The 14 Best Movies on HBO Right Now (July 2020)

The top films to watch on HBO

While HBO started in the 1970s as a subscription cable channel, it has 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, however, some may not be available on HBO Go or HBO Now due to the differing nature of those two services.

01
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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; on the shortlist of 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—and then Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the rest of the crew scramble to keep it from murdering everyone aboard.

02
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Akeelah and the Bee (2006): Most Unexpected Family Film

A scene from Akeelah and the Bee

 Lionsgate

IMDb rating: 7.3

Genre: Family

Starring: Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Keke Palmer 

Director: Doug Atchison

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 112

What's it like to be a smart kid who gets no support at home and is harassed at school? That's a problem a lot of kids can relate to, which makes Akeelah (Keke Palmer) a sort of everygirl that resonates with the audience. Akeelah's mom (Angela Bassett) has her own stuff going on and is distressingly dismissive of her daughter's talents, leaving Akeelah to persevere on her own to try to win the National Spelling Bee.

Part of the movie's charm comes from her relationship with teachers like Joshua Larabee (Laurence Fishburne) and fellow contestants like Dylan (Sean Michael Afable). You won't see the final act twist coming, but will stick with you long after the movie ends.

03
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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.

04
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Alita: Battle Angel (2019): Best Live-Action Anime Adventure

Alita holding a sword from the movie Alita: Battle Angel

 20th Century Fox

IMDb rating: 7.3

Genre: Sci-Fi Action Adventure

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 122

Yukito Kishiro’s beloved manga series Battle Angel Alita has been in development for years, which often bodes poorly for a project like this. But with grindhouse director Robert Rodriquez at the helm (taking over a script written substantially by James Cameron), it really sings. No, this film isn't perfect, but it's a beautiful story of a junkyard cyborg (Rosa Salazar) without any memory of who or what she is, who turns out to be much, much more than she first seems.

Adopted by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), Alita reclaims memories and upgrades her capabilities as the film progresses, ending in a showdown that can change the path of all of civilization. The movie is hampered a bit by some two-dimensional characters, like villain Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), but it's a must-see film if you're a fan of the manga or sci-fi fantasy films in general.

05
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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.

06
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Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): Best Intentionally Fictionalized Biopic

Rami Makel as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody

 20th Century Fox

IMDb rating: 8.0

Genre: Bio-Drama

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee

Director: Bryan Singer

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 134

The biggest criticism of Bohemian Rhapsody is completely justified: In many ways, it's pure fiction. Masquerading as a biopic, Bryan Singer's take on the life of Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) gets critical moments like his joining Queen, playing Live Aid, and announcing he had AIDs completely wrong, and intentionally so.

But as weird as this is to say, it's possible to look past all that. You get over two hours of classic Queen music, satisfying (though contrived) scenes of the band writing and releasing their greatest hits, and Mercury's requisite slide into the excesses of fame. It might be fiction, but it's a fun ride.

07
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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.

08
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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.

09
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John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum (2019): Best Gun-Fu Surround Sound Flick

A scene from John Wick 3

 Lionsgate

IMDb rating: 7.5

Genre: Action Thriller

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane

Director: Chad Stahelski

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 130

On paper, the John Wick series should never have worked. But the story of John Wick (Keanu Reeves), a retired gun for a mysterious Russian crime syndicate, has now filled three films, with a fourth on the way... all propelled by the death of a single puppy.

Parabellum is every bit as gripping as the first two entries in the franchise, with a stoic and brooding Wick demonstrating his extraordinary "gun fu" combat on endless waves of bad guys. This entry continues to build out the weird and richly imagined world of John Wick, aided by characters like hotelier Winston (Ian McShane), Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), old partner-in-crime Sofia (Halle Berry), and Tick Tock Man (Jason Mantzoukas).

10
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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.

11
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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 Beatle (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.

12
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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.

13
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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.