HBO Max has gradually built up a stack of TV shows well worth your binge-watching hours. Checkout these top 40 series that will keep you glued to your TV
Westworld (2016 – )
In this HBO show, lifelike humanoid robots occupy a Wild West-themed amusement park, where human visitors are able to interact with them in any way they choose (rape, murder — no abhorrent action is off the table). These theme park “hosts” usually forget the brazenly violent things that occur to them. But a new update to some of the hosts disrupts the status quo. This complex sci-fi series will get you thinking, and there are already three seasons to binge.
Raised by Wolves will satisfy those who want to spend a lot of time (nearly 10 hours) in a world brought to the screen with the help of Ridley Scott. Two androids, Mother and Father, attempt to establish an atheist human colony on a new planet, after a war with a religious order destroys Earth. But they soon discover controlling the beliefs of humans is a tricky task. Directing the first two episodes, as well as pulling the strings as an executive producer, Scott sets up a provocative exploration into AI and religious beliefs. There’s blood, big performances and a powerful lead in Amanda Collin’s “Mother.”
Barry (2018- )
In Barry’s opening scene, SNL alum Bill Hader casually leaves a hotel room that contains a dead body. The actor plays hitman Barry Berkman, who isn’t happy with life or his unconventional profession, but his path is altered when he travels to Los Angeles and gets roped into performing in an acting class. Barry features plenty of violence and a deeply troubled protagonist, leaning into the “dark” part of its dark comedy designation. But it’s also really funny, and there are three seasons to binge. At the very least, you’ll want to tune in for truly great scenes between Hader and his acting teacher, played by Henry Winkler.
The Baby (2022)
This HBO miniseries introduces Natasha (Michelle De Swarte), a 38-year-old woman who’s clearly uninterested in having children. But then she suddenly finds herself strapped to a baby when it falls off a cliff and into her arms. She tries to pass the youngster off to others, but untimely deaths (which are curiously always in the presence of the baby) keep her from getting away with it. One thing is already clear: The Baby’s blend of comedy and horror is to die for.
Hacks (2021 – )
The great Jean Smart rightfully takes the spotlight in this acclaimed comedy-drama series. Throwing iPads into swimming pools and delivering withering looks, Smart plays Deborah Vance, a legendary Las Vegas comedy diva who must face the prospect of appealing to a younger audience or disappearing into obscurity. She’s partnered with Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a young and equally snarky comedy writer, to freshen up her material. Perfectly balancing its biting insight into how the comedy business treats women, with the warmth of an odd couple buddy comedy, Hacks is one of the best originals to come out of HBO Max.
Our Flag Means Death (2022 – )
In this comedy set on the high seas, Rhys Darby plays Stede Bonnet, an aristocrat who abandons his cushy life and family to become the captain of a pirate ship. Spoiler: He hilariously bumbles through the gig. Under Bonnet’s leadership, the show’s seafaring crew is far from the tough, swashbuckling group you might encounter in something like Pirates of the Caribbean (they spend their downtime hand-sewing, and they enjoy a competently narrated bedtime story). It all leads to plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Game of Thrones fans may spot Hodor actor Kristian Nairn hanging out among the crew, and the series also stars Taika Waititi as Blackbeard.
Minx (2022 – )
In Minx, set in ’70s Los Angeles, funny and motivated (if uptight) Joyce has a dream of creating a feminist women’s magazine. At a pitch festival, she crosses paths with nude-magazine mogul Glenn, and eventually, the unlikely pair joins forces on a mag that packages Joyce’s stories alongside images of nude men. Yes, there’s a lot of nudity here (the first episode, for instance, includes a montage of male genitalia), so if that’s not your jam, be prepared. Ophelia Lovibond is fabulous as the show’s leading lady, and the cast has tons of chemistry. If you’re searching for a refreshing, highly entertaining story with a killer ensemble, flip through the pages of this HBO series.
Made for Love (2021 – )
Black Mirror, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This satirical comedy hinges on Cristin Milioti’s comedic talents. Hazel Green escapes a 10-year marriage — until she realizes her husband, a tech billionaire, has fitted a chip into her brain. He can see her every move and track her down to negotiate their marriage. Hazel searches for freedom with the help of her dad, played by Ray Romano, who’s in an unorthodox relationship of his own. A few twists, a helpful dolphin and socially awkward people also tag along for this disturbing ride.
The Sex Lives of College Girls (2021 – )
Mindy Kaling co-created this dramedy about four 18-year-old girls who start their freshman year of college together in Vermont. Equipped with distinctly different personalities, the college newcomers navigate love and sex in their own ways. The show is funny, easily bingeable and is bolstered by the chemistry between its female leads. A contemporary teen comedy showcasing messy experiences, relatable characters and raunchy jokes.
