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HBO Max Review 2021: Price, Shows and Movies, and More

After hundreds of hours of testing, we can safely say we love HBO Max. See if it has the content you want at the right price.

Every HBO series on demand

Price: $9.99–$14.99/mo.

Standout features: Every HBO series on demand, HBO Max Originals, Large TV and movie library

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is an on-demand streaming TV service from HBO, featuring all of the premium channel’s original series and a deep vault of shows and movies from HBO’s parent company, WarnerMedia. HBO Max also launched with several Max Original series, with more on the way this year (in addition to over a dozen major Warner Bros. movies).

Is HBO Max good?

HBO Max is classic HBO with a boatload of extra content for the same $14.99 a month price (or $9.99 with ads). If you’re already an HBO fan, it doesn’t get any more “good” than that.

The “more shows/same cost” factor isn’t all HBO Max has up its sleeve. It’s also now the exclusive streaming home to non-HBO sitcom favorites The Big Bang Theory, Friends, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And if you absolutely have to relive The Bachelor, it’s there too.

What’s more, HBO Max’s original shows and movies are starting to blossom. By bringing over fan favorites like Doom Patrol and Search Party from other platforms and networks and dropping buzzy series like The Flight Attendant, Made for Love, and Hacks, HBO Max Originals have improved significantly since the streaming service launched in May 2020.

The biggest selling point of HBO Max could be its 2021 slate of major movies being streamed the same day as their theatrical releases: Space Jam: A New Legacy, Dune, Matrix 4, and more are premiering this year—at no extra cost.

HBO Max pros and cons

Pros

  • Every HBO series on demand
  • HBO Max Originals
  • Large TV and movie library

Cons

  • Higher price
  • No free trial

HBO Max promotions and deals

HBO Max doesn’t offer a free trial, but you can try it out for seven days by adding it through your Hulu account. When the week’s up, you’ll be billed $14.99 a month unless you cancel the HBO Max add-on.

AT&T Wireless customers can get HBO Max included free with their phone service when they sign up for the Unlimited Elite plan (starting at $50 per line monthly). Likewise, AT&T Fiber offers customers free HBO Max with its Internet 1000 plan (starting at $60 a month).

AT&T TV isn’t quite as generous: HBO Max is included free with its CHOICE, ULTIMATE, and PREMIER TV plans (starting at $84.99, $94.99, and $139.99 a month, respectively), but only for one year.

DIRECTV offers HBO Max free with its CHOICE (starting at $69.99 a month) and ULTIMATE ($84.99 a month) satellite TV plans, but also for one year only. However, DIRECTV’s PREMIER plan (starting at $134.99 a month) has no free HBO Max expiration date.

HBO Max plans

Price Hours of content Streams Video Details
$14.99/mo. 10,000 3 1080p, 4K View plans
$9.99/mo. 10,000 3 1080p, 4K View plans

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

As we’ve mentioned, HBO Max is almost identical to standard streaming HBO in pricing and technical stats—the exception being its extra content and compatible devices. We’ll get to that later.

Also, about HBO Max’s recent addition of an ad-supported $9.99-a-month tier: We don’t think a $5 discount is nearly enough for us to put up with commercials in HBO Max and HBO content. It’s a nice gesture, but 50 years of ad-free Home Box Office (that’s what it used to be called, kids) has kind of conditioned us against it.

Also, the ad-supported version of HBO Max doesn’t allow you access to the same-day theatrical-release Warner Bros. movies that the regular version does. Boo!

HBO Max vs. other streaming services

Price Editorial rating Streams Resolution Compatible devices Details
$9.99–$14.99/mo. 4.5/5 3 1080p, 4K 10+ View plans
$8.99–$17.99/mo. 4.33/5 1–4 1080p, 4K 14+ View plans
$5.99–11.99/mo. 4.22/5 2 1080p, 4K 13+ View plans
$8.99–$11.99/mo. 4.19/5 3 1080p, 4K 13+ View plans
$7.99/mo. 4.61/5 4 1080p, 4K 13+ View plans
$4.99/mo. 3.93/5 6 1080p, 4K 7+ View plans
$4.99–$9.99/mo. 4.07/5 2 1080p 12+ View plans
Free–$9.99/mo. 4.33/5 3 1080p, 4K 10+ View plans

Data effective as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

In the ad-free realm, HBO Max is one of the most expensive on-demand streaming services, as is HBO on cable and satellite. If you were previously an HBO streamer, there’s no sticker shock here.

