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50 best crime TV shows of all time

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Showtime Networks

50 best crime TV shows of all time

Crime stories have been the focus of storytelling for most of history. From Greek mythology to the Bible, people have been drawn to salacious stories of rules broken—don’t take that apple, Eve!—and punishments handed out. The same fascination with crime stories continues today. True crime is everywhere, driven partially by the success of the 2014 podcast “Serial” and documentaries like Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.” There are scores of movies and TV shows focusing on just about every element of the criminal justice system. Whether it’s a show about dirty cops committing crimes on the job or lawyers hunting down scofflaws, humanity is just drawn to stories about crimes of all varieties.

It might seem odd that people are obsessed with shows depicting some of the darkest moments in someone’s life and everyone has a different reason for their obsession. Some may appreciate the clever storytelling of the best shows, which give enough clues to solve the case without giving everything away for the big reveal, and others may find digging into the dark minds of serial killers intriguing. Some of the (mostly female) true crime fans admit their desire to hear stories about crime victims stems from worries that they’ll be victims of crimes themselves. Others simply like seeing law enforcement bring the bad guys to justice at the end of every episode.

With all the crime shows coming out in recent years, it can be hard to sort through the noise. Stacker compiled this list to give fans a hand with finding the best of the best when it comes to crime on TV. Using rankings determined by user ratings on IMDb, crime TV shows with more than 5,000 votes were sorted by their popularity. Any ties were broken by the show with the higher number of votes. Click through to discover the TV show that inspired the “Naked Gun” movies and learn which unbelievable true-life crime story was the only unscripted docu-series to make the list.


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Showcase Television

#50. Trailer Park Boys

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2001–2018

Stars: John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, Mike Smith, John Dunsworth

This Canadian sitcom was more interested in the lives of criminals after their release from prison than crimes themselves. Shot in mockumentary format, the show details the lives of a group of trailer park residents and the trouble they get into on a regular basis. Originally made for Canada’s Showcase Network until 2008, “Trailer Park Boys” now airs on Netflix after its 2014 revival, and is in its its 12th season.

 

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20th Century Fox Television

#49. Boston Legal

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2004–2008

Stars: James Spader, William Shatner, Candice Bergen, Rene Auberjonois

For five seasons, viewers watched the lawyers of Crane, Poole & Schmidt earn their exorbitant hourly rates in this spin-off of “The Practice.” James Spader, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner starred in the show from David E. Kelley, creator of “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” “Ally McBeal,” and other big TV hits. Shatner won a Golden Globe for his performance as Denny Crane.

 

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Silver Pictures Television

#48. Veronica Mars

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2004–2007

Stars: Kristen Bell, Percy Daggs III, Jason Dohring, Francis Capra

“Veronica Mars” is the show that introduced Kristen Bell to the world as the title character: a teenager who works as a private eye under the mentorship of her detective father. The series lasted for three seasons, but fan support was so high that creator Rob Thomas made a popular “Veronica Mars” movie in 2014 after successfully launching a Kickstarter fund.

 

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Kudos Film and Television

#47. Broadchurch

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2013–2017

Stars: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan

U.K. audiences have long known David Tennant as Doctor Who. In “Broadchurch,” he plays Alec Hardy, a detective searching for a young boy’s murderers in a small town, and the ensuing fallout. The show ran for three seasons on ITV and an American version was developed for Fox called “Gracepoint,” which also starred Tennant, but only aired for one season.

 

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Cinemax

#46. Banshee

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2013–2016

Stars: Antony Starr, Ivana Milicevic, Ulrich Thomsen, Frankie Faison

A few years back, Cinemax decided to rebrand itself as an action-packed network and the high-octane “Banshee” was part of that strategy. The show is about an ex-convict who shows up in a small Pennsylvania town after assuming the identity of the new sheriff, who was murdered in a bar fight before he could even start the job. With ex-Amish mafia bosses, Native American tribal issues, and a Ukrainian crime boss named Rabbit, this is anything but a typical crime show.

