100 best TV dramas of all time

Published 6:00 am Friday, October 22, 2021

Home Box Office (HBO)

100 best TV dramas of all time

The term “prestige television” is flung around a lot these days. Since the advent of the term sometime during the 2000s, arguably with the coming of shows in the late 1990s and early 2000s like “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos” and lingering on into the present, the phrase is often used to describe any “good drama show,” but can be applied to other high-quality genre shows as well, such as the comedy series “Veep.” Still, serious, dramatic shows like “The New Pope,” “Mad Men,” and “Six Feet Under” tend to be those that are more quickly afforded the designation of being “prestige,” and with so many options on a plethora of channels and streaming services, it can feel overwhelming to figure out where to start.

But there have been numerous Golden Ages of Television like this one since as early as the 1940s, and audiences are simply experiencing yet another variation of one of those periods. Thus, how many truly “prestige” designated shows can there be spanning years and even decades? Well, as it turns out, quite a few, and it would take multiple lifetimes to sift through them all and watch them in their entireties. But when it feels like channels and streaming services seem to be uploading drama shows at a rate that’s impossible to keep up with, narrowing down only 100 past and present choices is not only a difficult task but a relieving one for those looking for some streamlined options.

Stacker compiled IMDb data to determine the 100 best drama series of all time as of May 26, 2020. To be considered, the series had to be listed as “drama” in IMDb’s database and have over 10,000 IMDb user votes. Only TV series in English or with an English dub were considered. Miniseries and limited series were considered, but documentary series were not. Series are ranked by user rating, and ties were broken by votes. Counting down from 100, here are the best TV dramas of all time.

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Zero Gravity Management

#100. Ozark (2017–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Votes: 154,014

After botching a money-laundering scheme, patriarch Marty Byrde relocates his family from Chicago to the Ozarks in order to set up an even bigger scheme to pay off his debt owed to a Mexican drug lord. But this debt keeps his and his family’s fate ever uncertain. A tense, family-oriented thriller, with 14 Emmy nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for leading man Jason Bateman, the show was described by IndieWire’s Ben Travers as having “pins-and-needles tension” and “shocking payoffs.”

Home Box Office (HBO)

#99. Entourage (2004–2011)

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Votes: 155,507

This series follows an aspiring actor named Vincent Chase, as he and his childhood friends move from New York to LA to fulfill their dreams of being Hollywood stars. The show is loosely based on executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s experiences as a young, hopeful actor, and is known for its revolving lineup of celebrity guest stars.

Kilter Films

#98. Person of Interest (2011–2016)

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Votes: 158,600

A mysterious tech billionaire teams up with a presumed-dead, former CIA agent named John Reese in order to use the billionaire’s crime-predicting computer program known as “The Machine” to stop deadly crimes before they happen. This partnership starts off with Reese alone, but he eventually joins forces with other team members. Dealing with themes of artificial intelligence and privacy, Ed Zitron, writing for Deadspin, described the show as “a joyful, five-season-long celebration of reliable, unpatronizing exposition, full of emotional performances that don’t feel unrealistic.”

Warner Bros. Television

#97. Fringe (2008–2013)

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Votes: 213,816

Exploring unexplainable occurrences and otherworldly phenomena, often involving a parallel universe, this science fiction series from J.J. Abrams follows the fictional Fringe Division of the FBI. Though low ratings and a Friday night slot ended the show after five seasons, that didn’t stop it from developing a cult following. Brad Gullickson, for Film School Rejects, wrote that “it may never have received as much adoration as J.J. Abrams’ other produced sci-fi twister series, but in hindsight, Fringe provides a satisfyingly far-out, thrilling, technological horror show.”

Warner Bros. Television

#96. Supernatural (2005–2020)

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– Votes: 373,785

Two brothers who were raised by their father to be hunters of evil supernatural creatures, such as demons and monsters, are not only on the hunt for things that go bump in the night but also for their since-disappeared father. Before the addicting dark fantasy series ended after a whopping 15 seasons, it became the longest-running live-action fantasy show on American television.

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Baltimore Pictures

#95. Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–1999)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 11,143

This police procedural series follows a fictional homicide unit of the Baltimore Police Department, solving brutal murders led by an ensemble of detectives. Much of the show was based on the book “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” by David Simon, and the series was also considered to be the launchpad for actor Andre Braugher.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#94. House of Cards (1990)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 13,023

This British miniseries, which served as the basis for the popular Netflix show, follows the amoral Francis Urquhart, the Conservative Party’s Chief Whip in the United Kingdom, as he pursues a series of manipulative schemes to accumulate power and become his party’s leader. Lead actor Ian Richardson won a BAFTA for Best Actor, and screenwriter Andrew Davies won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

#93. Please Like Me (2013–2016)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 13,413

This Australian comedy-drama series revolves around a twenty-something named Josh who attempts to navigate life through a series of big personal discoveries and changes as he works toward the future. The show tackles difficult issues like coming out and mental illness. Steph Harmon, writing for The Guardian, described the show as having “superb performances and fearless storytelling.”

Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#92. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 14,145

This classic American anthology series was created by horror maestro Alfred Hitchcock and featured a standalone episode every week in the vein of a drama, thriller, or mystery, but always full of suspense and terror. The show’s title sequence has become particularly iconic, with Hitchcock himself introducing every episode by fitting into a line drawing a caricature of himself on screen, before saying “Good evening” set to Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette.”

Pig Newton

#91. Horace and Pete (2016)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 14,222

Starring Louis C.K. and Steve Buscemi, this web series follows two brothers running a bar in Brooklyn and the people and patrons who frequent it. Dealing with topics like family dynamics, mental illness, and abuse, the show was entirely financed by C.K. and distributed on his own website, with the first episode dropping without any press or warning.

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Plan B Entertainment

#90. Feud: Bette and Joan (2017)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 15,672

Ryan Murphy’s drama series centers on the infamous, real-life feud between actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the filming of 1962’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” as the actresses—in their autumn years then—dealt with ageism and sexism. The series received acclaim, particularly for Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange’s performances as Davis and Crawford, respectively.

Anne of Green Gables Productions

#89. Anne of Green Gables (1985)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 18,550

Based on the classic novel of the same name, the two-part Canadian miniseries follows the titular Anne, headstrong and sensitive and desperate to be loved. She’s an orphan adopted accidentally by a family who was expecting to receive a boy to help work on their farm. The series swept the Canadian Gemini Awards in 1986, taking home 10.

ITC Films

#88. Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 19,376

The life, death, and resurrection story of Jesus Christ is chronicled in this British-Italian miniseries starring Robert Powell as Jesus Christ and including an ensemble cast of famous British and American actors, including Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, Christopher Plummer, and Laurence Olivier. The show received pushback after initially not including Jesus’s resurrection, which was later added.

HBO Films

#87. John Adams (2008)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 26,910

Starring Paul Giamatti as the second president of the United States, the seven-part miniseries depicts most of Adams’ political life, from the 1770 Boston Massacre through his time as a European ambassador, and his role as a Founding Father of the United States. The show took home a whopping 13 Emmy awards, four Golden Globes, and has been described a “masterpiece” by critic Barry Garron.

Gary Sanchez Productions

#86. Succession (2018–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 28,463

The omnipotent Roy family’s hold on international media begins to slip as patriarch Logan Roy struggles to hide his declining physical and mental health—and match the constant manipulations of his power-hungry brood of entitled offspring. Starring an ensemble cast including Brian Cox, Kieran Culkin, Jeremy Strong, and Matthew Macfadyen, the series has received acclaim, numerous awards, and was designated a “must-watch” by critic Emily VanDerWerff.

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Anonymous Content

#85. The Knick (2014–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 41,907

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Clive Owen stars as a cocaine-addled doctor at a fictionalized version of New York City’s Knickerbocker Hospital in the early 1900s, a time before antibiotics and with high mortality rates. The show deals with themes of corruption and racism. Though canceled after only two seasons, it was described by The Guardian’s Andrew Collins as “intoxicatingly addictive.”


#84. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1996)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 45,111

This Japanese anime series takes place in a dystopian version of Tokyo after a worldwide cataclysm caused by otherworldly beings called Angels. The story follows a teenage boy who becomes a pilot of a giant machine called an Evangelion sent to keep the Angels from creating more chaos. The series revived the anime industry in Japan, and its appearance on Netflix marked the first time it could be widely and legally accessible to audiences in 20 years.

Blown Deadline Productions

#83. Generation Kill (2008)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 45,899

Based on the 2004 book of the same name by Evan Wright, the story centers on Wright’s testimonies during the 2003 Iraq invasion as an embedded reporter for the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. The miniseries starred Alexander Skarsgård and James Ransone and was nominated for 11 Emmys, winning three. Writing for Variety, Brian Lowry described the show as “a raw, gritty, so-real-you’ll-forget-it’s-drama miniseries.”

Showtime Networks

#82. Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 51,345

Over two decades after Laura Palmer told Special Agent Dale Cooper she’d see him again, her promise came true. A standalone sequel to David Lynch’s iconic series about the murder of a high school homecoming queen, “Twin Peaks: The Return,” picks up 25 years after the cliffhanger ending of the original run, and takes the story down a much darker and more twisted path. The first two episodes garnered a prolonged standing ovation at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, and its appearance on multiple Best Films of the Decade lists sparked debate over what constitutes a TV show or a film.


#81. After Life (2019–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 70,512

Following the death of his wife, a widower played by comedian Ricky Gervais decides to take revenge on the world that cosmically turned on him by saying and doing whatever he wants, forgoing the consequences. However, his friends and family are determined to save him. Writing for Forbes, Gene Del Vecchio described the show as “painfully good.”

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3 Arts Entertainment

#80. Louie (2010–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 72,945

Comedian Louis C.K.’s dark comedy series follows a fictionalized version of himself, as he navigates being a single father and stand-up comedian in New York City. The show has been nominated for several Emmys and has taken home Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series more than once.

Alcon Entertainment

#79. The Expanse (2015–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 91,682

This science fiction series is set hundreds of years into the future, where humans have colonized the solar system and a war brews between Earth and Mars. Meanwhile, a detective’s search for a missing woman poses to uncover a great conspiracy. Though it received acclaim and numerous awards, the show was canceled by Syfy in 2018, eventually finding new life and future seasons on Amazon Prime.

