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100 best TV shows of all time


100 best TV shows of all time

Sometimes a cozy night at home with your favorite TV show is better than a night out on the town. Long before streaming led audiences to binge-watch entire series in a single weekend, there was just plain old primetime-television-watching bliss—and fan favorites such as “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos” kept fans glued to their sofas week after week, year after year, to find out what would happen next. Some shows were so good, fans would purchase TV box sets on VHS or DVD to watch them again and again in order to relive the drama or bask in the laughs.

Now that we have a multitude of streaming services at our fingertips, and can watch TV anytime, anywhere, the content has become even richer and more diverse, pleasing both fans and critics alike, with original hits like “Game of Thrones” and revivals of shows like “Arrested Development.”

As we settle in for fall binge-watching season, Stacker is celebrating with a definitive list of the 100 best TV shows of all time, using data from IMDb. The shows with the highest IMDb score are ranked the highest, with #1 being the best TV show of all time, as rated by IMDb users, and with ties broken by the number of votes. For this list, a series had to have at least 50,000 votes.

Read on with caution—this list contains some spoilers.

Story updated by Chris Compendio. 

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Alcon Entertainment

#100. The Expanse

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2015–present

Originally on the Syfy channel, this show based on “The Expanse” series of books is set in a universe where the solar system has been colonized. An ice hauler ship named the Canterbury is involved in an accident, sending the crew into the center of a conspiracy that threatens the uneasy peace among different planetary governments. Canceled in 2018, Amazon revived the series for an upcoming fourth season on Prime Video; it is set to start streaming Dec. 13, 2019. 

Amblin Television

#99. The Americans

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013-2018

This popular FX show, set during the Cold War, stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as two undercover KGB officers living with their children near Washington D.C. From the outset, critics praised the show’s compelling concept and thrilling storylines, and the show continued to receive rave reviews through its sixth and final season.

Kudos Film and Television

#98. Broadchurch

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–2017

The first season of this hit British crime drama focuses on the mysterious murder of a young boy in a small town called Dorset. The series stars David Tennant and Olivia Colman as the police detectives on the case, uncovering a number of dark secrets within the town on the way. Current “Doctor Who” showrunner Chris Chibnall created the show, with “Broadchurch” lasting for three seasons.


#97. Banshee

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–2016

From Alan Ball, the creator of “True Blood,” came a show that was just as heavy on the sex and violence, though without the supernatural elements of his HBO hit. “Banshee” chronicles the twisty dealings of an ex-con who assumes the identity of a small town’s new sheriff. Critics were split on the show, with some finding it too lurid and preposterous to recommend, while others recommended it for precisely those qualities.

Double Secret Productions

#96. Stargate SG-1

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 1997–2007

This series, based on the 1994 film “Stargate,” debuted on Showtime in 1997 and then moved to the Syfy channel in 2002 to conclude its run. Its storyline follows a military team that uses an ancient archway to travel the universe and battle alien threats. The leader, Col. Jack O’Neill (portrayed by Kurt Russell in the movie), is played by “MacGyver” star Richard Dean Anderson.

Tall Ship Productions

#95. Outlander

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2014–present

This Starz time travel drama sees a World War II nurse transported back to 18th-century Scotland, where she becomes a key player in the Jacobite rebellions. The series was adapted from a series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and developed by Ronald D. Moore, whose previous project was “Battlestar Galactica”; a reboot of the 1970s original series had been a huge hit for the Syfy channel.


#94. Entourage

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2004–2011

This HBO guilty pleasure follows the career of Vincent Chase, an actor from Queens who brings a tagalong crew of friends from the old neighborhood with him for his ride to Hollywood stardom. Reviewers enjoyed Jeremy Piven’s portrayal of Vince’s slimy Hollywood agent, but criticized the shallow characters and plotlines, while audiences were happy to live vicariously in Chase’s hedonistic world. A 2015 movie that tied up some loose ends from the show garnered poor reviews and underperformed at the box office.

Kilter Films

#93. Person of Interest

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2011–2016

Like several shows on this list, the first season of “Person of Interest” received a mixed response from critics for its shallow character development, while later seasons seemed to remedy the issue. The premise sees an ex-CIA operative and a scientist teaming up to try to prevent crimes before they occur. The show’s creator, Jonathan Nolan, is the brother of director Christopher Nolan.


#92. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013–present

This goofy cop show stars former “SNL” cast member Andy Samberg as a juvenile and irreverent detective who’s forced to shape up when a strict new commanding officer (Andre Braugher) takes over his precinct. Critics praised the show’s easygoing parody along with Samberg’s charming performance, and following its debut season “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” clinched Golden Globes for best series and best actor in the Musical/Comedy category. It was canceled by Fox, but NBC picked it up for sixth and seventh seasons.

Curiosity Company

#91. Futurama

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 1999–2013

This Fox animated show from “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening follows the adventures of an interplanetary delivery outfit, parodying movies and TV shows from all corners of science fiction along the way. Although it never rose to the level of popularity of “The Simpsons,” the show received almost universal critical acclaim, with 12 Emmy nominations and six wins over the course of its run.