The Righteous Gemstones (2019 – )
This outrageous series highlights a highly dysfunctional family of famous televangelists called the Gemstones. In the show’s first season, a member of the family is blackmailed, and ridiculous antics ensue. John Goodman stars as the family patriarch, Eli, and Danny McBride, Edi Patterson and Adam Devine also commit to the bit, pulling off an absurd and addicting black comedy. The second season of the show just wrapped up, and HBO has already renewed the series for a third.
Starstruck (2021- )
Starstruck is a classic screwball comedy, starring the lovably goofy Rose Matafeo. She plays Jessie, a twentysomething Londoner who parties it up on New Year’s Eve, then later discovers she had a one-night stand with Tom Kapoor, a celebrity played by Nikesh Patel. Follow Jessie as she juggles odd jobs, from cinema worker to nanny, and her blossoming relationship with a film star that involves no high jinks whatsoever. Watch out for scene-stealer Minnie Driver as Tom’s agent in this witty, neatly crafted comedy package.
It’s a Sin (2021)
The best TV show of 2021 might already be here. It’s a Sin follows a group of young gay men living in London during the ’80s, just when HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed. This unique look at the early stages of what became a death sentence is handled with creator Russell T Davies’ trademark irrepressible joy for life. The warm, empathetic characters continue to live their lives to the full, flitting between bustling share houses and local bars to the beat of a popping ’80s soundtrack. Fast-paced, stylish and eye-opening, with a prevailing sense of hope, It’s a Sin is a soaring triumph for everyone to fall in love with.
Betty (2020 – )
In the words of CNET reviewer Richard Knightwell: “2020 sucked. You got up every morning and it all was all just a tiny bit worse. But every now and then a ray of sun would appear through the clouds. One of those bright spots was Betty, a fly-on-wall-style tale of skateboarding teens in a balmy New York. Utterly real and breathlessly dreamy at the same time, HBO’s TV follow-up to the indie hit Skate Kitchen painted a picture of young women facing the world head-on, pushing off and gaining speed and reducing obstacles into things waiting to be jumped over while looking cool. My baby daughter turned one while this show was on, and I can’t wait to plonk her on a skateboard. I hope she finds a Betty crew of her own.”
Succession (2018 – )
I Hate Suzie (2020 – )
I Hate Suzie sees Billie Piper team up once again with Secret Diary of a Call Girl writer Lucy Prebble. The result is a frenetic tour de force of ideas, steered by a vulnerable performance from Piper. She plays the titular Suzie, an actress who, moments after winning a part in a Disney movie, discovers she’s one of the victims in a celebrity phone hacking scandal. Each episode explores a stage of trauma, tackling the question of how compromising leaks both upend and perhaps liberate a person’s life. Amid the ruthless satire is a wonderful friendship between Suzie and her manager Naomi (Leila Farzad).
The Other Two (2019 – )
The sibling rivalry is strong and primed for hilarity in this comedy from a couple of Saturday Night Live writers. Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider tell the story of Cary (Drew Tarver) and Brooke (Heléne Yorker), siblings in their late 20s who struggle with the sudden rise to internet fame of their 13-year-old Justin Bieber-channeling brother. Molly Shannon is a treat as their mother, Pat, ushering her children through open doors to success. Once you get over the gimmicky premise, The Other Two’s pop culture satire and surprisingly heartfelt storylines are a winning combination. Schitt’s Creek fans should give this a look.
Ghosts (2019 – )
From the minds of the gang behind Horrible Histories comes Ghosts, a sitcom that manages to become better and better with every episode. The ever-reliable Charlotte Ritchie (Feel Good, Call The Midwife) stars as Alison, a woman doing up the old mansion she inherited with the help of her amateur builder husband. On top of money problems, their reno plans aren’t helped by the ghostly residents who want the house to themselves. If you’re on the look out for purely light-hearted viewing, Ghosts delivers a high gag rate, a talented comedic ensemble and even an endearing arc of friendship. Most of all, it’s gleefully silly.
Frayed (2019 – )
This black comedy takes us from London to Newcastle, Australia, following the misfortune of a woman who loses everything after the untimely death of her husband (don’t ask how he died). Broke and desperate, Sammy is forced to return to her hometown with her son and daughter, where she soon discovers she isn’t exactly a popular resident. The cringe factor is strong as Sammy does everything in her power to return to London, with some standout moments when she reunites with her bickering brother.
Home (2019 – 20)
This comedy-drama about a Syrian asylum seeker leans heavily on the warmer, cozier side of the equation. It follows the lives of a British family after they return from a holiday in France and discover a passenger hiding in the back of their car. There’s endless charm in Sami’s fish-out-of-water hijinks as he adapts to his new home. Home mines that feel-good vein, filled with nice people willing to help a good man, even if that’s a struggle for some of the family members.
