abuses and corruption within. Henry is like a force of nature who refuses to look away from the graft and the horrific conditions. Unfortunately for Henry, the men who profit from the prison system have no interest in allowing his reforms to cut into their illicit gains.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%Genre: DramaStars: Robert Redford, Yaphet Kotto, Jane Alexander, Murray Hamilton, David KeithDirector: Stuart RosenbergRating: RRuntime: 132 minutes
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The Good Lie (2014)
You’re going to have to wait until nearly the end of the movie to discover what “the good lie” is in this film. But The Good Lie isn’t built around that mystery. Instead, it’s the story of Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Paul (Emmanuel Jal), Abital (Kuoth Wiel), and Theo (Femi Oguns), a family of siblings who are desperate to survive the Second Sudanese Civil War. Theo is the only one who doesn’t get to escape with his family. The rest attempt to rebuild their lives in the United States with the help of Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon). But Mamere won’t be satisfied until Theo is safe as well.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%Genre: DramaStars: Reese Witherspoon, Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal, Corey StollDirector: Philippe FalardeauRating: PG-13Runtime: 110 minutes
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy (2005)
The late Douglas Adams co-wrote the adaptation of his amazingly funny sci-fi novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy. In this very underrated flick, Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) narrowly survives the destruction of Earth thanks to his friendship with Ford Prefect (Mos Def), an alien who looks very human. Once out in space, the unlikely duo end up on a quest to find the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything” alongside President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), as well as Trillian (Zooey Deschanel) and a very depressed android named Marvin (Alan Rickman). This is a joyfully silly story that never takes itself too seriously. And that’s why we love it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 60%Genre: Comedy, Sci-fiStars: Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Bill NighyDirector: Garth JenningsRating: PGRuntime: 109 minutes
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8 Mile (2002)
Did you know that Eminem is an Oscar winner for 8 Mile? His original song, “Lose Yourself,” was the winner that year in the 2002 Academy Awards. The film it belongs to is pretty good too. 8 Mile is very loosely based on Eminem’s actual life, but if you’re expecting a biopic full of triumphant moments, this isn’t it. Instead, Eminem plays Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr., a would-be rapper who is desperate to make ends meet after moving back in with his mother, Stephanie (Kim Basinger). Jimmy struggles with his confidence after freezing on stage during a rap battle. Regardless, Jimmy doesn’t give up on his dreams, even when he feels pressure from all aspects of his life.
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%Genre: DramaStars: Eminem, Mekhi Phifer, Brittany Murphy, Kim Basinger, Eugene ByrdDirector: Curtis HansonRating: RRuntime: 110 minutes
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Adventureland (2009)
Director Greg Mottola beat Disney to the punch by making an Adventureland movie before the corporate giant could. However, the theme park in this movie has nothing to do with Disneyland. Instead, it’s the name of a fictional theme park in the late ‘80s, where James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is forced to get a job in order to pay his college education. While working at the park, James falls hard for Emily “Em” Lewin (Kristen Stewart). Em returns James’ feelings even though she’s having an affair with another co-worker, Mike Connell (Ryan Reynolds). The revelation of that relationship threatens to tear James and Em apart before they can truly explore what they can do together.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%Genre: Drama, ComedyStars: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan ReynoldsDirector: Greg MottolaRating: RRuntime: 107 minutes
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The Debt (2010)
The incomparable Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain share the lead role in The Debt as they play Israeli operative Rachel Singer in the ‘90s and in the late ‘60s, respectively. Within the present timeline, Rachel (Mirren) is haunted by the outcome of a mission that she undertook decades earlier. That mission plays out in the past as Rachel (Chastain), David Peretz (Sam Worthington), and Stefan Gold (Tom Wilkinson) hunt for a Nazi war criminal, Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen). They soon discover that Dieter is very elusive prey, and he keeps finding ways to get under their skin even when they close in on him.