Bad Robot

#90. Fringe

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2008–2013

The same team behind the 2009 big-screen “Star Trek” reboot, J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci launched this Fox show about a Boston-based FBI team that explores mysteries related to the existence of parallel universes. While it didn’t quite manage to seize the zeitgeist to the degree of Abrams’s previous hit, “Lost,” the show received positive reviews that improved with each subsequent season.

20th Century Fox Television

#89. Modern Family

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2009–present

Applauded by critics for its fresh writing and eclectic characters, “Modern Family” adds second marriages, gay relationships, and large age gaps between partners into the mix to shake up the old nuclear family sitcom formula. The show has won 22 Primetime Emmy Awards and 6 Writers Guild of America Awards.

Warner Bros. Television

#88. Supernatural

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2005–present

Debuting on The WB (and continuing its run on The CW when the network changed names), this sci-fi/horror sees a pair of vigilante brothers hunting down various supernatural entities. It is now the network’s longest-running show and the longest-running live-action fantasy series of all time.

Assembly Film and Television

#87. Black Books

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2000–2004

This British multi-camera sitcom was created by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan, and follows the employees of the fictional Black Books bookstore. Moran portrayed Bernard Black, the grouchy owner of the store. It is considered to be a sister show to “Spaced,” a similar sitcom created by “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” writer/director Edgar Wright.

Dakota Pictures

#86. Flight of the Conchords

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2007–2009

New Zealand musicians and comedy performers Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie star as fictionalized versions of themselves in “Flight of the Conchords.” Unlike in real life, the duo are struggling musicians, uprooted from New Zealand in an attempt to make it big in New York City. Kristen Schaal co-stars as the duo’s only fan, with Rhys Darby as their incompetent manager.

Ryan Murphy Productions

#85. American Crime Story

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2016–present

This acclaimed anthology series from Ryan Murphy recounts the stories of famous American crimes. The first season, which was nominated for 22 Emmy Awards, tackled the O.J. Simpson case, with Cuba Gooding, Jr. taking on the role of “The Juice” himself. Critics praised his performance alongside those of his fellow cast members, who included John Travolta, Courtney B. Vance, and David Schwimmer. Season two, which focused on the murder of Gianni Versace, lacked the star power of the series’ initial outing, but still received favorable reviews overall. The third season, "Impeachment," will focus on the scandal between former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (who is producing the season); it is scheduled to air Sept. 27, 2020. 

3 Arts Entertainment

#84. Louie

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010–2015

Written, directed, created, edited, and produced by comedian Louis C.K., who also starred, this show constantly subverted expectations of television as a format. The tone oscillated unpredictably between funny and serious, the visual and editing style varied wildly between episodes, and the show played fast and loose with continuity.

In 2017, amidst the #MeToo movement, five women reported they were sexually harassed by the comedian—claims that Louis C.K. promptly admitted were true, saying: “The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

#83. The Office (U.K. version)

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2001–2003

One of the first mockumentaries to break into the pop-cultural sphere, the original U.K. version of "The Office" was a seed of inspiration for a wave of mockumentary TV series to come later in the decade, the Scranton-based American version chief among them. Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman led the series as David Brent and Tim Canterbury, the British equivalent of Michael and Jim. Despite good ratings, Gervais decided to call it quits after two strong seasons.

Tiger Aspect Productions

#82. Mr. Bean

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 1990–1995

Rowan Atkinson’s, most famous character is Mr. Bean, a clueless and comically immature man. Episodes of the show follow Mr. Bean as he meanders into absurd situations while attempting to perform everyday tasks. The character has since spawned two theatrically released films, the first in 1997 and the second in 2007.


#81. Taboo

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017–present

Tom Hardy co-created the period drama “Taboo” with his father Chips Hardy and writer Steven Knight, who directed Hardy in the film “Locke.” Hardy portrays James Delaney, who in 1814 returns to England after spending 12 years in Africa and having stolen 14 diamonds. The show will return for two more series, with the second season expected to air in 2020. 

3 Arts Entertainment

#80. Silicon Valley

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2014–present

Created by Mike Judge (“Beavis and Butthead,” “Office Space”) this HBO comedy chronicles the rise of a software startup run and staffed by geeky programmers. Critics and fans heralded the strong joke writing and a standout performance by T.J. Miller as Erlich, the world’s most obnoxious business mentor. Although difficulties on set led to Miller’s departure from the show at the end of the fourth season, the show continues to draw unanimously positive reviews; it returns on HBO in October.


#79. Luther

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010–present

One of Idris Elba’s most famous and acclaimed roles is that of Detective Chief Inspector John Luther. The first few series focus on Luther’s intertwining with Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), a psychopath and murderer. The show delves deep into the psyche of Luther, as he prioritizes his police work over his personal life.

Talkback Thames

#78. The IT Crowd

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2006–2013

Three employees of the fictional Reynholm Industries are the focus of Graham Linehan’s show “The IT Crowd,” which stars Richard Ayoade, Chris O'Dowd, and Jen Barber. The three quirky individuals work for the company’s IT department in an unkempt basement that contrasts with the grand London sights from the rest of the company’s employees. The show ended after four series after the creative team was unable to put together the fifth run of episodes because of logistical reasons.

MGM Television

#77. The Handmaid's Tale

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017–present

Based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, this acclaimed Hulu show stars Elisabeth Moss as a woman struggling for freedom in a misogynistic, alternate-reality version of America that has been taken over by religious extremists. Far more critically and commercially successful than the ill-fated 1990 feature film of the same name, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has received critical acclaim and sufficient zeitgeist traction to warrant a “Saturday Night Live” parody.

