If you’re looking for the best TV shows HBO Max has to offer, you’ve come to the right place! We’ve picked out 30 shows that we love and which have varied audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
HBO Max is coming May 2020 and will be one of the top streaming platforms moving forward. If you’re serious about HBO Max like we are, let’s dig into their catalog, as it’s quite spectacular!
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30. Batwoman (12%)
(Beckett) Batwoman splits opinion in the same way as the caped crusader splits heads. Is it a step in the right direction for superhero diversity, or a mess hiding behind diversity? Either way, the show should have been great but misses the mark by being cliched and rushed in all the wrong places. Despite the indifference, it’s still worth watching because it’s set in the DC Universe.
29. Watchmen (42%)
(Beckett) Forget the movie. If you watched that and loved it, this is not more of the same. The show is reforging the original comic book material for today, and that’s the problem. Critics love it for its political stance, but audiences dislike it for some of the stances it takes. If you’re looking for something divisive with a massive budget, Watchmen is for you.
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28. Two and a Half Men (65%)
(Beckett) Two and a Half Men has cost whatever the difference is between what HBO paid for The Bing Bang Theory and $1.5 billion. That’s if reports are true. The bulk of that price tag isn’t for this show, but Two and a Half Men, with Charlie Sheen, was a TV blockbuster. Not that it’s bad with Ashton Kutcher, but it’s never been the same.
27. Ballers (71%)
(Fitzgerald) This Dwayne Johnson vehicle sees The Rock in a bit of a darker, edgier role than his rather family-friendly Hollywood blockbusters. He’s an ex-pro football player with substance-abuse issues — and he’s a financial manager.
Supporting cast standouts include John David Washington, Denzel’s son, who’s gone on to star in BlacKkKlansman and Christopher Nolan’s new film, Tenet. Russell Brand was a welcome addition in Season 4, too. It’s a little rough around the edges, hence the low-70s critic rating, but Ballers is a great time in particular for sports enthusiasts.
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26. True Blood (72%)
(Fitzgerald) Vampire-centric entertainment has taken the form of movies with the Twilight saga, but also in TV with True Blood. This fantasy horror, seven-season thriller earned far more critical acclaim than the Twilight adaptations, though. True Blood also marked a return to prominence for lead Anna Paquin — the second-youngest Oscar winner for her work in 1993’s The Piano.
25. True Detective (78%)
(Fitzgerald) The Nic Pizzolatto creation has had its ups and downs. Season 1 with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey was right in the midst of the “McConaissance.” Double M was incredible as Rustin Cohle. Pizzolatto’s sophomore True Detective campaign was mostly a dud. Only Colin Farrell made that even remotely watchable. Thankfully, there was a return to form in Season 3 due to Pizzolatto upping his game and Mahershala Ali’s powerhouse performance.
24. The Big Bang Theory (81%)
(Fitzgerald) It’s hard to keep a sitcom fresh over the course of 12 seasons and a whopping 279 episodes. At least audiences believed The Big Bang Theory accomplished this, based on its steady, extremely high viewership. After its long run on CBS, the show landed a syndication deal with TBS.
Once HBO Max acquired it, the syndication contract in turn extended until 2028. Thus, WarnerMedia will be enjoying the back ends on Big Bang for years to come.
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23. Westworld (83%)
(Beckett) Before its release, people were waiting with bated breath. It was to be HBO’s next big show, along with Game of Thrones. The reality was somewhat less with the first season starting slow. If you can get past that initial slog the show becomes something special for sci-fi and western fans.
22. Luther (86%)
(Beckett) Luther is intelligent, complicated and cool. The one takeaway I took from the show was that Idris Elba should be James Bond! The guy dominates the frame in a way very few other actors and actresses can. The show has a great meta-story, interesting villains and is binge-friendly.
21. His Dark Materials (86%)
(Beckett) The show’s made by the BBC and distributed by HBO. After watching, one thing is certain: HBO needs this show! HBO has nothing like this in their catalog, and His Dark Materials could end up filling the gaping hole left by Harry Potter. It’s a gripping fantasy based on Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights amazing book series. By the time HBO Max comes out, this show will be one of its biggest draws.