But, if you’re new to HBO, its “premium” price tag might be a bit off-putting. Either way, we say it’s worth it for the depth of content.

Shows and movies on HBO Max

HBO Max on-demand shows and movies

HBO Max’s biggest selling point is legacy TV content from both HBO and WarnerMedia. Some of these shows are on cable constantly, but you can’t stream Friends and Big Bang Theory reruns on-demand anywhere but HBO Max. The same goes for Doctor Who and Dexter’s Laboratory.

Cool stuff, but not without some filler: we can’t imagine there’s much appetite for all 15 seasons of MAD TV, or even 15 minutes of early-years HBO originals like Tanner ’88 and Arli$$. Still, there’s enough content here to challenge Netflix and Disney+ to a deep-dive contest.

Note that, like standard HBO (cable and streaming), theatrical movies will rotate in and out of HBO Max’s library. We don’t like being rushed, either, but that’s how availability windows work—hurry up and watch Speed again!

Shows on HBO Max (partial list):

  • Game of Thrones
  • Westworld
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • The Sopranos
  • Chernobyl
  • The Wire
  • Watchmen
  • Deadwood
  • Rick and Morty
  • Friends
  • The Big Bang Theory

Movies on HBO Max (partial list):

  • The Lord of the Rings movies
  • DC Universe movies
  • Ready Player One
  • Locked Down
  • Die Hard
  • Hobbs & Shaw
  • Ford v. Ferrari
  • The Matrix
  • Inception
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Shining

HBO Max original shows and movies

HBO Max’s slate of Max Originals is a work in progress at the moment, with only eight current exclusive shows. Its highest-profile “new” series, Doom Patrol and Search Party, were appropriated from other WarnerMedia networks (DC Universe and TBS, respectively).

New Max Originals on the horizon include a Gossip Girl revival, a big-budget Dune adaptation, and a new Conan O’Brien variety series. There’s also a Green Lantern series in the works, because apparently no lessons were learned from the 2011 film.

HBO Max original shows (partial list):

  • The Flight Attendant
  • Doom Patrol
  • Search Party
  • Love Life
  • Raised by Wolves
  • Hacks
  • Made for Love
  • Legendary
  • Looney Tunes
  • The Not-So-Late Show with Elmo

Combine HBO Max with another streaming service

HBO Max gives you a lot, but it’s lacking in live channels and sports. It also doesn’t carry much original content outside the HBO and WarnerMedia universes. We suggest complementing it with another streaming service.

Swipe Left to See All →
YouTube TV
$64.99/mo.
ESPN+
$5.99/mo.
Hulu
$5.99–11.99/mo.
Get over 84 live TV channels and unlimited DVR space for just $64.99 a month.Grab live sports and on-demand documentaries from ESPN for only $5.99 a month.Check out next-day network shows from FX and many other channels, plus original content.
View YouTube TV plans View ESPN+ plans View Hulu plans

HBO Max specs and features

There are a few key technical differences between HBO Max and its predecessors HBO NOW and HBO GO—the best being that it functions more like a real streaming service, not just an extension of the cable/satellite version of HBO.

HBO Max number of streams vs. the competition

Swipe Left to See All →
ServiceIncluded streamsUpgradesOffline downloads
HBO Max3NoneYes (HBO Max, $14.99/mo.)
Netflix1–4Varies by planYes
Hulu2NoneYes (Hulu No Ads, $11.99/mo.)
Prime Video3NoneYes
Disney+4NoneYes
Apple TV+6NoneYes
Paramount+2NoneYes
Peacock3NoneYes

Three simultaneous streams on the same account through different devices is pretty standard for on-demand streaming. The lowest we’ve seen is one stream for the most basic Netflix plan, while the highest is Apple TV+ at six—a rare case of Apple giving something away for cheap.

