There was once a time when TV was considered inferior to movies you saw in theaters, and that was arguably the case until HBO started creating its own content. original series like The Sopranos, deadwoodand The Wire pioneered the premium at-home entertainment experience in which we are now completely spoiled for choice.
Even now, with all the options we have, HBO shows dominate awards season more than any other network, and they’re revved for their commitment to high production value. Above all, it’s seemingly quality over quantity, even now with its own standalone streaming service. Without further ado, here are some of the best shows to stream on HBO Max right now.
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Low-level hitman Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) falls in love with acting after tailing, and failing, to eliminate a target in Los Angeles, an acting coach played by Henry Winkler. There’s no other way to put it, barry is a delightfully unique comedy-drama from one of our favorite SNL alumni, and it puts Hader’s dramatic skills on the map.
Big Little Lies
The lives of wealthy mothers, set against an idyllic coastal Californian backdrop, begin to unravel when one is pushed to the point of murder. This affecting series, based on the book by Australian author Liane Moriarty, explores motherhood, marriage, secrets, and when to tell the truth. The all-star cast includes Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Meryl Streep, and Alexander Skarsgård.
When the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffers a meltdown in 1986, men and women heroically try to mitigate this catastrophic disaster. This extensively researched miniseries follows the accident and the heartbreaking cleanup aftermath that followed, though it does take some artistic liberties.
From Tarell Alvin McCraney, the writer of the Best Picture-winning moonlight, comes a coming-of-age story about a teenage prodigy, David. He straddles two different worlds; the poverty at home and the school, an institution for gifted children, offers him a way out. The show’s third season is due at the end of August.
We follow troubled teenager Rue, who struggles with drug addiction and the trauma of losing her father, and her high school friends who are navigating young adulthood and everything that comes with it: sex, drugs, and violence. It’s heavy-going but captivating and adapted from the Israeli show of the same name.
game of Thrones
The show that catapulted the fantasy genre into the mainstream, game of Thrones centers on rival families battling for the Iron Throne and control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Dragons, dark magic, and backstabbing a-plenty in this legendary series based on the books A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin.
Dubbed the Sex and the City for millennials, the Lena Dunham-created girls follows four 20-something friends as they navigate work (or lack thereof), life, and love in New York City. Hannah is a struggling writer, Jessa is a devil-may-care bohemian type, Marnie is a Type A personality and the ‘responsible’ one of the group and Shoshanna is an ambitious NYU student who everyone underestimates.
His Dark Materials
Based on the epic trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials follows the orphan Lyra, in a world where all human souls manifest as animal companions known as daemons. The subject of a witch’s prophecy that she will change the world, Lyra uncovers a dangerous secret that leads her on a treacherous adventure.
I May Destroy You
I May Destroy You is a provocative show about a young, self-assured woman in London who has to rebuild her life, and memories, after having her drink spiked and being sexually assaulted. Described by the New York Times as “the perfect show for an anxious world,” is a show about how insidious trauma can be.
Ambitious graduates from all walks of life vie for coveted positions at a London investment bank following the 2008 economic collapse. they’re thrown headfirst into the ruthless world of finance; sex, drugs, and million-dollar trades. It’s only two seasons deep, so it won’t be too hard to catch up on.
Two best friends about to turn 30 reassesses their careers, priorities, and relationships in insecure, a show about self-discovery, acceptance, and navigating tricky situations in Los Angeles. It’s an insanely relatable comedy-drama created by and starring Issa Rae, with five seasons to binge on.
Disillusioned by her career as an actor and a recent breakup, Mira (Alicia Vikander) travels to France to shoot the remake of the silent film classic Les Vampires. The lines between fiction and reality become increasingly blurred as Mira immerses herself in her character in this comedy-drama miniseries created, written, and directed by Olivier Assayas.
A rom-com anthology series where we follow Darby (Anna Kendrick) and how her relationships, the good, the bad, and the unmotivated, contribute to who she is. There’s a new love interest and story each week, with Darby’s story finishing in the final episode. The second season introduces a whole new cast of characters, with William Jackson Harper at the center.
A young Black man’s father goes missing in the 1950s, and he travels across the segregated US to find him. He learns of dark secrets plaguing a town on which famous horror writer HP Lovecraft is said to have based his stories. Season two was announced, but unfortunately, the show has since been canceled. It’s a stellar watch, though.
