The 20 Best Movies on HBO Right Now (September 2020)

The top films to watch on HBO

While HBO started in the 1970s as a subscription cable channel, it's expanded to offer streaming services like HBO Go, HBO Now, and HBO Max as well. But no matter how you get HBO, there are hundreds of films available from the Golden Age of classic films to modern-day, just-released theatrical movies. To help you make the most of your time, we've rounded up the best movies on HBO right now. 

These films are all available on HBO Max, but some may not be available on HBO Go or HBO Now due to the differing nature of those services.

01
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The Invisible Man (2020): Best New Horror Adaptation

Elizabeth Moss stars in 'The Invisible Man.'

Universal Pictures

 

IMDb rating: 7.1

Genre: Horror

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer 

Director: Leigh Whannell

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Leigh Whannell's The Invisible Man is the latest film adaptation of H. G. Wells' classic novel. When Cecilia's (Elizabeth Moss) abusive ex commits suicide and leaves her everything in his will, she begins to think his death is a hoax. Soon, she's convinced she's being hunted by something, or someone, no one else can see. But no one believes her. The Invisible Man's themes feel timely in the Me Too era, and Moss delivers a great performance, as always. If you're looking for a spooky popcorn flick, you could do a lot worse.

02
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Just Mercy (2020): Best Cathartic Courtroom Drama

Michael B. Jordan stars in 'Just Mercy.'

Warner Bros.

 

IMDb rating: 7.6

Genre: Drama

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson 

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

Just Mercy is the biographical story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and the historic case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx). McMillian was given a death sentence in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a lack of evidence and a faulty witness. The film follows Bryan for years as he maneuvers the legal and political worlds to fight for justice for McMillian.

Both Jordan and Foxx are wonderful actors and they give quietly engrossing performances. The courtroom scenes are tense and emotional, and the ending is cathartic.

03
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Jojo Rabbit (2019): A Touching Comedy About... Hitler?

Jojo and his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, participate in a summer camp exercise in Jojo Rabbit.

Fox Searchlight

IMDb rating: 7.9

Genre: Comedy

Starring:  Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson

Director: Taika Waititi

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Director Taika Waititi brings his usual blend of humor and pathos to Jojo Rabbit, a surprisingly touching World War II satire about a young boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) and his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Waititi). Blindly loyal to the Third Reich, Jojo's world is shaken when he discovers his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home.

Although the film is set in Nazi Germany, it's less of a war film and more a story about growing up, falling in love, and reexamining one's beliefs. And there are a few laughs (and tears) along the way.

04
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An American Pickle (2020): Best HBO Original Fish-Out-of-Water Comedy

Seth Rogen stars as Herschel Greenbaum in "An American Pickle"

Hopper Stone/HBO

 

IMDb rating: n/a

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook, Sean Whalen

Director: Brandon Trost

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 90

An American Pickle is one of the first originals coming to HBO Max. It stars Seth Rogen as Herschel Greenbaum, a Jewish immigrant who's accidentally preserved in a vat of pickles and wakes up 100 years later in modern-day Brooklyn. There he connects with his great-grandson Ben (also played by Rogen). The film is based on a novella by former Pixar and Saturday Night Live writer Simon Rich.

05
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Dog Day Afternoon (1975): Pacino at His Best

Al Pacino and Penelope Allen in 'Dog Day Afternoon'

 Warner Bros.

IMDb rating: 8.0

Genre: Crime, Drama

Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Penelope Allen

Director: Sidney Lumet

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Based on real-life events, Dog Day Afternoon tells the story of a criminal named Sonny (Al Pacino) who holds up a Brooklyn bank so he can steal enough money for his partner's sex-change operation. But, when he finds out there's not much to steal and the building is surrounded by cops, he has to bargain for his freedom and the bank employees' safety.

This Sidney Lumet classic helped propel Al Pacino into superstardom and is one of his most electric performances. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and seven Golden Globe awards. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

06
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BlacKkKlansman (2018): Most Satisfyingly Resolved Crime Drama

A scene fromBlacKkKlansman

 Focus Features

IMDb rating: 7.5

Genre: Biographical Crime Drama

Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier

Director: Spike Lee

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 135

Following in the footsteps of classics like Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman should be considered essential viewing. For everyone. It's the based-on-a-true-story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the very first African American police officer in Colorado Springs, CO, who would, against all odds, go on to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan.

The movie teams up Stallworth with his white partner (Adam Driver) who handles the in-person KKK confrontations, so as not to give up the ruse, and builds slowly with ample imagery from America's racist past (and present) thanks, in part, to amazing appearances by Alec Baldwin. The final act features an inevitably violent and satisfying crescendo.