Unlike previous HBO streaming services, HBO Max can be set up for up to five separate viewer profiles, with individual preferences and even color-coding.

In another first, HBO Max allows downloads for offline mobile viewing, a convenience that HBO previously didn’t offer. The $9.99 ad-supported HBO Max, however, doesn’t do offline downloads—another strike against it.

HBO Max supported devices vs. the competition

Swipe Left to See All →
DeviceHBO MaxNetflixHuluPrime VideoDisney+Apple TV+Paramount+Peacock
Amazon Fire Cube
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Android phones and tablets
Android TV
Apple TV (4th gen.)
Apple TV 4K
Chromecast
Echo Show
iPhone and iPad
LG TVs
Nintendo Switch
NVIDIA SHIELD
PC and Mac Web browsers
PlayStation 3, 4, 5
Roku
Roku Express
Samsung TVs
Wii
Xbox 360
Xbox One

Yes, HBO Max is now available on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices. That was a rough launch last year.

Learn more about HBO Max

HBO Max video and audio quality

Like most on-demand services, HBO Max streams in 1080p HD and 4K UHD. And yes, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is supposed to look like that.

HBO Max's home screen

HBO Max’s interface is a familiar mix of graphic rectangles, not far removed from what you get with Netflix, Disney+, or the old HBO NOW—only with more deep purples and blues.

HBO Max's DC hub

What is more unique to HBO Max is its “hubs,” which break up its catalogue into nine content channels: HBO, DC, Sesame Workshop, Classics Curated by Turner Classic Movies, Studio Ghibli, Cartoon Network Collection, Adult Swim Collection, Crunchyroll Collection, and Looney Tunes. Nice, but we’d suggest adding “The One with All the Friends” to make an even 10.

Final take: Is HBO Max worth it?

You get more content with HBO Max for the same price as HBO on cable—hello! Yes, $14.99 a month seems steep, but we think HBO Max earns its price tag (we’re not into HBO Max with ads at any price, though).

We’d say it’s also worth it for HBO newbies who might be finally pulled into the subscriber fold by HBO Max’s massive library of non-HBO shows. If the presence of all four seasons of The O.C. leads you to check out HBO’s Euphoria, cool (be warned—they’re very different teen dramas).

Get HBO Max

HBO Max FAQ

Can I subscribe to HBO Max through a provider?

HBO Max is available through over 70 cable, satellite, livestreaming TV, and mobile providers, including AT&T, Cox, Xfinity, Hulu, YouTube TV, and DIRECTV. This just applies to billing, however; unless you’re online at HBOMax.com, you’ll still need the HBO Max app to actually watch the content.

Unlike HBO, HBO Max isn’t yet available through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels.

Interested in getting HBO Max free through a TV provider?

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Will HBO Max replace HBO NOW and HBO GO?

HBO has discontinued HBO GO, which was a free streaming service for HBO cable and satellite subscribers. HBO NOW, a separate streaming service from cable/satellite HBO or HBO GO, is now HBO Max.

Some HBO NOW subscribers were automatically switched to HBO Max upon its launch. HBO Max is now the only HBO streaming service (with the exception of Amazon Prime Video, which is still just HBO).

Are there kids’ shows on HBO Max?

Despite HBO’s perception as an “adult” premium channel, HBO Max has quite a bit of children’s programming from Sesame Street, Cartoon Network, and Looney Tunes. Some of HBO Max’s kids’ shows include these:

  • Sesame Street (from HBO)
  • The Not-So-Late Show with Elmo
  • Craftopia
  • Looney Tunes
  • Adventure Time: Distant Lands
  • Esme & Roy
  • Summer Camp Island
  • The Fungies
  • Jellystone 
  • Little Ellen