21 Hidden Gems on HBO Max, from ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ to ‘My Life as a Dog’

HBO Max has garnered a reputation for its exclusive movies and Max originals (don’t even get us started on Succession). But one major perk that’s been overlooked is its massive catalog of hidden gems.

We’re talking underrated flicks, small-budget hits and cult classics you forgot existed. So, whether you’re looking for a nostalgic title (like Little Shop of Horrors) or a critically-acclaimed drama (like the Oscar-nominated My Life as a Dog), these options are sure to be a hit at your next movie night. Keep reading for 21 of the best hidden gems on HBO Max right now.

25 Hidden Gems to Check Out on Netflix, According to an Entertainment Editor

1. “those Who Wish Me Dead” (2021)

  • Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult
  • Rating: R

This edge-of-your-seat action thriller stars Jolie as Hannah, a smokejumper who’s overwhelmed with guilt after failing to save three children. But when she crosses paths with a young boy who’s getting targeted by two assassins, she gets an opportunity to redeem herself.

2. “slc Punk!” (1998)

  • Cast: Matthew Lillard, Michael Goorjian, Annabeth Gish, Jennifer Lien
  • Rating: R

Take a trip back to the '80s with this classic comedy, which follows two college grads as they navigate the punk scene in an ultra-conservative Salt Lake City. The movie expertly examines the purpose of life and how divisive stereotypes can be.

3. “lord Of The Flies” (1963)

  • Cast: James Aubrey, Tom Chapin, Hugh Edwards, Roger Elwin
  • Rating: NR

Set during a nuclear war, this drama revolves around a group of English boys who get stranded on a remote island after their plane is shot down. With no adults to help them, the boys manage to form a well-functioning society—but that soon devolves into chaos when the boys are split into opposing groups.

4. “ricochet” (1991)

  • Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner
  • Rating: R

Arguably one of Washington's best films, Ricochet follows a dangerous criminal who escapes from prison and seeks revenge on the officer who put him there. Washington shines as the former officer turned assistant district attorney, who’s determined to catch the killer again.

5. “insomnia” (2002)

  • Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Maura Tierney, Martin Donovan
  • Rating: R

The mastermind behind Memento directed this mind-bending thriller, which also proves that Williams had serious range. The film follows a seasoned detective as he investigates the murder of a teenager. But the deeper he goes, the more he starts to question his own perceptions and mental stability.

6. “the Grifters” (1990)

  • Cast: Anjelica Huston, John Cusack, Annette Bening
  • Rating: R

Cusack is Roy Dillon, a con artist who ends up in the hospital after one of his jobs goes horribly wrong. Meanwhile, both his mother and his girlfriend are at odds with each other, which proves to be a challenge for Roy. When he gets the chance to partner up with Myra following his recovery, things take an unexpected (and violent) turn.

7. “capturing The Friedmans” (2003)

  • Cast: Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, David Friedman
  • Rating: NR

What starts as a short film about children's party entertainers turns into an intimate portrait of one clown, Silly Billy (David Friedman), and his fascinating family. After director Andrew Jarecki discovered Friedman’s relation to two convicted child abusers, he pivoted and decided to interview people who were involved, resulting in this compelling documentary.

8. “4 Little Girls”(1997)

  • Cast: Maxine McNair, Walter Cronkite, Chris McNair
  • Rating: TV-14

Spike Lee zeroes in on a heartbreaking tragedy that many may have forgotten, even though it marked a major shift during the civil-rights movement. This emotional doc explores the 1963 bombing of a Black church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four young girls who were attending Sunday School.

9. “a Room With A View” (1986)

  • Cast: Helena Carter, Julian Sands, Maggie Smith, Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Rating: NR

Based on E. M. Forster's namesake book, it follows Lucy Honeychurch, a young Englishwoman who travels to Italy and starts a fling with the charming George. But when she leaves and gets engaged to another man, George makes an unexpected return. (FYI, the film scored three Academy Award wins, including Best Adapted Screenplay.)

