Almost 45 years ago, a premium cable network changed the way we watched #TV forever. Home Box Office, better known as #HBO, is the oldest pay-for-service network and now reigns as king of original programming. The lack of censorship gave writers and producers the freedom to explore content that was never shown on TV before.
Below are the top 40 shows that HBO has aired to date. HBO has made very few bad original series — even some of its least popular ones would be the crown jewel of other networks — so don't consider this a list of "worst to best," but rather of "good to great...to really great."
40. True Detective (Season 2)
- Series Run: 8 Episodes (2015)
- Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, Kelly Reilly, Vince Vaughn
The second season of the crime anthology focuses on three officers from different police departments in California. After the body of a corrupt city official is found, the officers get involved in what becomes a bigger investigation. Although watchable and featuring a star-studded cast, it never hit the same success of True Detective Season 1.
- Series Run: 3 Seasons; 30 Episodes (2009-2011)
- Starring: Thomas Jane, Jane Adams, Anne Heche, Eddie Jemison, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Charlie Saxton, Rebecca Creskoff, Gregg Henry, Lennie James, Stephen Amell
A high school coach in suburban Detroit turns to male prostitution after suffering from money troubles after a fire damages his home. His kids move in with their remarried mother while he tries to maintain a semi-normal life, working in his new profession. The show was well-received during its three-year run, giving much credit to lead actor, Thomas Jane.
38. Vice Principals
- Series Run: 1 Season; 9 Episodes (2016-present)
- Starring: Danny McBride, Walton Goggins, Bill Murray, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Georgia King, Sheaun McKinney, Busy Philipps, Shea Whigham
Eastbound and Down star Danny McBride goes head to head with fellow vice principal (Goggins) in acquiring the top spot after current school principal (Murray) decides to step down. Neither one is chosen to fill the spot, as the job is given to a college professor, so the vice principals band together to ruin the new principal's reputation. With all of the scheming and shenanigans, there is no surprise the effort backfires.
37. The Comeback
- Series Run: 2 Seasons; 21 Episodes (2005, 2014-present)
- Starring: Lisa Kudrow, Malin Åkerman, Robert Bagnell, Lance Barber, Robert Michael Morris, Laura Silverman, Damian Young
This satirical comedy gives viewers an inside look into the entertainment world, following sitcom actress Valerie Cherish (Kudrow). The show is presented as found footage shot by a camera crew, and is packed with celebrity cameos. The series was originally canceled after the first season, but HBO revived it for a second season nine years later. There are rumors that a third season could still happen.
- Series Run: 1 Season; 8 Episodes (2016-present)
- Starring: Issa Rae, Jay Ellis, Yvonne Orji, Lisa Joyce
The new comedy series was created by Issa Rae, who also stars. It is slightly based on Rae's popular web series, Awkward Black Girl, and she wanted "to convey that people of color are relatable. This is not a hood story. This is about regular people living life." Rae was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her lead role in the series.
- Series Run: 2 Seasons; 24 Episodes (2003-2005)
- Starring: Michael J. Anderson, Adrienne Barbeau, Patrick Bauchau, Clancy Brown, Debra Christofferson, Tim DeKay, Clea DuVall
Set in the U.S. during the Great Depression and in the the Dust Bowl, the drama series mixes theology and lore while following the lives of two different groups struggling with good versus evil. The series had a strong premiere for HBO, but had trouble keeping up the numbers and was canceled after Season 2 to viewers' dismay. Many of the show's storylines remained unresolved and caused much debate regarding the need for a revival.
34. Tales From the Crypt
- Series Run: 7 Seasons; 93 Episodes (1989-1996)
- Starring: Michael J. Fox, Tom Hanks, Kyle MacLachlan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dan Aykroyd, Hank Azaria, Steve Buscemi, Patricia Clarkson, Daniel Craig, Tim Curry, Mark Dacascos, Beverly D'Angelo, Blythe Danner, Benicio del Toro, Kirk Douglas, Corey Feldman, Whoopi Goldberg, Ernie Hudson, John Lithgow, Meat Loaf, Jon Lovitz, Malcolm McDowell, Ewan McGregor, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, Bill Paxton, Joe Pesci, Brad Pitt, Iggy Pop, Christopher Reeve, Natasha Richardson, Don Rickles, Martin Sheen, John Stamos, Adam West
Fans of Tales From the Crypt will fondly remember the opening sequence with the show's host, the Crypt Keeper. The animated corpse introduces each episode of the horror anthology series which featured a number of big names, the above list is only a portion of the actors seen in the show. The wildly popular series has resulted in a number of spin-offs and is currently being rebooted by director M. Night Shyamalan later this year.