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20. Game of Thrones (86%)
(Fitzgerald) Maybe the polarizing final season knocked the overall “Tomatometer” down a tad, but no one can deny the greatness that is Game of Thrones. The multiple plot lines brilliantly weaved together, blending medieval and fantastical elements, created a groundbreaking TV masterpiece.
The show is narrative mastery and a crazy mashup of genres on the largest scale imaginable. Capitalize on Game of Thrones‘ HBO Max availability, binge at least the first couple seasons and see if you’re not hooked.
19. Big Little Lies (87%)
(Fitzgerald) There’s a murder mystery element to this show, but another engrossing narrative thread is its depiction of an extremely toxic, abuse relationship. With a cast that features Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley in Season 1, Big Little Lies is required viewing.
Oh, beyond all that awesome feminine power, Alexander Skarsgård won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his role. Meryl Streep joined the cast for the second season. Believe the hype on the high critics score.
18. Veep (87%)
(Beckett) Someone recommended Veep to me. I was reluctant and uninterested despite positive reviews. I then saw Tony Hale (Arrested Development) in the cast listings and thought I’d give it a shot. Two things: the first is, Hale is hysterical as a weirdo! Secondly, the show Veep is great. It’s Park and Recreation good (a huge compliment), just political and missing Ron Swanson and Co.
17. South Park (87%)
(Beckett) HBO spent a whopping $500 million on South Park exclusivity. It’s a hilarious animated show that’s crude, controversial, and still topping Comedy Central’s ratings. The show cost $75 million more than Friends and as it’s still going strong. At 24 seasons long, it’s no real surprise.
16. Barry (90%)
(Beckett) Show co-creator Bill Hader is brilliant as the titular character. His deadpan delivery as the wannabe actor who’s actually a hitman is memorable. It’s addictive in an “I can’t believe I binged the whole season this weekend” way — and it includes Henry Winkler! Barry is a perfect dark comedy that everyone should watch.
15. The Pacific (91%)
(Fitzgerald) When a military miniseries is produced by the same creative minds behind Band of Brothers, it’s bound to be a success. Who says lightning can’t strike twice — at least in terms of being a critical TV darling? Who are those people?
Answer: executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. Those gents behind Saving Private Ryan. Again. As for The Pacific? Well, it focuses on the Pacific Theater of World War II. Based on the talent involved in getting this project off the ground, is there any further incentive necessary to give it a shot?
14. Sex and the City (93%)
(Beckett) If you’ve watched all six seasons of Sex and the City, you’ll know that the show is big, brash and brave. It was a cultural watershed, opening the door to exploring how some women think in the modern world. One thing is certain: the TV show is way better than the movies.
13. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (93%)
(Fitzgerald) There weren’t enough critics ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, but Fresh Prince‘s audience score of 93 percent should tell you all you need to know.
Will Smith stars as the titular character in what was a career-defining role. The show ultimately launched Smith into Hollywood A-list stardom, yet it also shows his legitimate acting chops even from a younger age.
12. Succession (93%)
(Beckett) Created by Jesse Armstrong, who you may not know but should. A brilliant dark comedic mind that’s written episodes for Black Mirror and Veep. His best work is Four Lions, which if you haven’t watched, do so. It’s crazy! Succession is the best of Armstrong’s work. It’s a tale about a wealthy, dysfunctional family at the top of the media corporate ladder. It’s both challenging and hilarious, and one show I cannot wait to continue watching.
11. The Night Of (93%)
(Fitzgerald) This eight-episode miniseries was initially intended for The Sopranos‘ Gandolfini until his untimely death in June 2013. Robert De Niro was then to replace him, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
John Turturro eventually took the lead as the show’s lawyer, who defends a Pakistani-American college student (Riz Ahmed) accused of murder. The lead casting changes certainly didn’t hinder The Night Of‘s quality, as Turturro and Ahmed shine in this instant classic.
10. The West Wing (95%)
(Fitzgerald) Aaron Sorkin’s snappy, witty dialogue is on full display in this political drama. What an ensemble cast, by the way. Martin Sheen leads as the Commander-in-Chief, and does an exceptional job.
