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HBO Max vs. Disney+ | Which Streaming Service is Right for You?

Ben Bowman

When you’re looking to choose a streaming service, HBO Max and Disney+ are two of your top options. No matter which you choose, you’re sure to get a ton of entertainment, but the services are very different. We’ll help you decide which service is right for you.

Overall Value

Today, HBO Max starts at $9.99 / month if you don’t mind getting ads. You can get the service without ads for $14.99 / month.

HBO Max is a very broad service, with lots of gritty adult-skewing films and TV, DC superhero adventures, and children’s content like “Sesame Street.”

Disney+ has no ads, although an ad-supported version is coming soon. The service costs $7.99 / month.

Disney+ skews younger than HBO Max. You’ll find no nudity and the profanity is tame - usually reserved for PG-13 superhero adventures. Nearly everything on Disney+ is intended to be family-friendly, though the boundaries are stretching a bit.

Because Disney+ doesn’t explicitly target adults, users have the option to upgrade to the Disney Bundle: Disney+ and Hulu and ESPN+ — all three services for $13.99 / month.

Adding Hulu provides dramas, documentaries, and feature films that will appeal to adults. ESPN+ offers live sports and great sports-adjacent programs.

Another option for people interested in Disney+ is to change your live TV provider to Hulu Live TV. That service provides 33 of the top 35 cable channels. Every Hulu Live TV also gets free Disney+ and ESPN+. If you’re interested in that option, it costs $69.99 / month.

Movie Lineups

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Both services have some real epics in the sci-fi and fantasy realm.

Disney+ offers classics like the Star Wars series, “Avatar,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” and cult favorites like “Tron,” “Flight of the Navigator,” “The Rocketeer,” and “John Carter.”

HBO Max offers up iconic films like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Matrix,” “Blade Runner,” and the Mad Max series. You’ll also see the Lord of the Rings films and a number of King Gong and Godzilla flicks.

Superheroes

Do you choose Marvel or DC?

Disney+ offers (almost) the entire MCU, so you’ll get all the movies about Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the rest of the Avengers. Unfortunately, you won’t get any standalone Spider-Man films (yet). Disney+ also offers the 20th Century Fox X-Men and Fantastic Four films.

HBO Max is home to the DC lineup, including all the major films about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

Action

HBO Max is The Streamable’s choice for Best Streaming Service for Action Movies. In addition to the sci-fi and superhero action, you’ll also see movies like “Kill Bill” and “The Bourne Identity.”

Disney+ doesn’t offer much beyond the cartoonish violence of the superhero and sci-fi genre. If you’d like something more violent, adding the bundle with Hulu will help.

Comedy

HBO Max’s comedy library is deep, going back as far as Charlie Chaplin films. More recent classics like “Wedding Crashers,” “The Hangover,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Dumb and Dumber,” and “Moonstruck” are available. You’ll also find great standup performances from Chris Rock, Whoopi Goldberg, George Carlin, Lewis Black, Tig Notaro, and more.

For Disney+, the comedies are far more tame. There are plenty of animated gags in films like “Toy Story,” and “Inside Out,” but there are few outright comedies. “The Princess Bride” is a rare exception.

Documentary

Nearly every Disney+ documentary tells the story behind other Disney properties like “Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy,” “The Pixar Story,” and “Frank and Ollie.” You’ll also get a handful of ESPN “30 for 30” documentaries. The National Geographic section has excellent nature documentaries and the vertigo-inducing gem “Free Solo.”

The HBO Max documentary library includes some of the most important films in the genre. You’ll get titles like “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals,” and “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” The topics are often challenging, heartbreaking, and awe-inspiring.

Drama

HBO Max brings top-notch drama like “The Shawshank Redemption,” “GoodFellas,” “City of God,” “The Departed,” “Unforgiven,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and “Casablanca.” There are unrivaled, original masterpieces. HBO Max is a movie lover’s dream and the drama lineup is unbeatable.