BBC Drama Productions

#78. The Night Of (2016)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 110,447

An eight-part crime drama, this miniseries is based on the first season of a 2008 British show called “Criminal Justice” and concerns a college student who becomes embroiled in a grisly murder case. Starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed, the series was hailed by The Guardian’s Filipa Jodelka as “masterful” and “inviting.”

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#77. Luther (2010–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 114,947

Starring Idris Elba as the eponymous self-destructive detective, this series follows unorthodox Luther as he hunts down brutal criminals while constantly at war with himself. The show has received positive reviews, with particular praise going to Elba, who has gone on to receive a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Critics’ Choice Television Award for his performance.


#76. Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (2011)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 122,497

A prequel to the 2010 series “Spartacus,” this miniseries depicts the House of Batiatus’ original champion, Gannicus, during his reign in a more ruthless period prior to Spartacus’s coming. It features many of the original show’s cast members. R.L. Shaffer, writing for IGN, called the series “the perfect blend of uber-exploitation cinema and gritty, stylized action and drama.”

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Home Box Office (HBO)

#75. Big Little Lies (2017–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 139,628

In a serene, upper-class California beach town, inhabited by successful families and their beautiful children, social circles become unsettled, and secrets threaten to be revealed when a new face rolls into town. Featuring an all-star cast including Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Reese Witherspoon, the HBO miniseries was based on the sole novel of the same name, but its success bought it a second season.

MGM Television

#74. The Handmaid’s Tale (2017–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 153,855

Based on the novel by prolific author Margaret Atwood, this dystopian Hulu series is set in the United States post-terrorist attack by a religious extremist group, which has overthrown the government and created a backward world where women are subjugated by men and severely limited in their reproductive rights. Exploring themes of gender, sexuality, and power, the show’s first season garnered eight Primetime Emmy Awards.

Home Box Office (HBO)

#73. Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 166,826

It’s Prohibition-era in Atlantic City, and town treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson oversees all things legal or otherwise, running the city as both a politician and a gangster rubbing elbows with other crime kingpins like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. Featuring an ensemble cast led by Steve Buscemi, the series was executive-produced by Martin Scorsese and, in its five-season run, garnered a whopping 57 total Emmy nominations, winning 20.

ABC Studios

#72. The Punisher (2017–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 170,459

A spinoff of the Marvel Netflix series “Daredevil,” “The Punisher” follows the titular anti-hero, otherwise known as Frank Castle, who fights crime as a ruthless vigilante in New York City. Though canceled after only two seasons, the show was described by Cinema Blend’s Nick Venable as “Marvel’s best TV show yet.”

Dino De Laurentiis Company

#71. Hannibal (2013–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 214,886

Based on the characters from Thomas Harris’ novels “Red Dragon,” “Hannibal,” and “Hannibal Rising,” this psychological horror-thriller hybrid centers on FBI investigator Will Graham and his relationship with forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The partnership between the two is perfect for catching dangerous criminals, but Lecter harbors his own deadly inclinations. Though canceled after three seasons due to low ratings, it is considered one of the greatest horror shows of all time.

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#70. Spartacus (2010–2013)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 215,674

Centering on the legendary historical figure Spartacus, the New Zealand-produced American series follows the Thracian gladiator as he leads an uprising of slaves against the oppressive Roman Republic. The show spurred a series of novels, a board game, and a four-part prequel comic.

Anonymous Content

#69. Mr. Robot (2015–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 314,465

A computer programmer named Elliot battling anxiety and depression moonlights as a hacker in his downtime and is recruited by a mysterious, underground hacking group to take down corporations—including the company that Elliot works for. The show has received critical acclaim and has been noted on numerous top 10 lists. In his review of the series finale, writer Alan Sepinwall called it “groundbreaking.”

Universal Cable Productions

#68. Suits (2011–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 347,817

A successful corporate lawyer in Manhattan loses an integral part of his team as a new partner joins his firm in an unorthodox way. Thus begins a battle for power among the associates as the new blood maintains an explosive secret. The success of the series gave way to a spinoff show “Pearson,” revolving around partner Jessica Pearson, who leaves for Chicago.

World 2000 Entertainment

#67. Vikings (2013–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– Votes: 391,086

This historical drama series chronicles the exploits of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, a legendary Norseman whose true-to-life saga is a murky blend of fact and fiction. The series starts off with a focus on Ragnar himself, eventually shifting to his sons in later seasons. “Vikings” spawned a comic book series and a planned sequel show set to be released on Netflix.

Clavius Base

#66. From the Earth to the Moon (1998)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 10,522

Co-produced by Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, the show is a dramatized account of the real-life Apollo 11 space mission and based heavily on the 1994 book “A Man on the Moon” by Andrew Chaikin. The miniseries features a large cast depicting all 12 missions of the Apollo program, including Ted Levine, Bryan Cranston, Steve Zahn, and Mark Harmon, among many others. The show was nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, taking home three.