 

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NBC Universal Television

#45. Psych

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2006–2014

Stars: James Roday, Dulé Hill, Timothy Omundson, Corbin Bernsen

James Roday stars as Shawn Spencer, a man with elevated observational skills and a photographic memory that allows him to pretend to have psychic abilities as he helps the Santa Barbara Police Department solve crimes. The show aired for eight seasons on USA, and earned a People’s Choice Award in 2014 for Favorite Cable TV Comedy.

 

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Fremulon

#44. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2013–

Stars: Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews

The title of this police force comedy, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” refers to the actual precinct in the show, which follows in the footsteps of shows like “Barney Miller.” Audiences watch a group of wacky cops—and Andre Braugher’s Capt. Raymond Holt—solve crimes when they’re not cracking jokes. Andy Samberg stars as Detective Jake Peralta, but the series almost met its demise in May when Fox opted not to renew it, right before NBC swooped in and ordered another season.  

 

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Warner Bros. Television

#43. Person of Interest

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2011–2016

Stars: Jim Caviezel, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman, Michael Emerson

CBS aired this high-tech artificial intelligence show for five seasons about a computer system that can identify crimes in progress, the man who invented the program (Michael Emerson), and the former Green Beret (Jim Caviezel) recruited to save the innocent people involved in the crimes. The series was created by Jonathan Nolan, who went on to create “Westworld” for HBO.

 

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20th Century Fox Television

#42. 24

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2001–2010

Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Dennis Haysbert

National security is at the forefront of “24,” a show where terrorists are constantly trying to destroy the United States. Kiefer Sutherland plays Agent Jack Bauer, a member of the fictional Counter Terrorist Unit, who fights bad guys over the course of a 24-hour day—with one episode dealing with each hour. The show was a massive success, earning five Golden Globe and Emmy nominations as Best Drama Series, and winning an Emmy in 2006.

 

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Teakwood Lane Productions

#41. Homeland

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2011–

Stars: Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, Damian Lewis, Rupert Friend

Based on an Israeli series, “Homeland” began as a show about a prisoner-of-war sent back to America with the revelation that he may be a secret double agent. In subsequent seasons, the show focused exclusively on Claire Danes’ character, Carrie Mathison, a CIA agent with bipolar disorder, as she uncovers secret plots and tries to save the nation through covert missions. Danes, as well as the show itself, has been nominated for a large number of awards.

 

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Adelstein-Parouse Productions

#40. Prison Break

IMDb rating: 8.4

Years running: 2005–2017

Stars: Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Amaury Nolasco, Robert Knepper

The title says it all: “Prison Break” is about a prisoner trying to break out of prison. It’s a serialized drama about a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, and the plan his brother hatches to break him out. The show ended its initial run after four seasons, but a fifth season premiered in 2017 and a sixth is already in the works.

 

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Warner Bros. Animation

#39. The New Batman Adventures

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 1997–1999

Stars: Kevin Conroy, Tara Strong, Mathew Valencia, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

A follow-up to “Batman: The Animated Series,” this darker, grittier take on the Batman franchise shines a spotlight on the supporting characters of the Caped Crusader’s world, including Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing (the artist formerly known as Robin). The series aired for 24 episodes and was paired with “Superman: The Animated Series.” The combination of the two, known as “The New Batman/Superman Adventures,” ran as an hour-long series and won the 1998 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program.

 

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Paramount Television

#38. Police Squad!

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 1982

Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Alan North, Rex Hamilton, Ed Williams

This slapstick TV sitcom starred dramatic actor Leslie Nielsen as Detective Frank Drebin in a cop show that found comedy in the absurdity of police dramas. From the writers and directors of the film “Airplane!,” “Police Squad!” only stayed on-air for one season, but gave birth to the “Naked Gun” movie franchise.

