(STACKER) — 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.”

Read on to see how the top 50 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.

51 / 100Lionsgate Television

#50. Mad Men

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2007–2015

When HBO famously rejected his series pitch, creator Matthew Weiner took the show over to AMC, where it redefined the network as a viable destination for prestige television. Set in the halls of a New York advertising agency in the 1960s, the acclaimed show was praised for its period authenticity, social commentary, and strong performances. Standout actors among the cast included Jon Hamm, who played the smooth-but-tortured leading man Don Draper, and Elisabeth Moss, who played a secretary who manages to rise up the ranks in the agency despite rampant misogyny in the workforce. The show garnered a whopping 116 Emmy Awards nominations during its eight-year run, winning 16 in total.

52 / 100Deedle-Dee Productions

#49. Parks and Recreation

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2009–2015

The brainchild of the creator and the head writer of the U.S. version of “The Office,” this workplace comedy employed that show’s same mockumentary style to depict the workings of a quirky parks and recreation department in Pawnee, Indiana. Critics initially found the show lacking compared with its predecessor, but warmed to the charms of the ensemble cast (headed up by Amy Poehler). After a shaky start, the show found its groove and became a hit for NBC. In its entire run, the show received 14 Emmy Awards nominations.

53 / 100Denver and Delilah Productions

#48. Mindhunter

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2017–present

This Netflix crime drama follows two FBI agents who essentially write the book on criminal profiling in the late 1970s by interviewing serial killers. Leads Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany have great chemistry in the leading roles, the former playing a meticulous idealist and the latter a gruff cynic. Critics praised the show for its cerebral plotting and creepy interview scenes with some of history’s most famous murderers. Groff took home the Best Actor in a Drama / Genre Series at the Satellite Awards in 2018.

54 / 100Flitcraft

#47. The Queen’s Gambit

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Year on the air: 2020

“The Queen’s Gambit,” based on the 1983 Walter Tevis novel of the same name, centers on the character of an orphan and chess prodigy called Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy). Harmon is taught to play chess by a janitor at the orphanage, and by age 20 is headed to Moscow to compete against the world’s best Grandmaster. But besides the pressure of training for such a title, Harmon battles demons—from drug and alcohol addiction to emotional problems—all along the way. Despite being short-lived, the show won 11 of the 18 Primetime Emmy Awards for which it was nominated in 2021.

55 / 10020th Century Fox Television

#46. The Simpsons

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 1989–present

America’s longest-running animated show was originally adapted from a series of shorts sandwiched between sketches on “The Tracey Ullman Show” in the late 1980s. The series has come a long way since then, spawning toys, comic books, albums, video games, a feature film, and even its own theme-park ride at Universal Studios. At the peak of its success, the show’s main cast members earned $400,000 per episode, though they’ve since agreed to multiple rounds of pay cuts in order to keep the show financially feasible for Fox. Among its whopping 97 Emmy nominations, “The Simpsons” has won 35 trophies.

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56 / 100ABC Studios

#45. Daredevil

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

A blind lawyer fights crime by night in this Netflix adaptation of the Marvel comic. Much better received than the poorly reviewed Ben Affleck movie from a decade earlier, the success of this series was an early indicator that Marvel’s media empire could extend its bounds beyond feature films. By the series’ end, “Daredevil” would earn five nominations at the Emmy Awards.

57 / 100Bad Robot

#44. Westworld

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2016–present

Based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, “Westworld” is the hit HBO sci-fi series about the fictional, technologically advanced “Old West” amusement park hosted by androids. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden, its debut in 2016 earned the highest ratings for the network for a premiere since “True Detective,” and its first season ranked as the most-watched of any HBO original series. The show has since claimed nine Emmy Awards to date.https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

58 / 100Showtime Networks

#43. Dexter

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– Years on the air: 2006–2013

A psychopathic forensic expert takes his violent urges out on evildoers. Critics loved the novel premise, though they warned that some viewers might find the show’s gore repellant. Not too many did, apparently: The show’s finale drew 2.8 million viewers, a record for Showtime. The show took home four of the 24 Emmy Awards for which it was nominated.

