Apocalyptic events have been depicted in fiction for about as long as humans have been creating and sharing narrative stories. In fact, what is known to be the world’s oldest work of fiction, the Epic of Gilgamesh, features a giant Noah’s Ark-like flood as one of its main plot points.

Whether or not they’ve been inspired by real events or represent societal ills in the present day, stories about apocalyptic scenarios are always present in popular culture. Some have even become smash hits and long-running cultural phenomena.

In celebration of these beloved works of fiction, here are some of the most highly-regarded post-apocalyptic TV shows of the last 50 years, according to the Internet Movie Database.

“The 100”

– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Years on the air: 2014–2020

Ninety-seven years after a nuclear apocalypse ended life as we know it, a group of 100 juvenile criminals are sent to Earth from their space station home with the goal of repopulating the planet. The CW series, which lasted seven seasons, “never found mainstream success,” according to Los Angeles Times writer Emily Zemler, but still managed to acquire a devoted fan base who stuck with the series even while it explored things like cannibalism, human experimentation and other questionable science fiction themes. “The 100” is loosely based on a young adult novel of the same name by Kass Morgan.

“12 Monkeys”

– IMDb user rating: 7.7
– Years on the air: 2015–2018

A very loose adaptation of the 1995 film “12 Monkeys,” this Syfy series is best described as a mystery drama with a time-traveling engine. Over the course of four seasons, viewers watched a team of people race back and forth through time to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys from releasing a deadly virus that will cause a plague and kill the population. While the plot may sound all doom and gloom, especially considering the plague events of recent years, it actually carries quite a hopeful message.

“Battlestar Galactica”

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

A reprise of the 1978 series of the same name, “Battlestar Galactica” follows the crew of the starship Galactica as they seek to protect the last vestiges of humanity. After a group of androids called the Cylons wipes out most of the population of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, the survivors, helmed by the Galactica, set out for Earth, the mysterious 13th colony. The show, which lasted five seasons, was a critical success, winning multiple awards and garnering several Emmy nominations.

“Dark Angel”

– IMDb user rating: 7.4
– Years on the air: 2000–2002

James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee’s “Dark Angel” is a show about a genetically enhanced super-soldier who flees the lab and attempts to track down her fellow experiments. It starred Jessica Alba in her breakout role and marked Cameron’s debut television project. Its first season was a massive success, both critically and popularly. After some shifting plot elements in season two, however, its ratings took a massive decline, and the series wound up being canceled before production on season three began.

“Falling Skies”

– IMDb user rating: 7.2
– Years on the air: 2011–2015

Steven Spielberg produced this post-apocalyptic drama that follows a history professor (Noah Wyle) as he leads a group of survivors out of Boston, Massachusetts, following an alien invasion. The survivalist story lasted five seasons but had six different head writers, which drew complaints from many viewers—and actors—that the series felt fragmented and scattered rather than cohesive. Still, it managed to snag an Emmy and Critics’ Choice Television Award, among others.

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Year on the air: 1981

Not long after Douglas Adams’ novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” found success as a radio series, Adams began writing a screenplay for a TV version of the story. Part live-action, part animation, the show follows a human named Arthur Dent and an alien called Ford Prefect as they flee a destroyed Earth and set out to explore other locations in the galaxy. A reboot of the classic series at Hulu was announced in 2019.

“Into the Badlands”

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Years on the air: 2015–2019

Five hundred years into the future, war has turned America from a technology-friendly democracy into a primitive, feudal state. It’s in this version of reality that a warrior and a young boy with supernatural powers travel across the country solving mysteries about their lives. The series, which ran on AMC for three seasons, earned positive reviews for its “genre-bending” style.

“Jericho”

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– Years on the air: 2006–2008

In the aftermath of a nuclear attack, the citizens of small-town Jericho, Kansas, band together to reestablish a sense of normalcy and uncover the mystery surrounding their home’s importance in the larger scheme of the world-ending war. While “Jericho” was a flop in the ratings (it was originally canceled after its first season), it became such a cult hit that fans convinced CBS to bring it back for a condensed second season. After being canceled for the second time in 2008, though, the show’s storyline was continued in a series of comic books.

“The Last Man on Earth”

– IMDb user rating: 7.3
– Years on the air: 2015–2018

In “The Last Man on Earth,” Will Forte stars as Phil Miller, a former banker who believes he’s the last man living after a virus wipes out the rest of humanity. Over the course of four seasons, he seeks out other survivors, occasionally getting much more than he bargained for. Much to fans’ chagrin, the series was abruptly canceled after the fourth season, but Forte told The Wrap he still hopes to finish it properly one day.

“The Leftovers”

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– Years on the air: 2014–2017

HBO’s “The Leftovers” begins two years after the Sudden Departure, a mysterious event that caused 2% of the world’s population to vanish. An ensemble cast featuring actors like Justin Theroux, Liv Tyler and Regina King brings the story to life, brilliantly illustrating the various ways people would deal with the grief brought on by an incident of that size. Critics and audiences alike loved the grim series, with many outlets even going so far as to declare it one of the best TV shows of all time.

“Logan’s Run”

– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Years on the air: 1977–1978

“Logan’s Run” imagines a world where all people are put to death at the age of 30 in an effort to control population size and conserve resources. This ’70s TV series was a spinoff of a movie of the same name, which was, in turn, based on a popular sci-fi novel. Each of the iterations follows two people as they travel across the country in search of a mysterious place called Sanctuary, a mythical place where they believe they might be safe from an early death.

“Planet of the Apes”

– IMDb user rating: 7.1
– Year on the air: 1974

One of the shortest-lived series on the list, “Planet of the Apes” is the sole TV spinoff of the decades-spanning film franchise of the same name. It focuses on two astronauts who, after passing through a space-time warp, crashland on a post-apocalyptic version of Earth, where apes rule over humanity. The sci-fi drama experienced such low ratings that it was canceled after only 14 episodes.

“Survivors”

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– Years on the air: 1975–1977

Reader beware: the BBC’s ’70s show “Survivors” might hit a little too close to home for those struggling with COVID-19 trauma. The series follows a group of people who have survived an airborne plague that originated in China and killed 4,999 out of every 5,000 people in a matter of weeks. Incredibly bleak and well-written, the drama was briefly rebooted in 2008.

“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”

– IMDb user rating: 7.6
– Years on the air: 2008–2009

In order to best enjoy “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” you have to understand where it fits in the franchise’s timeline—precisely after “Terminator 2” and in place of “Terminator 3.” Premiering midseason, the sci-fi drama follows the lives of Sarah and John Connor, following the mother and son as they struggle with fulfilling their destinies and dealing with their complex relationship. A huge hit with fans, the show was unceremoniously canceled after its second season.

“The Walking Dead”

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– Years on the air: 2010–2022

The longest-running series on the list, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” follows various groups of zombie apocalypse survivors as they fend off attacks from the “walkers” and try to live in harmony with other survivor groups who each have their own sets of rules and morals. Based on the comic book series of the same name, the TV show has proven so popular that it has inspired three spinoff series (with a fourth is rumored to be in the works), several web series, and three yet-to-be-released movies, as well as a host of video games and board games. The original show will come to a close in 2022 with its 11th and final season.

METHODOLOGY

Stacker rounded up 15 of the best post-apocalyptic TV shows on television over the past 50 years. To qualify, the series had to have above a 7.0 user rating on IMDb and at least 5,000 votes. Shows from before 1990 only needed 1,000 votes. From the plausible outcomes in shows like “Survivors” to the more dystopian developments as seen in “Planet of the Apes,” these shows all have something different to say about life after the end.