There are plenty of great shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, but HBO still reigns king in the world of TV streaming. Since 1972, the ‘Home Box Office’, better known as HBO has produced dozens upon dozens of top-tier TV shows. We’re going to rank the best shows on HBO, from ‘72 to 2020 so that you can find a new series or a forgotten classic that is 100% worth viewing.

Neon-Infused Drama Series

1. The Deuce (2017-2019)

The Deuce  •  Trailer

The most recent series from David Simon, a near ubiquitous name with HBO, follows the founding days in New York City during the 1970s and '80s when porn and prostitution were rampant in Manhattan. 

James Franco stars in a double role as two brothers, similar to Ewan McGregor in Fargo and Tom Hardy in Legend. Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gbenga Akinnagbe, and Chris Bauer round out the cast of this visually vibrant HBO series.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

It's the kind of storytelling-ebullient, moving, brutal and informed with human mystery-whose every chapter only whets the appetite for more. Full review —  Dorothy Rabinowitz,
Wall Street Journal

Insane Docu-Filmmaking

2. The Jinx

The Jinx  •  Trailer

Has there ever been anything more crazy than The Jinx? Okay, I know it’s a hyperbole to ask that, but seriously The Jinx is about as insane as filmmaking gets. Andrew Jarecki directs the series as he seeks to unravel the mystery of Robert Durst (Gary Napoli), a wealthy socialite who’s been linked to several high-profile murder cases.

What follows is a descent into the depths of Durst’s mind. It’s chilling, disturbing, yet engrossing to watch. Oh, and it just so happened to conclude with one of the most unforgettable endings in television history.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

You could be forgiven for believing that The Jinx was fiction; it packages its material into one of TV's most addictive stories using the tools and artistry of crime drama. Full review — James Poniewozik, TIME Magazine

Neon-Infused Drama Series

3. My Brilliant Friend (2018-present)

My Brilliant Friend  •  Trailer

My Brilliant Friend is based on The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, which is a pseudonym for an unknown author. There are four 'Neapolitan Novels.’ Each season of My Brilliant Friend follows one of the books.

The series follows a woman recounts of the lifelong friendship and conflicts with a girl she met at primary school in Naples during the early 1950s. Critics have given the show rave reviews for its first two seasons.

Good TV Shows on HBO

Conclusion

My Brilliant Friend is often at its best when it invokes this same crisis of knowledge, of growing up where everyone knows your business and no one can admit the truth. It's about the escape hatch that clever girls squeeze through.  Full review — Emily Nussbaum, New Yorker

Award Season Sweeper

4. Big Little Lies (2017-present)

Big Little Lies  •  Trailer

Featuring an all-star cast of Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies is a nuanced drama/thriller based on the novel of the same name about the apparently perfect lives of upper-class mothers, at a prestigious elementary school, which unravels to the point of murder when a single-mother moves to their quaint Californian beach town.

Big Little Lies made waves upon release for all the big names in its ensemble cast and the twists and turns of its story. Series creator David E. Kelly followed up Season 1 by adding the never-better Meryl Streep to the cast.

Good Shows to Watch on HBO

Conclusion

A disturbingly clear-sighted satire of aspiration, competitive parenting and social perfectionism.  Full review — Lauren Carroll Harris, The Guardian

Follow the Blood-Stained Brick Road

5. Oz (1997-2003)

Oz  •  Trailer

Oz is the show that started it all for HBO dramas. This uber-graphic series brings us into “Emerald City,” a carefully constructed new section of a fictional prison system and chronicling the daily activities of its criminal inhabitants.

Tom Fontana created the series and wrote or co-wrote every episode. Oz is a graphic show that isn’t afraid to delve into some deep discussions on religion, crime, martyrdom, redemption, and sexuality.

Best Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

Profoundly disturbing, it's a show that you don't want to miss, yet don't always want to watch.  Full review — Kathy Sweeney,
The Guardian

Criminal Justice Series

6. The Night Of (2016)

The Night Of  •  Trailer

There are plenty of great mini-series on HBO, but The Night Of may very well be the best of them all. The Night Of follows the story of a young man named Naz (Riz Ahmed), who after a night of partying with a woman he picked up, wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder. Did he do it? We don’t know, at least at first we don’t. By framing the story in this way, writers Steven Zallian and Richard Price really enrapture us into the film-world. 