59 / 100W. Chump & sons

#42. The Grand Tour

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2016–present

After being fired from the BBC and the popular show “Top Gear” for disciplinary reasons, presenter Jeremy Clarkson took a similar series to Amazon Prime. Clarkson brought his “Top Gear” co-presenters Richard Hammond and James May along for a show that focuses on automobiles, with a mixture of pre-taped segments and live-audience segments. The show also came to video game consoles as an interactive experience.

60 / 100Fox Television Network

#41. The Shield

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

“The Shield” surpassed most prime-time cop shows by favoring shades of gray over clear-cut moralism. In a career-defining role, Michael Chiklis played the volatile, corrupt, and yet somehow principled leader of an elite Los Angeles detective squad. He won a Primetime Emmy for his performance after the first season. The show has received six Emmy nominations, winning one for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series in 2002.

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61 / 100Amazon Studios

#40. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2017–present

Amy Sherman-Palladino’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has garnered enough major awards to leave no doubt as to its universal acclaim (Golden Globes or Emmys for the series, directing, writing, lead actress, supporting actress, and supporting actor). The show has won 20 of its 54 Emmy nominations. Rachel Brosnahan plays Midge Maisel, New York City housewife who breaks the confines of her gender role via stand-up comedy in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

62 / 100Levinson / Fontana Company

#39. Oz

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

HBO’s first one-hour drama, set in a maximum security prison, rewrote all the rules of television and set the table for the network’s future as the go-to destination for prestige television. While it’s a little rough around the edges by today’s standards, the show holds up as a gritty, uncompromising, character-driven look into life inside a correctional facility. J.K. Simmons gives a standout performance as an alpha-male white supremacist inmate. The show received two Emmy nominations following its run.

63 / 100HBO

#38. Curb Your Enthusiasm

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2000–present

“Seinfeld” creator Larry David plays a fictionalized version of himself in this heavily improvised, award-winning HBO comedy. David’s onscreen persona has a talent for generating awkward, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations that have long delighted audiences and critics alike. The show has been nominated for over 40 Emmys, winning two to date. Offscreen, David has declared himself done with the character numerous times, sometimes taking long hiatuses between seasons, which is why it took him 17 years to make the first nine seasons of the show.https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

64 / 100Ocean Group

#37. Dragon Ball Z

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 1996–2003

Possibly the most famous anime series of all time is “Dragon Ball Z,” with its equally famous protagonist Goku. A sequel to the original “Dragon Ball” anime and a continuing adaptation of the manga of the same name, “Z” portrayed Goku’s adult life as he and his companions defended the world from a host of villains and enemies. The show had two other sequel shows, as well as a remastering called “Dragon Ball Kai.”

65 / 100HBO

#36. Six Feet Under

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2001–2005

This HBO drama about a family-run funeral home featured a unique gimmick: each episode began with the arrival of a new corpse. The show’s final episode, which stared down the mortality of its characters as it fast-forwarded the full remainder of their lives, has been hailed as one of the best series finales of all time. At the Emmy Awards, the show claimed nine of the 53 trophies for which it had been nominated.

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66 / 100Tornante Company

#35. BoJack Horseman

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2014–2020

In this animated Netflix series, a former sitcom star voiced by Will Arnett attempts to reignite his showbiz career. Oh, and he happens to be an anthropomorphized horse. While many reviewers found the show’s first season too short on laughs to justify its bizarre premise, subsequent seasons added surprising depth to the BoJack character and drew acclaim from audiences and critics alike. The show, which received three Emmy Award nominations, was twice nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

67 / 100Apatow Productions

#34. Freaks and Geeks

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 1999–2000

Before Judd Apatow became a household name through movies, he created this short-lived comedy-drama for NBC. Although it only ran a single season, it has developed a cult following over the years for its unflinching and heartfelt portrayal of teenage awkwardness. The show introduced several actors who would go on to become regulars in Apatow projects, including Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, and James Franco. Following its short-lived run, “Freaks and Geeks” was nominated for three Emmys, winning Outstanding Casting For A Comedy Series in 2000.

