The 20 Best HBO Series of All Time, Ranked: Must Watch for Every Geek

HBO is home to television's most iconic shows. From The Wire to Veep, here's our breakdown of the network's best TV hits.

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HBO rarely disappoints when it comes to high-quality television. The network has consistently pumped out engaging TV series with some of the most honest storytelling and complex themes.

If you're new to HBO—or thinking about subscribing to HBO Max—you might be wondering which shows are worth watching. It's hard to narrow down HBO's long list of great original series, but we've tried to sort out and rank the best-of-the-best in our list below.

Here are the best HBO TV series to watch if you haven't already! We've picked from HBO's long and storied history, from long-running series to limited run miniseries.

20. Sex and the City (1998–2004)

Sex and the City is one of the most iconic shows to come out of the HBO network. It chronicles the friendships and love lives of four upscale women living in New York City during the 90s.

Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda left a lasting impact on American culture, from the way we order cocktails to the designer brands that we know and wear, and for that it deserves recognition as one of the most influential HBO shows ever made.

19. True Detective (2014–2019)

The anthology series True Detective most notably stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in its first season, who both play the season's primary detectives and deliver career-high performances in a story that'll be remembered for ages.

While all three seasons follow completely different storylines and characters, each self-contained mystery is as perplexing as the last. Truly one of the best modern crime dramas to be made.

18. Rome (2005–2007)

Before there was Game of Thrones, there was Rome. This short two-season series may not have had the expansive locales or fantasy elements that made Game of Thrones popular, but it had everything else—and arguably enabled Game of Thrones to succeed.

Based on historical Ancient Rome as it transitioned from Republic to Empire, Rome had a wide ensemble cast based on real-life figures who lived out actual stories from the annals of history.

17. The Night Of (2016)

The Night Of is an eight-episode miniseries starring Riz Ahmed (as a Middle Eastern college student in New York who's accused of murdering a woman) and John Turturro (as his lawyer).

There's a lot to unpack in this densely plotted story that touches on all sorts of themes ranging from prejudice to justice, the flaws in our police and court systems, and even the ambiguity of witness accounts.

If you're looking for a self-contained crime thriller that demands your attention to fully digest, The Night Of is one of the best.

16. Silicon Valley (2014–2019)

Everyone knows Silicon Valley as the technology capital of the United States, so it's only right that Mike Judge would create a show that satirizes the struggles of its geeky inhabitants.

Silicon Valley revolves around five quirky guys trying to push for the success of their music-matching app, Pied Piper. Over the seasons, we join them as they struggle against the difficulties of startup culture, venture capital funding, and interpersonal dynamics.

15. Eastbound & Down (2009–2013)

Danny McBride takes on the role of Kenny Powers, a washed-up major league baseball pitcher, who winds up as a middle school gym teacher.

Eastbound & Down is shockingly hilarious and cringeworthy at the same time, thanks to Powers' egotistic personality and outlandish behavior. This lesser-known show deserves not to be forgotten.

14. Six Feet Under (2001–2005)

Six Feet Under tells the story of a family-owned funeral home. When the father of the family unexpectedly passes away, all ownership of the funeral home is passed on to his two sons.

The show takes an in-your-face approach to death while still managing to inject humor into its dark topics. Few shows have ever tackled grief and death as well as Six Feet Under.

13. Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)

Boardwalk Empire depicts the Prohibition era that rocked the nation during the Roaring Twenties. Steve Buscemi stars as Nucky Thompson, the treasurer of Atlantic City, New Jersey.

His ties with mobsters, bootleggers, and other criminals in power make him the target of an investigation by the federal government.

12. Watchmen (2009)

Watchmen is a limited run HBO miniseries rooted in the comic books of the same name. Featuring an ensemble cast led by Regina King, Watchmen is technically a sequel that incorporates new characters and new storylines created from scratch.

Per usual for the franchise, Watchmen touches on hot topics. In this case, the plot revolves around a white supremacist group, their frictions with local police, and a murder mystery case.

11. Euphoria (2019–Present)

While Euphoria is technically billed as a teen drama, it dives deep into mature themes including drug abuse, sexuality, physical and psychological trauma, personal identity, and interpersonal relationships.

The sheer amount of sexual content has made it controversial, which some consider to be gratuitous. But if you can stomach that, Euphoria is a powerful show with nuanced characters that's unafraid to go where other shows are too shy to go.

