As the streaming wars have intensified in recent years, HBO Max has stood out as a real contender to challenge the might of juggernaut Netflix. More so than any other streaming service currently out there, except maybe Disney+, HBO Max has a vast library of original content from its parent company Warner Bros, including the Harry Potter movies and all DC movies.
Along with these cinematic titans, HBO Max has also inherited all the top quality TV shows produced by HBO over the years. HBO was always known for producing the very best quality content, investing hundreds of millions of dollars into some of the best original TV shows of all-time. IMDb tracks which HBO Max shows have the highest ratings among their users.
10Rome (2005-2007) – 8.7
Consisting of two seasons, twenty-two episodes in total, Rome is a sprawling historical epic set against the background of Rome’s transition from a Republic to an Empire in the first century BC.
While the series was well-received by both critics and fans alike, it was canceled after season 2, primarily on account of its colossal budget, leading to many storylines being rushed in the second season, particularly the Egypt plot featuring Mark Antony and Cleopatra. While talk of a revival, or potential movie, have surfaced over the years, nothing ever came to fruition.
9Six Feet Under (2001-2005) – 8.7
Created by Alan Ball for HBO, Six Feet Under follows the lives of a highly dysfunctional family who run a funeral home in Los Angeles. The show ran for five seasons, a total of sixty-three episodes, between 2001 and 2005, and has gone on to become one of HBO’s highest-rated TV series.
Throughout its five-season run, the show was a huge critical and audience hit for the network, and won a number of major awards, including Emmys, Golden Globes, and a Peabody award. The show owed its success to both the quality of the writing and the acting, which gave the characters a huge amount of depth, and it’s quirky sense of humor.
8Oz (1997-2003) – 8.7
Oz was a pioneering drama for HBO in a number of ways, not least because it was the first hour-long drama the network produced, something that is synonymous with the network today. Taking its name, ironically, from the classic story The Wizard of Oz, Oz is set in an unusual prison facility and follows the daily lives of its criminal inhabitants, particularly as their various groups feud with one another.
Great writing, graphic violence, and gratuitous sex made Oz a huge hit for HBO, and it continues to be one of their best TV shows to date.
7Succession (2018-Present) – 8.8
One of the more recent HBO dramas to grip audiences is the corporate black-comedy Succession. Created by Jesse Armstrong, Succession centers on the Roy family and the quest to wrestle control of the company amid the uncertainty of family patriarch Logan Roy’s health.
Succession has been a huge hit for HBO since its release in 2018. The show has three seasons available to watch on HBO Max, with a fourth currently in the works. With a strong cast at its core, sharp writing, and a passionate audience in waiting, Succession could become one of HBO’s best TV shows in the future.
6True Detective (2014-Present) – 8.9
When the first season of True Detective was released back in 2014, it was one of the most critically acclaimed TV shows of all-time, featuring eight standout episodes. Created by Nic Pizzolatto for HBO, season 1 stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two detectives on the hunt for a serial killer with links to the occult. Season 2 of the show was more critically divisive, with many criticizing its convoluted plot and storytelling, but praising its all-star cast. Season 3 was more of a return to form, with Mahershala Ali stepping into the starring role as a seasoned detective looking back over the grisly kidnapping of two children.
The ability of True Detective to reinvent itself with every season, much like American Horror Story, is one of the show’s strengths, but also its greatest weakness, as neither season two nor three has been able to recapture the magic of the show’s initial outing. According to Deadline, a fourth season, starring Jodie Foster, is in the works.
5The Sopranos (1999-2007) – 9.2
Easily one of the most iconic crime dramas of all time, featuring one of the best TV characters of all-time: Tony Soprano, The Sopranos is one of the greatest TV shows ever made.
In the early and mid-2000s, the series became the benchmark for what a top-quality character-driven TV show could be, setting the stage for shows that followed it, like Breaking Bad and House of Cards. Featuring amazing performances from a stellar cast, particularly the late great James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, The Sopranos is still one of the very best shows available to watch on HBO Max.
4Game Of Thrones (2011-2019) – 9.2
In many ways Game of Thrones fundamentally altered the landscape of TV in the early 2010s. Long before Netflix was spending hundreds of millions of dollars on shows like Stranger Things or Amazon Prime with Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, it was HBO that set the standard for epic fantasy filmmaking with eight ground-breaking seasons of Game of Thrones.
Set in the land of Westeros, primarily, Game of Thrones features a number of noble families vying for the right to sit on the iron throne. While the final two seasons of the show left a sour taste in many viewers’ mouths, the first couple of seasons are a masterclass in dramatic storytelling and worldbuilding, with stunning set-pieces, twists, and sharp dialogue.
3The Wire (2002-2008) – 9.3
Often cited as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, The Wire is a crime drama that presents an unforgiving and brutal world of police corruption, systemic oppression, and appalling injustice in Baltimore.
Created by former police reporter David Simon, The Wire ran for five seasons between 2002 and 2008 but didn’t truly get the acclaim it deserved until after it finished. Today, twenty years after its initial debut, it’s widely regarded as one of the seminal works of dramatic TV.
2Chernobyl (2019) – 9.4
Chernobyl is a miniseries that dramatizes the events following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 in the former Soviet Union, and the cleanup efforts that followed. The series was created and written by Craig Mazin, with each of the show’s five episodes directed by Johan Renck. The show features an ensemble cast led by Jared Harris as Soviet scientist Valery Legasov.
The series is shocking in its accurate depiction of the events of the Chernobyl disaster, particularly the extraordinary heroism undertaken to contain the disaster, but also in the horrific events radiation poisoning had on the people exposed to it. The miniseries was a surprise hit for HBO, scoring extremely well with both audiences and critics, and winning a number of Emmys in the process.
1Band Of Brothers (2001) – 9.4
Created for television by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, reuniting on another WWII project after Saving Private Ryan in 1998, Band of Brothers dramatizes the events of US soldiers during the Second World War on the Western Front in Europe following US intervention in the war post-Pearl Harbor.
The show features a blend of contemporary interviews with real-life WWII survivors paired alongside grueling depictions of the horror of the conflict. Band of Brothers was one of the very first TV shows that truly feels cinematic in nature. While that may be common today with shows like Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, in the early 2000s, it was a complete anomaly.