Breaking News

The top HBO TV shows of all time, ranked from worst to best by critics

watchmen

  • With the launch of HBO Max looming, we looked back at HBO's years of stellar programming.
  • We ranked all of HBO's notable shows from worst to best by Metacritic scores, from classics like "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" to modern hits like "Watchmen" and "Succession."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

HBO has brought us some of the greatest TV shows of all time, like "The Sopranos" and "The Wire," throughout its history of original programming, which started in the early '80s.

Last year, its hit fantasy series "Game of Thrones" wrapped up, but the network has still delivered quality programming like "Barry," "Succession," and "Watchmen."

As WarnerMedia, HBO's corporate parent, prepares to launch the new streaming service HBO Max next month, we're taking a look back at the premium cable network's library of acclaimed (or reviled) shows, based on ratings data from review aggregator Metacritic.

(Note: We left off animated, children's, sketch comedy, documentary/reality, international programming, and talk shows. We excluded most miniseries, with notable exceptions. We broke any ties by number of total reviews counted by Metacritic.)

Carrie Wittmer contributed to an earlier version of this story.

SEE ALSO: A new survey suggests HBO Max could be a hit when the streaming service launches next month

82. "Ja'mie: Private School Girl" (2013), one season

Metacritic score: 40

"It's a painfully obvious shtick, so camp and arch it's impossible to enjoy the joke." — TV Guide



81. "Here and Now" (2018), one season

Metacritic score: 46

"Maddening Here and Now can also be engaging and provocative. The frustration is in never quite knowing what it wants to be." — Newsday



80. "Lucky Louie" (2006), one season

Metacritic score: 47

"A show so vile, it makes you think the company's arrogant It's Not TV — It's HBO slogan isn't a brag — it's a threat." — USA Today



79. "John from Cincinnati" (2007), one season

Metacritic score: 50 (based on 7 critics)

"Watching HBO's surfing drama 'John From Cincinnati' is like sitting through a bad play at a tiny experimental theater. ... In short, if Gary Busey were a TV series, he would be 'John From Cincinnati.'" — The Boston Globe



78. "Angry Boys" (2011), one season

Metacritic score: 50 (based on 24 critics)

It "leaves only the flashes of comedic brilliance, and even they don't light up the sky very often." — The Wall Street Journal



77. "The Brink" (2015), one season

Metacritic score: 52

"The show operates at a tone of constant hysteria, which, as justified as that may be, begins to feel exhausting." — Variety



76. "Vice Principals" (2016), one season

Metacritic score: 56

"There isn't much that can pass for comedy here, but there's plenty of compelling viciousness and two powerful performances." — The Wall Street Journal



75. "Hello Ladies" (2013), one season

Metacritic score: 58 (based on 21 critics)

"We've seen this show before, in fresher settings, with stronger comic structure — from, in fact, the same creators: [Stephen] Merchant and American 'Office' writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky." — Newsday



74. "Tell Me You Love Me" (2007), one season

Metacritic score: 58 (based on 25 critics)

"Unfortunately, it is difficult to stay interested in what happens to any of these characters because most of them are so absurdly unlikable." — Los Angeles Times



73. "How to Make It in America" (2010-11), two seasons

Metacritic score: 59

"As a portrait of struggling Manhattanites, 'How to Make It' effectively homes in on that hope-filled effervescence historically associated with the idealized American dream." — Slant Magazine



72. "Unscripted" (2005), one season

Metacritic score: 60 (based on 4 critics)

"A faux documentary on actors who are not famous but who are struggling to be isn't inherently interesting to non-actors ... 'Unscripted' isn't a complete flop. It's just rare that HBO fails like this." — The San Francisco Chronicle



71. "Divorce" (2016-present), two seasons

Metacritic score: 60 (based on 38 critics)

"The laugh-out-loud viciousness of the opening, which involves both a gun and vomit, is clearly the work of series creator Sharon Horgan, who also co-writes and stars in Amazon's brilliant 'Catastrophe.' But 'Divorce' isn't always as biting as it is in those moments, leading to a solidly acted but somewhat mundane exploration of a breakup." — The AV Club



70. "The Newsroom" (2012-14), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 61

"The series is kind of a mess ... but one you can't really look away from." — SFGate



69. "The New Pope" (2020), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 63 (based on 12 critics)

"Outrageous, audacious, seductive, sexy and byzantine, to say nothing of visually voluptuous." — Wall Street Journal



