Pop Culture

Seven Great Cinemax Shows You Can Finally Watch on HBO Max

You may know The Knick and Warrior but there are even more gems finally available to stream.
A collage of characters from Cinemax shows on an HBO logo.
Photographs Everett Collection

Cinemax has been around as long as HBO, but never really established itself as a destination for premium TV series—for most of its lifespan, the channel offered Hollywood movies and late night soft porn that earned it the nickname “Skinemax.” But in the 2010’s, Cinemax made a foray into original programming, producing a handful of quality shows that gained critical adoration and small but loyal fanbases, including Steven Soderbergh’s early 20th century medical drama The Knick.

The HBO Max merger ended all that in 2020, and the new streaming service initially declared no plans to port over Cinemax originals. That oversight has now been corrected and more and more niche Cinemax favorites are popping up on HBO Max. There’s still work to be done—we need Strike Back and Quarry on Max—but for now, here are seven Cinemax gems you can finally stream on HBO Max.

Michael Angarano, Louis Butelli, Clive Owen, Eve Hewson, and Eric Johnson in The Knick, 2014.Evertt Collection / Courtesy of Mary Cybulski for Cinemax

The Knick. What Deadwood did for the wild west and Rome for antiquity, the Knick pulls off in spades for the early days of modern medicine. Small-minded beliefs are stifling not only society, but also the advancement of healthcare in 1900 New York. Determined to push his field to new heights, cocaine/opium-addled wunder-doctor John Thackery (Clive Owen) teams up with the newly appointed Black chief of surgery, Dr. Algernon Edwards (André Holland), to bring about change through state-of-the-art techniques, and convince a city steeped in prejudice that an all-creeds service hospital is in fact the best in the world.

With Steven Soderbergh directing every episode, top tier acting from across the pond, and a no-expense-spared set design, this was the rare Cinemax series that went beyond genre pleasures to being genuine prestige television. Soderbergh is cautiously talking around a third season renewal/reboot, so get acquainted now before this show becomes the talk of the timeline as it always deserved.

Tales From the Tour Bus. Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge once again uses the medium of animation to deliver some of the best storytelling on TV. Whether it’s Atomic Dog on drugs, Johnny Cash making pancakes in a three-piece, or Rick James and Prince’s rivalry, Tales From the Tour Bus takes you back in time and behind the scenes to wild moments of the music industry you’ll be thankful to learn about.

Antony Starr in Banshee, 2015.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Gregory Shummon for Cinemax

Banshee. From the twisted mind of Alan Ball (who directed the certified HBO classic Six Feet Under and the trashy vampire hit, True Blood), comes the story of a recently paroled master thief who assumes the identity of Banshee Pennsylvania’s sheriff, Lucas Hood (Antony Starr). Taking full advantage of his newfound power to create an illegal empire, Hood promptly runs afoul of the town’s criminal elements, turning this peaceful Amish community into a modern-day Gomorrah. If you love Starr’s deliciously evil turn in The Boys, just know that his stellar performance throughout the full four seasons of this Emmy-winning show is what landed him the role of Homelander.

Gabriel Bateman, Patrick Fugit, and Philip Glenister in Outcast, 2016.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Niko Tavernise courtesy for Cinemax

Outcast. Based on the comics by Robert Kirkman (co-creator of The Walking Dead and Invincible), Outcast centers on Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a man who’s been plagued by hauntings since childhood. Armed with his firsthand experiences, he battles demonic possessions in his hometown of Rome, West Virginia, and unravels the mystery that has forced him to live such a lonely existence. Clever camera work, downtrodden Americana vibes, and sharp writing elevate this scream-piece above cheap thrills and bring back the vibe from ‘90s classics like X-Files and Twin Peaks. Any true horror fan knows the genre has always been a glaring weak point in HBO’s catalogue, but with the addition of Outcast, the library gets a much-needed bump.

Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus, 2017.Courtesy of Cinemax

Tales From the Tour Bus. Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge once again uses the medium of animation to deliver some of the best storytelling on TV. Whether it’s Atomic Dog on drugs, Johnny Cash making pancakes in a three-piece, or Rick James and Prince’s rivalry, Tales From the Tour Bus takes you back in time and behind the scenes to wild moments of the music industry you’ll be thankful to learn about.

CB Strike. These days J.K. Rowling is busy being problematic about trans people and posting bizarre Harry Potter backstories. CB Strike offers a welcome respite from all that: Based on the novels Rowling wrote under the alias Robert Galbraith, the story of war veteran turned private detective Cormoran Strike (Tom Burke) kicks off with the mysterious death of a supermodel. It’s clear Rowling is a big fan of the classics. Each season-long case is solved through a slow-burn of clues and backtracking using nothing but good old-fashioned sleuth work. CB Strike pays homage to British greats such as Inspector Morse and its combination of mystery and character development makes it a must watch for whodunit fans.

Joe Taslim and Andrew Koji in Warrior, 2019.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Graham Bartholomew for Cinemax

Warrior. Based on an original treatment by Bruce Lee, Warrior tells the story of Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a martial arts master who moves from China to 1878 San Francisco in the middle of the Tong Wars. The show plays like a predominantly Asian, west coast Gangs of New York, and its vendettas, backstabbing, and bloody street brawls quickly made it one of Cinemax’s most successful originals. And yet, prospects of it continuing looked dire after season two, especially post-merger.

Thankfully, creator Justin Lin—and the show’s fanbase—didn’t go down without a fight, and a third season has graciously been granted. It’s still early, but with Lin promising that the themes of social injustice and corruption that took a forefront in season two will only get more pronounced from here, Warrior’s new streaming platform may just be the perfect fit for a show that has the potential to become the next big popular action series.

Carla Gugino in Jett.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Christos Kalhourdis for Cinemax

Jett. It’s a special feeling when a beloved character actor finally gets that bespoke project, which allows them to deliver at the top of the call sheet. Such is the pleasure of Jett, a neo-noir starringCarla Gugino as a master thief struggling to maneuver through an increasingly complicated web of underworld types (including Giancarlo Espositio as a dapper but dangerous crime boss).

At first glance Jett might come off as Pulp Fiction-lite (the series actually opens with two hitmen bantering on a stakeout) but across its nine-episode season, it quickly evolved into a sturdy Elmore Leonard homage complete with shifting timelines, triple and quadruple crosses, a rich, lived-in criminal community, and a striking, colorful visual palette. (The entire season is written and directed by Gugino’s partner, Sebastian Gutierrez.)

At the center of it all is Gugino, putting up her best performance to date as a woman both highly capable and yet still in over her head. The season ends on a cliffhanger, to say nothing of the hints at a deeper backstory Gutierrez was planning (every crook in the city has a deep reverence for Jett’s mysterious, as-yet-unseen father.) Now that it’s finally come to HBO Max this month, fingers crossed for a Warrior-style miracle renewal. – Frazier

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