Top 30 Shows You Need to Watch on HBO Max
War of the Roses Photo: HBO
- Horror, Sci-Fi, and FantasyStories from the dark side, the future, and the fantastic
Titles come and go from the service, so check back often as this article is regularly updated. Asterisks denote recent additions.
Despite the fact that HBO Max has been in the news more for the content that has been removed and the fact that it will soon be discontinued due to a merger with Discovery, there is still a ton of fantastic television available on the service. When populating a streaming service, it's helpful to have access to (almost) the entire library of the best cable company ever. HBO revolutionized television and now seeks to do the same for online video. We decided to keep this list manageable by excluding series that are still airing new episodes; this includes both miniseries and long-running series that have recently concluded. The Last of Us and Succession will also be available on HBO Max, but not until they have concluded. (Though currently airing HBO Max originals such as Hacks are counted. ) New content will be added on a regular basis.
8 years long with 73 episodes
David Benioff and D B Weiss
There were many complaints and articles written about how the series ended, but the early seasons of Game of Thrones are widely considered to be its best. And now, at the end of what feels like a TV era, you can relax and take in the entire fantasy epic. When the final episode aired, our very own Matt Zoller Seitz implied as much. When will we get another season of Game of Thrones? The Last of Us came close, but there isn't one yet.
Total Episodes: 10 (1 Season)
Produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Band of Brothers, which premiered on HBO in 2001, is widely regarded as one of the best limited TV series of all time but is often overlooked for the impact it had on the medium. This cinematic classic was co-created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, based on the same-titled Stephen E. Ambrose book about World War II. Ambrose, and it is without a doubt among the finest works of television history. In this touching fusion of history and filmmaking, we honor the brave men who served during World War II.
5 years and 56 episodes long.
Terence Winter, the creator
Terence Winter, a major voice on The Sopranos, joined forces with Martin Scorsese after the show ended to adapt Nelson Johnson's non-fiction book about the lawlessness of the Prohibition era. It's an engrossing drama with dramatic high points that rival those of any show on HBO at the time. One of the most lavishly detailed period dramas to ever air on television, starring Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson. While Buscemi shines, it's the supporting cast—specifically, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Kenneth Williams, and—that really makes this film work.
Season 1 consists of 5 episodes.
Craig Mazin, the creator
A five-part drama that horrifyingly details the failure of a world power to respond to an international crisis, this was Craig Mazin's most acclaimed miniseries before he directed The Last of Us. It was eerily prescient and has taken on an even greater sense of urgency in the wake of Covid and the Ukrainian War. This drama about a disaster made worse by the government's response to it has won acclaim all over the world thanks to the performances of Jared Harris, Emily Watson, and Stellan Skarsgard.
Duration: 36 episodes over 3 seasons.
David Milch, the creator
In 2019, more than a decade after the series' cancellation, Deadwood: The Movie made its way back to HBO. Now is the time to be schooled in the reasons why fans were so eager to see David Milch's Western again. One of the most insightful and in-depth series ever broadcast on television, "Westworld" uses our preconceived notions of the past and the Wild West to tell stories about people that continue to have relevance today. It also features one of the best ensemble casts in television history.
Total Episodes: 18 over 2 Seasons
Mike White and Laura Dern are the creators.
Everyone's crush on Laura Dern began with Big Little Lies and continued with Marriage Story. Time, at last, had come In case you missed it over a decade ago, Dern Train was Mike White's two-season dramedy, and she did brilliant character work as Amy Jellicoe. This razor-sharp dramedy, starring Dern, White, Luke Wilson, Diane Ladd, Jason Mantzoukas, Robin Wright, Molly Shannon, and Dermot Mulroney, completely reimagines the trope of the character who reaches rock bottom. It's a bummer that there were only two seasons, because they were both excellent.
15 years and 331 episodes long.
Crichton, Michael, the Author.
It's tough to convey to today's youth just how popular this NBC show was back when it was at its peak. Some may dismiss it as a generic medical drama, but the show's exceptional character development and compelling case studies made it must-see television. George Clooney was catapulted to fame, and the show was nominated for 23 Emmys. The drama is highly rewatchable, making it ideal for a service like HBO Max.
Runtime: 12 episodes (1 season)
Michaela Coel, the author
This miniseries, starring Michaela Coel (who also wrote and co-directed the show) as Arabella, a contemporary young woman who is raped one night and spends the series trying to piece together the details of what happened to her, is arguably the best thing to air on television in all of 2020. Coel pulls off a brilliant masterstroke with her use of tone, which keeps the story's seriousness without resorting to cliches or melodrama. She gets at the heart of the now with this touching, hilarious, and thoroughly captivating story.
