15 Thought-Provoking Drama Movies On HBO Max That Make You Think

Drama is a movie genre that inspires, makes us think, and adds depth to our perceptions.

One of the most challenging genres for a filmmaker, drama movies have plots with unique, unheard stories. They don’t get repetitive and predictable like the horror or action genre. 

Touching sensitive subjects that touch human lives with nuances is the magic the drama genre brings to us.

A bit of laughter, tears, and a world of thought-provoking stories sum up this genre of movies. 

Little Miss Sunshine

Image Source: GoT

Oliver Hoover is a pre-teen who dreams of becoming a beauty queen. But unfortunately, she lives with her dysfunctional and loving family. Her mother, Sheryl, is overworked and stressed dealing with the family’s quirks. 

Oliver’s father is trying his luck to become a successful motivational speaker. Oliver’s stepbrother has vowed silence until he becomes an accomplished pilot. Sheryl’s suicidal brother lives with them, making the family dynamics chaotic. 

Oliver is selected for the beauty pageant. The whole family supports her in fulfilling her dreams. They travel to California in their yellow Volkswagen together, dealing with chaos, excitement, and all kinds of emotions.

Their van breaks down, but their support for each other strengthens with every challenge they face during the road trip.

Little Miss Sunshine is an adorable movie that depicts various themes of family dynamics that support each other through thick and thin. 


Image Source: IMDb

The Academy Award-winning movie Belfast is filmed in black and white. It chronicles the story of unrest in Belfast, Ireland, from the eyes of a nine-year-old, Buddy. Buddy is a Protestant and has a crush on a Catholic, Catherine. 

Troubles erupt in Belfast amongst Catholics and Protestants. Unfortunately, Buddy develops a skewed perspective about ongoing conflicts. The fierce clashes in Ireland are presented through the innocent and naive view of Buddy. 

The movie is an autobiographical plot of writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s life in Ireland during the 60’s Trouble. The film depicts how Buddy has to deal with ideologies of love and religion growing up in the unstable environment of Belfast.

The Shawshank Redemption

Image Source: IMDb

The movie is based on Stephan King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Andy(Tim Robbins), a professional banker, is sentenced to two life imprisonment for murdering his wife and love.

However, he pleads innocence even inside prison and finds out that the person who killed his wife has been murdered inside the prison.

Unable to bear the harsh life and regular sexual assault, he starts doing favors to the guards inside the prison and the warden by handling their accounts.

Finally, he is protected from assault by the guards and meets Red(Morgan Freeman) inside the prison. 

They bond, and after twenty years of prison for crimes he never committed, he escapes losing hope of getting justice. Finally, red is on parole and a free man who joins Andy in Mexico.

The movie depicts the harshness of the legal system, corruption, and lack of justice for innocent prisoners serving time in prison.


Image Source: Eater

The Chef movie is about Carl’s(Jon Favreau) passion for the kitchen. After refusing to compromise with the creativity in the kitchen at a restaurant, Carl decides to pursue his passion for cooking. He launches a food truck with his son.

Everything blows out of proportion when Carl mistakenly sends a Tweet to the public to view a food critic’s negative review of his food.

The second chance he asks the food critic goes wrong and Carl gets insulted on Twitter again. The video of his outbursts goes viral, and he is out of work.

Having a food truck works like a marvel for Carl and his family. His pre-teen son, Percy, is a Wiz kid, and he helps him pull customers using Twitter.

Chef is a feel-good movie about an angered man pursuing his passion and reconnecting with his family.

The Tale (2018)

Image Source: IMDb

The tale is a semi-autobiography of writer-director Jennifer Fox. It depicts grueling emotions, self-denial, self-deceit, and other mentions the character, Jenne(Laura Dern), goes through being sexually abused in her teenage. 

Jenne is groomed by Mr.G and her partner Bill when she goes to learn horse riding. As an adult, reading into the dark memories of her subconscious mind, she realizes he was a victim of sexual abuse as a teen. She makes a failed attempt to expose Bill at an award ceremony as an adult and has a panic attack.

The movie depicts the confusion we go through being sexually abused at a tender age and the lies we tell ourselves to escape from dealing with the pain. Even as an adult, Jenne is not strong enough to confront Bill for his crimes. The movie shows the emotional turmoil the victim goes through as an adult. 

