The best shows on HBO Max right now

Christine Persaud
·20 min read

HBO Max offers a slate of original series and movies spanning every genre. The streaming service also offers up an abundance of legacy content, including full seasons of popular series from yesteryear as well as feature films. HBO continues to launch a ton of content throughout 2020, including popular network series, movies, and original programming. But what are the best shows you can watch right now?

Here’s what to look out for.

Friends on HBO Max
Friends on HBO Max

Friends

Binge all 10 seasons of this iconic sitcom that has become part of pop culture history. Relive the hilarious moments and one-liners from the six 20-somethings living in New York City and navigating dating, careers, and life. The show originally aired from 1994 to 2004, long before social media, smartphones, and dating apps would have markedly changed its course. Despite the technological differences, Chandler’s frequent sarcastic remarks, the search for an adult identity, and the on-again, off-again nature of relationships are still totally relatable today.

Created by: David Crane, Marta Kauffman
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Number of seasons: 10

Watch on HBO Max

VEEP on HBO Max
VEEP on HBO Max

Veep

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won six consecutive Emmy Awards for playing Selina Meyer, the fictional vice president (later president) of the United States in this political satire comedy that wrapped in 2019. The series itself also received critical acclaim throughout its seven-season run. Fans couldn’t get enough of watching Meyer and her team as they engaged in political games. The show calls out and exaggerates the absurdity of politics in a way that makes it universally funny.

Created by: Armando Iannucci
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Reid Scott, Timothy Simons, Matt Walsh, Sufe Bradshaw, Kevin Dunn, Gary Cole, Sam Richardson, Sarah Sutherland, Clea DuVall
Number of seasons: 7

Watch on HBO Max

Westworld on HBO Max
Westworld on HBO Max

Westworld

Fans waited two years for the third season of this fabulous sci-fi Western and dystopian series that portrays a futuristic Wild West-themed amusement park called Westworld. Despite looking and acting convincingly human, the people who work there are actually hosts programmed to have specific personalities and skills, and cater to every visitor’s desires, whether that’s to meet and bed a beautiful woman or get caught up in a gunfight. The first season and overall story are inspired by the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name. The second, and especially the third, seasons, however, are very different from the first. Each is equally captivating and fast-paced, keeping the story continually refreshing.

Created by: Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Luke Hemsworth, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins
Number of seasons: 3

Watch on HBO Max

The Wire on HBO Max
The Wire on HBO Max

The Wire

Though it ended in 2008, this crime drama is still widely considered to be one of the best TV series of its generation. Created and written by former police reporter David Simon, it takes an authentic look at various institutions and their sometimes twisted and controversial relationships to law enforcement. A different story is introduced every season, tackling topics from the illegal drug trade to schools and education. With Dominic West and Idris Elba among the top-billed cast, it’s no surprise the series lasted a successful five seasons and appears on many “must-watch” lists.

Created by: David Simon
Cast: Dominic West, John Doman, Idris Elba, Frankie Faison, Larry Gilliard, Jr., Wood Harris, Deirdre Lovejoy, Wendell Pierce
Number of seasons: 5

Watch on HBO Max

Batwoman on HBO Max
Batwoman on HBO Max

Batwoman

While Ruby Rose, who played the title character, has exited the superhero series after just one season, the show has already been renewed for a second. But you can catch the first season of this CW show on HBO Max as you prepare for season two, which is set to debut in January 2021 (though that may be delayed). As part of the DC Comics world, the series, which includes 20 episodes to date in season one, examines the story of Batwoman as a local vigilante in Gotham City.

Created by: Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen (based on Batwoman by Geoff Johns)
Cast: Ruby Rose, Rachel Skarsten, Meagan Tandy, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Dougray Scott
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Max

Sex and the City on HBO Max
Sex and the City on HBO Max

Sex and the City

Live vicariously through four 30- and 40-something single friends in New York City navigating their hectic careers and dating lives. The romantic comedy-drama, which debuted in 1998, is credited with helping put HBO on the map, and for good reason. Throughout its six seasons from 1998 to 2004, the show received 54 Emmy nominations (seven wins) and 24 Golden Globe nominations (eight wins) and spawned two feature films and even a prequel series. It remains a pop culture phenomenon that presents life, love, sex, and relationships in a raw, emotional, and honest way from the eyes of four very different adult women.

