The 25 Best Movies on Cinemax (2018)

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The 25 Best Movies on Cinemax (2018)

Since the last time we looked at the best movies on Cinemax, the offering has not only completely changed, but it’s been greatly expanded. There are some classic movies on the premium cable channel and its streaming companion Max Go, from really good action flicks, war movies and westerns to comedy and drama. I’ve skipped over their Max After Dark options, so you’re on your own to decide whether Bikini Superheroes or College Coeds vs. Zombie Housewives are any good. They don’t call it “Skinamax” for nothing.

Here are the 25 Best Movies on Cinemax and Max Go:

dances-with-wolves.jpg 25. Dances With Wolves
Year: 1990
Director: Kevin Costner 
Overlooking the fact that this is the story of a white male savior, Kevin Costner’s directorial debut was something of a milestone in Hollywood’s historically terrible depiction of “cowboys and Indians.” Kevin Costner plays Lt. John Dunbar, a Civil War hero serving in an isolated outpost in Sioux territory. When he returns a young woman to her tribe—again, an adopted white woman, Stands With Fist—his presence there is finally accepted, and he learns the Lakota language and customs. With the U.S. army pressing upon all Native Americans in the late 1800s, Dunbar’s loyalties become clouded. The film was beautifully shot by Dean Semler and dominated the Oscars with seven awards, including Best Picture. Costner’s passion for the project showed when he put $3 million of his own money towards finishing production when the shoot ran over its $15 million budget. It paid off when the film went on to gross $424 million globally. And while there were plenty of critics about the authenticity of a film starring only one native Lakota speaker, Costner was adopted as an honorary member of the Sioux Nation. —Josh Jackson


ronin.jpg 24. Ronin
Year: 1998
Directors: John Frankenheimer
Ronin boasts two impressive feats: some pretty memorable car chase scenes and the first known example of figure-skating sniper murder in film. Now that’s ice cold…hold your applause, please. Robert De Niro in a spy film is almost a fool-proof cinematic recipe; add the fact that the screenplay is pretty competent and the explosions explode pretty well, and Ronin quickly becomes a beloved example of espionage. —Darren Orf


shakespeare-in-love.jpg 23. Shakespeare in Love
Year: 1998
Director: John Madden
Another film whose reputation has suffered somewhat since its initial reception, largely in this case as a result of an ill-considered Oscar and Gweneth Paltrow’s ill-considered management of her public spersona since then. No one is more annoyed with latter-day Goop than me, but even I can admit that Shakespeare in Love gets a bad rap. It’s delightful, especially for those with any experience in the theater whatsoever (the theater world itself is the romantic interest of the film, every bit as much as Gweneth’s Viola de Lesseps). And, it’s now safe to say out loud – Ben Affleck is fantastically charming in this film. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, you’ll be surprised at how much more you like it than you remembered. —Michael Dunaway


garden-state.jpg 22. Garden State
Year: 2004
Director: Zach Braff 
Being in your twenties is as good a time as any to be depressed, lost and lonely, and writer/director/actor Zach Braff portrays a depressed young man, Andrew, who goes back home for the funeral of his mother. There he sees his estranged father, reconnects with old friends and falls in love (Natalie Portman makes for a wonderful manic pixie dream girl). It’s an indie film asking that age-old question about whether you can go home again—seeing old friends, dealing with family disfunction and realizing that our home changes as much as we do. With a soundtrack that helped usher in the age
of indie rock, Braff introduced the world to The Shins and reminded a new generation about
the glories of Nick Drake. He also captured that sense of disorientation and dismay newly minted adults often experience when they realize life is big and engulfing and yet it’s something we need to explore. —Kristofer Seppala