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%Genre: ThrillerStars: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Jesper Christensen, Marton CsokasDirector: John MaddenRating: RRuntime: 113 minutes
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Ford v. Ferrari (2019)
Ford v. Ferrari is inspired by the real feud that developed between Ford Motor Company and Ferrari in the late ‘60s following a failed deal between the two carmakers. Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is so incensed by the outcome that he authorizes Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) to create a racing program to rival Ferrari’s team. But this story really belongs to automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and a stubborn race car driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale). Ken’s driving skills are unparalleled, but his ego and his arrogance cause a lot of conflicts with Carroll and with Ford itself. Regardless, Ken and Carroll’s collaboration allows Ford to compete on the global stage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: DramaStars: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy LettsDirector: James MangoldRating: PG-13Runtime: 152 minutes
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Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Roberto Benigni co-wrote, directed, and starred in Life Is Beautiful, a movie that mines moments of both comedy and drama from the horrors of the Holocaust. Guido Orefice (Benigni) and Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) fall in love despite the odds against them. Years later, following the birth of their son, Giosuè (Giorgio Cantarini), the Orefice family is sent to a concentration camp as the Nazi regime moves into Italy. To shield his son, Guido convinces Giosuè that the camp is an elaborate game that he must win. Guido’s subterfuge proves to be very valuable for both himself and his son, but he can only carry on the illusion for so long.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%Genre: Drama, ComedyStars: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano, Horst BuchholzDirector: Roberto BenigniRating: PG-13Runtime: 116 minutes
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Mississippi Burning (1988)
Mississippi Burning is not directly based on real events, but it does take some of its influence from things that actually happened. After three civil rights workers go missing in Jessup County, FBI agents Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) are sent to unravel the mystery. While the agents quickly determine that the missing men were murdered, they also discover that the town is caught in the grip of the Ku Klux Klan. Even Sheriff Clinton Pell (Brad Dourif) is a part of the racist group. With their investigation at a standstill, Rupert and Alan decide to try some legally questionable tactics to break the conspiracy and expose the murderers.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%Genre: ThrillerStars: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee ErmeyDirector: Alan ParkerRating: RRuntime: 127 minutes
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The Mummy (1999)
It’s hard to reboot The Mummy, as the producers of Universal Pictures’ Dark Universe discovered a few years ago. However, the 1999 incarnation worked really well by borrowing a few things from the Indiana Jones movies, and because it had a very appealing cast. Brendan Fraser stars as Rick O’Connell, an adventurer whose life is saved by Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah). While on an expedition to a lost Egyptian city, Evelyn accidentally unleashes Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), a high priest who has been reborn as a mummy. To escape Imhotep and his growing power, Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan must find a way to kill him once again.
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%Genre: Adventure, FantasyStars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan HydeDirector: Stephen SommersRating: PG-13Runtime: 125 minutes
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The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
The Purple Rose of Cairo is actually the name of a film within the film. It’s also the favorite escape of Cecilia (Mia Farrow), a woman trapped in a loveless marriage with Monk (Danny Aiello). She is so enamored with the leading man of the film, Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), that he somehow comes to life and escapes from the movie to woo her. Tom even takes Cecilia into the world of the film to experience a romance unlike anything she ever thought possible. However, this soon draws the attention of Gil Shepherd (Daniels), the actor who portrays Tom in the movie. This leaves Cecillia stuck between two versions of the same man: one real, and one a fantasy.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: ComedyStars: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Edward Herrmann, John WoodDirector: Woody AllenRating: PGRuntime: 82 minutes
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Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Three Days of the Condor is one of the greatest paranoid thrillers from the ‘70s. Robert Redford stars as Joseph Turner, a CIA analyst with the “Condor” codename. After making a report about a strange novel that has been translated and sold worldwide, Joseph is stunned to discover that his entire department has been slaughtered, and he’s next on the hit list. Even Joseph’s superiors in the CIA appear to want him dead. Without anywhere else to turn, Joseph kidnaps a stranger, Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), and hides in her apartment. But with few other options, Kathy may be the only real ally that Joseph has left.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%Genre: ThrillerStars: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von SydowDirector: Sydney PollackRating: RRuntime: 82 minutes