3 seasons and 28 episodes total.
Creators: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta
This TV show based on Tom Perrotta's novel and adapted by Damon Lindelof is excellent. For a show that only lasted three seasons, it left quite an impression on viewers, as evidenced by its inclusion on many "best dramas of the last decade" lists. It won't be long before this HBO series is considered one of the best in the network's history and is beloved by viewers new and old.
Twenty episodes spread over two seasons.
Jack Amiel & Michael Begler, Creators
There have been rumors that Barry Jenkins, the director of the original version of this groundbreaking drama, will lead a revival soon. According to reports, he plans to recast the legendary Andre Holland in the role of Dr. Algernon C Edwards, picking up where the 2017 cancellation of this critical darling by Cinemax left off Watch the first two seasons again and be impressed by one of the best shows of the 2010s. Clive Owen portrays a medical professional at the dawn of a new era. His development is fascinating, but what really makes this show stand out is the depth of its setting and its cast.
Runtime: 7 episodes (1 season)
Brad Ingelsby is the author.
As a Philadelphia detective who is haunted by an unsolved case, Kate Winslet gives a career-best performance as she investigates a murder in a small town. For her part in a show that also earned Emmys for Evan Peters, Julianne Nicholson, and Outstanding Limited Series, Winslet was recognized as Outstanding Actress. The balance between mystery and character development is spot on. We need more programs like this one.
Season 1 consists of 8 episodes.
Richard Price and Steven Zaillian, Creators.
Despite the proliferation of similar works, the concerns raised by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian's film about the potential for our broken justice system to transform otherwise law-abiding men into violent offenders seem more pressing than ever. Riz Ahmed plays a young Pakistani-American man wrongfully accused of murder; John Turturro plays the lawyer who tries to defend him before he is broken by time spent in Rikers Island custody. A revolutionary work of dramatic art
Total Episodes: 4 (One Season)
Anderson, Jane, the Creator
This 2014 masterpiece, adapted from Elizabeth Strout's novel, stars Frances McDormand as the title character. This one effectively anticipated the golden age of prestige miniseries. The multiple-Oscar winner portrays Catherine Kitteridge, Richard Jenkins's wife in the fictional Maine town of Kitteridge. Nuanced, empathetic writing and some of the best acting you'll see on any streaming service inform this character study about a retired teacher and her experiences navigating adulthood. Among the supporting cast is Bill Murray, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Zoe Kazan.
Six seasons and 56 episodes in total.
Fontana, Tom, the Creator
HBO's influence on television began long before The Sopranos. Tom Fontana's Oz, which aired before David Chase's massively popular show, seems to get overlooked despite being one of the shows that helped establish "It's not TV, it's HBO" as more than just a slogan. Oz is a pivotal piece of the cable network's infrastructure because it is a show that holds up well over time and would be shocking and provocative even today.
Two years, or 22 episodes.
Bryan Fuller, the author.
This dark genre gem, from the mind behind Hannibal, combined dark humor with sincere character development in a way that was too offbeat for ABC. Lee Pace gives a stellar performance as Ned, a baker with the uncanny ability to bring the dead back to life with his touch. In a show that was unlike anything else on television at the time or now, Ned works with characters played by Anna Friel, Kristin Chenoweth, and Chi McBride to solve murder mysteries. A true treasure
Duration: 63 episodes over 5 seasons
Produced by: Alan Ball
Alan Ball's HBO drama starring Peter Krause dealt with family and death in ways that had not been seen on television before. Certainly, network television has a long history of family dramas, but none had the adult flavor of what was frequently one of the best shows on television at the time. Ball, et al. could not maintain its high standards throughout its entire run but managed to come in with a bang in what is widely considered to be the best series finale ever.
Six seasons and 86 episodes in total.
Chase, David, the Creator
David Chase's Emmy-winning masterpiece is widely considered the best television program of all time. Who knew that when Tony Soprano went to see his therapist about his panic attacks, it would become such a cultural phenomenon? The Sopranos's first season is the pinnacle of television. Just watch it and see if you can resist watching the whole thing. Perhaps twice
Five years and sixty episodes.
Produced by: David Simon
David Simon's five-season look at urban life was the most ambitious series ever attempted on television. Starting with what seems like a straightforward but astute examination of police and criminals and expanding to include dock workers, teachers, journalists, and politicians over the course of the series' run, Simon examines every facet of urban life using Baltimore as a case study. There's a good reason why some people call this the greatest show ever.
Ten years and 236 episodes long.
