Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and Tony Sirico as Paulie Walnuts in a scene from"The Sopranos"

50 best crime TV shows of all time

Written by:
March 24, 2023
Updated on February 14, 2023
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50 best crime TV shows of all time

Crimes have been the focus of storytelling for most of history. From Greek mythology to the Bible, people have been drawn to stories of rules broken—don't take that apple, Eve!—and punishments handed out. The same fascination continues today in scores of movies and TV shows, whether the plot focuses on dirty cops or lawyers hunting down scofflaws.

Everyone has a different reason for an obsession with shows depicting some of the darker aspects of humanity. Some may appreciate the clever storytelling of the best shows, especially ones that provide enough clues to solve the case. Others may find digging into the dark minds of serial killers intriguing. Some of the biggest true crime fans admit they worry about becoming victims of crimes themselves. Others simply like seeing law enforcement bring bad guys to justice at the end of every episode. Either way, the craze for crime-inspired television is never-ending.

As so many crime shows have come out in recent years, it can be hard to sort through all of them. Stacker compiled this list to give fans a hand with finding 50 of the best fictional crime shows in television history. Rankings were determined by IMDb ratings, ties were broken by IMDb user votes, and only English-language fiction series with at least 5,000 votes were considered.

Keep reading to investigate if your favorite crime series made the list.

#50. 24

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2001-2010

Starring Kiefer Sutherland as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer, each episode of "24" follows Jack and his team as they fight to thwart fictional baddies in real-time. These characters may not have time for showering, eating, or sleeping, but they do have time to deal with all manner of nuclear attacks and sleeper cells. "24" went on to win 20 Emmys over the course of its run, including one win for Outstanding Drama Series. However, the series received criticism for its frequent depiction of torture—so much so that it became a major thread of the series.

#49. Brooklyn Nine-Nine

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Years on the air: 2013-2021

The title of this police force comedy, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," refers to the actual precinct in the show. It follows in the footsteps of 1970s police shows like "Barney Miller." Audiences watch a group of wacky cops solve crimes when they're not cracking jokes. Andy Samberg stars as Detective Jake Peralta, but the series almost met its demise when Fox opted not to renew it before NBC swooped in and ordered another season. The show ended with a 10-episode eighth and final season in August 2021.

#48. Love/Hate

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2010-2014

"Love/Hate" reveals the criminal underworld of Dublin through the character of Darren Treacy. He is returning to Ireland after being in exile in Spain, where he was wanted for gun possession and was in hiding from the police. He tries to stay out of trouble but fails. "Love/Hate" starred Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Killian Scott, and Aoibhinn McGinnity and ran on Ireland's RTE Television. Despite whispers of a planned sixth season, actor John Connors confirmed in 2017 that "Love/Hate" had ceased production.

#47. The New Batman Adventures

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 1997-1999

A follow-up to "Batman: The Animated Series," this darker, grittier take on the Batman franchise shines a spotlight on the supporting characters of the Caped Crusader's world, including Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing (the artist formerly known as Robin). The series aired for 24 episodes and was paired with "Superman: The Animated Series." The combination of the two, known as "The New Batman/Superman Adventures," ran as an hourlong series. The show also won the 1998 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program.

#46. Alfred Hitchcock Presents

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 1955-1962

Hosted and produced by the famed mystery and horror director, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" was a suspenseful anthology series that offered a new story with new characters and twists in every episode, true to Hitchcock's style. The show was so successful with audiences that it ran for 268 episodes over seven seasons. It also made Time's all-time 100 TV shows list.

#45. Bosch: Legacy

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2022-present

Although "Bosch: Legacy" is technically a spinoff of the show "Bosch," it often feels more like a continuation—albeit on Freevee, Amazon's ad-supported streaming service. The series picks up after protagonist Harry Bosch (played once again by Titus Welliver) has retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and begun a new chapter of his life as a freelance investigator. However, things take an unexpected turn when he finds himself working with an old enemy, Honey Chandler (Mimi Rogers). "Bosch: Legacy" was renewed for a second season before the first season even began airing in May 2022.

#44. Southland

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2009-2013

A drama about Los Angeles beat cops and detectives, "Southland" earned kudos for its authentic portrayal of the lives of police officers, not only hunting down criminals but also dealing with drug addiction, deaths, and pregnancy. Created by writer Ann Biderman, it had one season on NBC, then moved to TNT for the remaining four seasons. Critics described "Southland" as direct, overlooked, and one of television's most underrated shows, but its ratings failed to keep pace. Among its stars were Michael Cudlitz, Ben McKenzie, Shawn Hatosy, and Regina King. The show took home two Emmy Awards during its run, both times for Outstanding Stunt Coordination.

#43. Harley Quinn

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2019-present

Here is an animated superhero show for adults. The Joker's former sidekick and lover, Harley Quinn, dumps him and heads off to join the legion of top criminals in Gotham City. Voiced by Kaley Cuoco of "The Big Bang Theory," the murderous character first appeared in "Batman: The Animated Series." The show, which began on the DC Universe streaming service and now can be viewed on HBO Max, also features other DC characters such as Harley Quinn's best friend, Poison Ivy, and Clayface. The show won Kaley Cuoco a Critics' Choice Super Award for Best Voice Actress in an Animated Series.

#42. Happy Valley

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2014-2023

One of several BBC cop shows, "Happy Valley" follows Sarah Lancashire as police sergeant Catherine Cawood, a woman raising her late daughter's troubled son as she investigates the man she suspects of causing her daughter's death. The series has been nominated for and won a number of prestigious awards. The show's honors include the 2015 BAFTA Award for Best Drama Series.

#41. Boston Legal

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2004-2008

For five seasons, viewers watched the lawyers of Crane, Poole & Schmidt earn their exorbitant hourly rates in this spin-off of "The Practice." James Spader, Candice Bergen, and William Shatner starred in the show from David E. Kelley, creator of "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "Ally McBeal," and other big TV hits. "Boston Legal" was nominated for 26 Emmy Awards and took home five trophies in its five-season run, including Oustanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for Spader and Shatner, respectively.

#40. Bosch

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2014-2021

The central character in "Bosch" is Harry Bosch, a Los Angeles detective played by Titus Welliver. The Amazon series, which also stars Madison Lintz as his daughter, Maddie, is adapted from the Michael Connelly novels and was developed for television by Eric Overmyer of "Treme" fame. Bosch "has above-average intelligence," Welliver told Vox of the character he plays. "But he's also a creature of habit. He is kind of out of step with things." In 2015, the show received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Main Title Design.

#39. Person of Interest

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2011-2016

CBS aired this high-tech artificial intelligence show for five seasons. The storyline explored a computer system that can identify crimes in progress, the man who invented the program (Michael Emerson), and the former Green Beret (Jim Caviezel) recruited to save the innocent people involved in the crimes. In 2012, the show received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Mixing. The series was created by Jonathan Nolan, who went on to create "Westworld" for HBO.

#38. Big Little Lies

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017-2019

An all-star cast helped catapult "Big Little Lies" into stardom with its tale of domestic abuse and upper-class existence in the coastal town of Monterey, California. The limited series was adapted from Liane Moriarty's novel of the same name and was only intended to last for six episodes, but its popularity led series creator David E. Kelley to continue the story into a second season. In its first season alone, "Big Little Lies" garnered 16 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning eight, including acting awards for Laura Dern, Nicole Kidman, and Alexander Skarsgård.

#37. The Punisher

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017-2019

Jon Bernthal plays "The Punisher," a Marine veteran-turned-vigilante who's dead set on avenging the murder of his family. The Netflix show exists in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the Punisher regularly crossed over with "Daredevil," another Netflix show. In 2019, however, Netflix decided to nix the show after two seasons.

#36. Hannibal

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

The character Hannibal Lecter had already appeared in books, films, and TV shows before this 2013 adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel was brought to NBC by Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "American Gods"). In this version of "Hannibal," the cannibal forensic psychiatrist (Mads Mikkelsen) befriends a young FBI profiler (Hugh Dancy) who has the rare ability to empathize with the murderous monsters he's hunting. Noted celebrity chef José Andrés was brought on board to consult on the unique culinary aspects of the show. During its three-season run, the show won many Saturn Awards, including for Best Network Television Series.

#35. Ozark

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Years on the air: 2017-2022

This Netflix crime drama features a money-laundering family from Chicago in the Missouri Ozarks working for a Mexican drug cartel. The Emmy-winning series stars Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, and Sofia Hublitz. A CNN reviewer wrote that the show mixed "criminal ruthlessness with a family dynamic built on manipulation." The show won four Emmys, including Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Julia Garner, who won the award for three seasons straight.

#34. Foyle's War

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2002-2015

Michael Kitchen stars in "Foyle's War" as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle, a widower who spends World War II investigating crime on England's southern coast. Later in the show, he's recruited as an MI5 agent following the end of the war. The series has been praised for its historical accuracy, often directly tying plot points to real World War II events. According to creator Anthony Horowitz, this was done to honor real-life veterans from the war.

#33. Mr. Inbetween

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2018-2021

The Australian black comedy and crime drama "Mr. Inbetween" is based on the 2005 cult classic film "The Magician." Scott Ryan stars in the series adaptation, once again playing seemingly everyman Ray Shoesmith. In between balancing parenting, caring for a sick brother, and his other relationships, Shoesmith struggles to balance life as a criminal for hire. As with the original film, Ryan also created and wrote for "Mr. Inbetween."

#32. Wentworth

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2013-2021

An Australian series inside a women's prison, Wentworth has been described as dark and gritty and praised for its strong writing. The protagonist, Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack), is imprisoned for the attempted murder of her husband at the show's start. The show encompasses power struggles among the inmates and staff, as well as sex and violence. It won five Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards.

#31. Endeavour

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2012-2023

Set in Oxford, this British crime drama serves as the prequel to the hit show "Inspector Morse," with Shaun Evans playing the role of a young inspector Endeavour Morse just starting his career in the mid-'60s. The show initially aired in 2012 and will end its run by spring 2023.

#30. Trailer Park Boys

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2001-2018

This Canadian sitcom was more interested in the lives of criminals after their release from prison than the crimes themselves. Shot in mockumentary format, the show details the lives of a group of trailer park residents and the trouble they get into on a regular basis. Originally made for Canada's Showcase Network until 2008, "Trailer Park Boys" started airing on Netflix after its 2014 revival. In March 2019, the show spawned an animated spinoff series titled "Trailer Park Boys: The Animated Series."

#29. Poirot

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1989-2013

This British mystery drama features Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who appears in more than 30 Agatha Christie novels. On television, Poirot was played by David Suchet for 25 years. The series ends with "Curtain: Poirot's Last Case," in which he and Captain Hastings reunite at Styles, the country house where they solved their first case. The show was nominated for several BAFTA TV awards and a Primetime Emmy Award.

#28. Justified

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

"Justified" is a modern Western about a U.S. marshal who's reassigned to his hometown in rural Kentucky and dispenses his own brand of justice. Timothy Olyphant stars in this adaptation of Elmore Leonard's short story "Fire in the Hole," which received a myriad of accolades. Among them included eight Emmy nominations, two of which it won.

#27. Deadwood

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2004-2006

"Deadwood" is one of the most foul-mouthed shows to ever grace American airwaves. The series tracks the development of Deadwood, South Dakota, a mining town in the 1870s that was home to gunslingers, outlaws, and lawmen. Creator David Milch worked on hit shows like "Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue" before creating this masterpiece, regularly called one of the greatest dramas of all time. Winner of eight Emmys, the show even spawned a movie, titled "Deadwood: The Movie," which aired on HBO in 2019.

#26. Boardwalk Empire

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

Martin Scorsese produced and directed an episode of this HBO prestige drama about organized crime in the days of Prohibition in Atlantic City. Steve Buscemi plays real-life Irish politician and gangster Nucky Thompson. Both he and the show won Golden Globes for the work. Additionally, the show claimed a total of 20 Primetime Emmys as well as two Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.

#25. The X-Files

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 1993-2018

Two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, investigate X-files—unsolved cases that hinge on the paranormal—in this cult-followed series created by Chris Carter. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson star in the science fiction drama, seeking the existence of extraterrestrial life. Following its 15-year run, the show garnered numerous awards, including 16 Emmys and five Golden Globes.

#24. Mindhunter

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

Netflix invested heavily in the true-crime genre. "Mindhunter" straddles the line between their scripted and unscripted fare as a based-on-a-true-story version of the creation of the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit that profiles and tracks serial killers. Executive-produced and partially directed by David Fincher ("Se7en," "Gone Girl"), this dark hourlong drama set in the late '70s was originally a book called "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit."

#23. Sons of Anarchy

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

Charlie Hunnam became a big star in this sprawling epic series about a dangerous biker gang full of outlaws in California's Central Valley. Before the show's success, Katey Sagal was best known for her role as Peg Bundy in "Married … with Children," but resurrected her career as the matriarch of the gang and won a Golden Globe in 2011 for her role. In 2016, the show produced a spinoff series titled "Mayans M.C."

