The 21 Best Movies on HBO Right Now (January 2021)

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 watch it, it has 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
of 21

Get on Up (2014): The King of Wakanda Plays the Godfather of Soul

Chadwick Boseman in 'Get On Up'

Universal Pictures

IMDb rating: 6.9/10

Genre: Music Biopic

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd

Director: Tate Taylor

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes

James Brown is one of the most influential jazz and blues musicians of all time. He was also a charismatic, volatile, and vulnerable human being. Get On Up, a biopic from director Tate Taylor, does an admirable job of portraying Brown in all his manic glory. This is thanks, in part, to a great performance from the late actor Chadwick Boseman, who manages to capture all of Brown's mannerisms, energy, and flaws.

Get On Up leaves HBO Max on January 31st.

02
of 21

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Best '80s Nostalgia in Superhero Form

Gal Gadot in 'Wonder Woman 1984'

Warner Bros.

IMDb rating: 5.7/10

Genre: Action, Fantasy

Starring: Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig

Director: Patty Jenkins

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours, 31 minutes

Since the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on movie launches in 2020, Warner Bros. decided to release Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max the same day it hits theaters. This superhero follow-up pits Wonder Woman against one of her oldest foes, the Cheetah, and a villainous businessman named Max Lord. All of the action takes place during the 1980s, so expect lots of nostalgic neon and shoulder pads.

03
of 21

The High Note (2020): A Likeable Musical Rom-Com

Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson in 'The High Note.'

Focus Features

IMDb rating: 6.3/10

Genre: Romance, Drama

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Director: Nisha Ganatra

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is a personal assistant with dreams of being a music producer. She works for Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), a superstar learning a little too heavily on her older catalogue of songs. Together with struggling musician David (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), they work to reach the next level of their careers. Critics call The High Note a pleasant if frank film about the music industry and a good weekend diversion.

04
of 21

The King of Staten Island (2020): Another Lovable Slacker Movie From Judd Apatow

Pete Davidson in "The King of Staten Island"

Universal Pictures

IMDb rating: 7.1/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Pete Davidson, Bel Powley, Ricky Velez 

Director: Judd Apatow

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes

Director Judd Apatow is known for making funny movies about stoners, slackers, and man-children. His latest is The King of Staten Island. Starring Saturday Night Live's Pete Davidson, it's about an aimless loafer who dreams of becoming a tattoo artist. While it perhaps goes on a bit too long, critics call it a sweet coming of age story filled with sincere emotion and humor.

05
of 21

Let Them All Talk (2020): Steven Soderbergh and Meryl Streep Together Again

Meryl Streep in 'Let Them All Talk'

HBO

IMDb rating: 6.1/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Let Them All Talk is the latest from Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh. Here, he once again teams up with Meryl Streep (the pair recently collaborated on the film The Laundromat), who plays a famous author struggling to write her next book. She decides to go on a cruise with two old friends (Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest), her nephew (Lucas Hedges), and her young literary agent (Gemma Chan). The vacation turns into a journey of self-discovery as old wounds are reopened. Many of Soderbergh's films are known for their visual style and snappy dialogue. This is one to keep an eye out for.

06
of 21

Between The World And Me (2020): A Timely Adaptation of the Best-Selling Book

Artwork from the HBO documentary 'Between the World and Me.'

HBO 

IMDb rating: 7.3/10

Genre: Documentary

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance

Director: Kamilah Forbes

Motion Picture Rating: n/a

Running Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Based on the critically-acclaimed best-selling book from Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me is a powerful look at what it's like growing up as a Black man in America. Coates frames his book as a letter to his teenage son, and it's as relevant now as it was when it was first published in 2015. The HBO film is part stage adaptation, part animation, and part documentary. It features appearances by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, and many more.

07
of 21

Superintelligence (2020): A Funny Defense of the Human Race

Melissa McCarthy
Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images

IMDb rating: 5.3/10

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, James Corden, Bobby Cannavale

Director: Ben Falcone

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Melissa McCarthy's latest comedy debuted on HBO in late November. Directed by her real-life spouse Ben Falcone, Superintelligence is about an exceedingly average woman named Carol Peters and the powerful artificial intelligence that studies her. Dubbing itself "Superintelligence," the A.I. turns Carol into a test subject to determine if humanity is worth keeping around. Oh, and it looks and sounds an awful lot like James Corden. While some critics say it's not McCarthy's best work, it's a lightweight comedy well suited to a streaming binge.

08
of 21

Magic Mike (2012): Best Girls' Night Flick

Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, and Channing Tatum in 'Magic Mike.'

 Warner Bros.

IMDb rating: 6.1/10

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Mike (Channing Tatum) is a handyman and roofer by day and a male stripper by night. But he secretly wants to start his own furniture-making business. He takes a 19-year-old kid, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing at the all-male revue he works for in Tampa, Florida. But, Adam's recklessness soon endangers Mike's ambitions and his relationship with the kid's sister.

OK, it sounds a bit hokey, but Magic Mike is a surprisingly fun film thanks to some spirited performances from its stars. Matthew McConaughey practically steals the picture alone. If you're looking for a good film to watch with your best girlfriends, this is a top choice.

09
of 21

Us (2019): Jordan Peele's Second Inventive Horror Flick

Lupita Nyong'o in 'Us.'