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Image Source: IMDb

The movie is based on a novel of the same name. Prisoner R.F McMurphy(Jack Nicholson) is transferred to a mental hospital from prison because they couldn’t control his behavior. So he feigns insanity to escape the harsh treatment of the prison. 

He soon realizes the head nurse is manipulating the patient’s mental states and getting them to do what she wants. It realizes that most patients are not escaping because they voluntarily want to stay inside the hospital. 

It also takes them out on a fishing trip. He hatches a plan to escape with Billy, another patient pretending to be deaf and dumb.

McMurphy loses his life after being lobotomized and smothered with a pillow by Billy, who couldn’t see him suffer. 

The movie has the irony of McMurphy wanting to free the patients but being held hostage, losing his life inside a mental hospital.

It also depicts the human tendency to want freedom but be caged in self-deprecating and self-deceit. 


Image Source: RE

The movie opens with a narrative about how people wanted to leave Europe during World War II and go to America, with the French national anthem playing in the background. A love story is torn between war times and selfishness. 

Rick(Humphery Bogard) is a handsome bar owner who has been in love with IIsa(Ingrid Bergman), who is married to a Czech fugitive leader Victor.

During the war, an officer is looking to search for two murderers at Rick’s bar with letters to allow two couples out of Casablanca. 

IIsa has a war of words with Rick to allow her and her husband to use the letter to flee from the city instead.

However, Rick is still hopelessly in love with IIsa and lets them escape. Captain Renault, learning of his passion for IIsa starts a bond of friendship with Rick letting him get away instead of turning him in. 


Image Source: IMDb

Arthur Fleck plays the protagonist, Joker, an ambitious stand-up comedian who wants to achieve world fame with his profession.

He is once mobbed by teenagers and is advised to carry a gun. He starts dating a single mother, Sophie. 

Joker is set in the 1980s era. Arthur suffers from the mental illness of laughing uncontrollably, which he later learns is the result of his being abused by his mother’s boyfriends.

His mother is in a mental asylum and writes a letter to the wealthiest man in Gotham City, Thomas Wayne, saying Arthur is his son.

Thomas has a son named Bruce, who witnesses chaos and numerous murders happening in Gotham City executed by Arthur.

The movie depicts how a comedian who aspires to be world-famous becomes a cold-blooded murderer being abused all his life. 

While performing in a stand-up comedy show, he finally admits to the murders he has committed and kills Randall, his previous manager.

Societal harassment, abusive past, and ongoing bedlam take Arthur’s downward spiral turning him into a psychopathic serial killer. 

Unfortunately, Arthur has nobody to help him stop the bullying, harassment, and abuse that had become a part of his routine, making him go on a killing spree.

The Last Duel

Image Source: DMT

A nail-biting courtroom drama set in France gives insights into the incident from the character’s point of view, which is subtle and profound.

Based on a true story set in medieval France. Two French squires are in a battle over the rape of the wife of Sir Jean De Carrouges(Matt Damon), and rape accused Jacques Le Gris.

Ridley Scott’s second movie, set in the medieval era, gives an account of three perspectives of the respective characters regarding the judicial trial. The original story is laid out in three chapters. 

The movie depicts the harsh realities of French history and is visually convincing. It illustrates how women in France in the medieval era found it difficult to get justice over grievous issues like being sexually assaulted.  

Million Dollar Baby

Image Source: Britannica

Frankie Dunn(Clint Eastwood) is one of the best boxers, growing old, and owns a gym called Hit Pit. He runs it along with his best friend and former fighter, Eddie(Morgan Freeman).

Frank does not train girls and turns down the request of an aspiring female fighter Maggie(Hilary Swank), to teach her.

Maggie is from a small town and is determined to become a professional boxer. She does not give up on her dreams and keeps going to Hit Pit. Frankie finally decides to train Maggie, though cautious not to put her in a professional fight.

For Frankie, family is a touchy subject. When Maggie asks him about his family, she is assigned another manager.

She wins her first fight with a broken nose. She gained a fan following all over Europe, fighting in tournaments.