rain-man.jpg 21. Rain Man
Year: 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
In this Oscar-winning Best Picture, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) embarks on a road trip with his newly discovered brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). It’s not an intentional happy-go-lucky jaunt, though—Charlie is simply trying to get more of his recently deceased father’s $3 million estate, most of which he left to the autistic Raymond. Charlie gets to learn more about his brother and his mental tics like having to stop everything in order to watch Jeopardy! and buying underwear strictly from Kmart. Hoffman is undeniably good, and his performance as a savant earned him a Best Actor in a Leading Role award. But Cruise’s portrayal of a high-strung professional who transforms into a caring brother is also a treasure. The tender moments are just as important as the comical—and the blend of laughter and tears are skillfully spread out in this 1988 classic. —Shawn Christ


loving.jpg 20. Loving
Year: 2016
Director: Jeff Nichols
How well you like Jeff Nichols’ Loving will partially depend on what you look for in courtroom dramas. If you prefer judicial sagas made with potboiling slickness and little else, you’ll probably like Loving less than Nichols likes filming landmark legal proceedings. His film isn’t about the case of Loving v. Virginia as much as its two plaintiffs, Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Jeter Loving (Ruth Negga), the married couple at the center of the 1967 civil rights victory over the United States’ anti-miscegenation laws. As an effect of Nichols’ focal point, the movie speaks little to no lawyer jargon and takes place almost entirely outside of the court rather than within. So if you’re sick to death of courtroom dramas that insist on pantomime, and if you think those kinds of stories demand more restraint, then you’ll probably dig on Loving. It so studiously avoids the clichés of its genre that it feels fresh, original, a completely new idea based on a very old, very formulaic one. It’s a disciplined, handsome, unfailingly serious screen reproduction of an important real-life moment in the nation’s ongoing fight for civil rights; it’s hitting theaters at a time when we’re still having cultural arguments about who gets to marry; and it’s directed by one of the critical darlings of contemporary cinema. This is the kind of anti-prestige movie critics yearn for, a product stripped away of non-artistic pretensions and ambitions, leaving only the art. —Andy Crump


crimes-misdemeanors.jpg 19. Crimes and Misdemeanors
Year: 1989
Director: Woody Allen 
“Is there a God? And if so, is He watching?” Woody Allen’s somber meditation on this variant of the Big Question centers on two, vaguely interrelated stories: a successful ophthalmologist (Martin Landau) takes drastic measures to deal with an increasingly threatening mistress (Anjelica Huston) while a married filmmaker (Allen) finds himself attracted to the assistant (Mia Farrow) of his egotistical brother-in-law (Alan Alda). The events that follow leave the viewer uncomfortably aware of just how unanswerable some questions can be. —Michael Burgin


breakfast-club-criterion.jpg 18. The Breakfast Club
Year: 1985
Director: John Hughes
There’s no other movie that better encapsulated and enhanced the 1980s teenage experience, with all the positive and negative connotations that might conjure, than John Hughes’ iconic high school dramedy. The charm of The Breakfast Club lies in the simplicity of its premise: The whole thing is basically a chamber piece wherein each archetypal member of an ’80s movie high school clique is stuck in detention on a Saturday, left to work through their differences and confront their inner demons by gradually opening up to one another—but not without indulging silly teen comedy stuff, like how smoking marijuana apparently gives one the power to break glass by screaming. As such, some of the broader material may feel dated, but the tender performances by the future Brat Pack members, brought together by Hughes’ insightful writing when it comes to capturing the teenage experience of the time, serves a delicate balance between a time capsule into the period and a still-relevant examination of pubescent troubles. —Oktay Ege Kozak


blair-witch.jpg 17. The Blair Witch Project
Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route by crafting a new style of presentation and especially promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage, just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic capture an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. So in that sense, The Blair Witch Project reinvented two different genres at the same time. —Jim Vorel


