Here are the best classic movies on HBO Max

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Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

A lot of major streaming services don’t really have a deep library of older films. That’s definitely not the case for HBO Max. Indeed, there are plenty of older and truly classic movies on HBO Max to stream and binge-watch. However, if you are a younger movie fan or one who may not be familiar with older films, which classic movies on HBO Max should you check out first? We have 25 suggestions for you to watch.

We decided to pick films on HBO Max that were released no earlier than the mid-1970s. While there are certainly lots of great movies on the service that are more recent, we wanted to have a definitive year limit for the films on this list. You can sign up for HBO Max at the link below:

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HBO Max is your home for Warner Bros-made movies and TV shows like The Lord of the Rings, the DC Comics superheroes, and more. It’s also the home for new and original movies and shows available nowhere else.

The best classic movies on HBO Max

Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this list of the best classic movies on HBO Max.

Bonnie And Clyde (1967)

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie and Clyde

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Run time: 1 hour 51 minutes
  • Director: Arthur Penn
  • Main cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard
  • Genre: Crime Drama
  • Ratings: 7.7 – IMDB / 89% – Rotten Tomatoes

This is based loosely on the real crime story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Darrow. With the help of others, the couple robbed stores, banks, and more in the early 1930s. They also killed many police officers and civilians before their run of crime came to a violent end.

This was one of the first movies to get an R rating under the MPAA rating code, and director Arthur Penn used it to up the violence and sexual content. The result was a movie that set the stage for the crime-filled movies of the late 60s and early 70s.

The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

bridge on the river kwai

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 2 hours 41 minutes
  • Director: David Lean
  • Main cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Sessue Hayakawa
  • Genre: World War II drama
  • Ratings: 8.2 – IMDB / 96% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the middle of World War II, the Japanese Army want to see a bridge over the Kwai River built in Burma. They force British POWs to build it, but neither party knows that an American-lead team is aiming to destroy it before it can be used.

David Lean’s classic movie flips a few World War II cliches on the side, and the result is a gripping war drama with some incredible performances. That includes Alec Guinness as the leader of the British soldiers that build the bridge and are proud of their work, only to realize the bridge needs to be blown up.

Citizen Kane (1941)

citizen kane

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 1 hour 39 minutes
  • Director: Orson Welles
  • Main cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick
  • Genre: Drama
  • Ratings: 6.8– IMDB / 99% – Rotten Tomatoes

Charles Foster Kane, the rich and powerful newspaper and publishing giant, has died. His dying word was “Rosebud.” As reporters try to find out why he said that, they uncover a ton of previously unknown aspects of Kane’s life

It used to be that this film was called the greatest movie ever made by nearly every film critic. That may not truly be the case, but it is true that Citizen Kane is an excellent drama that used some different ways to tell a story visually, and we are thankful for that.

The Exorcist (1973)


What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Run time: 2 hours 2 minutes
  • Director: William Friedkin
  • Main cast: Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max von Sydow
  • Genre: Horror
  • Ratings: 8.1 – IMDB / 84% – Rotten Tomatoes

A teenager in Washington, DC, starts acting very differently. Her distraught mother tries normal medical solutions but finally agrees to have two Catholic priests perform an exorcism as the girl could actually be possessed by a demon.

Horror films went to an all-new level with this movie. The subject matter, combined with some truly terrifying makeup and sound effects, never fails to scare audiences, even today. It has been parodied ever since and has been the subject of several sequels, with a new one coming in 2023.

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Clark Gable kisses Vivien Leigh's cheek in gone with the wind

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 3 hours 59 minutes
  • Director: Victor Fleming
  • Main cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard
  • Genre: Period drama
  • Ratings: 8.2 – IMDB / 90% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the mid-19th century, Scarlett O’Hara, a daughter of a Southern plantation owner, is only thinking about herself just before the start of the US Civil War. She soon learns she will have to change her ways as the war hits the South and again after the war is over. Meanwhile, a dashing Southern gentleman, Rhett Butler, tries to convince Scarlett to marry him.

Viewed in 2023, this film does contain scenes that might offend current viewers. However, it remains a massive achievement in filmmaking, as this nearly four-hour epic also contains some spectacular scenes set during the invasion of Atlanta during the Civil War. It also has great performances all around, but none better than English actor Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, a character who you still root for, even if she has some bad traits.

