Premium network, premium content: The best movies on HBO right now

After the success of7 Days in Hell, a mockumentary about a legendary tennis match between two fictional idiots, the Andy Samberg-led team earned a second go-round via HBO. The result?Tour de Pharmacy, a similar story that spoofs the Tour de France by focusing on competitors’ use of performance-enhancing substances in the early 1980s. Samberg returns to play Nigerian rider Marty Hass, while Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore, Daveed Diggs, and John Cena appear as the other made-up competitors on whom the film is focused.Tour is filled with classic slapstick comedy, and the concept is bolstered by the inclusion of several veteran actors — we won’t spoil the hilarious surprises here — who play the “modern-day” versions of the film’s protagonists. Lance Armstrong’s cameo doesn’t hurt, either.

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As a wise man once said, “there’s a time and place for everything … it’s called college.” Nothing exemplifies this point more than National Lampoon’s Animal House, a 1978 film that follows the mischievous antics of the scofflaw-riddled Delta Tau Chi fraternity. After a series of events lands the fraternity on “double-secret probation,” the ragtag crew of misfits must get their act together or risk losing their charter. The timeless classic showcases stupendous performances from the likes of John Vernon and John Belushi, along with Donald Sutherland, Tim Matheson, and others. Will Delta house make things right with the dean, or will it set its sights on its rivals and go out in a flaming ball of glory?Animal House is the blueprint upon which nearly all frat comedies are built.

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This heartwarming 2007 dramedy follows Jenna (Kerri Russell), a pregnant waitress in the American South who finds herself stuck in a dead-end life with a deadbeat husband (Jeremy Sisto) and an unusual proclivity for baking pies. When she starts seeing a new doctor (Nathan Fillion), things get a little complicated — you can guess why — and Jenna is forced to take stock of her life and make some big decisions regarding her future. Thanks to excellent performances from the film’s leads, plus some support from Cheryl Hines and Andy Griffith (yes,thatAndy Griffith), this portrait of small-town Americana is the perfect blend of indie-movie weirdness and high-wattage star power. It’s worth mentioning that this was the last film from director/actor Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered shortly after the movie’s debut.

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Based upon Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series,Scott Pilgrim vs. The World follows a young musician (Michael Cera) who falls in love with the enchanting Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but finds that he must first defeat her seven evil ex-lovers if he wants to truly win her heart. Cera is perfectly cast as Scott, a do-gooder hero with more good luck than brains or brawn, and the film quickly morphs from a mumblecore love story to a crazy, effects-laden superhero flick once the battles begin. Fittingly, the list of evil exes includes both Chris Evans (now Captain America) and Brandon Routh (who previously played Superman), in addition toJason Schwartzman.

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Starring the late Robin Williams in one of the first leading roles of his career, Good Morning, Vietnam is loosely based upon the exploits of manic Armed Forces Radio Service DJ Adrian Cronauer. Cronauer (Williams) is sent to help raise morale in Vietnam, only to find himself in trouble with his superiors for his “irrelevant tendency” time and again. The DJ makes friends with both soldiers (Forest Whitaker) and local Vietnamese people, learning about the complex politics of war in the process. The sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet film is enhanced by Williams, who improvised nearly all of his radio broadcasts on the spot, deviating from the script entirely.

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The explosive final chapter in the most recent Planet of the Apes trilogy sees Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his tribe of sentient tree-dwellers confront a militaristic human faction led by the ruthless Colonel (Woody Harrelson) in a battle to determine the future of Earth. The Colonel’s troops attack the apes’ home, forcing their hand as the apes must simultaneously search for a new home and defend against the bloodthirsty legion.War received substantial acclaim for its impressive special effects and incredible motion capture technology, which imbues the ape characters with impressive amounts of emotion. Serkis, in particular, puts forth an incredible performance, which earned him a number of awards.

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In his reviewof Chrisopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Peter Travers ofRolling Stone called it “[perhaps] the best war movie ever made,”putting it in the same class as epics like Saving Private Ryan. The film centers on a group of young English soldiers on the French beachfront at Dunkirk who are awaiting an evacuation that may never come while withstanding bombing runs by the Germans. Nolan splits the movie into different stories, including one featuring Tom Hardy as a fighter pilot who ignores his dwindling gas gauge to attempt a daring rescue and one featuring Mark Ryland as an aging Englishman who crosses the channel with his son in hopes of rescuing soldiers in need. Few films are as beautifully shot asDunkirk, and its simple, minimalist soundtrack and stunning sound design underscore the desperation of the English.

