There was a time when the world of television was considered to be a lesser medium than movies. Things have changed and many believe we're currently in the golden era of TV. While today there are more great shows than ever before, stellar television dates back decades.
A good place to use as a reference point for the best series of all time is IMDB. Based on hundreds of thousands of user ratings on IMDB, we've compiled a list of the top scripted shows ever created. That means the only series not included here are documentaries like Blue Planet or Cosmos.
10 The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone is one of the most iconic television shows to ever air. From 1959 until 1964, the original iteration ran and blew the minds of viewers everywhere. It worked as an anthology series, with each episode focusing on different characters and a different situation.
Traditionally, the episodes were sci-fi or horror related, but some dove into the worlds of fantasy, suspense, and thrillers. It often did things that no other show was capable of at the time. The Twilight Zone is widely regarded as legendary. So much so that it has been revived several times, including most recently on CBS All-Access, hosted by Jordan Peele.
Sherlock Holmes is a character who has had his story told in a variety of mediums. There are books and films, as well as the CBS show Elementary. However, it's the BBC America version simply titled Sherlock that scored highest on IMDB. This is what launched the successful careers of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, who are both beloved as Sherlock and Watson.
Every episode lasts about 90 minutes, making each mystery Sherlock uncovers feel like a film. It is masterfully shot, brilliantly acted, and features some plot twists that will leave you yearning for more. The series two episode "The Reichenbach Fall" was met with critical praise and spawned months of online speculation about the big twist ending, proving how impactful Sherlock is to its fans.
8 Avatar: The Last Airbender
You may be surprised to find an animated show on this list. You'd be even more stunned if you only knew of Avatar: The Last Airbender from the widely panned film made by M. Night Shyamalan. The show included 61 episodes and ran on Nickelodeon from 2005 until 2008, gaining all sorts of praise.
Avatar: The Last Airbender followed the adventures of a young boy on a quest to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar, which would bring peace to a warring world filled with elemental magic. It was more advanced than your typical Nickelodeon show, with viewers celebrating its art direction, action, humor, and character development. If only the 2010 film was able to capture the magic.
7 The Sopranos
Get ready for a lot of HBO on this list. This intense series followed the story of a New Jersey mob boss as he dealt with balancing his family issues and his business problems, all while seeking psychiatric help. The Sopranos was groundbreaking, especially when it premiered back in 1999.
Led by the great performances from the likes of James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, The Sopranos kind of took the world by storm. It was almost always mired in some controversy, yet people kept coming back for more. During its run, the show racked up the awards, including over 20 Emmys.
6 Rick And Morty
Here we have our second animated entry. Airing on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim network, Ricky and Morty is kind of the definition of a cultural phenomenon. The show centers around a mad scientist (Rick) and his grandson (Morty), as they go on wacky interdimensional adventures. It always leaves fans wanting more, taking lengthy breaks in between seasons.
Ricky and Morty is the brainchild of Justin Rolland. He is the co-creator but also acts as director, writer, and producer. Rolland is also the voice of both of the titular characters, proving how many hats he wears. The show has a unique comedic style that has captivated audiences and formed an almost unmatched cult following.
5 The Wire
Back to the world of HBO for The Wire. Set in Baltimore, it surrounded the intertwining lives of law enforcement and criminals and realistically told the story. The creator of the show, David Simon, had experience as a journalist for the Baltimore Sun, which played a part in why the show felt so honest and raw.
This crime drama is considered by many to be in the conversation for the best show of all time. Despite that feeling, The Wire never won any major awards during its run. It did help launch the careers of Idris Elba, Michael B. Jordan, Michael K. Williams, and more. It's nearly impossible to find a better cop show.
4 Game Of Thrones
It's the most ambitious television show ever created. Game of Thrones was an epic scale series that ranked among the most expensive in history. More often than not, a fantasy story like this wouldn't catch on with the masses, but it became a crossover hit that broke ratings records.
Game of Thrones gave us iconic characters like Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, and Arya Stark. It also provided us with unforgettable moments like the infamous Red Wedding and the Hodor origin story. The final season wasn't well received and had this ended stronger, it would've probably ranked higher. Regardless of feelings on the ending, Game of Thrones was a remarkable accomplishment and one of the most decorated shows of all time.
3 Breaking Bad
There may have never been a more tightly written drama in the history of television. For five seasons, Breaking Bad made sure every scene in every episode mattered and built towards something. The show told the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer, who partners with his former student to cook and sell meth.
Watching White become hungry with power and get driven to do terrible things made for one of the most interesting character arcs ever witnessed. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul won several awards for their incredible portrayals of the two lead characters. Throughout its entire run, Breaking Bad never experienced a dip in quality.
2 Band Of Brothers
The scope of Band of Brothers was wildly impressive. The HBO miniseries lasted 10 episodes and had a budget of $125 million that you would expect from a blockbuster motion picture. Based on the 1992 book of the same name, it dramatized the history of a United States Army platoon during World War II.
It helped that the miniseries was created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the critically acclaimed World War II film Saving Private Ryan. They nailed all the aspects they needed to and gave viewers an experience that felt authentic. Band of Brothers took home both the Emmy and Golden Globe for Best Miniseries.
Interestingly, the most recent show on the list also tops it. Another HBO production, Chernobyl was a 2019 five-episode miniseries depicting the 1986 nuclear disaster and the excruciating cleanup that followed. This is not a show you binge watch due to the heavy nature of the subject matter.
Chernobyl is a fascinating nightmare of a mystery, but its true strength lied in how it portrayed the danger and agony that comes with radiation. It managed to work as both a tragedy and a tribute to those who lost their lives from this event. The miniseries was lauded by fans and critics. It is the only scripted show on IMDB to score a 9.5 out of 10.