14 Best Slow Movies On Max (HBO Max)

Staff & contributors

Slow pacing is a surprisingly common factory across some of the most engrossing movies in history. If you love to take your time and bask in the scenery, check out the best slow movies and shows to stream now.

Based on a classic Japanese folktale, Isao Takahata’s last film will break your heart. This adaptation, of course, follows Princess Kaguya from her being discovered in a glowing bamboo stalk to her departure to the moon. However, while faithful to the original tale, Takahata’s direction turns this historical fantasy into a heart-wrenching coming-of-age film as ethereal as the titular character. The film doesn’t focus on the crazy pursuit of her suitors; instead, we’re drawn to the simple experiences Kaguya herself is drawn to and wants more of, as she tries to balance her life with the societal expectations places on women. All of which is rendered through the film's lush watercolored scenes of the blowing wind or the opening of plum blossoms.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Aki Asakura, Atsuko Takahata, Hikaru Ijūin, Hiroyuki Yamamoto, Isao Hashizume, Kengo Kora, Mirai Uchida, Nobuko Miyamoto, Ryudo Uzaki, Shichinosuke Nakamura, Shinosuke Tatekawa, Takaya Kamikawa, Takeo Chii, Tatsuya Nakadai, Tomoko Tabata, Yuji Miyake, Yukiji Asaoka

Director: Isao Takahata

Rating: PG

With his final film, octogenarian master filmmaker Robert Bresson found the violent, chilling truth in that old cliché, “money is the root of all evil.” L’Argent extends the simplicity of its title (literally, “Money”) into the fabric of the film, using an extremely bare style to track the devastating domino effect that a childish ruse has on one man’s life. When a shopkeeper realizes two schoolboys swindled him out of 500 francs with a counterfeit note, he decides to pass the problem on by paying delivery man Yvon (Christian Patey) with the false note. But when Yvon tries to pay for his lunch with the money, the police are called and his life unravels.

This is just the start of L’Argent’s clinical exploration of the meanness and littleness of man’s greedy spirit. Yvon’s downfall is chronicled with matter-of-fact coldness: everything onscreen is minimal, from the precise cinematography and frugal editing to the non-professional actors’ expressionlessness. This detached style encourages us to absorb all the bitter emotion of the story, which feels — in such an economical format as this — like a moral tale as old as time, but no less cutting.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alain Aptekman, Caroline Lang, Christian Patey, Didier Baussy, François-Marie Banier, Gilles Durieux, Jean-Frédéric Ducasse, Jeanne Aptekman, Michel Briguet, Sylvie Van Den Elsen, Vincent Risterucci

Director: Robert Bresson

A slow-burning US political drama, The Ides of March is a character-driven film with great performances from Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney (who is also the director and in part the writer) among many others. Taking place during the last days of the primaries, Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is an aspiring campaign staffer who uncovers a dirty truth about his candidate (Clooney). When Meyers confronts his boss (Hoffman), moral issues arise that collide with the political profession but which are not only limited to it. A smart film, The Ides of March is less of a political thriller and more of a really well made drama that delivers.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alvin Chea, Amy Keys, Carmen Carter, Charlie Rose, Chris Matthews, Danny Mooney, David McConnell, Evan Rachel Wood, George Clooney, Gregory Itzin, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Ehle, Josef Powell, Loretta Higgins, Lori Perry, Marisa Tomei, Max Minghella, Maya Sayre, Michael Ellison, Michael Mantell, Neal Anthony Rubin, Nita Whitaker, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel Maddow, Robert Mervak, Rohn Thomas, Ryan Gosling, Tiffany Sander McKenzie, Yuriy Sardarov

Director: George Clooney

Rating: R

Sisters Martine and Filippa, daughters of a founder of a religious sect, live a simple and quiet life in a remote coastal village in Denmark. Throughout the course of their lives, they reject possible romances and fame as part of their commitment to deny earthly attachments. This is upended by the sudden arrival of a French immigrant named Babette, who served as their house help to escape the civil war raging in her country.

Babette’s Feast is an inquiry into simplicity and kindness, and whether these would be sufficient to achieve a life of contentment. The religious undertones perfectly fit with the film’s parable-like structure, where bodily and spiritual appetites are satisfied through a sumptuous feast of love, forgiveness, and gratitude.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Asta Esper Hagen Andersen, Axel Strøbye, Bendt Rothe, Bibi Andersson, Birgitte Federspiel, Bodil Kjer, Cay Kristiansen, Ebbe Rode, Else Petersen, Finn Nielsen, Gert Bastian, Ghita Nørby, Ghita Nørby, Holger Perfort, Jarl Kulle, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Lars Lohmann, Lisbeth Movin, Pouel Kern, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Stéphane Audran, Stéphane Audran, Therese Hojgaard Christensen, Thomas Antoni, Vibeke Hastrup, Viggo Bentzon

