- “Game of Thrones” is HBO’s biggest TV series ever, but it’s not its most critically acclaimed.
- Shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” have higher critic ratings on the review aggregator Metacritic.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“Game of Thrones” is HBO’s biggest hit ever, but it’s not the premium cable network’s best show of all time, if you ask critics.
As the epic fantasy series heads for its finale on Sunday, we’ve looked back at some HBO classics, and there are a few that critics have praised as going above and beyond.
While the final season of “Game of Thrones” has been divisive, it’s been a ratings giant for HBO. The show’s penultimate episode, “The Bells,” scored the series’ biggest ratings yet across all platforms, with 18.4 million viewers.
We turned to Metacritic to find the shows that critics have adored more than “Game of Thrones,” and they include “The Wire” and a couple of surprises.
Here are four HBO shows better than “Game of Thrones,” according to Metacritic:
5. “Game of Thrones” — eight seasons, 2011-19
Average Metacritic score: 86
HBO summary: “Summers span decades. Winters can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne begins. Based on the bestselling book series by George R.R. Martin and created by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.”
What critics said: “The show has stepped up its pacing. For the most part, that has been immensely satisfying, yielding crowd-pleasing moments that the and that the series generally avoided in the often-grim journey, especially for the Stark kids, which has led to this point.” – Brian Lowry, CNN (season 8, 2019)
4. “The Night Of” — limited series, 2016
Average Metacritic score: 90
HBO summary: “Created by Steven Zaillian (‘Schindler’s List’) and Richard Price (‘The Wire’), this limited series tracks a young man whose perfect night out becomes a nightmare when he’s arrested for murder.”
What critics said: A “tense and exquisite limited series on HBO … The later episodes become a more conventional legal story, as Stone patches together a defense, and the case becomes Nancy Grace-ified in the media. There are nods to TV legal series throughout.” – James Poniewozik, New York Times
3. “The Wire” — five seasons, 2002-08
Average Metacritic score: 91
HBO summary: “In the drug-ridden streets of West Baltimore, there are good guys and there are bad guys. Sometimes you need more than a badge to tell them apart.”
What critics said: “Here’s one other thing I blame ‘The Wire’ for: It’s ruined other TV for me. How am I supposed to go and watch ‘CSI’ now, or freaking ‘Prison Break’? It saddens me to know that there are no more new episodes of ‘The Wire’ for me to watch, and never will be. And now, in its shadow, everything else pales.” – Adam Sternbergh, Vulture (season 5, 2008)
2. “The Sopranos” — six seasons, 1999-2007
Average Metacritic score: 94
HBO summary: “Hailed as one of television’s essential dramas, ‘The Sopranos’ follows James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano: husband, father and mob boss whose professional and private strains land him in the office of his therapist. Created by David Chase.”
What critics said: “When an influential and successful series like The Sopranos ends, the final episode is bound to be highly scrutinized and argued over. Written and directed by series creator David Chase, ‘Made in America’ appears to be tailor-made for arguments, presenting an ending certain to annoy and frustrate many more viewers than it satisfies.” – Brian Zoromski, IGN (season 6, 2007)
1. “The Larry Sanders Show” — six seasons, 1992-98
Average Metacritic score: 99
HBO summary: “‘The Larry Sanders Show’ is an HBO comedy series about a late night talk show host … starring Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor, Wallace Langham, and Rip Torn.”
What critics said: “‘The Larry Sanders Show’ is all tension, cynicism, profound shallowness, and naughty-boy bonding – it’s just the way you imagine life behind a big-time TV talk show to be, except infinitely funnier.” – Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly (season 2, 1993)