Created by: Darren Star
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon
Number of seasons: 6

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Rick and Morty on HBO Max
Rick and Morty on HBO Max

Rick and Morty

Rick Sanchez is a mad scientist who reappears after having gone missing for 20 years. He now lives with his daughter and her family, including his grandson Morty Smith. And together, he and Morty navigate regular daily life along with inter-dimensional adventures. The adult animated sci-fi sitcom has aired for four seasons on Adult Swim and has been lauded by critics and audiences alike, who have called it kooky and described the storylines as “densely plotted science fiction escapades” and “intricately hilarious misadventures.”

Created by: Justin Roiland, Dan Harmon
Cast: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer, Sarah Chalke
Number of seasons: 4

Watch on HBO Max

Game of Thrones on HBO Max
Game of Thrones on HBO Max

Game of Thrones

Chances are you’ve already watched this fantasy series, which was HBO’s anchor for eight seasons from 2011 through 2019. Based on the George R.R. Martin series of fantasy novels, it was rich in scenery, costumes, and storylines depicting the fight for the Iron Throne among the various houses and individuals within the fictional world of Westeros. It broke viewership records for HBO, and it’s not uncommon for fans to watch this series from beginning to end, again and again, picking up on new details each time. If you haven’t yet watched, what are you waiting for?

Created by: David Benioff, D.B. Weiss (based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin)
Cast: Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Sophie Turner, Maisie Williams
Number of seasons: 8

Watch on HBO Max

Doctor Who on HBO Max
Doctor Who on HBO Max

Doctor Who

Produced by the BBC since 1963, the revival version of this long-running British sci-fi series has found a streaming home on HBO Max. It follows the stories of a Time Lord called The Doctor who travels through time in the TARDIS spaceship to help civilization. Since The Doctor is an extraterrestrial being that can appear human, the role has been handled by 13 different actors to date. The most recent version of The Doctor is played by Jodie Whittaker, who has held the role since 2018. The revival series began in 2005, and you can watch episodes dating all the way back to that first season.

Created by: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Cast: Jodie Whitaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill
Number of seasons: 12

Watch on HBO Max

The Sopranos on HBO Max
The Sopranos on HBO Max

The Sopranos

When it comes to crime dramas about mobster families, it doesn’t get much better than The Sopranos, which has been named on many lists as being one of the greatest TV series of all time. For six seasons, we followed the Soprano family led by Tony (the late James Gandolfini) as he attempted to balance his life in New Jersey as a father and husband and his position as the leader of an Italian-American criminal organization. It launched in 1999 and was among the first series to bring shocking main character deaths to the small screen, continuing the cliffhanger endings and cringeworthy moments through to its ending in 2007 with an iconic diner closing scene.

Created by: David Chase
Cast: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Jamie-Lynn Sigler
Number of seasons: 6

Watch on HBO Max

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on HBO Max
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on HBO Max

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

If you want to know the story about how Will Smith became the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, tune into this classic ’90s sitcom starring the now A-list Hollywood actor. Smith stars as Will, a young man who, as the popular theme song says, is sent to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle after he gets into a fight on the basketball court. His mom, worried about her son growing up in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood, decides this is the only way for him to have a better life. Naturally, the dichotomy between Will from Philly and Uncle Phil with his mansion, butler, and stuck-up kids leads to plenty of clashes between family members. It’s six seasons of pure fun along with those signature moral lessons at the end of every episode that defined sitcoms of the ’90s.

Created by: Andy Borowitz, Susan Borowitz
Cast: Will Smith, James Avery, Janet Hubert, Alfonso Ribiero, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana M. Ali, Joseph Marcell, Daphne Maxwell Reid, Ross Bagley
Number of seasons: 6

Watch on HBO Max

Succession on HBO Max
Succession on HBO Max

Succession

With two seasons under its belt and several Emmy wins, including Outstanding Drama Series, Succession has already become one of HBO’s most popular new series. Waystar Royco is a global media and hospitality empire headed up by the cutthroat, cruel Logan Roy. As he reaches retirement age and suffers a health setback, he must look to his rich and entitled children to find a successor. But who of his four children, from the arrogant playboy to the power-hungry and visionary addict, is really ready and deserving? And will Logan ever be ready to hand over the reins anyway? The question of who will take over hovers above every episode as the company, Logan, and the Roy family engage in dirty tactics, flaunt their wealth, and find themselves constantly embroiled in controversy.