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The Warriors (1979)
In the cult classic film The Warriors, the titular gang is invited to a summit for all of the gang leaders in New York. Cyrus (Roger Hill) calls for unity between every gang faction. But his message is rejected by Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who kills Cyrus during a police raid. To save himself, Luther frames the Warriors for his crime. That leaves Swan (Michael Beck), Ajax (James Remar), Cleon (Dorsey Wright), Snow (Brian Tyler), Cochise (David Harris), and their friends with a bounty on their heads as they try to return to the safety of their own turf. But the odds are heavily against the Warriors living through the night.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%Genre: Thriller, ActionStars: Michael Beck, James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Marcelino Sánchez, David HarrisDirector: Walter HillRating: RRuntime: 93 minutes
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All Is Lost (2013)
There is only one person on-screen for the vast majority of All Is Lost, and we never learn his name. Robert Redford plays the sailor who discovers that his ship has been badly damaged in a collision. As he tries to repair the ship, the man is thrust into an escalating series of complications that threaten his survival. He battles the elements as well as his own overpowering despair while the odds seem insurmountable. It’s an incredibly gripping story even though there is barely a word spoken in the entire film. Trust us, you won’t be bothered by the relative silence.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: DramaStars: Robert RedfordDirector: J. C. ChandorRating: PG-13Runtime: 105 minutes
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Antwone Fisher (2002)
Denzel Washington moved into the director’s chair for Antowne Fisher, but the script was written by the real Fisher as a biography that explored his troubled life. Derek Luke portrays Antwone in the film, and he suffers from terrible psychological issues stemming from being abandoned by his mother and abused by his foster family. Enlisting in the Navy does little to curb Antowne’s fiery temper, so he is ordered to see Dr. Jerome Davenport (Washington) for treatment. However, this is an inner battle that Antowne must ultimately face alone, even with the emotional support of his girlfriend, Petty Officer Second Class Cheryl Smolley (Joy Bryant).
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%Genre: DramaStars: Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson, Leonard Earl HowzeDirector: Denzel WashingtonRating: PG-13Runtime: 120 minutes
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Beautiful Girls (1996)
According to a character in this film, “beautiful girls represent hope and promise.” But it’s not quite that simple in Beautiful Girls. When Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) and his friends return to their hometown for a high school reunion, their respective relationship dramas come to the forefront. While Willie has a girlfriend named Tracy (Annabeth Gish), he also forms a bond with Marty (Natalie Portman), a girl who is way too young for him. Willie and his buddies have a lot of growing up to do because their collective romantic entanglements threaten to disrupt everything good about their lives. And if they aren’t careful, they will lose the women that they truly love.
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%Genre: Drama, RomanceStars: Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, Annabeth Gish, Lauren Holly, Timothy Hutton, Rosie O’DonnellDirector: Ted DemmeRating: RRuntime: 112 minutes
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Billy Elliot (2000)
Can a young boy embrace his passion for ballet? It may seem less controversial now, but in 2000, the premise of Billy Elliot challenged gender norms. Young Billy (Jamie Bell) is pushed into learning how to box by his father, Jackie Elliot (Gary Lewis). However, Billy discovers his passion for dance when he encounters Sandra Wilkinson (Julie Walters) and her ballet class. Billy faces several obstacles in his path, including the vocal opposition of his father. The truly moving part of the story is the way that Billy overcomes these problems and chooses his own destiny.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%Genre: DramaStars: Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven, Adam CooperDirector: Stephen DaldryRating: RRuntime: 110 minutes
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Broadcast News (1987)
Director James L. Brooks deftly mixed romance, drama, and comedy in Broadcast News. Holly Hunter leads the cast as Jane Craig, a gifted and ambitious news producer. Albert Brooks co-stars as Aaron Altman, a reporter who carries a torch for Jane and has on-air ambitions of his own. When sportscaster Tom Grunick (William Hurt) joins the outlet, it creates professional and romantic tension between Jane and Aaron. And although Tom represents everything she dislikes about news as entertainment, her attraction for him is impossible to ignore. And in the newsroom, no relationship is sacred.
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceStars: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Robert Prosky, Lois ChilesDirector: James L. BrooksRating: RRuntime: 133 minutes
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My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
The inspirational story of how Nia Vardalos wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding could make a pretty good movie just by itself. But even two decades after its initial release, the film holds up as a charming romantic comedy. Vardalos plays Fotoula “Toula” Portokalos, a 30-year-old woman who works at her family’s Greek restaurant. After attracting the attention of Ian Miller (John Corbett), Toula is inspired to reinvent herself and pursue her own career and love life. While Toula and Ian decide to get married, the involvement of her Greek family puts some unexpected tension on the wedding plans.
