The 50 Best HBO TV Performances, Ranked

“It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”

That’s the slogan of the premium cable network that single handedly changed the television landscape forever, and ushered in the Peak TV era. With Home Box Office turning 50 this week, variety is celebrating its Golden Year by ranking the 50 best performances in its history.

Disclaimer: We’re including performances only from dramas, comedies and limited series that are no longer on the air. So don’t expect this current list to have Zendaya (“Euphoria”), Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong (“Succession”), Jennifer Coolidge (“The White Lotus”), Bill Hader (“Barry”) or Larry David (“ Curb Your Enthusiasm”).

Now a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO 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, for “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 wins 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 the honor of winning 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?

We’re nervous, but hopeful: And as long as HBO keeps on with series like “Succession,” “Euphoria” and “Hacks,” the brand will remain on fire.

Read Variety’s list of the 50 best performances from all of HBO’s television series below.

Honorable mention: Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment”); Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”); Kristin Davis (“Sex and the City”); Frances McDormand (“Olive Kitteridge”); Mary Louise-Parker (“Angels in America”); Anna Paquin (“True Blood”); Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies”); John Turturro (“The Night Of”); Kate Winslet (“Mare of Easttown”); Dominic West (“The Wire”)

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