The 50 Best Movies on HBO and HBO Go (April 2017)

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The 50 Best Movies on HBO and HBO Go (April 2017)

HBO’s movie lineup continues to refresh with as many great films getting added as those that are expiring. We’ve chosen our 50 favorite movies available on HBO, ranging from Oscar-buzzed dramas to classic comedies and insightful documentaries. April sees the addition of a couple of wonderful Westerns (Unforgiven, The Assassination of Jesse James), along with the 1979 classic The Deer Hunter and 2008 Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire. No matter your tastes, there’s a great movie waiting for you on HBO or HBO Now.

You can also check out our guides to the best movies on other platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, On Demand, and The Best Movies in Theaters. Visit the Paste Movie Guides for all our recommendations.

Here are the 50 best movies on HBO in April 2017:

secret-life-of-bees.jpg 50. The Secret Life of Bees
Year: 2008
Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood
The big-screen adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s bestseller The Secret Life of Bees is commendable not because of what it is, exactly, but what it refuses to be. It is sentimental, but not overly melodramatic. It is sincere, but not necessarily corny. Bees is a fantastical tale that typifies a time of grim realities, filled with strong performances that (mostly) sidestep theatrics and clichés. Dakota Fanning plays Lily Owens, a young girl who flees from her abusive father (Paul Bettany) alongside her housekeeper (Jennifer Hudson) in 1964 Civil Rights-era South Carolina. Lily’s pining to be closer to her deceased mother brings her to the doorsteps of the Pepto-Bismol-colored home of the three beekeeping, honey-harvesting Boatwright sisters: August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo). For a movie filled with “big” plot developments, the film thrives on its quieter moments, thanks to the acumen of writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood. Its emotional climax comes from a straightforward scene where Lily and August thumb through a box of her mother’s possessions: a shiny, whale-shaped pin; a brush with strands of hair still caught in its bristles; a black-and-white photograph of mother and daughter in a warm embrace. Fanning’s expressive, sky-blue eyes well up with gratitude, silently communicating more than an audible “thank you” ever could.—Jeremy Medina


be-kind-rewind.jpg 49. Be Kind Rewind
Year: 2008
Director: Michel Gondry
When film critics snicker at directors who cut their teeth on music videos, the most convincing counterexample is the ever-inventive Michel Gondry, who uses visual flair not to tickle our lizard brains but to explore our dreams, whether romantic, melancholy or comic. Although filmmaker Gondry is best known for lush, dreamlike visual effects, he’s long indulged a fascination with low-tech effects in his short films, music videos and television commercials. He animated the White Stripes in Lego blocks, and even in The Science of Sleep, he accented the melancholy mood with construction paper and cotton balls. In that light, Be Kind Rewind may be the truest distillation of his fascination, because it hangs everything on an ephemeral love of do-it-yourself video making. The story is beyond ridiculous: Jerry (played by Jack Black at his silliest) lives in a trailer under a power plant. When the plant is struck by lightning he becomes magnetized and thereafter erases videotapes that come near him, which is pretty bad news for the VHS video store where he hangs out. To cover for the disaster of a store full of blank tapes, Jerry and store clerk Mike (Mos Def) hastily recreate popular movies like Ghostbusters with their own ancient video camera. Much to their surprise, the no-budget remakes become neighborhood favorites. But Gondry seems to stumble like a fox from this paper-thin plot into a precious little ode to community that seems both touching and sincere.—Robert Davis


