Bruce Willis and Bonnie Bedelia in <em>Die Hard</em>” data-content-img=”” data-src=”https://pyxis.nymag.com/v1/imgs/9ee/dd5/a4cc7d06d4be053603435661197de4e091-mad-max-fury-road.rsquare.w700.jpg” src=”https://pyxis.nymag.com/v1/imgs/9ee/dd5/a4cc7d06d4be053603435661197de4e091-mad-max-fury-road.rsquare.w700.jpg”></img> </picture>
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<p><em>Mad Max: Fury Road</em>.<br />
                <span>Photo: Warner Bros.</span>
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<p data-editable=Don’t have HBO Max yet? You can sign up here.

HBO Max has one of the deepest movie catalogues in the streaming world, thanks in large part to its extensive classic-film section through TCM. However, sometimes you’re not in the mood for classic cinema. Sometimes you want to see things blow up, the good guys to beat the bad guys, and stunt work to dominate the dialogue. HBO Max can do that too! It’s really the Swiss Army knife of streaming services. So sit down, fire up one of the 40 movies below, and enjoy the ride.

In early 2020, Sony announced that they were rebooting Anaconda, a somewhat forgotten giant snake movie from 1997 that’s mostly known for its B-movie value than actual scares. You know what? Sometimes you just want a B-movie. Sometimes you want a giant snake who terrorizes a fun cast like Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, and Jennifer Lopez. This is for those times.

Before he made Halloween and The Thing, John Carpenter directed one of the best action movies of the ‘70s in this wildly influential low-budget thriller. Austin Stoker plays a cop who is stuck in a precinct when it’s attacked by a criminal gang. Redefining the classic action set-up of “good guys inside, bad guys outside,” Carpenter’s film influenced generations of genre filmmakers to come.

James Wan directed one of the most playfully enjoyable movies in the DCEU, giving Jason Momoa’s title character his own adventure under the waves. The plot has something to do with stopping Aquaman’s half-brother from doing some damage to the surface world, but it’s really most enjoyed as a feast for the eyes, a CGI extravaganza by an accomplished filmmaker that smartly doesn’t take itself as seriously as some other DC movies.

Ridley Scott directed the Hollywood version of Mark Bowden’s non-fiction book of the same name, which tells the story of a 1993 incident in Mogadishu that became known around the world. Members of the U.S. Military (including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, and Tom Hardy) are pinned down in the city as they try to capture a faction leader. This is a technical marvel, winning Oscars for Best Editing and Sound Mixing.

The great Ridley Scott directed Michael Douglas in a story of two NYPD officers who end up getting sucked into the Japanese criminal underworld after they arrest a prominent member of the Yakuza. Despite mixed reviews at the time, Scott’s craftsmanship has allowed for a reappraisal of this gorgeously filmed movie, shot by the great Jan de Bont. It also has an excellent Hans Zimmer score.

The tragic death of Brandon Lee overshadowed the legacy of this 1994 adaptation of the comic book of the same name. While it undeniably adds poignancy to the entire affair, there’s more to this clever, well-made movie than morbid fascination. One wishes that there were still comic book movies out there like this one, flicks willing to go dark to appeal to adults as much as teenagers.

Christopher Nolan’s landmark superhero sequel is over a decade old now and its influence shows no signs of diminishing. If anything, the story of the Batman, the Joker, and Two-Face feels more relevant today than it did when it was released. Most of all, the movie’s breakneck momentum and unforgettable performance from Heath Ledger haven’t aged a day. The entire trilogy, including Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, are currently on HBO Max.

Even if you’ve never seen this 1967 box office smash, you’ve seen movies inspired by it. It’s all about blending star power with fire power, and this action-heavy war film starred some of the biggest talents of the day, including Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland. It doesn’t have much to say about war, but the sheer brute force of it changed the way this kind of movie was made.

A ridiculous B-movie in big-budget clothing, this 2002 comedy action film knows exactly how silly it needs to be to work for anyone interested in watching a movie that was once called Arach Attack. A throwback to the days of giant monster movies, it’s the tale of a colony of spiders who run across some toxic waste and end up growing into man-killing machines. David Arquette and Scarlett Johansson star.

The great John Carpenter turned from making slasher history with Halloween to delivering a pair of sci-fi masterpieces with his buddy Kurt Russell on The Thing and Escape from New York. Here, Russell gives one of his most iconic performances as Snake Plissken, a cynical anti-hero who is dropped into the maximum-security prison that Manhattan has become after the President is kidnapped and taken there.

Criterion released an amazing boxed set of Toho Godzilla films last year to commemorate spine No. 1,000 in its collection. Several films from that set have made the jump to HBO Max, including the essential original, Godzilla Raids Again, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Megalon, and Godzilla, King of the Monsters. It’s time for a marathon!