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Color Force

#65. Pose (2018–2021)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 15,072

Man of many hats Ryan Murphy brings this exploration of the Black and Latino LGBTQ+ ballroom culture scene in 1980s and 1990s-era New York City to the small screen. The series boasts an ensemble cast including Evan Peters, Kate Mara, James Van Der Beek, and Billy Porter and features a number of trans and gender-nonconforming actors, such as Indya Moore, MJ Rodriguez, and Dominique Jackson. By winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Porter became the first openly gay Black man to win an Emmy in this category.

FremantleMedia Australia

#64. Wentworth (2013–2021)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 15,962

This Australian drama follows the inmates at an all-female prison, specifically the character of Bea Smith, who is sentenced to Wentworth prison for the attempted murder of her husband. The series is a reimagining of an Australian soap opera called “Prisoner,” which ran from 1979 until 1986.

Mammoth Screen

#63. Endeavour (2012–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 16,627

A prequel to the classic British detective series, “Endeavour” follows the eponymous detective Endeavor Morse as a young man, starting off his career in the Oxford police force as a detective constable. Rebecca Rideal, writing for New Statesman, praised the show as superior to its predecessor, noting its “high production values, intelligent scripts, wonderful acting, and a bittersweet emotional punch.”


#62. Monster (2004–2010)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 18,207

This Japanese animated series centers on a young but brilliant neurosurgeon working in Germany, whose life suddenly endures major upheaval when he becomes involved with a former patient who is a psychopathic serial killer. The show is based on the critically acclaimed manga series of the same name.

BBC Drama Productions

#61. Line of Duty (2012–2021)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 27,700

BBC2’s most popular television series since the dawn of modern TV ratings, this police procedural focuses on Anti-Corruption Unit 12 and the officers attempting to uncover the Central Police Force’s possible corruption and connections to organized crime. It has been included in numerous Best Shows of All Time lists.

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British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#60. North & South (2004)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 28,734

This miniseries adaptation of “North and South,” a Victorian novel by author Elizabeth Gaskell, tells the story of a young woman from Southern England who moves to a Northern industrial town and struggles to fit in with a lower social class—before falling in love with a local mill-owner. Sarah Seltzer for Flavorwire hailed the show as “the greatest period-drama miniseries of all time.”

FX Productions

#59. Atlanta (2016–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 46,497

A struggling, unemployed college dropout and father attempts to take charge of his cousin’s rap career in the Atlanta music scene in the acclaimed comedy-drama series starring Donald Glover, Lakeith Stanfield, Brian Tyree Henry, and Zazie Beetz. Winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Glover became the first Black director to ever win that category.

Imagine Television

#58. Friday Night Lights (2006–2011)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 53,850

A rural town in Texas prizes winning the state high school football championship above almost everything else. The beloved coach of the Dillon Panthers attempts to guide his team to victory while dealing with his personal life. The interactions between the citizens of the town, team members, school faculty, and others paint a portrait of middle America, exploring issues such as racism, abortion, and social and economic class. It is based on the nonfiction book “Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream” by H.G. Bissinger.


#57. Battlestar Galactica (2003)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 66,015

A three-hour miniseries preceding the revival of the classic 1978 science fiction program, the story follows a fugitive fleet of survivors from the attack of the Twelve Colonies (populated by humans) searching for planet Earth while hunting down those who destroyed their home. The miniseries successfully kick-started the eventual revival in 2004 and garnered particular praise for its editing and visual effects.


#56. Naruto: Shippûden (2007–2017)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 73,298

Set two-and-a-half years after part one of the “Naruto” chronicles, part two of the anime series continues the story of teenage ninja Naruto Uzumaki, who has trained extensively and is ready to prove himself as a serious fighter. The series was adapted from part two of the successful manga series.

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FX Productions

#55. Justified (2010–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 82,041

Starring Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins, this Western crime drama follows Olyphant as Raylan Givens, a deputy U.S. marshal who is transferred to his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky, after an incident prompts his reassignment. His tough, old-fashioned style of crime-fighting puts him at odds with the people he works for. The series was widely acclaimed and nominated for eight Emmy Awards, winning two.

CBS Paramount Network Television

#54. Deadwood (2004–2006)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 90,697

Set in a real-life post-Civil War mining town in the United States, the series centers on the titular Deadwood, not a part of any state or territory and thus literally a lawless town. It follows the people who come and go looking to get rich and looking to take advantage of the lawlessness. The show features depictions of real historical figures and some true plotlines and is widely regarded as one of the best shows of all time.

HBO Entertainment

#53. The Newsroom (2012–2014)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 100,544

Difficult-to-work-with Will McAvoy heads the fictional “News Night” team as lead anchor and managing editor, wrangling his newsroom of seasoned veterans and young neophytes as his ex-girlfriend rolls into town with a plan to join his broadcast. The series was created and mostly written by acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and featured an ensemble cast including Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Dev Patel, David Harbour, Jane Fonda, and Olivia Munn.

Denver and Delilah Productions

#52. Mindhunter (2017–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 189,434

Set in the late 1970s and 1980s and based on the true-crime book “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit” by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, this crime thriller Netflix series follows FBI agents Bill Tench and Holden Ford as they try to understand the serial killers they’re hunting. The show takes place at the dawn of criminal psychology before the term “serial killer” even existed. Its first season was ranked on numerous Best Shows of 2017 lists.