There are strong performances abound in The Night Of from Riz Ahmed, Michael K. Williams, Bill Camp, and of course, John Turturro.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

There are more important things to consider in "The Night Of" than foot fungus, but much of the show's greatness is embedded in minor details like that one, an accumulation of grace notes that bring this world and its characters to life.  Full review — Scott Tobias, New York Times

Raining Cats and Squids

7. Watchmen (2019)

Watchmen  •  Trailer

The original Watchmen graphic novel from Alan Moore is one of the most revered graphic novels in the world. In 2009, Watchmen was adapted as a film by Zack Snyder and it received strong reviews from critics. However, many fans of the original comics weren’t as quick to praise the movie.

Enter 2019’s Watchmen HBO series -- a bold reimagining of the universe from Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers). The show is set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, Watchmen embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own. Perhaps the best thing about the show is that nobody really knew what it was going to be about, nor when it was going to take place in the film-world. HBO’s Watchmen was certainly a surprise, but in all the best ways.

What Shows are on HBO?

Conclusion

Lindelof's show is a marriage of pulpy mythmaking and grim reality, telling a weighty story under the guise of mass-market entertainment.  Full review — David Sims, The Atlantic

War Never Changes

8. Band of Brothers (2001)

Band of Brothers  •  Trailer

The HBO epic Band of Brothers is a harrowing recreation of the story of Easy Company of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, and their mission in World War II Europe, from Operation Overlord, through V-J Day. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg served as creators and executive producers.

Band of Brothers is a visceral insight into the horrors of war and the bonds of fraternity that are built because of them. With a massive ensemble cast, Band of Brothers truly displays the giant scope of war.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

After watching the 10-hour "Band of Brothers," I'm so drained by the intensity of what I have just beheld that I'm ready to declare this World War II miniseries the finest piece of work ever produced for television.  Full review — Austin Smith, New York Post

Death is the Family Business

9. Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

Six Feet Under  •  Trailer

What is family? What does it mean to walk in the footsteps of those who came before us? How do we begin to make sense of death? These are the questions at the heart of Six Feet Under, a familiar chronicle of the lives of a dysfunctional family who run an independent funeral home in Los Angeles.

Peter Krause stars in the show alongside Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, and Lauren Ambrose.

Best Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

Although Six Feet Under doesn't approach The Sopranos, it does well enough on its own terms, exhuming one painful family secret after another, threaded by satirical commercials for such cadaverous products as embalming fluid.  Full review — Howard Rosenberg, Los Angeles Times

Gangsters on the Dock

10. Boardwalk Empire (2009-2014)

Boardwalk Empire  •  Trailer

How can you not love Steve Buscemi in the role of a prohibition era gangster? Boardwalk Empire not only features Buscemi, but other great actors like Michael Shannon and Stephen Graham as well. The show takes place in an Atlantic City where politician (Steve Buscemi) plays both sides of the law by conspiring with gangsters during the Prohibition era.

Atlantic City was a hot-bed for bootlegging, speakeasies, and other prohibition related crimes. Boardwalk Empire transports us into that world with sweeping visuals and tremendous production design.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

Boardwalk Empire isn't drama's second coming, but something altogether more interesting.  Full review — Sarah Hughes, The
Guardian

Dragons and Disappointment

11. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

Game of Thrones  •  Trailer

Oh Game of Thrones how I loved thee. Through seven seasons, Game of Thrones achieved some cloud-peaking highs and some deep-sea lows. But through it all, I found myself glued to the TV screen on Sunday nights desperate to see how it would all come together.

Then season eight happened -- an abominable effort that was widely panned by fans and critics. Not since Dexter had a TV show ended so poorly. But still, it’s hard to ignore the enormous impact Game of Thrones had on not just HBO, but the landscape of television.

