Top 20 Best and Highest Rated Shows on HBO Max of All Time

By Miguel Fernández
Published: January 30, 2023 (Last updated: 2 weeks ago)
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Keep this page handy as we celebrate and list what is deemed to be the Top 20 Best and Highest Rated Shows on HBO Max of All Time.

When it comes to quality over quantity television, HBO is the king of the hill. The network has been airing critically acclaimed programming for several decades and with the arrival of HBO Max in 2020, all of it lives in one place now. If you are a subscriber to the platform and are looking for your next obsession, we have put together here a list of the 20 best shows available on the platform. Keep in mind that not all of them are HBO originals, so their distribution platform may vary depending on the country. 

The ranking is based on the user rating on IMDb. It may not be the most accurate or reliable metric system ever, given that it’s a website where anyone can log in their opinion without having necessarily watched the show, which at times devalues the final number.

To try to minimize that effect, we have excluded series with less than 100,000 user ratings. When two or more series averaged the same rating, we prioritized shows with a higher number of votes. Without further ado, here is the list:

Last Update: May 8, 2023.

Top 20 Best and Highest Rated Shows on HBO Max of All Time

20. Deadwood (2004)

Set in South Dakota, in 1889, this David Milch creation stars Timothy Olyphant as Sheriff Seth Bullock and Ian McShane as saloon owner Al Swearengen in the city of Deadwood, two people with different points of view that will be constantly clashing throughout the series. It spans over three, 12-episode seasons, and even inspired a sequel movie in 2019.

IMDb rating: 8.6

19. The Newsroom (2012)

Aaron Sorkin returned to television after creating and writing the first four seasons of The West Wing, to tell a story about current-day politics (back in the early 2010s) from the other side of the spectrum, the press. Jeff Daniels stars as Will McAvoy, a news anchor who has lost the appetite for good reporting and started chasing stories that are not particularly challenging to viewers. 

With the arrival of his ex-girlfriend as the new executive producer of the show, MacKenzie McHale, played by Emily Mortimer, the two start to turn the ship around and put together a show that will actually be informant to voters looking to cast a ballot. Its impressive cast also includes Dev Patel, Sam Waterston, Olivia Munn, and Alison Pill, among others.

IMDb rating: 8.6

18. Boardwalk Empire (2010)

Boardwalk Empire was created by Terence Winter and is set in Atlantic City during the 1920s, the Prohibition era. It follows the rise to political power of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi) in Atlantic City at the time. The rest of the cast includes Michael Shannon, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Shea Whigham, and Michael K. Williams, among many others. It ran for five seasons and a total of 53 episodes.

IMDb rating: 8.6

17. Doctor Who (2005)

The revival of the iconic British series from 1963 has been going on for 13 seasons, with a 14th coming out later this year, and they are all available to stream on HBO Max. It depicts the adventures of an extraterrestrial Time Lord known as the Doctor, who only appears to be human, and who travels through the universe using a time-traveling spaceship that takes the shape of a police box. Every few years, the role is recast, with the in-universe explanation being that the character regenerates into a new incarnation of the same being when the wounds it suffers from are too heavy.

IMDb rating: 8.6

16. Oz (1997)

Created by Tom Fontana, this 1997 six-season series is set inside the fictional prison Oswald State Correctional Facility, referred to as “Oz”, also a reference to the classic film The Wizard of Oz, and in particular, to its iconic phrase “There’s no place like home”. The cast includes Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Harold Perrineau, Eamonn Walker, and J.K. Simmons. As a fun fact, it was the first, hour-long dramatic TV series created for HBO.

IMDb rating: 8.7

15. Rome (2005)

Rome is an iconic series from 2005, tragically cut short at two seasons, that depicted the time period of the violent transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. It is led by two soldiers, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), but the cast also includes Ciarán Hinds, Polly Walker, Tobias Menzies, Indira Varma, and Kerry Condon, among others. It was originally planned for five seasons, but, despite being highly successful for the network, the high production costs forced them to end it at two. Plot points from seasons 3 and 4 were thrown into the mix of season 2.