Director: Gabriel Axel

Rating: G

, 2018

It wouldn't be too far of a reach to evoke Kids (1995) while diving into Mid90s. But instead of taking on the HIV crisis, Mid90s is a much more tender, poignant reflection on coming of age in 90's skate culture. Jonah Hill, writer and director, examines the complexities of trying to fit in and the difficult choices one has to embrace individualism. From an opening of physical abuse to scenes of drug usage and traumatic experiences, Mid90s is a meditation not only on culture, but also a subtle examination of what it means to be human, to reach emotional and physical limitations, and to seek acceptance. Filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio, Mid90s doesn't concern itself with grandiose filmography, but instead the aspect ratio almost reflects the tonal and metaphorical aspects played out on screen. With a smaller dynamic range of color and the familiar dust/scratches, the 16mm film compliments gritty and emotional moments of Mid90s. The emotional range of the film will take the audience from the depths of empathy to laughing out loud, but there is no compromise to the weight of each moment. Jonah Hill's directorial debut is beautiful in every sense of the word.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexa Demie, Ama Elsesser, Aramis Hudson, Chad Muska, Chico Brenes, Donny Barley, Fig Camila Abner, Gio Galicia, Harmony Korine, Jahmin Assa, Jax Malcolm, Jerrod Carmichael, Jonah Hill, Judah Estrella Borunda, Kasey Elise, Katherine Waterston, Kevin White, Liana Perlich, Lucas Hedge, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Ryder McLaughlin, Sunny Suljic, Teren Delvon Jones

Director: Jonah Hill

Rating: R

Twisted yet deep. Sad yet interesting. Slow yet exhilarating. A Ghost Story is an incredible artistic achievement. With hardly any dialog, and breathtakingly long takes in its first half, it manages to bring you in its own creepy world and not let go until you feel completely lonely. Starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck as a loving couple who are hit with a horrible tragedy, the beginning is slow, and it's not a plot driven movie, but if you give it a chance it will blow your mind.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Afomia Hailemeskel, Augustine Frizzell, Barlow Jacobs, Brandi Price, Brea Grant, Carlos Bermudez, Casey Affleck, Chris Gardner, Constance Jones, Dagger Salazar, David Lowery, David Pink, Giovannie Cruz, Grover Coulson, Jonny Mars, Kenneisha Thompson, Kesha, Kesha Rose Sebert, Liz Cardenas, Liz Cardenas Franke, Liz Franke, McColm Cephas Jr., McColm Kona Cephas Jr., Nikita Patel, Rob Zabrecky, Rooney Mara, Sonia Acevedo, Will Oldham, Yasmina Gutierrez

Director: David Lowery

Rating: R

Teenagers forced to grow up quickly and spend their prime years wiling away at garment factories sounds like a grim reality, and it is, but in Youth (Spring), Chinese documentarist Wang Bing captures more than just the inherent tragedy of young labor. Here, they build friendships, find love, discover an affinity for their craft, stand up for themselves against exploitative bosses, and look for ways to have fun. Even if it’s just as simple as eating street food, spending the night at an internet cafe, or finding nice clothes, we’re with them in every way. Though it’s never explicitly political, the documentary makes you think about the conditions that put the kids there in the first place, such as our insatiable need for cheap and trendy clothes, governments turning a blind eye to child labor, and a skewed system that favors these above people’s—especially young people’s—well-being and welfare.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Wang Bing

A relatively straightforward story of a village of Sotho people building the courage to resist unwanted development on their land and the erasure of their culture, the rousingly titled This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection wastes no time on the oppressors' point of view. For director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, there is no debate: these people are more important than any markers of progress hoping to displace them. Their struggle is rendered in some of the most crisp and colorful cinematography you could hope to see, with a powerful performance by the late, great Mary Twala front and center, channeling so much sadness into fury and determination.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Jerry Mofokeng, Jerry Mofokeng Wa, Makhaola Ndebele, Mary Twala, Siphiwe Nzima-Ntskhe, Tseko Monaheng

Director: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are the only two actors starring in this eccentric movie, and they deliver such grand performances that it feels like another actor would have been one too many.

They star as lighthouse keepers in the 19th century, left on an island to interact only with each other and their rock. It's a fascinating premise of how these men, left on their own, deal with boredom, loneliness, and being annoyed with one another.

Incredible performances, an interesting aspect ratio, and perhaps excessive weirdness, make this movie unforgettable.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Jeff Cruts, Kyla Nicolle, Logan Hawkes, Pierre Richard, Preston Hudson, Robert Pattinson, Shaun Clarke, Valeriia Karamän, Valeriia Karamän, Valeriia Karaman, Willem Dafoe

Director: Robert Eggers

Rating: R

Minari is a film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, about a Korean-American family in search of the so-called American Dream. It is an intimate drama that is powerful yet quiet, and filled with moments of innocence. With dreamlike scoring, unique characters, and a captivating climax, this movie tugs on the heartstrings, and serves as a great reminder of the beauty of gratitude.

