HBO is undeniably the highest-quality TV network around right now. Not only is it packed full of the best shows in TV history, but it was also the first big cable network to embrace the concept of streaming its own content.
If you have HBO as part of your cable TV package, you can watch online with HBO GO — but gone are the days when you needed cable TV to watch HBO. For $15-per-month, you can opt instead for a standalone HBO NOW subscription and drop your cable TV for good.
Does that sound like a steep price? I’m here to convince you that it isn’t. As of this writing HBO has 75+ original series in its library, but the following 15 shows alone are good enough to justify the cost. Check them out.
1. Band of Brothers (Historical Drama)
10 episodes across one season.
This miniseries is the incredible tale of “Easy” Company’s training and involvement throughout Europe during World War II. Obviously some parts were adapted for structure and dramatic effect, but it is based on historic people, events, and accounts.
How good is Band of Brothers? Not only does it sit atop the IMDb list of Top Rated TV Shows, but it’s been there for many years. If you don’t like war stories then you may not enjoy i, but if you do, this is the best thing you’ll ever watch.
2. The Wire (Crime Drama)
60 episodes across five seasons.
The Wire is a police drama unlike any other police drama throughout television history. It takes place in the city of Baltimore and follows a massive cast of characters that are so fleshed out that it can feel more like a documentary than a drama at times.
Each season offers a study of the various institutions of Baltimore — police, dockworkers, politicians, schools, and the media — and show how the problems of the city are both systemic and hard to fix even when intentions are good.
For its sheer amount of dramatic depth and breadth, The Wire is my favorite TV show of all time. You can also watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
3. Game of Thrones (Dark Fantasy)
60 episodes across six seasons (ongoing).
Game of Thrones needs no introduction. Even if you’ve never seen it before, you’ve undoubtedly heard about it. You probably even know a little bit about Game of Thrones. This show is everywhere and it’s hard to get away from it.
Why is it so good? Because it’s all about the characters. The plots are dark, the twists are heart-wrenching, but most of all, Game of Thrones offers some of the most sprawling and engaging stories of all time, and that’s really all that matters.
4. The Night Of (Crime Drama)
8 episodes across one season.
This miniseries follows the story of a Muslim college student who ends up being accused of murdering an acquaintance of his in New York City. It sounds rather run-of-the-mill, but The Night Of is one of the most suspenseful shows I’ve ever watched.
What you’ll love most about it is the commitment to a level of realism that’s pretty rare in television, yet this realism doesn’t detract from the drama of it all. In fact, I’d say that it amplifies everything and makes it all that much more meaningful.
5. The Leftovers (Drama)
20 episodes across two seasons (ongoing).
Imagine you wake up one day and 2% of the world’s population has mysteriously vanished, but you weren’t one of them. What would you do? How would you honestly feel?
The Leftovers is a polarizing show, especially in its rocky first season. It doesn’t always achieve what it strives to do, but it has many episodes and storylines that easily deserve a place among the best of all time.
I recommend powering through the first season because the second season is leaps and bounds better in every way.
6. True Detective (Crime Drama)
16 episodes across two seasons (ongoing).
The first season of True Detective is some of the best television in the past decade. Over the course of eight episodes, you’re treated to a dark and mysterious investigation that twists and turns at all the right moments.
The second season is a completely different story with different characters and a different plot. Many critics felt that it was weaker on the whole but still solid enough to be worth watching.
7. Silicon Valley (Comedy)
28 episodes across three seasons (ongoing).
Silicon Valley is about six young guys who make a technological breakthrough in file compression and decide to start a new company around it. What follows is a somewhat absurd-yet-strangely realistic look at the culture of Silicon Valley.
Obviously it’s not completely realistic as the writers do take some creative liberties for the sake of drama and comedy, but on the whole it’s rather insightful. And yes, it’s funny!
8. Veep (Comedy)
48 episodes across five seasons (ongoing).
Veep is political satire. You can think of it as similar in premise to Parks and Recreation as long as you cut out all of the heartwarming bits and replace it all with a combination of incompetence and cynicism.
