Thrillers and mystery series excite the best of us. This genre gives its viewers excitement, suspense, and fear as the episodes progress. Luckily, HBO Max has a variety of series to pick from that are binge-worthy for those types of emotions.
Despite HBO Max having its suspense genre, not all of them can fit into that same category. Some of the best thriller series are more than just their thrills but for their adventure and mystery within their episodes. Others are often based on a novel, but the directors give their spin on the series, such as Game of Thrones, Chernobyl, and The Tourist.
11 'Sharp Objects' (2018)
This riveting psychological thriller miniseries is based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn and directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. It follows Camille Preaker, a traumatized reporter who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap to solve the mystery of the murders of two preteen girls. Dealing with the pressures of solving the mystery and being under her mother's critical eye, she tackles her demons in the midst of chaos.
It received critical acclaim due to its visuals and amazing cast, which includes Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen. This dark and twisted tale leads the audience in the direction of the murderer but still keeps its mysterious tone throughout. The idea of having a complicated relationship with their hometown creates an intense experience for everyone watching.
10 'The Tourist' (2022-)
A victim of a car crash (Jamie Dornan) wakes up with amnesia and is working on figuring out his identity. That's the basis of this Australian thriller drama series as he races to understand his past before it catches up to him. Although the answers may not be something he'd prefer, The Man finds help in a local cop to fit all the pieces together.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the show an approval rate of 97%, giving critic consensus that Jamie Dornan should be praised for his performance in this series. This outback thriller has many twists and turns to keep its audience on the edge of their seat and adds shock value in every episode.
9 '30 Coins' (2020 -)
The Spanish mystery horror series is coming back this year. It follows Father Vergara (Eduard Fernández), an exorcist, to a remote village in Spain where he hopes to be forgotten by his enemies due to his terrible past. Paranormal phenomena ensue in the town, which causes him to reach out for help from the mayor and its town veterinarian.
Ghost stories are always frightening in the best ways, especially if a physical thing is attached to them, like a coin. Each episode leaves the viewers feeling a sense of urgency, hoping the characters stay safe. The battle between good and evil is on the precipice as the main characters try to figure out the devil's next move.
8 'Big Little Lies' (2017-2019)
This miniseries turned drama series addresses mental health issues and is based on the original novel. Five women in Monterey become involved in a murder investigation that reveals secrets within their beloved city. With seven episodes each season, the city is more than what it seems.
It received critical acclaim for the writing, directing, acting, cinematography, and soundtrack. Actresses such as Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, and Zoë Kravitz take the spotlight with 16 Emmy nominations for the show. Secrets begin to emerge about the seemingly perfect families of a local school that brings chaos to a murder investigation.
7 'The Flight Attendant' (2020-)
Based on the 2018 novel of the same name, this dark comedy thriller series follows a flight attendant, Cassie Bowden (Kaley Cuoco), as she attempts to understand her night in Bangkok, where she woke up next to a passenger's throat slashed. Remembering that unfortunate night leaves her with flashbacks and hallucinations.
Despite a few questionable choices for The Flight Attendant's first season, it received high praise from critics and the public. This series tackles character introspection as she wrestles with different versions of herself to deal with the past and recover from alcoholism. It deals with murder, thrills, and figuring out oneself through constant predicaments.
6 'Station Eleven' (2021-2022)
Station Eleven combines a variety of genres and tones to create an amazing post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller. This series follows a group of survivors trying to hold onto their humanity. Loosely based on Emily St. John Mandel's 2014 best-selling novel of the same name, the directors can add their own twist onscreen.
With the flu pandemic looming over the characters' heads, the audience can share their experience of their version of the pandemic. Survivors making a living after an apocalypse has already been done, but this takes it to a different level. It explores empathy for the characters and those around them. Art, as a means of healing and empowering, lets the audience know there is more to life than just surviving.
5 'The Girl Before' (2021)
Following Jane (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a single woman who moves into a house with minimalist architecture, deals with strong similarities between her and the previous tenant, Emma (Jessica Plummer). After some time, she discovers that Emma died a mysterious death in the home. Despite the architect (David Oyelowo) imposing strict rules on the house's use, Jane doesn't mind.
As an adaptation of JP Delaney's bestselling book, the series incorporates only four episodes to tie in the whole story. The stellar performances of its cast, such as Mbatha-Raw and Oyelowo, allowed viewers to enjoy the storytelling. It makes renters question the truth behind the tenants before them and what anyone would do to get affordable housing.
4 'Chernobyl' (2019)
This miniseries revolves around the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and its cleanup efforts afterward. The five-part series was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. It dramatizes the nuclear plant disaster in the Soviet Union while highlighting the lesser-known stories of the tragedy, such as the first responder firefighters, volunteers, and the miners.
With Chernobyl's pilot episode being the best by IMDb, the series continues with accurate collections of Pripyat locals. The true story of suffering and tragedy empowers the audience to understand the catastrophe more deeply. As radiation affects everyone, the slow burn is felt throughout the series as the inescapable truth of death sets in.
3 'The Wire' (2002-2008)
Set in the city of Baltimore, the series gives a glimpse of its narcotics scene through the eyes of the police and its criminals alike. It tells the story of crime, law, politics, education, and the media. A former police reporter, David Simon, created a true-to-life-tale of what things are really like.
The series is widely considered one of the best HBO series of all time. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 94% and a whopping audience score of 96%, it's safe to say this series is definitely binge-worthy. It has even been heralded for accurately portraying the police and the city.
2 'Game of Thrones' (2011-2019)
A fantasy series based on Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels have gained much traction throughout the years, especially with its new prequel, House of the Dragon. Setting in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, powerful families struggle to gain control of the Seven Kingdoms and the Iron Throne. With winter soon at hand, time is of the essence to figure out how to protect the realm.
The exploration of this vast world created within the novel brings the audience right into the thick of it. It showcases themes of politics, military conflict, and dynastic succession while giving the audience its long-awaited battles and dragons. The twists within each episode, like the "Red Wedding," prove that death is everywhere, especially in Game of Thrones.
1 'The Last of Us' (2023 -)
The significant success of the 2013 video game, The Last of Us has quickly moved onto its newest television series of the same name. Twenty years after a mass fungal infection, Joel (Pedro Pascal), a skilled smuggler, is tasked with escorting Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a teenage girl who is said to be the cure for the disease caused this global pandemic.
With just four episodes out, it's recognized for its similarities to its original game but includes key differences to fit better onscreen. As the first HBO series based on a video game, it delivers all the thrills and heart-pounding drama that its video game fans have grown to love.
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