Let’s Argue Over the Best HBO Series of All Time (Hint: It's the 'Sopranos')
If you decided to finally splurge on yet another streaming service, first I would just like to say: I get it. I don’t judge and in fact, I salute you. Subscribing to *one* streaming service just won’t cut it these days (luv u, Netflix), especially since we’re still stuck at home with lots of time on our hands as we ride out this pandemic.
Whether you’re new to HBO or you’re still in the phase of considering shelling out the $14.99/month required for HBO Max, I would be delighted to inform you of all the excellent TV series that await you. Seriously, HBO is kinda known for producing hits non-stop. It’s like all the smartypants in Hollywood got together and said, “let’s create a network that is the absolute highest caliber of television, with only the very best talents in acting, writing, and production.” Time and time again, it releases top-tier shows that achieve cult-favorite status.
Because so many HBO series are really top-notch good, it’s actually quite hard to list the best of the best, and I’m bracing for some angry DMs from those of you who disagree with me. But that’s fine! Debate is what makes the world go ’round, at least in my house. Behold: From Sex and the City to Game of Thrones, here are the best HBO series of all time.
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Nicole Kidman’s performance in this thrilling, dark, psychologically twisted show is, to be frank, f*cking amazing. And don’t even get me started on her coats! If you’re into gawping at gorgeous New York City real estate, Hugh Grant’s accent, and crimes of passions, you’ll be into The Undoing. I’m not exaggerating when I say I watched all six episodes in less than two days and had several hour-long phone calls with my mom to parse through all the nitty-gritty details. Yeah, it’s that type of show.
Produced by Drake and starring Zendaya, Euphoria will wreck you (in, like, a good way) with its stunningly raw portrait of teenagers in high school overcoming addiction and abuse while navigating sex, love, and friendships—all in a world that is increasingly (and perhaps dangerously) influenced by social media. Zendaya won her first Emmy for her incredible performance in season 1, and season 2 is on the way. Of arguably equal importance, the show forever changed the way we wear makeup.
Succession is a juicy drama about power, money, and family. The series follows various members of the Roy dynasty, owners of a global media and entertainment conglomerate, as they attempt to joust for the top corporate spot that their father will one day (hopefully…soon) vacate. Come for the sibling rivalry on steroids, stay for Kieran Culkin being Kieran Culkin.
This hilarious comedy series follows a group of socially awkward, smart-as-hell coding geniuses as they work to build their own company and avoid selling to one of the eager business tycoons sniffing around for their next trillion-dollar investment. It’s a satire and a parody, but thanks to co-creator Mike Judge’s real-life experience in the industry, the show is more than a little spot-on. I mean, even the O.G. Silicon Valley hot-shot Bill Gates says the HBO series “gets the tech industry just right.”
You probably learned about the 1986 accident at Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in A.P. history, but it’s worth brushing up on. The massive explosion, one of the worst man-made catastrophes in history, released radioactive material across eastern and western Europe. The miniseries earned ten Emmys and two Golden Globes for its depiction of the tragic events.
Cosmo cover star Issa Rae keeps it real in Insecure, a show that’ll make you laugh/pee one minute and hit you hard in your existential feels the next. In Insecure, Issa (the star *and* executive producer) explores what it means to really grow up—in your career, your relationship, your friendships, and more. If you haven’t watched yet, catch up now before the fifth (and final 😢) season.
The True Detective series go deep into convoluted criminal investigations and the detectives who devote their lives to solving them. Each season introduces a new cast of characters and a spine-chilling crime that is so abhorrent, you might need to occasionally close your eyes. Creepy and smart, True Detective is also complicated and complex—it’s honestly hard to write about without giving anything away. So I’ll just say this: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson star in season one, Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams star in season two, and Mahershala Ali stars in season three. Intrigued yet?
Sex and the City
Sex and the City wasn’t just a show—it was a cultural phenomenon. Even now, people can’t stop debating whether they’re a Carrie, a Samantha, a Charlotte, or a Miranda…and yes, it’s still totally mind-blowing that Carrie actually got broken up with on a Post-it. After six seasons and two hit movies, this franchise made Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis into icons. Assuming you’ve heard that a reboot called And Just Like That is on the way, right?
This long-running series about mobster Tony Soprano (played by the late James Gandolfini), his family, and a life of organized crime ran for six seasons and ended up having such a huge impact on pop culture that people still make references to the show to this day, even though it’s been over since 2007. It scooped up all kinds of Emmy awards and nominations, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Before there was Sister Wives on TLC, there was Big Love on HBO. This series, which starred Bill Paxton, Amanda Seyfried, Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Jeannie Tripplehorn, followed the Henrickson family and their plural marriage for five fantastic seasons. It was nominated for both Emmys and Golden Globes, and the cast garnered tons of critical acclaim, as well.
Lena Dunham’s series about four friends living in New York City and trying to survive their independent adult lives for the first time definitely made its mark on pop culture—and it gave us talents like Adam Driver and Allison Williams. Anyone who’s ever experienced how deep and intense female friendship can be will relate to Hannah, Marnie, Shosh, and Jessa.
Big Little Lies
Starring Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, Zoë Kravitz, and Laura Dern, Big Little Lies delivers a delicious mystery surrounding an incident at a private school in an affluent California neighborhood…and a murder that led to some pretty scary consequences. Based on Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Big Little Lies also had a (somewhat controversial) second season, in which the one and only Meryl Streep played Nicole Kidman’s mother-in-law.
Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones is another one of those shows that falls under the “cultural phenomenon” category…even if fans were seriously pissed at the way it all ended. Still, this series about George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy novels was just about all anyone could talk about for the entire 8-season, 73-episode series run.
Let’s add another crime drama to the list, because it’s obviously something that HBO does very well. Over the course of five seasons, The Wire takes viewers into different parts of Baltimore, showing life from the perspective of both criminals and law enforcement.
Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the vice president of the United States, Veep was a political comedy that ran for seven seasons. It managed to create one of the most unforgettable characters in HBO history, and anyone who wants to ignore the political reality of the U.S. as it stands today should give this one a try.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Words fall short when attempting to describe the greatness that is Curb Your Enthusiasm. Capturing the absurdity that is Larry David, the Seinfeld writer and co-creator, the show is satirical gold. David plays an exaggerated caricature of himself as a retired TV writer causing a ruckus in Hollywood. But just how fictional is it? Rumor has it that on-screen Larry David is not so different than off-screen Larry David. Oy vey. Curb continues to claim its spot as one of the best and most popular shows of all time, even 20 years after it premiered. You could say that it’s pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.
This series (starring Evan Rachel Wood) is based on a dystopian theme park from the future that relies on androids and a whole lot of technology we hope never actually exists in the real world, because, scary. Both deeply violent and deeply sexy, you’ll sprint through all three seasons.
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