68. "Doll & Em" (2014-15, two seasons)

Metacritic score: 63 (based on 25 critics)

"Despite its refreshing commitment to realism, 'Doll & Em' is ultimately too relaxed and meandering for its own good. There are times when you may wish it had embraced the occasional cliches with more gusto." — Vulture



67. "Carnivale" (2003-05), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 63 (based on 39 critics)

"A bloated mess ... 'Carnivale' is a little too full of itself. Believing that it has a fascinating story to tell with all the complex themes you could imagine, the series nevertheless fails the first test of television: Move forward." — SFGate



66. "Life's Too Short" (2011 and 2013), one season

Metacritic score: 64 (based on 18 critics)

"Measured against the yardstick of their own lofty standards, the show comes up a little short." — Variety



65. "Sex and the City" (1998-2004), six seasons

Metacritic score: 64 (based on 27 critics)

: N/A

"Parker's irresistible charm keeps us on Carrie's side even as the character's act grows old." — People

 



64. "Avenue 5" (2020-present), one season

Metacritic score: 64 (based on 27 critics)

User score: 5.6

"'Avenue 5 is distinguished by a high-low sensibility in which poop jokes are about waste and entropy and fatal pollution but also, foremost, about tons of poop, the sight of which lightens the mood." — New Yorker



63. "The Comeback" (2005 and 2014), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 64 (based on 49 critics)

"It would all be terribly sad it if it weren't so incredibly funny." — TV Guide Magazine



62. "Hung" (2009-11), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 65 (based on 35 critics)

"I feel that there's a really good dark comedy about the decline of the American dream struggling to emerge from the often-forced plots." — Time



61. "Ballers" (2015-2019), five seasons

Average Metacritic score: 65 (based on 35 critics)

"[Dwayne] Johnson himself is the best part of 'Ballers,' a charismatic, mostly responsive force that is our window to the precarious world of retirement from football. His perspective on the life of the partying ball player is one of nostalgia. But in the absence of forward momentum, the camera turns to looking for shock value anywhere it can." — Salon



60. "Bored to Death" (2009-11), three seasons

Metacritic score: 66

"'Bored' sometimes lags and drags, as if it took a few tokes, too. But when it's funny — and 'Bored' certainly can be — it's a winner." — Newsday



59. "Summer Heights High" (2007), one season

Metacritic score: 67 (based on 13 critics)

"A funny/sad 'Office'-style mockumentary depicting a year in the life of an Australian public high school, this wildly talented writer-star loves making you squirm (à la [Ricky] Gervais) while submerging himself inside the skin of characters so diverse (à la [Tracey] Ullman) you can hardly believe it's the same guy." — TV Guide



58. "The Righteous Gemstones" (2019-present), one season

Metacritic score: 67 (based on 20 critics)

"Gemstones' subtler moments work better than its bold strokes." — TV Guide

 



57. "Entourage" (2004-11), eight seasons

Average Metacritic score: 67 (based on 70 critics)

"The show is vulgar, adolescent, and sexist — and seems proud of it." — The Baltimore Sun



56. "Euphoria" (2019-present), one season

Metacritic score: 68 (based on 26 critics)

" Its louder moments are graphic and brash but its quieter moments are equally impactful, a well-modulated drama that knows when to push and then pull back." — Guardian



55. "The Young Pope" (2017), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 68 (based on 38 critics)

"'The Young Pope' is TV's equivalent of a dorm-room poster of Bob Marley blowing smoke or the Lenny Bruce mugshot: a depleted symbol of a radical reaction to society that finally most clearly represents the status quo." — Collider



54. "His Dark Materials" (2019-present), one season

Metacritic score: 69 (based on 22 critics)

"The plot of His Dark Materials is a fusion of ripping adventure yarn and coming-of-age story; neglecting the latter in favor of the former, on the misapprehension that action pleases audiences more than character, is a mistake this production does not make." — Slate



53. "True Blood" (2008-14), seven seasons

Average Metacritic score: 69 (based on 110 critics)

"It's creepy, steamy and funny at times, and it's also a muddle, a comic murder mystery that is a little too enthralled with its own exoticism." — The New York Times



52. "Eastbound & Down" (2009-13), four seasons

Average Metacritic score: 70 (based on 27 critics)

"'Eastbound & Down' holds together so well that it's worth looking past the ugly for the solid performances and the charcoal-black humor beneath." — The New Yorker