68 / 100British Sky Broadcasting

#33. Battlestar Galactica

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

This Syfy Channel remake vastly improved upon the cheesy 1970s original with excellent special effects, politically astute plotlines, and a first-rate cast. Bucking the trend of youthful casting, series creator Ronald D. Moore opted for seasoned actors for his leads: Edward James Olmos as the captain of the titular starship and Mary McDonnell as the secretary of education who’s thrust into the role of president by succession laws after most of humanity is wiped out by robot-esque Cylons. With its tense plotlines, first-rate performances, and surprisingly deep themes, “Battlestar Galactica” was one of the best science fiction shows ever to hit the small screen. In its run, the show gathered 25 Emmy nominations, winning five.

69 / 100HD Vision Studios

#32. Rome

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2005–2007

This ambitious HBO sword-and-sandals epic followed two Roman soldiers whose onscreen lives intertwined with actual historical events. The series received positive reviews for its impressive visuals and R-rated thrills. But, like the Roman empire itself, the show’s size and scope were its downfall: HBO was forced to ax it from the schedule after its second season because of budgetary concerns. Among the 15 Emmys for which it was nominated, the show claimed seven trophies.

70 / 10020th Century Fox Television

#31. Arrested Development

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2003–2006, 2013–2019

Debuting in 2003 and revived in 2013 by Netflix, the quirky comedy “Arrested Development” followed the dysfunctional Bluth family as they navigated life after the family patriarch was imprisoned. Starring Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Portia De Rossi, and Jessica Walter, the critically acclaimed show won six Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. Even so, the series was canceled due to low ratings on Fox in 2006. Some critics have said that “30 Rock” and “Community” were inspired by the show’s offbeat sensibility.

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71 / 100Amazon Studios

#30. The Boys

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

This Amazon Prime original imagines a world where superheroes are immoral and instruments of corporate capitalism. “Hughie” Campbell plays an everyman whose girlfriend is killed as collateral damage to a speedster superhero, who is a member of “The Seven,” the world’s most famous superhero team. Hughie then joins a group of vigilantes led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), whose goal is to take down the “Supes” through violence and uncovering their dark hidden secrets. The show, which has received numerous accolades, won Best Superhero Television Series at the Saturn Awards in 2021.

72 / 100Comedy Central

#29. South Park

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 1997–present

This foul-mouthed animated satire from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone pushes the boundaries of good taste to a breaking point, making “The Simpsons” look tame by comparison. A breakout hit for Comedy Central, this show put the fictional town of South Park, Colorado, on the pop culture map and made Kenny, Kyle, Stan, and Cartman (and the series creators) household names. The show also spawned a big-screen adaptation, as well as two hit video games. Additionally, the long-running series has received four Emmy awards.

73 / 100Heel & Toe Films

#28. House

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2004–2012

Hugh Laurie played a physician who made up for his poor bedside manner with diagnostic skills that bordered on genius. Each episode presented a new medical mystery for him to solve, and although it strained believability, the formula made for engrossing TV. Critics raved about Laurie’s performance, which earned him back-to-back Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series–Drama in 2006 and 2007.

74 / 100Media Rights Capital

#27. House of Cards

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2013–2018

“House of Cards,” which is often referenced as the case study for Netflix and the new era of television developed based on “big data,” was an adaptation of the 1990 BBC miniseries of the same name. Netflix’s interpretation earned 56 Emmy nominations, winning seven trophies. The acclaimed political thriller, which starred Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, suspended production after allegations of sexual assault and harassment came out against Spacey, then severed ties with the actor for good. Its final season starred Wright and dropped in 2018.

75 / 10021 Laps Entertainment

#26. Stranger Things

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– Years on the air: 2016–present

The Duffer brothers created this phenomenally successful ’80s original thriller series for Netflix in the summer of 2016. It sparked a cultural revolution that boosted sales of Eggo waffles, left fans worried about Barb, and had audiences begging for more after binge-watching sessions. Among the 38 nominations the beloved show earned at the Emmys, “Stranger Things” has since claimed seven honors at the awards.