Krasnoff Foster Productions

#76. Community

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2009–2015

Joel McHale made a transition from hosting the clip show “The Soup” to scripted comedy in this NBC favorite about a lawyer who’s disbarred for lying about his academic credentials and forced to attend community college in order to resume his career. In addition to helping launch the career of Donald Glover, the show featured Chevy Chase in a supporting role. Chase’s public feud with the show’s writers and producers received significant media coverage toward the end of the show’s run.

Dino De Laurentiis Company

#75. Hannibal

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2013–2015

Based on the Thomas Harris novels “Red Dragon” and “Hannibal,” this show sees Mads Mikkelsen stepping into the role of brilliant forensic psychologist/cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter (previously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox in movie adaptations of Harris’s novels). Hugh Dancy plays his protégé, a profiler who is unaware of his mentor’s secret double life. The show employs José Andrés, a prominent restaurateur, to serve as a consultant in order to ensure that Lecter’s culinary preparation of human flesh is realistic.


#74. Spartacus

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010–2013

Steven S. DeKnight, who would later go on to develop “Daredevil” on Netflix and “Pacific Rim: Uprising,” created the Starz show based on the historical gladiator Spartacus. Initially starring Andy Whitfield as the title character, the show focuses on the slave uprising begat by Spartacus. Whitfield died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, and Liam McIntyre replaced him in the leading role.

Universal Cable Productions

#73. Mr. Robot

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2015–present

This surprise USA Network hit, which draws heavily from “Fight Club” and “The Matrix,” tells the story of a hacker named Elliot (Rami Malek) with social anxiety disorder, clinical depression, and, unbeknownst to him through most of the first season, a split personality (dissociative identity disorder). Christian Slater plays his Tyler Durden-esque alter ego with scenery-chewing aplomb.

Universal Cable Productions

#72. Suits

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2011–present

A hotshot Manhattan lawyer hires a talented college dropout despite his lack of a law degree, forging a secret between them. While some critics dismissed the show as inessential, others found the sharp dialogue and lead chemistry sufficient to give this show an edge in the crowded legal drama genre. Star Meghan Markle would go on to royal fame, marrying Prince Harry in May 2018.

Cartoon Network Studios

#71. Adventure Time

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2010–2018

This Cartoon Network show follows the adventures of a boy and his best friend, a talking dog who can change his size and shape at will, in a mystical and magical realm. While the premise may sound familiar, the show’s sweet but strange tone sets it apart. Creator Pendleton Ward has acknowledged influences as far-ranging as “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Beavis and Butthead,” and “Ren and Stimpy.” Another unusual aspect of the show is its approach to voice casting. While many animated shows employ adult actors for their child characters, “Adventure Time” cast an actual child actor (Jeremy Shada) to voice the character of Finn. As such, Finn’s voice deepened through the show’s run as Shada progressed through puberty.

Tornante Company

#70. BoJack Horseman

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2014–present

In this animated Netflix series, a former sitcom star voiced by Will Arnett attempts to reignite his showbiz career. Oh, and he happens to be an anthropomorphized horse. While many reviewers found the show’s first season too short on laughs to justify its bizarre premise, subsequent seasons added surprising depth to the BoJack character and drew acclaim from audiences and critics alike.

FX Productions

#69. Justified

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2010–2015

This FX show saw Timothy Olyphant, who played the sheriff on HBO’s “Deadwood,” portraying Raylan Givens, a maverick U.S. marshal who returns to his hometown in Kentucky to take on the criminal element there. The character of Givens is adapted from an Elmore Leonard short story. Critics praised Olyphant’s performance and the show’s seedy worldbuilding.

Paramount Television

#68. Star Trek: The Next Generation

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1987–1994

A 50,000-vote poll by found that Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) beat out James T. Kirk as fans’ favorite “Star Trek” captain of all time. That says a lot for this series, set 99 years after the original show, whose popularity peaked with a series finale that drew a whopping 31 million viewers. This Enterprise crew also went on to star in four feature films, the first of which combined the original series and TNG casts through a time travel plot.

HBO Entertainment

#67. The Newsroom

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2012–2014

Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “The Social Network”) co-created this HBO news drama alongside producer Denis Biggs. Jeff Daniels stars as a principled but unpredictable cable news anchor. Critics found the first season smug and preachy but warmed to the show over subsequent seasons.

Blossom Films

#66. Big Little Lies

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2017-2019

This HBO drama, based on the best-selling novel by Liane Moriarty of the same name, features an A-list cast that includes Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Dern. The show is set in a wealthy coastal town in California where deception and murder lurk beneath the picture-perfect surface. Despite initially being billed as a miniseries—and winning an Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series—HBO renewed the show for a second season, which co-starred Meryl Streep; the show's creators have said a third season is unlikely

Fox Television Animation

#65. Archer

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2009–present

This FX animated hit milks workplace comedy from an unlikely source: a spy agency. H. Jon Benjamin lends his distinctive voice to the main character, an arrogant and juvenile superspy, while Jessica Walter of “Arrested Development” plays his overbearing mother who also happens to run the agency. Reviews of the early seasons praised the show’s original voice and sharp jokes, though critics’ takes on the more recent season suggests creative burnout may be setting in among the writing team.