Stagecoach (1939)


What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 1 hour 36 minutes
  • Director: John Ford
  • Main cast: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine
  • Genre: Western
  • Ratings: 7.8 – IMDB / 100% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the 1880s, passengers on a stagecoach traveling to New Mexico have to deal with attacks from Native Americans. They also have to handle an escaped convict along their route as well.

This is the movie that made John Wayne a big movie star. Director John Ford crafts a great ensemble piece featuring a wide array of characters. All of them have to deal with the treacherous route through the frontier, and each of them goes about it in different ways.

West Side Story (1961)

west side story (1961)

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run time: 2 hours 33 minutes
  • Director: Robert Wise
  • Main cast: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn
  • Genre: Musical
  • Ratings: 7.6 – IMDB / 92% – Rotten Tomatoes

In New York City, two rival gangs absolutely hate each other. Then, a boy, Tony, from one gang falls in love with a girl, Maria, from the opposite gang, and things get more complicated.

This modern (at the time) retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story is still impactful. That’s thanks largely to some exceptional dance and musical sequences and, of course, excellent performances. Rita Moreno is especially great as Maria’s best friend Anita.

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969)

butch cassidy

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Director: George Roy Hill
  • Main cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross
  • Genre: Western
  • Ratings: 8.0 – IMDB / 89% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the Western part of the US at the dawn of the 20th century, two legendary outlaws find themselves on the run. They leave the US for Bolivia, but soon their past truly catches up with them.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford play the title characters in this more contemporary Western movie. There are some truly iconic scenes in this movie (which we won’t spoil here) as the characters realize that their days of robbing banks or trains in the West are over,

All The President’s Men (1976)

all the presidents men

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 2 hours 18 minutes
  • Director: Alan J. Pakula
  • Main cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden
  • Genre: Political drama
  • Ratings: 7.9– IMDB / 92% – Rotten Tomatoes

This movie tells the true story of how two reporters from The Washington Post investigated a break-in at the Watergate building in Washington, DC, in 1972. It led the duo to discover and report on a huge conspiracy that ultimately led to the resignation of US President Richard Nixon.

This is both a political thriller and a look behind true investigative journalism. It shows that the power of the press can expose things that we normally would not be aware of and how that power could even change the entire country. It’s a must-watch if you believe in free speech and great journalism.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

virgina woolf

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 2 hours 11 minutes
  • Director: Mike Nichols
  • Main cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal
  • Genre: Drama
  • Ratings: 8.0 – IMDB / 96% – Rotten Tomatoes

A college professor and his wife invite a young couple over for drinks. Over the night, secrets are revealed and the true nature of this long-suffering couple is shown to the younger couple.

This can be a movie that is hard to watch at times. Indeed, the film feels more like a stage play (which it originally was) than a movie. However, the performances of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the older couple with lots of issues make it a movie worth watching.

Cleopatra (1963)

Slaves bow behind Elizabeth Taylor dressed as Cleopatra

What you need to know:

  • Rating: M/PG
  • Run time: 4 hours 3 minutes
  • Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • Main cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison
  • Genre: Historical Drama
  • Ratings: 7.0 – IMDB / 56% – Rotten Tomatoes

In ancient Egypt, the ruler of the country is Queen Cleopatra. She tries to scheme and manipulate the leaders of the Roman Empire for her own end.

This is one of those movies that would likely never be made today. It’s over four hours long and uses huge sets and physical effects to depict ancient Egypt, when CGI would be used today. It’s not exactly a “good” classic movie, but it was the most expensive film of its time, and it shows in its visuals.

Casablanca (1942)

Casablanca best HBO Max movies

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 1 hour 42 minutes
  • Director: Michael Curtiz
  • Main cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
  • Genre: World War II Drama
  • Ratings: 8.5 – IMDB / 98% – Rotten Tomatoes

During World War II in French Morocco, everyone goes to Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca. Rick, the owner of the nightclub, is shocked when a former lover comes in one day. Soon he has to help her and her husband escape the Nazis.

