Most people were excited when HBO Max originally began because of the streaming service’s catalog of HBO TV series and significant Warner Bros. Hollywood blockbusters. But if HBO and Warner Bros. are renowned for anything, it’s because they are producing excellent dramas. As a result, the variety of the best dramas on HBO Max–both from Warner Bros. and from other studios–is unexpected and of great quality. They’re all guaranteed to strike that “drama” sweet spot when you’re seeking it, from new releases to iconic 90s films to true classics.
The best dramas on HBO Max are worth watching because of their complex stories and high-stakes sequences. Some of the dramatic TV dramas available on HBO Max are set in historical settings, while others are riveting procedurals. Some of the best dramas on HBO Max right now are even fantasy or science fiction.
Our team has gathered a fantastic lineup of the best drama on HBO Max that will tug at your heartstrings, leave you speechless, and give you chills. Add them to your list of the best dramas on HBO Max to look out for!
Related: Best Shows on HBO Max
1. The Last Duel
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck
Runtime: 152 minutes
The Last Duel is a compelling version of Eric Jager’s eponymous book, which chronicles one of France’s ultimate professional duels. Ridley Scott’s second picture of 2021 is based in medieval France, where Jean de Carrouges’ (Matt Damon) wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer) blames Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of sexually assaulting her, culminating in a nail-biting fight for survival between de Carrouges and Le Gris.
The Last Duel is brilliant in how it allows spectators to witness the case unfold from each character’s perspective, with tiny and significant shifts in timing and delivery, movement, and context. The book is divided into three sections: “The Truth According to de Carrouges,” “The Truth According to Le Gris,” and “The Truth.” Although the film makes it apparent that Marguerite’s narrative is the truest, it doesn’t take away from how distressing it is to see Le Gris abuse her again.
2. The Many Saints Of Newark
Director: Alan Taylor
Stars: Alessandro Nivola, Michael Gandolfini, Leslie Odom Jr., Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Ray Liotta, Michela de Rossi
Runtime: 120 minutes
The movie begins in 1967 in Newark, New Jersey, and chronicles the development of everyone’s beloved gang leader through the upheaval of not just the Newark riots, but also alterations in his own household, some of which are more hazardous than others.
Michael Gandolfini succeeds as a youthful Tony Soprano, a character that his late, brilliant father James Gandolfini created. Also, for non-fans, David Chase’s latest expedition into the hearts and souls of the legendary criminal family — before they’d truly set their impression — stands out as an amazing mafia thriller for the ages.
3. The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Director: Michael Showalter
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio
Runtime: 126 minutes
The Eyes of Tammy Faye portrays the amazing real story of Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain), a larger-than-life preacher who declared it her duty to teach tolerance and affection all around the globe, inspired by
the documentary with the same title by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey.
Tammy’s journey to prominence is depicted in this biographical drama, which reveals the tremendous scrutiny and criticism she faced throughout her profession for her beauty and unusual behavior. Chastain, who was nominated for an Oscar and won a SAG, Golden Globe, and Critics’ Choice award for her work, brilliantly represents the hospitable woman from head to toe, paying honor to her long legacy in the process.
4. King Richard
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Stars: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal
Runtime: 144 minutes
Will Smith gives a career-best performance as the dad of Venus and Serena Williams in this sports biography that places Smith in the footsteps of the hard-working, goal-oriented caring father. Although some have criticized the film’s positive portrayal of a complex guy, there’s no denying that King Richard is a moving story of parenting and what it requires to train and nurture just one, but two world-famous athletes.
Saniyya Sidney, a newbie, portrays a nuanced young Venus Williams who is struggling to cope with the demands she faces from her father and the rest of the world. This is a success story that merits all the accolades it receives.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy
Runtime: 106 minutes
The painstaking editing of three independent episodes, each maintaining its very own history, has resulted in Dunkirk being far more than a mere historical film. The English army initially attempts to discover a means to escape opposing assault and return to Britain on the beaches of Dunkirk, France; events there last a week. Then, on the English shore, a father and his son attempt to reach the French coast in order to rescue troops; a one-day scheme.