Thanks to these, plus winning performances across the board, Minari earned plenty of nominations at the 2021 Oscars, with Youn Yuh-jung eventually bagging the Best Supporting Actress award—a monumental first for South Korea.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Alan Kim, Ben Hall, Chloe Lee, Darryl Cox, Debbi Tucker, Ed Spinelli, Eric Starkey, Ernie Robinson, Esther Moon, Han Yeri, Jacob Wade, James Carroll, Jenny Phagan, Kaye Brownlee-France, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Skip Schwink, Steven Yeun, Tina Parker, Warren Lane, Will Patton, Youn Yuh-jung

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Rating: PG-13

With a driver protagonist, trying to reintegrate with the rougher parts of his home city, forming a connection with a woman way out of his league, Soho-based Mona Lisa has spawned comparisons to the New York-classic Taxi Driver (1976), but this British neo-noir has a completely different tone and spirit, with a completely different conclusion. Mona Lisa has, of course, Nat King Cole crooning the similarly named tune, and as George gets enamored with Simone, both roles played fantastically by Bob Hoskins and Cathy Tyson respectively, they both keep their cards to their chest, as if similar to the famous painted smile. The ending may be a tad abrupt, but Mona Lisa has a lot of compassion and hope for these two trying to make a better life for themselves, a lot more than expected from the genre.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Bob Hoskins, Cathy Tyson, Clarke Peters, David Halliwell, Dawn Archibald, Gary Cady, Hossein Karimbeik, Jack Purvis, Joe Brown, Kate Hardie, Kenny Baker, Maggie O'Neill, Michael Caine, Pauline Melville, Perry Fenwick, Raad Rawi, Richard Strange, Robbie Coltrane, Rod Bedall, Sammi Davis, Zoë Nathenson

Director: Neil Jordan

Rating: R

The Great Lillian Hall doesn’t do anything particularly great to a familiar premise, but it’s still worth watching for the knockout performances. There’s Lange, whose dementia both complicates her desire to mount one last performance and resurfaces her guilt for being an absent mother. There’s Bates, who offers both sympathy and tough love. And then there’s Rabe, who’s gut-punching as the pained daughter crawling her way into her mother’s stiff arms. Everything else about the film is not as noteworthy as it drags the film for way longer than it should be. But that trifecta of performances makes it all worthwhile.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allison Mackie, Blaque Fowler, Bryan McClure, Cindy Hogan, Clayton Landey, David Chin, David Marshall Silverman, David Vaughn, Derrick LeMont, Erik Parillo, Jesse Williams, Jessica Lange, Jonathan Horne, Kathy Bates, Keith Arthur Bolden, Kenneth Trujillo, Lauren Buglioli, Lily Rabe, Meg Gillentine, Michael Rose, Noshir Dalal, Pierce Brosnan, Rebecca Watson, Robert Stevens Wayne, Tenz McCall, Zele Avradopoulos

Director: Michael Cristofer

Rating: PG-13

, 2017

This fun drama is about a 90-year-old who’s still searching for answers to life’s existential questions. Lucky smokes, drinks, and is pretty angry (a not-so-chill atheist); but he’s still around.

Harry Dean Stanton, in what feels like an extension to his character Lucky, passed away a year after the film premiered in 2017. This was the last role of the legendary Alien and The Godfather actor.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ana Mercedes, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bertila Damas, Beth Grant, David Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Harry Dean Stanton, Hugo Armstrong, James Darren, Ron Livingston, Tom Skerritt, Yvonne Huff

Director: John Carroll Lynch

Rating: Not Rated

Before Wong Kar Wai made his signature romantic dramas, he first made his directorial debut As Tears Go By, a film that wouldn’t be out of place in the crime and action flicks that characterized 1980s cinema. There are moments that feel a tad derivative, such as the use of Take My Breath Away from 1986’s Top Gun, and the gangster love triangle reminiscent of Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets, but Wong’s style starts to peek through with his use of color and light, and of course, the distinctive blurred action that transforms movement into lines. It’s not as sleek as Wong’s better known works, but As Tears Go By is still a good film to watch, marking Wong as one of the biggest names in the then-emerging Hong Kong New Wave.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Man, Andy Lau, Benz Kong To-Hoi, Chan Chi-Fai, Cheung Wing-Cheung, Chow Gam-Kong, Chun Kwai-Bo, Ho Wing-Cheung, Hui Fan, Jacky Cheung, Kam Shan, Lam Kau, Lee Chi-Git, Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Pak Yan, Ronald Wong Ban, William Chang Suk-Ping, Wong Aau, Wong Chi-Wai

Director: Wong Kar-wai