IMDb rating: 8.7

14. Six Feet Under (2001)

The iconic series from creator Alan Ball started airing in 2001 and follows a dysfunctional family that runs an independent funeral home in Los Angeles. Each episode kicks off with a death, and throughout its five seasons, it mixes family drama with an exploration of the concept of death from multiple points of view, including religion, philosophy, and culture. The cast includes Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Matthew St. Patrick, and more.

IMDb rating: 8.7

13. South Park (1998)

The iconic adult animated series from Comedy Central is available to stream in full on HBO Max in the US. It is centered around four boys who live in the fictional town of South Park and uses shock humor driven by extreme profanity, absurdism, violence, and sexual content. Overall, it’s a highly praised satirical comedy that tries to hold a mirror in front of its audience and ask questions about the way we live our lives and what we’re doing to make the world a better place.

IMDb rating: 8.7

12. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000)

Curb Your Enthusiasm follows Larry David (Seinfeld) as a sort-of-fictionalized version of himself. The plot finds him as a semi-retired TV writer and producer in L.A. Each of its eleven seasons is comprised of ten episodes, with the addition of a TV special that aired before the first season, in 1999. It is essentially a spiritual sequel to Seinfeld, that also features a lot of celebrity guests and uses dark and cringe humor to criticize himself, and the rest of the world. The cast also includes Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, and J.B. Smoove.

IMDb rating: 8.8

11. Succession (2018)

One of the most awarded television series in recent years, Succession follows the story of the Roy family, led by patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox), who created from scratch a conservative media empire that will one day be transferred over one of his four problematic children. They are Kendall (Jeremy Strong), the likely heir who has to deal with plenty of inner demons caused by drug addiction and a series of questionable decisions, Shiv (Sarah Snook), the most intelligent and savvy of the four siblings, who has against her the fact that she’s never worked for the company, Roman (Kieran Culkin), who is a highly unpredictable and extremely unreliable person who wants his father’s approval as much as he wants to see the world burn, and Connor (Alan Ruck), who never wanted anything to do with the family business. 

Succession is essentially a modern-day Game of Thrones, featuring constant betrayals, stabbings in the back (though not literally), and a lot of character-driven twists.

IMDb rating: 8.8

10. The Last of Us (2023)

Also known as HBO’s next big hit, The Last of Us is airing at the time of this list’s publication, but its reception by audiences and critics alike is undeniably excellent. It’s obviously expected to fall down as more people tune in and rate it, but it is a force to be reckoned with at the moment. Pedro Pascal stars as Joel, a survivor of a sort-of-zombie apocalypse, who 20 years after the outbreak, is hired to smuggle Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of a quarantine zone established by the military, trying to keep the survivors safe.

The Last of Us is an adaptation of the beloved 2013 video game by Naughty Dog. Part II of the video game, released in 2020, will be adapted into an already-announced second season. Neil Druckmann, creator, co-writer, and executive producer on the original video game, is also co-creator, writer, director, and executive producer of the series. His partner in crime is Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin.

IMDb rating: 8.8

9. True Detective (2014)

True Detective is an anthology series that had an extremely successful season 1, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and was directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga; the story followed two detectives from the Louisiana State Police investigating the murder of prostitute Dora Lange in 1995. The case comes back to them 17 years later, forcing them to revisit what they did and what their world looked like back then. 

Season 2 followed it up with a new set of characters and a new mystery to solve. It starred Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams, but didn’t reach the same heights as season one, nor did it have the same critical reception. A third season with Mahershala Ali was released in 2019, and a fourth one, subtitled True Detective: Night Country, is coming out in 2023 starring Jodie Foster. 