Finally, in an hour-long series of events, three pilots are charged with guarding the English Channel against the skies. Christopher Nolan crafts one of the finest war pictures ever produced by manipulating time to his whim, a film that allows the viewer to experience the anguish of waiting for a death that just seems inevitable, as well as the depth that a few seconds of adrenaline can give our life.
6. The Shawshank Redemption
Director: Frank Darabont
Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown, William Sadler
Runtime: 144 minutes
The Shawshank Redemption is just not one of the finest movies of the 1990s; it’s one of the greatest films of all time. It’s more like an R-rated Frank Capra movie with Stephen King writing the screenplay. One of the reasons it is indelibly associated with the 1990s, although taking place mostly in the 1940s, is because it was broadcast on cable television on a near-constant repeat from 1995 until the present.
Seriously, if you flip on TNT, you’ll almost certainly be seeing The Shawshank Redemption. It’s a narrative recounted from the perspective of Red (Morgan Freeman), a prisoner who meets Andy Dufresene (Tim Robbins), a falsely convicted person who spends years in Shawshank State Penitentiary. It’s a moving story about seeking light in the toughest situations and, of course, finding the redemption that everyone deserves.
7. Magic Mike
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Cody Horn, Matt Bomer, Olivia Munn, Joe Manganiello, and Matthew McConaughey
Runtime: 110 minutes
While a male stripper film based on Channing Tatum’s true tale may seem like a formula for catastrophe, it is a piece of artwork in the hands of a brilliant director like Steven Soderbergh. Magic Mike is a really enjoyable movie with some pretty spectacular set pieces, but it’s also extremely humorous and touching. While Soderbergh clearly knows how to have a good time, Magic Mike is ultimately a movie about pursuing the American Dream.
It’s unexpectedly gloomy in moments, and Tatum is really quite good in the lead role, displaying some of the nuances that have made him such a gifted actor. And, of course, there’s Matthew McConaughey, who plays the charming Dallas, proprietor of the film’s major male strip club, in the very first jigsaw piece of his McConaissance. Don’t be fooled by the subject: Magic Mike is a real cinephile film.
8. Just Mercy
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Rob Morgan, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, and Tim Blake Nelson
Runtime: 136 minutes
Just Mercy is a must-see film. Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) takes Bryan Stevenson’s historical classic book and delivers a drama about the law enforcement system’s flaws and the barbarity of the death sentence to reality in harsh, frightening truth. Stevenson is played by Michael B. Jordan, a young Harvard law school graduate who goes to Alabama with the intention of battling disadvantaged people who cannot afford legal assistance.
While he’s there, he tries to assist a guy (Jamie Foxx) in appealing his murder charge, which was based on flimsy evidence. For people on either side of the death sentence issue, it’s an emotionally draining but important movie, as Cretton challenges viewers to face the consequences of such a punishment.
9. No Country for Old Men
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Stars: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly Macdonald, and Tommy Lee Jones
Runtime: 122 minutes
In retrospect, No Country for Old Men was a beautiful movie. Winning Best Picture is one of the Academy’s most daring decisions. It wasn’t an easy decision. Atonement and even There Will Be Blood would’ve been significantly more typical Academy selections, but they opted with it anyhow. They gave credit where credit was needed, awarding four major Oscars to the Coen Brothers for their brilliant Cormac McCarthy production.
The picture is dark and difficult, with Javier Bardem giving one of the best villain moments of all time, representing a figure that stays mysterious throughout. It’s a challenging film, but that’s part of what makes it so unique. If your initial viewing was lukewarm, give it another shot. It takes a few viewings to fully appreciate the genius of the Coens’ work.
10. Michael Clayton
Director: Tony Gilroy
Stars: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sidney Pollack, and Michael O’Keefe
Runtime: 119 minutes
Michael Clayton, a drama from 2007, still stands up quite well. The plot revolves around a lawyer (George Clooney) who is dealing with a colleague’s sudden meltdown while also defending a large client who is now being sued in a class-action lawsuit. It’s a suspense thriller, but Tony Gilroy’s direction raises it above your typical John Grisham adaptation, making it considerably more cinematic and contemplative.
