Though Hotstar — now owned by Disney through its acquisition of Fox — is showing a newfound zeal in producing original series content, realising the vast audience potential in that field, its efforts range from deplorable to barely sufferable. Only two Indian TV shows factor on our list and one of them turned into a dumpster fire after Hotstar touched it. Instead, the majority of the best TV shows on the Star India-run streaming service — the biggest in India by some metrics, owing to its ad-supported nature and the country’s appetite for cricket — are mostly from the US, thanks to Hotstar’s tie-up with HBO. Almost half of the below list is from HBO, in fact. Beyond that, it’s a mix of FX, BBC, and Showtime, with a couple of mentions for some of the other US cable networks.
To prepare this list, we used aggregate ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes to draw up a shortlist. While we’d placed a focus on the former with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, that wasn’t as necessary with Hotstar since its offerings are largely American, which means there were plenty of critics’ reviews. Additionally, we used our editorial judgement to add / remove a few. This list will be updated once every few months if there are any worthy additions or if some TV series are removed from the service, so bookmark this page and keep checking in. Here are the best TV series on Hotstar in India, sorted alphabetically.
24 (2001 – 2014)
Kiefer Sutherland will be best remembered for playing counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer, who would do anything to stop a terrorist plot — sometimes several in one season — no matter what the moral, ethical, or personal cost. No definitive consensus, but these are generally considered to be the best seasons (in order): seasons five, one, four, and two.
The Affair (2014 – Present)
A schoolteacher and budding novelist (Dominic West) begins an extramarital affair with a young waitress (Ruth Wilson) trying to piece together her life in this sombre drama, which delivered two strong seasons of deep and psychological observation before a slight dip brought by plot struggles in the third season.
American Crime Story (2016 – Present)
A crime anthology series from prolific creator Ryan Murphy, which dramatises historic criminal cases in the US, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial and the assassination of Gianni Versace by spree killer Andrew Cunanan. A terrific first season followed by a slightly less powerful second.
American Horror Story (2011 – Present)
Another anthology series from Ryan Murphy, this one in the horror genre, with seven seasons to show for it already. The best years are season two “Asylum” set at a mental institution in 1964 and season three “Coven” following a group of witches fighting for their survival.
The Americans (2013 – 2018)
Set during the Cold War, two Russian spies (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) who have kids pose as an American family living in 1980s Washington, D.C., to spy on the US government. Excellent from start to finish, thanks to terrific writing and acting, bolstered by a family focus and resonating themes.
Arrested Development (2003 – Present)
Considered one of the best sitcoms of all time, it follows the Bluths, a formerly wealthy dysfunctional family made up of members more oddball and eccentric than the previous one. Stuck between them is the level-headed one (Jason Bateman) who must manage family affairs after the dad is imprisoned. Good for three seasons and then fell off a cliff.
Band of Brothers (2001)
A 10-part miniseries based on Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 book about a World War II unit called Easy Company – offering an intense look at the horrors of war through dramatisation, interviews and archive footage – which begins with their training in 1942 and ends with Allied victory in Europe in 1945.
Barry (2018 – Present)
A dark comedy about a former marine working as a hit man in the Midwest who goes to Los Angeles for a job and discovers a new passion for acting as he gets involved with eager hopefuls in the local theatre scene.
Better Things (2016 – Present)
Pamela Adlon is the creator and star of this comedy-drama, about a single mother who struggles to balance raising her three girls and her career as an actor. Just like its protagonist, the show has charted its own path, pairing caustic humour and poignant observation in marvellous ways.
Big Little Lies (2017 – Present)
The lives of three wealthy but emotionally-troubled young women (Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley) living in in an idyllic California town are upended after their involvement in a murder investigation, sending ripples across the community.
Billions (2016 – Present)
Set in the world of New York high finance, a shrewd, savvy US attorney (Paul Giamatti) and a brilliant, ambitious hedge-fund manager(Damian Lewis) try to outmanoeuvre each other in this slightly-soapy and larger-than-life drama about greed, power and competition.
Boardwalk Empire (2010 – 2014)
A look at the 1920s Prohibition era — ban on alcohol — in the US, through the eyes of an Atlantic City, New Jersey politician (Steve Buscemi) playing both sides of the law. Consistently praised across its five-season run, for the acting of its ensemble, its terrific realisation of the period, and the shades of grey amongst its characters.
Centred on the 1986 nuclear disaster in Soviet Ukraine, a five-part look at what caused it, why it happened, whom it affected, and how people responded — from the first responders to the leader of the Soviet Union. Masterfully made, it offers a riveting look at the human cost of institutional dysfunction caused by state censorship.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000 – Present)
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David plays a fictionalised version of himself in this semi-improvised sitcom about a semi-retired TV writer dealing with cringe-inducing situations, mostly caused by his own faux pas. Laugh out loud during its original run, but it couldn’t scale those heights when it returned in 2017.