Warner Bros. Television

#51. Shameless (2011–2021)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 189,950

The Gallagher family is headed by patriarch and debilitating alcoholic Frank and includes his six children, all various misfits and delinquents. They all get into a plethora of tight spots and shenanigans as they survive under one small roof on the South Side of Chicago. At a whopping 10 seasons, the series is Showtime’s longest-running in history.

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20th Century Fox Television

#50. The X-Files (1993–2018)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 191,791

“Mulder, it’s me.” This classic science fiction crime-drama series follows FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigating the cases of “The X-Files,” unsolved cases involving potentially paranormal or otherwise unexplained phenomena. A pop culture touchstone that begat a revival in 2018, the show has spurred a comic series and a spinoff show, and has inspired countless shows since.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#49. Doctor Who (2005–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 193,689

A continuation of the classic sci-fi program beginning in 1963, the 2005 revival starred Christopher Eccleston as the eponymous Doctor, an extraterrestrial being known as a Time Lord who explores the universe in a ship known as the TARDIS, which can travel through time. The show is one of the longest-running science fiction shows in television history.

Lionsgate Television

#48. Mad Men (2007–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 195,882

At the Sterling Cooper ad agency in 1960s New York City, womanizer Don Draper reigns supreme, as the show focuses on both his and his numerous coworkers’ inner lives and relationships with one another as the agency evolves throughout the years. The series received critical acclaim and won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series every year for the first four seasons.


#47. Sons of Anarchy (2008–2014)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 244,343

Following a motorcycle outlaw club in a fictional town in California, this series focuses on single father Jax Teller, whose kinship and devotion to the close-knit club is tested more and more by the club’s penchant for lawlessness. Exploring issues such as racism, government corruption, and vigilantism, the show’s success led to a spinoff series.

ABC Studios

#46. Daredevil (2015–2018)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 348,694

The first of Netflix’s Marvel Cinematic Universe shows, “Daredevil” follows the eponymous blind superhero micromanaging Hell’s Kitchen in New York City with his partner, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson. The show joined three other Netflix MCU series for the crossover “Defenders” miniseries and spawned the spinoff series, “The Punisher.”

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Showtime Networks

#45. Dexter (2006–2013)

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Votes: 623,392

A forensic technician who specializes in bloodstain analysis doesn’t quite get his fix from his day job, especially when his side gig is as a vigilante serial killer. The series received widespread acclaim, especially the first four seasons, spurring games, merchandise, an animated web series, and a comic series.

Element Pictures

#44. Normal People (2020)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 12,573

The hit Hulu series based on Sally Rooney’s popular novel of the same name follows two young adults in Ireland navigating adulthood, from secondary school into their undergraduate stint at Trinity College. Particular praise has been given to the show’s stars, Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones. In his review for Rolling Stone, Alan Sepinwall wrote that “of the show’s two young stars, much is asked, and even more is given. They are spectacular—apart, but especially together—at conveying the vulnerability and longing essential to making a love story like this work.”

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#43. I, Claudius (1976)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 15,102

Exploring the history of the early Roman Empire, this historical drama series is told from the perspective of the elderly Claudius, telling a tale rife with lies, betrayal, and corruption. It is an adaptation of the 1934 novel of the same name by Robert Graves and won a total of four BAFTA awards.

Granada Television

#42. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1984–1985)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 19,009

The famous detective and his sidekick Watson solve a series of crimes in this classic British television show, based on the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Actor Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is considered by some to be definitive. Greg Jameson of Entertainment Focus called it “imperial and unequaled by rivals to the role.”

Motown Productions

#41. Lonesome Dove (1989)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 19,630

This four-part miniseries adaptation of the novel of the same name stars Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones as two Texas rangers at the back end of the Old West joining a cattle drive from a small Texas town to Montana territory. The series received widespread acclaim and was nominated for 18 Emmys, bringing home six. Many believe the series and the novel revitalized the Western genre.

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Northwood Anne

#40. Anne with an E (2017–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 27,113

Another adaptation of the classic novel “Anne of Green Gables,” “Anne with an E” follows the eponymous red-headed heroine as she searches for love and acceptance as a newly adopted orphan. The series is noted as differing from past iterations with its much darker tone. Though it received positive reviews, the Netflix series was canceled after the third season, which sparked a notoriously furious backlash from its impassioned fanbase.

Amazon Studios

#39. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 68,231

Miriam “Midge” Maisel appears to have it all: she’s a young, beautiful housewife from a rich Jewish family in New York City’s Upper West Side and has a loving husband and two adorable children. Life couldn’t get much better for one woman in the late 1950s. That is until her husband reveals an affair and leaves her, and she discovers her hidden knack for, of all things, stand-up comedy. The show has received acclaim and numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series-Musical or Comedy in 2018.

Fox Television Network

#38. The Shield (2002–2008)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 69,200

In an experimental department of the LAPD, rogue cop Vic Mackey, who leads the division’s Strike Team, uses unorthodox methods to bring down criminals. The series won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series-Drama in 2002. In The Guardian’s list of the 100 best TV shows of the 21st century, it was listed at #77 as a series that “broke new ground for bold, risk-taking television.”