Yes, Veep is funny, but it’s funny in a way that’s more suited for cable TV than network TV, which explains why it’s on HBO. It may not be your brand of humor, but you may be surprised by how much you like it anyway.
9. The Sopranos (Crime Drama)
86 episodes across six seasons.
Many people laud The Sopranos as the greatest TV show of all time. I personally disagree, but I can appreciate the show for how it impacted the landscape of television with its quality of writing, acting, directing, and serialization.
It is, in a word, groundbreaking.
The Sopranos follows an Italian mobster and his family in New Jersey, depicting the difficulties of balancing his life at home with his life as a criminal mastermind. Bridging the gap are his sessions with his therapist.
10. Deadwood (Western Drama)
36 episodes across three seasons.
Deadwood is a late-1800s period piece that takes place in the American Midwest and incorporates a lot of mythical figures like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, but never depicts them as caricatures. These are real people in Deadwood.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of show that falls into the “love it or hate it” category. The acting is some of the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s not an easy show to watch, especially if you aren’t a fan of the Western theme.
11. The Pacific (Historical Drama)
10 episodes across one season.
After the success of Band of Brothers, HBO went ahead and produced another miniseries that’s basically a spiritual successor but not a direct continuation. Called The Pacific, it follows a different region during World War II.
Most critics agree that Band of Brothers is the superior piece, but The Pacific is still a fantastic series in its own right. If you enjoy war stories, you’ll probably like this show.
12. Rome (Historical Drama)
22 episodes across two seasons.
Rome can be seen as the precursor to Game of Thrones. Not that they’re related in any way, but they do have a handful of similarities: ensemble casts, political intrigue, and “far in the past” settings.
Don’t go into this show looking for historical accuracy, though there is a good bit of that; rather, look at it as a rich exploration of the fall of Rome and the complex characters that lived and died during that time.
13. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Comedy)
80 episodes across eight seasons.
From the creator of Seinfeld comes a darker, more cynical, and more absurd kind of comedy that follows a retired television writer, his family, and his friends. Like Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm feels very much like a “show about nothing”.
Not only is it funny, but it maintains a consistent quality over the course of its eight seasons. Is it a binge-worthy show? I personally don’t think so. But taken in small doses, Curb Your Enthusiasm can be — and often is — hilarious.
14. Boardwalk Empire (Crime Drama)
56 episodes across five seasons.
Boardwalk Empire is a period piece set in the 1920s to 1930s that takes place in Atlantic City and focuses on a historical criminal mastermind, and his gang, that lived during those times.
The show experienced a dip in quality around the third and fourth seasons, but overall it’s pretty damn good — and while the characters and plotlines are engaging, perhaps the greatest aspect of Boardwalk Empire is its visual aesthetic. “Beautiful” doesn’t quite cut it.
15. Carnivale (Dark Fantasy)
24 episodes across two seasons.
Not many people have heard of Carnivale, and of those who have heard of it, only a tiny portion have ever watched a single episode. Despite it being a great show, Carnivale‘s problem is that it was a little too “out there” for most.
It tells the story of a proxy war between Heaven and Hell that takes place on Earth through people with powers. It’s the kind of show that might fare well if it debuted today, but alas, Carnivale‘s sin was that it was ahead of its time.
At least the series ends with a bang. That’s the best you can hope for in a series that gets cancelled four seasons too short, right?
Is HBO NOW Worth It to You?
At $15-per-month, HBO NOW is quite a bargain. And the best part is that you can stream shows as soon as they go live on TV, which makes it great for keeping up with ongoing shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.
Note that HBO NOW has more original content than even Netflix, so you’ll really get a lot of value out of a subscription (assuming you’re interested in what HBO has to offer). And don’t forget that there are 450+ movies to watch as well.
If this article has convinced you that HBO NOW is worth the money, you can get started by subscribing to HBO NOW now!
Do you think HBO’s library of content justifies the price of an HBO NOW subscription? What are your favorite HBO shows? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment down below!