Deadwood (2004 – 2019)
Profanity and violence are omnipresent in this 19th-century Western tale of a lawless South Dakota settlement, which incorporated historical characters (Ian McShane playing one) as it presented a richly-textured portrait that stands as one of the best in its genre, with its only fault — a lack of closure — erased 12 years later in Deadwood: The Movie, also on Hotstar.
The Deuce (2017 – 2019)
The Wire creator David Simon brings his storytelling touch to 1970s New York, following the moment in time when the sex-trade went from being a back-alley thing to a legalised billion-dollar market in the US. Stars James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal in leading roles, with the former playing twin brothers.
Doctor Who (2005 – Present)
David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, and — the first-ever woman Doctor — Jodie Whittaker offer their take on the time-travelling, galaxy-hopping alien in the modern-day revival of the iconic British sci-fi show. Seasons two, three, four, and five are generally considered the best of the lot, with the last of them usually highlighted.
Escape at Dannemora (2018)
Benicio del Toro and Patricia Arquette lead the excellent cast of this seven-episode miniseries — directed by Ben Stiller — about a real-life prison escape, involving two convicted male murderers and a married female prison employee, all of whom were romantically and sexually entangled. It’s a slow-burner but rewarding.
Euphoria (2019 – Present)
Based on an Israeli miniseries of the same name, it follows a group of high school students — with Spider-Man star Zendaya in the lead — as they struggle with drugs, sex, identity, trauma, social media, love, and friendship. It’s not an easy watch, mind you, but it’s full of empathy.
Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)
The backstage rivalry between actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis during the production of a film in early 1960s serves as the focal point for this anthology series – also from Ryan Murphy – which explores ageism, sexism and misogyny in their struggle to hold onto fading fame.
Flight of the Conchords (2007 – 2009)
The Kiwi comedy-music duo of the same name brings their real-life story to the screen, in which the two — Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie — play fictionalised versions of themselves, trying to find fame in New York after uprooting themselves from New Zealand. Most episodes centre on the two, their manager, their only fan and stalker, and a friend who advises them on women and culture.
Fugitives [Prófugos] (2011 – 2014)
Oscar-winner Pablo Larraín partly directed this Spanish-language Chilean thriller about four individuals who must go on the run across the length and breadth of the country after a failed drug deal.
Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)
Based on George R.R. Martin’s unfinished “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of novels, the most popular show of the 2010s follows the power struggles between seven medieval kingdoms, in a fantasy world filled with death, dragons, and colourful characters. Storytelling suffered in later years, after it ran out of source material.
Generation Kill (2008)
The Wire creator David Simon collaborated with writer Evan Wright to adapt the latter’s eponymous non-fiction book about being embedded as a journalist with the troops that participated in the first wave of the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. Praised for its storytelling and attention to detail.
Gentleman Jack (2019 – Present)
Set in the 19th century, it tells the story of English land-owner and industrialist Anne Lister (Suranne Jones), who documented a lifetime of lesbian relationships in secret code in her diaries. Jones’ performance was praised, although critics felt the series isn’t as unapologetically progressive as the protagonist.
Girls (2012 – 2017)
A modern-day comedy about four women in their early 20s making a living in New York, depicted with wit, provocation, and compassion.Some characters may have ended up as caricatures in later seasons, but it was a rare female-led expression of their experience.
High Maintenance (2016 – Present)
The personal lives of stressed-out people in New York, depicted through the observations of their cannabis deliveryman (Ben Sinclair). Strangely poignant and somehow insightful as it went on, making a successful transition from web to TV.
How I Met Your Mother (2005 – 2014)
With the entire show essentially a giant flashback, a father tells his children about the events that led him to meet their mother, taking a long detour through the personal lives of his friends. Fell sharply in quality in later seasons, and the finale pleased few.
Humans (2015 – 2018)
This British remake of the Swedish sci-fi original explores the social, cultural, and psychological impact of artificial intelligence and robots, through the viewpoint of a suburban family which buys the latest must-have gadget: a “synth”, a robotic servant that feels like a human. Critically acclaimed across the three-season run, for being thought-provoking, and offering intrigue and insight.
Insecure (2016 – Present)
A hilarious look at the awkward lives of two African-American women, who are best friends and live in Los Angeles, as they navigate personal and professional troubles while looking for something fulfilling.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005)
Created by and starring Rob McElhenney, this long-running sitcom follows five egocentric, underachieving friends (Charlie Day and Danny DeVito among them) who run a decrepit Irish bar in South Philadelphia. Yet to have a season that wasn’t liked, though seasons four, seven, and ten are said to have the best episodes, with the season 4 finale being a particular highlight.