driving-miss-daisy-210.jpg 16. Driving Miss Daisy
Year: 1989
Director: Bruce Beresford
Directed by Bruce Beresford and written by Alfred Uhry based on his play of the same name, Driving Miss Daisy is a comedy-drama that explores racism and anti-Semitism in the South, but where it really hits home is as a frank and open-hearted exploration of human frailty. Set in 1948, the film centers on Miss Daisy Werthan, a wealthy, elderly Jewish woman (Jessica Tandy), and Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman, reprising his role from the off-Broadway production), the driver she reluctantly takes on when she crashes her car and has to confront the fact that she can’t drive anymore. Over a 25-year period their relationship shifts from somewhat adversarial to a genuinely earned loving kindness. The story is small and human; the performances by Washington and Tandy are absolutely enormous. Both received critical accolades for their masterful combination of theatrical drama and subtlety. It is a great example of a play adaptation that really leverages the advantages of the film medium rather than trying to compensate for its disadvantages: We spend much of the film in close proximity to these two people who are stuck with each other in a car, and the actors are able to accomplish immensely nuanced performances without having to lean on the dialogue very much. They deliver more information with glances and facial expressions and vocal tone than many manage to put forth in a discursive monologue. —Amy Glynn


her.jpg 15. Her
Year: 2013
Director: Spike Jonze 
Spike Jonze’s colossal talent was far too great to remain trapped in MTV’s orbit; that became immediately clear when his breakout feature-length debut, Being John Malkovich, earned him an Oscar nod for Best Director. Following that minor postmodern masterpiece, he and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman continued their journey into solipsism with the hilariously unhinged Adaptation. As challenging, yet fun and accessible as Kaufman’s screenplays are, Jonze’s Her answers any lingering questions of whether those two movies’ (well-deserved) acclaim sprang solely from the power of Kaufman’s words. Retaining the sweetest bits of the empathetically quirky characters, psycho-sexuality and hard-wrung pathos of Malkovich, Her successfully realizes a tremendously difficult stunt in filmmaking: a beautifully mature, penetrating romance dressed in sci-fi clothes. Eye-popping sets and cinematography, as well as clever dialog delivered by a subtly powerful Joaquin Phoenix, make Jonze’s latest feature one of the best films of 2013. It also serves as confirmation that—much like Her—the director is the complete package. —Scott Wold


13. american psycho (Custom).jpg 14. American Psycho
Year: 2000
Director: Mary Harron
There’s something wrong with Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale)—I mean, really wrong. Although a Christopher Nolan-esque what-is-a-dream conundrum, Bateman is just all-around evil. He is also one of the few characters in modern cinema to blatantly express just how insane he is—to obviously uncaring or uncomprehending ears—because the world he lives in is just as crazy, if not moreso. It adds to the thrill that the drug-addled banker is particularly creative with his kill weapons. Nail gun, anyone? Nobody thought of white-collar Manhattanites as characters in horror films until the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel changed everything. —Darren Orf


fletch.jpg 13. Fletch
Year: 1985
Director: Michael Ritchie
A comedy that borrows heavily from film noir, Michael Ritchie’s Fletch offered Chevy Chase a chance to show his comic range. Irwin “Fletch” Fletcher is an investigative reporter who assumed several wonderfully ridiculous disguises from John Coctotostan (“Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo.”) to Harry S. Truman (“My parents were big fans of the former president”). Relentlessly quotable and filled with memorable scenes (like his colonoscopy—”Mooooon River…You ever serve time, Doc?...Using the whole fist, Doc?”)—this is a comedy that only gets better with age. —Josh Jackson


