HBO Max doesn’t have the most extensive catalog of movies compared to rivals like Netflix and Prime Video, but it trades that quantity for some serious quality. HBO Max is home to some of the most iconic fantasy movies ever made, from classics like The Wizard of Oz to more recent hits like The Lord of the Rings and the Studio Ghibli Collection. If you want an endless catalog of new movies to check out, you’re better off using other streaming services, but if you want a good mix of fantasy powerhouses and cult classics, look no further.
Here are our picks of fantastic movies to stream now on HBO Max.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET
The Lord of the Rings is a masterclass in adapting beloved books to the screen and weaving multiple stories into one cohesive narrative. All the fantasy tropes are here: elves, dwarves, wizards, orcs and more. But Lord of the Rings elevates them to new heights with its sweeping cinematography, incredibly immersive costumes, and powerful performances. In other words: this trilogy won 17 Oscars, including 11 wins out of 11 nominations for The Return of the King. If you’ve been holding out, now’s the time to watch, and if you’ve seen them before, there’s never a bad time for a new watch – especially with Amazon’s Rings of Power series coming out. in autumn.
Spirited Away (2001)
This film about transformation really left me feeling transformed the first time I watched it. No other film has touched me like this. Arguably the finest film from a director responsible for many excellent films, Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a little girl who becomes lost in a spiritual world as her family moves across Japan. The animation is spectacular, and director Hayao Miyazaki’s careful pacing gives each character the perfect amount of time and space, delivering one of the most unique and compelling fantasy films ever made.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Harry Potter was a cultural phenomenon for 15 years, and while the author of the books has since left fans with more conflicting feelings about the franchise, there’s no denying that the films were some of the most influential fantasy films of the new. millennium. All eight films – from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – can be viewed on HBO Max. Prisoner of Azkaban, the third entry in the series, is a highlight, as is the two-part Deathly Hallows finale.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
Princess Mononoke will scare you. It is a violent and tragic film that deals with the devastation of the natural world as a result of industrialization. It’s also the most visceral and heartbreaking film Miyazaki has ever made. Giant wolves, violent boars, and writhing parasitic demons all play a vital role in the story, which features more violence and bloodshed than anything else in the Ghibli collection. That’s part of what makes Mononoke so great – it stands apart from all of Miyazaki’s other films, thanks to its unyielding look at themes of fear, violence, and the fight to protect the things that matter to us.
The Mummy (1999)
Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz star in this action-oriented reboot of Universal’s classic monster movie, which unleashes a cursed ancient Egyptian pharaoh in the 1920s. The Mummy was the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1999, surpassing Blair Witch and James Bond at the box office, and it has retained much of its original charm. It should be a joke, a flop, but Fraser and Weisz’s performances ground the film in humor and compassion. Avoid it if you don’t like beetles, though.
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
Studio Ghibli is often synonymous with Miyazaki, but this film is proof that the studio is perfectly capable of making great films with other directors. An adaptation of Mary Norton’s book The Borrowers, Arrietty centers on a young girl from a race of tiny humans who “borrow” things like tissue paper and sugar cubes to survive. It’s a sweet little story about growing up, helping others, and dealing with the uncertainty of the future.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
A classic fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz follows Dorothy as she is transported from Kansas to a land of witches, wizards, living scarecrows and more. Judy Garland shines in her most iconic role as the lost but determined Dorothy. It’s a great first film for kids, who will enjoy the colorful characters and musical numbers, and adults might enjoy a glimpse into how movies were made 80 years ago.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Oh, you thought we were done with Miyazaki movies? Each one is worth watching (Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Nausicaa are additional highlights), but Kiki’s Delivery Service holds a special place in my heart for its authenticity, even as a fantasy movie. Kiki is a bright and warm young witch, and as she ventures out on her own for the first time, she must learn to wrestle with her powers, her feelings, and her dreams all at once. It’s a powerful story, sometimes painful in the precision with which it describes Kiki’s struggles, but it’s an uplifting story for children and adults alike.
Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET
Part superhero action movie, part WWII alternate history, part fantasy film about a child demon, Hellboy defies easy categorization. But director Guillermo del Toro weaves it all together in a dark and entertaining story about a man struggling with his apparent fate. Hellboy is a cult classic because it treats its characters seriously while remembering that movies are meant to be entertaining, and Ron Pearlman wearing demon horns filed down while being overprotective of cats is nothing if not entertaining.
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