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When WarnerMedia announced HBO Max, they mentioned quite a few content partners. Of course there was HBO, but there was also Comedy Central, DC, Adult Swim, Doctor Who, and more. There was one major partner that you still don’t see mentioned often, if at all, on the HBO Max website: Criterion.
The Criterion Collection is a major name amongst major film buffs, but it includes films that appeal to casual movie fans as well. It just so happens that a significant portion of that collection is available on HBO Max, so we’ve gathered a few classics and oddball favorites worth watching!
1. Destroy All Monsters
Giant monsters wrecking stuff. That’s probably the only thing most people need to know about this movie. This ninth film in the Godzilla franchise is more in every sense of the word: more monsters, more absurdity, and more spectacle. That may not sound like much, but it’s exactly what makes this movie worth seeing.
For some people, all you need to know is that Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, featured in both this film and its sequel, Sanjuro, is the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy.” If you’re not especially attached to westerns, just watch it for a lesson in how much modern action movies still owe to these early films.
3. Blood Simple
The Coen brothers’ directorial debut may not be their best, but it is undoubtedly a Coen brothers movie. Whether its the then-surprising mix of brutality and humor found in many of the brothers’ films, the cast which even then included many standbys of later films, or the unnerving ending, it certainly shows signs of things to come.
4. Carnival of Souls
I love Carnival of Souls, but it’s tough to say how “good” it actually is. The pacing is slow, some of the acting isn’t particularly good, and it’s a bit pretentious at times. That said, it’s a surprisingly eerie and unsettling movie considering its low budget and bare story.
5. The Lady Vanishes
On one hand, The Lady Vanishes is a fantastic, albeit early Hitchcock thriller, a great watch but not necessarily unique. On the other hand, it’s an early indicator of how much of his later work would turn out, plus it introduced the characters of Charters and Caldicott, who were so popular at the time that they eventually turned up in other filmmakers’ movies.
6. Seven Samurai
Yojimbo inspired the “Man with No Name,” but with the earlier Seven Samurai, writer and director Akira Kurosawa made an even bigger impression on western cinema. Only six years after the release of Seven Samurai, it would be remade in a Western context as The Magnificent Seven, starring–you guessed it–Clint Eastwood.
7. Time Bandits
It’s not quite a Monty Python take on a time travel adventure, but with Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, and John Cleese all involved, it’s certainly adjacent. While Terry Gilliam’s work would continue to get weirder in the future, it wasn’t always for the better, and this film is probably the sweet spot.
8. I Was A Teenage Zombie
Horror comedy is a fairly standard genre now, but it was just coming into its own in the mid-to-late 1980s. I Was A Teenage Zombie. The most interesting thing about this one is that it doesn’t start as a horror movie and get funny–as is usually the case. Instead, this starts as a teenage comedy romp that gradually ratchets up the horror.
9. Night of the Living Dead
It’s the reason modern zombie movies exist. You can either look at this as a blessing or a curse, but George A. Romero’s classic satirical horror film can’t be overlooked. If you’re a horror fan and have never seen this one, fix that immediately.
Can’t Get Enough Classic Movies?
Of course, HBO Max is far from the only place to watch classic (and not-so classic) movies. Even if you’re only considering the Criterion Collection, you’ll find a bunch of them outside of HBO Max.