The best shows and movies to watch on HBO Max right now
Don’t know what to stream first? Here’s a list of 10 must-watch shows and movies.
There’s a new streaming platform on the block — and HBO Max is unlike anything else. Viewers are already marveling at its massive film library, original series and classic television offerings. But the not-so-secret weapon is HBO itself, and those three letters bring with it all the big names — from “The Sopranos” to “The Wire” to “Watchmen” — that represent some of the best entertainment of the last several decades.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 movies and TV series worth checking out as soon as you hit “subscribe” — some for first-time thrills, others for a well-deserved look back. Because sometimes we want something new, and sometimes we want something old. But the one thing we always want is something good.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone may have created the first viral videos — even if they were just mid-’90s VHS dubs of four foul-mouthed cartoon kids overseeing death matches between Santa and Jesus. In the blink of an eye, Hollywood took notice, contracts were signed, and “South Park” blossomed into a full-blown cultural phenomenon. Now, 23 seasons after the show first outraged parents, teachers and censors, it’s worth a look back, if only to appreciate that two of the most brilliant satirists of our time — also the brains behind “Team America: World Police” and “The Book of Mormon” — could construct their legacy on a foundation of F-bombs, Kenny deaths and a Christmas Poo.
Max Original ‘An American Pickle’
When you hear the name Seth Rogen, you expect a certain kind of humor, and it’s here. But what might catch you off guard is the thought, heart and passion fueling this sweet story of a modern-day, sensitive schlub who designs apps — Rogen — and the hardscrabble great-grandfather — also Rogen — who gives him a lesson in the struggles, dreams and traditions of his ancestors. Sure, on the surface, it’s a silly movie about a guy who falls into a pickle vat and wakes up 100 years later in a world of motorized scooters and social media. But this “Pickle” has a distinctly unique flavor.
Every generation has its defining on-screen moment. Think: “American Pie,” “Fight Club” or “Girls.” Add to that list this edgy, groundbreaking drama starring Zendaya in a warts-and-all portrayal of a high school student in turmoil. Slickly directed, visually distinctive and centered around a fearless performance by one of the industry’s fastest-rising stars, this is a series that isn’t afraid to deal with hard-to-confront issues by making them impossible to look away from.
HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’
You could say it’s the show that changed everything, and it would be hard to argue with that. It gave us countless classic characters, unforgettable scenes and epic dragon battles. Now that “Game of Thrones” is over, you can watch every episode on HBO Max and reassess the trail of breadcrumbs dropped throughout the first seven seasons in the Seven Kingdoms — and then decide whether the ultimate payoffs were as clever as a Littlefinger scheme or as cold as the icy stare of the Night King.
HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks: Los Angeles’
The best sports-related series have always been those that transcend, telling stories that appeal to fans and nonfans alike — ones that go beyond any gridiron, court or ring. The 15th “Hard Knocks” season follows the Rams and Chargers and is unlike any before it, simply because 2020 is a year unlike any other. While there’s some fun to be had watching massive men flinching in fear of needles and Q-tips, watching the teams struggle with the coronavirus is serious business. And if the players somehow manage to navigate socially distanced practices, national anthem kneeling controversies and other outside pressures, who knows? They might even get to play some football.
Max Original ‘Raised by Wolves’
From executive producer Ridley Scott, this Max Original achieves the near-impossible by taking the hallmark themes of his legendary career — space terror (“Alien”), the blurred lines between humans and humanoids (“Blade Runner”), isolation (“The Martian”), and religious crusades (take your pick) — putting them into a blender, and pouring out a tall glass of ambitious science fiction. As Earth is destroyed by war, two androids named Mother and Father voyage to a new planet to raise human babies and start a brand-new, atheist-based civilization — but when zealots from the other side arrive with similar plans, the future becomes clouded by fast-moving monsters, body-bursting robots and the children caught in the middle.
They were there for viewers when the rain started to pour, and now they’re here again when life is feeling like it’s stuck in second gear. Consider all the memories that flood back when you hear the names: Joey, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Ross. Here’s a chance to revisit all the laughs, the warmth, the classic lines and the hairless cats all over again. A lot has been written about how “Friends” is being embraced by younger viewers who weren’t even born when its first episode aired in 1994. If you have a member of Generation Z in your life, it’s the perfect classic sitcom to share with them. To paraphrase Chandler Bing: Could we be any more in love with this show?
‘The Big Bang Theory’
For 12 seasons and 279 episodes, this beloved series served as chicken soup for the viewer’s soul. Give it a re-watch, and you’ll find the experience as comfortable as slipping on an old Green Lantern T-shirt: Sheldon, Penny, Leonard and the rest never fail to put a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your belly. This time around, however, look past those comedic lines to appreciate characters with distinct personalities that go far beyond nerd stereotypes yet serve the jokes so perfectly that you can almost predict their responses before they give them. Bazinga, indeed.
Max Original ‘Class Action Park’
It was the wildest, funniest, most outrageous theme park in America — until things became deathly serious. This feature-length documentary walks an impressive tightrope between “Jackass”-tinged remembrances of the 1980s/1990s era, when lawlessness, teenage rebellion and peer pressure were more likely to send you home with a scar than a souvenir, and the nothing-to-laugh-at reality of loved ones still haunted by the ride-related deaths that park management largely ignored. Don’t be surprised if these remembrances of New Jersey’s infamous Action Park take you all the way from laughter to tears and back. Decades after the turnstiles stopped cranking, it seems only appropriate that the film telling its story is a roller-coaster ride.
HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’
Is it sci-fi, horror or the sort of drama that grabs hold of you and won’t let go? Is it a commentary on race relations, the transcendent power of dreams, or the way families can bind people together and tear them apart? Is it a period piece or one that reflects the current times? From executive producers Misha Green and J.J. Abrams, this mind trip is not only one of the most talked-about new series out there, but It’s also the most dissected. Pore over the clues as two young Black adventurers encounter cabins in the woods, haunted houses, the Jim Crow South and the monsters within — both real and imagined.
To stream these programs and more, sign up for HBO Max by visiting hbomax.com.