Whether you like cinema classics, sketch comedy, or science fiction, HBO Max has something for you! Check out our top picks for diversity and representation.
Movies with Diverse Cast
City of God
Douglas Silva as Li’l Dice. He’s a young boy, shirtless and wielding a gun against a concrete backdrop.
This critically acclaimed Brazilian film offers an unflinching look at organized crime in the titular “city,” a suburb of Rio de Janeiro. The vast majority of the cast were unknown prior to City of God. In fact, some of them (particularly the child actors) were residents of favelas: rural slums in Brazil that date back to the expulsion of formerly enslaved African people from major cities. Casting people from the setting that the film portrays results in a raw realism that may not have been achievable with professional actors. Douglas Silva stands out as Li’l Dice, a deeply disturbed and deeply disturbing child who grows up to be a sadistic drug lord. However, while City of God doesn’t shy away from the horrors of organized crime, it also emphasizes the systemic failures that lead people to commit crimes in the first place.
Howl’s Moving Castle
HBO Max: The Best Movies and TV Shows for Diversity
“What’s your favorite movie?” can be a challenging question for film lovers. Should we name the film that we have the deepest personal connection to, the film we get the most enjoyment out of watching, or the film that we think achieved the highest level of artistry? Nine times out of ten, though, Howl’s Moving Castle is my answer. This masterpiece introduced my 9-year-old self to Studio Ghibli and taught me crucial lessons about self-respect. For a child raised in Disney movies, Sophie and her relationship with Howl were revelatory. Howl’s Moving Castle is a different kind of love story: Sophie and Howl learn to love themselves and fall in love with each other in the process. To this day, I regard Sophie as one of the most empowering fictional women in film. (Plus, you know that Howl was everything my little gender-non-conforming self wanted to be. Icon.)
Mad Max: Fury Road
Furiosa (Charlize Theron) stands in the foreground with a pair of goggles on her forehead. A group of women stand behind her. In the background, a vast desert and a cloudy sky.
The latest addition to the Mad Max franchise stars Charlize Theron, sparked misogynistic boycotts, and prominently features an electric guitar with a flamethrower for a neck. What more do you need? Just in case, I’ll also mention that director George Miller achieves some of the greatest non-verbal worldbuilding I’ve ever encountered in the film’s opening scenes. Fury Road is also a (possibly accidental) feminist parable that rails against the radicalization of men and the exploitation of women. The epic chase scenes and non-stop explosions are cherries on top of the diesel-soaked cake.
Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) sits at a desk in a classroom.
Precious is one of those rare films that can shatter your heart into a million pieces and still leave you feeling hopeful. The eponymous character has endured trauma after trauma before we even meet her, and the pain only continues over the course of this emotionally grueling story. And yet, we never stop believing in Precious: her resilience and determination carry her and the audience through all of her hardships, leading to a bittersweet finale that feels realistic and deeply earned. Precious was also a pivotal film for many Black artists: Gabourey Sidibe debuted as Precious, Mo’Nique stepped out of her comedy comfort zone as Precious’s abusive mother, and Geoffrey Fletcher became the first Black person to win an Oscar for screenwriting.
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