The 50 Best TV Shows Of All Time

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Updated on April 2, 2021 by
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Looking for the best TV shows ever to air on television?

Whether you prefer the classic comedies of the 90’s such as ‘Seinfeld,’ or the modern thrillers from this decade that leave you at the edge of your seat such as ‘Breaking Bad,’ television has something for everyone. For decades now, TV shows have entertained us by providing thrills, laughter, and even happily ever afters.

It’s no secret that we have enjoyed the golden age of television for over a decade now. With shows such as ‘Game Of Thrones’ and ‘The Office’ taking over the entire world by storm, we’ve definitely enjoyed some great TV in the 21st century. However, there are a plethora of great television shows that were on-air even decades ago.

Here are the top 50 TV shows of all time.

1. Game Of Thrones

game of thrones

IMDb Rating: 9.3/10

Game Of Thrones debuted in 2011 and quickly became a household name worldwide. With multiple households, all fighting for power, all 8 seasons of the show were packed with intriguing suspense, gut-wrenching action, and an ensemble of brilliant characters. This series exhibited grandeur on television as no other show had done before. Over the years, the show attained 160 Emmy nominations and 59 awards. The series has also bagged a Golden Globe and multiple guild awards.

2. The Sopranos


IMDb Rating: 9.2/10

The Sopranos exquisitely remodeled modern-day television by breaking away from conventional mafia stories and showcasing the multifaceted character, Tony Soprano, as he learned to balance family and work-life. The show successfully ran for 6 seasons between 1999 and 2007, during which it won many awards. It was nominated for an Emmy in the Best Drama Series category every year it was eligible and won the award two times. With a brilliant star cast and a captivating storyline, it’s clear why The Sopranos is considered to be one of the best shows of all time.

3. The Wire

the wire

IMDb Rating: 9.3/10

The Wire was an American crime drama that ran on television for 5 seasons from 2002 to 2008. Packed with an amazing star cast, the series followed the drug crime scene and police department in Baltimore. The show launched a number of famous names, such as, Michael B. Jordan and Idris Elba. The series was nominated for multiple awards including one Primetime Emmy and won a Director’s Guild of America award during its run.

4. Mad Men

mad men

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Mad Men was an American period drama set in the 60s that followed the life of Don Draper (played by Jon Hamm), a creative director at the fictional advertising agency, Sterling Cooper. The series was widely applauded for its authenticity, acting, and writing. It ran for 7 seasons between 2007 and 2015. During this time, it was nominated for 43 Primetime Emmys and won the best drama series for each of its first four seasons.

5. Friends


IMDb Rating: 8.9/10

Friends is perhaps the most famous sitcom ever created. The show ran for 10 seasons between 1994 and 2004 but still remains widely popular today. It launched the career of Jennifer Aniston and was packed with a number of other talented actors. The series followed the lives of 6 friends in New York as they comically navigate through their careers, love life, and friendships. It has been nominated for 62 Primetime Emmys and won 6 of those awards.

6. Seinfeld


IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

Seinfeld debuted in 1989 and ran for 9 seasons until 1998. The series followed the life of Jerry Seinfeld, along with his 3 friends, ex-girlfriend and next-door neighbor, all living in Manhattan. The show quickly become one of the most significant sitcoms of all time, giving birth to many famous catch-phrases such as “yada, yada, yada,” and “double-dipper.” Seinfeld has won 10 Primetime Emmys, 3 Golden Globes, and multiple other awards and accolades.

7. The Shield

the sheild

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

The Shield was a crime drama series that ran for 7 seasons between 2002 and 2008. The show was loosely based on the Rampart Divison police scandal and revolved around a morally corrupt police department in Los Angeles. Michael Chiklis who played the lead in the show was highly applauded by critics nationwide and won many awards for his performance including a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe in 2002.

8. The Twilight Zone

twilight zone

IMDb Rating: 9/10

The first installment of The Twilight Zone hit our television screens back in 1959 and quickly gained recognition. Since then, there have been three other series launched over the years. Each episode of the show immerses the viewers in a world of science fiction, fantasy, horror, or suspense and ties it all together in the end with a twist ending and a moral lesson. The creator of the series, Rod Sterling, has won two Primetime Emmys and one Golden Globe for outstanding writing and direction.