John Adams (2008)
Paul Giamatti played the titular second president of the United States in this seven-part miniseries — directed by Tom Hooper — which chronicled his political and personal life from the pre-Independence times in 1770 Boston through to his death in 1826. Praised for its visuals though criticised for its casting choices, it won more Emmys than any miniseries to date.
Killing Eve (2018 – Present)
Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge developed this spy thriller adaptation of Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novel series, about the mutual obsession between a bored British intelligence officer (Sandra Oh) and an enigmatic, psychopathic assassin-for-hire (Jodie Comer). Noted for the performances of its leads and black comedy, and the stumbles of season 2.
The Knick (2014 – 2015)
Steven Soderbergh directed all 20 episodes of this look at New York hospital at the start of the 20th century, told through the viewpoints of a chief surgeon and a drug addict (Clive Owen), and the assistant chief-surgeon (André Holland) who fights racism within the staff and the city. Kicked off in style, and considered to have improved in year two.
The Leftovers (2014 – 2017)
Based on Tom Perrotta’s novel of the same name, this supernatural drama is set a few years after the sudden disappearance of two percent of the global population, and how it impacted the ones left behind. Grew in critical reception during its run, ending as one of the best shows of all time as it provided a deeply affective portrayal of the meaningless of life.
Looking (2014 – 2016)
Three close gay friends — a 29-year-old video game designer, a 31-year-old artist’s assistant, and a 39-year-old — navigate their personal and professional lives in modern-day San Francisco. Noted for its authenticity, real-world feel, and attention to detail, but was cancelled after two seasons and ended with a feature-length finale called Looking: The Movie, also on Hotstar.
Louie (2010 – 2015)
If you’re willing to separate the art from the artist — given the repeated sexual misconduct creator, writer, director, and star Louis C.K. admitted to in 2017 — this comedy-drama offered acerbic observational humour from the viewpoint of a divorced comedian raising his two daughters in New York, with a sprinkling of C.K.’s stand-up bits. Some episodes may now be an uncomfortable watch.
Luther (2010 – Present)
Idris Elba stars as a dedicated and brilliant British detective who tries to keep a grip on his personal life while dealing with the psychological fallouts of the crimes he’s tasked to solve. Consistently praised for Elba’s acting and his dynamic with Ruth Wilson, with criticism directed towards the amount of violence involving female victims.
Malgudi Days (1987 – 1988)
R.K. Narayanan’s collection of short stories about different faces of life in a fictional South India town are selectively adapted for the screen, thanks to his cartoonist brother R.K. Laxman, actor-director Shankar Nag, and producer T.S. Narasimhan.
Misfits (2009 – 2013)
Struck by lightning while out doing court-mandated community service, five young adult offenders — Game of Thones’ Iwan Rheon, and The Umbrella Academy’s Robert Sheehan among them — begin to develop superpowers that mirror their characters. The entire cast was overhauled during its five-season run, but the sci-fi comedy-drama largely managed to stick the landing.
Modern Family (2009 – Present)
A mockumentary-style comedy following the extended Pritchett clan comprised of three modern families: a patriarch, his younger Latina wife and her son; his firstborn daughter and her family of two kids; and his son who lives with his husband and adoptive daughter. Three strong seasons and five straight Emmy wins, but not as well received since.
The Night Of (2016)
Riz Ahmed stars as a Pakistani-American student in this eight-part miniseries, who is charged with a woman’s murder after a night of partying mysteriously goes awry, of which he has no recollection. Less a crime drama and more an indictment of the US criminal justice system.
The Office (2001 – 2003)
Before Greg Daniels put an American spin on it that ran for nine long seasons, the Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant-created, written and directed mockumentary set in a “dysfunctional workplace from hell” — a paper company in a dreary suburb — followed an incompetent office manager (Gervais), who annoyed everyone by thinking he’s both funny and a terrific boss. It collapsed after two seasons of low ratings, but its popularity has led to several localised adaptations. Including in India, but don’t watch it.
Olive Kitteridge (2014)
Frances McDormand played the titular cantankerous but well-meaning retired mathematics schoolteacher in this miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which offered a look at 25 years of her life in a small town in the northernmost state in eastern USA. A slow-burner filled with great performances, including McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Ann Dowd, and Bill Murray.
The Pacific (2010)
A companion piece to the aforementioned Band of Brothers, this 10-part miniseries heads to the Pacific Ocean-front of World War II, focusing on the real-life experiences of three US Marines in three different regiments, drawing off four separate memoirs. Executive produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, it was praised for its visuals and being unflinching.
Patrick Melrose (2018)
Based on Edward St Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novel series, this five-part miniseries finds Benedict Cumberbatch playing the titular wealthy Englishman battling multiple addictions, and childhood abuse and neglect from the 1980s to the 2000s. Critics said it offered “a scathing indictment of British high society’s inherited dysfunction, cruelty, and the wealth that enables them”.