crash-reel-210.jpg 48. The Crash Reel
Year: 2013
Director: Lucy Walker
Walker’s favored extremity in The Crash Reel is snowboarding, which, as extreme sporting events go, appears rather mild—its traumas and injuries are thoroughly wince-inducing, but compared to, say, wingsuit diving, the mortality rate among its practitioners remains low. But Walker has seized upon snowboarding just as it approaches a newly hazardous precipice, and one of the remarkable things about The Crash Reel is how it chronicles the sport’s sudden drop off the other end. The catalyst, as the Cold War-like dramatics of the form dictate, is rivalry: Kevin Pearce and Shaun White, former friends and embittered adversaries, come to represent the film’s evenly matched hero and villain—Pearce the good-natured underdog on his way up, White the vainglorious champion whose years-long reign seems threatened. Of course, story, in a documentary, is nothing more than a pretense in thrall to the life from which it’s fashioned, and a filmmaker can only do so much to sculpt reality to her liking. But Walker has no need to anyway: here she’s happened upon a real-life conflict of almost inherently cinematic interest.—Calum Marsh


the-visit.jpg 47. The Visit
Year: 2015
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
The Visit, Shyamalan’s latest, may in some ways be the entertaining return to form those audience members were waiting for, although it comes in an unexpected and fairly misleading package. Marketed as a straight horror film in an attempt to play on whatever Sixth Sense fondness still remains in the American public, the film is really more of a horror comedy, and a surprisingly able one. At its heart, this movie captures a new side of M. Night Shyamalan—an older, wiser, more playful, less somber, and thankfully more humble director who seems to have tamped down his urge to spew pseudo-profundities long enough to make a movie that is, for the most part, amusingly silly. Our characters are 15-year-old Rebecca and 13-year-old Tyler, siblings who have been shipped away by Mom to spend a week with the grandparents they’ve never met before. Thanks to Mom’s painful falling out with her parents 15 years prior, the grandkids’ visit represents a chance for the family to possibly be healed. Sensing this opportunity, budding filmmaker Rebecca decides to create a documentary out of the experience, which gives us all the flimsy reasoning we need to make a found-footage feature. All is far from well, however, as grandparents John and Doris grow increasingly unstable, bizarre and potentially violent. And that’s really all you need to know of the plot. As the two kids, Olivia De Jonge and Ed Oxenbould are the two most likable presences in an M. Night Shyamalan movie in years. This is the least serious film M. Night Shyamalan has ever turned in, lacking his usual deathly seriousness and pretension, and it’s much better for it.—Jim Vorel


aviator.jpg 46. The Aviator
Year: 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese 
With Howard Hughes’ larger than life personality and those action-packed scenes of him flying (and crashing) planes, it’s hard not to first think of the famous businessman and aviator as a sort of superhero: a man capable of almost any feat, of withstanding any sort of struggle. But a movie that only captures that side of Hughes’ life would be an incomplete one. A hollow one. What makes The Aviator one of the greatest biopics of all time is that it shows Hughes’ vulnerabilities as well, most notably of which was his battle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hughes at his lowest, during Hughes’ anxiety-ridden spirals is far more compelling and suspenseful than the Beverly Hills plane crash scene itself.—Anita George


Batman.jpeg 45. Batman
Year: 1989
Director: Tim Burton 
Christopher Nolan might have perfected Batman on-screen with his Dark Knight Trilogy, but Burton first introduced a darker side of Bruce Wayne in 1989 with Batman. The film sees an over-the-top Joker in Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton doing justice to the role of Dark Knight. It’s got action, a compelling story and plenty of comic relief with Nicholson—not bad for a first swing at the darker side of Batman.—Tyler Kane


cider-house-rules.jpg 44. The Cider House Rules
Year: 1999
Director: Lasse Hallström
Lasse Hallström’s Oscar-winning adaptation of John Irving’s novel won Michael Caine his second Academy Award, for his moving portrayal of a WWII-era abortion doctor and de facto father to an orphanage of unwanted children. Tobey Maguire is among his charges, an apprentice who reluctantly discovers, under the stern but caring Caine, he has a gift for medicine—that is, before he meets Charlize Theron and decides to venture out into the world. As coming-of-age journeys go, Cider House Rules is as faithful to the tropes as it is provocative, thanks to a balanced if still hot-button dramatization of the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate—Irving also wrote the Oscar-winning screen adaptation. The drama’s refusal to shy away from the issue, set in an age when coat-hook procedures were the norm, polarized critics and viewers alike. Hallström gently presents both sides via the film’s characterizations, aided by a terrific supporting cast including Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo and Erykah Badu. Still, the film is largely, and lovingly, about a young man finding his way.—Amanda Schurr


