Ranking the Greatest HBO TV Shows Ever
It is not television, it is HBO. If we are in the era of exceptional television, then HBO reigns as the most esteemed network. Throughout the years, HBO has presented us with numerous series that have left an indelible mark on history. Tony Soprano revolutionized the Mafia narrative, while Larry David showcased the art of creating a successful improvised comedy series. HBO has not lost its touch in any way. It continues to produce timeless classics annually, shows that resonate deeply within our hearts.
Updated on May 25, 2023: To maintain the freshness and relevance of this article, and to provide additional information and entries, Gaurav Krishnan has updated it to feature more remarkable HBO series.
For over three decades, HBO has redefined the landscape of television. With the recent shift from HBO Max to Max, a greater number of audiences now have the opportunity to explore HBO's rich catalogue of shows. With this in mind, here are the top HBO series. To simplify matters, this list will only include series that are aired on the HBO network. Therefore, Max original series such as Our Flag Means Death, Harley Quinn, and The Sex Lives of College Girls are not eligible for this list, but they are all worth exploring.
20. Euphoria: HBO
Euphoria has undoubtedly been one of HBO's most talked-about series since its premiere in 2019. Zendaya shines as the drug-addicted Rue, surrounded by a talented ensemble cast that includes Sydney Sweeney, Hunter Schafer, Maude Apatow, Barbie Ferreira, and more. Euphoria has captivated audiences and garnered recognition from awards voters. Despite rumors of conflicts behind the scenes between stars and the creator, anticipation for Season 3 remains high.
19. Entourage: Warner Bros. HBO
Entourage may not appeal to everyone and has not aged gracefully among the series on this list. However, it is difficult to deny the sheer enjoyment of experiencing the ultimate Los Angeles Hollywood lifestyle, filled with extravagant meals and endless parties. Entourage has become entrenched in HBO's identity. While the network may not be as proud of this multiple Emmy-winning series, they were content enough to produce a feature film released in 2015.
Westworld is an exceptionally imaginative and groundbreaking television series. It delves into the convergence of science fiction and Western genres, offering glimpses of a futuristic and dystopian world. The brilliant minds of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have brought to life a reimagined version of the 1973 film, where a captivating narrative unfolds within a high-tech wild west theme park set in the 2050s. Within this extraordinary realm, affluent visitors immerse themselves in their deepest primal desires, indulging in untamed fantasies.
This captivating storyline is intricately intertwined with the emergence of artificial intelligence in the reimagined 21st century. Action, drama, and an incredibly unique plot, combined with remarkable direction and an awe-inspiring score composed by Ramin Djawadi, have cemented Westworld as one of HBO's most exceptional science fiction offerings.
17 GirlsApatow Productions
Lena Dunham's magnificent creation, Girls, has become a defining masterpiece for a generation of young adults. It chronicles the lives of a group of individuals in their twenties as they navigate the complexities of love, friendship, and adulthood in the bustling streets of New York City. Girls is a refreshingly authentic and uproariously funny depiction of what it truly means to be a young woman in the real world. This remarkable series has also launched the careers of several extraordinarily talented individuals, including Alison Williams and Adam Driver.
16 Boardwalk EmpireHBO EnterprisesWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Indulge in a complete journey back to the roaring 20s, fully immersing yourself in a captivating portrayal of the forgotten golden era of American history complete with guns, booze, sex, music, glamor, and crime. Boardwalk Empire takes you on an enthralling exploration alongside Nucky Thompson, brilliantly portrayed by Steve Buscemi, who serves as the key figure in Atlantic City. This role stands as Buscemi's pinnacle performance, while the series also delves into the lives and activities of notorious mob bosses such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Joe Masseria, and others. Prepare to embark on a hard-hitting crime drama that vividly captures the essence of this era.
Produced by visionaries such as Martin Scorsese and Mark Wahlberg, among others, Boardwalk Empire encapsulates the essence of a Scorsese production, with its audacious and brutal portrayal of violence. It vividly explores the lives of prominent gangsters and the vast criminal empires they commanded, alongside their infamous notoriety. The series also boasts extravagantly shot intense scenes and an intriguing ensemble cast, providing viewers with an unfiltered look into the world of mob bosses and the American mafia during the remarkable years of the 1920s and 30s.