Based on a memoir, Pure isn’t your average coming-of-age comedy about a young woman newly moved to London. Marnie struggles with a form of OCD called Pure O, which causes her to have intrusive sexual thoughts, often in the worst moments. (Her own mother features in one of these thoughts — no wonder Marnie leaves home.) What Pure does best is address stereotypes about OCD in compassionate ways. Marnie traverses the same stresses as other twenty-somethings: a new job, her sexuality and friendship. An enlightening, relatable and essential comedy.
Stath Lets Flats (2018 – )
Stath Lets Flats is one of the best new British TV shows that trades in quintessentially absurd British humor. Stath is a socially inept Greek-Cypriot letting agent, whose dad hands him a job working for his company. Despite his ineptitude, Stath perseveres with his new vocation, showing flats to potential customers with the electricity cut off or with the security alarm blaring because he can’t remember the code. His attempts to impress his father burn the same cringe appeal as The Office, which also sprinkled in poignant moments ensuring you rooted for the characters. Stick around for the even better season 2, which won three BAFTAs.
Search Party caught the eye of HBO Max, shifting to production with the streamer in its third and fourth seasons. The latter is arguably its best yet, taking the story of four, clueless millennials to even greater extremes, including a bizarrely brilliant Susan Sarandon cameo. But we begin when twentysomething Dory becomes an amateur detective to track down a missing woman she barely knew in college. Really, she’s searching for something else: herself. Equally conceited are her boyfriend Drew, the scene-stealing Elliott and the hilariously blonde Portia. This oddball show somehow creates the perfect cocktail of dark humor, mystery and insane characters. A collector’s item that won’t come around very often.
Irma Vep (2022)
In this captivating drama miniseries, Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, 2018’s Tomb Raider) plays Mira, a young movie star who takes a role outside her normal blockbuster — a criminal gang’s muse in a remake of real-life French silent film The Vampires. In the first episode of HBO’s show, the film’s director struggles to keep the production afloat. Meanwhile, an ex-lover toys with Mira. The series is based on a cult 1996 film of the same name, and both are directed by Olivier Assayas. For interesting characters, great dialogue and a show with something to say about making movies today, tune in to new episodes as they premiere on Mondays.
Station Eleven (2021 – )
With Station Eleven, post-apocalyptic TV fans are in for a treat. The show’s nonlinear storytelling will keep you on your toes, and well-conceived characters add to the appeal. As most of humanity succumbs to a flu-like virus, a young girl named Kirsten and an adult named Jeevan take shelter from the scourge. But from there, the show immediately launches 20 years into the future, which opens the story up to new dramatic turns and keeps us guessing at the past. It’s really good TV, and it will likely satisfy those who don’t typically opt for post-apocalyptic stories.
Julia (2022 – )
Following the life of television chef and cookbook writer Julia Child, this enticing period drama doles out a generous serving of humour and charm (and delicious-looking food, of course). Sarah Lancashire is endlessly watchable as the famed American cook, who paved the way for future cooking shows with her long-running series The French Chef. All eight episodes of the season are available on the streamer now, and HBO Max has confirmed it’s dishing out a second season.
The Staircase (2022)
A dramatized miniseries that draws in part from a 2004 documentary of the same name, HBO’s The Staircase is an enthralling take on a true-life story with fleshed-out characters and an all-star cast. Colin Firth stars as Michael Peterson, a novelist and husband to Kathleen (Toni Collette), who is found dead under suspicious circumstances. You’ll want to tune in to see what happens next. Sophie Turner, Dane DeHaan, Parker Posey and others also lend their talents to the drama.
The White Lotus (2021 – )
What was initially a limited series was so good HBO renewed it for a second season. The satire about guests at a fancy resort gradually unveils the darker edges of its picture-perfect postcard. The White Lotus features an ensemble cast, including Jennifer Coolidge, Alexandra Daddario, Steve Zahn, Molly Shannon and more hilarious people, who make this series soar. If that wasn’t enough, a murder mystery with the big reveal waiting till the very end will keep you thoroughly entertained.
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (2022 – )
Winning Time is a sports drama, but sports are hardly its only focus. Set in the ’80s, this series fixes its lens on the Los Angeles Lakers, chronicling the professional and personal lives of businessman Jerry Buss, superstar Magic Johnson and others involved in the sports dynasty at that time. The series’ first installment (they all clock in at around an hour) takes us through the lead-up to the Lakers signing Johnson, and establishes the show’s focus on the glitz and glamour of LA. Older camera techniques add a vintage feel, and breakout star Quincy Isaiah, who plays Johnson, makes an impression. Bottom line? You’ll want to check out Winning Time.