This movie combines drama, romance, and a war thriller. It may be one of the perfect movies in that sense in that it combines these genres seamlessly to form a film that’s extremely entertaining, with tons of iconic scenes and lines.

Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

Singin in the Rain

What you need to know:

  • Rating: G
  • Run time: 1 hour 43 minutes
  • Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
  • Main cast: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor
  • Genre: Musical
  • Ratings: 8.3 – IMDB / 100% – Rotten Tomatoes

In the late 1920s, Hollywood is leaving silent films behind for “talkies.” Two silent film stars try to cope with this transition, even as one of them falls in love with a chorus girl.

Is this the best musical ever? A lot of people think so, and they may have a point. This movie has tons of great songs, some truly memorable dance numbers, and a star turn from Gene Kelly as the silent film star that wants to keep working in the movies.

On The Waterfront (1954)

on the waterfront

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Director: Elia Kazan
  • Main cast: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden
  • Genre: Drama
  • Ratings: 8.1 – IMDB / 99% – Rotten Tomatoes

A dock worker who dreams of being a pro boxer witnesses a murder by two thugs from the corrupt dockers union, which is led by his own brother. Will he turn his brother in to the authorities and shut down the crooked union?

This is one of Marlon Brando’s key early performances in his career, and he’s helped by the direction of Elia Kazan, who also directed Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. His speech where he said he “coulda been a contender” is a true classic.

The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz best HBO Max movies

What you need to know:

  • Rating: G
  • Run time: 1 hour 42 minutes
  • Director: Victor Fleming
  • Main cast: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger
  • Genre: Family Musical
  • Ratings: 8.1 – IMDB / 98% – Rotten Tomatoes

A tornado transports a young Kansas farmgirl (and her little dog, too) to the world of Oz. She soon acquires a witch for an enemy and some very unusual characters as new friends and allies as she tries to go home.

This adaptation of the classic children’s book is a good old-fashioned Hollywood spectacle. Its songs, visual effects, and performances have never been beat, and it’s still a delight to watch for people of all ages.

The Great Escape (1963)

The great escape

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 2 hours 52 minutes
  • Director: John Sturges
  • Main cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough
  • Genre: World War II drama
  • Ratings: 8.2 – IMDB / 94% – Rotten Tomatoes

This movie dramatizes the true story of members of a prisoner camp in World War II that’s run by the Nazis. The camp residents all pitch in with a plan for a mass escape which they hope will confuse the enemy.

This movie may take a little while to get to the actual escape attempt and its aftermath. However, it’s worth it to get to know the Allied prisoners who will put their lives on the line to break out of the camp. Steve McQueen is the standout here as the somewhat rebellious Army flyer who sometimes comes into conflict with the main group of escapees.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

philidephia story

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 1 hour 55 minutes
  • Director: George Cukor
  • Main cast: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart
  • Genre: Romantic Comedy
  • Ratings: 7.9 – IMDB / 100% – Rotten Tomatoes

A wealthy woman gets a divorce from her husband and is planning to remarry. However, she still has feelings for her ex, as well as a reporter who is looking for a story about her romantic exploits.

The romantic comedy genre got a lot of its tropes from this film. The woman who has to choose from three men setup is pretty common in rom-coms these days, and the performances from the cast, including Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart, help make this classic movie on HBO Max entertaining.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

four men stand over a homeless person in A Clockwork Orange movie - best sci-fi movies on Netflix

What you need to know:

  • Rating: R
  • Run time: 2 hours 16 minutes
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Main cast: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates
  • Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
  • Ratings: 8.3 – IMDB / 88% – Rotten Tomatoes

In a near future Britain, a man prone to “ultra-violence” agrees to be a subject in an experiment designed to make him hate violence. Naturally, this experiment doesn’t go as planned.

Stanley Kubrick directs a very violent, and at times very disturbing, movie about how violence can affect people and society. It also shows how a person conditioned to hate violence can also be affected badly by the experience.

The Great Dictator (1940)

the great dictator

What you need to know:

  • Rating: G
  • Run time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Director: Charles Chaplin
  • Main cast: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
  • Genre: Satire
  • Ratings: 8.4 – IMDB / 92% – Rotten Tomatoes

In a fictional European country, a barber who fought in WWI tries to return to his previous job. He soon gets caught up in an adventure where he is mistaken for the leader of the nation, who happens to be a ruthless dictator.

