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100 best TV dramas of all time

  • 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—even with all the free time currently afforded to many during stay-at-home orders. 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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  • #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."

  • #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.

  • #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."

  • #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 writes 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."

  • #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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  • #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.

  • #94. House of Cards (1990)

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

    The 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.

  • #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, attempting to navigate life through a series of big personal discoveries and changes as he works towards 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."

  • #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."

  • #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 themes such as family dynamics, mental illness, and abuse. The show was entirely financed by C.K. and distributed on his own website, the first episode dropping on the site without any press or warning.

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