15 The Authentic Investigator
HBO's The Authentic Investigator embarks on an exceptional journey through crime-driven narratives, offering a refreshing and captivating experience with every new season. Its ingenious approach involves a rotating cast of characters and cases, ensuring a dynamic and riveting storyline. Through its non-linear narrative style, the show delves even deeper into the complexities of crime-solving.
This HBO masterpiece delves into the intricate world of detectives, showcasing their astute deductive analysis and unwavering attention to detail when pursuing criminals. With a star-studded ensemble cast including Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, and Rachel McAdams, among others, the series delivers awe-inspiring performances. While subsequent seasons may not have captured the same enchantment as the first, there's no denying that The Authentic Investigator has unquestionably cemented its legacy in HBO's illustrious history.
14 Departed Souls
A collaboration between Actual Size Films and HBO, Alan Ball's series Departed Souls unveils the intricate tale of the Fisher family, proprietors of a funeral home in Los Angeles. This profound series delves into the realms of death, life, family, and love, leaving an indelible mark. The exceptional ensemble cast brings forth a unique perspective, making audiences feel like a part of the captivating yet dysfunctional Fisher family.
13 The Eternal City
HBO proudly presents The Eternal City, a monumental collaborative effort between HBO and BBC. Immerse yourself in a world of grandeur, as the Roman Republic transforms into the mighty Roman Empire. Through the eyes of two valiant Roman soldiers portrayed by the late Ray Stevenson and Kevin McKidd, this historical epic offers a mesmerizing experience, boasting awe-inspiring sets, lavish costumes, and an exceptional ensemble cast.
"The Eternal City" masterfully combines gripping drama with an unwavering commitment to historical accuracy. It fearlessly embraces the elements of bloodshed, brutality, passion, and sensuality, setting the stage for future sword and sandals epics. While many may draw comparisons to "Game of Thrones," The Eternal City stands as a testament to authentic storytelling.
12 Immortal Mysteries
HBO invites you to sink your teeth into the captivating world of Immortal Mysteries. Enter a realm where vampires and humans coexist, creating an intricate tapestry of supernatural intrigue. With its unique blend of drama, romance, and supernatural elements, this HBO phenomenon guarantees an enthralling experience throughout its run.
In the days of yore, vampires were the epitome of cool. Just a few months prior to the Twilight craze that swept the world in 2008, HBO and the brilliant mind of Alan Ball presented True Blood. This sensational series, based on Charlene Harris' The Southern Vampire Mysteries books, became a cultural phenomenon upon its debut. It boasted a healthy dose of bloodshed and passion, featuring a captivating ensemble cast that resembled a contemporary gothic soap opera. Although the later seasons didn't quite match the greatness of the first five, True Blood endured thanks to its fiercely dedicated fanbase.
11 Barry HBO
Bill Hader has undergone a complete reinvention of his career, playing the role of a lethal hitman turned aspiring actor. Barry is a delightful blend of comedy and drama that showcases Hader's talents not only as a performer but also as a writer and director. Henry Winkler shines brightly as Barry's acting mentor, Gene, while Sarah Goldberg captivates as the lovably narcissistic yet exasperating romantic interest, Sally. However, the true standout of the series is Anthony Carrigan, who portrays Noho Hank, the most endearing criminal of all time. Sadly, the time for Barry to conclude its journey is approaching, but there's no denying its status as one of HBO's finest productions.
10 Watchmen HBO
Watchmen is not a direct adaptation of Alan Moore's groundbreaking comic book; instead, it serves as a spiritual sequel that unfolds after the events of the original storyline. Damon Lindelof, the writer, and Nicole Kassell, the director, bring this gripping tale to life in 2019 Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like its graphic novel predecessor, the series received glowing reviews for its storyline and the introduction of bold new characters, all while delving into uncharted territories of the classic Watchmen universe. The show also shed light on the tragic 1921 Tulsa race massacre, an unfortunate chapter in American history that many were unaware of prior to the series' enlightening depiction.
9 How To With John Wilson HBO
How To With John Wilson is a show that defies categorization and must be witnessed to be understood. At its core, it is a documentary series wherein filmmaker John Wilson captures the eccentricities of New York City, all while attempting to answer seemingly simple questions like "How to make small talk." These inquiries, however, lead him down unexpected, and often amusing, paths. How To With John Wilson is a treasure trove of laugh-inducing visual gags and outrageous scenarios, all complemented by a profound sense of warmth. With the recent news of its impending conclusion after season 3, How To With John Wilson has proven to be a delightful slice-of-life series that unveils both the beauty and absurdity of everyday existence.