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76 / 100Warner Bros. Television

#25. The West Wing

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 1999–2006

Created by Aaron Sorkin, this NBC political drama peered into the workings of a fictional White House under the leadership of a Democratic president played by Martin Sheen. Critics praised the show’s smart writing and brisk walk-and-talk pacing. In terms of viewership, “The West Wing” was especially popular among high-income audiences, making its commercial breaks desirable for advertisers. The show took home 26 of the 95 Emmys for which it was nominated, including Outstanding Drama Series.

77 / 100Sixteen String Jack Productions

#24. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2014–present

When fans of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” were looking for a new voice of reason when he retired in 2015, John Oliver was there. Oliver, who won an Emmy for his work on “The Daily Show,” now serves as host of his own popular weekly primetime show on HBO. It has been nominated for—and has won—a number of awards. Among the show’s accolades include the Television Academy Honors at the Emmy Awards in 2017.

78 / 100Ruby’s Tuna

#23. Ted Lasso

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2020–present

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple TV+ delivered its sentimental comedy “Ted Lasso,” which follows an earnest American football coach brought on to lead the floundering AFC Richmond, an English Premier League soccer club.https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

79 / 100Lynch / Frost Productions

#22. Twin Peaks

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 1990–1991, 2017

It’s astounding that a show this strange was able to land a network TV time slot in the early 1990s. The show follows the investigation of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper into the murder of a homecoming queen in a Washington logging town. While the premise makes it sound like a run-of-the-mill primetime procedural, the delivery from creators Mark Frost and David Lynch was truly bizarre. Combining surrealism, melodrama, horror, and comedy with movie-quality visuals, “Twin Peaks” stands as one of the most original pieces of American television ever made. The show was resurrected by Showtime in 2017 for a limited-run series featuring many of the original cast members to the delight of fans everywhere. Following its overall run, the show claimed two Emmy Awards.

80 / 100Blubush Productions

#21. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2005–present

Its main characters may work in a bar, but this show is no “Cheers.” Caustic, cynical, crass, and hilarious, “It’s Always Sunny” delights in pushing the boundaries of good taste far beyond what would fly in a network show. The first season took a while to find its comedic footing, but since season two, which kicked off with Danny DeVito joining the cast, the show has received universal acclaim from critics. Among its accolades include three consecutive Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Comedy Series Or A Variety Program Emmy nominations. When it was renewed for a 15th season in 2020 it became the longest-running live-action comedy series in American history.

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81 / 100Castle Rock Entertainment

#20. Seinfeld

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 1989–1998

Regularly referred to as one of the best TV shows of all time by Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and TV Guide, “Seinfeld’s” iconic characters, storylines, and catchphrases have become an indelible part of popular culture. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld in 1989, the show launched the careers of Seinfeld and co-stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander, while Michael Richards’ Kramer character became unforgettable. It won an Emmy in 1993 for “Outstanding Comedy Series,” and has been nominated for 68 awards overall.  

82 / 100Netflix

#19. Dark

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2017–2020

Some of the themes of the sci-fi show “Dark” include time travel, child abduction, disappearance, nuclear power, and conspiracy. Netflix’s first German-language original series has drawn universal acclaim and proven a stout contemporary and competitor of “Stranger Things.” Its third season was the final for the brooding, mysterious, ever-twisting series that continued to build surprising connections between the families, relationships, and time—perhaps the central figure—in the fictional Winden. The show concluded with a third and final season in June 2020.

83 / 100High Bridge Productions

#18. Better Call Saul

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2015–present

This spinoff of AMC’s flagship series “Breaking Bad” takes place before and after the events of that show, focusing on the life of sleazy attorney Saul Goodman, played by Bob Odenkirk. Since its premiere, the show has garnered a number of accolades, including 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, 11 Writers Guild of America Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards. Although it had big shoes to fill, the show managed to surpass critics’ expectations, while scratching an itch for “Breaking Bad” fans suffering from cancellation withdrawal. Its sixth and final season will premiere in 2022.