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%Genre: Comedy, RomanceStars: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Gia CaridesDirector: Joel ZwickRating: PGRuntime: 95 minutes
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Sling Blade (1996)
Billy Bob Thorton took on the defining role of his career when he wrote, directed, and starred in Sling Blade. Within the film, Thornton plays Karl Childers, a developmentally disabled man who has spent most of his life in an institution. Karl infamously killed his mother and her lover with a sling blade, in part due to his misinterpretation of their affair. Regardless, Karl finds a new life outside of the institution and befriends a young boy named Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black). Karl even becomes a father figure to Frank and feels a strong connection with him. That’s why Karl will do anything to protect Frank, even if it costs him everything that he has.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%Genre: DramaStars: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J. T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas BlackDirector: Billy Bob ThorntonRating: RRuntime: 135 minutes
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Speed (1994)
Pop quiz, hotshot. What high-concept action film made Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock into big-time Hollywood stars? Why, it’s Speed, of course. A madman named Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper) issues a ransom demand with a threat that a bomb will soon explode on a bus. Officer Jack Traven (Reeves) manages to get on the bus, but it falls to passenger Annie Porter (Bullock) to keep the bus going over 50 mph or else the bomb will immediately explode. This may sound silly, but it’s a really terrific action flick. The romantic tension between Jack and Annie is also delicious, even in life-or-death situations.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%Genre: ActionStars: Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, Joe Morton, Jeff DanielsDirector: Jan de BontRating: RRuntime: 116 minutes
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The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Jack Nicholson as the devil? Talk about perfect casting! In The Witches of Eastwick, Nicholson plays the demonic Daryl Van Horne, a mysterious man who goes out of his way to seduce three friends: Alexandra Medford (Cher), Jane Spofford (Susan Sarandon), and Sukie Ridgemont (Michelle Pfeiffer). The three women don’t initially realize that they are witches, but they soon come into their power after their encounters with Daryl. However, the price of Daryl’s favor is far too high for any of the women to accept. Fortunately, they still have each other in the battle of their lives.
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%Genre: Horror, Fantasy, ComedyStars: Jack Nicholson, Cher, Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, Veronica CartwrightDirector: George MillerRating: RRuntime: 118 minutes
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The Aviator (2004)
The real Howard Hughes has been gone for nearly five decades, but he left behind an eclectic legacy as a pilot, an aviation magnate, an engineer, and even a film director. Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator examines two decades in Howard’s life, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. Howard’s whirlwind affair with Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) is chronicled, as is his intimate connection with Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). The film doesn’t shy away from depicting Howard’s severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, which threatens to destroy his empire and his relationships. For better or worse, Howard’s real life was complex and messy. That’s also why his story makes for a very compelling film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%Genre: DramaStars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan AldaDirector: Martin ScorseseRating: PG-13Runtime: 170 minutes
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Backdraft (1991)
Backdraft is a special effects marvel, thanks to its masterful depiction of the beautiful and destructive nature of fire. Kurt Russell and William Baldwin star as Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey and his brother, Brian. Bull is the senior firefighter, and he is often at odds with his younger brother. But as a series of deadly fires rock Chicago, Brian and his mentor, Captain Donald “Shadow” Rimgale (Robert De Niro), suspect arson as the cause. More specifically, they come to believe that only a firefighter would have the skill to create the targeted blazes. Brian even briefly suspects that his brother is to blame before the truth surprises them all.