unforgiven.jpg 12. Unforgiven
Year: 1992
Director: Clint Eastwood 
Director-actor Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-winning movie is a foreboding and troubling commentary on the Western genre as a whole, but specifically on Eastwood’s long, significant involvement with them. Eastwood began his career acting in the television series Rawhide, which aired in the late 1950s through the mid-’60s. In 1963, while still a relatively unknown actor, Eastwood journeyed to Europe to work with director Sergio Leone on the so-called Dollars trilogy, becoming a genuine international movie star in the process and making his mark on the genre in ways he never would on Rawhide. From then on, the Western and Eastwood would be synonymous with each other. Eastwood’s screen persona was forged in themes of vengeance, casual cynicism and flippant violence, albeit done with an exacting flair of style and visual wit that audiences had never seen before. Ironic onscreen psychopathy had a new face, and it was devilishly handsome. Unforgiven was atonement. In the movie, Eastwood plays an ex-gunslinger brought out of retirement to avenge the horrible rape and mutilation of a townie whore. Guns are strapped on, lead unleashed, honor brutally restored. But at what cost? It’s not Eastwood’s greatest Western, but it’s an insightful, powerful and self-reflexive examination of historical violence, the onscreen romanticizing of vengeance, and the shaping of Eastwood’s cinematic persona within the genre. —Derek Hill


good-will-hunting.jpg 11. Good Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Director: Gus Van Sant 
The story of a genius janitor capable of solving the world’s most difficult mathematical problems, Will is both exasperating and loveable as the Boston boy reluctant to live up to his true potential. Robbin Williams takes the oft-clichéd mentor paradigm and turns it into a wholly original character as Damon’s therapist Sean. But what’s special about this film is the way Gus Van Sant captures the existential angst and, ultimately, the frustrated striving of a brilliant boy form the wrong side of the tracks. Matt Damon and Ben Afleck star in their own breakthrough roles as best friends closer than even blood brothers. Though the movie touches on heart-wrenching topics like childhood abuse and heartbreak, the sarcastic humor and witty banter are just as memorable. Effortlessly charming and never overwrought. —Amy Libby


adaptation.jpg 10. Adaptation
Year: 2002
Director: Spike Jonze 
As utterly gonzo as Kaufman’s characters and stories are, they’re only as outrageous as the errant, obsessive rhythms of thought going clickety-clickety-click inside our own heads. It’s just that Kaufman has more immediate access to all those idiosyncratic brainwaves. He can’t stop himself. Kaufman—not unlike his anxious, lovestruck and artistically fraught heroes—compulsively thinks outside the box. And then he builds a bigger box. Adaptation is an adaptation of New Yorker writer Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief that centers on a Hollywood frustrated screenwriter’s efforts to adapt the book into a movie. —Steve Dollar


thin-red-line.jpg 9. The Thin Red Line
Year: 1998
Director: Terrence Malick 
It seems unbelievable now that even an auteur as legendary as Terrence Malick actually secured financing to make poetry on the scale of The Thin Red Line. Pitched up on lush location in Australia and armed with a cast bursting with talent, Malick returned from moviemaking hibernation in 1998 with author James Jones’ story of a company of GIs battling Japanese forces in the paradise of Guadalcanal refracted through his own glorious lens. The result was an abstract and relentlessly contemplative epic, awash with gorgeous cutaways to jungle and beast, and—atypically for a filmmaker whose main fixation has always been the environment his characters reside in—chock-full of great acting. (The performances are faultless to a man, but a terrifically zen Jim Caviezel and a perpetually enraged Nick Nolte take the prize.) Hardly ever can a film sustain that aching feeling of raw emotion across its entire running time; this almost three-hour masterpiece does. —Brogan Morris


rushmore.jpg 8. Rushmore
Year: 1998
Director: Wes Anderson 
Rushmore introduced the world to Jason Schwartzman and helped pivot Bill Murray’s career from broad comic to art-house juggernaut. An unlikely inter-generational love triangle leads to one of the most entertaining feuds in filmdom. Schwartzman’s Max Fischer is an ambitious yet academically underachieving student at the prestigious Rushmore Academy in Houston, and Bill Murray plays wealthy industrialist Herman Blume. The two strike up an unexpected and unconventional friendship, but both end up falling for Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a teacher at Rushmore. When Max goes too far in trying to prove himself to Ms. Cross by breaking ground on a new building without the school’s permission, he’s finally expelled and ends up in a soul-crushing public school. To make matters worse, he finds out that Herman has begun dating the object of his desire. As with Bottle Rocket, Ruhsmore was co-written by Owen Wilson who, like Max, was expelled from a prep school. He and Anderson began work on the script long before Bottle Rocket was filmed, and Rushmore contains even more of the DNA found in the rest of Anderson’s catalog. Few films remain re-watchable into the double digits, but this one just keeps getting funnier. —Josh Jackson