84 / 100Walt Disney Studios

#17. The Mandalorian

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2019–present

The breakout hit of streaming platform Disney+, “The Mandalorian” is the first live-action “Star Wars” series and set in the timeline between “Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” and “Episode VII – The Force Awakens.” In creator Jon Favreau’s first season, the titular Mandalorian (aka Din Djarin, played by Pedro Pascal) navigates the outer depths of the galaxy as a bounty hunter and, of course, protects The Child (aka Baby Yoda) from capture. “The Mandalorian” has brought home 14 Emmy Awards to date, including Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Program (Half-Hour) in 2020.

85 / 100Dynamo

#16. Narcos

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 2015–2018

One of the most popular original shows on Netflix, “Narcos” was a gripping drama that followed the real-life stories of the Colombian drug trade of the late 1980s. While seasons one and two focused on the infamous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, season three picked up after his fall and the rise of Cali Cartel. The series has been nominated for a number of awards, including three nominations at the Emmys. Additionally, the show spawned a spinoff, titled “Narcos: Mexico.”

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86 / 100Warner Bros. Television

#15. Friends

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– Years on the air: 1994–2004

When Joey, Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, and Phoebe—played by the unforgettable ensemble cast of Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, and Lisa Kudrow—got together in “Friends,” it was television magic. One of the most popular sitcoms of all time, the show earned 62 Primetime Emmy nominations, winning Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002. It launched the TV and film careers of all of its cast members, and sparked the short-lived spinoff, “Joey.” In 2021, HBO Max aired a long-awaited “Friends” reunion special starring the original cast.

87 / 100Disney Television Animation

#14. Gravity Falls

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Years on the air: 2012–2016

The fictional town of Gravity Falls, Oregon, is the setting of this popular Disney television show by Alex Hirsch. Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal provide the voices of twins who are dropped off at the home of their great uncle Grunkle Stan, which eventually leads to hijinks in the strange and supernatural town. The show ended after two seasons but is still beloved for its charm, animation style, and appeal to all ages. The show took home two Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Individual Achievement In Animation in 2015.

88 / 100MGM Television

#13. Fargo

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

Based on the Coen brothers film of the same name, “Fargo” is a darkly comedic anthology show about quirky characters in small towns. The series has received top marks from critics for its originality and dedication to the absurd. Since its inception, “Fargo” has won six Emmy Awards.

89 / 100Reveille Productions

#12. The Office

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– Years on the air: 2005–2013

Based on Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s hit BBC show, the American version starred Steve Carell as the well-meaning but painfully awkward boss of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company. The show turned Carell, who up until then was best known as a “Daily Show” correspondent, into a household name and led to a film career. The laugh-out-loud series received five of the 42 Emmy Award nominations it received following its eight-year run.

90 / 100Anonymous Content

#11. True Detective

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

In this critically acclaimed anthology crime drama series, new cast ensembles take on challenging crime investigations each season. The first season, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was called one of the best drama series of the year, while other critics said it was one of the strongest in recent memory. Season two stars Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch; Mahershala Ali is the lead in the third season, with Carmen Ejogo, Stephen Dorff, Scoot McNairy, and Ray Fisher co-starring. The show has since taken home five Emmy Awards.

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91 / 100CBS Television Network

#10. The Twilight Zone

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Years on the air: 1959–1964, 1985–1989, 2002–2003, 2019–present

Rod Serling’s iconic, critically acclaimed “The Twilight Zone” series took on issues of prejudice, war, government, and morality. Blending fantasy, thriller, and science fiction, many of the themes and lessons from the memorable (albeit super creepy) storylines resonate today. While the original black-and-white, Serling-led series ran from 1959 to 1964, the first reboot arrived in 1985, followed by other revivals and a film version produced by Steven Spielberg in 1983. The show claimed three of the eight Emmy awards for which it was nominated.