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%Genre: Action, ThrillerStars: Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca De Mornay, Donald Sutherland, Robert De NiroDirector: Ron HowardRating: RRuntime: 137 minutes
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Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
Back to the Future isn’t the only film that has successfully mixed time travel, sci-fi, and comedy. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure unexpectedly launched a franchise when it introduced fans to Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter), and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves). Together, they are Wyld Stallyns, and they’re also in big trouble if they don’t pass their history presentation. Rufus (George Carlin), a time traveler from the future, arrives in 1988 and gives the duo a phone booth time machine because they have a destiny to fulfill. Naturally, the guys use their new toy to create chaos in time. And they also put together a dream team of historical figures.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%Genre: Comedy, Sci-fiStars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Robert V. Barron, Terry Camilleri, Clifford DavidDirector: Stephen HerekRating: PGRuntime: 90 minutes
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Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner wasn’t a huge hit, but it was an incredibly influential sci-fi film. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, Blade Runner 2049, appears to be on the same trajectory. This visually stunning follow-up takes place a few decades after the original movie, as a Blade Runner known as K (Ryan Gosling) discovers evidence that replicants can biologically reproduce. Because of gaps in his own history, K comes to believe that he is the replicant child in question. To get answers, K takes it upon himself to track down Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the titular Blade Runner from the original film. However, a corrupt executive, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), wants to catch Rick first and use his knowledge to exploit the replicant secrets for his own gain.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%Genre: Sci-fi, ActionStars: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin WrightDirector: Denis VilleneuveRating: RRuntime: 163 minutes
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Chasing Amy (1997)
Chasing Amy remains director Kevin Smith’s best film to date, thanks to its frank depiction of sex, romance, and the ensuing emotional blowback. Ben Affleck stars as comic book illustrator Holden McNeil, a young man who becomes instantly infatuated with Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). Despite his initial surprise that Alyssa is a lesbian, Holden’s feelings for her continue unabated. When Alyssa begins to reciprocate those feelings, Holden’s friend and partner, Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), is openly threatened by their burgeoning romance. Regardless, Holden proves to be his own worst enemy when his insecurity threatens his emotional bonds to both Alyssa and Banky.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%Genre: Comedy, Romance, DramaStars: Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, Dwight Ewell, Jason MewesDirector: Kevin SmithRating: RRuntime: 113 minutes
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Clueless (1995)
Clueless is one of the seminal comedies of the ‘90s and the film that solidified Alicia Silverstone as a star. Within the film, Silverstone plays Cher Horowitz, a teenager among the most popular girls in her school. Cher has a somewhat contentious relationship with her step-brother, Josh Lucas (Paul Rudd). According to Josh, Cher has no purpose in her life. To rectify that, Cher commits to performing good deeds and takes an unpopular girl, Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy), under her wing. But when Tai competes with her for the affections of the same guy, Cher is once again forced to reassess her life.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%Genre: ComedyStars: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, Paul Rudd, Wallace ShawnDirector: Amy HeckerlingRating: PG-13Runtime: 97 minutes
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The Hurricane (1999)
The Hurricane is inspired by the true story of boxer Rubin “The Hurricane” Carter (Denzel Washington). In 1966, Rubin was on the verge of greater stardom when he was wrongfully convicted of a triple homicide. When the film flashes forward to the ‘80s, young Lesra Martin (Vicellous Reon Shannon) is inspired by Rubin’s autobiography to free him from prison. Lesra rallies support for Rubin, and the fight for his freedom returns to the courtroom. The quest for justice takes its toll on both Rubin and Lesra, but their struggle is not in vain.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%Genre: DramaStars: Denzel Washington, John Hannah, Deborah Kara Unger, Liev Schreiber, Vicellous Reon Shannon, David PaymerDirector: Norman JewisonRating: RRuntime: 146 minutes
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Kajillionaire (2020)
Despite its strange title, Kajillionaire is not about a ridiculously wealthy family. Instead, it’s about a family of grifters and con artists. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Old Dolio, the daughter of Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa Dyne (Debra Winger). The problem is that Old Dollo’s parents don’t treat her like their child. Instead, she’s simply their convenient accomplice. While trying to run a con, Robert and Theresa recruit Melanie Whitacre (Gina Rodriguez) into their schemes and begin treating her as their daughter. Much to Old Dollo’s surprise, Melanie is the only one who offers her any emotional support. This leads Old Dollo to openly question whether her parents care for her at all.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%Genre: Comedy, DramaStars: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard JenkinsDirector: Miranda JulyRating: RRuntime: 106 minutes
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Rocky (1976)