11. Citizen Kane
Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Everett Sloane, and Ray Collins
Runtime: 119 minutes
Citizen Kane is, without a doubt, one of the best films of all time. No, it isn’t dull. Orson Welles’ legendary 1941 drama is a darn enjoyable picture if you appreciate investigative dramas and tales about disturbed humans. The plot shortly after the death of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Welles) and his mysterious final words, “Rosebud.”
Even if we understand what “Rosebud” is, the movie keeps its power because Welles uses innovative cinematography like Deep Focus to construct an interesting and heartbreaking story about a guy who obtains the globe but destroys his heart because he is unable to acquire the elements he genuinely desires in life. Citizen Kane is a classic masterpiece with outstanding performances and a timeless tale that shouldn’t deter you from ultimately seeing it.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Takashi Shimura and Miki Odagiri
Runtime: 143 minutes
While filmmaker Akira Kurosawa is known for films like Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Red Beard, and Rashomon, which showcase samurai and ronin, one of his most dramatic works centers on a modest government bureaucrat. When Kenji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura) learns he has stomach cancer and has much less than a year to survive, he embarks on a quest to grant his reason for living by attempting to build a playground.
The video is a moving meditation on what we wish our histories to signify, what it means to live your life to the max in aid of everyone else, and how to summon the courage to make a significant difference. It’s a stunning and devastating masterwork from a director whose resume is littered with them.
13. The Departed
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, and James Badge Dale
Runtime: 151 minutes
Martin Scorsese’s criminal drama The Departed got him the Best Director Oscar in 2006, although he was just hoping to have a fine experience at the moment. Scorsese claimed that after serious masterworks like The Aviator and Gangs of New York, he chose to produce a commercial picture, remaking the Hong Kong thriller Domestic Affairs with an all-star ensemble.
The outcome is a pretty enjoyable criminal tale with outstanding performances, including one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s greatest roles to date. Not only did the picture win Best Director but also Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards.
14. Blood Simple
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Stars: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, Samm-Art Williams, and M. Emmet Walsh
Runtime: 95 minutes
Few directors make as confident or spectacular a start as the Coen Brothers do with Blood Simple, yet they had no issue making their voices be heard from their first picture. Dan Hedaya portrays a dive bar owner who believes his wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with one of his employees (John Getz).
With his suspicions verified, he hires a private eye (M. Emmet Walsh) to assassinate the lovers, but the scheme quickly spins out of control, resulting in unanticipated violence. While the Coens would make a string of masterpieces like Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men, their debut picture is still considered one of their greatest.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre
Runtime: 102 minutes
Casablanca, the 1942 Best Picture winner, has wasted none of its power over the years. It’s more than simply “Here’s looking at you, kid”—it’s a film with it all—action, thrill, mystery, romance, devotion, and tragedy. The plot follows cynical nightclub owner Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who just wants to be left alone before Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), his true love, approaches him seeking help for her husband, a Czech Resistance commander.
Don’t be put off by the film’s reputation; you may still appreciate it for how amusing and unexpectedly humorous it can be. Casablanca still has the same urgency as when it was first released, embracing a fundamental tale of love and self-sacrifice. It’s a lovely film that deserves to be seen again.
16. The Tale
Director: Jennifer Fox
Stars: Laura Dern, Isabelle Nélisse, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Ritter, Frances Conroy, John Heard, Common, and Ellen Burstyn
Runtime: 114 minutes
The Tale is a masterpiece of filmmaking that is both innovative and terrifying. Jennifer Fox seeks to examine her inner memories and investigate the sexual assault she endured at the hands of persons she mistook for friends.
It’s a pivotal film in the #Metoo campaign, analyzing how perpetrators rely on their targets and how victims shrink inside and twist the truth to avoid confronting their grief. The Tale is an essential picture, masterfully crafted with thought and cleverness, and is one of the best documentaries of 2018. It is led by Laura Dern, who gives a scorching, complicated performance.
Director: Todd Phillips
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, Brian Tyree Henry, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Leigh Gill, Josh Pais, Douglas Hodge, with Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne, and Dante Pereira-Olson as Bruce Wayne.