8 ChernobylWarner Bros.
The harrowing tale of the 1986 nuclear disaster is vividly portrayed in Chornobyl. The events depicted can be emotionally challenging, as the recreation of the victims' suffering is graphically presented. This narrative not only showcases the versatility of writer Craig Maizen, previously known for his comedic work on The Hangover series, but also propels him into the realm of serious drama. It is worth noting that despite its recent release, The Last of Us did not make this list due to its novelty.
7 Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David delivers a tour de force as he plays a fictionalized version of himself in his day-to-day existence. Curb Your Enthusiasm relies heavily on improvisation, with scripted points that the actors must reach, but the path they take is left up to their creative instincts. Serving as the true successor to Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm showcases David's mastery of comedy. While rumors circulate about the potential conclusion of the upcoming season, audiences remain hopeful that the series will endure for years to come.
6 VeepDundee Productions
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, another Seinfeld alum, proves to be the perfect fit for the role of Vice President Selina Meyer in the uproarious political satire, Veep. Meyer, accompanied by her eccentric staff, offers viewers a glimpse into the unfiltered realities of modern-day politics. Louis-Dreyfus rightfully boasts a record-breaking six Primetime Emmy Awards for her exceptional portrayal.
Regarded as one of HBO's most popular series, Succession delves into the captivating tale of the Roy family, owners of a powerful media conglomerate, and explores the ruthless dynamics of the business world. This gripping drama delves into themes of wealth, betrayal, and familial bonds, boasting an ensemble cast that stands among the most talented on television. Much like the anticipation surrounding Game of Thrones, viewers are eagerly awaiting the revelation of the ultimate winner in this high-stakes political chess game. As the series approaches its finale, it holds the potential to solidify its place as one of the network's greatest achievements.
4 A Clash of ThronesWarner Bros. Television
There is no denying that A Clash of Thrones captured the hearts of viewers worldwide, firmly establishing itself as one of the most renowned television series ever. This epic tale became a shared cultural phenomenon, enchanting audiences and garnering an immense following. While the conclusion may have left some wanting, it cannot overshadow the seven previous seasons that gifted us with unforgettable moments, captivating narratives, and unforgettable characters.
Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, A Clash of Thrones remains as popular as ever, standing as one of the most illegally downloaded series during these unprecedented times. Let us not forget the captivating allure that HBO holds when it comes to A Clash of Thrones.
3 Company of ComradesHBO Enterprises
Critics and viewers alike showered praise upon Company of Comrades for its authentic portrayal of war and the unbreakable bond of brotherhood. This miniseries, based on the true chronicles of "Easy Company," a parachute infantry regiment during World War II, serves as a grand tribute to these national heroes. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg joined forces in its production, assembling a legendary ensemble cast.
Coincidentally, the series debuted just days before the momentous events of September 11th, becoming a timely release that unfolded on the screens of viewers who were about to witness a profound historical turning point.
2 The NetworkWarner Bros.
Regarded by many as the epitome of television brilliance, this crime drama dwells in the depths of Baltimore, Maryland. The Network delves unflinchingly into the gritty underworld of crime, drugs, and the intricate web of law enforcement bureaucracy. Its acclaimed exploration of urban existence and its astute depiction of how political and social elements shape a community earned resounding acclaim. While it may not have experienced the same level of mainstream cultural fame as A Clash of Thrones, The Network undeniably stands amongst HBO's most exceptional creations.
1 The UnderworldHBO
It was The Underworld that propelled HBO to stardom, solidifying its status as a purveyor of must-watch television. James Gandolfini delivers an unforgettable performance as Tony Soprano, a mob boss striving to balance his criminal empire and family dynamics while seeking solace in therapy. The series boasts a diverse ensemble cast, each inhabiting complex personas and narratives that captivate our imagination.
David Chase took daring leaps in the creation of The Underworld, and every gamble paid off. Not only did it establish HBO as a powerhouse network, but it also revolutionized television, popularizing the archetype of the modern anti-hero, paving the way for names like Walter White of Breaking Bad or Don Draper of Mad Men. The Underworld transcends its status as HBO's finest series; it remains a cornerstone of television history that cannot be underestimated.
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