 

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BBC Drama Productions

#37. Line of Duty

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 2012–

Stars: Martin Compston, Vicky McClure, Adrian Dunbar, Craig Parkinson

Line of Duty” premiered on BBC Two in the U.K. in 2012 and has now run for four seasons, with two more already commissioned. The premise revolves around an anti-corruption unit in the Central Police where the officers investigate crimes within the police itself. The show streams on Hulu in the United States.

 

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BBC

#36. Happy Valley

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 2014–

Stars: Sarah Lancashire, Siobhan Finneran, Shane Zaza, Charlie Murphy

Another BBC cop show, “Happy Valley” follows Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood, a woman who lost her daughter to suicide and is now raising her daughter’s troubled son, who was the product of rape, as she investigates the man she suspects of causing her daughter’s death. Now in its third season, the series has been nominated and has won a number of prestigious awards.

 

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Showtime Networks

#35. Twin Peaks

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 2017–

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Michael Horse, Chrysta Bell

This reboot of the 1990s classic brings back the creepiness of the original along with some of the main cast, including Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI special agent. The series picks up 25 years after the progenitor ended, and takes viewers on a journey through multiple cities, metaphysical lodges and of course, the murder of Laura Palmer.

 

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Ryan Murphy Productions

#34. American Crime Story

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 2016–

Stars: Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown

This anthology series focuses on a different crime each season. The Emmy-winning first season dramatized the infamous O.J. Simpson trial while the second season examined the Gianni Versace murder. The third season will highlight Hurricane Katrina, and a series of euthanizations at a New Orleans hospital in the aftermath of the storm.

 

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BBC

#33. Luther

IMDb rating: 8.5

Years running: 2010–2018

Stars: Idris Elba, Dermot Crowley, Michael Smiley, Warren Brown

British actor Idris Elba stars as the titular “Luther,” a detective chief inspector in England working on very serious crimes. Luther’s greatest strength is his complete devotion to the job, which is also his greatest weakness as the work often consumes him to the detriment of his health and sanity. Elba has been nominated four times each for both Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys, and took home the Globe once.

 

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Youtube

#32. Content Cop

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2015–

Stars: Ian Carter, Calvin Vail, Bryan Le, Roman Atwood

As opposed to the more traditional shows on the list, “Content Cop” is a YouTube original series from Ian Carter, known online as iDubbbz, where he exposes the negative practices of fellow popular YouTubers. The videos have received millions upon millions of views.

 

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Richard Belzer, star of "Homicide"—Universal Network Television

#31. Homicide: Life on the Street

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 1993–1999

Stars: Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto, Kyle Secor

Former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon turned his book about the detectives of Baltimore’s homicide division into this NBC drama series from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson. The show made it through 122 episodes over seven seasons before calling it quits. Time Magazine included it in their list of their All-TIME 100 TV Shows.

 

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Mammoth Screen

#30. Endeavour

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2012–

Stars: Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, James Bradshaw, Sean Rigby

Set in Oxford, this British crime drama serves as the prequel to the hit show “Inspector Morse,” with Shaun Evans playing the role of a young Inspector Endeavour Morse just starting his career in the mid-'60s. Five seasons have aired so far, with a sixth already ordered for 2019.

 

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Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions

#29. Alfred Hitchcock Presents

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 1955–1962

Stars: Alfred Hitchcock, Harry Tyler, John Williams, Patricia Hitchcock

Hosted and produced by the famed mystery and horror director, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” was a suspenseful anthology series that offered a new story with new characters and twists in every episode, true to Hitchcock’s style. The show made Time’s All-TIME 100 TV Shows list and was so successful with audiences that it ran for 268 episodes over 10 seasons.

 

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Carnival Film & Television

#28. Agatha Christie's Poirot

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 1989–2013

Stars: David Suchet, Hugh Fraser, Philip Jackson, Pauline Moran

This television adaptation of Agatha Christie’s book series about a particular and observant detective ran for 13 series and 70 total episodes over 24 years—an eon in British television terms. David Suchet plays the peculiar Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective that uses his wits to solve the case at hand.

