Since 1972 HBO has been entertaining audiences with its content. No other channel or platform compares to the production values and talent associated with Home Box Office, as it has consistently churned out quality. What was previously locked to cable subscribers is now available to anyone with a Max subscription. With dozens of original shows, nearly all of quality (a notable exception is the mess that was The Idol) this is a difficult list to create, and I’m sure fans of the platform will have their own rankings.

10. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-2024)

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, HBO, Television, Comedy

Before writing and starring in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David was responsible for much of the material in the juggernaut series Seinfeld. It should be no surprise then that Curb follows a fictionalized version of David as he confronts the problems of everyday life. Like Seinfeld, it’s surprisingly uproariously funny. Often annoyed by the most miniscule things, David is able to blow it out of proportion and create an atmosphere of awkwardness few could hope to imitate. Curb just finished up its 12th and final season, but with 120 episodes, there’s plenty to binge with a healthy amount of rewatchability. 

9. Deadwood (2004-2006, 2019)

Deadwood, Western, Television, HBO

Possibly the most profanity-laced show put to the small-screen, Deadwood will fully satisfy Western fans. Brutal and also poignant, well-acted, and regularly surprising, the characters inhabiting Deadwood will consistently remind you why this was a bad time and place to live, and its basis on real-life people and events makes it all the more enjoyable. Though well-received critically, Deadwood was canceled after three seasons due to low viewership. Luckily, fans were able to use their voices to influence the network to greenlight a movie in 2019, which was also well-received. Deadwood ushered in a new era of Western shows, and none have been able to top it since.

8. Barry (2018-2023)

Barry, HBO, Comedy, Drama, Television, Bill Hader

I was a bit skeptical of Bill Hader’s dramatic acting chops (I wasn’t a huge fan of Skeleton Twins) but Barry showcases his range. At times a silly slapstick, and at others a heavy drama, you’ll find yourself rooting for the assassin-turned-actor regardless of his actions. The seamless blend of genres is satisfying, and the constant pressure on Barry to hide his true identity throughout the first couple seasons keeps suspense on the viewer. The dynamic between Barry and his acting coach Gene Cousineau (played by the fantastic Henry Winlker) is ever evolving throughout the series and will keep viewers guessing. Fans of the Coen Brothers will recognize their influence on the series, and actors, crew members, and film buffs will also enjoy the hefty amounts of satire placed upon both the stage and film industries. 

RELATED  Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi Predictions

7. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)

Boardwalk Empire, Crime, Drama, HBO, Television, Steve Buscemi

Possibly Steve Buscemi at his best, Boardwalk Empire benefits from great writing, historical accuracy, and a sprawling, yet subdued, world. Buscemi is rarely placed in the lead role, and he has plenty to chew on here. Following Atlantic City treasurer Nucky Thompson (Buscemi), who splits his work time with being a gangster, the show tracks Nucky as he begins illegally distributing alcohol to all the big-name gangsters during the Prohibition. The pilot, directed by the great Martin Scorsese, sets the tone for a fantastic gangster epic spanning nearly a decade. The five seasons will fly by before you know it, and you’ll be left craving more. 

6. True Detective (2014- Present)

True Detective, Crime, HBO, Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey

The dip in quality after the first season of anthology series True Detective stops it from being higher on this list. Had it maintained the juice of that great first season, it might even be number one. But it’s an incredible season of television, carried by phenomenal acting of co-stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the writing of Nico Pizzolato and the directing of Cary Joji Fukunaga (Fukunaga directed every episode, which is extremely rare in television). Following detectives Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson) as they track down a disturbing killer in Louisiana over the course of 17 years is a unique premise, as is simply listening to them argue over conflicting philosophies they have on life. And that’s not to say the other seasons are bad, it’s just tough to follow such a perfect debut. Night Country (the show’s latest season) is the closest it’s gotten since. 