28.ButchCassidyAndTheSundanceKid.NetflixList.jpg 7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Year: 1969
Director: George Roy Hill
The top-grossing film of 1969 and four-time Oscar winner was an anachronistic wonder that poked at the stoic bravura of the traditional Western: Consider the broad buddy humor between its pitch-perfect leads, Paul Newman and Robert Redford; the poppy, Burt Bacharach-Hal David-penned score and that theme song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”; and William Goldman’s wry, self-aware script. From the first sepia-saturated moments of George Roy Hill’s take on the Old West, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid rewrote history, literally: Author Goldman famously wanted to tell the story of the titular outlaws’ flight to South America but didn’t want to do sufficient research for a novel-length treatment. And thus, “Most of what follows is true,” the film winks at its start. Gorgeously shot by Conrad Hall, the film is a deftly balanced mix of reverential genre elegy and sometimes deadpan, sometimes slapstick comedy. At its heart is then box office superstar Newman and comparatively small-potatoes actor Redford, the latter taking over after Steve McQueen backed out, balking over whose name would be billed first in the credits. As the Kid’s girlfriend, Katharine Ross complicates the duo’s relationship and lends nuance to what is essentially a love story. Curiously, Butch and Sundance’s posse, the Hole in the Wall Gang, was known as the Wild Bunch in real life but was changed for the screen to avoid confusion with another Western set for release a few months prior to its own premiere. —Amanda Schurr


6.TheBigLebowski.NetflixList.jpg 6. The Big Lebowski
Year: 1998
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
If you truly loved your kidnapped trophy wife, would you really ask a guy like Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski to deliver ransom money to her captors? Sure, he’s got plenty of time on his hands—enough to while away the days chasing down a stolen rug, at least—but he can hardly get himself dressed in the morning, chugs White Russians like it’s his job (incidentally, he doesn’t have a real one) and hangs around with a bunch of emotionally unstable bowling enthusiasts. Any mission you set him off on seems bound to fail. And yet that’s the great joy, and the great triumph, of the Coen BrothersThe Big Lebowski and its consummate slacker-hero. The Dude is a knight in rumpled PJ pants, a bathrobe his chainmail, a Ford Torino his white horse. Through strikes and gutters, ups and downs, he takes life in ambling, unshaven stride—and all without dashing good looks and unparalleled strengths. Isn’t that something to which we should all aspire? —Josh Jackson


dark-knight-movie-poster.jpg 5. The Dark Knight
Year: 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan 
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) deserves the collective sigh of relief it received in resuscitating the Caped Crusader’s cinematic reputation following Joel Schumacher’s 1997 neon-disco nightmare on ice that was Batman & Robin. And if Batman Begins represents the character’s tonal course correction, The Dark Knight provided an equally important act of rehabilitation—that of Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker. (Let’s face it, though not a crime of Schumacherian dimensions, Jack Nicholson’s Joker fell short of setting a standard for the character.) Though ostensibly part of the superhero stable, The Dark Knight is, at its center, a proper crime saga—just as was its source, spawning from the pages of Detective Comics, less Spider-Man than it is Heat, in rather dramatic costume. Significantly trading up in the villain department this round, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime is a force of nature—brilliantly written as a crime boss who wants no less than Gotham’s very soul. Ledger’s Joker is as chilling as he is darkly funny, and the most bracing reminder to date of why he’s the most renowned foe of the World’s Greatest Detective. —Scott Wold