crooklyn.jpg 43. Crooklyn
Year: 1994
Director: Spike Lee 
In this Spike Lee joint about growing up in 1970s Brooklyn, Alfre Woodard plays one hell of a matriarch. Her only daughter Troy (Zelda Harris) is really the protagonist, but their close relationship is what ensures the survival of their family. Troy had quite a bit on her plate: In addition to a severe lack of privacy, a brother who struggled with black eyed pea phobia at the dinner table, and everyday drama on her 1970s Brooklyn block, she suffered from some pretty scary nightmares. In one scene (presented in that classic Spike Lee dolly shot) Snuffy the crackhead (played by Lee) and his one-armed buddy Right Hand Man chase Troy through the streets in the middle of the night and force her to get high. Luckily for Troy, in her waking life, she steered clear of brown paper bags and glue.—Paste Staff


mash.jpg 42. M*A*S*H
Year: 1970
Director: Robert Altman
Considering that it became the basis of a beloved (and long-running) CBS sitcom, it’s easy to forget how revolutionary the original M*A*S*H film was at the time of its release. Certainly, more than 40 years after it first scandalized moviegoers, this 1970 black comedy about the exploits of a Korean War-era surgical hospital not only stands as one of the most subversive portraits of war ever put to film but also as one of the flat-out, most hilarious movies ever made. Boasting a script consisting almost entirely of improv, a major comedic set piece centered on a suicide attempt and the first utterance of the word “fuck” in a mainstream film, M*A*S*H redefined the American comedy and promptly secured director Robert Altman’s status as the ultimate actor’s director.—Mark Rozeman


mavis.jpg 41. Mavis!
Year: 2016
Director: Jessica Edwards
Mavis! celebrates the remarkable career of Mavis Staples, one that started when the woodsy-throated Chicagoan was only 16, backed on guitar by her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples, and belting out the religious standard “Uncloudy Day.” Just as Greg Kot’s biography avoided the temptation to focus on scandal fodder, Jessica Edwards’ movie avoids the easy path of relying on celebrities to deliver on-camera testimonials about how terrific Mavis is. The filmmaker trusted that the audience could figure that out from the plentiful performance clips, so she only used talking-head interviews if the subjects had worked directly with Mavis and could advance the narrative. The result is one of the best music documentaries of this decade. The film includes the scene of Mavis receiving her first Grammy Award in 2011; she looked up overhead and said, “It’s all because of you, Pop, that I am here. You built the foundation, and I’m still working on the building.” The picture ends with Mavis and her recent producer Jeff Tweedy fleshing out Pops’ final recordings, which he left unfinished when he died in 2000.—Geoffrey Himes


the-green-mile.jpg 40. The Green Mile
Year: 1999
Director: Frank Darabont
John Coffey is a hulking, deep-voiced man who was wrongfully convicted of the murder and rape of two girls. But while Coffey was intimidating in size and build, Michael Clarke Duncan had no trouble shining an enviable understanding of the physical world across the silver screen in his lengthy conversations with Tom Hanks’ character, Paul Edgecomb. For Coffey, prison wasn’t necessarily a place that held him back. The concrete walls and iron bars instead blocked out all the hurt and evil going on outside for this tragic, Christ-like figure.—Tyler Kane


