Drama Edition: The 30 Best TV Shows of All Time, Ranked

If you’re a fan of TV dramas, you won’t want to miss Bright Side’s ranking of the 30 best TV shows of all time. This list includes some of the most iconic and groundbreaking shows in television history, from Stranger Things to Breaking Bad. Check it out and see if your favorite show cut!

30. The Good Wife

Breaking into the top 30, The Good Wife is a legal drama that revolves around Alicia Florrick, portrayed by Julianna Margulies, as she navigates the challenges of re-entering the workforce after her husband’s public scandal. The series combines courtroom drama with political intrigue and personal relationships. With its strong writing and Margulies’ compelling performance, The Good Wife, available on Huluearned critical acclaim and multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. It’s one of the Best TV shows of all time that stands as a sophisticated exploration of morality, power, and resilience.

29. Friday Night Lights

Securing the twenty-ninth spot, Friday Night Lights captures the spirit of small-town America, focusing on the lives of high school football players, coaches, and the community of Dillon, Texas. The series provides an authentic portrayal of the challenges faced by both players and residents, exploring themes of ambition, loyalty, and community. Available on PeacockFriday Night Lights, while not a major awards contender, has earned critical acclaim for its realistic depiction of the emotional highs and lows tied to high school sports.

28. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Rounding off our top 30, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a delightful comedic gem set in the 1950s and ’60s. The series follows Miriam “Midge” Maisel as she embarks on a career in stand-up comedy, navigating the challenges of a male-dominated industry. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the show combines sharp wit, vibrant period aesthetics, and standout performances, particularly from Rachel Brosnahan in the titular role. Available on Amazon Prime VideoThe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has garnered widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series.

27. The Handmaid’s Tale

Rolling in at number twenty-seven, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian drama based on Margaret Atwood’s novel. The series is set in the theocratic regime of Gilead, where fertile women are forced into servitude as “handmaids.” With its chilling portrayal of a totalitarian society, The Handmaid’s Tale, available on Hulu, delves into themes of power, resistance, and the consequences of extreme ideologies. Elisabeth Moss’s compelling performance and the series’ powerful storytelling have earned it numerous awards and accolades.

26. This Is Us

Securing the twenty-sixth spot, This Is Us weaves together the lives of individuals connected by shared experiences and family bonds. The series spans multiple timelines, exploring the challenges and triumphs of the Pearson family. With its emotionally resonant storytelling, complex characters, and non-linear narrative structure, This Is Us, available on Hulu, has become a heartfelt exploration of the human condition, earning critical acclaim and a devoted fanbase.

25. House of the Dragon

Claiming the twenty-fifth spot, House of the Dragon is a prequel to Game of Thrones, offering a historical perspective on the Targaryen dynasty. Set centuries before the events of Game of Thrones, the series explores the Targaryens’ rise to power and the political intrigue within the Seven Kingdoms. With dragons, power struggles, and complex characters, House of the Dragon, available on HBO Max, aims to continue the epic legacy of the dance of house and fire.

24. Stranger Things

Securing the twenty-fourth spot, Stranger Things continues to captivate audiences with its blend of supernatural horror, ’80s nostalgia, and heartfelt coming-of-age drama. Set in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, the series follows a group of kids who encounter mysterious government experiments, parallel dimensions, and a girl with telekinetic abilities. With its nostalgic references and a compelling ensemble cast, Stranger Things, available on Netflix, has become a cultural phenomenon, balancing scares with emotional resonance.

23. Fargo

Breaking into the top 23, Fargo is an anthology series inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film, featuring standalone yet interconnected tales of crime and dark humor. Each season introduces new characters and storylines, often exploring the unexpected consequences of seemingly ordinary actions. With its distinct Midwestern setting and a narrative that blends violence and humor, Fargo, available on Hulu, has become a critical darling, earning acclaim for its unique storytelling and standout performances.

22. Hand of God

Claiming the twenty-second spot, Hand of God is a hidden gem that delves into the darker realms of justice and redemption. Ron Perlman’s compelling portrayal of Judge Pernell Harris garnered critical acclaim and played a pivotal role in the series’ success. The show, directed beautifully, received a nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards.

Although not as widely recognized, the series earned praise for its unique storyline and the outstanding performances of its cast. Available on Amazon Prime Video, it stands as a testament to the richness of storytelling that can be found beyond the mainstream.

21. The Leftovers

Securing the twenty-first spot, The Leftovers is a haunting exploration of the aftermath of a global event known as the Sudden Departure, where 2% of the world’s population vanishes without explanation. The series focuses on the lives of those left behind, examining the emotional and psychological impact of loss and uncertainty. With a mix of supernatural elements and raw human emotion, The Leftovers, available on HBO Max, stands out for its poignant storytelling, enigmatic atmosphere, and standout performances, particularly that of Justin Theroux.

20. Game of Thrones

Breaking into the top 20, Game of Thrones, the epic fantasy series, based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, received widespread acclaim and won numerous awards, including multiple Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series. Available on HBO MaxGame of Thrones remains a landmark in television history, even as it concludes our list.

19. Westworld

Claiming the nineteenth spot, Westworld is a cerebral exploration of artificial intelligence, consciousness, and the ethical implications of creating lifelike android hosts. Set in a futuristic Wild West-themed amusement park, guests interact with hosts, blurring the lines between reality and simulation. As the hosts begin to gain self-awareness, the narrative delves into philosophical questions about free will and morality. The series, available on HBO Max, intricately weaves narratives across multiple timelines, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats with its mind-bending twists and complex characters.

18. Homeland

Securing the eighteenth spot, Homeland follows the complex life of CIA officer Carrie Mathison, portrayed by Claire Danes. The series earned critical acclaim and numerous awards, including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Available on Hulu, Homeland’s intense storytelling and Danes’ compelling performance contribute to its recognition.

17. Black Mirror

Claiming the seventeenth spot, Black Mirror is an anthology series that explores the dark and often dystopian aspects of modern society and technology. Created by Charlie Brooker, the show has received critical acclaim and won multiple Primetime Emmy Awards. Available on NetflixBlack Mirror stands as a thought-provoking commentary on the potential consequences of our technological advancements.

16. The Umbrella Academy

Securing the sixteenth spot, The Umbrella Academy blends superhero antics with dysfunctional family dynamics. Adapted from the comic series, the show gained popularity for its unique take on the superhero genre and the eccentricities of the Hargreeves siblings. Available on Netflix, it has become a standout in the realm of unconventional superhero storytelling

15. Ozark

Breaking into the top 15, Ozark combines financial intrigue with family drama, led by Jason Bateman’s standout performance. The series has received acclaim for its writing and Bateman’s portrayal of Marty Byrde, earning him a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Available on NetflixOzark continues to captivate audiences with its high-stakes storytelling.

14. Bates Motel

Claiming the fourteenth spot, Bates Motel serves as a modern prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of Norma Bates earned her critical acclaim, and the show itself garnered nominations for the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. Available on PeacockBates Motel skillfully weaves psychological suspense into the origins of a cinematic classic.

13. Sons of Anarchy

Rolling in at number thirteen, Sons of Anarchy dives into the tumultuous world of an outlaw motorcycle club. Charlie Hunnam’s portrayal of Jax Teller anchors the series, which earned a devoted fan base and critical acclaim. While not a major awards contender, Sons of Anarchy remains a gripping exploration of loyalty, power, and morality. Available on Hulu, it’s a wild ride through the complexities of brotherhood.

12. Boardwalk Empire

Securing the twelfth spot, Boardwalk Empire explores the Prohibition era through the eyes of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi. The series received critical acclaim and won multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. Available on HBO MaxBoardwalk Empire’s historical backdrop and compelling characters contribute to its enduring legacy.

11. The Witcher

Kicking off the second half of our top 20, The Witcher brings fantasy to life with its rich storytelling and Henry Cavill’s charismatic portrayal of Geralt of Rivia. While not a stranger to the fantasy genre, The Witcher has garnered attention for its well-choreographed action sequences and intricate plot lines. Available on Netflix, it marks a successful adaptation of the popular book series and video games.

10. Succession

Rounding off the top ten, Succession offers a satirical take on a dysfunctional media mogul family. The show has received widespread critical acclaim, earning numerous awards, including Golden Globe Awards and Primetime Emmy Awards. Available on HBO MaxSuccession’s humor, sharp writing, and exploration of power dynamics in modern society have solidified its place as a must-watch series.

9. Penny Dreadful

Claiming the ninth spot, Penny Dreadful weaves classic literary characters into a dark and captivating narrative. Eva Green’s powerful performance earned her a nomination for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series. The show itself received accolades for its atmospheric storytelling and unique take on supernatural elements. Available on ShowtimePenny Dreadful remains a standout in the supernatural genre.

8. Orange Is the New Black

Taking the eighth spot among the best TV shows of all time, this prison dramedy goes beyond stereotypes, addressing social issues within the penal system. The show received widespread acclaim and a multitude of awards, including Primetime Emmy Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Available on NetflixOrange Is the New Black’s diverse cast and its mix of humor and heartbreak have left an indelible mark on television.

7. The Walking Dead

Securing the seventh spot, The Walking Dead has consistently offered a unique blend of zombie apocalypse thrills and human drama. While not known for dominating awards, the series has garnered a dedicated fan base and received nominations for various technical achievements. Available on AMC and NetflixThe Walking Dead’s ability to sustain suspenseful storytelling across multiple seasons has contributed to its enduring popularity.

6. The Last of Us

The Last of Us is based on the video game franchise developed by Naughty Dog, and is set twenty years into a pandemic caused by a mass fungal infection, which causes its hosts to transform into zombie-like creatures and collapses society. The series has received 24 nominations for the 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, and Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress in a Drama Series. It has also been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards

5. Halt and Catch Fire

Breaking into the top five, Halt and Catch Fire takes viewers on a nostalgic journey through the tech world of the ’80s and ’90s. While the series did not receive widespread mainstream attention, it garnered critical praise and earned nominations for the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Outstanding Achievement in Casting in a Drama Series. Available on AMC and NetflixHalt and Catch Fire’s inspiring portrayal of the quest to revolutionize the tech industry has solidified its place as a cult favorite.

4. Ray Donovan

Securing the fourth spot, Ray Donovan follows the gritty life of a fixer in Los Angeles. Liev Schreiber’s powerful performance as the titular character earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series — Drama. The show has garnered critical acclaim and has been nominated for various awards, adding to its reputation as a compelling drama. Available on ShowtimeRay Donovan’s exploration of family dynamics and its portrayal of Hollywood’s allure has contributed to its solid ranking and dedicated fan base.

3. Alias

Jennifer Garner’s stellar performance propels Alias to the third spot. This espionage thriller, created by J.J. Abrams, earned Garner a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series — Drama. Alias was also nominated for multiple Primetime Emmy Awards, showcasing its impact on both critics and viewers alike. Available on Hulu, the series combines action, drama, and mystery, making it a standout in the spy genre and contributing to Garner’s ascent as a leading actress in television.

2. The Crown

In the second spot, The Crown chronicles the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the British royal family. The series has received widespread acclaim for its historical accuracy, production design, and stellar ensemble cast. Available on Netflix, it stands as a regal exploration of power and duty.

1. Breaking Bad

Securing the top spot among the best TV shows of all time, Breaking Bad is a monumental series that traces the profound transformation of Walter White, portrayed by Bryan Cranston, from a modest chemistry teacher to a character of immense complexity. Following the discovery of his cancer diagnosis, Walter undergoes a metamorphosis, reshaping his life and adopting a new identity.

Cranston’s exceptional performance in this role earned him widespread acclaim and a slew of awards, including multiple Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. The show itself received critical acclaim and numerous accolades, including 16 Primetime Emmy AwardsBreaking Bad’s ability to craft an intense narrative, coupled with its outstanding character development, has solidified its status as a television masterpiece. Available on Netflix, it continues to captivate audiences and remains a benchmark for excellence in storytelling.

Television has a unique way of bringing stories to life, and these top-rated series have perfected that art. Before you go, check out the 30+ TV series with the highest ratings in history.