Denver and Delilah Productions

#64. Mindhunter

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2017–present

This Netflix crime drama follows two FBI agents who essentially write the book on criminal profiling in the late 1970s by interviewing serial killers. Leads Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany have great chemistry in the leading roles, the former playing a meticulous idealist and the latter a gruff cynic. Critics praised the first season for its cerebral plotting and creepy interview scenes with some of history’s most famous murderers. The second season began streaming on Netflix on Aug. 16, 2019. While the show has not yet officially been renewed for a third season, if it does, the air date might be a couple of years out

ABC Studios

#63. The Punisher

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2017–2019

Jon Bernthal (“The Walking Dead”) plays a vigilante superhero whose revenge quest brings him face to face with New York’s underworld. Critics found the first season to be a slow start, but Marvel fans hungry for more content between movies were willing to jump on board.


#62. Boardwalk Empire

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2010–2014

This crime drama starred Steve Buscemi as an Atlantic City mob boss during the prohibition era. While not a hit on the same level as HBO’s contemporary mafia series “The Sopranos,” the show received positive reviews and won 20 Primetime Emmy Awards over its run, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Television Series—Drama in 2011.

Bonanza Productions

#61. Shameless

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2011–present

A remake of a British series, this Showtime dramedy takes on the struggles of a Chicago family headed by a deadbeat patriarch (William H. Macy) whose only concerns are what his next scheme will be and where his next beer will come from. Although some critics initially thought Macy was miscast, he has racked up three Screen Actors Guild awards for his performance in the role. The show's ninth season made it the longest-running Showtime show in the network's history. The 10th and final season is set to air Nov. 3, 2019; Emmy Rossum, who plays Macy's eldest daughter Fiona, will not return as a regular. 

Deedle-Dee Productions

#60. Parks and Recreation

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2009–2015

The brainchild of the creator and the head writer of the U.S. version of “The Office,” this workplace comedy employed that show’s same mockumentary style to depict the workings of a quirky Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee, Ind. Critics initially found the show lacking compared with its predecessor, but warmed to the charms of the ensemble cast (headed up by Amy Poehler), and after a shaky start, the show found its groove and became a hit for NBC.

Lionsgate Television

#59. Mad Men

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2007–2015

When HBO famously rejected his series pitch, creator Matthew Weiner took the show over to AMC, where it redefined the network as a viable destination for prestige television. Set in the halls of a New York advertising agency in the 1960s, the acclaimed show was praised for its period authenticity, social commentary, and strong performances. Standout actors among the cast included Jon Hamm, who played the smooth-but-tortured leading man Don Draper, and Elisabeth Moss, who played a secretary who manages to rise up the ranks in the agency despite rampant misogyny in the workforce.

Ten Thirteen Productions

#58. The X-Files

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1993–2002, January 2016–February 2016, January 2018–March 2018

Mulder and Scully form the iconic duo portrayed by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, respectively, in “The X-Files.” The pair of FBI agents investigated cases involving the paranormal, with Mulder believing in the existence of aliens and Scully being the skeptic. The series was a pop culture phenomenon, spawning two feature films and two seasons for a revival.

BBC Wales

#57. Doctor Who

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2005–present

A continuation of the classic British sci-fi show “Doctor Who,” the revival began with the ninth iteration of the regenerating time-traveling alien known as The Doctor, portrayed by Christopher Eccelston. Eccelston was succeeded by David Tennant, then Matt Smith, followed by Peter Capaldi, and now Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor. All in all, this show, which features iconic enemies like the Daleks and the Cybermen, has been running for over 50 years and returns in 2020.


#56. Sons of Anarchy

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2008–2014

This FX crime drama revolved around a motorcycle gang based out of Central California. Critics appreciated the uncompromising grittiness of the show and the strength of the ensemble cast, which included Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, and Katey Sagal. For the sake of authenticity, the producers even cast Oakland Hell’s Angel David Labrava to play one of the biker gang members, in addition to his role as a consultant for the show.

ABC Studios

#55. Daredevil

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2015–2018

A blind lawyer fights crime by night in this Netflix adaptation of the Marvel comic. Much better received than the poorly reviewed Ben Affleck movie from a decade earlier, the success of this series was an early indicator that Marvel’s media empire could extend its bounds beyond feature films.

World 2000 Entertainment

#54. Vikings

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2013–present

This History channel historical drama is based on Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, a Norse folk hero. Ragnar, portrayed by Travis Fimmel, rises from a farmer to a Scandinavian king. Running for five seasons thus far, the show will end with its upcoming sixth season.

Imagine Television

#53. Friday Night Lights

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2006–2011

After adapting the non-fiction book “Friday Night Lights” into a 2004 film, filmmaker Peter Berg then brought this story to the small screen. Focusing on a high school football team in a small town in Texas, the series tackled a number of contemporary American societal issues. The show accelerated the careers of actors Kyle Chandler, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, and Michael B. Jordan.

W. Chump & sons

#52. The Grand Tour

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2016–present

After his firing from the BBC and the popular show “Top Gear” for disciplinary reasons, presenter Jeremy Clarkson took a similar show to Amazon Prime Video. Clarkson brought his “Top Gear” co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May along for a show that focuses on automobiles, with a mixture of pre-taped segments and live-audience segments. The show also came to video game consoles as an interactive experience.