51. "Rome" (2005-07), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 70 (based on 43 critics)

"'Rome' is most entertaining when it laces its wild, ancient antics with winks of the pedestrian." — Entertainment Weekly



50. "Vinyl" (2016), one season

Metacritic score: 71

"'Vinyl' will leave you dancing to the music, but may leave you wondering why you should care." — New York Post



49. "Westworld" (2017-present), three seasons

Metacritic score: 72 (based on 94 critics)

"It's the kind of trippy conceptual project that would be unbearable if it weren't so elegantly made. So far, it works, mostly — not because it's perfect but because it gets under your skin." — The New Yorker



48. "Mosaic" (2018), miniseries

Metacritic score: 73 (based on 19 critics)

"This HBO drama from director Steven Soderbergh essentially takes a pretty conventional murder mystery, dresses it up with a gimmick and comes away with a pretty compelling if somewhat conventional story." — CNN



47. "Oz" (1997-2003), six seasons

Metacritic score: 73 (based on 19 critics)

"'Oz' is flat-out the most violent and graphically sexual series on TV. By contrast, it makes ABC's 'NYPD Blue' look and sound like dancing Barney." — LA Times



46. "Crashing" (2017-2019), three seasons

Metacritic score: 73 (based on 22 critics)

"There is a lot of talk — practical and philosophical — about comedy, and 'Crashing' is very good with the details of low-level nightlife. But what most makes the show entertaining are Pete's episodic adventures with characters who will help form him, challenge him and wake him from his self-satisfied sleep into a better sort of happiness." — LA Times



45. "Flight of the Conchords" (2007-09), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 73 (based on 25 critics)

"There are no big sociopolitical statements here, no guerilla-style confrontations, no scenes of squirmy awkwardness, no multilayered pop culture references. It's just a very smart, very funny show." — Entertainment Weekly



44. "Big Love" (2006-11), five seasons

Average Metacritic score: 73 (based on 73 critics)

"A very original, extremely well-acted and complexly written drama." — SFGate



43. "True Detective" (2014-present), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 73 (based on 117 critics)

"It's an okay cop drama, to be sure, but it's definitely a cop drama you have seen many, many times before." — Vox



42. "Run" (2020-present), one season

Metacritic score: 74 (based on 21 critics)

"Run, the new HBO series created by Vicky Jones, who directed the stage production of Fleabag, is a beam of glorious light and a jolt of electricity." — Vulture



41. "Family Tree" (2013), one season

Metacritic score: 74 (based on 28 critics)

"A quirky and hilarious gem." — The Hollywood Reporter



40. "Six Feet Under" (2001-2005), five seasons

Metacritic score: 74 (based on 31 critics)

"This challenging show offers the viewer nary a morsel of TV comfort food. But uncommonly good writing and acting are satisfying too." — People



39. "Looking" (2014-15), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 74 (based on 33 critics)

"'Looking' doesn't make the mistake of arguing that gay men are just like straight women, or straight men, or gay women, or even each other. Instead it tells the story of three guys who are friends in a strangely wonderful and difficult time and what that looks like. To them." — LA Times



38. "Luck" (2011-12), one season

Metacritic score: 75 (based on 29 critics)

"The parts that do work possess the doom-laden yet strangely optimistic romanticism of [David] Milch's best work." — The Huffington Post



37. "The Leftovers" (2014-17), three seasons

Average Metacritic score76 (based on 81 critics)

"None of this would work without compelling characters. Fortunately, 'The Leftovers' has bunches of them." — The AV Club



36. "Sally4Ever" (2018), one season

Metacritic score: 77 (based on 12 critics)

"Potentially cataclysmic. I'm not certain U.S. viewers are--or will ever be--ready. ... The funniest moments in Sally4Ever, though, tend to be not so outrageous." — The Atlantic



35. "Gentleman Jack" (2019-present), one season

Metacritic score: 77 (based on 18 critics)

"Not everything about the series works ... But certainly watch Gentleman Jack. Watch it for an interesting depiction of 19th-century Yorkshire society ... Watch it for Jones' forceful, vivacious, smart-as-hell portrayal." — Paste



34. "Togetherness" (2015-16), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 77 (based on 35 critics)