Available May 12

If you’ve never heard of Avatar, you must have been living under a rock, or a massive deposit of unobtanium, or perhaps a ginormous, living tree. In any case, this 2009 epic from James Cameron (Titanic) is basically SpacePocahontas with blue people and dragonhawks and high drama. An expedition from Earth lands on Pandora, where a paralyzed soldier (Sam Worthington) takes his twin brother’s spot in a program that transfers his consciousness into an Avatar (which looks just like the planet’s native Na’vi). He sets out to learn more about the indigenous people, and — surprise! — ends up falling in love with a Na’vi warrior (Zoe Saldana). Of course, he finds himself caught between the interests of his human brethren and those of his newfound Na’vi family.Avatar remains one of the most expensive (and most lucrative) films ever, boasting some jaw-dropping special effects and CGI cinematography.

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Vietnam is one of the most documented wars in film history, and looms large over the generation that came of age during the war. Oliver Stone’sPlatoonstands out as one of the most powerful depictions of life for troops in the war, one that never shies away from the gore or horror that has become synonymous with the conflict. The film begins with Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) leaving college to enlist in the army. Though initially enthusiastic to serve his country, Taylor quickly becomes horrified by life on the front lines. As the fighting drags on, Taylor and his comrades struggle to hold on to their souls. Platoon is harrowing, no doubt thanks to the fact that much of the screenplay was based on Stone’s own experiences during the war.

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Can you believe we’re closing in on the ninth Fast & Furious movie? What started as a series about an underground street racing rivalry between Brian O’Conner (the late Paul Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has morphed into a full-on action blockbuster franchise overflowing with action movie stars (Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson).The Fate of the Furious sees Dom & Letty (Rodriguez) forced back into the game after the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes a unique offer and presents Dom with some interesting information. Predictably, the job goes bad, and the conflict escalates to a world-threatening scenario that can only be resolved by driving lots of vehicles really, really fast. Don’t overthink it.

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Despite the fact that most of the DC Extended Universe films thus far — including Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, to name a few —have been pretty awful, 2017’s Wonder Womanproved that there’s still some hope for the non-Marvel superhero genre yet. Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious) absolutely slays as the Amazonian warrior goddess, who learns about the outside world after an American fighter pilot (Chris Pine) crash lands on her island of Themyscira. She quickly decides her assistance is needed elsewhere, and leaves her home for the first time to help turn the tide in World War I. Stellar reviews point to the film’s themes of gender equality and empowerment, andWonder Woman doesn’t skimp on awesome fight scenes either.

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Perhaps the definition of an “anti-superhero” movie, Loganis dark, depressing, and graphically violent. As Logan (Hugh Jackman) hides out near the Mexican border tending to an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart), the former Wolverine crosses path with a young mutant (Dafne Keen) who reminds him a lot of himself. Logan feels compelled to guide and protect the girl, and as such finds himself embroiled in a battle for her freedom and his own survival. Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) plays an excellent villain here, as director James Mangold transforms the typically cheesy X-Men fiction into something altogether more serious — and compelling.

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This riveting 2003 drama tells the (mostly) true story of Seabiscuit, a legendary underdog racehorse that captured the attention and imagination of America during the Great Depression. Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man) plays struggling, partially blind jockey Red Pollard, who fights in an underground boxing ring to make money on the side. When the horse’s trainer, Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), notices Red scuffling with the other stable hands, he gives Red a chance to ride Seabiscuit for owner Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges). The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and remains one of the most heartwarming underdog stories out there.

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The Joe Paterno saga is a long and sad story that culminated in the erosion of Paterno’s legacy as (arguably) the greatest college football coach in history. Al Pacino plays Paterno, embroiled in controversy after the revelation that assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had an extended history of using the Penn State football facilities to sexually abuse youngsters. Paterno struggles to manage the football program while dealing with the legal proceedings and hubbub surrounding the trial. HBO’s movie is a fascinating (if not fun) look at the events, co-starring Riley Keough (Logan Lucky), as well as Kathy Baker as Paterno’s wife.

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HBO Films produced this drama based on the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson (Bryan Cranston), who took office immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. In addition to dealing with the turmoil caused by Kennedy’s death, Johnson is responsible for developing the Civil Rights Act while under pressure from both activists and politicians to amend the Act itself. Meanwhile, Johnson must prepare for a re-election campaign against conservative Barry Goldwater and contend with rising animosity against the Vietnamese due to the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Cranston earned universal acclaim for his performance, while Anthony Mackie (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and Melissa Leo (Lady Bird Johnson) provide solid support.