5. Succession (2018-2023)

Succession, HBO, Television

Many people would assume that a drama about an elite family running their mega corporation might veer into boring television. That’s not the case with Succession. A healthy dose of comedy, fantastic writing, and compelling characters satisfies, as does seeing what people with absolutely ridiculous amounts of cash are able to do with it. It also veers into disturbing territory at times when we see the elite exercise their authority over the classes below them (Boar on the Floor comes to mind). Some series don’t know when to end naturally, but I’d say that the finale of Succession is one of the most well done in television, with its fourth and final season winning an inordinate amount of Emmy’s and Golden Globes. You’ll feel wholly satisfied with the way it wraps up. 

RELATED  What are PlayStation's latest TV Series?

4. Band of Brothers (2001)

Band of Brothers, War, WWII, Television, Dramas

No other show has portrayed the horror of war as well as Band of Brothers. Following Easy Company in the final years of WWII the series accurately showcases the true extent of the conflict, the discovery of the extermination concentration camp is probably one of the most shocking moments in television and is very difficult to watch  (American troops had no knowledge of the scale of the genocide in Europe). The cast of the series is absolutely insane, the amount of now big-name actors that included is impressive with Tom Hardy, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Andrew Scott being just a few faces you’ll recognize in smaller parts. Comparable shows are difficult to find, but spiritual successor The Pacific is also worth checking out. 

3. The Wire (2002-2008)

The Wire, Crime, Television, HBO

The Wire is able to do what few shows can: it’s entertaining but also informative of American institutions without becoming pretentious. Compelling characters (a lot of them) are expertly interwoven with each other and developed while at the same time never blocking the spotlight from another. The seasons also build upon each other, with each absorbing the events of the previous without missing a beat. The city of Baltimore itself feels like a character, and even as a viewer you’ll begin to grow an attachment to the setting. While not celebrated as much as it deserved during its run, The Wire is now often cited as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and you won’t regret letting yourself get lost in it. 

2. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

Game of Thrones, Fantasy, HBO, Television

From an ill-fated pilot that was heavily reworked to one of the most talked-about shows of all time, Game of Thrones dominated pop-culture for nearly a decade. Even if you haven’t watched it, you’ve probably heard the phrase “Winter is coming.” The masterful juggling of over a dozen characters impresses, as does the scale and depth of the world. Intriguing political storylines interwoven with fantasy-elements and large-scale battles keep the story moving at a steady pace, and the refusal to keep every main character alive sets it apart from most shows. Yes, the last season or two left something to be desired, but you can’t deny the dominant hold it had on the entertainment world. Many felt the series ended too quickly but luckily for fans season two of prequel series House of the Dragon is set to premiere June 16, with plans for another spinoff, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, in development.

RELATED  How The Matrix Was Revolutionary When It Released

1. The Sopranos (1999-2007)

The Sopranos, Television,  HBO, Crime

The best show on Max is undoubtedly The Sopranos. Mixing in both quaint, slice of life moments with Tony Soprano and his family, as well as the horrific acts committed by both him and his mobster associates, you’ll find yourself struggling with your own morals as you can’t help but root for him. Tony is somewhat relatable, aside from being a mobster he also suffers from very humanizing issues. He attends therapy and often finds counsel through this, and while the reasons for his sessions may differ from our own, it’s refreshing to see such a “macho” guy be brought down to earth. The criminal organization that he runs is more of a small fish in a big sea, so the stakes are often very personal, with every loss feeling like it comes with a heavy price. The writing, directing, and acting (particularly that of the late James Gandolfini) are superb, and the result is one of the greatest shows of all time, if not the best. 

More Great Shows

HBO, Max, HBO Max, Television, Logo

Hopefully this nice mix of shows includes something you’re interested in. From fantasy to comedy to ultra-realistic crime shows, Max has a little bit of everything for everyone. Max is full of high quality, cinematic shows and there are many greats that didn’t make this list like The Last of Us, Chernobyl, Westworld, True Blood, Sex and the City, Oz, Veep, and Six Feet Under just to name a few. For more HBO content, check out our article “How House of the Dragon Improves on the Source Material.”

Leave a comment