One of the best modern disaster movies, this unexpectedly strong release landed quietly at the end of 2020, when most people were focusing on more pertinent things. That means a lot of people probably haven’t caught up to this rock-solid action flick that stars Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin as two people just trying to get their family to safety as a comet hurtles toward Earth.

Steven Soderbergh directs a razor-sharp, tight action thriller starring Gina Carano as a black ops agent who is sold out by everyone around her … and so she kicks some ass. Carano may not be Oscar-worthy, but she did most of her own stunts and really sells the physical presence of the role in ways that other actresses would have totally missed. And the supporting cast her is phenomenal, including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas.

At the peak of the international obsession with wuxia after the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the masterful Zhang Yimou directed this epic about the assassination attempt on the life of the King of Qin in 227 BC. At the time, it became one of the highest-grossing foreign language films ever, thanks in large part to the international love for star Jet Li.

Fans of Zack Snyder essentially pressured Warner Bros. into giving their favorite director the freedom and a budget to go back and cut 2017’s Justice League into something closer to the vision he had in his head before Joss Whedon took over the project. The result is an undeniably ambitious effort that plays better than the theatrical version (while not quite fixing all of its problems). If you’ve got four hours on your hands and appetite for deep superhero mythology, you’ve found your project for the day.

HBO Max has the most impressive collection of monster movies anywhere, thanks in large part to owning the Criterion collection’s remasters of the Godzilla flicks, but they also have a bunch of modern giant creature movies too, including this 2017 Jordan Vogt-Roberts action movie with an amazing cast. Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, and John C. Reilly star in the second film in Legendary’s MonsterVerse relaunch (after 2014’s Godzilla), and there will be a new film called Godzilla vs. Kong on HBO Max later in 2021 (unless plans change with HBO Max’s new release strategy).

You have likely never seen a movie quite like the martial arts action-comedy Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow’s masterpiece. Set in 1940s China, this worldwide hit features some of the best stunt work you can find on HBO Max, all in service of a movie that often plays like a live-action cartoon. It’s ridiculous and unforgettable.

If you’re digging into HBO Max’s back catalogue, you’ve probably seen Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Ever wondered what inspired some of that film’s more notable set pieces, especially the snowy battle with Lucy Liu? Look no further than 1973’s Lady Snowblood and 1974’s Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance, both available on HBO Max. It’s kind of amazing that films like this, which used to be the exclusive property of midnight shows at small art theaters, will now play in houses and on tablets around the world.

Peter Jackson shook the movie world with his trilogy based on the beloved fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien, and all three of the original films (plus the lesser Hobbit ones) are on HBO Max for your marathoning needs. HBO Max is reportedly waiting to add 4K streaming until later this year. These will look incredible then. Let’s hope they’re still on the service.

One of the best action films of all time has rarely been on streaming services but it currently sits right there on HBO Max. No one knew what would result in George Miller returning to the world of Max Rockatansky in 2015, but the master filmmaker delivered one of the most acclaimed movies of the decade. It’s a flat-out masterpiece.

Mad Max was fun, and it helped put both Mel Gibson and George Miller on the map, but it was the 1981 sequel, often just called The Road Warrior that blew the roof off. With some of the best car sequences of all time, this was a game-changer, a film that felt completely fresh and new, while also paying homage to classic tropes of the Western.

Whether one considers it a guilty pleasure or a legitimately great action movie, everyone kind of likes Point Break. It’s a really hard movie to dislike, in no small part due to the charisma of stars Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, who plays an undercover FBI agent trying to break up a ring of surfing bank robbers. Kathryn Bigelow is one of our best action directors even if this one is a bit cheesier than her best work.

The film that made Jackie Chan into an international star, this 1985 action flick still slays 35 years later. It’s most memorable for its stunt work, and its fearless lead who pulls it all off without wires or stand-ins. Police Story contains some of the best action sequences of Chan’s career. If you only know him from his later hits, go back to where it all began.

Ridley Scott returned to the world of Alien with this divisive prequel to the saga of Ripley and the iconic H.R. Giger creatures from his landmark original. It’s about a crew on a spaceship who find artifacts of Earth cultures on another planet and ultimately leads to a connection with the Alien mythology, although it also stands as its own gorgeous film. Say what you will about the storytelling, Scott is one of our best craftsmen ever.

Movies based on video games are generally awful, but there’s something undeniably fun about this ridiculous Dwayne Johnson flick from 2018, one that would fit perfectly with all the Godzilla and Kong movies also on HBO Max. Johnson plays a primatologist who has to face three giant mutated animals who are attacking Chicago, including one that he trained named George. Turn you brain off and enjoy the massive fun.