9. Breaking Bad

breaking bad

IMDb Rating: 9.5/10

Breaking Bad was a neo-Western crime drama that ran for 5 seasons between 2008 and 2013. The critically acclaimed series follows the life of an overqualified high school Chemistry teacher, who upon being diagnosed with stage-three cancer, starts manufacturing and selling crystal meth in order to provide for his family’s future. The show secured 58 Primetime Emmy nominations and 16 awards, winning the Emmy for Outstanding Drama series both in 2013 and 2014.

10. Arrested Development

arrested development

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Arrested Development was an American sitcom that ran for 3 seasons between 2003 and 2006, before being revived for 2 more seasons in 2013. The show incorporated voiceover narration, handheld camera film, and historical footage to showcase the day-to-day life of the Bluths, a dysfunctional family that used to be rich. The very first season of the show won 5 Primetime Emmys, and the series went on to win many more accolades such as a Golden Globe award and an award from the Writer’s Guild of America.

11. The Simpsons


IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Debuting in 1989, The Simpsons is the most famous animated sitcom ever created. The series is still in production and currently in its 32nd season. The show features a satirical portrayal of a working-class American family through the Simpsons, who live in the fictional town of Springfield. The series has served as an inspiration to many American animated sitcoms such as Family Guy, and won many accolades over the years, including 34 Primetime Emmys and 2 Peabody Awards.

12. Friday Night Lights

friday night lights
IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Inspired by a 1990 non-fiction book, Friday Night Lights is a sports drama that ran for 5 years between 2006 and 2011. The series, set in a small fictional town in rural Texas, follows the story of a high school football team. The show was praised for its breakout performances by Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton who starred as a husband-and-wife football coaching team. Over the years, Friday Night Lights was nominated for 8 Primetime Emmys and has won 2 of those awards, as well as many other accolades.

13. M*A*S*H


IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

M*A*S*H was a war comedy-drama television series that ran for 11 seasons between 1972 till 1983. This series was a spin-off of the novel-inspired movie also titled M*A*S*H, and showcased a team of doctors and other support staff stationed in South Korea during the Korean War in the 1950s. One of the highest-rated shows in the history of American television, M*A*S*H secured many accolades during its run, including over 100 Primetime Emmy nominations and multiple Golden Globe awards.

14. The Americans

the americans

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

The Americans was a period drama set during the Cold War and ran on television for 6 seasons between 2013 to 2018. Set in Virginia, this spy-thriller followed the story of two KGB agents who impersonated a typical American family, living with their children in Washington, D.C. This series was acknowledged for its great writing and characters and won several accolades such as 4 Primetime Emmys, 2 Peabody Awards, and one Golden Globe through the course of its run.

15. The Honeymooners


IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Debuting in 1955, The Honeymooners was a classic American sitcom that ran for one season until 1956. The show featured the comedic adventures of a New York city bus driver, his wife, and his best friends, while often touching on more important issues such as women’s rights. The series only produced 39 episodes but was highly acclaimed for its star-cast and dubbed the first-ever American show to portray the realistic lives of a working-class married couple.

16. I Love Lucy

i love lucy

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

I Love Lucy was an extremely popular sitcom that ran on television for 6 seasons between 1951 and 1957. The series showcased the life of a working-class American housewife played by Lucille Ball, who devised comical plans to enter the world of show business alongside her bandleader husband, Ricky Ricardo (played by her real-life husband Desi Arnaz). This sitcom became the most-watched American show during the majority of its run and its timeless gags continue to entertain viewers today.

17. The Office

the office

IMDb Rating: 8.9/10

The Office (US), a reboot of the original UK series, ran for 9 seasons between 2005 and 2013. The series showcased an ensemble cast who all work at a fictional paper company, Dunder Mifflin, in Scranton. The show was packed with talented actors such as Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Mindy Kalling, and Ed Helms, with many of the actors also working as writers on the show. The Office was nominated for 42 Primetime Emmys and secured 5 awards including Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002.

18. Cheers


IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

Cheers was a critically acclaimed sitcom that ran for 11 seasons between 1982 and 1983. The series was based in Boston and showcased a group of friends who regularly drank and socialized in a bar named Cheers Beacon Hill. The success of this show led to a spin-off named Frasier which also gained mass popularity nationwide. Over the course of its 11 seasons, Cheers was nominated for 117 Primetime Emmys and secured 28 of those wins.