#22. Mr. Robot

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Years on the air: 2015-2019

Hackers form the main characters of this USA Network drama about a global banking crisis created by a strange young man with dissociative identity disorder. Christian Slater took home a Golden Globe and Rami Malek earned an Emmy win for their roles in the show, which lasted four seasons. The show won a total of two Golden Globe Awards and three Primetime Emmy Awards.

#21. Daredevil

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

The "Daredevil" of the title is a blind lawyer by day and a vigilante by night. Another dark and moody Netflix/Marvel project ("The Punisher" was a spinoff of this show), the series had three seasons, with Charlie Cox ("Boardwalk Empire") playing the lead role. Sadly, the show was axed by Netflix in November 2018.

#20. The Return of Sherlock Holmes

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1986-1988

The follow-up to ITV's successful British TV adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective series "Sherlock Holmes," this limited series consisted of 11 episodes. Jeremy Brett plays the finicky Sherlock Holmes, while Edward Hardwicke is his comrade-in-arms, Dr. Watson.

#19. Homicide: Life on the Street

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1993-1999

Former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon ("The Wire") turned his book about the detectives of Baltimore's homicide division into this NBC drama series. The show made it through 122 episodes over seven seasons before calling it quits. Time Magazine included it in its list of all-time 100 TV shows. The show broke boundaries in 1993 as the first drama ever to win three Peabody Awards for drama.

#18. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 1984-1985

Jeremy Brett's first turn as Sherlock Holmes tied him to the character for life, as he would go on to play the role for more than two decades in various productions. This series offered a number of well-known Holmes stories with David Burke as his sidekick, Watson.

#17. Young Justice

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2010-2022

Created by Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti, "Young Justice" is an animated television series about teenage superheroes known as "the team." The teenagers—among them Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, and Miss Martian—are good enough to join the Justice League. The show, produced by Warner Bros. Animation, is based on characters from DC Comics.

#16. Line of Duty

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2012-2021

"Line of Duty" premiered on BBC Two in the U.K. in 2012. The premise revolves around an anti-corruption unit in the Central Police, where the officers investigate crimes within the police department itself. The show streams on Hulu in the United States. The series has been nominated for 13 BAFTA television awards.

#15. The Shield

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

Michael Chiklis first played a police officer in the heartwarming early '90s family drama "The Commish." A decade later, he left the sweetness behind to become dirty cop Vic Mackey, the leader of an experimental Strike Team, which keeps the streets clean by any means necessary. "The Shield" has long been regarded as one of the greatest crime shows ever made, earning Golden Globes, an Emmy win for Chiklis, a spot on TV Guide Magazine's best series of all time list, and the honor of being named one of AFI's best television programs of the year in 2008.

#14. Oz

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

Not to be confused with anything related to magical lands or tin men, "Oz" was HBO's first hourlong drama. It's about an idealistic prison reformer who creates an experimental prison wing where criminals are forced to interact with one another. It contains all of the violence, sex, and drugs one might expect from a maximum-security prison.

#13. The Boys

- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Years on the air: 2019-present

Based on the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the show features superheroes as well as a group of vigilantes who are out to destroy them. But in this version, the superheroes or "supes" are corrupt and abuse their powers, the Boys are working to expose them, and the episodes delve into the issues of authoritarianism and celebrity. The action series, an Amazon original, was developed for television by Eric Kripke and stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, and Antony Starr. "The Boys" ended its third season in July 2022, and a fourth season is in the works.

#12. Dexter

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

Michael C. Hall first made his mark on HBO's "Six Feet Under," but he switched to competitor Showtime for this Miami-set series. The show follows a serial killer who controls his murderous urges by hunting other serial killers. Winner of four Primetime Emmys and two Golden Globes, "Dexter" had a pretty long run for a premium cable show, with 96 episodes produced over eight seasons.

#11. Twin Peaks

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 1990-1991; 2017

Kyle MacLachlan stars as FBI agent Dale Cooper, a cheerful visitor to the strange town of Twin Peaks. Together with the local sheriff and oddball locals, he tries to solve the case of the murder of Laura Palmer, uncovering secrets and mysteries that never really get solved—it is a David Lynch show, after all. It picked back up in 2017 with all creepiness of the original, metaphysical lodges and all. The show was nominated for numerous awards, winning two Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards.

#10. Narcos

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2015-2017

"Narcos" tells the mostly true story of Drug Enforcement Administration agents hunting drug kingpin Pablo Escobar as he ascended to the top of the world's drug trade in Colombia in the 1980s and early '90s. There has been some serious trouble during production in drug-ravaged areas of Mexico. Following its success, the show generated the spinoff series "Narcos: Mexico," released in November 2018.