Universal Pictures

 

IMDb rating: 6.8/10

Genre: Horror

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss

Director: Jordan Peele

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Director Jordan Peele followed up his 2017 horror megahit Get Out with another gem. Us tells the story of the Wilson family, whose perfectly normal beach vacation takes a turn when their doppelgangers show up in their driveway. Wearing red jumpsuits and armed with scissors, the creepy doubles attack the family and hold them hostage. Finding out where the monsters come from and what they want is part of the fun of this funny, allegorical film.

10
of 21

Cats (2019): Best Movie Train Wreck to Enjoy With Friends

Taylor Swift in 'Cats.'

Universal Pictures

 

IMDb rating: 2.8/10

Genre: Musical

Starring: James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo

Director: Tom Hooper

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Yes, the 2019 version of Cats is, by all accounts, a disaster. It swept the Razzies that year, "winning" a total of six awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor and Actress, Worst On-Screen Combo, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Director. There's allegedly a cut of the film in which all of the singings felines are anatomically correct. But, even a horrible film can be fun with the right attitude. Grab some friends and enjoy the fever dream visuals, unintentional creepiness, and overall outlandishness.

11
of 21

John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020): A Worthy Tribute to an Inspiring Activist

John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis was a Freedom Rider. zflickr.com

IMDb rating: 7.0/10

Genre: Documentary

Starring: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Director: Dawn Porter

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

John Lewis, who died earlier this year, was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district for more than 30 years. He was one of the "Big Six" leaders who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and he led the first Selma march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Good Trouble is a worthy tribute to the activist, documenting his life and his struggles for equality.

12
of 21

The Invisible Man (2020): Best New Horror Adaptation

Elizabeth Moss stars in 'The Invisible Man.'

Universal Pictures

 

IMDb rating: 7.1/10

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. In the book, the Invisible Man is a scientist driven to insanity and violence by his experiments. He wants to start a "Reign of Terror" against all of England. In the film, the Invisible Man is still a scientist, but his goal is much smaller. He uses his newfound power to stalk his ex-girlfriend, Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss). The film'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.

13
of 21

Just Mercy (2020): Best Cathartic Courtroom Drama

Michael B. Jordan stars in 'Just Mercy.'

Warner Bros.

 

IMDb rating: 7.6/10

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.

14
of 21

David Byrne’s American Utopia: Best Musical for '80s Fans

David Byrne performs in 'David Byrne's American Utopia.'

HBO

 

IMDb rating: 8.3/10

Genre: Documentary, Musical

Starring: David Byrne, Chris Giarmo, Jacqueline Acevedo

Director: Spike Lee

Motion Picture Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

American Utopia is an adaptation of the Broadway show and music album of the same name created by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and Brian Eno. The show features songs from this latest album along with older hits like "Once in a Lifetime" and "Burning Down the House." After the Broadway show earned rave reviews, director Spike Lee decided to direct a film version, and it's a brainy, playful expression of art.

15
of 21

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: 7.9/10

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 childish zealotry 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.

16
of 21

Enter the Dragon (1973): The Best Bruce Lee Flick

Bruce Lee in 'Enter the Dragon.'

Warner Bros.

 

IMDb rating: 7.7/10

Genre: Action

Starring: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Jim Kelly 

Director: Robert Clouse

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Martial arts legend Bruce Lee's final film is also arguably his best. He plays a martial arts expert who helps capture a drug dealer whose gang is responsible for his sister's death. To do this, he enters a kung fu competition. While the plot is a bit goofy, the film is never boring, and the action still holds up decades later.

17
of 21

Hairspray (2007): A Charming Remake of a Campy Classic

John Travolta and Nikki Blonsky in 'Hairspray.'

 New Line Cinema

IMDb rating: 6.6/10

Genre: Musical

Starring: John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Nikki Blonsky

Director: Adam Shankman

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Hairspray is a star-studded remake of the 1988 John Waters film of the same name (it's also a hit Broadway musical). It chronicles the adventures of an overweight teen named Tracy Turnblad who dreams of being a dancer on a TV show during the 1960s. It's as charmingly campy as its source material, while also tackling serious social issues like segregation. Give this movie a chance if you're looking for a cheerful good time.

18
of 21

Galaxy Quest (1999): Best Star Trek Spoof

Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tim Allen, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell in 'Galaxy Quest.'

DreamWorks

 

IMDb rating: 7.3/10

Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi

Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman 

Director: Dean Parisot

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

By Grabthar's Hammer! Galaxy Quest is a sci-fi satire that affectionately pokes fun at Star Trek and its fandom. When aliens kidnap the stars of a 1970s sci-fi TV show because they believe the cast's heroics are real, the actors must find a way to help overthrow a solar system's oppressive regime and restore peace to the galaxy. Sci-fi fans with a self-deprecating sense of humor will find a lot to like here, as the humor still holds up, and actors like Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, and Sigourney Weaver are always extremely watchable.

19
of 21

Midnight Run (1988): An Underrated Comedy Classic

Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in 'Midnight Run'

 Universal Pictures

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

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.

20
of 21

Alien (1979): Most Gripping Horror Flick

A scene from Alien

 20th Century Fox

IMDb rating: 8.4/10

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt 

Director: Ridley Scott

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

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.

21
of 21

Blade Runner - The Final Cut (2007): 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: 8.1/10

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.

Was this page helpful?