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100 best TV episodes of all time

  • 100 best TV episodes of all time

    Episodic television found its origin in radio, which featured brief stories that carried over from week to week and kept listeners coming back for more. There were dramatic soap operas, kids’ adventure programs, and mysteries, each appealing to a very different audience. While the medium may have changed from radio to television, audiences still want to be entertained by shows that tell a continuing story.

    What makes a great episode of television, though? Is there a magic formula? Is it moving love stories, intricate plotlines, edge-of-your-seat cliffhangers, quiet moments that speak volumes, hysterical scenes, or perfectly-placed pop culture references?

    Stacker compiled data on all TV episodes with over 5,000 votes on IMDb, and ranked them according to IMDb user rating, with ties broken by the number of votes. In the interest of maintaining a diverse list and reducing the dominance some shows might’ve had over the list ("Game of Thrones," "Breaking Bad," and "Mr. Robot," in particular), shows have been capped at five episodes.

    Whether it is a cancer-ridden chemistry teacher turned meth maker, a group of gladiators fighting for their freedom, a wisecracking talking horse living in Hollywood and battling addiction, or a group of teenagers slaying vampires after a tough day of class, these episodes feature the most-interesting characters on television. With plotlines ranging from ludicrous to tragic, enchanting to infuriating, they represent a wide and diverse range of genres, including miniseries, animated series, comedies, dramas, season openers, series finales, foreign subtitled series, and everything in between. These unbelievable shows, beloved by both fans and critics, are what make watching television one of America’s favorite pastimes. They feature epic battle sequences, technologically-advanced shots, breathtaking locations, and some of the most remarkable and memorable moments ever seen on the small screen.

    This data, compiled as recently as July 30, 2020, includes 100 episodes from 41 different shows. Sit back, grab a snack, and get your remote ready. After reading Stacker’s list, you’ll want to go into full-fledged couch potato mode. These episodes are what make binge-worthy television...well, binge-worthy. Enjoy the 100 best TV episodes of all time, commercial-free!

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  • #100. BoJack Horseman - ‘Fish Out of Water’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 6,686
    - Season 3, Episode 4
    - Director: Mike Hollingsworth
    - Air date: July 22, 2016

    This episode, which drew comparisons to Sofia Coppola’s film “Lost in Translation,” finds BoJack attending a film festival to promote his movie. The festival takes place underwater, which creates all sorts of communication issues between BoJack and the under-the-sea locals. It also includes the birth of a seahorse by a male father, as well as a guest appearance by Angela Bassett.

  • #99. South Park - ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 6,972
    - Season 5, Episode 4
    - Director: Eric Stough
    - Air date: July 11, 2001

    A ninth-grade bully named Scott Tenorman plays a trick on Cartman when he sells him his pubic hairs. Cartman spends the rest of the episode exacting his diabolical revenge on Scott, a character loosely based on Scut Farkus, the yellow-eyed bully from the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story.” The band Radiohead also makes a guest appearance.

  • #98. Dexter - ‘Born Free’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 7,332
    - Season 1, Episode 12
    - Director: Michael Cuesta
    - Air date: Dec. 17, 2006

    The Season 1 finale revealed not only who the Ice Truck Killer was, but his relationship to Dexter. When Dexter, a serial killer, murdered a serial killer to save someone he loved, it made him one of the most-complicated heroes on television.

  • #97. Peaky Blinders - untitled

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 7,383
    - Season 2, Episode 6
    - Director: Colm McCarthy
    - Air date: Nov. 6, 2014

    The final episode of Season 2 saw a death, a plan gone awry, a pregnancy, and a narrow escape from death by another character. This action-packed episode left fans eagerly awaiting Season 3.

  • #96. Better Call Saul - ‘Winner’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 7,467
    - Season 4, Episode 10
    - Director: Adam Bernstein
    - Air date: Oct. 8, 2018

    The Season 4 finale opens with a flashback and ABBA’s “Winner Takes It All” sung karaoke style. When two characters experience transformations that change the trajectory of their lives, it’s proof that this prequel spinoff is just as good as the show that inspired it.

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  • #95. Supernatural - ‘The French Mistake’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 7,931
    - Season 6, Episode 15
    - Director: Charles Beeson
    - Air date: Feb. 25, 2011

    In this episode of the long-running series, the Winchester brothers are sent to an alternate universe, where they appear in a television show called “Supernatural.” A clip from Jensen Ackles’ time on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” is also featured in the episode.

  • #94. House of Cards - ‘Chapter 14’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 8,190
    - Season 2, Episode 1
    - Director: Carl Franklin
    - Air date: Feb. 14, 2014

    The first episode of the second season won an Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series. “Chapter 14” was also nominated for Outstanding Writing, Directing, and Editing for a Drama Series. The episode finds Frank preparing for his promotion to vice president and Zoe wondering whether she should work for Frank again.

  • #93. Doctor Who - ‘Heaven Sent’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 9,204
    - Season 9, Episode 11
    - Director: Rachel Talalay
    - Air date: Nov. 28, 2015

    This penultimate, multipart episode from Season 9 finds the Doctor trapped alone in a strange world as a creature of unknown origin pursues him. In this episode, the Doctor also breaks the fourth wall by looking at and speaking to the television audience.

  • #92. Vikings - ‘All His Angels’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 9,764
    - Season 4, Episode 15
    - Director: Ciarán Donnelly
    - Air date: Dec. 28, 2016

    Things become dire for Ragnar when he meets up with his nemesis, King Aelle. Shooting the episode was hard on both the cast and the crew because of the brutal winter weather conditions.

  • #91. Dark - ‘An Endless Cycle’

    - IMDb user rating: 9.6
    - IMDb user votes: 10,260
    - Season 2, Episode 6
    - Director: Baran bo Odar
    - Air date: June 21, 2019

    This episode answers questions fans have had since the beginning of the series. Jonas returns to 2019 to reunite with his father. At an anniversary party for Katharina and Ulrich, things get interesting.

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