Two Brothers Pictures

#37. Fleabag (2016–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 74,263

A woman only known to us as “Fleabag” leads viewers through this British comedy-drama series, which sees her navigating her life amidst sexual encounters, coping with grief, and her seemingly endless family issues. The show is based on lead actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show, also entitled “Fleabag,” and received widespread acclaim, snagging six of the 11 Emmy Awards for which it was nominated.

Rysher Entertainment

#36. Oz (1997–2003)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 85,637

This prison drama starring Christopher Meloni explores the battle for power amid factions within the fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility. Receiving mostly positive reviews, the series was considered by critic Alan Sepinwall to be a stepping stone for “The Sopranos.”

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Rhode Island Ave. Productions

#35. This Is Us (2016–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 93,112

Across several varying timelines, this family drama explores the lives of two parents and their triplets through emotional turmoil and strife. This emotional roller coaster of a show has been nominated for several Golden Globe and Emmy Awards, and was described by James Poniewozik in The New York Times as “like getting beaten up with a pillow soaked in tears.”

Tornante Company

#34. BoJack Horseman (2014–2020)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 96,953

BoJack Horseman, an anthropomorphic horse living in Los Angeles, was once the big star of a 1990s sitcom but has since faded into irrelevance as a washed-up alcoholic. He plans to return to prominence with an upcoming autobiography, but he is constantly at odds with his friends, his agent, and his ghostwriter. The show has been lauded for its thoughtful exploration of various themes, including depression, addiction, sexism, and racism, among others.

Left Bank Pictures

#33. The Crown (2016–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 112,782

This historical drama series follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II, from her life as a young woman in the 1940s into modern times, with each season focusing on an important period during her reign. The series has received at least 26 Emmy nominations, with particular praise going to actress Claire Foy’s performance as the queen. Writing for the L.A. Times, critic Lorraine Ali remarked that Foy “conveys the queen’s displeasure or worry in the slightest of gestures – a flickering of a blink in one eye, the subtle pursing of her lips, a slight pause in her stiff gait. Though nearly undetectable, the glitches in her controlled mannerisms are as telling as a dramatic outburst.”

Home Box Office (HBO)

#32. Six Feet Under (2001–2005)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 116,322

When the son of a funeral director is left with his father’s funeral home in the wake of his death, he reluctantly becomes a partner in the home alongside his brother. Though a family drama, the show distinguishes itself with a focus on topics such as death and mortality, with an often dark comedic touch. It is on multiple Best TV Shows of the 21st Century lists.

British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB)

#31. Battlestar Galactica (2004–2009)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 147,741

The popular science fiction series is an updated version of the original 1970s program, following the remainder of humanity as it struggles for survival against a menace known as the Cylons. The series garnered a total of 25 Emmy nominations and won five. It spurred two spinoff series, video games, board games, and the United Nations even hosted a human rights discussion with the stars and creators of the show.

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HD Vision Studios

#30. Rome (2005–2007)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 149,160

Set during Ancient Rome’s shift from republic to empire, the historical drama follows two Roman soldiers as they navigate their lives through the tumultuous events of their era. Though the show was canceled after the second season, it received positive reviews and numerous awards, including eight Emmy nominations, of which it won four.

Carnival Film & Television

#29. Downton Abbey (2010–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 154,303

Centering on the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family, the series begins in the early 20th century and extends into the mid-1920s, depicting the family across several great historical events and how it affects their lives. The series spanned six seasons and a film adaptation and received widespread acclaim and numerous awards. It was praised by Peter Swanson in Slant Magazine as “a juicy soap opera in Edwardian clothing.”

High Bridge Productions

#28. Better Call Saul (2015–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 293,303

This spinoff of the acclaimed series “Breaking Bad” follows the show’s side character Saul Goodman, from his humble beginnings six years prior to “Breaking Bad” as a former con artist named Jimmy McGill to his quest to become a legitimate lawyer. The series has received its own critical acclaim, garnering more than 20 Emmy nominations, among many other award nominations.

Heel & Toe Films

#27. House (2004–2012)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 398,370

Sardonic Dr. Gregory House treats patients at a fictional New Jersey hospital, where his genius is often at odds with his own difficult behavior. He works with his colleagues to solve various medical mysteries. The series utilizes the “walk and talk” visual storytelling technique and has been praised for its various and intricate visual effects in recreating bodily physiology.

Bad Robot

#26. Westworld (2016–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 399,743

Adapted from the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, this science fiction series focuses on a fictional theme park called Westworld, where attendees are allowed to live out scenarios and storylines of the Wild West, interacting with humanoid androids called “hosts,” which are programmed not to harm real humans. The series explores themes of free will and artificial intelligence and has been nominated for over 50 Emmy awards, winning nine.

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Media Rights Capital (MRC)

#25. House of Cards (2013–2018)

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Votes: 451,549

Ruthless politician Frank Underwood will stop at nothing to climb to the top of the political food chain, with his eyes set firmly on the biggest seat of all: President of the United States. The show follows Frank’s underhanded schemes for power within Washington, starting out with his position as a congressman and House majority whip. The show was one of Netflix’s first original series and received 33 Emmy nominations.