Charlie Chaplin, the star and director of many silent films, had a true classic with his first sound film. His message was perhaps a bit heavy-handed, but that was what he wanted to do. He wanted to combine satire and pure comedy with the rise of dictators in Europe, and it works.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

postman always rings twice

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 1 hour 53 minutes
  • Director: Tay Garnett
  • Main cast: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway
  • Genre: Crime Drama
  • Ratings: 7.4 – IMDB / 89% – Rotten Tomatoes

A married woman falls in love with a drifter who manages to get a job at her husband’s restaurant. The affair turns into a plan by the couple to kill her husband and take his money and property.

The basic plot of this classic movie has been remade and updated through the decades, but the original is still well worth checking out. There are some surprises in store for people who haven’t watched this movie and think they know how it will end.

The Thin Man (1934)

the thin man hbo max

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 1 hour 31 minutes
  • Director: W.S. Van Dyke
  • Main cast: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan
  • Genre: Mystery Comedy
  • Ratings: 7.9– IMDB / 98% – Rotten Tomatoes

Former detective Nick Charles is living the high life with his new wife Nora and their dog in New York City. However, a murder soon puts Nick, with some help from Nora, back on the case.

You can see this movie’s roots in other comedy mysteries like the Fletch series, along with TV shows like Murder She Wrote and Hart to Hart. However, there’s no beating the original film, which is the first of several Thin Man movies to be released.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

maltese falcon

What you need to know:

  • Rating: NR
  • Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Director: John Huston
  • Main cast: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Peter Lorre
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Ratings: 8.0 – IMDB / 99% – Rotten Tomatoes

In San Francisco, private detective Sam Spade gets caught up in the middle of a murder scheme that took out his partner. It all seems to center on a rather odd-looking falcon statue…

Humphrey Bogart played mostly bad guys before this classic adaptation of the Dashiell Hammett mystery novel was released. It’s considered the first major “film noir” movie, with its shady characters dealing with the hard-boiled detective Sam Spade. It’s truly one of the best movies of all time.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

young frankenstein hbo max

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 1 hour 46 minutes
  • Director: Mel Brooks
  • Main cast: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Ratings: 8.0 – IMDB / 94% – Rotten Tomatoes

The grandson of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein (“It’s pronounced Fronkensteen”) heads back to his ancestral home in Transylvania. Like his grandfather, the grandson tries to bring a dead body back to life.

Mel Brooks is truly the king of comedy films, and few are as funny as this spoof of the Universal horror films in general, and Frankenstein in particular (it’s even filmed in black and white). Gene Wilder, who also helped to write the movie, leads a great comedy cast in the film.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001 a space odyssey

What you need to know:

  • Rating: G
  • Run time: 2 hours 29 minutes
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Main cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
  • Genre: Sci-fi
  • Ratings: 8.3 – IMDB / 92% – Rotten Tomatoes

Scientists on Earth use a spaceship bound for Jupiter to try to figure out the mystery of an alien artifact that was buried under the Moon. Unfortunately, the AI computer on the ship, HAL, has other plans.

Director Stanley Kubrick created one of the best sci-fi films ever made with this movie. Not only do the visual effects hold up after over 50 years, but the story’s plot of an alien race influencing human evolution also keeps the film going, even if it does take a detour with the nasty AI HAL.

Fantastic Voyage (1966)

fantastic voyage hbo max

What you need to know:

  • Rating: PG
  • Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Director: Richard Fleischer
  • Main cast: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien
  • Genre: Sci-fi
  • Ratings: 6.8 – IMDB / 91% – Rotten Tomatoes

A scientist who has developed a way to shrink objects and even humans to microscopic size for brief periods has developed a blood clot that could kill him. A team of scientists is recruited to be shrunken down to enter the scientist’s body to get rid of the clot.

While the visual effects are a little dated, the premise of this sci-fi classic film on HBO Max is still a cool one. It is a great example of this type of genre film that wasn’t made as a cheap B-movie.

Ready to watch? You can find the movie right here on HBO Max.

These are the best classic movies on HBO Max, but there are certainly many others you can stream on the service as well.

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