Euphoria (2019 – )
Euphoria’s second installment is on HBO Max now. This visually stunning series has garnered its fair share of fans, and it’s not hard to see why — the absorbing performances, cinematography and exploration of mature topics make this show shine. If nothing else, stick around to see Dune star Zendaya, who plays teenager Rue.
HBO Max thankfully brings this lauded Spanish miniseries to screens around the world. Veneno chronicles the life of Spanish icon Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez, a transgender singer and ’90s TV personality better known by the nickname “La Veneno” or “poison” in Spanish. Her enigmatic story comes under the lens of a curious journalism student grappling with her own identity. By turns hilarious, explicit and heart-breaking, this must-watch biographical miniseries explores survival and the influence of mass media.
Peacemaker (2022 – )
Following the events of 2021’s The Suicide Squad, this DC spinoff catches up with Peacemaker (John Cena), our towering, costume-clad protagonist who’s just been released from the hospital. Peacemaker believes he’s a superhero, but with his oft-repeated phrase about attaining “peace, no matter how many people I have to kill to get it,” the title doesn’t really suit him. The show establishes Peacemaker’s next steps — he isn’t returning to prison, but instead taking part in a black ops mission that will (again) get his hands dirty. The show often lands its jokes, and you’ll especially enjoy its entertaining supporting cast.
The Tourist (2022)
The Tourist starts its engine with an intense car chase in the Australian outback. More specifically, Belfast star Jamie Dornan is mercilessly chased off road and through the desert by a semitrailer. The next thing we know, Dornan’s character is in the hospital with complete amnesia. A fun and twisty miniseries, The Tourist lets us tag along with Dornan as he searches for answers. One mystery that doesn’t need solving? What you should watch tonight.
This compulsive thriller starring Kaley Cuoco is one of the best new shows to come out of HBO Max. Cuoco plays Cassie, a reckless flight attendant who sleeps with a passenger on a wild night out. She wakes up in Bangkok with barely any memory — and a dead body in bed with her. With the ghost of the deceased helping her piece things back together, she sobers up and takes on the mystery of what happened. Watch out for a fantastic title sequence, as well as a surprisingly dark psychological layer. But mainly enjoy the amusing combination of an inept detective bumbling through the world of cold killers.
Adventure Time: Distant Lands (2020 – 21)
Two years after Adventure Time ended, this four hour-long special came along, and it’s a brilliant treat for fans of the animated series. The miniseries nails the spinoff brief, introducing new characters and expanding on the Land of Ooo universe, while remaining true to its source material. Its heroes Finn and Jake, his magical doggo pal, set off on new adventures, along with Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen and BMO. The hourlong format is a nice way to change up and add to the exciting storytelling. A surprisingly emotional ride packed with every ingredient that made the original so beloved.
Infinity Train (2019 – 21)
Not a fan of cartoons? Let Infinity Train change your mind — all four seasons of the critically acclaimed show explore complex themes through character-driven storylines. Season 1 follows Tulip Olsen, a girl struggling with her parents’ recent divorce. Along with her pals — a confused robot and a talking corgi — she explores a seemingly endless train, whose passengers all have unresolved emotional issues or trauma. How do they leave the train? By resolving their issues, of course. Dark, challenging and magnificent, this is animated viewing like you’ve rarely seen it. Definitely not just for kids.
We Own This City (2022)
This well-reviewed crime miniseries comes from David Simon and George Pelecanos, who’ve also worked together on The Deuce, Treme and The Wire (which Simon created). It’s directed by King Richard’s Reinaldo Marcus Green. Based on a nonfiction book written by a Baltimore Sun reporter, the absorbing, six-episode show explores police corruption through a story about the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force.
With its fifth and final season, this Italian crime drama based on a true story has carved itself a place among the great mafia shows. It stands out for its realistic portrayal of the Naples underworld, following a clan’s internal power struggle after its head is arrested. With a dark, claustrophobic atmosphere and believable characters, Gomorrah is a refreshing and complete piece of TV.
Tokyo Vice (2022 – )
Season 1 of Tokyo Vice, a crime drama based on a book by journalist Jake Adelstein, has slickly stepped on to HBO Max. Set in Japan in the late 1990s, this noir follows an American journalist (Ansel Elgort) who eagerly joins the staff of a major Japanese newspaper. A world of grisly murders, neon nightclubs and powerful crime bosses awaits.
Love Life (2020 – )
Love Life is an anthology series that focuses on a different character’s love life until they meet the person they’re meant to be with. The first chapter follows Anna Kendrick’s Darby, an aspiring art collector who dates a range of different men with complicated results. Love Life paints a refreshingly imperfect picture, traveling a long, messy road that ultimately offers a hopeful look at relationships.