Network: HBO
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Stars: Matthew Modine, Alan Alda, Richard Gere, Ian McKellen, Glenne Headly, Richard Masur, Saul Rubinek, Lily Tomlin, Anjelica Huston, Richard Jenkins

HBO has long been television’s best outlet for remarkable TV movies, and in 1981, the cable brand proved its ability to embarrass damn near every other remote-control-destination with the timelessly important And The Band Played On. Powered by an outstanding ensemble cast, director Roger Spottiswoode’s vigorous small-screen drama depicts the early rise of AIDS and HIV through several characters who all acquire the diseases before researchers have pinned down its causes and effects.

An underlying theme of the film is that, at the time, ignorant professionals thought that the new ailment only hits homosexual men. As the movie’s players learn something we now all know by the end credits, though, AIDS isn’t the least bit prejudced. And The Band Played On remains one of HBO’s greatest productions.