Frontier Works

#24. Steins;Gate (2011–2015)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 38,703

In this Japanese anime, a group of friends develops a machine that can send messages back and forth through time. An organization catches wind of the machine and wants to take it for themselves. The show is based on a visual novel game of the same name and spawned a film sequel in 2013. It was praised by Ryan Lambie of Den of Geek as “one of the most entertaining anime series I’ve seen in years.”

Hurwitz & Schlossberg Productions

#23. Cobra Kai (2018–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 40,285

Based on the “Karate Kid” films, this comedy-drama series takes place 34 years after the original film and is told through the viewpoint of the film’s original antagonist, Johnny Lawrence, who is reopening his dojo and reforging his rivalry with protagonist Daniel LaRusso. Though its premise might seem like a bit of a stretch, critic Daniel Fienberg wrote that it’s filled “with enough homages, twists, and reversals to be much more consistently entertaining than it has any right to be.”

John Wells Productions

#22. The West Wing (1999–2006)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 59,550

A political drama from acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing” depicts the personal and professional lives of presidential advisors, as they conduct business for fictional president Josiah “Jed” Bartlet. The show has received a litany of praise, awards, and critical analysis, often referenced in lists of Greatest TV Shows of All Time. It also had notoriously high production values, rounding out at nearly $3 million per episode.

Apatow Productions

#21. Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 124,328

Lindsay Weir wants to get in with the cool slacker kids. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Sam, hangs out with his two nerdy friends. Together they navigate teenage life’s ups and downs at William McKinley High School in the early 1980s. The show was notoriously canceled after only one season and has since become a cult classic, one that launched the early careers of actors such as James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel.

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Wit Studio

#20. Attack on Titan (2013–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 140,326

Massive walls are the only thing stopping giant, man-eating titans from decimating human life—that is until one giant smashes through the barrier. It’s kill or be killed as humanity now faces extinction at the hands of these beings. In its third season, Popdust critic Dan K hailed the anime as “the best TV show of 2019.”

Lynch/Frost Productions

#19. Twin Peaks (1990–1991)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 166,111

When a high school homecoming queen emerges dead, wrapped in plastic from the river, the FBI is put on the case, and a small town in rural Washington state is irrevocably upended. The secrets and local mysteries begin to bubble to the surface of the seemingly idyllic Twin Peaks. A groundbreaking and influential show that crossed multiple genres (including comedy, melodrama, mystery, and horror), it is considered by many to be one of the greatest shows of all time.

Caryn Mandabach Productions

#18. Peaky Blinders (2013–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 289,820

Set in the early 20th century, this British period series follows the fictional Shelby crime family, known as the “Peaky Blinders Gang,” and the exploits of its leader Thomas Shelby following his return home from World War I. Led by Cillian Murphy, the show features a revolving ensemble cast that includes Sam Neill, Tom Hardy, Adrien Brody, Aidan Gillen, and Anya Taylor-Joy, among many other European and American actors. 


#17. Narcos (2015–2017)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 332,084

In the late 1980s, Pablo Escobar was the drug kingpin of Colombia and the center of the cocaine trade. The series details not just Escobar’s rise and fall, but the various civilians, cops, military, and political figures at the heart of the drug conflict. The popularity of the show spurred a spinoff series, entitled “Narcos: Mexico.”


#16. Black Mirror (2011–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 402,496

This dystopian sci-fi anthology series depicts a series of mostly disconnected stories, all pertaining to a future or alternate present in which new technologies deliver unanticipated consequences. Each episode carries different characters and tones, some are lighter and more satirical, where others are much darker. The series has received over 80 awards nominations, having taken home at least 23, including several Emmy Awards.

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21 Laps Entertainment

#15. Stranger Things (2016–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Votes: 741,233

The Netflix phenomenon follows the teenagers of the fictional Hawkins, Indiana, as they uncover a nearby laboratory that has been doing experiments on humans and unknowingly open a portal into a menacing, alternate dimension. One of the paranormally gifted subjects escapes the lab and befriends a group of local teens, on the search for their friend abducted by a creature from this other dimension. The show has become a critically well-received pop culture touchstone and boosted 1980s nostalgia as a gimmick for various other shows and movies.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#14. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Votes: 72,403

Adapted from Jane Austen’s classic novel, this miniseries tells the story of Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters navigating the highs and lows of love and life in high society in 19th-century England. One of the girls must marry rich in order to sustain their family. The series was well-received by critics and fans alike, and a scene in which Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy dons a soaked shirt has become quite famous.

Forward Movement

#13. When They See Us (2019)

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Votes: 73,156

Director Ava DuVernay’s drama series turns its lens on the Central Park Five: five Black men who were wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. “When They See Us” takes a dramatized look at the lives and families of the five accused young men. The series received acclaim and garnered 11 nominations at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, where actor Jharrel Jerome won for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

Bandai Visual Company

#12. Cowboy Bebop (1998–1999)

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Votes: 82,973

A bounty hunter in a future version of humanity, in which the human race has colonized other planets in the solar system due to Earth being rendered uninhabitable, goes on a series of adventures with his partners searching for criminals. The show combines multiple genres, including Western, noir, comedy, and cyberpunk. Some cite it as the best anime show of all time.