Created by: Jesse Armstrong
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Nicholas Braun, Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Peter Friedman, Natalie Gold, Matthew Macfadyen, Alan Ruck, Sarah Snook, Jeremy Strong, Rob Yang, Dagmara Domincyzk, Arian Moayed, J. Smith-Cameron
Number of seasons: 2

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Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO Max
Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO Max

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Witty, funny, and engaging, this comedy series was so popular that it returned for a ninth and tenth season after a six-year hiatus. Filmed in a cinéma vérité style, Larry David plays a fictional and exaggerated version of himself, a semi-retired television writer and producer. As he interacts with friends and family, it’s clear David is easily annoyed with social conventions and expectations. Known for its largely improvised dialogue and constant stream of guest stars, all playing fictional versions of themselves, it’s the perfect series to binge when you need a good laugh.

Created by: Larry David
Cast: Larry David, Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines, Susie Essman, J.B. Smoove
Number of seasons: 10

Watch on HBO Max

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on HBO Max
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on HBO Max

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Gone far too soon, Anthony Bourdain left behind a legacy in the culinary world. And that legacy included this sensational TV series that saw him travel the world to discover different cultures, cuisines, and local delicacies. For 12 seasons, Bourdain took viewers everywhere from the hidden gems in Los Angeles to Myanmar, Congo, Copenhagen, and Beirut, sampling all kinds of food and teaching viewers more about culture and travel than even the best travel shows could accomplish. Not surprisingly, the series was nominated for 31 Primetime Emmy Awards during its run and won a dozen. It’s the perfect show for foodies and those with serious wanderlust.

Created by: Zero Point Zero Production Inc.
Cast: Anthony Bourdain
Number of seasons: 12

Watch on HBO Max

The Big Bang Theory on HBO Max
The Big Bang Theory on HBO Max

The Big Bang Theory

This sitcom wrapped up after 12 successful seasons in 2019, and HBO reportedly spent $425 million to snag exclusive rights to the CBS show. You can catch every season and revisit the social growth of four nerdy friends after they befriend the attractive waitress and aspiring actor next door and expand their insulated group. The ensemble cast was among the highest-paid television actors in the show’s later years, each making $1 million per episode at one point. The scientific jargon that dominated much of the complex dialogue didn’t impact the series’ popularity; you didn’t have to be an astrophysicist or engineer to understand the witty humor and appreciate the amazing chemistry among the cast members.

Created by: Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady
Cast: Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch, Kevin Sussman
Number of seasons: 12

Watch on HBO Max

The Not Too Late Show With Elmo on HBO Max
The Not Too Late Show With Elmo on HBO Max

The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo

HBO Max brought the talk show world to kids with this new Sesame Street spinoff starring none other than the beloved, tickle-friendly furry puppet as host. In each of the 13 episodes, Elmo talks about bedtime routines, helping kids get ready to turn in for the night. There are guest stars in every episode, starting with Kacey Musgraves and including others like Batman, the Jonas Brothers, John Oliver, and more in season one. It’s a must-watch for any family with toddler-aged children. This series received rave reviews from its preschool audience for its inaugural season.

Created by: Sesame Workshop
Cast: Pam Arciero, Jennifer Barnhart, Tyler Bunch, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Frankie Cordero, Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Ryan Dillon
Number of seasons: 1

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Flight of the Conchords on HBO Max
Flight of the Conchords on HBO Max

Flight of the Conchords

For two seasons, Flight of the Conchords turned failure into joyful fun. The HBO show followed two New Zealand musicians — Jemaine (Jemaine Clement) and Bret (Bret McKenzie) — as they tried to make it in big, bad New York City. They would spontaneously break into song multiple times an episode, sometimes revealing their innermost thoughts to the audience and breaking the fourth wall in hilarious fashion. Some of the show’s songs continue to stand the test of time, such as Robots and Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros, though, some of the best scenes were the meetings the band held with their manager, Murray Hewitt (Rhys Darby).