Nobody believed in Rocky Balboa like Sylvester Stallone. In the mid-’70s, Sylvester wrote, directed, and starred in Rocky. Carl Weathers co-starred as Apollo Creed, a world champion boxer. When Apollo needs an opponent for an exhibition match, Rocky gets the shot of a lifetime. Simultaneously, Rocky pursues a very charming romance with Adriana “Adrian” Pennino (Talia Shire). As the day of the big fight approaches, not even Rocky believes that he can win. However, that doesn’t stop Rocky from using everything he has to go the distance. This film was 1976’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture and also the start of a franchise that continues to this day.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: DramaStars: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess MeredithDirector: Sylvester StalloneRating: PGRuntime: 120 minutes
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Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
If you’ve ever wondered why Eddie Murphy became a box office draw, then you should check out Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy’s wildly entertaining turn as Detroit police detective Axel Foley kicked off a franchise with a blockbuster hit. When Axel’s friend, Mikey Tandino (James Russo), is killed, he disobeys orders and pursues the killers to Beverly Hills. Detectives Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Ashton) are assigned to keep Axel out of trouble … and they spectacularly fail to do so. Axel simply won’t back down from any authority, and he always finds a way to make it funny.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%Genre: Comedy, ActionStars: Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Lisa Eilbacher, Ronny CoxDirector: Martin BrestRating: RRuntime: 105 minutes
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The English Patient (1996)
The English Patient made audiences swoon in 1996, thanks to its epic romance set against the backdrop of World War II. Ralph Fiennes stars as Almásy, a badly-burned man facing the end of his life in the war’s final days. While a nurse named Hana (Juliette Binoche) cares for him, Almásy puts together the pieces of his past. That includes Almásy’s torrid affair with Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas), a married woman. Hana has a tentative romance of her own with Kip (Naveen Andrews), a soldier in the British army. Willem Dafoe also stars in the movie as a Canadian intelligence officer named Caravaggio, a man who holds a dangerous grudge against Almásy.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%Genre: Drama, RomanceStars: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe, Kristin Scott Thomas, Naveen AndrewsDirector: Anthony MinghellaRating: RRuntime: 162 minutes
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He Got Game (1998)
Spike Lee cast NBA superstar Ray Allen in his film He Got Game. That gave a lot of credibility to Allen’s role as Jesus Shuttlesworth, the top basketball prospect in the nation. Jesus is so highly coveted that the governor temporarily paroles his father, Jacob “Jake” Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington). If Jake can get his son to commit to the governor’s alma mater, then he can go free. However, the lingering hostility between Jesus and Jake means that the son isn’t exactly eager to do his father any favors. Not even a one-on-one basketball game can settle their issues. Instead, the father and son will have to look within for resolution and reconciliation.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%Genre: DramaStars: Denzel Washington, Ray Allen, Milla Jovovich, John Turturro, Rosario DawsonDirector: Spike LeeRating: RRuntime: 136 minutes
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Insomnia (1992)
For his third feature film, Insomnia, Christopher Nolan turned to a stellar cast for this psychological thriller. Al Pacino stars as Will Dormer, a police detective plagued by guilt and insomnia while on a special case in Alaska. After Will’s partner, Detective Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan), threatens to testify against him to Internal Affairs, Will shoots Hap while in pursuit of a killer, Walter Finch (Robin Williams). Walter takes the opportunity to blackmail Will into helping him escape the charges, while a young detective, Ellie Burr (Hilary Swank), gets closer to the truth.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: ThrillerStars: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin DonovanDirector: Christopher NolanRating: RRuntime: 119 minutes
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Life of Pi (2012)
Ang Lee’s adaptation of Life of Pi is a visual masterpiece and a modern fairy tale as well. Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel (Suraj Sharma) shares the story of his life, from his younger years to a horrific accident at sea when he was a teenager (Irrfan Khan). Young Pi is trapped on a lifeboat with an intimidating Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. While Richard Parker could easily kill Pi, the teenager finds a way for both of them to co-exist as they fight the elements for their lives.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%Genre: DramaStars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall, Tabu, Adil HussainDirector: Ang LeeRating: PGRuntime: 120 minutes
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Argo (2012)
Ben Affleck’s career comeback was firmly secured with Argo. He directed the film and starred as CIA extraction expert Tony Mendez. It’s based on a real story that took place after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. With six U.S. Embassy employees trapped in the Canadian Embassy in Tehran, Tony comes up with a novel idea to extract them. He and his colleagues develop a fake sci-fi movie and pretend to be Canadian filmmakers in a ruse to smuggle out the Americans as part of the crew. Certain embellishments were made for the big screen, but it’s still very entertaining.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%Genre: Drama, ThrillerStars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John GoodmanDirector: Ben AffleckRating: PG-13Runtime: 120 minutes
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Babe (1995)
There aren’t many critically acclaimed movies with talking pigs, but Babe is a charmer. Plus, this is the movie that revitalized James Cromwell’s career. In the film, Cromwell plays a farmer named Arthur Hoggett, who adds a young pig named Babe (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) to his farm. Eager to earn his keep, Babe develops a knack for sheepherding with the full cooperation of the sheep. But Babe’s faith in Arthur’s affection is shaken when he learns that humans eat pigs.