Fox Television Network

#51. The Shield

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2002–2008

“The Shield” surpassed most prime time cop shows by favoring shades of gray over clear-cut moralism. In a career-defining role, Michael Chiklis played the volatile, corrupt, and yet somehow principled leader of an elite Los Angeles detective squad. He won a Primetime Emmy for his performance after the first season.

20th Century Fox Television

#50. This Is Us

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2016–present

This popular NBC dramedy from Dan Fogelman about three siblings struggling through adulthood is all about tugging heartstrings. Although some critics have found the proceedings too saccharine to recommend, the show has been nominated for, and has won, a number of awards in its first two seasons, and received five nominations at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards (Sept. 22, 2019). The fourth season airs two days later on Sept. 24. 

Levinson / Fontana Company

#49. Oz

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1997–2003

HBO’s first one-hour drama, set in a maximum security prison, rewrote all the rules of television and set the table for the network’s future as the go-to destination for prestige television. While it’s a little rough around the edges by today’s standards, the show holds up as a gritty, uncompromising, character-driven look into life inside a correctional facility. J.K. Simmons gives a standout performance as an alpha-male white supremacist inmate.

CBS Paramount Network Television

#48. Deadwood

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2004–2006

Series creator David Milch initially tried to pitch HBO a show set during the Roman period. But when it turned out the network already had such a show in the works (“Rome”), Milch reworked the concept to a western frontier town setting. The show features poetic, almost Shakespearean dialogue, and standout performances from Timothy Olyphant as Deadwood’s sheriff and Ian McShane as a brothel owner. Its relatively short run left fans clamoring for more, but with the fate of the long-delayed “Deadwood” movie still uncertain, they may have to keep waiting for some time.

Sony Pictures Television

#47. The Crown

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2016–present

This acclaimed Netflix historical drama explores the life of Queen Elizabeth II. The show was created by Peter Morgan and evolved out of his award-winning 2006 film “The Queen.” Season one begins when Elizabeth (Claire Foy) is only 25 and a princess, and focused on her relationship with grizzled Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow). Season three, in which Olivia Colman will take over for Claire Foy as queen, airs on Netflix on Nov. 17, 2019. 


#46. Curb Your Enthusiasm

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2000–present

“Seinfeld” creator Larry David plays a fictionalized version of himself in this heavily improvised, award-winning HBO comedy. David’s onscreen persona has a talent for generating awkward, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations that have long delighted audiences and critics alike. Offscreen, David has declared himself done with the character numerous times, sometimes taking long hiatuses between seasons, which is why it took him 17 years to make nine seasons of the show. The 10th season is expected to air in 2020.


#45. Top Gear

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2002–present

A relaunch of a 1977 BBC show, the most popular lineup of this magazine and chat show is Richard Hammond, James May, and Jeremy Clarkson, along with the anonymous test driver known as “The Stig.” The show experienced a major reshuffling in 2015 after Clarkson was suspended, and then fired after reportedly punching a producer—the “final straw” for BBC. Presenters soon after included Matt LeBlanc, who was later replaced by Andrew Flintoff and Paddy McGuinness.

Ocean Group

#44. Dragon Ball Z

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1996–2003

Possibly the most famous anime series of all time is “Dragon Ball Z,” with its equally famous protagonist Goku. A sequel to the original “Dragon Ball” anime and a continuing adaptation of the manga of the same name, “Z” portrayed Goku’s adult life as he and his companions defended the world from a host of villains and enemies. The show had two other sequel shows, as well as a remastering called “Dragon Ball Kai.”


#43. Six Feet Under

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2001–2005

This HBO drama about a family-run funeral home featured a unique gimmick: each episode began with the arrival of a new corpse. The show’s final episode, which stared down the mortality of its characters as it fast-forwarded the full remainder of their lives, has been hailed as one of the best series finales of all time.

Amblin Television

#42. The Haunting of Hill House

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2018–present

Horror filmmaker Mike Flanagan both created and directed “The Haunting of Hill House,” which streamed on Netflix in 2018. The show is based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel, with the show focusing on two different time periods revolving around a family’s paranormal experiences in the Hill House. The show will be succeeded with a new story called “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”

British Sky Broadcasting

#41. Battlestar Galactica

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2004–2009

This Syfy Channel remake vastly improved upon the cheesy 1970s original with excellent special effects, politically astute plotlines, and a first-rate cast. Bucking the trend of youthful casting, series creator Ronald D. Moore opted for seasoned actors for his leads: Edward James Olmos as the captain of the titular starship and Mary McDonnell as the secretary of education who’s thrust into the role of president by succession laws after most of humanity is wiped out by evil robots. With its tense plotlines, first-rate performances, and surprisingly deep themes, “Battlestar Galactica” was one of the best science fiction shows ever to hit the small screen.

HD Vision Studios

#40. Rome

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2005–2007

This ambitious HBO sword-and-sandals epic followed two Roman soldiers whose onscreen lives intertwined with actual historical events. The series received positive reviews for its impressive visuals and R-rated thrills. But, like the Roman empire itself, the show’s size and scope were its downfall: HBO was forced to ax it from the schedule after its second season because of budgetary concerns.

Carnival Film & Television

#39. Downton Abbey

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2010–2015

A large ensemble made up the cast of “Downton Abbey,” which included Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens, Maggie Smith, and many more. The British historical period drama focused on a fictional Yorkshire country estate from the years 1912 to 1926. The show ended in 2015 but will be succeeded by a feature film scheduled for release this month.

High Bridge Productions

#38. Better Call Saul

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2015–present

This spinoff of AMC’s flagship series “Breaking Bad” takes place before and after the events of that show, focusing on the life of sleazy attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk. Although it had big shoes to fill, the show managed to surpass critics' expectations, while scratching an itch for “Breaking Bad” fans suffering from cancellation withdrawal. Season five is expected to air 2020, with the show's creators citing "talent needs" as the reason for the delay. 

Comedy Central

#37. South Park

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1997–present

This foul-mouthed animated satire from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone pushes the boundaries of good taste to a breaking point, making “The Simpsons” look tame by comparison. A breakout hit for Comedy Central, this show puts the fictional town of South Park, Colo., on the pop culture map and made Kenny, Kyle, Stan, and Cartman (and the series creators) household names. The show also spawned a big-screen adaptation, as well as two hit video games.

20th Century Fox Television

#36. The Simpsons

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1989–present

America’s longest-running animated show was originally adapted from a series of shorts sandwiched between sketches on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in the late 1980s. The series has come a long way since then, spawning toys, comic books, albums, video games, a feature film, and even its own theme-park ride at Universal Studios. At the peak of its success, the show’s main cast members earned $400,000 per episode, though they’ve since agreed to multiple rounds of pay cuts in order to keep the show financially feasible for Fox. Season 31 debuts on Fox on Sept. 29, 2019. 

Heel & Toe Films

#35. House

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2004–2012

Hugh Laurie played a physician who made up for his poor bedside manner with diagnostic skills that bordered on genius. Each episode presented a new medical mystery for him to solve, and although it strained believability, the formula made for engrossing TV. Critics raved about Laurie’s performance, which earned him back-to-back Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series—Drama in 2006 and 2007.

Showtime Networks

#34. Dexter

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2006–2013

A psychopathic forensic expert takes his violent urges out on evildoers. Critics loved the novel premise, though they warned that some viewers might find the show’s goriness repellant. Not too many did, apparently: The show’s finale drew 2.8 million viewers, a record for Showtime.

Warner Bros. Television

#33. The West Wing

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1999–2006

Created by Aaron Sorkin, this NBC political drama peered into the workings of a fictional White House under the leadership of a Democratic president played by Martin Sheen. Critics praised the show’s smart writing and brisk walk-and-talk pacing. In terms of viewership, "The West Wing" was especially popular among high-income audiences, making its commercial breaks desirable for advertisers.


#32. Monty Python's Flying Circus

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1969–1974

Legendary comedy troupe Monty Python essentially invented surrealist sketch comedy with “Flying Circus.” With classic sketches like “Dead Parrot” and the “Ministry of Silly Walks,” the troupe that included John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and the late Graham Chapman, Monty Python became a pop culture landmark. This continued with a number of films, the most famous being “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”


#31. Fawlty Towers

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1975–1979

John Cleese and Connie Booth, then a married couple, co-created and starred in the British sitcom “Fawlty Towers.” The show centered around the titular fictional hotel, with the dysfunctional owners running the establishment amidst absurd situations. Even long after the end of its two-series run, the show has sustained itself as a classic comedy show.

Apatow Productions

#30. Freaks and Geeks

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1999–2000

Before Judd Apatow became a household name through movies, he created this short-lived comedy-drama for NBC. Although it only ran a single season, it has developed a cult following over the years for its unflinching and heartfelt portrayal of teenage awkwardness. The show debuted several actors who would go on to become regulars in Apatow projects, including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and James Franco.

Wit Studio

#29. Attack on Titan

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2013–present

Based on the manga of the same name, “Attack on Titan” is set in a world where humanity inhabits closed and fortified cities because of Titans, giant humanoid creatures that feast on people. Eren Yeager and friends are part of a force fighting back against the Titans after their home town is breached. The series is scheduled for a fourth season, reportedly its last; the season will reportedly be broken up into two 10–12-episode parts, with the first expected to premiere in fall 2020. 

Lynch / Frost Productions

#28. Twin Peaks

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1990–1991

It’s astounding that a show this strange was able to land a network TV time slot in the early 1990s. The show follows the investigation of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper into the murder of a homecoming queen in a Washington logging town. While the premise makes it sound like a run-of-the-mill primetime procedural, the delivery from creators Mark Frost and David Lynch was truly bizarre. Combining surrealism, melodrama, horror, and comedy with movie-quality visuals, “Twin Peaks” stands as one of the most original pieces of American television ever made. The show was resurrected by Showtime in 2017 for a limited-run series featuring many of the original cast members to the delight of fans everywhere.

Blubush Productions

#27. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2005–present

Its main characters may work in a bar, but this show is no “Cheers.” Caustic, cynical, crass, and hilarious, “It's Always Sunny” delights in pushing the boundaries of good taste far beyond what would fly in a network show. The first season took a while to find its comedic footing, but since season two, which kicked off with Danny DeVito joining the cast, the show has received universal acclaim from critics. Season 14 will air Sept. 25, 2019, on FXX. 

Caryn Mandabach Productions

#26. Peaky Blinders

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2013–present

Set in post-World War I England, “Peaky Blinders” is about the Shelby crime family, loosely based on the 19th-century urban youth gang known as the Peaky Blinders. The show is headlined by Cillian Murphy, who plays the gang’s leader, with Sam Neill and Tom Hardy having reoccurring roles. The show, which airs on BBC One in the U.K. and streams on Netflix in the United States, ended its fifth season by depicting Black Tuesday in 1929. Season six is expected to air at the end of 2020 or even early 2021, and the show's creator, Steven Knight, has said a seventh season is also likely

Castle Rock Entertainment

#25. Seinfeld

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1989–1998

Regularly referred to as one of the best TV shows of all time by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and TV Guide, “Seinfeld’s” hilarious, iconic characters, storylines, and catchphrases have become an indelible part of popular culture. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld in 1989, the show launched the careers of Seinfeld and co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander, while Michael Richards’ Kramer character became unforgettable. It won an Emmy in 1993 for “Outstanding Comedy Series,” and in 2014, Hulu acquired the streaming rights to all nine seasons of the series’ episodes for a reported $130 to $180 million. 

20th Century Fox Television

#24. Arrested Development

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2003–2019

Debuting in 2003 and revived in 2013 by Netflix, the quirky comedy “Arrested Development” followed the dysfunctional Bluth family as they navigated life after the family patriarch was imprisoned. Starring Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Portia De Rossi, and Jessica Walter,  the critically acclaimed show won six Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, though it was canceled due to low ratings on Fox in 2006. Some critics have said that “30 Rock” and “Community” were inspired by the show’s offbeat sensibility.


#23. Narcos

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2015–2018

One of the most popular original shows on Netflix, “Narcos” was a gripping drama that followed the real-life stories of the Colombian drug trade of the late 1980s. While seasons one and two focused on the infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, season three picked up after his fall and the rise of Cali Cartel. The series has been nominated for a number of awards; season four was set in Mexico.

Reveille Productions

#22. The Office (U.S. version)

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2005–2013

Based on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s hit BBC show, the American version starred Steve Carell as the well-meaning but painfully awkward boss of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company. The show turned Carell, who up until then was best known as a “Daily Show” correspondent, into a household name and led to a film career.

Bad Robot

#21. Westworld

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2016–present

Based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, “Westworld” is the hit HBO sci-fi series about the fictional, technologically advanced “Old West” amusement park hosted by androids. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden, its debut in 2016 earned the highest ratings for the network for a premiere since “True Detective” (#8 on our list in 2014), and its first season ranked as the most-watched of any HBO original series. A third season was recently announced.

Media Rights Capital

#20. House of Cards

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2013–2018

“House of Cards,” which is often referenced as the case study for Netflix and the new era of television developed based on “big data,” was an adaptation of the 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name. The acclaimed political thriller, which starred Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, suspended production after allegations of sexual assault and harassment came out against Spacey, then severed ties with the actor for good. Its final season began in November 2018.

21 Laps Entertainment

#19. Stranger Things

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2016–present

The Duffer brothers created this phenomenally successful ‘80s original thriller series for Netflix in the summer of 2016. It sparked a cultural revolution that boosted sales of Eggo waffles, had fans worried about Barb, and had audiences begging for more after binge-watching sessions.

Disney Television Animation

#18. Gravity Falls

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2012–2016

The fictional town of Gravity Falls, Ore., is the setting of this popular Disney television show by Alex Hirsch. Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal are the voices of twins who are dropped off at the home of their great uncle Grunkle Stan, which eventually leads to hijinks in the strange and supernatural town. The show ended after two seasons but is still beloved for its charm, animation style, and appeal to all ages.

Sixteen String Jack Productions

#17. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2014–present

When fans of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” were looking for a new voice of reason when he retired in 2015, John Oliver was there. Oliver, who won an Emmy for his work on “The Daily Show,” now serves as host of his own popular weekly primetime show on HBO. It has been nominated for, and has won, a number of awards.

Amazon Studios

#16. The Boys

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2019–present

This Amazon Prime Original imagines a world where superheroes are immoral and instruments of corporate capitalism. “Hughie” Campbell plays an everyman whose girlfriend is killed as collateral damage to a speedster superhero, who is a member of “The Seven,” the world’s most famous superhero team. Hughie then joins a group of vigilantes led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), with the group’s goal being to take down the “Supes” through violence and uncovering their dark hidden secrets.

Bandai Visual Company

#15. Cowboy Bebop

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 1998–1999

This famous anime was set in the year 2071 and focused on the lives of a team of bounty hunters on the spaceship “Bebop.” The series was led by Spike, a former hitman, his partner Jet Black, con artist Faye Valentine, and hacker Ed Wong. Netflix announced it would adapt the series to live-action, with John Cho starring as Spike.


#14. Black Mirror

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2011–present

This anthology show by Charlie Brooker focuses on the unintended consequences of new technology, with each episode presenting a different story like “The Twilight Zone.” The show moved to Netflix for its third season, with the streaming service also putting out seasons four and five. Additionally, Netflix released “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” an interactive choose-your-own-adventure story in 2018.