Created by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker
Number of seasons: 2

Watch on HBO Max

South Park on HBO Max
South Park on HBO Max

South Park

In addition to Friends, one of HBO Max’s big streaming snags was the entirety of the South Park catalog. The controversial animated show following four friends growing up in South Park, Colorado, has now aired for 23 seasons on Comedy Central, spanning more than 300 episodes. The show has frequently received criticism — and it often takes aim at taboo subjects in a way that can make viewers uncomfortable — but it also remains one of the smartest satires on television, its fearlessness often serving as a tremendous asset in comparison to safer shows on the airwaves.

Created by: Trey Parker, Matt Stone
Cast: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman, Isaac Hayes, Eliza Schneider, Mona Marshall, April Stewart
Number of seasons: 23

Watch on HBO Max

Watchmen on HBO Max
Watchmen on HBO Max

Watchmen

A new version of Watchmen could’ve easily been met with skepticism, especially after the poor reception for the 2009 film of the same name. HBO’s limited, nine-episode limited series made an instant impact in 2019, but its importance didn’t start rising until 2020. From the complexity of its characters to its incredible acting performances — particularly that of Regina King — to its highlighting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Watchmen was never afraid to reflect the worst of society back to its audience, making it a valuable media prism through which to view the racial reckoning of the times.

Created by: Damon Lindelof (based on Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons)
Cast: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Max

Barry on HBO Max
Barry on HBO Max

Barry

Transitioning into an acting career can be a challenge for anyone. It’s especially challenging if your old career beckons often, which it apparently does if your old career is being a hitman. Barry finds its laughs in the awkward exploration of its lead character, played by two-time Emmy winner Bill Hader. The show can also take on a more serious tone, as the trauma Barry suffers from merges with his inability to turn the page on his old life and escape the black-and-white world of contract killing. Its best episodes are the ones that transcend the screen altogether, however.

Created by: Alec Berg, Bill Hader
Cast: Bill Hader, Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fleshler, Anthony Carrigan, Henry Winkler
Number of seasons: 2

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Insecure on HBO Max
Merie W. Wallace / HBO

Insecure

Based on Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl, she stars as a 20-something Black woman navigating everyday life, including relationships and career, with her best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji.) The series has received critical acclaim, largely for its honest portrayal of the modern black experience that transcends stereotypes while also exploring social and racial issues in an unbiased way.

Created by: Issa Rae, Larry Wilmore
Cast: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Lisa Joyce, Natasha Rothwell, Amanda Seales, Y’lan Noel, Alexander Hodge, Kendrick Sampson, Jean Elie
Number of seasons: 4

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I Know This Much Is True Mark Ruffalo
I Know This Much Is True Mark Ruffalo

I Know This Much Is True

Mark Ruffalo took home an Emmy award for his dual portrayal of identical twin brothers, one of whom suffers from severe mental illness, in this limited series based on the 1988 Wally Lamb novel of the same name. Set in the ’90s, Dominick (Ruffalo) has his own issues, including the breakdown of his marriage, the death of his infant child, and undiagnosed PTSD. Despite dealing with his own trauma, however, he also feels responsible for caring for his paranoid schizophrenic twin brother Thomas (Ruffalo). It all comes to a head when Thomas cuts his own arm off, believing he is doing so in sacrificial protest. While Thomas needs to be institutionalized, Dominick struggles with the knowledge that the hospital he’s staying in doesn’t provide adequate care. It’s a touching and emotional story about unconditional love, the toll that caring for a family member can take on someone, and how far sacrifices should go. The series consists of just six episodes, making it a quick, though emotionally powerful, binge.

Created by: Derek Cianfrance, Anya Epstein (based on I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb)
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Melissa Leo, John Procaccino, Rob Huebel, Michael Greyeyes, Gabe Fazio, Juliette Lewis, Kathryn Hahn, Rosie O’Donnell, Imogen Poots, Archie Panjabi, Philip Ettinger, Aisling Franciosi, Marcello Fonte, Harris Yulin
Number of seasons: 1

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I'll Be Gone in the Dark on HBO Max
Robyn Von Swank / HBO

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

If you’re into true crime, this is the series to binge. The six-part documentary follows the late Michelle McNamara’s journey to investigating the Golden State Killer. After learning of the unsolved case, McNamara became obsessed with solving it and took it upon herself to look into details of the series of murders, rapes, and burglaries the unknown perpetrator committed through California in the ’70s and ’80s. McNamara, who sadly passed away before genetic genealogy was able to finally identify the killer as Joseph James DeAngelo, was just shy of finishing her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, before her death. The book, and the series that features excerpts from it, footage with McNamara, and interviews with survivors, family members, and others (including McNamara’s widowed husband, comedian Patton Oswalt) were both released posthumously.

