With apologies to Game of Thrones devotees and with all due respect to Breaking Bad, the debate over what's the best TV show ever pretty much boils down to The Wire vs The Sopranos - and many people would argue in favor of David Simon's Baltimore-based crime epic. Follow our guide as we explain how to watch The Wire online and stream all five seasons of the seminal HBO drama wherever you are.
Air dates: 2002-2008
Total seasons: 5 (60 episodes)
Creators: David Simon and Ed Burns
Selected cast: Dominic West, Idris Elba, Wendell Pierce, Lance Reddick, Andre Royo, Clarke Peters, Aidan Gillen, Michael K. Williams, Jamie Hector, Michael B. Jordan
Streaming options: HBO Max (US) (opens in new tab) | Crave (CA) (opens in new tab) | Sky Go (UK) (opens in new tab) | Binge (AUS) (opens in new tab)
Inspired by former Baltimore Sun reporter Simon's 1991 book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, The Wire broadly focuses on a police unit's attempts to combat the city's heroin trade through surveillance. But that doesn't even begin to do it justice.
With each season zeroing in on a different Baltimore institution - its drug gangs, working class seaport system, government, schools and media all going under the microscope - the show doesn't so much tear up the typical good guys vs bad guys cop show script as take a chainsaw to it.
Politicians and police leaders are shown to be just as responsible for the city's decline as the kids slinging dope in the projects and the organized crime outfits supplying them, making for an unflinching expose of 21st century urban America.
Simon's first-hand experience gives the show an unparalleled authenticity in this regard, while The Wire also stands out for its superb casting. It made Hollywood stars of two hitherto little known British actors, Dominic West and Idris Elba; introduced us to Michael B. Jordan; and gave the world a new cult hero in Michael K. Williams.
Produced and aired by HBO, that makes HBO Max the most obvious place to watch The Wire online - but there are loads of ways to stream The Wire wherever you are in the world. Read on for all the best.
How to watch The Wire online in the US
As you'd expect of an HBO show, every season of The Wire is available to stream on the network's HBO Max service in the US.
It has an affordable monthly price tag of $14.99 (opens in new tab), and your money gets you access to a huge amount of quality content to stream live and on-demand. HBO Max's back catalogue totals over 10,000 hours and, as well being the place to stream The Wire, it's where to watch The Sopranos online, Game of Thrones, Friends and many more classics - plus newer hits such as Euphoria, I May Destroy You, and The Flight Attendant.
Also recently, it's been enjoying the exclusive early streaming rights to some of the biggest movies around, including Earwig and the Witch, Wonder Woman 1984, and The Little Things - all of which have been on HBO Max for a full 30-days before being made available anywhere else.
All in all, it's one of the best streaming services the US has to offer - but if it falls short of your expectations for whatever reason or you only want it to watch The Wire, you can of course cancel HBO Max at any time unlike getting the channel through cable.
How to watch The Wire online: stream seasons 1-5 in the UK
UK pay TV giant Sky (opens in new tab) has had a close relationship with HBO for some time now, so it's no surprise to find that it's the exclusive UK streaming home of The Wire.
Subscribing to Sky (opens in new tab) is actually more affordable than you might think and there are some great Sky TV deals and packages around at the moment, with complete series like The Wire now coming with its entry-level Sky Signature bundle - there's over 500 box sets in total, plus you get Sky Atlantic for when the next big HBO show drama lands in the UK.
Sky customers will find every episode of The Wire available to watch on-demand on their TV or stream through the Sky Go app (opens in new tab), which comes at no extra charge in its standard form.
If a contract really isn't for you, you can also check out its Now TV streaming service, where you'll want the Entertainment Pass to watch The Wire online.
How to stream The Wire and watch every season online in Canada
Watching all of The Wire is easy in Canada, thanks to Crave (opens in new tab) - the streaming home of not only HBO content in the Great White North but also that of other premium US networks like Showtime and Starz.
You can easily get Crave without cable. It offers a streaming service that costs CAD$19.98 combined (plus tax) for the Crave basic plan and HBO + Movies add-on you need to get all the latest shows from the US via HBO.
Better still, you get a FREE 7-day Crave trial (opens in new tab)to start out - and the services also provides access to an extensive on-demand catalogue, as well as offering apps so you can watch on most modern devices: smartphones, tablets, PCs, laptops, consoles, set-top boxes, streaming sticks, smart TVs and more are all covered.
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How to watch The Wire: stream every season online in Australia
Australian fans of quality entertainment will find themselves spoilt for choice on Binge (opens in new tab), a streaming service from the country's leading pay TV provider, Foxtel.
It's got The Wire in its entirely, of course, and is one of the best value ways to watch the show in the world.
Binge is available from just $10 a month and also offers a FREE 14-day trial (opens in new tab), so you can check out the service for yourself.
In addition to The Wire, Binge is also the place to watch the Baltimore show's great rival, The Sopranos, as well as newer global hits like Euphoria, The Undoing and Succession.
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