10. Barry (2018–Present)

Barry places Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader in a darkly comedic role as Barry, the deadpan ex-Marine who makes a living as a hitman. But when Barry travels to Los Angeles to take out a target, he decides to stay put to take part in an acting class.

The show's constant twists and turns, compelling moral dilemmas, and dark humor keep you wanting more. And while it starts off as a comedy, Barry develops into so much more than that over its run.

9. Veep (2012–2019)

Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President of the United States, Veep is a hilarious, satirical representation of American politics.

After having to settle for the role of Vice President, Selina Meyer must deal with a tense relationship between her and the President, all while striving to further her own personal and political agendas.

The show's neverending wit shines a light on real politicians, making it refreshingly relevant.

8. Succession (2018–Present)

Succession is a satirical comedy-drama about the dysfunctional Roy family who owns a global entertainment conglomerate. More specifically, with the head's health in question, the rest of the family vie for control as to who will succeed the company.

Between the stellar writing, phenomenal acting, and excellent music, Succession makes a strong case for why it should be considered one of HBO's greatest shows ever made. The series is ongoing, so only time will tell if it can stick the landing and earn its legacy.

7. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000–Present)

Larry David is the creator, director, and star of the long-running HBO series, Curb Your Enthusiasm. This show follows a fictional version of Larry David, who goes about his daily life as a semi-retired TV producer living in Los Angeles.

With Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David goes back to his Seinfeld roots as he incorporates the same type of dry, sarcastic humor into yet another fantastic TV series about nothing.

6. The Leftovers (2014–2017)

The Leftovers imagines a world where 2% of the population has suddenly disappeared for an unknown reason. Based on the book by Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers does a fantastic job portraying the dreary, uncertain lives of those who remain on Earth.

Season one is a bit slow and depressing, but things really ramp up in the second and third seasons. On top of that, The Leftovers has one of the best TV series finales of all time.

5. Deadwood (2004–2006)

Deadwood isn't your typical Western show. It breathed life into a genre that was overrun by the same old cowboy drama.

The series takes place in 1876 at a South Dakota gold-mining camp that isn't yet required to follow the same laws as the rest of the United States at the time. This lawlessness leaves room for plenty of violence and chaos throughout the settlement.

4. Band of Brothers (2001)

Created and produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Band of Brothers presents a dramatized version of the real-life "Easy" Company's involvement throughout World War II. Interviews with the real Easy Company survivors are interspersed.

Band of Brothers is the type of miniseries that has garnered legions of fans who rewatch it every year without missing a beat. Every episode in this ten-part series is absolutely perfect.

3. Chernobyl (2019)

Chernobyl is a dramatized version of the real-life Chernobyl disaster (where a nuclear power plant meltdown rendered the environment uninhabitable) and the massive cleanup effort afterwards.

Across five incredibly gripping episodes, Chernobyl balances character drama with thrilling sequences, brought to life by world-class acting, cinematography, music, and direction. All that combined with its historical accuracy makes Chernobyl a must-watch for everyone.

2. The Sopranos (1999–2007)

Often considered to be one of the best shows in television history, The Sopranos tells the story of a modern mafia family living in New Jersey. The show addresses both the struggles of Tony Soprano's life as a gangster as well as his strained relationship with his family.

Not only does The Sopranos live on as a delicately crafted story about complex people and dynamics, but it was one of the first to really lean into the idea of an ensemble cast and long-form storytelling. Every serial drama series owes itself to The Sopranos.

1. The Wire (2002–2008)

The Wire is undoubtedly HBO's best work. Despite the fact that the show was released in 2002, it still remains as relevant today as it was back then (a sad indictment of the state of our country, for sure).

The show's unmatched complexity, realism, and unique storytelling format portray the ever-evolving relationships between diverse groups of people, primarily the drug gangs and the police of Baltimore.

Each season looks to focus on a different institution within the city of Baltimore—from the actual gangs to the docks where drugs come in, from the ill-equipped schools that fail children to the impotent political offices that can't do much. It all flows and connects together.

What Will HBO Do Next?

HBO's output is always highly anticipated and looked to as the pinnacle of quality television. It's one of the few networks you can count on to produce shows that leave a lasting impact on viewers.

With HBO Max, which is slated to be renamed as HBO+, HBO promises to continue elevating and expanding their selection. Don't know whether to subscribe? Here's everything you need to know about HBO Max!

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