David Crane & Marta Kauffman, Creators
The exclusive streaming rights to one of the biggest comedies of all time helped put HBO Max on the map. A prior Netflix hit, this show is ideal for binge watching. It's easy to fall asleep to the reassuring rhythms of Ross and Rachel and Chandler and Joey and Monica and Phoebe and Phoebe's friendship. While the humor has clearly aged, the incredible chemistry between the actors still shines through.
From 2021 onwards
Total Episodes: 18 over 2 Seasons
Authors: Paul W. Fletcher and Lucia Aniello Statsky, Jennifer Downs
This HBO Max series follows an aging comedienne (played by Emmy winner Jean Smart) as she teams up with a younger writer (the underrated Hannah Einbinder) in an effort to resurrect her career. She gives a career-defining performance as the show's protagonist, Smart, capturing the complex mix of ego and insecurity that comes with aging in Hollywood and making it seem natural.
Total Episodes: 65 Over 7 Seasons
Armando Iannucci, the creator
The role of Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, will require its own chapter in the annals of television comedy. It's easy to complain about "Emmy overkill" when an actor or actress wins multiple awards for the same role, but JLD deserves each and every one of his or her statuettes. Her comedic timing is impeccable, and she's backed up by one of the best ensemble casts in recent TV history.
A total of 283 episodes over 10 seasons.
Pendleton Ward, the creator
There's a lot of great animated content on HBO Max, but this Pendelton Ware fantasy series stands out for its originality and forward thinking. The show has been airing on Cartoon Network for the better part of the 2010s, and it tells the story of a boy named Finn and his dog named Jake. This imaginative program never patronizes its young audience, instead drawing them in with sophisticated concepts and outlandish imagery.
Five years and one hundred episodes.
Authors: J. J Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and J. J. Abrams
Following Lost's unprecedented popularity, J J In this smart and creative FOX sci-fi show that never quite became a huge hit but developed a very loyal fan base, Abrams delivered his riff on The X-Files. Olivia Dunham, played by Anna Torv (The Last of Us) and an FBI agent, becomes involved with Walter, played by the spectacular John Noble, and his troubled son, Peter, played by Joshua Jackson. They're part of the FBI's Fringe Unit, where they deal with...oddities.
Period: 2019 onwards
Three seasons and 37 episodes in total.
Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, and Dean Lorey are the authors.
Too few people have been watching a truly great project with DC Comics roots while the DCEU has been imploding in box office misfires, set conflicts, and general misery. The legendary Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's animated series for adults embraces the character's dark humor while also probing deeper themes of trauma and gender roles. It manages to be entertaining and intellectually stimulating, two qualities not often found in contemporary comedic television.
Total Episodes: 10 (1 Season)
Patrick Somerville, the creator
During the height of a variant spike in the pandemic, HBO Max released their best original offering to date, an insightful look at the importance of maintaining optimism in the face of global destruction. This surprisingly rewarding examination of the power of connection and the need for expression, even after everything has fallen apart, stars Mackenzie Davis in a story that may seem too familiar or too current to some. In order to maintain our sanity, we must reassemble certain components.
Length: 41 episodes over 4 seasons
Author: Russell T. Davies Davies
When Russell T. During the majority of its run, Davies's spinoff from his Doctor Who reboot was the superior show. Torchwood, a series aimed at an older audience and starring John Barrowman in a performance that should have made him a huge star, was a complex and progressive show about a team of alien hunters who happened to be based in Cardiff.
Runtime: 9 episodes (1 season)
Damon Lindelof, the creator
This Damon Lindelof miniseries is more of a sequel than a faithful adaptation of the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and it's one of the best shows of 2019. Regina King is phenomenal as a Tulsa police officer who is forced to investigate the death of her superior and ultimately must face the very racist past of our country. This is as good as it gets in the television industry, both visually and thematically.
104 episodes over 12 seasons.
Anthony Bourdain is the author.
This show was more than just another travelogue; it was a compassionate exploration of the world as seen through the lens of food, with legendary chef Anthony Bourdain as its host. Even though Bourdain was taken from us too soon, his legacy as one of humanity's most empathetic traveling correspondents can be perpetuated through the more than 100 episodes of this great show available on HBO Max.
Season 1 consists of 6 episodes.
Andrew Jarecki, the creator
This unforgettable offering from Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) is a forerunner to the current true-crime glut on streaming services and cable channels. In Fred Durst, Jarecki encountered a monster, and the two sat down to discuss his life outside of the bounds of the law and morality. Despite the hundreds of imitators, Jarecki's method of coaxing Durst to reveal his own monstrosity over the course of this 6-part series is still fascinating.
Top 30 Shows You Need to Watch on HBO Max
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