33. The Leftovers
- Series Run: 2 Seasons; 20 Episodes (2014-present)
- Starring: Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler, Chris Zylka, Margaret Qualley
In 2011, an event known as the "Sudden Departure" occurred and 140 million people disappeared across the globe without explanation. In the time after the event, numerous cults started to emerge. The series takes place three years after the event and follows a family in New York who start to get involved in one of the cults. The first season was strong, and the second season had even higher reviews, so the third and final season has high expectations.
- Series Run: 8 Seasons; 96 Episodes (2004-2011)
- Starring: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Emmanuelle Chriqui
The comedy-drama, which garnered a cult-like following among millennials, follows the life of actor Vincent Chase and his group of male childhood friends tackling L.A. The series is loosely based on Mark Wahlberg's life; he serves as one of the executive producers for the series. Throughout the eight seasons, a number of celebrities and athletes have made appearances. Although the series arguably lost steam in later seasons, and perhaps hasn't aged well in this era of feminism, the show's intense popularity led to an Entourage movie releasing in 2015.
31. The Young Pope
- Series Run: 1 Season; 10 Episodes (2017-present)
- Starring: Jude Law, Diane Keaton, Silvio Orlando, Javier Cámara, Scott Shepherd
One of HBO's most recent shows, the drama tells the story of a newly-elected pope who immediately causes issues with the Vatican after rejecting his predecessor's liberal philosophies and taking a more conservative approach. With favorable reviews, the show is reportedly getting a second season.
- Series Run: 4 Seasons; 36 Episodes (2010-2013)
- Starring: Khandi Alexander, Rob Brown, Chris Coy, Kim Dickens, India Ennenga, John Goodman, Michiel Huisman, Melissa Leo
Taking place mere months after Hurricane Katrina, Treme follows a group of unique citizens of New Orleans as they try to rebuild their lives, homes and culture. The series focuses heavily on musicians and includes a number if musical performances featuring New Orleans-based artists.
29. John Adams
- Series Run: Miniseries; 7 Episodes (2008)
- Starring: Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Stephen Dillane, David Morse, Tom Wilkinson, Danny Huston, Rufus Sewell, Justin Theroux, Guy Henry
The critically-acclaimed miniseries follows the life of U.S. President John Adams and his role as a founding father. Each episode features a certain period of his life. The miniseries won more awards than any other miniseries in history.
28. Da Ali G Show
- Series Run: 3 Seasons; 18 Episodes (2000-2004)
- Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen
The satirical series stars comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who uses his different personas to conduct real interviews, usually with well-known individuals, unbeknownst to them that it is an act. Besides the character Ali G, Cohen plays Kazakh reporter Borat and gay Austrian fashionista, Brüno. Fans of Cohen's comedic style were later treated to standalone movies featuring Ali G, Borat and Brüno.
27. Todd McFarlane's Spawn
- Series Run: 3 Seasons; 18 Episodes (1997-1999)
- Starring: James Hanes, Dominique Jennings, James Keane, John Rafter Lee, Victor Love, Michael McShane, Michael Nicolosi, Kath Soucie
Considered one of the best superhero cartoons of all time, Spawn is based on the Image Comics character. Al Simmons is betrayed and killed while fighting in the Vietnam War. Simmons makes a pact with an overlord in hell to get back to Earth as long as he fights in the overlord's army. Instead of getting back his body, he is given a rotten, decaying body, causing the need for a mask. The series then focuses on his life back on Earth — and his vow for revenge while living with his new persona.
26. The Night Of
- Series Run: Miniseries; 8 Episodes (2016)
- Starring: John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Moaadi, Poorna Jagannathan, Sofia Black D'Elia, Afton Williamson, Ben Shenkman, Jeannie Berlin, Paul Sparks
The crime-drama miniseries was an overnight hit when it premiered last summer, becoming one of the must-see shows of the year. A Pakistani-American college student finds himself a suspect in a young woman's murder after a night of partying. While the case takes aim at cultural issues, the student and his lawyer try to fight through the accusation and impending trial. Although set up to be a standalone series, the praise for the show has sparked interest in a second season.