19. Twin Peaks

twin peaks

IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

Twin Peaks was a horror-drama series that ran on television for 3 seasons between 1990 and 1991, before being revived for a short period of time in 2017. The show featured a fictional investigation of the murder of Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen. The series has been applauded for its illustration of supernatural elements and unconventional characters blended with classic detective fiction.

20. Oz


IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Oz was a drama series that ran on television for 6 seasons from 1997 and 2003. The series was set in a fictional level 4 maximum-security men’s prison in an area known as Emerald City and showcased a very controlled and a highly irregular prison environment. Known for its brutal and often dark episodes, Oz was highly applauded by critics and is widely recognized as one of the best shows in television history.

21. Freaks and Geeks

freaks and geeks

IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

Freaks and Geeks was a teen comedy-drama that only ran on television for 1 season between 1999 and 2000 but has since been recognized as one of the best shows of all time. The series followed a group of high school friends and was set in the early 80s. The show introduced us to some of the most famous comedy actors today, such as Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, and Busy Phillips.

22. All In The Family

all in the family

IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

All In The Family was a sitcom that ran on CBS for 9 seasons between 1971 to 1979. The series showcased the life of a middle-class family and revolutionized American television by introducing topics such as homosexuality, racism, abortion, menopause, and rape for the first time on American TV. It is one of the only series in history in which all lead actors of the show secured a Primetime Emmy award for their performance.

23. Doctor Who

Doctor Who

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Doctor Who was a British science-fiction series that ran on television for a whopping 26 seasons between 1963 and 1989. The show follows the adventures of ‘the Doctor,’ an alien creature who appears to be human from the outside, as he travels through time exploring the universe using his time-traveling spaceship. Over the years, Doctor Who secured 400 nominations and 160 awards.

24. The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson

johnny carson show

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson was a late-night talk show hosted by Johnny Carson that ran on television between 1962 and 1992. This show has been known to inspire the formats of a majority of modern late-night talk shows on air today with its witty monologues that were followed by sketch-comedies, hilarious interviews with significant celebrities, and performances by musical guests.

25. Sesame Street

sesame street

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Sesame Street is an ongoing children’s educational series that debuted on television back in 1969 and is currently in its 51st season. The show exhibits a mixture of puppetry, animation, and live-action sketch comedy to provide education-based content for children. Over the years, Sesame Street has won almost 200 Primetime Emmys and 11 Grammy awards.

26. Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

A spin-off of the famous Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul is a crime drama series that debuted in 2015 and is currently in its 5th season. The show follows the story of a conman turned defense attorney Jimmy McGill. The series received praise for its writing, cinematography, and acting. It was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the category of Outstanding Drama Series for each of its 5 seasons and garnered 39 Emmy nominations in total.

27. Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Curb Your Enthusiasm is a comedy series that debuted in 2000 and is currently in its 10th season on television. The show features Larry David in a fictionalized portrayal of his life, as a semi-retired writer and producer living with his wife in Los Angeles. Applauded for its writing and improvisational comedy, Curb Your Enthusiasm has won two Primetime Emmys and one Golden Globe award.

28. Sherlock


IMDb Rating: 9.1/10

Netflix’s Sherlock gives a modern spin to the famous detective by placing him and Dr. Watson in present-day London. The series ran for 4 seasons from 2010 to 2017 and showcased some of Sherlock’s greatest mysteries. Sherlock has been admired for its brilliant acting, writing, and directing and won multiple awards along the way. It has been nominated for 39 Primetime Emmys and won 9 of those awards.

29. South Park

South Park

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

South Park is an animated sitcom that has been running successfully since 1997. The series follows a group of 4 elementary school boys and their wild adventures around a small town in Colorado. The show has been widely applauded for its satire and dark humor used to depict many situations taking place in the real world. It has been declared one of the funniest shows on television by sources such as Time magazine, Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. Over the years, South Park has been nominated for 19 Emmys and won 5 of those awards.

30. Parks And Recreation

Parks And Recreation

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Parks And Recreation was a mockumentary sitcom that ran on television for 7 seasons between 2009 and 2015. Created by the head writer of The Office, this series adopted the same style as its predecessor depicting the comical antics of an everyday office life led by the very talented Amy Poehler. The show also featured a number of other talented actors such as Chris Pratt, Rashida Jones, and Aziz Ansari. Parks And Recreations was nominated for a Primetime Emmy 16 times and won a Golden Globe over its 6-year tenure on television.

31. Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Battlestar Galactica was a reboot of a science-fiction television series that originally ran on television for 1 season between 1978 and 1979. The new and improved Battlestar Galactica debuted on television in 2004 and concluded in 2009. The show was set on a group of faraway planets known as the 12 colonies and often introduced profound themes through its action-packed episodes.

32. Narcos


IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

Narcos was a crime-drama that debuted on Netflix in 2015 and ran for 3 seasons until 2017. This critically acclaimed series featured the cocaine drug trade in Columbia, and the show’s first two seasons prominently showcased the life of Columbia’s most famous drug lord, Pablo Escobar. Narcos was commended for its fast-paced storyline and star cast, and even inspired a spin-off titled Narcos: Mexico after the culmination of its 3rd season.

33. The Crown

The Crown

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

The Crown is a Netflix historical drama that debuted in 2016 and currently is in its 4th season. Created by Peter Morgan, the show was inspired by the 2006 film, The Queen. The series features the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, while the fourth season also showcases Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spenser’s budding relationship. The Crown has won 7 Golden Globes and 3 Primetime Emmy Awards.

34. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

Inspired by a comic book series of the same name, The Walking Dead is a popular post-apocalyptic drama television series that debuted in 2010 and is currently in its 10th season. The show features the lives of a group of people striving to survive a zombie apocalypse. The popularity of this show has led to multiple spin-offs such as Fear The Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond. The Walking Dead has won 2 Primetime Emmys and 2 Critic’s Choice Television Awards, as well as many other accolades.

35. The X-Files

The X-Files

IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

The X-Files was a science-fiction drama series that ran on television from 1993 to 2002, before being revived for a short while between 2016 and 2018. The show follows two FBI agents as they strive to solve previously unsolved cases that often dive into the supernatural world. Known for being the longest-running American science-fiction television series, The X-Files has won 16 Primetime Emmy Awards.

36. Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

Inspired by the 1992 film by the same name, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a supernatural drama that premiered in 1997 and ran for 7 seasons until 2003. The show starred Sarah Michelle Geller as Buffy Summers, the youngest descendent of a long line of female vampire slayers, and followed her journey in accepting her destiny of fighting the dark forces around her. Buffy The Vampire Slayer won many accolades during its run and is noted to inspire many other TV series during the golden age of television.

37. Lost


IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

Lost was a supernatural drama with an element of science-fiction that ran on television for 6 seasons between 2004 and 2010. The show followed the lives of a group of passengers that survived a plane crash and landed on an unknown island full of mystical elements. Lost won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for its very first season and went on to win many other accolades including a Golden Globe award.

38. Late Night With David Letterman

Late Night With David Letterman

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

Late Night With David Letterman was a late-night talk show that aired for 11 seasons between 1982 and 1993. As a variety show, each episode featured a couple of celebrity guests including comedians and musical personalities. Late Night With David Letterman was nominated for 10 consecutive years for a Primetime Emmy in the Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Comedy, or Music Program category, and won 5 of those awards.

39. The West Wing

The West Wing

IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

The West Wing was a political drama television series that premiered in 1999 and ran for 7 seasons until 2007. Set in the West Wing of the White House, the show exhibited the fictitious presidency of a Democrat president portrayed by Martin Sheen. In its very first season, The West Wing broke the record for most Emmy wins garnered by a series in its first season by taking home 9 awards, and went on to win many other accolades.

40. Deadwood


IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

Deadwood was a Western television series that premiered on HBO in 2004 and ran on television for 3 seasons until 2006. Set in 1870s South Dakota, Deadwood uses a blend of historical events and fictional occurrences to showcase the territory’s growth from camp to town. Known for its brilliant actors and characterization, this series won multiple awards including 8 Primetime Emmys and one Golden Globe during its run.

41. 24


IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

24 was a crime drama that debuted on television in 2001 and ran for 9 seasons until 2010, before being revived for a short period of time in 2014. Each season of the series follows 24 consecutive hours in counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer’s life, as he swiftly goes through a day filled with terrifying situations. The success of this show led to a spin-off titled 24: Legacy, and many accolades for the series over the years including 20 Primetime Emmy wins, 2 Golden Globes, and 4 Screen Actor’s Guild Awards.