 

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FX Productions

#27. Justified

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2010–2015

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts

Justified” is a modern Western about a U.S. marshal who’s re-assigned to his hometown in rural Kentucky and dispenses his own brand of justice. Timothy Olyphant stars in this adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s short story “Fire in the Hole" that was nominated for eight Primetime Emmys.

 

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HBO

#26. Big Little Lies

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2017–

Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Zoë Kravitz

An all-star cast helped catapult “Big Little Lies” into stardom with its tale of domestic abuse and upper-class happiness in the tony town of Monterey, Calif. The limited series was adapted from Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name and only intended to last for six episodes, but its popularity led series creator David E. Kelley to continue the story into a second season airing this summer.

 

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Denver and Delilah Productions

#25. Mindhunter

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2017–

Stars: Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Hannah Gross

Netflix invested heavily in the true crime genre, and “Mindhunter” straddles the line between their scripted and unscripted fare as a based-on-a-true-story version of the creation of the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit that profiles and tracks serial killers. Executive-produced and partially directed by David Fincher (“Se7en,” “House of Cards”), this dark hour-long drama set in the late '70s was originally a book called “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit.”

 

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HBO

#24. Boardwalk Empire

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2010–2014

Stars: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham

Martin Scorsese produced and directed this HBO prestige drama about organized crime in the days of Prohibition in Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi plays real-life Irish politician and gangster Nucky Thompson, and both he and the show won Golden Globes for the work.

 

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Dino De Laurentiis Company

#23. Hannibal

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2013–2015

Stars: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Laurence Fishburne

The character Hannibal Lecter had already appeared in books, films, and TV shows before this 2013 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel was brought to NBC by Bryan Fuller (“Pushing Daisies,” “American Gods”). In this version of “Hannibal,” the cannibal forensic psychiatrist befriends a young FBI profiler who has the rare ability to empathize with the murderous monsters he’s hunting. Noted celebrity chef Jose Andres was brought on-board to consult on the unique culinary aspects of the show.

 

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SutterInk

#22. Sons of Anarchy

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2008–2014

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates

Charlie Hunnam turned into a big star in this sprawling epic series about a dangerous biker gang full of outlaws in California’s Central Valley. Before the show’s success, Katey Sagal was best known for her role as Peg Bundy in “Married ...with Children,” but resurrected her career as the matriarch of the gang and won a Golden Globe in 2011 for her role.

 

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Universal Cable Productions

#21. Mr. Robot

IMDb rating: 8.6

Years running: 2015–

Stars: Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Portia Doubleday, Carly Chaikin

Hackers form the main cast of this USA Network drama about a global banking crisis created by a strange young man with multiple personality disorder. Christian Slater and Rami Malek have earned multiple nominations for their roles in the show, which is entering its fourth season.

 

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Granada Studios

#20. The Return of Sherlock Holmes

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 1986–1988

Stars: Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke, Rosalie Williams, Colin Jeavons

The follow-up to ITV’s successful British TV adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective series “Sherlock Holmes,” this limited series consisted of 13 episodes culminating in the legendary story “The Hounds of the Baskervilles.” Jeremy Brett plays the finicky Sherlock Holmes, while Edward Hardwicke is his comrade-in-arms, Dr. Watson.

 

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FremantleMedia Australia

#19. Wentworth Prison

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2013–

Stars: Kate Atkinson, Celia Ireland, Robbie Magasiva, Katrina Milosevic

Originally known as just “Wentworth,” this Australian women’s prison drama follows a woman as she enters the prison for the first time after being charged with attempted murder and has to learn how to survive on the inside. The inspiration for the show was Australia’s “Prisoner,” which ran as a soap opera in a women’s prison in the late '70s through much of the '80s.

 

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Granada Television

#18. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 1984–1985

Stars: Jeremy Brett, David Burke, Rosalie Williams, Eric Porter

Jeremy Brett’s first turn as Sherlock Holmes tied him to the character for life, as he would go on to play the role for more than two decades in various productions. This series offered a number of well-known Holmes stories with David Burke as his sidekick Watson.

 

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Fox Television Network

#17. The Shield

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2002–2008

Stars: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace

Michael Chiklis first played a police officer in the heartwarming early '90s family drama “The Commish.” A decade later, he left the sweetness behind to become dirty cop Vic Mackey, the leader of an experimental “Strike Team” that keeps the streets clean by any means necessary. “The Shield” has long been regarded as one of the greatest crime shows ever made, earning Golden Globes, a spot on TV Guide Magazine’s Best Series of All Time list, and the honor of being named one of AFI’s Best Television Programs of the Year in 2008.

 

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Synthesis Films

#16. Making a Murderer

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2015–

Stars: Dolores Avery, Steven Avery, Ken Kratz, Brendan Dassey

A real-life whodunit is the basis for Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” in which a Wisconsin man falsely imprisoned for murder is released and then arrested again for another murder he claims he didn’t commit. The case the show is based on is still in the news, as the Supreme Court recently rejected a plea by one of the co-defendants to re-try the case.

 

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CBS Paramount Network Television

#15. Deadwood

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2004–2006

Stars: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif

Deadwood” is one of the most foul-mouthed shows to ever grace American airwaves. The series tracks the development of Deadwood, S.D., a mining town in the 1870s that was home to gunslingers, prostitutes, outlaws, and lawmen. Creator David Milch worked on hit shows like “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue” before creating this masterpiece, regularly called one of the greatest dramas of all time.

 

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ABC Studios

#14. The Punisher

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2017–

Stars: Jon Bernthal, Amber Rose Revah, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes

Jon Bernthal plays “The Punisher,” a Marine veteran-turned-vigilante who’s dead set on avenging the murder of his family. The show airs on Netflix and exists in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, where The Punisher regularly crosses over with “Daredevil,” another Netflix show.

 

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High Bridge Productions

#13. Better Call Saul

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2015–

Stars: Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn, Jonathan Banks, Patrick Fabian

Now heading into its fourth season, “Better Call Saul” began as the rare spin-off that was also a prequel to beloved AMC series “Breaking Bad.” In the show, Bob Odenkirk plays Jimmy McGill, a good-natured lawyer and former con man who slowly slips into lawlessness as he goes to war with his lawyer brother, and gets involved with a former police officer-turned-hitman. When the show premiered, it set the record for best-ever basic cable ratings for a show’s debut episode.

 

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ABC Studios

#12. Daredevil

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2015–

Stars: Charlie Cox, Vincent D'Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson

The “Daredevil” of the title is a blind lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. Another dark and moody Netflix/Marvel project (slide #14’s “The Punisher” was a spin-off), the series is heading into its third season with Charlie Cox (“Boardwalk Empire”) playing the lead role.

 

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Showtime Networks

#11. Dexter

IMDb rating: 8.7

Years running: 2006–2013

Stars: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, James Remar

Michael C. Hall first made his mark on HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” but he switched to competitor Showtime for this Miami-set series about a serial killer who controls his murderous urges by hunting other serial killers. Regularly nominated by both the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes, “Dexter” had an extremely long run for a premium cable show, with 96 episodes produced over eight seasons.

 

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Levinson / Fontana Company

#10. Oz

IMDb rating: 8.8

Years running: 1997–2003

Stars: Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Dean Winters

Not to be confused with anything related to magical lands or tin men, “Oz” was HBO’s first hour-long drama. It’s about an idealistic prison reformer who creates an experimental prison wing where criminals are forced to interact with one another, and contains all of the violence, sex, and drugs one might expect from a maximum security prison.

 

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BBC

#9. Peaky Blinders

IMDb rating: 8.8

Years running: 2013–

Stars: Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, Helen McCrory, Sophie Rundle

Peaky Blinders” is a UK drama about a gangster family in post-World War I England, starring Cillian Murphy as a gang leader—the gang is known as the Peaky Blinders for the razor blades they carry in their caps—and Paul Anderson as his brother, who suffers from PTSD after a stint in the Great War. Five seasons have been commissioned thus far, earning a prestigious BAFTA TV award for Best Drama Series in 2015.

 

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Lynch/Frost Productions

#8. Twin Peaks

IMDb rating: 8.8

Years running: 1990–1991

Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook

The original version of “Twin Peaks” was interesting, alluring, and downright confusing at times. It follows an odd FBI special agent (Kyle MacLachlan) as he investigates the murder of a young woman in Twin Peaks, Wash. Eccentric writer and director David Lynch created the series, and the show earned 18 Primetime Emmy nominations overall, with two victories.

 

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Gaumont International Television

#7. Narcos

IMDb rating: 8.9

Years running: 2015–

Stars: Pedro Pascal, Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Alberto Ammann

Narcos” tells the mostly true story of Drug Enforcement Administration agents hunting drug kingpin Pablo Escobar as he ascended to the top of the world’s drug trade in Colombia in the 1980s and early '90s. The show has already aired 30 episodes on Netflix with at least 10 more on the way, though there has been some serious trouble during production in drug-ravaged areas of Mexico.

 

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MGM Television

#6. Fargo

IMDb rating: 9.0

Years running: 2014–

Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Allison Tolman, Colin Hanks

This loose television adaptation of the hit Coen Brothers movie explores different crimes in various eras all taking place in upper-Midwest states and leading back to Fargo, N.D. As a pseudo-anthology series, the show has attracted major stars like Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, and Ewan McGregor to play various roles with spot-on accents. The show has been a major critical success, with a huge haul of awards from the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes.

 

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Passenger

#5. True Detective

IMDb rating: 9.0

Years running: 2014–

Stars: Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch

Matthew McConaughey, Vince Vaughn, Woody Harrelson, Rachel McAdams, and Colin Farrell are huge movie stars in their own rights, but they all joined “True Detective” for a season each to explore crime stories that expose the anguish detectives go through in pursuit of solving a case. Nominated for Best Drama Series in its first season, the show enters its third season with a new setting, and Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as the new lead character.

 

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HBO

#4. The Sopranos

IMDb rating: 9.2

Years running: 1999–2007

Stars: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli

“The Sopranos” starred the late James Gandolfini as an Italian mob boss Tony Soprano, the head of a New Jersey crime family who has to deal with typical mafia issues. At the same time, he tries to be the head of his own household and understand the psychological issues plaguing him. With an impressive 112 Emmy nominations and 22 wins, this HBO drama ushered in the Golden Age of Television.

 

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Hartswood Films

#3. Sherlock

IMDb rating: 9.2

Years running: 2010–

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves

The century-old tales of Sherlock Holmes got a modern update in this BBC show starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a cold, meticulous, drug-addict version of the great detective and Martin Freeman playing Dr. Watson as an Afghanistan War veteran. The two solve crimes and track the mysterious worldwide criminal Moriarty. As per British production norms, the series has only aired 13 episodes over three seasons, including a special, but each episode spans roughly an hour and a half, making them closer to movies than television episodes.

 

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HBO

#2. The Wire

IMDb rating: 9.3

Years running: 2002–2008

Stars: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce

Creator David Simon spent years as a journalist in Baltimore and made each season of “The Wire” reflect a different systemic ill that he saw in the city’s fabric, from drugs to politics, to a failing school system to the disassembly of city newspapers and the shipping industry. A groundbreaking show for its breadth and realism, “The Wire” didn’t earn many awards when it aired, but it is widely considered one of the greatest television shows in history.

 

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High Bridge Productions

#1. Breaking Bad

IMDb rating: 9.5

Years running: 2008–2013

Stars: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt

When a cash-strapped high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer, he teams up with a former student to manufacture and distribute crystal meth in New Mexico. That’s the underlying plot of “Breaking Bad,” although the show is much more than that. Bryan Cranston delivers the performance of a lifetime as lead character Walter White, and the show won universal acclaim, including two consecutive Outstanding Drama statues at the Primetime Emmys.

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