07
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Midnight Run (1988): An Underrated Comedy Classic

Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in 'Midnight Run'

 Universal Pictures

IMDb rating: 7.5

Genre: Comedy, Action

Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto

Director: Martin Brest

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes

Midnight Run is often overlooked when looking at the best comedies of the 1980s, but it's absolutely worth a watch. Robert De Niro plays burnt out bounty hunter Jack Walsh. Walsh is tasked with retrieving a former Mafia accountant, Jonathan 'The Duke' Mardukas (Charles Grodin). What's supposed to be a simple 'midnight run' is anything but, as the Mafia, the FBI, and a rival bounty hunter all pursue the pair for their own agendas. As Walsh and Mardukas travel across the country, they even form a strange friendship. The chemistry and wordplay between De Niro and Grodin are wonderful in this film, and they help elevate it above the usual buddy action movie formula.

08
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Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982): One of the Best Sci-Fi Films of All Time

A car flies past a billboard of a smiling Japanese woman in the sci-fi film Blade Runner.

 Warner Bros.

IMDb rating: 8.1

Genre: Sci-Fi

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Director: Ridley Scott

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Initially misunderstood by both critics and viewers when it premiered in 1982, Blade Runner is now considered one of the best science-fiction films of all time. Set in a dystopian version of Los Angeles, it tells the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the eponymous Blade Runner, who's tasked with hunting down rogue synthetic humans called "replicants."

Loosely based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner has influenced countless sci-fi projects since its release, and it helped define the cyberpunk subgenre. It's received numerous re-releases and director's cuts over the years. This must-watch version is The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary remaster.

09
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Point Break (1991): Best for Peak 1990s Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in 'Point Break'

 Getty Images

IMDb rating: 7.3

Genre: Action, Crime

Starring: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

If you're looking for peak '90s action, you could do worse than Point Break. This classic stars Keanu Reeves as undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (yes, that's really his name), who infiltrates a group of mask-wearing, bank-robbing surfers led by Bodhi (Patrick Swayze). Utah worms his way into the gang to gather information but finds himself becoming friends with Bodhi and buying into the gang's daredevil lifestyle. While the premise is arguably ridiculous, the film delivers plenty of excitement via its increasingly audacious action sequences.

10
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Alien (1979): Most Gripping Horror Flick

A scene from Alien

 20th Century Fox

IMDb rating: 8.4

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt 

Director: Ridley Scott

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 117

Alien is famous for so many reasons. Routinely cited as one of the scariest, most gripping horror films of all time, it's on the shortlist of director Ridley Scott's best work. The alien designs are notorious, the cast was intentionally unprepared for the traumatic chest-bursting scene to get a more honest and visceral reaction, and so much more.

Stripping all that away, you get Dan O'Bannon's story of a commercial space freighter diverted by the ship's computer to investigate a distress beacon, where crewmember Kane (John Hurt) finds the most insidious aliens ever committed to film—then Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the crew scramble to keep it from murdering everyone aboard.

11
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The Wedding Singer (1998): Best Adam Sandler Film

Adam Sandler in 'The Wedding Singer'

New Line Cinema

IMDb rating: 6.8

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Christine Taylor 

Director: Frank Coraci

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Arguably Adam Sandler's most feel-good film, The Wedding Singer features the comedian as struggling 1980s musician Robbie Hart. Well-known on the wedding circuit, his life falls apart when his fiancee leaves him at the altar. Drew Barrymore is Julia, a waitress at many of the weddings he performs at. The two become friends, then fall in love and realize they're with the wrong partners.

The Wedding Singer is a heartfelt and funny love letter to the 1980s, and Sandler's original songs are hilarious earworms you'll be humming for hours afterward.

12
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La La Land (2016): Best Cinematic Love Letter to Hollywood

A scene form La La Land

 Lionsgate

IMDb rating: 8.0

Genre: Musical

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt

Director: Damien Chazelle

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 128

Channeling Golden Age actors Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, La La Land is a Hollywood musical of the first order, telling the story of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), two star-crossed actors who fall in love and show off LA to moviegoers in the process. And really, that's what this movie is about: It's a cinematic love letter to Hollywood, with larger-than-life musical set pieces and endless location shoots that show off the best that LA has to offer.

This movie has so much to share with lovers of musicals and Hollywood lore that it's a must-watch. The songs are good, the dancing is wonderful, and the lightweight jokes at Hollywood's expense (regarding a Goldilocks movie: "There could have been a fourth bear") are endlessly charming.

13
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The Dark Knight (2008): Batman at His Best

Christian Bale stars as Batman in The Dark Knight.

Warner Bros. Pictures 

IMDb rating: 9.0

Genre: Action

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman

Director: Christopher Nolan

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes

The second film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight elevates the superhero genre into something more than just fun popcorn flicks. This is thanks, in large part, to an Oscar-winning performance from the late Heath Ledger as the Joker, and a script that at times feels more like a crime drama than an action movie.

The Dark Knight sees Batman (Christian Bale) teaming up with Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to fight organized crime in Gotham. But none of them planned on the Joker (Heath Ledger), a criminal mastermind who revels in spreading chaos and destruction. Woven in between thrilling action set pieces is a grim parable about the role of heroes, the nature of humanity, and the power of symbols.

14
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Kung Fu Panda (2008): Best Animated Martial Arts Flick

Po strikes a martial arts pose in the 2008 animated movie 'Kung Fu Panda'

DreamWorks

IMDb rating: 7.5

Genre: Animation

Starring:  Jack Black, Ian McShane, Angelina Jolie

Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

The highest-grossing animated film of the year when it released in 2008, Kung Fu Panda also happens to be one of actor Jack Black's most charismatic roles.