the-normal-heart.jpg 39. The Normal Heart
Year: 2014
Director: Ryan Murphy 
Among HBO’s most prestigious—and star-studded—recent efforts is this 2014 adaptation of Larry Kramer’s seminal 1985 stage play about the earliest, darkest days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City. It’s also among the most necessary. Kramer adapted the teleplay, directed by Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), which casts a brilliant Mark Ruffalo as Kramer’s onscreen alter ego, a gay writer who consults with a local doctor (Julia Roberts) about this mysterious, fatal new “cancer” that’s devastating the community and his inner circle of friends (portrayed by Jonathan Groff, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, all excellent). Just as devastating is the ignorance and inhumanity shrouding what was then viewed as a death sentence and, worse, a deserved retribution. Some 35 years after the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit critical mass, and in light of a generational complacency accompanying new medical breakthroughs like PrEP, The Normal Heart is a timely reminder of the physical, emotional and psychological ravages of the disease. Murphy and co. revisit a not-too-far-away era of fear, in which the basic function of breathing the same air—let alone holding someone’s hand—was a gesture of dangerous courage, and compassion. Though it obviously plays much differently four decades vs. four years after Kramer’s original play, the relevance is undeniable, as is his still-coursing anger at the systemic and individual indifference to those affected. Murphy dials down his own flourishes for a harrowing document that needs to be seen.—Amanda Schurr


mystic-river.jpg 38. Mystic River
Year: 2003
Director: Clint Eastwood 
Based on Dennis Lahane’s novel, Clint Eastwood’s dramatic mystery is packed with great performances from Laurence Fishburne, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins and, especially, Sean Penn, who won both the Oscar and Golden Globe for leading actor. The Boston neighborhood where the characters live feels like a small town, where three childhood friends drift apart and find themselves at odds in the wake of a local murder.—Josh Jackson


hail-caesar.jpg 37. Hail, Caesar!
Year: 2016
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
The period zaniness of Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest is an ode to old Hollywood—and much more—as only they can do, tracing the efforts of James Brolin’s studio scandal fixer through a parade of 1950s soundstages, back lots and actors. His latest potential headline concerns the abduction of a Biblically epic movie star—George Clooney having a helluva good time doing his best Chuck Heston/Kirk Douglas amalgam—by what turns out to be a tea sandwich-serving think-tank of communists. Other subplots have Scarlett Johansson’s starlet plotting out her unwed motherhood in the public eye and the screen makeover of an unsophisticated cowboy by Ralph Fiennes’ debonairly enunciating director, Laurence Laurentz. There are dueling gossip columnist twins (Tilda Swinton pulling double duty), a hapless film editor (Frances McDormand) and scattered movies-within-the-movie, which even pauses midway through for a thoroughly enchanting—and cheeky—Gene Kelly-styled song-and-dance number starring Channing Tatum as a heavily made-up matinee star with controversial extracurricular activities. Most of the main characters/performances take blatant inspiration from Hollywood legends of yore, and the cast seems to have as much fun as the Coens. Hail, Caesar! is by no means their best work, but it’s characteristically gorgeous, spiritedly acted and rife with political, religious and creative (sub)text for moviegoers as thoughtful and dorky as Joel and Ethan themselves. —Amanda Schurr


ridgemont-high-210.jpg 36. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Year: 1982
Director: Amy Heckerling
Ridgemont is what 1980s high school dreams are made of, and also taught us that history class always goes down better with a slice of pizza. The ultimate disciplinarian, the brilliantly named Mr. Hand runs his history class at Ridgemont High on “his” time. This doesn’t sit well with the perma-stoned Jeff Spicoli, played by Sean Penn, who shows up late, orders pizza and doesn’t understand Hand’s stern demeanor. But not only does hand throw Spicoli out after he’s late and give his pizza out to the rest of the class, he shows up at his house and force-teaches him until he’s made up for all the time Spicoli wasted. And what better way to set the stage for some ’80s teenage hedonism than to lure us in with The Go-Gos blasting as our main characters troll the mall?—Ryan Bort