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%Genre: Comedy, FamilyStars: James Cromwell, Christine Cavanaugh, Magda SzubanskiDirector: Chris NoonanRating: GRuntime: 92 minutes
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Pitch Perfect (2012)
Pitch Perfect may be one of the most unlikely franchises of the last two decades, but it won over audiences with its initial installment. Anna Kendrick stars as Beca Mitchell, a young first-year student at Barden University. Beca’s singing ability quickly draws the attention of the Barden Bellas, the university’s female a cappella group. However, Beca butts heads with the Bellas’ leader, Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp), which jeopardizes the group’s national championship hopes.
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%Genre: Musical, ComedyStars: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Brittany SnowDirector: Jason MooreRating: PG-13Runtime: 112 minutes
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Dunkirk (2012)
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is based on a true World War II story. In the aftermath of the Battle of France, thousands of British soldiers were stranded on Dunkirk as German troops advanced. The film follows the rescue effort by sea and by air. But back in Dunkirk itself, soldiers Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles) find danger at every turn. The first few rescue attempts are disastrous, and even the rescuers are in danger. Not everyone is going to come home from this mission.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%Genre: DramaStars: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry StylesDirector: Christopher NolanRating: PG-13Runtime: 106 minutes
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Lincoln (2012)
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic takes a look at the last few months of President Abraham Lincoln’s life. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an outstanding performance as Lincoln, and the story follows the president as he tries to bring the Union back together while maintaining the emancipation of the former slaves. It’s not an easy task for Lincoln, thanks to the politics of his era. But the portrait that emerges is not a mythical figure from history. Instead, Lincoln is shown as a man who tried to do right by his family and his country.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%Genre: DramaStars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-LevittDirector: Steven SpielbergRating: PG-13Runtime: 150 minutes
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Get Shorty (1995)
It’s hard to go wrong with an Elmore Leonard novel as the source material, and Get Shorty keeps that tradition alive. John Travolta stars as Chili Palmer, a Miami mobster who gets seduced by an even bigger scam: the dream of making it big in Hollywood. While collecting a debt from producer Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), Chili pitches his own story in the hopes of getting it made into a film. And while pursuing Martin Weir (Danny DeVito) to star in the movie, Chili finds himself drawn to Martin’s ex-wife, Karen (Rene Russo).
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%Genre: ComedyStars: John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVitoDirector: Barry SonnenfeldRating: RRuntime: 105 minutes
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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
John le Carré’s Cold War thriller novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, was brilliantly adapted by director Tomas Alfredson. Gary Oldman stars as George Smiley, a British intelligence officer in the early ’70s. After a botched operation sends George into early retirement, an apparent Soviet mole inside MI6 changes the game. George is recruited to help expose the spy from outside the agency, as he re-enters a world of danger and intrigue.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%Genre: Drama, ThrillerStars: Gary Oldman, Kathy Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin FirthDirector: Tomas AlfredsonRating: RRuntime: 127 minutes
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Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jacob’s Ladder is an unusually challenging horror film that keeps its viewers guessing about what is real and what’s not. Tim Robbins plays Jacob Singer, a Vietnam veteran haunted by his near-death experience during the war, as well as the death of his son. Years after coming home from Vietnam, Jacob begins experiencing horrific hallucinations. Jacob soon suspects that he and his fellow soldiers may have been subjected to experimental drugs. But the truth is far more disturbing than Jacob suspects.
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%Genre: Horror, ThrillerStars: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Matt Craven, Danny AielloDirector: Adrian LyneRating: RRuntime: 113 minutes
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Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Quentin Tarantino’s revenge epic Kill Bill was famously split into two movies. But soon, you’ll be able to watch both films back-to-back on HBO Max. Of the two, we’re partial to Kill Bill Vol. 1, which introduces the Bride (Uma Thurman). After her ex-boyfriend, Bill (David Carradine), orders a hit on her during her wedding, the Bride awakens from a coma to avenge her loss. The Bride’s first two targets are Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), and both battles were stylish and instantly iconic. It’s one of Tarantino’s best, even after nearly two decades since its release.