"It's a slower-paced, smaller-scale show about the sad reality of sticking it out in Hollywood into middle age. It also veers into weirder territory that would feel impossible outside California. But thanks to the chemistry between [Amanda] Peet and [Steve] Zissis, it's endlessly engrossing." — Entertainment Weekly



33. "Getting On" (2013-15), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 77 (based on 33 critics)

"It's a dark and astonishing gem of a show, with a bravely skillful cast juggling the petty obsessions of the workplace with Much Bigger Issues." — LA Times



32. "Succession" (2018-present), two seasons

Metacritic score: 77 (based on 48 critics)

"Succession doesn't have a tonal problem, necessarily--the comedy and drama mostly complement each other—but rather a fundamental challenge: making some really shitty people the kind you'd want to visit with week after week. The series, then, is best appreciated not as a glimpse into the lives of media moguls and unsavory billionaires, but as a high-stakes family drama, one whose fights, backstabs, and reconciliations have the potential to ripple throughout the world." — The AV Club

 



31. "John Adams" (2008), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 78 (based on 27 critics)

"Both the book and the miniseries sketch admirably human portraits of historical figures such as Adams, Jefferson and Franklin." — Chicago Tribune



30. "Sharp Objects" (2018), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 78 (based on 41 critics)

"On TV, Sharp Objects can't precisely capture Flynn's prose and the internalized descent into disorientation taken page-by-page, but series director Jean-Marc Vallee finds his own visual language that, driven by a ferociously wounded performance by Amy Adams, makes this eight-hour limited series haunting and riveting--both prestige and pulp." — Hollywood Reporter



29. "In Treatment" (2008-10), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 78 (based on 60 critics)

"The acting is brilliant, the problems are relatable, and the truths Dr. Weston is chasing are profound. On the other hand, 'In Treatment' is the epitome of American self-indulgence, both for the actors and the characters they're playing." — Chicago Sun-Times



28. "Big Little Lies" (2017-present), two seasons

Metacritic score: 78 (based on 78 critics)

"Just when you worry the show is a pageant of ugly cliches about female rivalry, it gives you a poignant, nuanced scene to deepen the whole." — Entertainment Weekly



27. "Enlightened" (2011-13), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 79

"A black comedy working many shades of gray, 'Enlightened' is about dark mornings of the soul and the fool's-golden glow of the new convert, and it measures the weight of the world with an eccentric scale." — Slate



26. "Dream On" (1990-96), six seasons

Metacritic score: 80 (based on 8 critics)

"This is a rare TV union where cast, writers, and directors appear to be of a single comedic mind; the humorous results speak for themselves." — LA Times



25. "Girls" (2012-17), six seasons

Average Metacritic score: 80 (based on 113 critics)

"It definitely has a voice, and it's a great one: witty and wise and warm and not exactly like anything you've heard before." — Uproxx



24. "High Maintenance" (2016-present), three seasons

Metacritic score: 81 (based on 27 critics)

"'High Maintenance' stands out, not just because it's on the front end of what is apparently a reefer TV trend, but because it's so precisely made and has such an ambling, open heart." — Vulture



23. "Los Espookys" (2019-present), one season

Metacritic score: 82 (based on 12 critics)

"The jokes are fast-paced and tinged with absurdity; at its best, Los Espookys can feel like a half-hour telenovela assembled in the 30 Rock writers' room." — Entertainment Weekly



22. "Chernobyl" (2019), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 82 (based on 27 critics)

"'Chernobyl' won't be for everyone. With constant, low-simmering intensity and an all-too-visible air of death, the vivid recreation of an unimaginable disaster can be uncomfortable to say the least." — Indiewire



21. "Veep" (2012-19), seven seasons

Average Metacritic score: 82 (based on 115 critics)

"The series reserves its most blistering humor for the universal narcissism on display, always distracting from the real work at hand." — Slant Magazine



20. "Extras" (2005-07), two seasons

Average Metacritic score: 83 (based on 37 critics)

"The most original and brilliant show on television." — The New Republic



19. "Boardwalk Empire" (2010-14), five seasons

Average Metacritic score: 83 (based on 85 critics)

"Like a good whiskey, it's rough and smooth in all the right ways. By a few episodes in, you'll want to order it by the case." — Time



18. "Insecure" (2016-present), four seasons

Metacritic score85 (based on 58 critics)