Sex and the City
While there are parts of the show that haven’t aged super well (the fat-shaming, kink-shaming, and lack of diversity within the cast), you can’t ignore the phenomenon of Sex and the City, where four successful career women in New York grapple with life and dating. It may not pass the Bechdel Testbut it did open conversations about female sexuality in a truly revolutionary way.
Scenes from a Marriage
A short but affecting limited series starring our favorite non-couple, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. Scenes from a Marriage flips traditional gender roles on the head as it explores the disintegration of marriage with raw honesty. While the show finished feeling a little open-ended, it has not been renewed for a second season.
If you’re looking for an uplifting story about finding your place in the world, Somebody Somewhere is for you. Starring and executive produced by comedian and singer Bridget Everett, her character of Sam grapples with loss and finding community in her Kansan home. It’s sweet, honest, and relatable.
One of the shows that started it all, The Sopranos centers on Tony Soprano trying to balance his family life and life as the leader of The Family, aka an organized crime syndicate in New Jersey. It’s hailed as one of the greatest and most groundbreaking TV shows of all time, with a solid six seasons to binge on.
A billionaire family at the head of a global media conglomerate with their aging patriarch, Logan Roy, pulling all the strings. There’s drama, political aspirations, and hierarchical infighting between the four Roy children, all fighting for Dad’s approval, that makes for undeniably captivating entertainment.
My oh my, this show is super original. Many people aspire to settle down and start a family one day, but Natasha isn’t one of them. Surrounded by friends who are moving on different stages in their lives, she feels alienated. Until a demonic baby from hell literally descends into her life, and horrific things begin to happen. It’s a comedy-horror, so expect to laugh at things and immediately question whether you should.
The Gilded Age
Set against the backdrop of 1882 New York City, where a period of dramatic economic growth and cultural expanse, a young woman moves from rural Pennsylvania to the metropolis after the death of her father. She discovers a world where social wars are waged, and expectations are high. Will she assimilate or forge her own path?
The Sex Lives Of College Girls
From Mindy Kaling comes this teen comedy about the lives of four 18-year-olds at the fictional Essex College in Vermont. They explore their sexuality with others and friendships with each other while enjoying their newfound freedom on campus. It’s lighthearted and entertaining while also critiquing the institutions of prestigious educational institutions.
A fascinating adaptation of the true-crime incident of writer Michael Peterson and the mysterious death of his wife, Kathleen. Initially convicted of her murder, a new trial was granted, and Peterson entered the Alford Plea to the reduced charge of manslaughter. This riveting scripted series stars Toni Collette and Colin Firth.
Drawing inspiration from similar amnesia films that have come before it, The Tourist tells the story of an Irish man (Jamie Dornan) who wakes up in a rural Australian hospital with no memory of how he got there. He must piece together what few clues he has before his past catches up with him.
The White Lotus
Intriguing, quirky, and clever, The White Lotus is one of the best series to come out of HBO in recent years. Nominated for a whopping 20 2022 Emmys, the show depicts the shenanigans of various guests and employees of an exclusive Hawaiian resort. As the show progresses, this picture-perfect locale isn’t all it seems.
A dark, gritty crime show based on American journalist Jake Adelstein’s real-life account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, starring Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe. Facing culture shock and being an outsider, Adelstein’s investigations into the underbelly of Tokyo and organized crime are nothing short of electrifying. Good news, too, it’s just been renewed for a second season.
The anthology show that brought forth the McConaissance in a truly remarkable debut season. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star as detectives tasked with finding a mysterious serial killer plaguing Louisiana. Each subsequent season follows a new detective with a new criminal investigation, facing their own personal demons in the process.
At a futuristic Wild West theme park, the guests can do anything they want with and to their android hosts. There are no consequences because when a host dies, however brutally, they’re cleaned and reset with their memory wiped. But what happens when the androids begin to ‘wake up’ to their horrific reality?
Based on the 1986 DC superhero comics of the same name, watchmen is set against a modern backdrop and racial violence in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2019. A white supremacist group, the Seventh Kavalry, declares war against minorities. Regina King stars as Angela Abar, aka Sister Night, as the lead detective of the Tulsa Police Force, handing out her own form of justice.
We Own This City
From executive producers George Pelecanos (The Deuce) and David Simon (The Wire) comes a gritty crime drama set in Baltimore. We Own This City chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force, with Jon Bernthal as the lead character Sgt. Wayne Jenkins.
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