fargo.jpg 4. Fargo
Year: 1996
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
In exploring the unsavory implications of “Minnesota nice,” the Coen Brothers created one of the most beloved, acclaimed and quotable films of all time. Fargo explores the tension that accompanies polite social norms and the quiet desperations they often mask, setting up one scene after another so awkward it’ll make your skin crawl. The emotional restraint displayed by such characters as Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) and Mike Yanagita (Steve Park) is a thin and disingenuous veil over yearnings for money or companionship, while their foil, obviously, is Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), who really is that nice and hardworking and downright normal. The Coens strike a careful balance between gentleness and a stark gruesomeness underneath a typical all-American veneer, making you appreciate the art behind postage stamps as deeply as they make you cringe at the sound of a wood chipper. —Allie Conti


deer-hunter.jpg 3. The Deer Hunter
Year: 1978
Director: Michael Cimino
Ah, The Deer Hunter, a movie of grand ambition and messy politics, one that critics exalt for its thoughtful depiction of working class Pennsylvanians while in the same breath condemning it for its racist one-sidedness and ponderous ambiguity. But despite Michael Cimino’s shortcomings, with The Deer Hunter he created a film truly unlike any other, an episodic saga that captures what Pauline Kael eloquently called “poetry of the commonplace” while also boiling over with anti-war sentiment and palpable rage regarding American troops’ experiences in Vietnam. The film’s first hour alone is a work of art, a fly-on-the-wall documentation of life in a Pennsylvania steel town (with eastern Ohio mostly standing in), as a group of friends including Nick (Christopher Walken), Michael (Robert De Niro) and Julie (Meryl Streep) prepare for two key events: a large, raucous Russian Orthodox wedding and the imminent departure of the men for Vietnam, where they realize their lives will forever be changed. The film’s shocking second act, with its POW Russian Roulette games and Nick’s torturous break with reality, is of course its most memorable. But the scenes that bookend that horror are the ones that earn it a place on this list, and ground its most ghoulish and surreal sequences in the real sense of despondency that threatened to drown many communities in the wake of the war. —Maura McAndrew


raging-bull.jpg 2. Raging Bull
Year: 1980
Director: Martin Scorsese 
The best film of the 1980s contains one of the all-time-great feats of directing and one of the all-time-great feats of screen acting: The status that Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull has achieved in the years since its release is completely earned. Over the years, much has been made of the weight Robert De Niro gained while filming Raging Bull to authentically capture the physical transformation of boxer Jake LaMotta. While it’s a great symbol of his commitment, the pounds don’t begin to explain the depths of the character portrait he and Martin Scorsese created. The film looks unforgivingly at a fragile, insecure man who communicates his need for love with jealousy, anger and violence. Scorsese’s shots convey the overly suspicious workings of LaMotta’s head, then back out to coldly observe the horrific violence that ensues. Watching it is a fully felt experience. But then there are the boxing scenes: Scorsese deserves endless praise for finding such lively, inventive ways to capture the experience inside the ring. Still, what’s really amazing is that he goes beyond a great sports sequence—each fight serves as a window into LaMotta’s soul. The camera movement, the quick edits, the sudden shifts in speed all reflect his mental state, his need to damage himself or cause damage to others. Such expressive, visceral filmmaking has rarely been equaled. —Michael Burgin


do-the-right-thing.jpg 1. Do the Right Thing
Year: 1989
Director: Spike Lee 
Not only the film that earned Spike Lee his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, it’s also the one that perhaps best shows that, despite the decades of racially incendiary interviews since (and heckling at Madison Square Garden), Lee is a bit of glass-half-full guy deep down. The violence of Right Thing erupts as an extension of literal and metaphorical long-simmering neighborhood temperatures, and finally boils over as something of a catharsis, while never coming off as mawkish, or giving audiences the ability to escape conversation after the credits roll. A remarkable cast sells the complicated relationship with their Brooklyn neighborhood flawlessly, and Lee has only gotten more complex with his films since. —Scott Wold

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