The 10 Best HBO TV Shows Of All Time, According To Ranker

With the highly anticipated fourth season of Westworld just around the corner, there’s no shortage of discussions and debates online about what could happen next in the neo-Western dystopian sci-fi series. It’s already shaping up to be one of HBO’s iconic TV shows, but hasn’t quite made it to the top-scoring ones as voted on by users on Ranker.

The highest-rated TV series by HBO on the site include award-winning classics like The Sopranos and more recent cultural phenomena like Game of Thrones. These represent the best that the network has to offer and highlight the kinds of stories and characters that stay with viewers long after they’ve seen the shows.

Note: Ranker lists are live and continue to accrue votes, so some rankings may have changed after this publishing.


10 Six Feet Under (2001)

Nate's ghost speaks to Claire while she takes a family photo

Often seen one of the best HBO shows from the early 2000s, Six Feet Under is centered on a family that owns a funeral home. When the father dies, his wife and their kids are left to clean up the mess and pick up where he left off, which is exactly what they do for the series’ five seasons.

The family drama is full of tense confrontations between the members, not to mention the messy romantic relationships they bring into the funeral biz. The series is known for its use of dark humor, with its macabre jokes and visual gags often bordering on being too disturbing. This is perfectly balanced out by the show’s more philosophical musings about life and death, which build up towards a flawless finale.

9 Oz (1997)

Set in the fictional level 4 maximum-security state prison, the Oswald State Correctional Facility, Oz depicts the inmates’ experiences and struggles over the course of six seasons. It mainly on the clash between the various factions within the experimental wing known as Emerald City, as well as the prison guards’ attempts at controlling them.

Its first few seasons are best remembered for their shock value, as there were several scenes and storylines that were almost too gruesome to watch. These eventually give way to more heartfelt and emotional narratives as the well-written characters’ personal hardships are explored.

8 Rome (2005)

Rome is a gripping historical drama series that portrays the tumultuous time period when the titular Republic was transitioning into an Empire. It gives a peek behind the curtain of the lives of the rich and powerful at that time, including significant figures like Julius Caesar and Augustus.

Beyond its lavish sets and stunning costumes, the two-season show does an excellent job of creating an immersive experience that also highlights how the commoners were living back then. It does so through the perspective of a pair of Roman guards, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, whose activities are inextricably linked with important historical events.

7 Chernobyl (2019)

Based on actual events that happened during the April 1986 nuclear plant disaster, Chernobyl revolves around the harrowing experiences of the victims and survivors, with a specific focus on lesser-known stories. These include the efforts of the heroic firefighters, volunteers, and miners who gave their lives to prevent the disaster from getting worse.

With its attention to detail and storylines based on real-life interviews, Chernobyl‘s historical accuracy has made it a renowned TV miniseries that gives a truly astounding dramatization of the horrific event and its aftermath. Its use of a more personal perspective makes it impossible not to sympathize with its characters.

6 Boardwalk Empire (2010)

Set during the Prohibition era in the 1920s, Boardwalk Empire follows the story of Nucky Thompson, whose lavish lifestyle is endangered by external forces that are about to bear down on bootlegging and other crimes. He must juggle his connections and relationships with mobsters, government officials, and average citizens if he hopes to survive.

The five-season period crime drama is based on the true story of an actual political figure from that time, Enoch L. Johnson, who became prominent enough to control Atlantic City. His rise to power wasn’t easy, and the show underscores the grit, drama, and sacrifice needed to get to his position.

5 Deadwood (2004)

The three seasons of the Western series Deadwood take place during the 1970s in the South Dakota camp, which soon turns into a town. It revolves around the stories of its citizens, which tend to include murder and violence, as they each attempt to carve out a successful life for themselves in the chaotic location.

The show has won numerous accolades and is known for the intense rivalries, relationships, and fights between the townspeople. It’s easy to feel absorbed by these well-written narratives and find characters worth rooting for. There’s even a film set ten years after the events of the show called Deadwood: The Moviewhich premiered back in 2019 and answered lingering questions about fan-favorite townspeople.

4 True Detective (2014)

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey in True Detective Season 1

Undoubtedly one of the best anthology series of all time, True Detective is a crime drama that follows a different detective or set of detectives with each new season. Whether they’re investigating serial killers or a complex conspiracy, these characters must figure out important details about their town, the victims, and even themselves to uncover the criminals’ identities.

The show has won several awards, most of which are for its first and most popular season, which is centered on a mysterious murder that has links to the occult. It’s easy to jump into the show even today, with its fourth season still in the works.

3 The Sopranos (1999)

Tony with Carmela in The Sopranos

Its multiple Golden Globe and Peabody Awards are more than enough reason to say that The Sopranos has left its mark on television history. The six-season crime drama season chronicles the experiences of Tony Soprano, a mobster who is finding it difficult to balance his criminal activities with his family life.

The show relies heavily on its well-written characters, whose astounding development over the seasons is prompted by surprising and often brutal events that occur in their lives. Tony’s conversations with his therapist are a highlight of the series, as they reveal the inner workings of his anxious mind as he copes with a unique situation.

2 Game Of Thrones (2011)

game of thrones s8 ep4 daenerys dragon

Game of Thrones is an epic fantasy drama series that needs no introduction. Based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, the eight-season show became a cultural phenomenon soon after its initial release. It depicts the power struggle in the kingdoms of Westeros, where they fight to determine the rightful ruler who will sit on the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, a mystical force from beyond the Wall threatens to doom everyone.

With its fantastical storylines, creatures like dragons, shockingly gruesome scenes, and more, there’s more than one reason to fall in love with the show. Of course, it’s worth noting that the final and worst season of Game of Thrones was a disappointment, to say the least, but everything leading up to that disastrous point is still worth seeing today.

1 The Wire (2002)

the wire hbo poster

Although the five-season crime drama series The Wire didn’t generate much of a buzz during its runtime, the sleeper hit has since been recognized by both fans ands alike as a hidden gem that explores the complexity of urban life. More than just a police drama, the show underscores the connections between institutions and citizens, exploring the complicated relationships and dangers that come with these links.

Its painfully accurate portrayal of Baltimore, Maryland focuses on aspects rooted in real life such as the illegal drug trade, bureaucratic systems, and even education. The countless daring questions it raises about crime, corruption, surveillance, and more are still relevant and applicable today.

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