When a warrior named Tai Lung (Ian McShane) threatens his village, lazy and clumsy noodle shop worker Po (Black) learns to become a Kung Fu master so he can save his people. While that plot isn't exactly original, it's an entertaining time thanks to some dazzling DreamWorks animation and a talented celebrity-laden cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, and Lucy Liu.

15
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The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019): Best Documentary to Make You Angry

Elizabeth Holmes in a scene from The Inventor

 HBO

IMDb rating: 7.1

Genre: Documentary

Starring: Alex Gibney, Elizabeth Holmes, Dan Ariely

Director: Alex Gibney

Motion Picture Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 119

HBO is home to a surprisingly large number of documentaries. Some are designed simply to inform or educate; many are directed with the intent of eliciting strong emotion. Few do that as well as the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the woman who founded the multi-billion-dollar tech company and made duplicity and fraud a core part of its business plan.

Director Alex Gibney has trained his cameras on Scientology and Enron in the past, and this unflinching look at Theranos and the people who led it is just as compelling. You'll see how Holmes used misleading technical jargon and outright lies to keep her company afloat, putting lives in jeopardy along the way. If you want to learn how Silicon Valley can go very far off course, this is the film for you.

16
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The Wizard of Oz (1939): Best Comfort Food for the Soul

A scene from The Wizard of Oz

 MGM

IMDb rating: 8.0

Genre: Fantasy

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger

Director: Victor Fleming

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 102

If you're of a certain age, you might have grown up watching The Wizard of Oz every year when it was re-broadcast on TV for the holidays. For everyone else, it's the story of Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her adventure in Oz, whisked away from Kansas during a tornado. But you already knew that; this story is the very definition of iconic.

Even so, you'll enjoy re-watching The Wizard of Oz or sharing it with your young kids. The Wicked Witch of the West (Margret Hamilton) can be scary for youngsters (especially her flying monkeys), but this story is like comfort food for the soul.

17
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Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): Most Quoted Depressing Drama

A scene from Glengarry Glen Ross

 New Line Cinema

IMDb rating: 7.7

Genre: Crime Drama

Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin

Director: James Foley

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 100

David Mamet has a way with dialog, and his harsh take on the world of real estate salesmen is brutal and sad. In fact, it's more than that; this movie can be seen as documenting the death of the American Dream.

It's also perhaps one of the most quoted movies in Hollywood history; Blake from the downtown office (Alec Baldwin) delivers an iconic and much-copied speech ("Third prize is you're fired"), while you watch salesmen Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon) and Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) lose their dignity and humanity chasing sales to stay alive. It sounds bleak, and it is. But it's spellbinding and essential viewing.

18
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Yesterday (2019): Best Emotional Payoff

A scene from Yesterday

 Universal Pictures

IMDb rating: 6.8

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Sophia Di Martino

Director: Danny Boyle

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 116

If you're a fan of The Beatles (and honestly, who isn't? Anyone?), this movie is for you. Yesterday approaches the subject with love and humor. Struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) wakes up one day to discover that no one on earth has any memory of The Beatles or their music. After a short moral struggle, he starts releasing the Fab 4's catalog as his own and, not surprisingly, becomes the biggest musical star on the planet.

Featuring a large dose of Ed Sheeran as himself, the star who discovers and promotes Malik, the movie is charming in all the right ways with some surprisingly emotional payoffs.

19
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A Fish Called Wanda (1988): Potentially Best Comedy Ever Made

A scene from A Fish Called Wanda

MGM

 

IMDb rating: 7.5

Genre: Comedy

Starring: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline

Director: Charles Crichton

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 108

Could this be the greatest comedy ever made? Many comedies are a product of the time in which they're made and hold up poorly. But this story of a heist involving colorful characters like Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis), Otto West (Kevin Kline), and Ken Pile (Michael Palin) is as funny today as the day it was made (in 1988).

The heist itself isn't even that important. What works here are bizarre characters and organic personalities and relationships. The dimwitted Kevin Kline, duplicitous Jamie Lee Curtis, and fumbling John Cleese are treasures. If you haven't seen this movie, watch it now. If you have seen it, watch it again.

20
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A Star is Born (2018): Best Celebrity-Powered Musical

A scene from A Star is Born

 Warner Bros.

IMDb rating: 7.7

Genre: Drama, Music

Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott 

Director: Bradley Cooper

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 136

Reincarnation is real, at least for certain films. A Star is Born has been made no fewer than four times, starting in 1951. The Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version in 1976 is the best known, but 2018's take with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is a charming update that's worthy of the title.

You already know the story: Established musician Jack (Bradley Cooper) discovers diamond-in-the-rough Ally (Lady Gaga) and they fall in love, both as people and with each other's musical talents. You get the usual juxtaposition of career versus relationship, and the ending is predictable. But the on-screen chemistry is as good (or better) than what Kristofferson and Streisand pulled off, and the music is mesmerizing.