Maggie’s mother only wants her money and assets. In one of the fights, Maggie breaks her spine and leg and gets estranged from her family when she realizes they wish for her assets.

The movie depicts the beautiful bond between Frankie and Maggie, who is by her side through good and bad times. 

A Streetcar Named Desire

Image Source: JW

A cult classic from the 50’s era that depicts gender roles in a marriage. A television movie from 1951 is based on a famous play of the same name.

Stella and Stanely(Marlon Brando) are in an abusive marriage. Stanley is poor, brutish, and violent towards Stella. Blance, who drives the car called Desire, chooses to stay with her younger sister Stella.

Though Stanley is brutish, he is apprehensive about letting Blanche go for an extended stay, knowing her past.

He also tries to convince Mitch, who wants to marry Blanche, of her past in a failed attempt. Doctors finally arrive to take away Blanche, knowing her mental state and crimes of passion. 

The movie depicts the patriarchal gender roles in a marriage and the misogynistic character of Stanley.

Blanche is a woman of dubious character known for casual flings and other crimes. She is finally taken away after wreaking havoc in the already chaotic life of Stella and Stanley. 


Image Source: AARP

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is about a skinny girl dipping inside the ocean and killed by an unseen creature.

Though the incident is shoved under the carpet by the city Mayor, there is a second shark attack on the 4th of July, which does not go unnoticed. 

Brody has been the investigating officer on the shark attack since the first one.

After one of the shark experts examined the first shark attack, he concluded that a vast shark did it. Unfortunately, they catch the wrong shark to go back to hunting the killer shark.

Brody and the two men are suited to get into the ocean in search of the enormous shark. After numerous failed attempts to kill the shark, Brody finally kills it and brings home its debris.

The movie depicts the themes of survival and fighting the unknown with enough tension created during the shark fights. 


Image Source: TCM

Edee is the movie’s protagonist and director. Edee has painful memories, and therapy is not helpful either.

She leaves urban life and takes up a cabin on rent in the middle of a rocky forest. She befriends Miguel, who has left urban life in search of solitude.

Miguel teaches her skills on how to survive inside the forest. Then, one day he goes missing asking her to watch his dog.

After a few months, she discovers he is dying of throat cancer. Edee consciously chooses solitude dealing with the pain of losing her family in a frenzied shooting. 

Miguel, too, has taken refuge inside the forest after taking responsibility for killing his wife and son in a car accident due to drunken driving.

Edee goes through healing and learning survival skills and has finally healed. She calls her sister in Wyoming and reconnects with her family. 

The movie is about survival, redemption, and dealing with pain away from the rat race and urban buzz. Sometimes, we all need solitude that helps us connect with ourselves and heal our deepest scars. 


Image Source: TW

In the past, numerous movies and TV programs were made on the legendary singer Elvis Presley. Director Buz Luhrmann recreates the biographical musical drama based on the life of Elvis with accurate details.

It details the relationship of Elvis with his manager Parker and the significant influence his wife, Priscilla Presley, had on his life.

A two-hour film details Elvis Presley’s life, aspirations, relations, ideologies, and challenges during his career. The movie has moments that do not make it a family entertainer but a brilliant biographical drama. 

It gave an account of his tragic personal life and influence on the brimming rock and roll music in America when African Jazz music was already at the forefront of top-charting music. 


Image Source: TW

Based on the famous play by William Shakespeare, this movie stars Leonardo Di Caprio as Romeo.

The Verona beach city has two rival kingpins, the Capulets and the Montagues. The hatred between these families has been legendary, and the current clan does not know why they hate each other.

Montague, Romeo’s cousin, has a gunfight with Capulet, Juliet’s cousin. The police break up the fight, which results in considerable property damage. Romeo’s cousin learns of the costume party at Capulets and decides to crash the party. 

Romeo is drugged at the party and sees Juliet. They instantly fall in love. One of the members of Capulet recognizes Romeo and threatens to kill him. Romeo and Juliet sneak away from the party and spend time.

They keep reuniting despite all the challenges and family feuds, only to end their lives tragically.

The movie is a modern take on the cult romance classic and depicts how deeply seated hatred and love lead to chaos and mayhem. 

Featured Image Source: NY

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment