The 8 Best HBO Shows of All Time, Ranked

With the advent of Netflix and movie streaming, there are thousands of TV series out there that you can choose to watch in just one click.

But searching through the library of promising shows to get to the good ones is a challenge.

But through the years HBO has proven itself to be one of the best in streaming any movie genre. With multiple awards and spending unfathomable cash on attracting and providing quality shows.

From dragon-riding saviors to mafia antiheroes, here are the 8 best HBO shows of all time.

8.) Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

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When HBO debuted this series, based on Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice,” its unflinching narratives shocked anyone expecting to see the good guys win.

And while the story itself had some big ups and downs over the subsequent seasons, there’s no denying “GOT” was a smash series with big ratings that created stars out of its actors and a fat bottom line.

No matter how viewers feel about the ending, there’s also no denying HBO is eager to once again capture what many execs describe as lightning in a bottle, with all of the spinoffs and prequels in development.

7.) Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present)

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Larry David’s wry humor is on full display in this heightened take on his life. Some consider the observational series an extension of “Seinfeld,” but more than that it’s a playground where David’s celebrity friends can come and play. The loose dialogue and storylines are bolstered with raw improv and relatable reactions, so even if you’re not a fan of the guy at the center of it all, viewers can find humor in the way others perceive him.

Anchoring the action is a strong supporting cast of fictional characters played by regulars including Jeff Garlin, J.B. Smoove, Susie Essman, and Cheryl Hines, plus an array of guest stars each season — some new, some recurring. More than a decade of seasons in and the show remains a solid player for the cabler, making it one of the best of the bunch.

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David Simon’s unique, journalistic take on the Baltimore drug scene was considered essential viewing back when it debuted, with each season tackling a different facet of life in the area: law enforcement, schools, media, government, and the seaport system. Through it all the same steady cast of regulars remained, giving viewers the likes of Omar Little (Michael K. Williams), Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), and Bunk Moreland (Wendell Pierce), among others.

The project was as much a social commentary as it was a compelling drama based on real life (Simon did work the
“Baltimore Sun” city news desk for several years, after all), but it seems like only later, in the era of binge-watching, that viewers have really latched onto the series and the game-changing structure and characters that it offered.

5.) Insecure (2016-2021)

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Now credited as the series that launched Issa Rae’s career, “Insecure” was the next step for the creative and her fans following Rae’s web series and her subsequent novel, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” The series followed Rae’s character, Issa, her friend Molly (Yvonne Orji), and an array of other characters as they navigated life, love, and careers. The show is all about finding comedy in everyday, awkward situations, while also examining modern-day life in Los Angeles.

While the series highlights the importance of bringing diverse voices to television, it’s also an authentic and therefore often relatable portrayal of issues facing real women today, heightened with experimental and memorable scenes. And yes, that includes Rae’s now-famous Mirror Moments.

4.) Deadwood (2004-2006)

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The early cancelation of this period drama was tragic for the viewers and critics that expounded its praises, but the fact that players behind the scenes couldn’t agree on terms for a fourth season also solidified “Deadwood’s” place as a near-perfect series among the same crowd. (Even after the subsequent movie more than a decade later.)

Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, and Molly Parker were just some of the notable actors that brought the outlaw settlement at the center of the series to life, presenting misfit (and often larger-than-life) characters that existed in the era of the richest gold strike in American history. During its short run the series brought home many Creative Arts Emmys and was lauded for its ability to make viewers care about even the most reprehensible of characters.

3.) Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

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Creator Alan Ball tackled mortality, death, and the ways Americans deal with such topics head-on in this dysfunctional family drama. The show was set against the backdrop of a family-owned funeral home, but it really honed in on the Fisher family and their existential and emotional struggles. Those were brought to life by a top-notch cast including (but not limited to) Michael C. Hall, Peter Krause, Frances Conroy, and Lauren Ambrose.

The show easily caught on with audiences and is still lauded for its ground-breaking depiction of gay characters. It was nominated for dozens of Emmys, ultimately taking home nine. To this day a series highlight is that incredible, seven-minute series finale montage, in which the leads appropriately and finally came to terms with their own mortality.

2.) Veep (2012-2019)

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When Julia Louis-Dreyfus and show creator Armando Iannucci introduced viewers to Selina Meyer, America’s first female Vice President, they set out to make a political comedy with heightened reality and larger-than-life characters — complete with their expletives and backdoor fuckery. The fresh take, coupled with Louis-Dreyfus’ sheer commitment to the character, easily won over viewers, critics, and Emmy voters.

By the time the series wrapped the show had pushed its boundaries as far as it could, and with the real political landscape becoming more cartoonish than the show itself, the crew ended things on their own terms. In the end, “Veep” walked away with 17 Emmys (Dreyfus won the lead comedy actress statue every year but one that the show was on), proving that even female characters don’t always need to be likable to be 100% watchable.

1.) The Sopranos (1999-2007)

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It’s impossible not to name the New Jersey mob series at the top of this list given how widely it’s credited with putting HBO on the map. Creator David Chase turned mob tropes on their head with this inside-baseball take, in which Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini, in what is considered his greatest role) deals with professional and personal stresses that begin to affect his mental health.

During its run, the series gave viewers some of the most memorable counseling sessions around, but it also paved the way for several of television’s greatest anti-heroes (Walter White, Don Draper) to come. It’s also impossible not to discuss the series without mentioning the memorable and controversial ending, which, to this day, remains hotly debated.

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