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Considered by many as one of the greatest sports movies of all time, Hoosiers tells the story of the 1951 Hickory High basketball team. Gene Hackman stars as Norman Dale, the new coach whose dictatorial style puts him at odds with the team and community. Coach Dale must earn the trust of his players and their parents, while figuring out how to convince star Jimmy Chitwood to rejoin the team. Barbara Hershey plays a concerned teacher, and Dennis Hopper garnered an Oscar nod for his performance as the hoops-loving town drunk. These all might seem like sports clichs now, but Hoosiers is the film that actually helped cement these kind of roles. It set the standard for small-town sports movies, and any self-respecting basketball fan should see it.

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Maria Full of Grace (in Spanish,Mara, llena eres de gracia) is not a happy film, but it’s one you should watch anyway. The titular, teenage Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno, who received a nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards) aspires to leave behind her menial gardening job in Colombia, and finds out she is pregnant only after quitting. To make ends meet, Maria accepts a job as a drug mule smugglingdrugs into the United States, making the trip with two other women. Moreno’s performance is breathtaking in its melancholy, and although her career hasn’t reached such peaks again, it’s impossible to take your eyes off her while watching this film.

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This touching 2004 drama, based upon Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie’s creation ofPeter Pan,jump-started the career of Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) and earned nominations for several Oscars. Barrie (Johnny Depp) befriends a widow, Sylvia,(Kate Winslet,) and her four sons, whose imaginations lead him to create the concept of Neverland. Even though Barrie’s wife (Radha Mitchell) and community are skeptical of his intentions, the writer holds strong in his relationship with Sylvia, who battles a life-threatening illness that worsens over the film’s course. The movie blends whimsical fantasy with harrowing drama, and Depp navigates it all with expertise.

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Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), this film chronicles the real-life battle between activist Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company in the early 1990s. When Brockovich — working as an aide in a legal office — discovers that PG&E had accidentally tainted the water supply in Hinkley, California, with carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, she investigates further and finds that the company had been working for years to cover its tracks by treating illnesses stemming from the contamination with in-house doctors. Eventually, the case turns into a class-action lawsuit, with Brockovich representing the citizens of Hinkley. The film received heaps of praise from most critics, with Roberts winning an Oscar for Best Actress and other awards for her turn.

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Languishing in a loveless marriage, art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is surprised to receive a copy of a new novel written by her ex, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). The novel — dedicated to her — is titled Nocturnal Animals, after a pet name he gave her, and it follows a man named Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal), who embarks on a quest for revenge after three men rape and murder his wife and daughter. As Susan reads the novel, she relives her time with Edward, and decides to reconnect. With its story-within-a-story narrative and strikingly composed scenes, Nocturnal Animals is a mesmerizing film, and one of the most intriguing psychological thrillers in recent years.

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Get Out is one of the most unique movies to come along in a while. It’s a curious blend of horror, comedy, and social commentary that somehow coalesces wonderfully into one of the finestfilms of 2017. Director Jordan Peele (Key & Peele) crafts a terrifying vision around black photographer Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who visits the estate owned by the family of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Even before arriving, Chris can tell something isn’t right, but the movie’s true depravity isn’t revealed until about halfway through, after which things getreal. Thanks to Peele’s superb script and some truly disturbing turns from a number of actors (including Catherine Keener, Lakeith Stanfield, and Caleb Landry Jones),Get Out earned a place at the forefront of American film discussion last year. You should see it.

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Many considerAliens, the second entry in the sci-fi horror opus launched by Ridley Scott, to be the best film in the series — and for good reason. Sigourney Weaver returns as Ellen Ripley, the lone survivor from Alien, who has spent nearly 60 years in stasis following the events ofAlien.After contact with a colonized planet goes dark, Ripley joins a rescue team in hopes of validating her claims about the aliens and dealing with the loss of her daughter, who died on Earth when she was in hypersleep. Of course, the mission doesn’t quite go as planned, and Ripley is forced once again to fight for her life — and the lives of the marines she traveled with — against a legion of unrelenting extraterrestrials.Aliens— actually directed by James Cameron (Avatar), not Scott himself — also launched Paul Reiser to fame for his turn as Carter Burke.

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