Runtime: 122 minutes
The Joker has been one of the finest comic book films ever created, mostly because it isn’t at all like a superhero film. It is a character study from the 1980s disguised as a comic book film. It would perform just as well if this film was titled Arthur rather than Joker. I’m not sure whether it would make a billion dollars, but again that, in my opinion, is how fundamentally good this picture is.
It doesn’t need the added setting of Gotham City and Batman, along with all the fanboy junk it entails. As Arthur Fleck, Joaquin Phoenix gives one of the greatest plays of the era as a person who can’t seem to catch a break or make his own decisions. He’s a bad clown and a terrible comic. Arthur only wants to be seen and recognized, and he believes that violence and destruction are the best ways to achieve this. When disgrace lasts so much longer, fame isn’t enough. Celebrities come and go, but notoriety endures forever.
18. Pulp Fiction
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: Tim Roth · Amanda Plummer · Laura Lovelace · John Travolta
Runtime: 165 minutes
Four stories of brutality and salvation intersect the tale of two mafia hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his spouse, and a couple of diner robbers. Their exploits are told in stories that cleverly travel back and forth through time.
19. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Director: Miloš Forman
Stars: Jack Nicholson; Louise Fletcher; William Redfield
Runtime: 133 minutes
Randle Patrick McMurphy, an uncompromising rabble-rouser spending sentence for madness in a psychiatric facility, encourages his fellow prisoners to rebel against the dictatorial control of charge nurse Mildred Ratched.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro; Ray Liotta; Joe Pesci; Lorraine Bracco; Paul Sorvino
Runtime: 146 minutes
The actual story of Henry Hill, a half-Irish, half-Sicilian Brooklyn youngster who is fostered by local criminals at a young age and rises through the tiers of a Mafia family under Jimmy Conway’s tutelage.
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Brad Pitt; Morgan Freeman; Gwyneth Paltrow; John C. McGinley
Runtime: 127 minutes
In this disturbing and frightening film, two murder investigators are on the lookout for a psychopath whose actions are themed on the “seven deadly sins,” which takes audiences from the mangled remains of one target toward the next. Det. Somerset, a seasoned detective, investigates every sin in an attempt to get an insight into the killer’s thinking, while his rookie sidekick, Mills, mocks his efforts to solve the crime.
22. Seven Samurai
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Stars: Toshirô Mifune; Takashi Shimura; Keiko Tsushima
Runtime: 141 minutes
After falling on hard times, a samurai responds to a village’s need for protection. The town needs to be protected from robbers, so the samurai recruits six others to assist him in teaching the peasants how to guard themselves, while the villagers give food to the warriors.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Clint Eastwood; Gene Hackman; Morgan Freeman; Richard Harris
Runtime: 131 minutes
William Munny is a nice widower and hog farmer who used to be a merciless killer. He conducts a last bounty-hunter expedition to catch the individuals who raped and abused a prostitute in order to maintain his two orphaned children. He fights a dishonest sheriff with the help of his former colleague and a cocky newbie.
24. Hacksaw Ridge
Director: Mel Gibson
Stars: Andrew Garfield; Sam Worthington; Luke Bracey; Teresa Palmer; Hugo Weaving; Rachel Griffiths; Vince Vaughn
Runtime: 139 minutes
Desmond T. Doss, a WWII American Army Medic who participated during the Battle of Okinawa, declines to kill other people and is bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor as the very first Conscientious Objector in American history.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Roy Scheider; Robert Shaw; Richard Dreyfuss; Lorraine Gary; Murray Hamilton
Runtime: 130 minutes
When a ferocious great white shark attacks the residents of Amity Island, the chief of police, an oceanographer, and a veteran shark hunter set out to stop it. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw star in Steven Spielberg’s film. The iconic score by John Williams was an instant success.
The first summer blockbuster, “Jaws,” was a well-received crowd-pleaser that had crowds clamoring for the door. The Library of Congress designated the picture as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” in 2001, and it was preserved in the United States National Film Registry.