With streaming services taking much of the attention these days, it can be easily forgotten how influential HBO was to the landscape of television. When network television ruled the airwaves, HBO came along and introduced a new kind of programming involving complex characters and controversial stories. The rest of television soon followed their lead and it changed things forever.
Even now, HBO continues to produce some of the biggest and most acclaimed shows on television. But which of their classic series is the best? Have a look at some of the great television this network has produced, with the highest-rated HBO shows according to IMDb.
10 Oz (8.7)
Oz was one of the earliest shows that proved HBO could tell challenging stories that network television never could. The series was set inside a maximum-security federal prison that housed some truly violent and evil people. Oz followed the lives and deaths of these inmates and the dangers of prison life.
The show ran for six seasons and helped launch the careers of acclaimed character actors like Christopher Meloni and J.K. Simmons. Fans were hooked on the violent and vulgar storytelling but stayed for the solid writing and fascinating characters.
9 Rome (8.7)
As its success continued to grow, HBO became more ambitious with the scope of the stories they were willing to tell. One of the biggest projects they developed was Rome, a period drama set during the times of Julius Caesar and the tumultuous rule of the Roman empire.
The bold series focused on those in power as well as the soldiers and peasants of Rome. However, the size of the epic proved too much for the network to handle at the time and the series ended after only two seasons, much to the dismay plenty of fans and critics.
8 Six Feet Under (8.7)
While HBO could create massive series like Rome, they were just as effective with their smaller and more intimate dramas like Six Feet Under. The series focused on the lives of a family who ran a small funeral home in Los Angeles. The starred an ensemble cast, including Michael C. Hall and Frances Conroy.
Six Feet Under received a lot of praise for its stellar acting, the depiction of complex relationships and its exploration of grief as a major theme. It ran for six seasons before ending with a final episode which is considered by many to be one of the best television finales of all time.
7 Curb Your Enthusiasm (8.7)
Larry David already found huge television success as one of the creators of Seinfeld. However, HBO offered him an opportunity to explore his unique comedy style in a more unfiltered way with David himself in front of the camera this time.
Curb Your Enthusiasm was a loose and highly-improvised comedy that simply followed a (slightly) fictionalized version of David through his many cringe-worthy social situations. Though on a much smaller scale than these other shows, it's a fan-favorite that is revisited again and again.
6 Westworld (8.8)
With a certain fantasy series looking to wrap up its story, HBO was looking for its next big series and they thought they found it with Westworld. The series is based on the '70s sci-fi film and explores a sophisticated Western theme park where guests live out their fantasies. But things start to go wrong when the robotic "hosts" start evolving.
The series featured an all-star cast including Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright. The various mysteries of the story successfully drew viewers in and kept them guessing. While the second season disappointed some fans, the third season looks to be an anticipated change of pace.
5 The Sopranos (9.2)
The Sopranos could very well be the series that made HBO what it is today as well as the series that launched the "Golden Age of Television." The crime drama followed Tony Soprano, the boss of a mafia crime family who struggled with the dangers of his job and his own personal demons.
To focus a series on such a flawed and often detestable character was bold, but fans were obsessed with the engrossing chronicle of organized crime. Tony Soprano became one of the most iconic television characters of all time and the series inspired many great shows that followed.
4 The Wire (9.3)
The Wire is a series that might not have gotten the love it deserved when it was on the air but has since become one of the most acclaimed shows of all time. The crime drama focused on the war on drugs within the city of Baltimore and how it seeps into various aspects of the city, from education to politics.
The complex drama sought to depict realism over sensationalism, but the result was no less enthralling. The show was praised for its depiction of worlds we might not know much about as well as showing the heroes and villains on either side of the law.
3 Game Of Thrones (9.3)
HBO reached new heights of success with one of the most popular shows of all time. Based on George R.R. Martin's fantasy book series, Game of Thrones told the epic story of the world of Westeros and the various families and figures fighting for control of the Iron Throne.
The show started epic in scale and only grew from there. The series featured dragons, battles, and locations that are normally only seen on the big screen. Though the final season disappointed many fans, the show remains a huge pop culture touchstone with more stories on the way.
2 Band Of Brothers (9.5)
Band of Brothers represented another bold undertaking from HBO as they sought to bring the battles of World War II to life in this miniseries. The story followed Easy Company, a real company of soldiers, from their time in basic training right to the end of the war.
The series comes from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, so it might not be too surprising how good it is. Band of Brothers told the harrowing stories of these brave soldiers and the hardships of war in a brutally realistic and respectful way.
1 Chernobyl (9.5)
One of the newest series to come out on HBO, Chernobyl quickly became their most acclaimed project to date. The series tells the true story of the Russian nuclear power plant disaster and the fallout. It is an intriguing and haunting story of corruption in the highest seats of power as well as overlooked heroism of the disaster.
The series might not have been as glossy and epic in its storytelling, but audiences were enthralled with the unbelievable story. In a year when Game of Thrones came to an end and series like Watchmen debuted, Chernobyl was the most compelling thing on television.