Warner Bros. Television

#13. Friends

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 1994–2004

When Joey, Rachel, Ross, Monica, and Phoebe—played by the unforgettable ensemble cast of Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow—got together in “Friends,” it was television magic. One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, the show earned 62 Primetime Emmy nominations, winning for “Outstanding Comedy Series” in 2002. It launched the TV and film careers of all of its cast members, and sparked the short-lived spinoff, “Joey.”

CBS Television Network

#12. The Twilight Zone

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years on the air: 1959–1964

Rod Serling’s iconic, critically acclaimed “The Twilight Zone” series took on issues of prejudice, war, government, and morality. Blending fantasy, thriller, and science fiction, many of the themes and lessons from the memorable (albeit super creepy) storylines resonate today. While the original black-and-white, Serling-led series ran from 1959 to 1964, the first reboot arrived in 1985, followed by other revivals and even a film version produced by Steven Spielberg in 1983.

Warner Bros. Animation

#11. Batman: The Animated Series

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years on the air: 1992–1995

Bruce Timm co-developed “Batman: The Animated Series,” which became the first show in a larger animated universe that ended with “Justice League Unlimited.” The show focused on Bruce Wayne, voiced by Kevin Conroy, and his exploits as the Caped Crusader. It is the source of actor Mark Hamill’s most famous voice performance as the Joker.

Mutant Enemy

#10. Firefly

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years on the air: 2002–2003

Joss Whedon’s short-lived but beloved futuristic space drama was canceled by Fox, but then became a fan favorite when it was released on DVD. The series featured an ensemble cast (led by Nathan Fillion and won a Primetime Emmy for special effects, and inspired comics and a role-playing game, as well as the 2005 film “Serenity.”

MGM Television

#9. Fargo

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years on the air: 2014–present

Based on the Coen brothers film of the same name, “Fargo” is a darkly comedic anthology show about quirky characters in small towns. The award-winning series has received top marks from critics for its originality and dedication to the absurd.

Anonymous Content

#8. True Detective

- IMDb user rating: 9.0
- Years on the air: 2014–present

In this critically acclaimed anthology crime drama series, new cast ensembles take on challenging crime investigations each season. The first season, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was called one of the best drama series of the year while other critics said it was one of the strongest in recent memory. Season two stars Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch; Mahershala Ali is the lead in the third season, with Carmen Ejogo, Stephen Dorff, Scoot McNairy, and Ray Fisher co-starring. A fourth season has not yet been confirmed. 

Hartswood Films

#7. Sherlock

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Years on the air: 2010–present

Benedict Cumberbatch stars at Sherlock Holmes in this popular series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective series of the same name. Produced as a co-production of BBC and WGBH in Boston for PBS Masterpiece, the show has received praise from critics and fans alike, winning three Primetime Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actor for Cumberbatch. A fifth season may or may not happen. 

Nickelodeon Animation Studios

#6. Avatar: The Last Airbender

- IMDb user rating: 9.2
- Years on the air: 2005–2008

Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino co-created this anime-inspired American animated show, with the backstory involving the “Avatar,” a person who can “bend” and manipulate all four main elements of air, water, fire, and earth. Aang is the current Avatar, found by Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka, 100 years after Aang froze in an iceberg, leaving the world under siege by the Fire Nation. The show was followed up by “The Legend of Korra,” a show set 70 years later about the next Avatar.


#5. The Sopranos

- IMDb user rating: 9.2
- Years on the air: 1999–2007

The late James Gandolfini led this megahit, award-winning HBO series as Tony Soprano, an Italian American mobster who had to balance family life with organized crime. Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler co-starred in what some critics think is one of the most groundbreaking series ever made because of its effect on the industry in elevating the art form.

Blown Deadline Productions

#4. The Wire

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Years on the air: 2002–2008

Still cited as one of the greatest TV shows ever made, “The Wire” went off the air more than 10 years ago. The acclaimed HBO drama featured a black ensemble cast, helping to launch the careers of Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, and Michael K. Williams, and took a realistic look at Baltimore and its drug scene, police department, schools, and media.

Harmonious Claptrap

#3. Rick and Morty

- IMDb user rating: 9.3
- Years on the air: 2013–present

Cartoon Network’s adult animated sci-fi comedy “Rick and Morty” follows the adventures of Rick Sanchez, a mad scientist, and his daughter (Sarah Chalke) and her children. It has received high marks from critics for its creativity, scientific accuracy, and general wackiness, and has a massive cult following. 


#2. Game of Thrones

- IMDb user rating: 9.4
- Years on the air: 2011-2019

Based on George R.R. Martin’s beloved series of novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” this megahit HBO series essentially took on a life of its own. The Emmy Award-winning medieval fantasy epic followed the deadly adventures of two powerful families as they battled for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. It frequently challenged “The Sopranos” in viewership ratings during its first four seasons. The show inspired licensed merchandise, games, replica armor, and boosted sales of the original novels.

High Bridge Productions

#1. Breaking Bad

- IMDb user rating: 9.5
- Years on the air: 2008–2013

The critically acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad” turned Walter White into an icon and catapulted Bryan Cranston into cult status for his portrayal of the high-school-teacher-turned-meth-lab-operator. Cranston won four Primetime Emmy Awards for the role. It’s considered one of the greatest TV shows of all-time, having become the most-watched cable TV show on American television, and most critically acclaimed of all time. 

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