cast-away.jpg 35. Cast Away
Year: 2000
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Man’s solo struggle against nature has produced great literature, movies and, yes, even reality TV. The lonely survival genre has produced some really good recent performances, such as Robert Redford in All Is Lost and James Franco in 127 Hours, but it’s hard to top Tom Hanks, bonding with volleyball and dealing with a severe toothache on his uninhabited island. Told over the course of four years, the film sees Chuck Noland transform after a plane crash from pudgy, clean-cut FedEx systems engineer to a lean, resourceful wild man. Hanks has always managed to evoke empathy from an audience, and that’s possibly never more true than here, as his heartbreak over losing Wilson is ours.—Josh Jackson


nice-guys.jpg 34. The Nice Guys
Year: 2016
Director: Shane Black
Good performances can polish average movies with just enough elbow grease they end up looking like gems. Think Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, or Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Every advance that Shane Black’s The Nice Guys takes toward quality is made on the strengths of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Black is as quick with action scenes as with punchlines. The Nice Guys is funny. It’s exciting. If you find yourself growing tired of wordplay, Black will turn things around and slide in some Three Stooges slapstick. If you get tired of that, he’ll set off a gun or throw a few punches, though it is impossible to imagine anybody finding the clownish sight of Gosling tumbling off of balconies or crashing through plate glass tiresome. Gosling and Crowe are a great pair, so great that their team-up should justify funding for a buddy picture series where Holland and Jackson undertake jobs that spiral out of hand and above their pay grades. Crowe plays it straight and grumpy, and you half expect him to declare that he’s too old for this shit at any given moment. Gosling, on the other hand, shapes Holland through boozy tomfoolery and pratfalls. They’re a standout odd couple, but Black’s films are defined by great odd couples as much as they are by great scripting. In The Nice Guys, he leaves it up to Gosling and Crowe to use the former to fill in the gaps left behind by the lack of the latter.—Andy Crump


sixteen-candles.jpg 33. Sixteen Candles
Year: 1984
Director: John Hughes
It’s the movie that made Molly Ringwald a star, and rightfully so: as Samantha, the everywoman whose parents forgot her birthday and whose crush doesn’t know she exists, she appeals to the angsty high-schooler yearning to be seen in all of us. Samantha’s undeniably middle-of-the-road—she’s not popular, but she’s not a geek; her home life is messy, but it’s not dysfunctional—and that gives her mass appeal, so much so that her story’s become sort of a modern fairy tale, the American Dream of teen romantic comedies. —Bonnie Stiernberg


blues-brothers.jpg 32. The Blues Brothers
Year: 1981
Director: John Landis
They don’t call him “Joliet Jake” for nothing: when we first meet John Belushi’s character in The Blues Brothers, he’s being released from Joliet Prison and picked up in an old cop car by his brother Elwood, who promptly informs him of his plans to get the band back together. A mission from God, one of the best chase scenes in movie history, and a final performance of “Jailhouse Rock”—with a little help from James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles—makes this one of our favorite fictional bands of all time.—Bonnie Stiernberg


unbreakable.jpg 31. Unbreakable
Year: 2000
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Unbreakable is probably Shyamalan’s best overall script, and I can’t help but think that’s linked to the fact that for once, the story isn’t completely tied to his typical themes of faith or his own personal experience. Rather, it’s more like a genre meditation, and the thing he’s considering is “the superhero film.” It’s ultimately a drama, and a good one, if somewhat morose. It never gets the chance to fully explore the ideas of what Bruce Willis’ character is capable of, but the way it handles the slow realization of his “powers” is both unsettling and mesmerizing, as is the casting of Sam L. Jackson. It’s a type of pseudo-superhero film that no one had ever made before, which earned Shyamalan points for having originality on his side—what would you do if you’d essentially drifted through your whole life, unaware of the depths of your potential? That’s the question Unbreakable asked, and it’s probably the only other “objectively good” film besides The Sixth Sense in the director’s filmography.—Jim Vorel


