Our 2021 list of best crime, drama and thriller shows on HBO Max includes some of some of the now classic titles like Boardwalk Empire but also new favorites such as Perry Mason.
Note: You can check out our “Watching Lists” for the list of best new releases across all streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and more.
In the city of Baltimore, there are good guys and there are bad guys. Sometimes you need more than a badge to tell them apart. This highly realistic and totally unvarnished drama series chronicles the vagaries of crime, law enforcement, politics, education and media in Baltimore as it follows a team of cops and the criminals they are after.
Set during the brutal Tong Wars of San Francisco’s Chinatown in the second half of the 19th century, this gritty, action-packed series follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy who emigrates from China to San Francisco under mysterious circumstances and becomes a hatchet man for one of Chinatown’s most powerful tongs (Chinese organized crime family).
Set more than seven years after the world has become a frozen wasteland, Snowpiercer centers on the remnants of humanity who inhabit a perpetually moving train, with 1001 cars, that circles the globe. Class warfare, social injustice and the politics of survival play out in this riveting television adaptation based on the graphic novel series.
James Gandolfini stars in this acclaimed series as Tony Soprano, a husband and mob boss whose professional and private strains often land him in the office of his therapist. The ensemble cast includes Lorraine Bracco as his doctor, Edie Falco as his long-suffering wife, Michael Imperioli as his hot-headed nephew and Dominic Chianese as his uncle.
Atlantic City, 1920. When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings. HBO presents this epic new drama series that follows the birth and rise of organized crime in ‘the world’s playground’ at the dawn of Prohibition. Steve Buscemi heads up the cast as Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, the city’s undisputed czar who is equal parts politician and gangster.
Game of Thrones
Trouble is brewing in Westeros. For the inhabitants of this world, control of the Iron Throne holds the lure of great power. But in a land where seasons can last a lifetime, winter is coming…and beyond the Great Wall that protects them, a forgotten evil has returned. HBO presents this epic series based on the book series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin.
The world’s most renowned fictional lawyer is back on the case in this exciting HBO series that tells the origin story of master criminal defense attorney Perry Mason. Set in 1932 Los Angeles, this edgy, noirish update puts a new spin on the iconic character with Mason (Matthew Rhys) as a low-rent private investigator who digs into a controversial and politically loaded case.
Set in 1896 amidst a backdrop of vast wealth, extreme poverty and technological innovation, this psychological thriller stars Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning and Brian Geraghty. Viewers will be transported into the darkest corners of New York City during the Gilded Age.
Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this epic series from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”; HBO’s “The Leftovers”) embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own. Regina King stars as a lead detective in the Tulsa Police Force and a wife and mother of three.
Multimedia superstar Zendaya stars in this drama series that follows a group of high-school students as they navigate a mine field of drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love and friendship in today’s increasingly unstable world.
1934. The Dustbowl. In a time of sandstorms, plagues, drought and pestilence, the final conflict between good and evil is about to begin. This epic HBO series focuses on the battle as it plays out against a pair of unusual backdrops: a traveling carnival working the American Dustbowl circuit, and an evangelical ministry in California.
In the near-future, vampires have come out of the coffin…no longer in need of a human fix. But can a young Louisiana waitress (Anna Paquin) forge a love match with a bloodsucker? HBO presents this drama series created by Alan Ball (‘Six Feet Under’) and based on the best-selling ‘Sookie Stackhouse’ novels by Charlaine Harris.
Luther is a deeply thrilling crime series, crackling with energy, distinctive characters and snappy, clever dialogue. On a moral crusade, too often with only his convictions for company, John Luther is a deeply troubled man, a philosophical cop possessed by the insoluble problem of evil and justice in a Godless world.
Confronting depravity in its many terrible forms, over a succession of psychological duels between hunter and hunted, perpetrator and prey, Luther reveals his capacity for violence as well as kindness; his sudden vulnerability and dizzying, visionary mind; why his wife left him for another man, and why his colleagues are frequently left open-mouthed in awe. As the stakes get ever higher and more personal, Luther’s lonely path pulls him towards the very edge of temptation. Will the relentless pursuit of light tip him into the ultimate darkness?