25. Eastbound and Down
- Series Run: 4 Seasons; 29 Episodes (2009-2013)
- Starring: Danny McBride, Katy Mixon, John Hawkes, Andrew Daly, Ben Best, Jennifer Irwin, Steve Little
Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, the sports comedy graced us with Kenny Powers, an ex-professional baseball player who is forced back to his hometown to work as a substitute gym teacher for the local middle school. Some might consider the humor obnoxious, but it became a runaway success for HBO during its run.
24. Big Love
- Series Run: 5 Seasons; 53 Episodes (2006-2011)
- Starring: Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, Douglas Smith, Grace Zabriskie, Mary Kay Place, Matt Ross, Cassi Thomson, Amanda Seyfried
The series traces the life of a Mormon family in Utah who practice polygamy. With a web of characters and intertwining families, the series has received a lot of praise for the portrayal of the complexities in this situation that is not often touched upon in TV and film.
23. Mr. Show With Bob And David
- Series Run: 4 Seasons; 30 Episodes (1995-1998)
- Starring: Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, John Ennis, Tom Kenny, Jill Talley, Jay Johnston
A sketch comedy series hosted by Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, the segments used modern television as inspiration for criticism and mockery. Some of the other big names involved in the series include Scott Aukerman, Jack Black, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Sarah Silverman. Odenkirk and Cross reunited in 2015 for Netflix's W/ Bob & David.
22. True Blood
- Series Run: 7 Seasons; 80 Episodes (2008-2014)
- Starring: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Nelsan Ellis, Carrie Preston, Chris Bauer, Jim Parrack, Deborah Ann Woll, Anna Camp, Denis O'Hare, Joe Manganiello
Based on the novels by Charlaine Harris, the show fueled the vampire hype of the late '00s. Set in Louisiana, the story centers around a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse who happens to have telepathic abilities and always finds herself in some sort of trouble with vampires and other supernatural creatures. There is also the issue of vampire acceptance among the human community.
The series undoubtedly has one of the biggest fan followings for an HBO program. What started out as a very strong series was unfortunately given a disappointing finale for most fans.
- Series Run: 2 Seasons; 22 Episodes (2005-2007)
- Starring: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Ciarán Hinds, Kenneth Cranham, Lindsay Duncan, Tobias Menzies, Kerry Condon, Karl Johnson, Indira Varma
The short-lived historical drama gives a glimpse of the events surrounding Rome's transition from republic to empire, with many of the characters based on real people. The elaborate sets and storylines were too expensive to keep the series going, but there was talk of a film as recently as 2014.
20. Flight Of The Conchords
- Series Run: 2 Seasons; 22 Episodes (2007-2009)
- Starring: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker
A two-man comedy band from New Zealand play fictionalized versions of themselves as they search for success in New York City. The comedy series is another HBO project with a cult following and has been praised for its original style, most notably Clement and McKenzie's structure of embedding their songs within the show.
- Series Run: 6 Seasons; 53 Episodes (2012-present)
- Starring: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Andrew Rannells, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Jake Lacy
The comedy-drama follows an aspiring writer struggling to support herself in New York City after her parents cut off her financial support. The series focuses on a tight group of friends in their twenties, dealing with relationships and finding their place in the world. The series is considered raw in nature and has been controversial. With this series, you either seem to love or hate it.
18. From The Earth To The Moon
- Series Run: Miniseries; 12 Episodes
- Starring: Tom Hanks, Lane Smith, Clint Howard, Jay Mohr, Ted Levine, Mark Rolston, Mark Harmon, Tony Goldwyn, Bryan Cranston, Dan Lauria, John Carroll Lynch, Betsy Brantley, Ann Cusack, Rita Wilson, Sally Field
Sharing the story of the Apollo expeditions during the 1960s and 1970s, the docudrama is based on the book titled A Man on the Moon. The miniseries features a large, impressive cast and is known for the excellent special effects for its time.
17. Silicon Valley
- Series Run: 3 Seasons; 28 Episodes (2014-present)
- Starring: Thomas Middleditch, T. J. Miller, Josh Brener, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani, Christopher Evan Welch, Amanda Crew
A group of guys create a startup company in Silicon Valley in this comedy based on the co-creator's real experiences within the technology industry. The relevance and humor has been a hit among viewers; you don't need to be a geek to enjoy this series.