Sorkin left after the fourth of seven eventual seasons. At least watch it up until that point on HBO Max, because it’s simply must-see content. Perhaps streaming will give The West Wing new life for a new generation.
9. Friends (95%)
(Beckett) HBO Max paid $425 million for Friends, one of the biggest TV shows ever and Netflix’s second-most viewed. Despite the obvious expense, it’s hard to imagine this acquisition won’t be a big advantage for HBO. Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Joey, and Phoebe might be there for you now on Netflix but in 2020, they’ll be on HBO Max!
8. Rick and Morty (95%)
(Fitzgerald) “Irreverent” doesn’t even begin to describe this animated gem. Insane comedy, off-the-wall sci-fi and storytelling genius elevate this series beyond mere cult status.
Co-creator Justin Roiland voices Rick and Morty. His chief inspiration was the dynamic between Doc Brown (Rick here) and Marty McFly (Morty) in the Back to the Future films. If that gives you any idea what you’re in for. If that still sounds cryptic, just don’t think and watch this Adult Swim original when HBO Max carries it.
7. Boardwalk Empire (96%)
(Beckett) What!?!! You’ve not watched Boardwalk Empire? You’re so lucky, you’ve got it all to come. It’s in Atlantic City during the prohibition era. If you’ve got a thing for gangsters done well, it’s a must-watch. Boardwalk Empire was created by Terence Winter, the guy who did a small show called The Sopranos, and the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. It stars Steve Buscemi, and that should be enough for anyone to put it on their watch list.
6. Deadwood (96%)
(Beckett) If this was my list, Deadwood would be on top — and I’m not even a fan of its lead Timothy Olyphant. Considering this list is based on Rotten Tomatoes review scores, I’m relieved it’s top 10. Deadwood could have ended up anywhere because of the show’s more explicit content. It’s just fortunate that Ian McShane is the guy often uttering such controversial dialogue, because he’s amazing (fanboy). I challenge you to watch one episode and stop! McShane’s Al Swearengen is too cool to put down.
5. Chernobyl (96%)
(Beckett) Nothing prepared me for the show Chernobyl. I knew that it was a dramatization of the 1986 nuclear power plant explosion in the Soviet Union (Russia). I didn’t know that I’d feel every minute of its five episodes. Some shows have no substance; this show crushes you with it. There’s so much emotional weight here that at times it’s unbearable. By the end, you’re left with baggage, and that’s the show’s greatest achievement — along with it’s Emmy Awards.
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm (97%)
(Fitzgerald) Seinfeld co-creator Larry David enjoyed his own raging success as the lead in this solo-conceived comedy series. David shines as a socially awkward misfit who bumbles through life and hilarious circumstances.
He’s playing a heightened version of himself in these instances, and the situational comedy that ensues is a consistent delight. Don’t only believe the critics’ hype — Curb boasts two Emmy wins and 43 nominations.
3. The Wire (97%)
(Fitzgerald) Simply put, this is one of the best TV shows ever made. The creator/writer David Simon is a former crime beat reporter who shadowed the Baltimore police’s homicide unit for a year. This story is set in that city. Simon paints an unflinching, realistic picture of how crime ties into society and politics.
There’s incredible acting throughout, from the likes of Idris Elba, Dominic West, Michael K. Williams, Aidan Gillen and even a super young Michael B. Jordan.
2. Band of Brothers (98%)
(Fitzgerald) The amount of actors who helped launch their careers with roles in this show is staggering. Tom Hardy, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Damian Lewis — even Jimmy Fallon! The list goes on.
It’s like the TV version of Black Hawk Down in that way. Well, that film is about the U.S. military’s raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. Band of Brothers is centered around World War II and the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. This 10-episode epic is certainly worth the binge on HBO Max.
1. The Sopranos (98%)
(Fitzgerald) A neurotic mob boss who talks out his issues during therapy sessions, and is by turns extremely intimidating and dangerous? If you haven’t seen the late, great James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, HBO Max is the place to catch him as the anchor of this legendary show.
It’s such a brilliant balance of tones and an ingeniously conceived and executed entry in the annals of TV.