The historical movie genre has been an evergreen favorite among filmmakers. Movies of the genre are often criticized for their inaccuracy but have proven to be a winning formula at the box office. These movies are typically set in past eras and can blend several elements of other genres such as adventure, drama, and biographies. HBO Max features an exciting lineup of movies that span various genres. However, if you enjoy watching historical films, we have compiled a list of such movies you can watch on the streaming service. Here are some of the best historical movies on HBO Max!
10. Oslo (2021)
‘Oslo’ is a historical drama movie directed by Bartlett Sher from a screenplay written by J. T. Rogers. The made-for-television film is based on Roger’s play of the same name. It stars Andrew Scott, Ruth Wilson, and Jeff Wilbusch in the lead roles. The plot revolves around the secret negotiation of the Oslo Accords. In reality, the accords are a pair of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization meant to bring peace amidst the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. While the film’s pacing has been criticized, its historical aspects and visual approach to bureaucratic discussions have been praised.
9. Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Directed by Edward Zwick, ‘Pawn Sacrifice’ is a biographical drama movie about chess player Bobby Fischer. It stars Tobey Maguire as Fischer, who faces a stern challenge from Soviet grandmasters during the 1972 World Chess Championship. Set during the Cold War, the movie examines the impact of the Cold War on sports such as chess, the sacrifices made by Fischer, and his overall life, which is full of exciting and emotionally riveting moments. The movie’s simple and effective storytelling format will certainly charm historical movie fans.
8. Unbroken (2014)
Based on Laura Hillenbrand’s non-fiction book of the same name, ‘Unbroken’ is a 2014 war film. It is directed by Angelina Jolie from a screenplay co-written by Coen Brothers, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. It follows Captain Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympian who becomes a Prisoner of War in Japan during the Second World War. The enthralling film highlights Zamperini’s real-life struggles, his time as an athlete, and his eventual fight for survival in prisoner of war camps. Filmed by celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins, the movie is a visual treat that fans of historical pieces will relish. Its commercial and financial success spawned a sequel ‘Unbroken: Path to Redemption’ released in 2018.
7. The Queen (2006)
‘The Queen’ is a British biographical drama film directed by Stephen Frears. It features a star-studded cast spearheaded by Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. It also features Michael Sheen, James Cromwell, and Helen McCrory in the lead roles. The plot revolves around the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. The Queen’s desire to keep the matter private clashes with those of the Prime Minister, Prince Charles, and the general public. What transpires is an entertaining examination of republicanism, the royal family’s functioning, and the broader impact of Diana’s death on society.
6. 42 (2013)
’42,’ written and directed by Brian Helgeland, is a sports drama film. It stars the late Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete to play in Major League Baseball (MLB). The supporting cast includes popular faces such as Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, and Christopher Meloni. The film takes a look at Robinson’s rise and meteoric rise in the world of baseball. However, Robinson’s journey is full of hurdles as he struggles to create an identity for himself and set an example for young black men trying to make it in the sport. It marks one of Boseman’s finest performances but has been criticized for its historical inaccuracies.
5. 300 (2006)
‘300’ is a historical action movie based on Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s 1998 comic book of the same name. Before making a name for himself by directing superhero movies, director Zack Snyder rose to fame by directing ‘300.’ The film retells the story of King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), who leads a mere three hundred Spartan soldiers in a war against the Persian “God-King” Xerxes’ army. Facing overwhelming odds, the Spartans showcase extraordinary courage while battling the invading army of more than 300,000 soldiers. With stunning visual effects and spectacular action set pieces, ‘300’ is one of the most epic historical movies ever made.
4. Dunkirk (2017)
‘Dunkirk,’ directed by Christopher Nolan, is a war drama movie based on the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. It stars Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy. The film unfolds in a non-linear format and gives viewers a riveting look at the real-life Dunkirk evacuation through the perspectives of the land, sea, and air. Thus, it creates a unique visual style and relies on little dialogs to capture the historical event’s gripping nature. The film receives eight nominations at the 90th Academy Awards. Hence, it is safe to say that ‘Dunkirk’ is one of the finest historical movies of recent times.
3. The Aviator (2004)
‘The Aviator’ is an epic biographical drama film based on Charles Higham’s non-fiction book ‘Howard Hughes: The Secret Life.’ It tells the story of Howard Hughes, an aviation pioneer who became a successful film director and business magnate. The film also highlights Hughes’ obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and its effect on his life. Featuring the highly talented and successful combination of director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, ‘The Aviator’ is a great cinematic experience that fans of the historical fiction genre should not skip.
2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
‘12 Years a Slave‘ is a biographical drama film directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley. It is based on Solomon Northup’s memoir of the same name and details Northup’s life as a slave during the 1800s. The African-American Northup is kidnapped and forced into slavery in 1841, and the film maps the long and hard twelve-year period that follows. The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o, and Brad Pitt. It received nine Academy Award nominations and won three of them. The film has received widespread critical acclaim and is considered one of the best depictions of slavery in cinema.
1. Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)
Directed by Shaka King ‘Judas and the Black Messiah‘ is a crime drama film set in late-1960s Chicago. It is a dramatized retelling of Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, who is betrayed by FBI Informant William O’Neal. The film sheds light on the little-known events in Hampton’s life during the 60s and the wider impact of his arrest and imprisonment. It stars Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, and Dominique Fishback in the lead roles. It has garnered critical acclaim and earned six Oscar nominations. A stunning recreating of the harrowing real-life events powered by emotionally moving performances, ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is one of the finest historical films one can watch on HBO Max.
Read More: Best Historical Movies of All Time