Best TV Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

Game of Thrones breathed new life into the fantasy genre, but sadly, by the end its lungs were extinguished by ice amidst the fire.

NoHo Hitman Comedy

12. Barry (2018-present)

Barry  •  Trailer

During his years on Saturday Night Live, Bill Hader established himself as one of the premiere talents working in comedy. Hader parlayed his name-cache into several feature film roles from 2013-2018. But when it was announced that he was going to write, direct, and star in the HBO show Barry, some fans responded with skepticism.

Barry follows traumatized war-vet ‘Barry Block’ as he transitions from a lethal hitman to an actor. At times Barry is downright tragic, at others it’s joyous and playful. But if one thing is certain, it’s that Barry is one of the best shows on HBO right now.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

With a cast as well-rounded as any other show on television, the multiple Emmy Award winning dramedy Barry is simply invigorating to watch.

Tennessee Williams Meets Conglomerates

13. Succession (2018-present)

Succession Season 1  •  Trailer

To say that the writing in Succession is sharp would be an understatement. Dialogue in Succession cuts like a diamond thanks to some excellent work from creator Jesse Armstrong and the show’s writing team.

Succession also benefits from a tremendous ensemble cast, including Jeremy Strong, Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin, and of course, Brian Cox. Casting director Francine Maisler knocked it out of the park finding such perfectly fitted actors.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

Perhaps no show has ever done a better job of making us empathize with such terrible people like Succession does.

Neon-Infused Drama Series

14. Mr. Show (1995-1998)

Best of Mr. Show

Long before Bob Odenkirk was Saul Goodman, he was making sketch-comedy with his friend David Cross on HBO. Mr. Show is a 30-minute sketch series that features some off-the-wall comedy.

The rest of the cast included: Sarah Silverman, Tom Kenny, John Ennis, Jill Talley, and many more guest appearances.

Good Shows to Watch on HBO

Conclusion

Many modern sketch series have credited Mr. Show as one of their biggest influences.

Relationship Drama in LA

15. Insecure (2016-present)

Insecure  •  Trailer

Co-creator, writer, and star Issa Rae absolutely knocked it out of the park with Insecure; a show that takes a deep dive into the contemporary setting of Los Angeles.

Insecure strikes a great balance between comedy and drama while showing us the life of the show’s two main characters, Issa and Molly. Insecure is further aided by some excellent cinematography and production design.

Best Shows to Watch on HBO

Conclusion

Insecure has garnered tons of critical acclaim through its four season run, including an AFI award for Best TV Program of the Year (2018).

Interdimensional Assassin

16. The Leftovers (2014-2017)

The Leftovers  •  Trailer

The first season of The Leftovers was okay. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. Oftentimes, when a show struggles to find its footing, it just kind of meanders along the same path until it eventually fades into obscurity. That’s not what happened with The Leftovers.

After season one, Damon Lindelof and the writers went back to the drawing board and reinvented The Leftovers. And thank God that they did, because the next two seasons of the show are some of the greatest television ever made. The Leftovers raises many of the same themes that Lindelof explored with his previous show Lost, but does so in an even more nuanced, and profound way.

The Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

Justin Theroux gives a career performance in the role of Kevin Garvey, a Christ-like figure caught in the storm of a cosmological rapture.

Neon-Infused Drama Series

17. Sex and the City (1998-2004)

Sex and the City Anniversary

Sex and the City made HBO more popular than many at the time thought possible. Through its six-season run, Sex and the City was nominated for 54 Emmy Awards, and won seven.

The influence of Sex and the City on sitcoms and popular culture can’t be quantified. Sarah Jessica Parker does a great job of carrying the series in the role of Carrie Bradshaw — an imperfect protagonist looking for love in the big city.

Top Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

There are two Sex and the City movies that continue the story of Bradshaw and her friends.

Late-Night Satire

18. The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998)

The Larry Sanders Show  •  Trailer

The Larry Sanders Show deftly satirizes the late-night talk show tropes that were all too common in 90’s TV. The show stars Garry Shandling in the title role as a comedian/late-night host who juggles his personal and professional lives in front of the camera.