IMDb rating: 8.9

8. Friends (1994)

Arguably the most iconic sitcom of all time, Friends ran for ten seasons from 1994 to 2004. It followed a group of six people in their late 20s, featuring their stories of love and friendship as they learn that there is more to life than work. The show takes a comedic approach to practically every aspect of its characters’ lives, from the joy of new relationships and raising children to the tragedy of divorce or getting fired from your job. The iconic ensemble includes Jennifer Anniston, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, and Matt LeBlanc.

IMDb rating: 8.9

7. Batman: The Animated Series (1992)

Batman: The Animated Series is one of the most beloved DC television series ever. It follows Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) trying to save Gotham City from its descent into chaos, as more criminals and antagonists cause mayhem in each episode, putting our main character in danger and testing his abilities to strenuous limits. It also features the iconic voice of Mark Hamill as the Joker.

IMDb rating: 9.0

6. Rick and Morty (2015)

Arguably one of the most beloved animated shows in recent years, Rick and Morty has now been shaded by domestic abuse charges against his co-creator Justin Roiland. Nevertheless, the Dan Harmon co-created series is a smart and witty take on multiversal travels that follows the cynical, mad scientist Rick and his naïve grandson embarking on a plethora of adventures throughout infinite parallel realities. The first five out of six seasons are currently available on HBO Max.

IMDb rating: 9.1

5. The Sopranos (1999)

The Sopranos is one of the most beloved television series of all time. Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is an Italian-American mobster based in New Jersey who tries to deal with his family life at home while acting as head of a criminal organization. Think of The Godfather as serialized television. It started airing in 1999, and all six seasons are available on HBO Max.

IMDb rating: 9.2

4. Game of Thrones (2011)

Definitely, the most talked-about series of the 2010s, Game of Thrones became a worldwide phenomenon and HBO’s flagship show, breaking many pop culture barriers and records HBO and television in general. It takes place in the fantasy country of Westeros, during a time in which the line of succession to the throne is in question. Several families ally to fight one another over who is the rightful heir, yet meanwhile, an even larger threat is emerging up North, something nobody is ready for. 

The large ensemble includes, among many others, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harrington, Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, and many, many others. Multiple spin-off projects are in different stages of development at HBO, with the first prequel series, House of the Dragon, being declared a smash hit after a highly successful first season. A second season is on the way.

IMDb rating: 9.2

3. The Wire (2005)

The Wire is widely considered the best television series of all time. It depicts the war on drugs in the city of Baltimore from all different points of view – the police, gang members, politicians, civilians, and more. It was created by David Simon. It is 60 episodes long in five seasons, and its large cast includes, among others, Wendell Pierce, Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Michael K. Williams, Idris Elba, Aidan Gillen, and more.

IMDb rating: 9.3

2. Band of Brothers (2001)

This 2001 miniseries, created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (who is also credited as a writer on the pilot), depicts the heroic missions that the so-called “Easy” Company went through in World War II, from its major involvement in the European campaign to the final days of the war in Japan. The cast includes Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donald Malarkey, Richard D. Winters, Lewis Nixon, Carwood Lipton, and Scott Grimes, among others.

IMDb rating: 9.4

1. Chernobyl (2019)

Chernobyl is a gripping, heartbreaking, and horrific five-episode miniseries that depicted the malfunction of the nuclear plant of the same name in 1986 in the Soviet Union. It is used as an example of the multiple levels of corruption and ineptitude that ran the East of Europe, but it’s also a human story about people sacrificing everything under the worst of circumstances. It was created by Craig Mazin, who wrote every episode. Johan Renck directed them; the cast includes Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Robert Emms, Paul Ritter, Emily Watson, and Jessie Buckley, in her first notable role. 

It depicted the horrors of a global pandemic before there was one, and explains perfectly why HBO decided to reward Mazin with The Last of Us a few months after Chernobyl premiered. The series was so good that it overtook the pop culture conversation right after the last season of Game of Thrones ended its run.

IMDb rating: 9.4

And that completes our Top 20 Best and Highest Rated Shows on HBO Max of All Time list. What’s your favorite series on HBO Max? Comment below.

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