Disney+ provides inspiring and uplifting dramas like “The Straight Story,” “Hidden Figures,” “Remember the Titans,” and “Miracle.” If you want a movie where the good guys win, you’ll find lots of happy endings at Disney+.

Horror

You won’t find much in the way of horror on Disney+, unless you count the freaky parts of Marvel movies like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” There’s virtually no gore or blood outside cartoonish Marvel action.

HBO Max brings creepy films like “The Shining,” “28 Days Later,” “Funny Games,” “Poltergeist,” “It,” and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” HBO Max will not shy away from blood and guts, making it the easy choice if this genre is important to you.

Romance

HBO Max will get your heart racing with “In the Mood for Love,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “High Fidelity,” “Say Anything,” “Return to Me,” and classics like “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Gone With the Wind” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Disney+ has some surprisingly sweet films like “Never Been Kissed,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” “The Parent Trap,” and “The Fault in Our Stars.” If chaste romance is your thing, Disney+ fits the bill.

Standout TV Series

For Disney+, Star Wars and Marvel power their most important TV efforts. You’ll see “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” “Moon Knight,” “The Mandalorian,” “WandaVision,” and “Loki.” These efforts don’t feel like TV - they have the budgets and effects to match almost any blockbuster.

With Disney+, you’ll also get series that aired elsewhere like “Glee,” “The Simpsons,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Dinosaurs,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Black-ish,” and “Boy Meets World.”

HBO Max is a true groundbreaker with titles like “Game of Thrones,” “Euphoria,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Sopranos,” “Succession,” “The Wire,” “Deadwood,” “Sex and the City,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” From side-splitting comedies to tear-jerking dramas, HBO continues to set the bar. You’ll also get a lot of stellar miniseries like “Mare of Easttown,” “Chernobyl,” “Watchmen,” and “Station Eleven.” Even their current events shows like “Real Sports” are outstanding.

HBO Max also has some beloved network series like “Friends,” “South Park,” “ER,” “The West Wing,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Children’s Content

Here’s where Disney+ really shines. You’ll get Disney animated classics, Pixar, and Muppets content, while older kids can join the adventures of Star Wars and Marvel. Disney+ users will encounter imagination on full display with the comforting notion that good always triumphs over evil. There are also great kids’ shows like “Doc McStuffins,” and some animated Marvel adventures. If you have a child, Disney+ is a no-brainer.

HBO Max provides lots of great episodes of “Sesame Street,” along with “Looney Tunes,” “Tom and Jerry,” “Scooby-Doo” and the brilliant “Batman: The Animated Series” for older kids.

4K HDR

Disney+ regularly includes ultra high-definition on most of its films. Of course, you’ll need a compatible device to be able to see the difference. Many new releases also allow you to choose the IMAX Enhanced aspect ratio.

HBO Max has roughly 30 4K titles available.

Other Notes

Disney+ does have some great programming you won’t find elsewhere, like the Peter Jackson Beatles documentary “Get Back,” and the Broadway recording of “Hamilton.”

Also remember that the Disney Bundle offer with Hulu and ESPN+ makes it far more versatile for general entertainment fans.

HBO Max is a superior choice if you like international classics like “Seven Samurai,” “Spirited Away,” and “Princess Mononoke.” HBO Max also has a stellar selection of LGBTQ+ shows and films.

Verdict

Both services are among the most popular streaming options today. If you needed just one service for the whole family, HBO Max has plenty of content for every age range. If your children are a priority, Disney+ makes more sense, however. The Streamable selected HBO Max as the Best Streaming Service of 2022.

Although the comparison is a bit lopsided, subscribers who bulk up Disney+ with the bundle of Hulu and ESPN+ have a much more difficult choice. We still think HBO Max offers the best viewing for adults — Hulu has some work to do to improve — but if you love sports, ESPN+ is hard to beat.

As a standalone service, Disney+ isn’t generating enough content to compete on its own. It’s really geared to kids or teens who want to watch their favorite films over and over and over again.

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