His Dark Materials
From Philip Pullman’s epic “His Dark Materials” fantasy trilogy (which consists of the books “The Golden Compass,” “The Subtle Knife,” and “The Amber Spyglass”) comes this compelling HBO series that follows young orphan Lyra (Dafne Keen) on an incredible adventure into a parallel world where a human’s soul exists outside one’s body–in the form of a talking animal.
A search for a missing father turns into an otherworldly trip. Based on Matt Ruff’s novel, this series follows Korean war vet Atticus Freeman, his friend Letitia and his Uncle George on a journey across 1950s Jim Crow America. What follows is a struggle to survive against the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.
Get into the gritty and decadent world of NYC’s Times Square in the 1970s, as the business of pleasure begins its climb to become a billion-dollar industry in this drama series from the creative team behind ‘The Wire(R)’ and ‘Treme(R)’. James Franco, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Carr, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Dominique Fishback, Emily Meade, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr. head up a stellar cast.
In this series set in a futuristic Wild West fantasy park, a group of android ‘hosts’ deviate from their programmers’ carefully planned scripts in a disturbing pattern of aberrant behavior. With an exceptional cast headed by Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright, ‘Westworld’ was inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 film.
Raised by Wolves
From Executive Producer Ridley Scott, Raised by Wolves centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.
In the near future, time-travel refugees from three separate time periods–The Stone Age, The Viking Era and late 19th Century–have appeared. Set in Oslo a few years after the arrival of these pioneer “timeigrants,” this series follows two lawmen whose investigation of a murder begins to unravel a larger conspiracy behind the origin of the mysterious mass arrivals.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Directed by Academy Award(R) nominee and Emmy(R)-winning director Liz Garbus (HBO’s Who Killed Garrett Phillips), this riveting six-part documentary series, based on the book of the same name, explores writer Michelle McNamara’s investigation into the dark world of a violent predator she dubbed the Golden State Killer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.
Big Little Lies
Based on Liane Moriarty’s bestselling book, this subversive, darkly comedic drama series tells the tale of three mothers of first-graders whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to the point of murder. The stellar cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgard, Laura Dern, Adam Scott, Zoe Kravitz, James Tupper and Jeffrey Nordling.
The New Pope
A follow-up to “The Young Pope” from Oscar(R)-winning filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, this series picks up with Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII in a coma and the Holy See searching for his replacement. Out of the fray rises Sir John Brannox (John Malkovich), a religiously moderate, sophisticated and sensitive intellectual who has secrets and insecurities of his own.
Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, a police detective who transfers from Atlanta to Los Angeles, heads up a special unit of the LAPD that handles sensitive, high-profile murder cases. Johnson’s quirky personality and hard-nosed approach often rubs her colleagues the wrong way, but her reputation as one of the world’s best interrogators eventually wins over even her toughest critics.
Crumbling country mansion Button House is home to restless spirits who’ve died there over the centuries. Each a product of their time, they’re thrown together for eternity, resigned to squabble over mundane daily gripes. But their lives, or rather, afterlives, are thrown into turmoil when young urban couple Alison and Mike unexpectedly inherit the peaceful derelict house and plan to turn it into a bustling hotel.
Torchwood follows the adventures of a team of investigators led by the enigmatic Captain Jack Harkness. Set in the UK in the present day, the team uses scavenged alien technology to solve crime both alien and human.
Brian is a temporary office worker who is teleported to a parallel universe inhabited by psychopathic fairies, soothsayers and wizards. Brian is desperate to get home, but his new acquaintances are no help at all.
It has been called ‘The Departure’: a stunning global event in which more than 140 million people simply vanished. From ‘Lost’ co-creator Damon Lindelof and author Tom Perrotta (on whose bestseller this is based) comes this epic drama series that focuses on the ‘leftovers’ of the town of Mapleton as they react to this inexplicable event three years later.