The influence of The Larry Sanders Show on sitcoms and late-night shows has been enormous. For anybody considering a foray into either genre, The Larry Sanders Show is a must-watch.

What Shows are on HBO?

Conclusion

Through six seasons, The Larry Sanders Show proved that it was one of the most influential comedies of the 20th century.

New Jersey Mafia

19. The Sopranos (1999-2007)

The Sopranos  •  Trailer

Without The Sopranos, HBO wouldn’t be the juggernaut service it is today. Perhaps no show on HBO is more iconic than David Chase’s mafia masterpiece The Sopranos.

The late, great James Gandolfini stars as the titular Tony Soprano — a violent mob-boss who also has a sensitive side. Few shows on television are celebrated more than The Sopranos, evident by the show’s 21 Emmy Award wins.

Best Shows on HBO

Conclusion

The Sopranos is the most beloved television series about the life and loves of the American Mafia.

Sitcom Like None Other

20. Curb Your Enthusiasm 

Curb Your Enthusiasm  •  Trailer

Okay, who can hate Larry David? Well besides all the characters in Curb Your Enthusiasm that is. Larry David, AKA TV’s most opinionated personality, decided to jump in front of the camera with Curb rather than stick to the pen and paper he used to co-create Seinfeld.

And what a good thing he did. For the past 20 years, Curb Your Enthusiasm has been one of the best comedy shows on television. A tenth season aired in 2020 and showed that there’s no signs of David slowing down.

Best Shows on HBO Go

Conclusion

Curb Your Enthusiasm has its highs and lows but when it’s good, it’s some of the best comedy on television.

True Story Drama

21. Show Me a Hero (2015)

Show Me a Hero  • Trailer

Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” That’s the line that begins HBO’s miniseries Show Me a Hero. It’s also largely credited to author
F. Scott Fitzgerald and is associated with the follies of the American dream.

In the 2010s, Oscar Isaac emerged as one of the great actors in the world. He starred in big-budget blockbusters like Star Wars and acclaimed dramas like A Most Violent Year, but perhaps his best performance was in Show Me a Hero as former Yonkers mayor Nick Wasiscko, who was at the time of his election the youngest city mayor in America.

What Shows are on HBO?

Conclusion

The true story of Show Me a Hero is a crushing reminder of the  social injustice and financial inequality in America.

Making of Masterful Music

22. The Defiant Ones (2017)

The Defiant Ones  •  Trailer

In 2014, Apple bought Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine’s audio company Beats for more than $3 billion dollars. To this day, Beats is the most expensive acquisition Apple has ever made. The deal made the already-rich Dre and Iovine wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

The Defiant Ones traces the duo from humble beginnings to the highest highs of success. It also features interviews with some of the music industry’s most famous faces, including: Eminem, Trent Reznor, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Nicks, Ice Cube, and Bono.

Must Watch Shows on HBO

Conclusion

The Defiant Ones is the perfect documentary series for fans of the music industry.

Horrific Disaster Series

23. Chernobyl (2019)

Chernobyl  •  Trailer

Chernobyl was a disaster of epic proportions. People died in the midst of the explosion, dozens more in the months that followed, and countless more in the 30+ years since. The air of death quite literally still radiates on those grounds.

The HBO mini-series Chernobyl recreates this disaster better than any film or show before. Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emily Watson star in the show and all give excellent performances.

Best Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

Chernobyl is a must-watch for anyone interested in world history, nuclear power, or man-made disasters.

HBO Classic

24. The Wire (2002-2008)

The Wire  •  Trailer

The setting of The Wire may be relatively small but the scope of its story is near-endless. David Simon created The Wire after years of being a police reporter. Perhaps that’s one reason why the show seems so much more grounded and believable than its contemporaries do.

The Wire is widely hailed as one of the great epic drama series of the 21st century for the ways in which it depicts police and gang life.

Best TV Shows on HBO

Conclusion

Although it’s not the most technically innovative TV show, The Wire is one of the most daring and most influential.

Neon-Infused Drama Series

25. Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)

Flight of the Conchords  •  Trailer

Flight of the Conchords (Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement) made their first appearance on TV in 2000. Seven years later, HBO gave the musical-comedy duo the freedom to make their own series. The result was a mixed bag of mash-up and mismatches -- but it was never boring.

Over two seasons, McKenzie and Clement created a few bonafide techno-rap-folk hits.

Top Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

Flight of the Conchords turned the amp up to 11 on musical sketch-comedy.

The American President

26. Veep (2012-2019)

Veep  •  Trailer

It’s no secret that Julia Louis-Dreyfus became one of the winningest actors of all-time for her performance as Selina Meyer in Veep. Louis-Dreyfus is no stranger to acclaim from critics going all the way back to her days on SNL, but Veep is truly her finest work.

The similarly lauded Armando Ianucci (In the Loop, The Death of Stalin) created the series and wrote or directed many of the episodes.

Best Shows on HBO Go

Conclusion

Ianucci is one of the premiere political satirists in the world today and Veep is one of his greatest works.

Papal Corruption

27. The Young Pope & The New Pope 

The New Pope  •  Trailer

Technically The Young Pope and The New Pope are different shows. How,  you ask? I couldn’t tell you. The New Pope follows the events of The Young Pope but is about a new Pope… or is it?

It’s all semantics but this much I can tell you: The [insert adjective here] Pope is great. All of the episodes are directed by renowned Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino and he adds his signature visual flair throughout. Few shows in recent history are better looking than Sorrentino’s visual treatise on the Catholic Church.

Best TV Shows on HBO

Conclusion

The Young Pope & The New Pope aren’t perfect but whenever we can say that something great is unlike anything else, that’s usually an indication that risks are being taken and they’re paying off.

Tales From the West

28. Deadwood (2004-2006, 2019)

Deadwood  •  Trailer

Despite being one of HBO’s most acclaimed dramas, the story of Deadwood was never concluded -- that is until the release of Deadwood: The Movie in 2019.

Deadwood ran for three seasons in its initial run on HBO and won eight Emmy Awards. Several of Deadwood’s Emmy awards were given for production design in costuming, hairstyling, and non-prosthetic makeup.


Best Shows on HBO Now

Conclusion

Ian McShane steals the show in Deadwood, a show about laws and lawlessness in the foundational days of the American West.

Existential Detective Thriller

29. True Detective (2014-present)

True Detective  •  Trailer

The first season of True Detective was brought together within a perfect storm. It was written entirely by a largely unknown writer (Nic Pizzolato), directed by a major up-and-coming talent (Cary Joji Fukunaga), and featured two resurgent dramatic actors (Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey). For many, myself included, True Detective Season 1 felt like watching a masterpiece fly out of left field.

Then there was Season 2. Spoilers, it’s bad; bad in a way only incomprehensible dialogue and extensive vape use can be. But then Season 3 brought the series back to a recognizable level of prestige. Although it wasn’t as good as the first, it was still mostly riveting.

Best Shows on HBO Go

Conclusion

It’s hard to judge any anthology series, let alone one with as many ups and downs as True Detective. But season one of the show remains some of the best television of the past 10 years.

Historical Biopic

30. John Adams (2008)

John Adams  •  Trailer

Widely regarded as one of the most historically accurate shows ever made, HBO’s John Adams is a great lesson in reconstructing period detail. Everything from wardrobing to set dressing to hair and makeup is masterclass.

Paul Giamatti stars in the title role as the man who would become the second President of the United States. The miniseries follows over 50 years in the life of Adams from the Boston Massacre in 1770 to his death in 1826.

BEST TV SHOWS ON HBO

Conclusion

History fans rejoice, HBO’s John Adams is an absolute treat.

UP NEXT

Best Shows on Netflix

HBO may be the king of TV streaming but Netflix isn’t too far behind. With dozens of original series being produced every year, Netflix has been building a catalogue of some excellent TV. In this next article, we rank the best shows on Netflix right now so you can find that next great series to watch.

Up Next: Best Netflix Shows →
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