MGM Television

#11. Fargo (2014–present)

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Votes: 302,055

Based on the Coen brothers’ acclaimed film of the same name, this anthology series lifts themes, locations, characterizations, and references to other Coen brothers films in telling a new Midwestern crime caper each season. Each season features an entirely new ensemble cast, including actors such as Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Ted Danson, and Ewan McGregor, and each season has received various Emmy nominations.

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Cayuga Productions

#10. The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Votes: 67,118

The classic anthology series hosted by Rod Serling dabbles in a variety of genres, such as science fiction, horror, sci-fi, and thriller, with each episode telling a new tale of suspense or mystery and ending most often with an unexpected twist. The extremely influential show led to two films, a comic book, novels, a radio series, and three television revivals, the most recent one helmed by Jordan Peele.

20th Century Fox Television

#9. Firefly (2002–2003)

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Votes: 236,645

In a distant future, a renegade crew aboard a spaceship named Serenity tries to survive in the galaxy as they search for jobs, evade conflict, and travel to unknown places in the stars. Despite being canceled after only one season, the show has a strong fanbase, the cult success of which led to a film continuation entitled “Serenity.”

Anonymous Content

#8. True Detective (2014–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Votes: 476,419

An anthology crime drama featuring a self-contained narrative and brand new cast each season, season one stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two Louisiana detectives on the hunt for a killer who has evaded them over the course of 17 years. The series overall has been praised for its storylines and performances, but after a shaky second season, critic Sean T. Collins wrote that season three “wasn’t the flashiest season of ‘True Detective,’ or the scariest, or the trippiest. It was simply the best.”

Hartswood Films

#7. Sherlock (2010–2017)

– IMDb user rating: 9.1
– Votes: 763,581

A contemporary take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s eponymous detective, this British crime series stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson, as the pair solve crimes in modern-day London and Holmes staves off his recurring nemesis, Moriarty (played by Andrew Scott). The series has been critically acclaimed, nominated for a total of 42 awards, winning at least 24. Critic Emily S. Mendel described the plots of season one as “impressive, inventive, baffling, exciting, and engrossing.”

Home Box Office (HBO)

#6. The Sopranos (1999–2007)

– IMDb user rating: 9.2
– Votes: 278,745

Mob boss Tony Soprano is caught between the problems of his family life and the problems of his crime family life, as he attends therapy sessions to deal with his panic attacks, and sorts through affairs, power struggles, betrayals, and violence. Since its original run, the series has become a hugely influential cultural touchstone regarded by many as the best TV show of all time, ranking at #1 at Rolling Stone.

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Blown Deadline Productions

#5. The Wire (2002–2008)

– IMDb user rating: 9.3
– Votes: 267,990

Set in Baltimore, Maryland, this crime drama series uses each season to take a look at a different facet of the city and its relationship with law enforcement, from the illegal drug trade to the city government, schools, print news, and the seaport systems. Though it did not receive any major awards during its run, it is now highly regarded and lauded for its realism and social commentary.

Home Box Office (HBO)

#4. Game of Thrones (2011–2019)

– IMDb user rating: 9.3
– Votes: 1,677,254

The hit dark fantasy drama follows the contentious relationships between the noble dynasties in the fictional land of Westeros, many of whom are either vying for a seat at the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms—where the leader of all of Westeros takes their seat—or attempting to gain independence from it. Meanwhile, an evil supernatural force stirs in the North, threatening to wipe out all life. The series became notorious for its excessive violence and nudity, though it has received generous acclaim and a massive fanbase.


#3. Band of Brothers (2001)

– IMDb user rating: 9.4
– Votes: 354,297

This war miniseries chronicles the real-life “Easy Company” of the 2nd Battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regimen during World War II, as they’ve been assigned to the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. The show is based on real events and people, dramatizing their time in the war and their relationships with one another. The series received widespread acclaim, having been hailed by Mike McDaniel of the Houston Chronicle as “the best film ever made to show the everlasting bond forged in war between ordinary men.”

Home Box Office (HBO)

#2. Chernobyl (2019)

– IMDb user rating: 9.4
– Votes: 465,605

A dark tale of ignorance, human error, and dishonest leaders, the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 is dramatized in this five-part miniseries. Starring Jared Harris, Emily Watson, and Stellan Skarsgård, the show chronicles the disaster itself and the cleanup efforts afterward, as brave men and women risked their lives to save others and uncover the truth. It received a hefty 19 Emmy nominations and won 10. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film.

High Bridge Productions

#1. Breaking Bad (2008–2013)

– IMDb user rating: 9.5
– Votes: 1,356,226

When high school teacher Walter White is faced with a lung cancer diagnosis, he doesn’t know where he’s going to come up with the money for his treatments—that is until he turns to crime and begins concocting his own batches of meth with a former student. Regarded as one of the best shows of all time, with the characters of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman becoming icons themselves, the series won 16 Emmys. Its success spurred the spinoff show, “Better Call Saul.”

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