The Best Fantasy TV Shows on HBO Max

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HBO Max might be home to Game of Thrones, but it has numerous other fantasy TV shows that deserve the spotlight. From the impeccable The Leftovers, to horror Lovecraft Country, there’s a vast array of worthwhile viewing.

Here are our top picks for fantasy shows curently available on HBO Max.

Samurai Jack (2001-2017)

Cartoon Network

The lead character in Samurai Jack was sent forward to a dystopian future by a shapeshifting demon named Aku, and must travel back to his own time to stop evil from triumphing. The animated show blends traditional Japanese samurai warfare with robots, monsters, aliens and more. Creator Genndy Tartakovsky was inspired by the 1970s David Carradine show Kung Fu, which sent a Shaolin monk with martial-arts training through the American Old West. HBO Max has all five seasons; the first four, which ran from 2001 to 2004, and the fifth revival season, which ran in 2017 and is considered by many to be a darker , more adult take on the series.

His Dark Materials (2019-2022)

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BBC/HBO

Based on the popular book series, His Dark Materials follows scrappy orphan Lyra and her daemon (animal companion) Pan as she learns to read a mysterious truth-telling instrument called the alethiometer and embarks on an essential and dangerous journey. CNET’s Katie Collins writes that for as much as the adaptation is a fantastical adventure, “it is also a nuanced exploration of religion, philosophy, physics, alchemy, politics and myth.” The first two seasons are on HBO Max now, and a third season is on its way.

Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

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HBO

You know nothing, Jon Snow, until you’ve watched the massive, 73-episode Game of Thrones series. You might not love the controversial ending, but the show itself, with its dragons, White Walkers, direwolves and more, is a fantasy masterwork. Just don’t get too attached to any of the characters, as few of them get happy endings. Oh, all right. You can cling to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage).

Rick and Morty (2013—)

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Adult Swim

Is Rick and Morty fantasy? Sci-fi? Something else? The acclaimed adult animation series focuses on mad scientist Rick, his grandkids Morty and Summer Smith, and their parents, all going on bizarre adventures across dimensions. In one episode, Rick learns that he may have impregnated a planet — not a resident of the planet, but the actual planet. You kinda have to watch it to understand.

The Powerpuff Girls (2998-2005)

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Cartoon Network

Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup aren’t your average kindergarteners: They’re superhero sisters with a scientist dad, Professor Utonium, and they help their city, Townsville, fight off criminals. They’re possibly the cutest and toughest girl-power superheroes ever. The show aired from 1998 to 2005 on Cartoon Network, and all six seasons are now on HBO Max.

The Leftovers (2014-2017)

the leftovers season 3

HBO

The Leftovers, based on Tom Perotta’s 2011 novel, tells the story of a world where 2% of the population simply vanishes in an event that comes to be known as the Sudden Departure. It’s not the story of those who vanished as much as of those they left behind, who must try to come to grips with the unexplainable loss. All three seasons are on HBO Max.

Genndy Tartakovsky’s Primal (2019—)

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Adult Swim/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Genndy Tartakovsky, known for Samurai Jack and Dexter’s Laboratory, among other animated classics, took inspiration for Primal from pulp novels and the like. It’s about the bond between a caveman and a Tyrannosaurus, bonded by tragedy, who struggle forth as the most unusual pair of buddies. While the series is far from silent, there’s no dialogue, so get prepped for that. The first 10-episode season is on HBO Max now.

Steven Universe (2013-2020)

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Cartoon Network/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

The magic of Steven Universe doesn’t come through in a simple plot explanation. In this dazzlingly deep animated show, Steven Universe has adventures while surrounded and supported by his friends, the Crystal Gems, magical humanoids who teach him about love, loss and family. (Steven himself is half-human, half-Gem.) All five seasons, plus the Steven Universe Movie, and an epilogue series, Steven Universe Future, are on HBO Max.

Lovecraft Country (2020)

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Photograph by Eli Joshua Ade/HBO

There’s horror, there’s supernatural, and yes, there are fantasy elements in Lovecraft Country, the acclaimed 2020 HBO series about a Black man traveling through the segregated South in the 1950s. Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is hunting for his missing father, and he must battle not only racism and prejudice, but horrific, nonhuman monsters reminiscent of an H.P. Lovecraft novel.

Adventure Time (2010-2018)

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Cartoon Network

Jake the Dog and Finn the Human live in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, where they interact with such colorful creations as the Ice King (voiced by Tom Kenny, voice of SpongeBob SquarePants), Princess Bubblegum, and more. Don’t be fooled by the idea that this is a kid’s show: Adventure Time is also beloved by adults.

Over the Garden Wall (2014)

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Cartoon Network/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Half-brothers Wirt (Collin Dean) and Greg (Elijah Wood of Lord of the Rings/Hobbit fame) get lost in a supernatural forest called The Unknown while trying to find their way home. A friendly frog, talking bluebird and mysterious woodsman (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) all accompany them in their quest, while a creepy Beast attempts to turn them into trees. You’ll get modern Hansel and Gretel vibes. The 10 episodes are a neat 11 minutes each, so this show doesn’t require a huge time commitment.

Infinity Train (2019-2021)

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HBO Max

Infinity Train is just what its name implies: A show set on a seemingly endless train, where each train car offers a different fantastical universe, from one that hosts a debutante ball to one that just smells like farts. A variety of changing lead characters tackle the train’s mysteries each season, and as the episodes move forward, it turns out the train has a complex backstory and not everything about it stays quite on track. All four seasons are on HBO Max.

Dexter’s Laboratory (1996-2003)

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Cartoon Network/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Boy genius Dexter, with his Peter Lorre accent, has clueless parents and an older sister who just don’t understand his scientific prowess. He can invent a cloning machine, a Beardatron that grows instant facial hair, or teach animals to talk, but he can’t seem to get rid of his nemesis, fellow boy genius Mandark. This is the third animated series from Genndy Tartakovsky to make this list, and like the others, it’s high-quality crazy creativity all the way.



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