92 / 100Warner Bros. Animation

#9. Batman: The Animated Series

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

Bruce Timm co-developed “Batman: The Animated Series,” which became the first show in a larger animated universe that ended with “Justice League Unlimited.” The show focused on Bruce Wayne, voiced by Kevin Conroy, and his exploits as the Caped Crusader. It is the source of actor Mark Hamill’s most famous voice performance as the Joker. The animated series took home several Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program in 1993.

93 / 100Mutant Enemy

#8. Firefly

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– Years on the air: 2002–2003

Joss Whedon’s short-lived but beloved futuristic space drama was canceled by Fox, but then became a fan favorite when it was released on DVD. The series featured an ensemble cast (led by Nathan Fillion) and won a Primetime Emmy for special effects. It also inspired comics and a role-playing game, as well as the 2005 film “Serenity.”https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

94 / 100Hartswood Films

#7. Sherlock

– IMDb user rating: 9.1
– Years on the air: 2010–present

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Sherlock Holmes in this popular series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective series of the same name. Produced as a co-production of BBC and WGBH in Boston for PBS Masterpiece, the show has received praise from critics and fans alike. Among the show’s accolades include winning three Primetime Emmys, including Outstanding Lead Actor for Cumberbatch.

95 / 100HBO

#6. The Sopranos

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

The late James Gandolfini led this megahit, award-winning HBO series as Tony Soprano, an Italian-American mobster who had to balance family life with organized crime. Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler co-starred in what some critics consider one of the most groundbreaking series ever made because of its effect on the industry in elevating the art form. With 112 Emmy nominations overall, “The Sopranos” took home 21 honors.

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96 / 100Green Portal Productions

#5. Rick and Morty

– IMDb user rating: 9.2
– Years on the air: 2013–present

Cartoon Network’s adult animated sci-fi comedy “Rick and Morty” follows the adventures of Rick Sanchez, a mad scientist, and his daughter (Sarah Chalke) and her children. It has received high marks from critics for its creativity, scientific accuracy, and general wackiness, and has a massive cult following. The cartoon series has since received two Emmy awards, including Outstanding Animated Program in 2020.https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

97 / 100HBO

#4. Game of Thrones

– IMDb user rating: 9.2
– Years on the air: 2011-2019

Based on George R.R. Martin’s beloved series of novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” this megahit HBO series essentially took on a life of its own. The award-winning medieval fantasy epic followed the deadly adventures of two powerful families as they battled for control of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. It frequently challenged “The Sopranos” in viewership ratings during its first four seasons. The show inspired licensed merchandise, games, replica armor, and boosted sales of the original novels. With a whopping 160 nominations, the show took home 56 Emmys.

98 / 100Nickelodeon Animation Studios

#3. Avatar: The Last Airbender

– IMDb user rating: 9.3
– Years on the air: 2005–2008

Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino co-created this anime-inspired American animated show, with the backstory involving the “Avatar,” a person who can “bend” and manipulate all four main elements of air, water, fire, and earth. Aang is the current Avatar, found by Water Tribe siblings Katara and Sokka 100 years after Aang froze in an iceberg, leaving the world under siege by the Fire Nation. The show was followed up by “The Legend of Korra,” a show set 70 years later about the next Avatar. The beloved animation earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program (for programming less than one hour) in 2007.

99 / 100Blown Deadline Productions

#2. The Wire

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

Still cited as one of the greatest TV shows ever made, “The Wire” went off the air more than 10 years ago. The acclaimed HBO drama featured a black ensemble cast, helping to launch the careers of Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, and Michael K. Williams, and took a realistic look at Baltimore and its drug scene, police department, schools, and media. Following its run, the show was twice nominated at the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.https://27f8d0e64245d1f7df377bea1c8953bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

100 / 100High Bridge Productions

#1. Breaking Bad

– IMDb user rating: 9.4
– Years on the air: 2008–2013

The critically acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad” turned Walter White into an icon. The show also catapulted Bryan Cranston into cult status for his portrayal of the high-school-teacher-turned-meth-kingpin. Cranston won four Primetime Emmy Awards for the role. It’s considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time, having become the most-watched cable TV show on American television, and most critically acclaimed of all time.

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.