Pose (2018 – Present)
Set in 1980s New York, this dance-musical drama – co-created by Ryan Murphy – explores several parts of society: the ball-culture world, the rise of the luxury Trump-era universe and the downtown social and literary scene. Noted for its large transgender cast.
Rome (2005 – 2007)
The transition of Ancient Rome from Republic to Empire, that began in 52 BC under Julius Caesar and set the stage for civil war, explored through the eyes of two soldiers whose lives intertwine with major events in history. Ran for just two seasons due to costs.
Sarabhai vs Sarabhai (2004 – 2017)
The day-to-day adventures of the two generations of an upper-class Gujarati family living in the upmarket South Mumbai neighbourhood of Cuffee Parade, with friction between the mother-in-law (Ratna Pathak Shah) and her middle-class, Delhi-born daughter-in-law, and the love-hate relationship between the father and his second son. Revived in 2017 by Hotstar for a failed season 2.
Sharp Objects (2018)
Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn brings another one of her complex female protagonists to screen in this miniseries, with Amy Adamsplaying a journalist who returns to her small hometown to report on the murders of two preteen girls and finds herself involved a little too closely owing to her dark past.
Show Me a Hero (2015)
This show is from David Simon, the creator of The Wire. Show Me a Hero is a six-part miniseries starring Oscar Isaac as Nick Wasicsko, the youngest big-city mayor in the US, who dealt with vociferous public opinion between 1987 and 1994, stemming from a court order that public housing should be built in the middle-class, mostly-white part of town. Addressing class and racism, it was timely and timeless.
Silicon Valley (2014 – Present)
Set in the high-tech gold rush of its eponymous San Francisco Bay Area, a comedy that lampoons the struggles of six programmers trying to make it big and offers a timely satire of problems caused by modern-day technology.
Six Feet Under (2001 – 2005)
Oscar-winner Alan Ball created this macabre drama about a dysfunctional family running a funeral home in Los Angeles, with every episode opening with a fresh corpse that would have something to do with the Fisher family’s own problems. Filled with a superb cast, it tripped over itself in season 4, but recovered for a fitting swansong that boasts arguably one of the best series finales.
The Sopranos (1999 – 2007)
Considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time, this six-season drama chronicled the life of New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster (James Gandolfini), who turns to a psychiatrist as he has trouble balancing family life and being the crime boss. Solid on all fronts — engaging characters, strong cast, moral discussions, and dark humour — it’s well-remembered and debated for its controversial final shot.
This Is Us (2016 – Present)
This heartstrings-tugging family drama jumps through time to depict the lives of three siblings (Sterling K. Brown among them) and their parents, who seem to be mysteriously linked to each other in ways beyond their shared birthday.
True Detective (2014 – Present)
Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson played two Louisiana homicide detectives in the first and only worthwhile season of this anthology crime drama, whose pursuit of a serial killer over a 17-year period gains renewed interest owing to a new, similar case.
Twin Peaks (1990 – 2017)
Through the point-of-view of an idiosyncratic FBI agent investigating a young woman’s murder in the peculiar title town, David Lynch explored the dark side of human nature with his traditional use of surrealism, mysticism, dream sequences, and a circus of oddball characters. Suffered immensely after network pressure led to murder storyline being resolved in season 2 and was cancelled. Revived 25 years later in Twin Peaks: The Return — not on Hotstar or elsewhere — garnering much acclaim.
Veep (2012 – Present)
A satirical take on the inner workings of the US government, following a senator (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) chosen to serve as the Vice President, and the hilarious antics of her incompetent staff. Won the Emmy three years in a row, while Louis-Dreyfus has racked up six straight wins.
Westworld (2016 – Present)
Set in a futuristic theme park, this mind-bending sci-fi series is about the dawn of consciousness in androids, who have been used by their human makers without any fear of retaliation. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film, on which it then expands.
What We Do in the Shadows (2019 – Present)
Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s 2014 mockumentary horror comedy film is turned into a series by the latter which follows four vampires who have been living together for hundreds and hundreds of years in Staten Island, New York. Praised for its absurdity, charming cast, and lore expansion.
The Wire (2002 – 2008)
A complex, unflinching examination of the societal ills plaguing Baltimore, always focused on the city’s illegal drug trade and touching upon the waterfront, politicians, school system, and media consumption as season-long subplots. Told the story from all angles and remains one of the best shows of all-time.
Wolf Hall (2015)
Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, and Claire Foy star in this six-part adaptation of the first two books in Hilary Mantel’s fictionalised biographical planned trilogy of Thomas Cromwell (Rylance), who rose through the ranks in Henry VIII’s (Lewis) court by freeing the king of his marriage to Anne Boleyn (Foy). The acting, direction, and attention to period detail were praised.