16. Fraggle Rock
- Series Run: 5 Episodes; 96 Episodes (1983-1987)
- Starring: Gerry Parkes, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Karen Prell, Richard Hunt, Jim Henson
The beloved series, brought to us by Jim Henson, featured a group of Muppet creatures and was a favorite with kids of the 1980s. The live-action puppets were silly in nature but also dove into serious messages and issues. Even if you weren't around in the '80s, you probably saw reruns as a kid or watched a the Muppet spinoffs from Jim Henson.
15. The Pacific
- Series Run: Miniseries; 10 Episodes (2010)
- Starring: James Badge Dale, Joseph Mazzello , Jon Seda , Ashton Holmes , William Sadler, Jon Bernthal, Jacob Pitts , Keith Nobbs , Josh Helman, Henry Nixon, Rami Malek, Brendan Fletcher
A companion series to Band of Brothers, The Pacific follows the U.S. Marine Corps during the Pacific War. Aside from featuring battles within the Pacific, the series includes the Marines' involvement in the Battle of Iwo Jima. It may share some of the same nuances as Band of Brothers, but the story can stand for itself. You also can't go wrong when Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks serve as producers.
- Series Run: 1 Season; 10 Episodes (2016-present)
- Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Ben Barnes, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Clifton Collins Jr., Luke Hemsworth, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Simon Quarterman, Rodrigo Santoro, Angela Sarafyan, Jimmi Simpson, Tessa Thompson, Shannon Woodward
Based on the film of the same name, Westworld was one of the most anticipated HBO projects in recent years. Considered a science-fiction western thriller, the cerebral series takes place at a Wild West-themed amusement park run by androids (or "hosts") in a set of precisely-planned narratives. The "guests" are high-paying visitors who can do whatever they want while in the park without the threat of retaliation — but any time A.I. is involved, things can go awry.
Fans are very excited to see where the series goes in the future. Hopefully the long gaps between seasons will not hurt the hype.
- Series Run: 5 Seasons; 48 Episodes (2012-present)
- Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh
The political comedy, which has been crushing it in terms of awards, follows U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer (Dreyfus) and her team. While dealing with a not-so-great relationship with the president, and ongoing political issues, she tries to leave some type of legacy even while feeling powerless. As the series has gone on, it has definitely found its footing — and the supporting cast provides great chemistry.
12. Six Feet Under
- Series Run: 5 Seasons; 63 Episodes (2001-2005)
- Starring: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy, Lauren Ambrose, Freddy Rodriguez, Mathew St. Patrick
The dramatic comedy follows a family who own an L.A. funeral home. Besides revolving around family and relationships, the series fittingly relies on the topic of death, even starting each episode with a death. The show has one of the best series finales of all time.
- Series Run: 6 Seasons; 56 Episodes (1997-2003)
- Starring: Kirk Acevedo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ernie Hudson, Terry Kinney, Christopher Meloni, George Morfogen
Set at a maximum-security state prison in New York, the story primarily focuses on an experimental unit called "Emerald City," which is a controlled environment to balance the tension among social and racial groups. The drama happens to be HBO's first one-hour dramatic program for the cable network. Viewers were surprised what HBO allowed to be shown on TV at the time.
10. The Larry Sanders Show
- Series Run: 6 Seasons; 89 Episodes (1992-1998)
- Starring: Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, Megan Gallagher, Wallace Langham, Jeremy Piven, Penny Johnson, Linda Doucett
Created by comedian Garry Shandling, the sitcom took place at the studio of a fictional talk show and featured many celebrities making appearances, playing exaggerated versions of themselves. The series made a big impact on future comedic projects at HBO and beyond.
9. Boardwalk Empire
- Series Run: 5 Seasons; 56 Episodes (2010-2014)
- Starring: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Stuhlbarg, Stephen Graham, Vincent Piazza, Paz de la Huerta
Set during Prohibition-era Atlantic City, the series centers around a political figure heavily involved with mobsters. Being entangled in a web of politics and illegal activity, the area becomes a site of investigation. Along with the eccentric cast of characters, there are also a few historical figures mixed in for interesting twists. No surprise that the series was a success, considering that Martin Scorsese was involved.
8. Curb Your Enthusiasm
- Series Run: 8 Seasons; 80 Episodes and one 60-minute Special (2000-present)
- Starring: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman
Larry David followed up his legendary Seinfeld run with a comedy series about a somewhat fictionalized version of himself. The stories focus on Larry's awkward encounters, the cast improvises many of the scenes, and there are a bunch of celebrity cameos. Even though the series has not been on the air since 2011, it's returning for another season.
Series Run: 3 Seasons; 36 Episodes (2004-2006)
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Jim Beaver, W. Earl Brown, Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Brad Dourif, Anna Gunn, John Hawkes, Jeffrey Jones
The series follows a South Dakota camp's transformation into a town during the 1800s. Much of the plot relied heavily on real historical figures' influence on Deadwood's growth. Some events and characters were fictional to add to the drama within the storyline. Many still consider this series one of the greatest TV dramas to date.
6. Sex And The City
Series Run: 6 Seasons; 94 Episodes (1998-2004)
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth
The classic series follows four friends' adventures through friendship, relationships and life in New York City. Tackling other modern issues, the characters were very different but always stuck together. The show became a long-running hit and led to two movies.
5. True Detective (Season 1)
- Series Run: 8 Episodes (2014)
- Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles
The first (and vastly superior) season of the anthology crime series follows homicide detectives in Louisiana struggling with a past that is causing trouble in the present. The series was one of the most talked-about on television during its run, and is considered one of the best shows of 2014, earning Emmy nominations for both McConaughey and Harrelson. The cast and crew set the bar so high with the first season, there is still a question of whether a third season can ever match its success.
4. Band Of Brothers
- Series Run: 10 Episodes (2001)
- Starring: Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg, Scott Grimes, Peter Youngblood Hills, Shane Taylor, Rick Gomez, Michael Cudlitz
Another project helmed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, the miniseries tells the story of a parachute infantry assigned to the Army's Airborne Division during World War II. The series starts with the men training and takes them through the end of the war. The accurate depiction is based on research and interviews from real members of the infantry, who are featured at the end of episodes within the series. At the time, it was HBO's most expensive project and received countless accolades.
3. Game Of Thrones
- Series Run: 6 Seasons; 60 episodes (2011-present)
- Starring: Sean Bean, Michelle Fairley, Richard Madden, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams, Emilia Clarke ,Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Kristian Nairn, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Peter Dinklage, Charles Dance, Jack Gleeson, Dean-Charles Chapman, Rory McCann, John Bradley, Gwendoline Christie ,Alfie Allen, Michael McElhatton, Aidan Gillen, Stephen Dillane, Carice van Houten, Liam Cunningham, Natalie Dormer, Jonathan Pryce, Iain Glen, Nathalie Emmanuel, Michiel Huisman
Based on the fantasy series by author George R.R. Martin, #GameOfThrones can easily be considered HBO's most popular series currently on air. Set in the land of Westeros, the large ensemble and interweaving storylines follow the fight for power among families who wish to rule the realm. There is also a supernatural element, with the inclusion of dragons and zombie-like creatures that rule the North.
The complexity of the sets and number of cast members have definitely raised the bar for TV production. The show's loyal fanbase spans the globe and has consistently grown over the years. Game of Thrones could easily be HBO's best series of all time, depending on how the final couple seasons play out.
2. The Sopranos
- Series Run: 6 Seasons; 86 Episodes (1999-2007)
- Starring: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
The drama following the life of suburban mobster Tony Soprano was a game-changer when it aired on HBO. It was so well-written and featured an exceptional cast, portraying Tony's family, colleagues and rivals. Considered a groundbreaking program, it would show no hesitation diving into controversial subjects.
The series appropriately racked up awards and has been praised for its artistic cinematography. Many critics list The Sopranos as one of the greatest TV series of all time, and many fans would argue that it deserves to be number one on this list!
1. The Wire
- Series Run: 5 Seasons; 60 Episodes (2002-2008)
- Starring: Dominic West, John Doman, Idris Elba, Frankie Faison, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Wood Harris, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Sonja Sohn, Chris Bauer, Paul Ben-Victor, Clarke Peters, Amy Ryan, Aidan Gillen, Jim True-Frost, Robert Wisdom, Seth Gilliam
The crime drama focused on law enforcement in Baltimore and its relationship with surrounding institutions. The series hits upon bureaucracy, politics and urban life while carrying its characters through intense storylines.
A unique and admirable feature of The Wire is that it hired many unknown actors and included real-life Baltimore figures for roles, adding to the raw and realistic tone. The series may not have received the ratings or award recognitions that it deserved during its runtime, but due to word of mouth, it's now widely considered one of the best ever.
Be sure to check back with this list often, as HBO has a slew of new series set to premiere that could mix up the current rankings. What's your favorite HBO series? Let us know in the comment section below!