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100 best TV shows of all time

  • 100 best TV shows of all time

    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—Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+—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 “The Mandalorian” and “Game of Thrones” and revivals of shows like “Arrested Development.” 

    To celebrate the history of great television, Stacker compiled this definitive list of the 100 best TV shows of all time, using data from IMDb. Shows were ranked by IMDb user ratings, with ties broken by the number of votes. For this list, a series had to have at least 50,000 votes.

    Some shows of this list may seem obvious to television-lovers: “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” or “Dragon Ball Z,” as a few examples. But you’ll encounter many other surprises that cracked the top 100, whether because they saw a limited run, attempted extremely niche genres, or were released very recently yet generated enough acclaim to appear here alongside historic staples.

    Read on to see how all 100 shake out, refresh your pop-culture memory, remind yourself of an epic binge, or add to your watch list. But do so with caution—this list contains some spoilers.

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  • #100. Ozark

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2017–present

    Fans of Jason Bateman in “Arrested Development” may have been surprised at first—and then likely blown away—by his dark, layered portrayal of Marty Byrde on the captivating crime thriller “Ozark.” The story sucks viewers in: A white suburban father caught up in a money-laundering operation moves his family from Chicago to Missouri not as an escape, but as a way to keep a Mexican drug cartel happy and profitable.

  • #99. Sense8

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2015–2018

    Though Netflix cancelled its sci-fi drama “Sense8” following Season 2, fans and critics praised its striking visuals—nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Cinematography—and LGBTQ+ thematic/character representation. Eight strangers find themselves psychically connected for unknown reasons and battle both this mystery and their hunters, the Biologic Preservation Organization, who, ever-applicably, despise the sensate breed’s differences.

  • #98. 24

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2001–2010

    “24” graced primetime Fox for more than 200 episodes spanning nine seasons. Not exactly critically praised, the high-stress, adrenaline-packed series did become a pop culture hit, with even non-viewers knowing the exploits of counter-terroist agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and the beeping countdown.

  • #97. Californication

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2007–2014

    The notion of the alcoholic, promiscuous writer torn and tossed between his ego, questionable father skills, and fledgling career is well-tread. But Tom Kapinos’ “Calfornication” addictively brings viewers into rock-n-roll-tinged Los Angeles for all of Hank Moody’s travails and self-realizations. The series ran for seven seasons and earned lead David Duchovny a Best Actor Golden Globe.

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  • #96. The Witcher

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2019–present

    “The Witcher,” Netflix’s popular fantasy series, follows monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) and his destiny connected to Princess Ciri (Freya Allan). Based on Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels, the eight-episode first season satisfied fans of dark fantasy (and fans of the 2007 role-playing video game) and generated high viewership, though even Cavill’s praiseworthy performance has not overcome its mostly average critical reception (67% on Rotten Tomatoes).

  • #95. Scrubs

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2001–2010

    Bill Lawrence’s medical drama/sitcom “Scrubs” ran for nine seasons over a decade. It follows, and is narrated by, J.D (Zach Braff) as he navigates his hospital career and romantic life alongside best friend Turk (Donald Faison), on-again-off-again partner/friend Elliot (Sarah Chalke), and the intimidating, patronizing Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley). Largely praised by critics and fans in its earlier seasons, the often comedic and sometimes deeply emotional “Scrubs” was one of the more well-liked major-network products of the 2000s.

  • #94. Homeland

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2011–2020

    The eighth and final season of Showtime’s spy thriller “Homeland” premiered in early February. The Claire Danes-led show has earned near-universal praise throughout its run—particularly for its first two years (Best Drama Golden Globe for both). “Homeland” takes its audience into the highly risky, complicated world of CIA agent Carrie Mathison, her private life, covert professional operations in the Middle East, and all the consequences and undertones of 21-century counter-terrorism.

  • #93. Prison Break

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2005–2017

    “Prison Break” follows one brother (Dominic Purcell) falsely sentenced to death and the brother (Wentworth Miller) who intentionally joins him in jail to hatch an escape plan. Coinciding with Fox’s 2000s success behind “24,” this five-season drama fit in with national audiences attuned to primetime heart-pumping action.

  • #92. Lost

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2004–2010

    Even non-viewers of “Lost” could not escape the prevalent narrative and fascination of its massive fanbase. The supernatural/sci-fi hit ran from the mid-2000s to 2010 for six seasons, as viewers pieced together what happened to the island survivors of a plane crash. “Lost” was nominated for hundreds of awards, won the Best Drama Emmy for its first season and Golden Globe for its second, ignited J.J. Abrams’ career, and inspired countless nonlinear-narrative shows.

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  • #91. How I Met Your Mother

    - IMDb user rating: 8.3
    - Years on the air: 2005–2014

    The hugely popular sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” ran for nine seasons beginning in the mid-2000s, introducing its unique narrative style and blend of humor and romance to millions. In the future, Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) recounts to his children how he met their mother when he was younger and living in New York City with his friends (Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, and Neil Patrick Harris), experiencing the typical and atypical highs and lows of twentysomethings.