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3 great HBO (Max) shows you should watch on Memorial Day

A man in army wear lying down, a gun in his hand in a scene from The Pacific.

Memorial Day is a special day to honor and mourn military personnel who died in the line of duty. Focused on those who served in the United States Armed Forces, it’s a time to visit cemeteries and memorials, raise American flags, and look toward a brighter future thanks to the brave sacrifice of so many others.

While you enjoy the day off, you might want to gather the family to watch an entertaining TV show with a military theme to keep with the focus of the day. These are three great HBO (Max) shows you should watch on Memorial Day that fit the bill.

The Pacific (2010)

The Pacific Season1 Official Trailer (2010) | HBO

As it only aired for a single season, you’ll easily be able to get through the 10 episodes of this war drama miniseries in a weekend. Developed as a companion series to Band of Brothers, the story in The Pacific centers around members of the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II. There are three protagonists from different regiments whose stories are told through the episodes, including Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello), and John Basilone (Jon Seda), all of whom are based on the real people of the same name. Other notable actors you’ll spot include Rami Malek (Oppenheimer) and Jon Bernthal (Daredevil: Born Again).

Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman, The Pacific was nominated for 24 Primetime Emmy Awards and won eight, including one for Outstanding Miniseries. Beginning with the aftereffects of the attack on Pearl Harbor before taking you on a journey through Okinawa and, finally, a return home following Japanese surrender, The Pacific is riveting, educational, and honest about the realities of war.

Stream The Pacific on Max.

The Sympathizer (2024)

The Sympathizer | Official Trailer | Max

The Sympathizer is based on the Viet Thanh Nguyen novel of the same name, which earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2015. At the center is a man known as the Captain (Hoa Xuande), who flees to the U.S. toward the end of the Vietnam War. He was working as a plant in the South Vietnam army, but he’s actually from North Vietnam. As he acclimates to life in the U.S. while living with South Vietnamese refugees, Captain is tasked with spying for the Viet Cong. But his loyalties are put to the test when he starts to grow closer to the individuals with whom he lives and begins a new life.

As a historical black comedy drama, The Sympathizer has some lighthearted moments that might be just what you need on this somber day. Robert Downey Jr. notably plays several antagonist roles in the series, all with heavy makeup that renders him almost unrecognizable. Overall, reviews for The Sympathizer have been positive. Digital Trends’ Alex Welch calls the series a “masterful spy thriller,” with a “firm grip” on its story and a tone that’s unlike anything else you’ve seen on television.

Stream The Sympathizer on Max.

Band of Brothers (2001)

Band of Brothers | Trailer | Warner Bros. Entertainment

Go ahead and make it a double-header by watching both The Pacific and Band of Brothers, for which the former, as noted, is a companion series. Also co-created and executive produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, Band of Brothers is based on the Stephen E. Ambrose nonfiction book of the same name. Following Easy Company’s participation in the second World War, the events depicted and dramatized are all based on accounts from surviving veterans, which lends a layer of authenticity to the series.

Delivered over 10 gripping episodes, it begins with training at Camp Toccoa and concludes with the end of the war. But there are pivotal moments in between that are tackled with heart-wrenching accuracy, from the Siege of Bastogne to the invasion of Germany and liberation of the Kaufering concentration camp. Creating an even deeper realistic feel is that the fate of soldiers in the series mirror what happened to them in real life. Along with the physical repercussions of war, Band of Brothers also sheds light on the emotional, moral, and mental strife the men who serve face. Nominated for 20 Primetime Emmy Awards and the winner of seven, Band of Brothers is easily one of the best war TV series of this century to date.

Stream Band of Brothers on Max. 

Editors' Recommendations

Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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