Steven Spielberg adapted Ernest Cline’s hit book in this 2018 blockbuster that divided audiences. Set in 2045 (which feels pretty soon, tbh), this is a vision of the future in which people use virtual reality to escape the real world. Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, one of the best players in a massive game that could give him control of the company that runs the world. Filled with pop culture and nostalgia, it’s a fun ride.

It’s been over 25 years since Jackie Chan broke through with the North American mainstream in a hit film that really served as a showcase for the director/star’s incredible stunt skills. Directed by Stanley Tong, this Chan vehicle is only one of several Chan films recently added to HBO Max, including First Strike, The Tuxedo, and the three Rush Hour movies.

They don’t get more classic than the Akira Kurosawa classic that inspired generations of action filmmakers. Co-written, directed, and edited by one of the best filmmakers of all time, it’s the story of seven ronin who are hired by farmers to fight the bandits ruining their village. It’s a formative text for the action genre, and quite simply one of the best movies ever made.

The typically dour DC Cinematic Universe got a much-needed injection of levity in a 2019 superhero movie that kind of plays like Big meets Superman. A kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is chosen by an ancient wizard to become an adult superhero (Zachary Levi) in a film that keeps topping itself with spectacle until a fantastic final sequence that really ties it all together. It’s one of the fun HBO Max action movies that can be watched with the kids too.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could have never envisioned his intellectual crime solver turning into one of the biggest action stars of 2009, but that’s what happened with the biggest movie of Guy Ritchie’s career. The filmmaker directed Downey and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson in this massive blockbuster that produced one sequel, with work on another underway for a late 2021 release.

Jan de Bont directed one of the best movies of the ‘90s and gave dozens of imitators a template when he released this simple-but-fantastic flick. In fact, its simplicity is one of its charms. A bus is equipped with a bomb that will explode if it drops below 50 miles per hour, and Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are the only people that can stop it. (The sequel is also on HBO Max if you believe in torturing yourself.)

One of the most New York movies ever made, the 1974 thriller from Joseph Sargent doesn’t just capture that Big Apple spirit but centers one of Walter Matthau’s best performances. The legend stars in the story of a group of bad guys who take an NYC subway train hostage, and co-stars Robert Shaw and Martin Balsam. Ignore the John Travolta remake — stick with the original.

After so much hubbub about being the only blockbuster released during a pandemic last summer, Christopher Nolan’s latest is now on HBO Max for people to watch in the safety of their own homes. It’s lesser Nolan, but it does feature some ambitious filmmaking, and Oscar-winning special effects.

Michael Mann’s 1981 crime flick is one of the best directorial debuts of the era, a pronouncement of a major talent and a film that still feels fresh and new. James Caan is fantastic as a safecracker who is trying to leave his life behind. Mann’s refined visual style was there from the very beginning and the score by Tangerine Dream is unforgettable.

Arguably the best film about the Gulf War was written and directed by David O. Russell long before he became an Oscar darling. This is the story of four American soldiers — George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and Spike Jonze — who attempt to steal some gold during the chaotic period after the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Darkly humorous and insightful, it’s a daring, riveting piece of work.

Denzel Washington won his second Oscar for a role that would help define his onscreen persona in an Antoine Fuqua flick that is somehow already two decades old. Washington plays Alonzo Harris, a corrupt LAPD cop who is accompanied by a new partner, played by Ethan Hawke. More thriller than traditional action, it’s still an intense, unforgettable experience and a reminder of how much Washington can be a force of nature when he’s allowed to be.

June 2020 brought the news that Jan de Bont’s 1996 blockbuster is going to be remade for a new generation, leading fans of the original to reminisce about a simpler time, a time when a cow flying through the air seemed like the peak of special effects. Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, and Cary Elwes star as a group of storm chasers who get more than they can handle as a series of tornadoes unleash their fury on Oklahoma.

The 2020 movie was kind of dumped in theaters, but it’s already developing something of a following on VOD and now HBO Max. Kristen Stewart stars as a worker on an underwater drilling facility who discovers something ancient under the water. Half disaster movie and half monster movie, it’s a lot of fun.

The 2005 action thriller took on new life in 2020 when people started referencing its issues of social unrest during a pandemic. In this vision of the future from the Alan Moore and David Lloyd graphic novel, an anarchist named V (Hugo Weaving) teams with a woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) to inspire the world to rise up. It was underrated when it came out and plays with even more urgency 16 years later.

The news that Wonder Woman 1984 will drop on HBO Max on Christmas Day means it’s time for a revisit! Go back and check out the phenomenal 2017 Patty Jenkins original, the best non-Nolan film in the modern DC Universe. Gal Gadot stars in the title role and really anchors it as an old-fashioned adventure film, one that owes as much to serial action flicks of the ’40s and ’50s as it does to movies with Batman and Superman.

The 40 Best Action Movies on HBO Max