42. 30 Rock

30 Rock

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10

30 Rock premiered on NBC in 2006 and ran for 7 seasons on television until 2013. Created by Tina Fey, 30 Rock was based on her own experiences as a writer on Saturday Night Live and showcased what takes place behind the scenes of a fictitious sketch-comedy show. The series never received great ratings but was praised by critics nationwide for its use of surreal humor, writing, and acting. The show also won many awards including 13 Primetime Emmy wins and 6 Golden Globes during its run on TV.

43. ER


IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Perhaps the most renowned medical drama series to ever hit television, ER ran on NBC for 15 seasons between 1994 and 2009. Set in the fictional County General Hospital, ER showcases the lives of the staff and physicians working in the emergency room. With actors like George Clooney and John Stamos on the star cast, the series was applauded for its acting and ensemble cast. Through its 15-year run, ER won 23 Primetime Emmys, one Peabody Award, and various other accolades.

44. Fleabag


IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Fleabag was a British black comedy series that debuted on TV in 2016 and ran for 2 seasons until 2019. The show follows the daily life of a sexually active, often annoyed, and frequently confused British woman. The series was extensively admired for its unique characterization of the titular character, as well as its exceptional writing. In its 2-year television run, Fleabag secured 4 Primetime Emmy wins, 2 Golden Globes, and 3 Critic’s Choice Television Awards.

45. This Is Us

This Is Us

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

This Is Us is a family drama television series that premiered on NBC in 2016 and is currently in its 5th season on TV. The series follows the heartwarming struggles of two parents and their three children through different time periods. With an exceptional star cast including Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us has won many awards including 1 Primetime Emmy, 3 Screen Actors Guild Awards, and 1 Golden Globe.

46. Black Mirror

Black Mirror

IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

Black Mirror was a dystopian science-fictional anthology series that began streaming on Netflix in 2011 and concluded In 2019. Set in an alternative reality of the present, the show examines how modern technology can cause perilous concerns in society. With each episode showcasing a different story, Black Mirror featured some great talents such as Jon Hamm, Letitia Wright, and Miley Cyrus. The success of this series led to 8 Primetime Emmy wins and several other awards.

47. Stranger Things

Stranger Things

IMDb Rating: 8.7/10

Stranger Things is a science-fictions series that has been streaming on Netflix since 2016 and is currently in its fourth season. The show is set in the 80s and features the supernatural adventures of four young friends in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. The series swiftly gained recognition and praise worldwide and has been acknowledged for its writing and acting. Stranger Things has received over 200 nominations including 10 Primetime Emmy nominations, as well as 63 accolades, including multiple People’s Choice and MTV awards.

48. Law & Order

Law & Order

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10

Law & Order was a crime and legal drama series that spanned 20 seasons on television between 1990 and 2010. Each episode of the show was set in 2 parts, with the first half of the episode showcasing the investigation of a crime, and the second half exhibiting the prosecution of the same crime in court. The popularity of this series led to the inception of an entire media franchise that includes a TV film, video games, and numerous other series. Over the years, Law & Order has won 6 Emmys, 2 Screen Actors Guild awards, and many other accolades.

49. Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

Saturday Night Live is a late-night variety show that has been running successfully since 1975 and is currently in its 46th season. Each week the show features a new guest celebrity host who participates in sketch-comedy with the cast, as well as two performances by a celebrity musical guest. Over the years, SNL has received many accolades including over 200 Primetime Emmy nominations, 65 Primetime Emmy Awards, 3 Peabody awards, and 4 from the Writer’s Guild of America.

50. Modern Family

Modern Family

IMDb Rating: 8.4/10

Modern Family was a mockumentary sitcom that premiered on ABC in 2009 and ran for 11 seasons until 2020. Inspired by the creator’s own modern family, the show followed the comical lives of three dissimilar families, all related to each other, living in Los Angeles. Although some critics claimed that the quality of the series dropped during its later seasons, Modern Family continued to enjoy a loyal fan base until its series finale. A show for all age groups, this series has won 22 Primetime Emmys and various other awards.

What’s the best TV shows of all time?

What’s your favorite TV shows of all time? Did it make this list?

While we did rank these TV shows based on awards, reviews, and ratings… the best TV shows really are just based on preference. If we missed an awesome television show that should make this list, let us know.

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