61 Best HBO/Max Television Performances of All-Time: From Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook to Bill Hader and Anthony Carrigan

“It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”

That’s the premium cable network slogan that single-handedly changed the television landscape forever and ushered in the Peak TV era. The Home Box Office turned 50 in November 2022, and Variety celebrated its Golden Year by ranking the best performances in its history.

Disclaimer: We’re including performances only from dramas, comedies and limited series that are no longer on the air or have been completed. So don’t expect this current list to have Zendaya (“Euphoria”), Jennifer Coolidge (“The White Lotus”) or Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and many others that are still in their run. This list will be updated as series come to the end of their runs.

Now a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO (now called Max) is the oldest subscription television service in the United States. Launching on November 8, 1972, in the past 50 years, HBO has produced some of the finest creations in television — all while breaking off into multiple phases and facets of itself — with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. 

HBO holds the record for the most Emmy wins in a single year, with “Game of Thrones,” with 12, which it achieved in 2015, 2016 and 2019. The show also has the most wins for a drama series in history with 59, and the most for a single episode – “Battle of the Bastards,” which won six, and is tied with “Boardwalk Empire.”

For individual acting roles, Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ turn as vice president (and eventual Madam President) Selina Meyer in “Veep” has won the most awards for a single role, with six for lead actress comedy. In addition, “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage is tied for the most wins ever in supporting actor drama for his work as Tyrion Lannister (with four).

HBO has made us laugh (Garry Shandling in “The Larry Sanders Show”), cry (Michaela Coel in “I May Destroy You”), and feel fear (John Kassir in “Tales from the Crypt”). It’s kept us in suspense (James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos”), a state of anxiety (Carrie Coon in “The Leftovers”) and even utter confusion on how we feel about a character (Jeremy Piven in “Entourage”).

We hope HBO continues to build upon its presence on the television medium. But what’s on the horizon for the premium cable network, and with the streaming home of HBO, HBO Max, merging with Discovery+, how will its legacy grow? The answer to that remains to be determined.

We’re nervous but hopeful: And as long as Max keeps on making shows like the recently departed “Succession” and “Barry,” and keeps stunning TV like “Euphoria” and “Hacks” ongoing — the brand’s mission will remain intact.

Read Variety’s list of the 61 best performances from HBO’s television series (since 1972) below.

Honorable mentions: Kristin Davis (“Sex and the City”); Woody Harrelson (“True Detective”); Frances McDormand (“Olive Kitteridge”); Mary Louise-Parker (“Angels in America”); Andre Royo (“The Wire”); Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies”); John Turturro (“The Night Of”); Dominic West (“The Wire”); Maisie Williams (“Game of Thrones”); Henry Winkler (“Barry”)

Updated: May 29, 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *