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The 20 Best TV Shows Of All Time

A list of the best TV shows ever (old and new ones) according to FilmAffinity users.

Which are the best TV shows of all time?  We list the top TV shows most voted by the users of Read the following list to know which are the most recommended TV series around the world. 

The 20 best TV shows of all time

This list includes a wide variety of TV shows -from new Netflix ones to HBO series of the '90s and even older ones; comedy, crime, mystery and intrigue, action, historical, medieval fantasy, science fiction and cartoon series; famous and trendy shows but also others rarely watched by the general audience although equally good and recommended.

20. Friends (1994-2004)

The most-watched comedy series of all time ranks 20th in the FilmAffinity top TV Series. It is a light comedy that was successful worldwide in the 1990s because of its ability to connect with the "spirit of the times" among young viewers.

Although today's viewers draw attention to the homophobia or lack of inclusion that is evident in the TV show, the truth is that at the time, Friends could almost be considered progressive and irreverent. For example, screenwriters dared to make jokes about fellatio or homosexuality among priests that were surprising in such a mainstream product.

19. Death Note (2006-2007)

Death Note is based on intrigue and crime action manga series by Takeshi Obata and Tsugumi Ôba starring Yagami Light, a boy who finds a notebook with which he can kill anyone only by writing his name.

Based on the FilmAffinity top TV Series, Death Note is the second best anime series in history, surpassed only by Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which we will talk about later. However, Death Note has many more votes and is one of the most watched Japanese TV shows.

18. Peaky Blinders (2013-Present)

This gangster thriller set in the UK in the first third of the 20th century has become extremely popular with the advance of its seasons. It is one of the popular series of the moment.

Starring Cillian Murphy, Peaky Blinders owes much from a narrative and aesthetic point of view to previous TV shows of much higher complexity, such as The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.

17. The Corner (2000)

The Corner is a short TV series (6 episodes) broadcasted on HBO in 2000.  It was created by David Simon -who we will talk about more extensively when we get to The Wire. His great work, The Corner, explores the world of drugs in the city of Baltimore, partially inspired by the documentary format.

16. Fanny and Alexander (Fanny och Alexander, 1983)

This miniseries of 4 episodes was directed by Ingmar Bergman, known for cult movies such as The seventh seal, Persona or Wild Strawberries. Set in Sweeden at the beginning of the 20th century, this series tells the story of a family that has to face the sudden death of the father. 

Fanny and Alexander is the only Northern European TV show in this top 20, although other good Nordic series according to the FilmAffinity ranking are Broen and Forbrydelsen, two mystery and intrigue crime series that had American versions: The Bridge and The Killing.

15. Fargo (2014-Present)

Fargo is based on the movie with the same name, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and includes elements from other works of the directors. 

This is a TV show that we can include in the crime series genre as well as its original movie; its first nucleus lies in the combination of a thriller with a tone of almost omnipresent black comedy.

There are three seasons of this TV show, all of them recommended by audience and critics. It has had stars such as Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Kirsten Dunst, Jean Smart, Patrick Wilson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead or Ewan McGregor.

14. I, Claudius (1976)

This TV miniseries of 13 episodes that adapts Robert Graves' homonymous novel about the Roman emperor, Claudius, is one of the best TV shows of all time.  Decades after, Roma was created for HBO, and it was set in a similar context, and it was also recommended by critics. 

The cast of I, Claudius includes important actors such as Derek Jacobi, John Hurt and Patrick Stewart. It is the oldest series in this list, without counting the Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch program.

13. Romanzo Criminale (2008-2010)

The Italian TV show Romanzo Criminale adapts the novel with the same name  about a group of drug dealers in Rome in the late 1970s.

We want to take advantage of this section to mention two other recent Italian series: Gomorrah, which is based on Roberto Saviano's book about the Savastano, a troublemaker clan from Naples, and The Young Pope, a ruthless TV series about the Vatican starring Jude Law and Diane Keaton.

12. Black Mirror (2011-Present)

Black Mirror is one of the most watched TV series recently. It is an obscure and disturbing science fiction series that takes to the last recent advances in digital technology to explore the worst possible consequences for human beings and society.

For now,  the last episode of this sci-fi TV show is "Bandersnatch," premiered on Netflix and characterized by being an interactive TV episode inspired by the books of "Choose your own adventure" popular in the 80s and 90s, which are the nucleus of the story of the episode since the protagonist (and therefore the viewer) is writing a video game based on one.

11. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)

As we previously mentioned, according to FilmAffinity users, the best anime TV show ever is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a remake of the original series broadcast between 2003 and 2004. They are both based on Hiromu Arakawa's manga, even though Brotherhood is usually preferably recommended by comic fans for its greater fidelity to the comic.