"It's a smart and often funny look at young people looking for love and professional satisfaction in Los Angeles, which is about as common a genre as TV has to offer these days. But taken in the totality of the TV landscape, Rae's voice is one that wasn't being heard and that voice is what makes 'Insecure' stand out, not necessarily as better than the Emmy winners or critical favorites in the field, but as gratifyingly distinguishable." — The Hollywood Reporter



17. "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2000-present), 10 seasons

Average Metacritic score: 84 (based on 100 critics)

"An insanely funny romp thanks to its unique storytelling technique and an inspired performance by the star." — Chicago Tribune



16. "Show Me a Hero" (2015), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 85 (based on 33 critics)

"It's like a procedural drama, about the drama of procedure — it isn't ever dry. There are some superbly mounted, loud, crowded big scenes — [David] Simon is a great orchestrator of chaos — but there is an intensity to the quieter, more private moments as well. I wouldn't trade it for a bushel barrel of tortured detectives or all the kings and queens in Westeros." — LA Times



15. "Barry" (2018-present), two seasons

Average metacritic score: 85 (based on 42 critics)

"Barry proves that by honing in on a specific narrative with razor sharp focus and excellent craftsmanship, you can stand out. You don't need a massive budget or a high-concept premise. You just need good storytellers willing to put in the work, and talented performers ready to play." — Collider



14. "The Deuce" (2017-2019), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 85 (based on 54 critics)

"The second season pays dividends to the viewer in the form of taut and lively performances. ... If you're not already invested in this drama, you may find this season to be shinier, brighter and more seductive than before. The Deuce was already an excellent drama. Now it's definitively one of the best shows on TV." — Salon



13. "Deadwood" (2004-06), three seasons

Average Metacritic score: 85 (based on 61 critics)

"To call 'Deadwood' great television doesn't begin to do it justice." — Seattle Post-Intelligencer



12. "Treme" (2010-13), four seasons

Average Metacritic score: 85 (based on 63 critics)

"From scene to scene, 'Treme' is novelistic in the best sense — a long, complex, involving story that takes a while to settle into, but that you can't put down and don't want to end." — Salon



11. "Silicon Valley" (2014-2019), six seasons

Average Metacritic score: 84 (based on 79 critics)

"Silicon Valley is a comedy, certainly, and a very funny one, but it doesn't spend all its time reminding you of the fact." — LA Times



10. "Watchmen" (2019), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 85

"The series' scope is astonishing given its subject matter, and even more so given its relentless entertainment value." — Indiewire



9. "The Pacific" (2010), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 86 (based on 32 critics)

"Certain moments may verge on cliche (and once in a while, the dialogue is a little corny), but overall, 'The Pacific' is crafted and acted with such loving devotion that it's hard to find fault with its sincerity and sentimental forays." — Chicago Tribune



8. "Game of Thrones" (2011-2019), eight seasons

Average Metacritic score: 86 (based on 171 critics)

"The show beautifully depicts a massive game of musical chairs, a world at war with doom ever present just across the border." — The Boston Globe



7. "Band of Brothers" (2001), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 87 (based on 28 critics)

"It doesn't even look like a TV miniseries — it's more like 10 theatrical films that do an amazing job re-creating battles." — Deseret News



6. "My Brilliant Friend" (2018-present), two seasons

Metacritic score: 88 (based on 27 critics)

"The adaptation has a sharp sense of time and place without nostalgia or sentimentality. Costanzo's attention to period detail helps; it can feel as if you're watching a lost postwar Italian film about postwar Italy." — New York Times



5. "Olive Kitteridge" (2014), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 89 

"[A] lovely, ruthless, masterfully restrained two-night, four-hour contemplation of love, marriage, parenthood, mental illness and identity." — Los Angeles Times



4. "The Night Of" (2016), one-season miniseries

Metacritic score: 90

"As complicated and layered as life itself, 'The Night Of' is an instant classic." — TV Insider



3. "The Wire" (2002-08), five seasons

Average Metacritic score: 91

"It slowly develops into an engrossing look at the methodical nature of police work and the limits of individualism." — Time



2. "The Sopranos" (1999-2007), six seasons

Average Metacritic score: 94

"Combining dark comedy and psychological drama, the show achieves a fresh tone to match its irresistibly winning concept." — The New York Times



1. "The Larry Sanders Show" (1992-98), six seasons

Average Metacritic score: 95

"Razor-edged satire of late-night talk TV from people with an ear for truth and a taste for blood." — St. Louis Post-Dispatch





* This article was originally published herePress Release Distribution

No comments