HBO has earned a reputation for cranking out must-watch prestige television. In the 1980s, during the rapid expansion of cable and satellite television, HBO was one of the new services’ biggest selling points. It’s impressive lineup featuring uncut recent theatrical movies, concerts, stand-up-comedy specials, and even the occasional Broadway show kept its viewers engaged.
To this day, HBO is still one of pay TV’s top draws and its biggest attractions are its original series. Series like Game of Thrones became the biggest TV show of its era. Even though the series had a disappointing ending, for about eight years, all everyone talked about was Game of Thrones. But HBO has been doing it for decades longer than you think. Long before the streaming services have existed, starting in the late 1990s with series like The Sopranos, HBO created a path many upcoming hits were going to follow.
Now, HBO has formed a name as the place where you can find the kind of sophisticated original storytelling that broadcasters and basic-cable outlets wouldn’t usually touch. HBO has dropped several new-age dramas then there are the classics too. On our list of the 18 Highest Rated HBO Series, we’ve ranked the best and highest rated HBO series till now (following the ratings given by IMDb). You can find these series on various streaming platforms and have a good binge-watch session.
Chernobyl is a mini-series by HBO and one of the things that came out in 2019. As the name suggests, the series is based on one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of mankind. The massive nuclear disaster that happened in April 1986 in the city of Chernobyl claimed many people’s lives. The series was a stalwart during awards season and was rated 9.4/10 by IMDb. The performances and its realistic portrayal are its biggest points.
2 Band of Brothers
Band of Brothers is another incredible miniseries based upon the experiences of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment aka Easy Company in World War II. The series won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for its brutal, realistic depiction of the battle in the European Theatre. It’s a collection of fifty portraits illustrated by archive footage and described an invoice with an ensemble cast lead by Damien Lewis and Ron Livingston. It focuses on a different character in each episode balancing a sense of individual heroism.
3 The Wire
Almost all the best HBO series list has either The Wire or The Sopranos at its top. But as our list is solely based on ratings, The Wire (9.3/10) sits in the third position. The show beautifully captures the gravity of the Baltimore narcotics scene in a way that is hard to describe. The Wire is not only one of the best shows by HBO but also one of the best series on television ever.
4 Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has become quite a phenomenon, even if you haven’t watched it, you’ve at least heard about it and you know what’s it about. GoT in many ways reinvented the genre of high-end television. Apart from Breaking Bad and a few others, GoT has one of the strongest following unlike anything in recent memory. Although the last season was quite terrible and left so many questions unanswered. The cinematography, the intense scenes, and the acting make Game of Thrones one of the best series ever produced by HBO.
5 The Sopranos
The Sopranos released in 1999 and since then it has built a path for many upcoming series to follow. The mob series with a shockingly ambivalent ending set the tone for modern, elevated television. It not only made a huge contribution to building HBO’s reputation but it’s also responsible for television as we know it.
6 True Detective
HBO’s crime anthology True Detective took viewers on an especially dark and twisted ride with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. Throughout the series writer, Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga tell a harrowing tale of murder, deception, and the polarity of religion and logic. The first season was definitely the best season but Mahershala Ali has managed to hold the series well.
7 Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Though not an art of fiction or docu-series like the other ones on this list, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs some of the most honest and hard-hitting journalism of any network television program. Each week, the comedian and former The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver tackles what happened the past seven days in news, politics and current events with his signature wit. Full of hilarious analogies, spot-on critique, and fluid writing, Oliver’s weekly program consistently feels fresh and amazingly informative.
Another incredible documentary TV series on HBO created and hosted by Shane Smith of Vice magazine, Vice is an example of documentary storytelling at its absolute finest. Vice consistently investigate political and cultural issues that are overlooked by most programs. The series follows journalists and reporters traveling across the globe to interview and document a wide range of provocative subjects. Including China’s one-child policy, child suicide bombers, political assassinations, and the culture of North Korea and more thought-provoking issues.
This science-fiction Western and dystopian television series was launched in 2016. The only problem with Westworld would be that sometimes the series tries too hard to be the smartest show on television. But whenever Westworld delivers a solid episode, it’s one of the best on television. Directed by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld’s biggest plus point would be its strong actors.
10 Six Feet Under
With a great premise and fantastic actors, Six Feet Under is one of the best Cult Series in the history of television. The darkly comedic looks at death through the guise of a funeral home. The series had a stacked cast including Peter Krause, Lauren Ambrose, Rachel Griffiths, and David Fisher.
11 Curb Your Enthusiasm
Larry David’s comedy series one of the most hilarious comedies on television. The former Seinfeld co-creator managed to create this hilarious show by simply basing the comedy on himself.
12 The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
The Jinx is one of the best mini docu-series produced by HBO. Real estate icon Robert Durst orderly dodged a series of murder accusations and pointed fingers for the disappearances of his wife, his best friend, and one of his neighbors for more than 30 years. Durst decided to reach out to director Andrew Jarecki after watching his movie All Good Things. The six-episode miniseries tells Durst’s side of the story. If you are a fan of podcast Serial and murder mysteries in general, you will love this series.
Created by Tom Fontana, Oz was the first original drama created by HBO. And till date, Oz proudly stands as one of the most honest and brutal prison drama’s. The series is set in Emerald City, inside the Oswald State Correctional Facility where is an experimental unit with a carefully managed population designed to encourage rehabilitation and conflict resolution. The inmates continue to struggle to survive while battling for power. Oz is brutal, grim, and often unpleasant to watch. Sometimes, it might feel overcooked and stereotypical, Oz is remarkable for pushing the boundaries of premium cable at the time.
The only bad thing about the series Rome is its premature ending. This sprawling historical drama had pretty much everything right and won its fair share of awards. The series took on some of history’s most notable characters such as Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Brutus, while also managing to craft a narrative around the struggles of two low-level Roman soldiers. It had a large and talented cast, an intriguing narrative, and battle scenes that will simply blow your mind.
David Milch’s period drama, Deadwood is set in a lawless mining town in post-Civil War America. People came into this town with the dream of getting rich but as the chaos starts not everyone survives. It is one of HBO’s most recognizable exports and with the set and the drama, this series belongs to HBO.
16 The Newsroom
After The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin returned with The Newsroom, a fictional cable news network exposed to all his worst instincts. With irritating walk-and-talk banter, thinly realized female characters, and a weakness for liberal speechifying, the Atlantis Cable News Channel was trying to produce quality content while struggling miserably with new workers.
17 The Corner
This six-part drama series based on the book “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood” by David Simon and Ed Burns follows the life of a family living in poverty in West Baltimore amid the open-air drug markets. The Corner won Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, as well as for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie.
18 The Defiant Ones
The Defiant Ones is another docu-series that focuses on the careers and partnership and friendship of the music legends Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. The co-founders of Beats Electronics were two street-smart men from different worlds who together defied traditional wisdom and transformed contemporary culture in the process. Directed by Allen Hughes, this four-part documentary was shot over a three-year period.