#9. Peaky Blinders

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Years on the air: 2013-2022

"Peaky Blinders" is a U.K. drama about a gangster family in post-World War I England. The series stars Cillian Murphy as the leader of the Peaky Blinders gang, known for the razor blades they carry in their caps, and Paul Anderson as his brother, who suffers from PTSD after a stint in the Great War. The show earned the prestigious BAFTA TV Award for Best Drama Series in 2018. Its sixth and final season aired in February 2022.

#8. Fargo

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

This loose television adaptation of the hit Coen brothers' movie explores different crimes in various eras, all taking place in upper-Midwest states and leading back to Fargo, North Dakota. As a pseudo-anthology series, the show has attracted major stars like Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, and Ewan McGregor to play various roles with spot-on accents. The show has been a major critical success, amassing a huge haul of awards from the Primetime Emmys and Golden Globes. After a yearslong hiatus, a fifth season is in the works.

#7. Better Call Saul

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2015-2022

"Better Call Saul" began as a prequel spinoff to the beloved AMC series "Breaking Bad." In the show, Bob Odenkirk plays Jimmy McGill, a good-natured lawyer and former con man who slowly slips into lawlessness and gets involved with a former police officer-turned-hit man. When the show premiered, it set the record for best-ever basic cable ratings for a show's debut episode. During its six-season run, "Better Call Saul" received 46 Emmy Award nominations—without any wins.

#6. True Detective

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Years on the air: 2014-2019

Matthew McConaughey, Vince Vaughn, Woody Harrelson, Rachel McAdams, and Colin Farrell are huge movie stars in their own rights, but they all joined "True Detective" for a season each to explore crime stories that expose the anguish detectives go through in pursuit of solving a case. Nominated for Outstanding Drama Series in its first season, the show entered its final season with a new setting and Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali as the new lead character. Among its 22 nominations, the show scooped five Emmy Awards over its three-season run.

#5. Batman: The Animated Series

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

Batman's iconic superhero status reached new heights with "Batman: The Animated Series." Considered by some critics to be the best-ever TV adaptation of a comic book series, the show drew inspiration from film noir and added a grittiness to Gotham that would be emulated in Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy. "Batman: The Animated Series" took home the 1993 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. It was also a launchpad for numerous iconic performances and characters, from Mark Hamill's take on the Joker to the introduction of Harley Quinn.

#4. Sherlock

- IMDb user rating: 9.1
- Years on the air: 2010-2017

The century-old tales of Sherlock Holmes got a modern update in this BBC show starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a cold, meticulous, drug-addict version of the great detective and Martin Freeman playing Dr. Watson as an Afghanistan War veteran. The two solve crimes and track the mysterious worldwide criminal Moriarty (Andrew Scott). Each episode spans roughly an hour and a half, making them closer to movies than television episodes. The show grew so popular that it spawned the mobile app, Sherlock: The Network, in January 2014.

#3. The Sopranos

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

"The Sopranos" starred the late James Gandolfini as an Italian mob boss Tony Soprano, the head of a New Jersey crime family who has to deal with typical mafia issues. At the same time, he tries to be the head of his own household and understand the psychological issues plaguing him. With an impressive 112 Emmy nominations and 21 wins, this HBO drama ushered in the golden age of television. A feature film inspired by the show, titled "The Many Saints of Newark," was released in 2021.

#2. The Wire

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

Creator David Simon spent years as a journalist in Baltimore and made each season of "The Wire" reflect a different systemic ill that he saw in the city's fabric, from drugs to politics, to a failing school system, to the disassembly of city newspapers and the shipping industry. The show garnered numerous awards, including a Writers Guild of America Award and one Directors Guild of America Award, in addition to two Emmy nominations for writing. A groundbreaking show for its breadth and realism, "The Wire" didn't earn many awards when it aired, but it is widely considered one of the greatest television shows in history.

#1. Breaking Bad

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

When a cash-strapped high school chemistry teacher is diagnosed with cancer, he teams up with a former student to manufacture and distribute crystal meth in New Mexico. That's the underlying plot of "Breaking Bad," although the show is much more than that. Bryan Cranston delivers the performance of a lifetime as lead character Walter White. The show won universal acclaim, including two consecutive Outstanding Drama Series statues at the Primetime Emmys. The franchise spawned the successful prequel series "Better Call Saul" and a 2019 Netflix film titled "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie."

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