Skip to main content

The best HBO Max Originals

HBO Max on a TV
(Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

Since HBO Max launched as a streaming service, its biggest draws have been its vast library of movies and TV shows, classic and current HBO programs and same-day streaming releases of Warner Bros. theatrical films. But among all of that has been a number of HBO Max Originals giving the streaming service a little bit of extra flair.

HBO Max has not skimped on its original programming. It’s lineup of original shows features stars like Anna Kendrick (Love Life) and Seth Rogen (An American Pickle), projects produced by A-list filmmakers like Ridley Scott (Raised by Wolves) and have even been the exclusive home for director Steven Soderbergh’s two most recent movies.

HBO Max Originals also got a respectable amount of love with the recent nominations for the 73rd annual Emmy Awards.

It’s not complicated to start watching any of these HBO Max Originals either. HBO Max is available on all of the major streaming devices, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV and more, and it features both an ad-supported version for $9.99 per month and a premium version for $14.99 per month.

Here’s the best HBO Max Originals that you can watch right now on the streaming service. 

Charm City Kings

Charm City Kings

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Based on the real-life group of dirt bike riders in Baltimore, Charm City Kings tells the story of a 14-year-old boy named Mouse who desperately wants to become a part of The Midnight Clique. However, when he is brought into the group by the group’s leader, he finds himself torn between keeping to the straight and narrow or embracing some of the fast money and violence that the group deals with.

Jahi Di’Allo Winston stars as Mouse, while rapper Meek Mill portrays the leader of The Midnight Clique. William Catlett, Donielle T. Hansley Jr., Teyonah Paris are among the supporting cast in the Angel Manuel Soto directed film.

HBO Max acquired the film out of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won an award for its ensemble cast.

The Flight Attendant

Kaley Cuoco stars in 'The Flight Attendant.'

(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Flight Attendant was the first big hit for HBO Max, as Kaley Cuoco mixed humor and thrills in this mystery story that practically demanded to be binged.

Cuoco stars as Cassie, a flight attendant with an alcohol problem who meets a tall, dark and handsome stranger on an international flight, spends the night with him and wakes up to his dead body the next morning with no memory of what happened. As Cassie tries to put the pieces together, she keeps finding herself in ever increasingly dangerous situations.

The Flight Attendant was one of the Emmy darlings for HBO Max, receiving nods for Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy (Cuoco) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy (Rosie Perez).

The Flight Attendant season 2 is expected sometime in mid 2022.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Reunion

From left, Will Smith, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Karyn Parsons, Alfonso Ribeiro, Joseph Marcell, Tatyana Ali, and DJ Jazzy Jeff in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" reunion special.

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

I’m sure those of us of a certain age can quote the rap detailing Will Smith’s journey from West Philadelphia to Bel-Air practically verbatim. This is just one example of how popular The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was. Now, in addition to being able to watch all of the original episodes on HBO Max, the streamer also created a reunion special to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary.

Cast members Will Smith, Alfonso Riberio, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Tatyana M. Ali, Karyn Parsons, Joseph Marcell and DJ Jazzy Jeff all returned in what turned out to be a fun and emotional experience for them and fans, as they remembered the late James Avery, brought back the original Aunt Viv Janet Hubert and discussed what made the show so special.

Friends: The Reunion

Five of the six 'Friends' reunite to take a quiz riffing on a famous episode.

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Friends is one of the most popular TV series of all time, so it was a big get when HBO Max was able to bring every episode of Friends into its library, but perhaps just as big was when it announced that it was crafting a reunion special that would serve as the first time the entire original cast was back together on TV (or streaming if we want to be technical).

Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudro, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer came back to the sets where they made many classic TV moments, played some games, had some other old friends drop by and had a sit down interview with James Corden in this celebration of a classic TV series.

Hacks

Deborah and Ava in Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

HBO hit viewers with a Jean Smart double whammy in 2021. After a great supporting turn in Mare of Easttown, Smart got top billing in the HBO Max Original series Hacks playing a legendary Las Vegas comedian and she absolutely knocked it out of the park.  

