Congratulations! You just signed up for your billionth streaming service, the shiny new HBO Max. It comes from your friends at WarnerMedia and is like HBO GO and HBO NOW, but better, because in addition to Game of Thrones, it has Friends. Also, not only does it have The Sopranos, it also has Friends. And it's not just limited to HBO hits like The Wire, Barry, Big Little Lies, and Six Feet Under, because in addition to those prestige hits, it has Friends.
However, you probably already had HBO — HBO Max costs the same as HBO, so it's like a free upgrade — so rattling off a bunch of HBO shows as recommendations seems kind of dumb. Instead, let's talk about the best shows and movies available to watch on HBO Max that weren't on HBO Mini. You know, like Friends.
Well, you got HBO Max for Friends, so you better watch it. All 10 seasons will be available at launch. In a sense, Friends, a Warner Bros. show, is the reason HBO Max exists. Thank you, Friends. WarnerMedia should have called this Friendsflix.
One of the great things about a streaming service from a faceless, monolithic, mega-corporate conglomerate is that some of the good shows exclusive to its subsidiaries' struggling streaming services can be subsumed and folded into the bigger, more successful streaming service after it's clear that the other streaming service isn't going to last. Ahhhh, business! DC Universe's Doom Patrol gets the benefit of a new life and a new audience by moving over to HBO Max, which will air its first season on launch day and premiere the second season about a month later (June 25). The series is incredibly bizarre and charming, following misfit superheroes who team up to take on the villain Mr. Nobody, leading them on adventures like going through interdimensional portals through a farting donkey.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy has been streaming in America for quite some time, but due to weird licensing deals, the entire trilogy has been split among streaming services, notably Hulu, Netflix, and Starz, throughout the years. Look, I don't know why. It probably has something to do with millions and millions of green pieces of paper. Ask New Line. But now that New Line's parent company, WarnerMedia, has its own streaming service, all three films will conveniently appear on HBO Max. Funny how that works! Now go spend the next 10 hours of your life in Middle-earth without switching apps.
After 17 straight episodes of Friends, you might want to check out HBO Max's bounty of scripted original programming. Here it is! HBO Max launched with exactly one original scripted series for grown-ups, the anthology rom-com Love Life, starring Anna Kendrick as a lady who wants, needs, and looks for love. It's kind of like High Fidelity without the music, with each episode detailing one of her relationships as she searches for the One. And for some reason it's narrated fairy tale-style by a woman with a British accent, which gives it a childlike quality but then in the next scene Kendrick is masturbating to Pornhub, so I don't really understand why it's there. Still, this is one of those shows that goes especially well with a recent breakup but anyone will slam the "next episode" button on even though it's just OK. Three episodes are available at launch.
Doctor Who has had a number of streaming homes over the years, and was completely unavailable for at least a little while after the show left Amazon Prime, but Whovians everywhere can rejoin now because the TARDIS finally has a new home on HBO Max (well, the revival does anyway; the classic run can be found on BritBox). The long-running British sci-fi series about a time-traveling alien who can regenerate, has two hearts, and just loves humanity so much she (or he, depending on the season) has to constantly step in to save it is full of great, timeless adventures and the perfect escape from today's world. Honestly, it would be cool if the Doctor could show up and save us from our current state, but alas, this might be one of those times we have to save us from ourselves. The good news is, staying in and watching TV is a pretty dope way to do just that. (As a bonus, the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, starring John Barrowman, is also streaming on HBO Max.) -Kaitlin Thomas
Anything From Studio Ghibli
With the bulk of Studio Ghibli's oeuvre finally available to stream, it feels impossible to recommend only one movie. Instead, take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to dive into some of the most beautiful works of animated cinema. You could start with the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, a fable that's part whimsy, part horror, about a girl who gets trapped in a spirit world filled with witches, demons, a river dragon, and an enormous baby. There's my personal favorite, Kiki's Delivery Service, a family-friendly coming-of-age story about a young witch. It's poignant and perfect (I'm not exaggerating), and helped put Ghibli on the map when it dominated Japanese theaters in 1989. If you're looking for darker fare, you could try Princess Mononoke, about a vengeful wolf princess grappling with the environmental costs of human progress. Ghibli films are known for their lavish and meticulous animation, nuanced characters, and complex themes, but they're also enchanting stories that are a joy to experience. -Noelene Clark
There are a lot of classic movies that were hard to find on subscription streaming services -- Casablanca, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Wizard of Oz -- that are now available, but gosh darnit, on Day 1, sign me up for Singin' in the Rain, the greatest musical of all time. The 1952 film was sharply meta for its era, skewering the entertainment biz with a story about a 1920s movie studio ditching silent films and converting to "talking pictures" for the first time. The only problem? Its leading lady has the voice of a Long Island pre-teen sucking helium, so her voice is dubbed by an up-and-coming actress (Debbie Reynolds) and she ends up in a will-they-won't-they-(oh-they-will) with the studio's leading man (Gene Kelly). Except for the ballad and one incredibly odd psychedelic trip down Broadway late in the film, all the songs and dances are knockouts, and the cast is as talented and physically gifted as Giannis Antetokounmpo. Watch it for a little joy in your life, then flip on Blade Runner: The Final Cut to even things out.