This fantasy, action and adventure series tells the story of two siblings, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who want to find the philosopher's stone to recover the body of little Al, whose mind was magically linked to an armor in the same failed magical transmutation  in which Ed lost an arm and a leg (replaced by metallic implants).

10. The Decalogue (Dekalog, 1989-1990)

The Decalogue is a miniseries created by the Polish film director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, known mainly by its trilogy Three colours

Each of the 10 episodes of Dekalog is focused on one of the Ten Commandments, using Poland in the last period of the URSS as the narrative context. 

9. Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974)

The British Monty Python owes its name to this TV comedy, which is technically more of a sketch program than a series, although it is categorised as such in FilmAffinity and we found it interesting to include it in this list.

The success of Flying Circus led to the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, The Meaning of Life and And Now For Something Completely Different, a selection of sketches originally created for Flying Circus.

8. Rick & Morty (2013-Present)

The animation comedy for adults Rick & Morty is one of the last TV hits, as well as the best science fiction series of this FilmAffinity top 20 -even better than other series with real picture such as Black Mirror, Battlestar Galactica or the cult series Firefly, famous for being cancelled during its first period and for the fandom it has. 

In spite of its light appearance, Rick & Morty is extremely interesting due to its emphasis on existentialist philosophy as a narrative element, that, together with its visual brutality, makes is a TV show for adults and not for children. It is created by Justin Roiland (who improvises both main characters' voices partially) and Dan Harmon, creator of Community

7. True Detective I (2014)

True Detective is one of the most recommended crime series of all time. The first season, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was a real hit in the world of TV shows.

However, this position in the FilmAffinity top TV shows should be attributed exclusively to the first season  of the series: the second one was deceiving for the audience, and the third one only managed to recover part of the prestige reached with True Detective I.

6.The Sopranos (1999-2007)

This drama series about a mafia family (with its patriarch Tony Soprano as the ambivalent protagonist) was produced by the HBO and created by David Chase. The psychological depth of the characters in the series and the quality of their scripts led it to fame, and the top of the best TV shows lists.

It is one of the most influent TV show of all time: the narrative style and the type of planes, among other aspects, from The Sopranos, is clearly visible in more recent series as popular as Breaking Bad, Mad MenBoardwalk Empire, The Shield, Peaky Blinders or Sons of Anarchy.

5. Band of Brothers (2001)

Band of Brothers is a historical TV miniseries set in the Second World War. It was created by Stephen Ambrose and broadcasted by HBO. It is highly recommended for its script, the director and its excellent cast, headed by Damian Lewis -future co-star of Homeland.

4. The Simpsons (1989-Present)

With more than 170 thousand votes in FilmAffinity, The Simpsons is one of the best TV shows to binge watch.

This animated comedy for adults, teenagers and children created by Matt Groening (Futurama, Disenchantment) has been on the air for 20 years now and, even though the quality of its episodes has clearly suffered over time, it continues to be watched by millions of people around the world.

3. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)

Based on George R.R. Martin's literary saga A Song of Ice and FireGame of Thrones is a top-rated medieval fantasy TV show that has marked the course of television in recent years, favouring the appearance of action, medieval and historical adventures series such as Vikings, Camelot or The Last Kingdom.

In April 2019, the eighth and last season of this series is released. It promises to bring at least as much drama, war, intrigue, magic and death as previous seasons. HBO plans to release several TV shows set in the fantasy world created by Martin that will act as sequels or prequels of Game of Thrones.

2. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Chemistry professor Walter White becomes Heisenberg meth dealer -cold and ruthless- when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer with the goal of making money so that his family can keep their lifestyle when he dies.

Breaking Bad is considered the best TV show in many rankings, and it is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and recommended action and thriller series by both the audience and critics. The psychological depth of the development of its main character (masterfully played by Bryan Cranston) is the most remarkable aspect of the series, although the direction, editing and photography are also incredible.

1. The Wire (2002-2008)

With an average mark of 8.9 out of 10 by more than 45 thousand users, The Wire is the best TV show of all time according to the FilmAffinity ranking. In IMBD it is in the same position (second) as Rick & Morty, with Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad in the first position. 

This crime series that explores the deep interrelation between crime and State structures from the "fight against drugs" in Baltimore was created by David Simon, who had worked as a crime reporter for 20 years before focusing on TV series by adapting his book The Corner for HBO.

Simon later also created Generation Kill (about marines in the invasion of Iraq), Treme (which doesn't appear in this ranking because of scarce positions and it's set in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina) and The Deuce, still on air, which talks about prostitution and porn in a format very similar to the one in The Wire.