Our Max review: The best streaming service for movies

Joe Supan

Mar 21, 2024 — 5 min read

In May 2023, Warner Bros. Discovery announced a name change for the popular HBO Max streaming service to simply Max and added the Discovery+ catalog to that service. Current HBO Max subscribers were simply switched to Max. The move was to differentiate the HBO channel from the streaming service. The channel is still available as HBO as a premium option with most cable and live TV options.

What we like about MAX

  • Best selection of movies of any streaming service

  • A large catalog of shows from the HBO channel, before the streaming service was created

  • Easy to navigate

Things to consider

  • No live TV options

Max plans and prices

  • Three plans for $9.99/mo. with ads and $15.99/mo. or $19.99/mo. without ads
  • Launched on May 27, 2020
  • Content from HBO, Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, DC Entertainment, TBS, TNT, CNN, Cartoon Network, The CW, Crunchyroll and Adult Swim

For the first time ever, there’s actually a streaming service that has a better movie library than Netflix. Max still lags behind in our metrics when it comes to its overall selection of TV shows. Still, it’s hard to nitpick HBO’s track record of high-quality television, especially when you add binge-watching favorites like Friends and The Big Bang Theory.

How MAX compares to other streaming services

Do you automatically get Max if you already have the HBO channel?

In most cases, current HBO subscribers automatically get access to Max at no extra charge. If you subscribe to HBO NOW directly through HBO, Apple, Google Play, Samsung, Optimum, Verizon Fios Internet, Consolidated Communications or Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico, your HBO NOW app should automatically update on your streaming device. 

It’s a little more complicated if you get HBO through your TV provider. If you subscribe through AT&T TV, Cox, DIRECTV, Hulu Live TV, Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon Fios or Xfinity, you already have access. Just open the Max app and sign in with your TV login. (You can find a complete list of providers here.)

Best collection of movies

Right out of the gate, Max has the strongest collection of movies on any streaming service. Netflix had previously taken our top spot, but frankly, Max blows it out of the water. 

To gauge the quality of each service’s library, we used IMDb’s Top 250 list, which combines user ratings and popularity to determine the 250 “best” movies. It’s not perfect, but it does give us an idea of how many movies on each service people actually want to watch. 

Max absolutely trounces the competition, with more than twice as many movies in the top 250 as second-place Netflix. Here are some of the most popular movies and collections on the service right now:

  • Every Studio Ghibli movie, including Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke (English dubs and Japanese versions available) 
  • 35 movies from the DC Universe, including Joker, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Justice League (including the “Snyder Cut” in 2021)
  • Foreign and classic films from The Criterion Collection, including The 400 Blows, 8 ½ and Tokyo Story
  • Anime series like Full Metal Alchemist and Rurouni Kenshin from Crunchyroll
  • Classics like Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind and Casablanca, curated by TCM
  • Alien
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Fight Club
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Harry Potter movies
  • Jaws
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Titanic

And because Max has HBO’s entire catalog, you’ll get access to the premium network’s long list of award-winning documentaries. 

Strong lineup of shows

We know it’s not TV —but Max still has one of the best libraries of TV shows of any streaming service. Like our movie analysis, we used IMDb’s list of the Top 250 TV Shows to compare services. Max actually fared worse for TV shows than movies, but it still has some of the most binge-worthy shows around.

In addition to classic HBO shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld and The Sopranos, Max has added classics like Friends, The Big Bang Theory and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to the mix. 

Not just for adults, its library of children’s shows is top-notch. It has all 31 seasons of the Looney Tunes (including new episodes), 40 seasons of Sesame Street and dozens of other animated series. 

Testing Max for five days

To test out Max, we spent five days using it on an Apple TV streaming device and a web browser. Overall, we found it to be pretty simple to use and navigate but more rudimentary than services like Netflix and Prime Video.

Max has essential features like “Continue Watching” and “My List” in the first few rows of the app, so it only takes a couple clicks to jump back in to what you were watching (or want to watch next). 

But after that, it sometimes felt like an awkward mashup of HBO and everything else. Instead of basic genres like Comedy and Drama on the main screen, Max highlights “Featured Series,” which puts unrelated shows like Game of Thrones and The Big Bang Theory right next to each other. Max doesn’t have any recommendations feature based on things you’ve watched in the past, either. 

That said, once we started digging in, it was easy to find things to watch. The “Hubs,” while a little random, help you get to exactly what you want. Want to see all the superhero movies on Max? Just click the DC Universe button.

You can also navigate to standard genres like Action and Horror pretty easily from anywhere in the app. It felt like we were seeing more of Max’s variety than we did on a service like Netflix, which can sometimes feel like you’re seeing the same handful of titles over and over. Maybe it’s just because it’s so fresh, but we never got stuck in scrolling purgatory with Max — there was always plenty that we wanted to watch immediately.

Max FAQs

What devices can stream Max?

You can stream Max on Android TVs, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Samsung TVs, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Xbox One.

How many devices can stream Max at once?

You can stream Max on up to three devices at the same time, so you can share your account with friends and family. Max also lets you create up to five profiles, with options for different parental settings on each one. 

Can you download shows and movies for offline viewing?

Yes. You can download most of Max’s movies and shows to watch offline on a phone or tablet. Max lets you keep 30 downloads at once on your account. 

Is it worth it?

In terms of the sheer quality of movies and shows in its library, Max is already the best streaming service around, with options for ads or no ads. If you’re a movie lover, you can probably justify the cost.

Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Principal Writer, Broadband Content

Joe is a senior writer for CNET covering home technology and broadband. Prior to joining CNET, Joe led MYMOVE’s moving coverage and reported on broadband policy, the digital divide, and privacy issues for the br… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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