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10 best HBO shows ever, ranked

From Tony Soprano to Kendall Roy, HBO is home to a lot of legends

Tony Soprano and his fellow mobsters were iconic anti-heroes
Wallpaper Cave

TV has often been viewed as an inferior form of entertainment compared to film, but one network has dramatically helped alter this narrative more than any other in the past 25 years. HBO has always been willing to take risks, employ star actors, and provide a budget for showrunners that’s unrivaled in television. And while HBO gets the reputation for swaying toward more adult content, it has plenty of diversity in genres and content.

Comedy, drama, high fantasy, the zombie apocalypse, and the White House are all occupants of the network’s prestigious stories and characters. We’re here to celebrate all of the greatness that has taken place on the airwaves of HBO by ranking the top 10 HBO shows ever. Did your favorite HBO series make the list?

10. Sex and the City (1998)

10. Sex and the City
tv-ma 6 Seasons
Genre Comedy
Cast Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon
Created by Darren Star
Some series are so groundbreaking that they’re able to endure for decades after their original release. Sex and the City is definitely one of those types of shows. Sarah Jessica Parker leads an ensemble of hilarious ladies who traverse the myriad of issues that face 21st-century women in America. From sexual desires to friendship struggles, this revolutionary comedy was HBO’s way of saying that it was here to stay.

9. Six Feet Under (2001)

9. Six Feet Under
tv-ma 5 Seasons
Genre Drama
Cast Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy
Created by Alan Ball
Death is one of those inevitabilities in life that scares the crap out of people, and that’s putting it kindly. None of us know exactly what’s on the other side of the curtain, and Alan Ball’s underrated black comedy does a fantastic job of operating within this presumed framework. The Fisher family runs a funeral home, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfectly in touch with their own mortalities. Michael C. Hall is one of the headliners in the acting department.

8. The Leftovers (2014)

8. The Leftovers
tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Drama
Cast Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston
Created by Tom Perrotta, Damon Lindelof
While it only ran for three seasons, The Leftovers created a lasting impression on all of the fans who were willing to give such an offbeat concept a chance. Giving a peak into the lives of those who remain on earth after a sudden and inexplicable rapture, the series grapples with concepts such as magical realism and human purpose. Liv Tyler and Justin Theroux are standout performers.

7. Game of Thrones (2011)

7. Game of Thrones
tv-ma 8 Seasons
Genre Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Drama, Action & Adventure
Cast Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Created by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss
What started as a modest adaptation of G.R.R. Martin’s fantasy novels turned into the biggest TV series of all time. When Game of Thrones really started rolling, the story spread by word of mouth, unlike any other HBO series. Sex, violence, and dragons was a triple threat that attracted every demographic. The last season of the show saw fans incredibly disappointed by the outcome, but you have to smile about the greatness that came before it.

6. Deadwood (2004)

6. Deadwood
tv-ma 3 Seasons
Genre Western, Crime, Drama
Cast Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker
Created by David Milch

Deadwood isn’t for everyone. The dialogue is dense and filled with expletives (genital referring in particular.) The setting is as Western as it gets, and the story is based on a historical site that is little known outside of history books. Still, this series knows exactly what it’s trying to accomplish, and it does so with aplomb. Ian McShane gives a legendary performance as Al Swearengen, the pimp who runs the settlement of Deadwood by default. He also sports one of the best beards in TV history!

5. Succession (2018)

5. Succession
tv-ma 4 Seasons
Genre Drama
Cast Nicholas Braun, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin
Created by Jesse Armstrong
HBO’s current crown jewel is absolute satirical perfection, bristling with sharp retorts and contemporary commentary. Succession obliterates the rich, the nepotists, the conservatives, and everyone and everything in between. Logan Roy stands out as a top TV villain as he lords over both his children and the gremlins of his company, Waystar Royco. Jeremy Strong’s Kendall Roy is perhaps the best character in a show filled with fascinating and tragic people. If you’re looking for something without HBO’s usual violence and nudity, Succession should be number one on your list.

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000)

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm
tv-ma 11 Seasons
Genre Comedy
Cast Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman
Created by Larry David

Comedian Larry David is an all-time performer due to the fact that he was able to find an almost equally successful follow-up to Seinfeld: Curb Your Enthusiasm. The show that premiered in 2000 is still going strong almost 25 years later with the same massive dose of self-referential humor and tremendous guest star acting. The series seems to always know exactly what jokes it’s trying to make, with writing that has gone unfortunately mostly unrecognized by the awards bodies.

3. Veep (2012)

3. Veep
tv-ma 7 Seasons
Genre Comedy
Cast Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale
Created by Armando Iannucci

Political satire is a subject that is easy to attempt, but nearly impossible to master. With Veep, HBO found a way to completely redefine what it means to be successful in the world of political humor. Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Selina Meyer, the fictional Vice President and President of the United States. The show has a deep understanding of what makes the government a frequent laughingstock of the American people, and they aren’t afraid to poke holes into the powerful and the mighty.

2. The Wire (2002)

2. The Wire
tv-ma 5 Seasons
Genre Crime, Drama
Cast Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn
Created by David Simon
You’ve probably had so many people tell you that creator David Simon’s police procedural is the best show of its era that it can’t possibly live up to the hype. The Wire not only deserves its golden reputation, but it should be requisite viewing for every person who considers themselves a TV fan. Following cops, criminals, politicians, and journalists in the complex social body that is Baltimore, Maryland, the show pulls no punches in its depiction of problems that lie about in the area both in fiction and in real life. The people are the heart of the show, though, with breakout performances from Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, and several others.

1. The Sopranos (1999)

1. The Sopranos
tv-ma 6 Seasons
Genre Drama
Cast James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Created by David Chase
All these years later, nothing has topped The Sopranos as the best HBO series. This is a show that somehow makes you feel cozy and nauseous at the same time, as creator David Chase has the audience in the palm of his hand by showing America at its absolute best and worst. The Soprano family conjures up images of our own upbringings, that is until patriarch Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) decides he needs to leave lunch early to pull off a mob hit. The Sopranos is a black comedy, a therapy drama, a marital satire, and everything in between. There is no subject left unscathed after six seasons of greatness, except the fate of the main character (although astute viewers definitely know what happened to Tony Soprano).

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek,, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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