deadpool.jpg 30. Deadpool
Year: 2016
Director: Tim Miller
Years in the making, Deadpool has long presented a marketing conundrum for the studio. It’s a superhero movie set in the family-friendly-ish X-Men universe, starring a foul-mouthed, ruthless and self-referential antihero. Get it wrong, and Deadpool could be a spectacular failure, but get it right and it could begin a whole new chapter for superhero movies. They got it right, at least as far as the studio is concerned. The film introduces its title character with a wedgie, as he and a car full of bloody corpses fly through the air above a New York highway. From there the movie jumps in and out of flashback to tell how Wade Wilson (Reynolds) met love of his life Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and got turned into a disfigured mutant by Ed Skrein’s sneering Ajax, putting the Merc With a Mouth on a super-powered collision course with his maker. Per the Deadpool comics, the movie is, atypically for superhero cinema, gory, profane and loaded with sex jokes. Our superhero often breaks the fourth wall, stopping occasionally to chat to the audience or “cue the music.” Reynolds, after years spent searching for a franchise to call his own, has finally struck gold. A motormouth frequently hired to play characters both charming and irritating, he’s perfectly cast as Wade Wilson, but props must ultimately go to screenwriters Paul Whernick and Rhett Reese for successfully bringing the Looney Tunes anarchy of the Deadpool comic to life. Loud, scrappy and intentionally provocative, if it were a regular R-rated comedy, Deadpool’s “taboo” ingredients—sex montages, f-bombs, TJ Miller riffing obscenely, so much flagrant murder—wouldn’t be considered boundary-breaking at all. But in a superhero movie, this stuff feels revolutionary.—Brogan Morris


a-serious-man.jpg 29. A Serious Man
Year: 2009
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Working with few recognizable stars, the Coens have made a funny but odd and inquisitive film about guilt. It’s also their most Jewish film to date, a film about physics professor Larry Gopnik and the Jewish subculture of a medium-sized late-’60s American town. Larry’s life begins to fall apart when his wife says she wants a divorce, and in the great unraveling that follows, the Coens have made Kafka’s implications explicit. The K word is often slapped onto any old symbolic nightmare, but Kafka’s own work was actually very funny, even though he could slip into gray areas without much warning. The Coens can, too. A Serious Man is one of the most fascinating, maybe even heartfelt, renderings of a Kafkaesque sensibility that I’ve seen.—Robert Davis


going-clear.jpg 28. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Year: 2015
Director: Alex Gibney
Alex Gibney’s up-close examination of Scientology, its practices and the controversies that surround the religion founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard is also a stirring portrait of eight former adherents, who tell their stories of how they came to practice Scientology and their reasons for leaving the church. While much of the ideological content in Gibney’s film has circulated on the Internet for years, there were still a number of items to be learned from watching the film and hearing from the men who made it. While Going Clear is part exposé and part condemnation of a controversial religion, director Gibney has said that he was most interested in “the journey of the key characters in the film … and how people got lost in the ‘prison of belief.’”—Christine N. Ziemba


project-nim.jpg 27. Project Nim
Year: 2011
Director: James Marsh
In Man on Wire, director James Marsh recounted French tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s exploits, most notably his unauthorized 1974 walk between the Twin Towers that held most of the city of New York breathless for an entire morning. In Project Nim, a team of researchers (only one year earlier, in 1973) sets out to accomplish an even more audacious and thrilling goal—to teach a chimpanzee human sign language and initiate meaningful dialogue. Technically the film is flawless. But the really compelling angle for the film is the very idea of inter-species communication.—Michael Dunaway


cape-fear-210.jpg 26. Cape Fear
Year: 1991
Director: Martin Scorsese 
Robert DeNiro has proven he can go to some dark places with his characters, and few are darker, or creepier, than Max Cady. Cady is out of prison for most of the film, but the scenes of his tattooed torso and disturbing collection of books and pictures inside prison are where we truly get a sense of just how demented he’s become. Once released he relentlessly, and for the most part, legally, torments the family of Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte), who went out of his way to make sure Cady served as long of a sentence as possible. Martin Scorsese proved he was as adept at psychological horror as he was with any other genre the master has tackled.—Ryan Bort


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