5 drama movies on (HBO) Max that are perfect to watch in the summer

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Colin Farrell walks next to a donkey in The Banshees of Inisherin.
Jonathan Hession/Searchlight Pictures / Fox Searchlight

Of all of the many streaming services that are now at every consumer’s disposal, Max may have the deepest reservoir of genuinely great movies. Those movies run the gamut from long-established classics to great comedies and action movies, but sometimes, what you’re really looking for is just a down-the-middle drama.

Dramas tend to be about real people living through fairly realistic circumstances, and they’re very often set in the real world. A great drama can make you laugh and cry, often within minutes of each other, and these are five of the best dramas that you can check out on Max now.

Shoplifters (2018)

Shoplifters – Official Trailer

Telling the story of a family living in poverty in urban Japan, Shoplifters illustrates how close to disaster families living in poverty always are. At the same time, what makes Shoplifters so great is that it’s also a movie about the way family can support and lift one another up, even when every single one of them is struggling.

Shoplifters is delicate, intimate, and perfectly performed by the entirety of its ensemble cast. Is all of the dialogue in Japanese? Sure, but if you can get past the fact that you’ll actually have to look at the screen, Shoplifters is the kind of movie you’ll definitely be riveted by.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN | Official Trailer | Searchlight Pictures

Speaking of subtitles, you may want to leave them on for The Banshees of Inisherin, even though all the dialogue is in English. The movie tells the story of a pair of friends living on a small island in Ireland in the 1920s who have a falling out for no reason at all.

When one of the friends threatens extreme action if the other doesn’t leave him alone, Banshees somehow gets both hilarious and utterly deranged. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are great in the central roles, and their backed up by a pair of performances that may be even better from Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan.

The Fallout (2022)

The Fallout | Official Trailer | HBO Max

A movie that could be genuinely upsetting for viewers due to its focus on a school shooting, The Fallout is nonetheless a pretty delicate character study of what it’s like to live through the aftermath of such a traumatic event. Following two girls who were in a bathroom together with the killer, but were not friends before the shooting, The Fallout is a tenderly acted drama about the formation of new friendship based in shared trauma.

The movie is smart and delicate, and its anchored by wonderful central performances from Maddie Ziegler and Wednesday‘s Jenna Ortega. If you’re capable of handling difficult subject matter, The Fallout is definitely one to watch.

Reality (2023)

Reality | Official Trailer | Max

Adapted directly from the transcripts of Reality Winner’s first conversation with investigators, Reality is a tense, small-scale drama about a young translator working for the government who leaked a single piece of intelligence, and wound up in prison as a result.

Sydney Sweeney is terrific as the titular character, and the way this movie confines itself pretty tightly to what actually happened only makes things feel more grounded. Reality is a reminder about the perils of working in government, but it’s also about how difficult it can be to leave yourself behind when you go into work.

The Master (2012)

Although it’s essentially about Scientology, The Master is a fascinating portrait of how people fall under the sway of captivating, powerful leaders. The film follows Freddie Quill (played by Joker actor Joaquin Phoenix), a department store photographer who is mentally unstable, as he slowly falls under the influence of a man who seems like he has all the answers.

The absurdity of Scientology is on full display here, but director Paul Thomas Anderson is not foolish enough to simply lampoon it. The entire film is a careful, thoughtful portrait of its central characters, and the ways that every one of us finds a certain set of stories that help us to just get through the day.

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