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%Genre: Action, Martial ArtsStars: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, David CarradineDirector: Quentin TarantinoRating: RRuntime: 111 minutes
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Independence Day (1996)
Independence Day is not necessarily great cinema, but it excels as a popcorn action flick that took theaters by storm in 1996. Arguably, it was the film that made Will Smith a movie star, thanks to his turn as ace fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller. But the real stars of this movie are the aliens themselves and the destruction that they leave in their wake. This is a disaster film dialed up to 11, and we still get goosebumps from President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) as he delivers a speech for the ages.
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%Genre: Sci-fi, ActionStars: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff GoldblumDirector: Roland EmmerichRating: PG-13Runtime: 145 minutes
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High Fidelity (2000)
Pop quiz: What are your top five favorite John Cusack movies? Chances are good that High Fidelity is on that list. That’s fitting because Cusack’s Rob Gordon loves making top five lists all throughout the movie. Poor Rob also loves Laura (Iben Hjejle), but not as much as he loves music. With his relationship on the rocks, Rob tries to figure out how he can improve himself. Regardless, the real joy in the movie comes during the moments when Rob just can’t help embracing his inner music geek. The man’s got good taste!
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%Genre: Comedy, Romance, DramaStars: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Jack Black, Tim RobbinsDirector: Stephen FrearsRating: RRuntime: 113 minutes
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Tour de Pharmacy (2017)
After the success of 7 Days in Hell, a mockumentary about a legendary tennis match between two fictional idiots, the Andy Samberg-led team earned a second go-round via HBO. The result? Tour de Pharmacy, a story that spoofs the Tour de France by focusing on competitors’ use of performance-enhancing substances in the early 1980s. Samberg returns to play Nigerian rider Marty Hass, while Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore, Daveed Diggs, and John Cena appear as the other made-up competitors. Tour de Pharmacy is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and the concept is bolstered by the inclusion of several veteran actors — we won’t spoil the hilarious surprises here — who play the “modern-day” versions of the film’s protagonists. Lance Armstrong’s cameo doesn’t hurt, either.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%Genre: Comedy, SportsStars: Andy Samberg, Orlando Bloom, Freddie HighmoreDirector: Jake SzymanskiRating: Not RatedRuntime: 50 minutes
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Clerks (1994)
Clerks was the film that famously launched the career of writer and director Kevin Smith, who also co-stars in the movie as Silent Bob alongside Jason Mewes’ Jay. While Jay and Silent Bob became staples of Smith’s later films, Clerks belongs to Brian O’Halloran’s Dante Hicks and Jeff Anderson’s Randal Graves. Dante and Randal’s banter showed off Smith’s gift for dialogue, but it also allowed them to be more than just Smith’s pop culture sounding board. The duo justifiably have contempt for their dead-end jobs, but they don’t necessarily appreciate the good things they do have. It’s a hard lesson for Dante to learn, but he does get the point in the end.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%Genre: ComedyStars: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason MewesDirector: Kevin SmithRating: RRuntime: 92 minutes
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Joker (2019)
One of the most acclaimed and discussed films from the past year, 2019’s Joker isn’t for the faint of heart. There are moments that would disturb even the most hardened sensibilities within people. That being said, Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the iconic villain is impossible to look away from, as there’s something surprisingly human about Arthur Fleck’s descent into madness and as he becomes the Joker. Fleck’s inability to control his laughter creates a maniacal character rooted in deep sadness, one who can’t get out of his own way despite often having good intentions. There’s a reason Joker ascended the usual bias against comic book films, earning 11 Oscar nominations and a Best Actor win for Phoenix.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%Genre: Drama, crimeStars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De NiroDirector: Todd PhillipsRating: RRuntime: 122 minutes
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Birds of Prey (2020)
Introduced to the role in 2016’s critical bomb, but commercial home run, Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie gets another turn as fan-favorite Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. Told from Harley’s smart but certifiable point of view, Birds of Prey shows us how Harley goes from being the spurned lover of Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime, to forgetting her “puddin’” and becoming her own gun-toting, butt-kicking self. Along the way, she gathers a team of former cops, killers, and super-powered singers to help her face down the endless criminal hordes of Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), aka Black Mask. McGregor is perfect as the brutal Sionis, who’s just as twisted as Harley or her ex-boyfriend, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is another standout as the lethal vigilante Huntress.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%Genre: ActionStars: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth WinsteadDirector: Cathy YanRating: RRuntime: 109 minutes
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