10. “murder By Numbers” (2002)

  • Cast: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt
  • Rating: R

Set in a small California town, this star-studded psychological thriller follows two brilliant high school students who partner up to commit the perfect crime. And when two detectives get assigned to the case, the investigation turns into a twisted battle between the officers and criminals.

11. “everything Is Copy” (2016)

  • Cast: Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Steven Spielberg
  • Rating: TV-14

Get some insight on the life and career of famous filmmaker and writer Nora Ephron, who went from being the mail girl at Newsweek to writing and directing major films. The doc features interviews, archive footage and appearances from stars like Diane Keaton, Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon.

12. “little Shop Of Horrors” (1986)

  • Cast: Levi Stubbs, Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene
  • Rating: PG-13

This funny, off-beat musical follows a nerdy orphan who discovers a unique plant that ends up saving his flower shop. But the more he nurses it, the bigger its appetite grows. The movie features quite a few memorable musical numbers, including "Dentist!" and "Suppertime."

13. “the Cooler” (2003)

  • Cast: William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston
  • Rating: R

Meet Bernie Lootz, a man with a reputation for bringing bad luck to any gambler who’s on a roll. His talents earn him a steady job as a “cooler” at a Las Vegas casino, but when his bad luck starts to turn around, the casino owner isn’t too pleased.

14.“my Life As A Dog” (1985)

  • Cast: Anton Glanzelius, Tomas Von Bromssen, Melinda Kinnaman
  • Rating: NR

The Swedish coming-of-age film chronicles the story of Ingemar, a boy who moves away from his terminally ill mother to live with his relatives during the ’50s. The film truly captures the challenges of going through puberty while tackling themes like love and sexual discovery.

15. “welcome To Collinwood” (2002)

  • Cast: William H. Macy, Isaiah Washington, Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Gabrielle Union
  • Rating: R

Before the Russo brothers took on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they worked on this underrated comedy film, where a group of thieves in Collinwood, Cleveland, try to execute an elaborate heist that involves breaking into a jeweler’s safe. Switch this one on if you're craving an eccentric, feel-good title.

16. “bad Education” (2019)

  • Cast: Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Ray Romano, Geraldine Viswanathan
  • Rating: TV-MA

This compelling crime drama depicts the true story of the biggest public school embezzlement in U.S. history, when a student reporter discovers that a respected superintendent and his assistant stole millions of dollars from the district. Jackman delivers one of his best performances here, showing his range with a character who’s both charismatic and dangerously deceptive.

17. “sisters” (1972)

  • Cast: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning, Margot Kidder
  • Rating: R

When a journalist witnesses a brutal murder in her neighbor’s apartment, she immediately reports it to the police. When they don’t take her seriously, she decides to launch her own investigation, enlisting the help of a private eye in the process.

18. “hoop Dreams” (1994)

  • Cast: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates
  • Rating: PG-13

This eye-opening documentary follows two ambitious high school students as they try to pursue their dreams of becoming professional basketball players. (Fun fact, this movie took filmmakers almost five years to make.)

19. “the Wackness” (2008)

  • Cast: Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Famke Janssen, Olivia Thirlby, Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man
  • Rating: R

Nickelodeon alum Josh Nichols Peck plays Luke, an 18-year-old drug dealer who spends his last summer before college trading marijuana for therapy sessions with his pot-smoking counselor. Meanwhile, Luke is harboring a major crush on the shrink’s stepdaughter. Despite its dark tone, Peck brings his usual charm to this coming-of-age tale.

20.“in The Mood For Love” (2000)

  • Cast: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Siu Ping-Lam
  • Rating: PG

When a married newspaper editor discovers that his wife is having an affair with his neighbor’s husband, he starts to bond with his lonely neighbor. But it’s only a matter of time before that friendship blossoms into something more.

21. “the Changeling” (2008)

  • Cast: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich
  • Rating: R

Jolie’s Oscar-worthy performance earns her a second spot on this list. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film follows a determined mother as she tries to find her missing son. It also tackles themes like sexism, political corruption and mental health.

nakeisha campbell bio

Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Nakeisha has been interviewing celebrities and covering all things entertainment for over 8 years, but she has also written on a wide range of topics, like career...