The series follows Smart’s Deborah Vance and her young new comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder). Despite their initial disconnect (and slight resentment), the two begin to work together to give Deborah’s career a fresh start.

The first season of Hacks earned 14 Emmy nominations in total, with Smart and Einbinder both getting acting nods (along with Carl Clemons-Hopkins) and the show netting one for Outstanding Comedy Series overall.

It didn’t take long before HBO Max renewed Hacks for a second season.

Made for Love

Cristin Milioti in Made for Love.

(Image credit: HBO Max)

A sci-fi dramedy, Made for Love is one of the wackier HBO Max Originals thus far, but in a good way.

Cristin Milioti stars as Hazel, the wife of a tech billionaire (Billy Magnussen) who escapes from their suffocating marriage only to discover that he secretly planted a chip in her head that allows him to monitor her every move. Throw in Ray Romano as her estranged father with a sex doll as a girlfriend and you’ve got all the basics.

Whatever hijinks are next for Hazel we’ll just have to wait and see until Made for Love season 2 comes out on HBO Max.

No Sudden Move

Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro in "No Sudden Move".

(Image credit: WarnerMedia)

Steven Soderbergh may most widely be known for directing the Ocean’s 11 trilogy with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and an ensemble full of top talent. With No Sudden Move, which stars Ocean’s alum Don Cheadle, he essentially made the reverse of those films, as everything about the heist at the film’s center goes horribly wrong.

Set in 1950s Detroit, Cheadle’s thief is hired for what he is told is a simple job. But very quickly things start to spiral and he has to figure out what exactly is going wrong and how he can have it turn out alright for him.

Soderbergh amassed another impressive cast for this crime drama, including Benicio Del Toro, David Harbour, Kieran Culkin, Brendan Fraser, Bill Duke, Julia Fox, Amy Seimetz, Noah Jupe, Frankie Shaw and one another Ocean’s alum that I won’t spoil here.

This isn’t Soderergh’s only HBO Max Original, he also has the Meryl Streep-starring Let Them All Talk.

Starstruck

Starstruck

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Kind of a Notting Hill for the 21st century, Starstruck was created by and stars comedian Rose Matafeo, whose main character discovers that the guy that she hooked up with at the bar the night before is actually a major film star. Both feeling a connection, they have to try and navigate the different atmospheres they occupy.

Nikesh Patel, Emma Sidi and Joe Barnes lead Starstruck’s supporting cast. The show was a co-production between HBO Max and BBC Three. 

HBO Max welcomed Starstruck to the streaming service (it had already premiered in England) with a renewal for season 2.

That Damn Michael Che

That Damn Michael Che

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Michael Che is best known as SNL’s Weekend Update anchor, but the comedian branched out from Rockefeller Center with his own variety show, That Damn Michael Che, on HBO Max.

Through the lens of comedy, Che tackles themes like policing, unemployment and romance, with all the skits portraying those things from a Black vantage point. Joining Che in the first season were Reggie Conquest, Greer Barnes, Cedric Cannon, Ellen Cleghorne, Chase Dillon, Colin Quinn and Billy Porter, among others.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

In 'Zack Snyder's Justice League,' a team of superheroes including Cyborg, The Flash, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman come together to stop Steppenwolf from destroying planet Earth.

(Image credit: HBO Max)

When Justice League hit theaters in 2017 it made no one happy. It was panned by critics and diehard DC comic book and superhero movie fans were so upset that they almost immediately started demanding for the studio to release the #SnyderCut (Zack Snyder left the film to deal with a family tragedy, after which the film was reworked).

Fans got their wish. Warner Bros. gave Snyder the green light to release his full vision of the film (running just over four hours), which was appropriately dubbed Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

The new version is unquestionably better, with a clearer plot, crucial scenes and character moments added back in and a cohesive visual look. Whether this would have been as widely praised had it been the first attempt is something to ponder, but the fan-fueled experiment was ultimately successful. 

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.