Created by: Based on I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Cast: Michelle McNamara, Patton Oswalt, and others
Number of seasons: 1

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Lovecraft Country on HBO
Elizabeth Morris / HBO

Lovecraft Country

Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams are behind this drama-horror series about a young Black man who travels across the United States in the ’50s, during a time when segregation was the norm. His mission: to locate his missing father. But when he arrives in the town that the famous horror author H.P. Lovecraft highlighted in his seemingly-fictional stories, he discovers dark secrets lurking there that are enough to make one wonder if the stories were fiction after all. Along with Peele and Abrams serving as executive producers, the series stars Courtney B. Vance, Jurnee Smollett, and Tony Goldwyn.

Created by: Misha Green (based on Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff)
Cast: Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Aunjanue Ellis, Courtney B. Vance, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee, Jamie Chung, Jada Harris, Michael K. Williams
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Max

Moral Orel on HBO Max
Moral Orel on HBO Max

Moral Orel

Looking for something totally different to watch? Step into the world of stop motion animation with this show, designed for mature audiences and originally developed for Adult Swim. Orel Puppington is a school-aged boy who is brought up a fundamentalist Protestant Christian and takes his church’s teachings a little too literally, brushing off his father’s alcoholism and abuse and his mother’s neglect, failing to see the hypocrisy in it all. Set in a fictional Bible Belt state called Statesota, the series is worth watching if you appreciate humor that isn’t exactly politically correct: Think South Park meets Davey and Goliath. The series consists of three seasons and a total of 43 episodes

Created by: Dino Stamatopoulos
Cast: Scott Adsit, Jay Johnson, Carolyn Lawrence, Britta Phillips, William Salyers
Number of seasons: 3

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Young Sheldon on HBO Max
Young Sheldon on HBO Max

Young Sheldon

For those missing The Big Bang Theory, this prequel series tells the childhood story of Sheldon Cooper, from his time as a precocious, know-it-all pre-teen who was fast-tracked to high school and already taking college classes by the age of 10. Narrated by Jim Parsons, who played the adult Sheldon, the show delves into his family life, including his parents (Zoe Perry, the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays Sheldon’s mother in The Big Bang Theory), his older brother, twin sister, and wild and crazy grandmother, played by Annie Potts. It’s a sweet story of an average Southern family in Texas dealing with a very special and unique child. Fans of The Big Bang Theory will recognize depictions of various events the older Sheldon referenced in the main show, but you don’t necessarily have to have watched The Big Bang Theory to appreciate the sweet and funny sitcom.

Created by: Chuck Lorre, Steven Molaro
Cast: Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Lance Barber, Montana Jordan, Raegan Revord, Jim Parsons, Annie Potts, Matt Hobby
Number of seasons: 3

Watch on HBO Max

Raised by Wolves on HBO Max
Raised by Wolves on HBO Max

Raised by Wolves

Premiering in 2020, this sci-fi drama is already getting great reviews, lauded for its “bloody exploration of artificial intelligence and religious beliefs that will stimulate the eye and mind.” The Earth has been destroyed and a pair of androids are raising human children on a new planet. But just like the old Earth, religious differences seem to be getting in the way of building a harmonious existence. Can the androids get everyone to agree and share the same belief system? Travis Fimmel (Vikings) heads up the cast on this series, which is executive produced by Ridley Scott.

Created by: Aaron Guzikowski
Cast: Amanda Collin, Abubakar Salim, Winta McGrath, Niamh Algar, Travis Fimmel, Jordan Loughran, Felix Jamieson, Ethan Hazzard, Aasiya Shah, Ivy Wong, Matias Varela
Number of seasons: 1

Watch on HBO Max