The Best TV Dramas of All Time

Living in TV’s golden age is simultaneously exciting and stressful, thanks to the sheer amount of quality shows available for audiences to consume. So how exactly does someone figure out what they should watch? That’s where Complex comes in. Here are the best TV dramas of all time. Get these on your watch list.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

Image via FX

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

Ranking the best TV dramas of all time is certainly no easy feat, especially considering the speed at which we are consistently getting new contenders for this list. From Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to more traditional broadcast and cable networks, television programming is now more prolific than ever. Remember when Netflix said they were producing over 700 TV shows in 2018?

In all its forms, television is more popular than ever, and it has become a one of the best mediums with which to tell interesting and nuanced stories. Film directors have pointed out that television is currently telling the tales that film doesn’t have the capacity for or is afraid to tell. Viewers are getting the television experience of a lifetime right now, with many shows (finally) placing an importance on diverse casts and stories.

So, how exactly does one whittle down the hundreds upon hundreds of great dramatic programming? A lot of arguing between co-workers, of course. But beyond just our peers, we’ve also taken into account the many of the shows that paved the way for what we’re tuning into today, from Twin Peaks to The West Wing—many of these OG classics have had a direct influence on the shows we love, like the creepy procedural of Hannibal or the fragmented dramatic timelines of This Is Us. You’ve gotta appreciate the predecessors!

That’s why our best TV dramas span many time periods, dabble in other genres (Sci-Fi! Fantasy! Teens!) and, in our humble opinion, encapsulate what makes these TV dramas so damn watchable. So get your favorite TV snacks ready and prepare for your watch lists to double: these are the best TV dramas of all time.

49. This Is Us

This Is Us

48. Carnivàle


47. Big Love

big love

46. Fringe


45. Dark Shadows

dark shadows

44. Queer as Folk

queer as folk

43. Felicity


42. Hannibal


41. My So-Called Life

my so called life

40. In Treatment

in treatment

39. St. Elsewhere

st elsewhere

38. Babylon 5

babylon 5

37. Miami Vice

miami vice

36. Boardwalk Empire

boardwalk empire

35. Rome


34. American Crime Story

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

33. Black Mirror

nosedive black mirror

32. Firefly


31. The X-Files

the x files

30. The O.C.

the oc

29. Beverly Hills, 90210

beverly hills 90210

28. The Leftovers

The Leftovers

27. Alias


26. Justified


25. Law & Order

law and order

24. Veronica Mars

veronica mars

23. Battlestar Galactica

battlestar galactica

22. Hill Street Blues

hill street blues

21. The Walking Dead

the walking dead

20 Star Trek: The Next Generation

star trek the next generation

19. Game of Thrones

game of thrones

18. The Americans

The Americans

17. Oz


16. ER


15. 24


14. Friday Night Lights

friday night lights

13. The West Wing

the west wing

12. Twin Peaks

twin peaks

11. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

buffy the vampire slayer

10. Six Feet Under

six feet under

9. Breaking Bad

breaking bad

8. Lost


7. NYPD Blue

nypd blue

6. The Shield

the shield

5. The Twilight Zone

the twilight zone

4. Deadwood


3. Mad Men

mad men

2. The Sopranos

the sopranos

1. The Wire

the wire

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