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The Best Reality Competition Series

Updated October 12, 2020 66.2k votes 8.9k voters 391.5k views137 items

List RulesVote up your favorite reality shows with a competitive game angle. No quiz shows or traditional game shows.

The best reality TV competition series, ranked by fans and critics. Reality shows are among the most-watched programs on TV, and they are easy to produce due to their low production costs, lack of staff, and quick turn-around. Early programs like "Survivor" and "Big Brother" gained international audiences who loved watching real people compete for money and fame. High-pressure situations, 24/7 filming, and clashing personalities ensured frequent drama and excitement as alliances and enemies were created and destroyed.

In recent years, more generic reality competition shows have given way to more specialized contests. Dance competition series range from "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing with the Stars" to "Dance Moms." Travel shows are favorites, as are fashion competitions, talent and singing shows - from "American Idol" to "The Voice" to "The X Factor" - which are consistently among the highest rated programs on TV - ever.

In that spirit, it's time to get competitive. Vote for your favorite reality competition shows to move them up the list. You can also customize and rank your own list by clicking Rerank. Then, check out which reality shows are airing new episodes in 2020.

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  • 1
    Survivor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    2,780
    1,043

    Survivor

    Jeff Probst, Rob Mariano

    Premiered2000

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  • 2
    The Challenge is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,436
    569

    The Challenge

    T.J. Lavin, Johnny 'Bananas' Devenanzio

    Premiered1998

    Genres (Tv)Game show, Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 3
    The Amazing Race is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    2,029
    929

    The Amazing Race

    Phil Keoghan

    Premiered2001

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 4
    Big Brother is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,932
    1,108

    Big Brother

    Julie Chen, Phil Proctor

    Premiered2000

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 5
    Hell's Kitchen is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,065
    744

    Hell's Kitchen

    Gordon Ramsay, Jean Philippe Susilovic

    Premiered2005

    Genres (Tv)Reality Competition, Cooking show, Reality television

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  • 6
    Face Off is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,034
    710
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  • 7
    American Ninja Warrior is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    568
    189

    American Ninja Warrior

    Matt Iseman, Jenn Brown

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Special Interest, Live action, Documentary, Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 8
    Ink Master is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    572
    308

    Ink Master

    Dave Navarro, Chris Nunez

    Premiered2012

    amazon buy button
  • 9
    Chopped is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    587
    476

    Chopped

    Ted Allen, Alex Guarnaschelli

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Game show, Food, Cooking show, Reality television

    amazon buy button
  • 10
    The Voice is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,118
    1,115

    The Voice

    Adam Levine, Blake Shelton

    Premiered2011

    Genres (Tv)Talent show, Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 11
    Project Runway is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,147
    931

    Project Runway

    Tim Gunn, Heidi Klum

    Premiered2004

    Genres (Tv)Reality Competition, Reality television

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  • 12
    Fear Factor is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    933
    1,060

    Fear Factor

    Joe Rogan

    Premiered2001

    Genres (Tv)Game show, Reality television

    If you love this show, we have a list of the best of all Fear Factor episodes.

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  • 13
    RuPaul's Drag Race is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,505
    678

    RuPaul's Drag Race

    RuPaul, Michelle Visage

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

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  • 14
    Whodunnit? is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
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  • 15
    Top Chef is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    790
    688

    Top Chef

    Emeril Lagasse, Gail Simmons

    Premiered2006

    Genres (Tv)Cook-off, Cooking show, Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 16
    America's Next Top Model is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    1,026
    743

    America's Next Top Model

    Adrianne Curry, Yoanna House

    Premiered2003

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

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  • 17
    Iron Chef is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    148
    127

    Iron Chef

    Masaharu Morimoto, Hiroyuki Sakai

    Premiered1993

    Genres (Tv)Cook-off, Food, Cooking show, Reality television

    amazon buy button

    More 

    #4 of 78 The Best Cooking TV Shows of All Time#5 of 63 The Most Exciting Reality Competition Shows Ever Made

  • 18
    Cupcake Wars is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    308
    283

    Cupcake Wars

    Candace Nelson, Florian Bellanger

    Premiered2010

    Genres (Tv)Cooking show, Reality television

    amazon buy button
  • 19
    Cake Boss is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    329
    366

    Cake Boss

    Buddy Valastro

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Family Film, Reality television

    amazon buy button
  • 20
    Solitary is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    123
    120

    Solitary

    Steven Gee, Nikki Knight

    Premiered2006

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    amazon buy button
  • 21
    The Great Food Truck Race is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    256
    275

    The Great Food Truck Race

    Tyler Florence, Chris Hodgson

    Premiered2010

    Genres (Tv)Game show, Reality television

    amazon buy button
  • 22
    Dancing with the Stars is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    535
    694

    Dancing with the Stars

    Tom Bergeron, Carrie Ann Inaba

    Premiered2005

    Genres (Tv)Sports, Sports film, Reality television

    amazon buy button

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  • 23
    Capture is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    188
    209

    Capture

    Luke Tipple, Rob Anderson

    Premiered2013

    Genres (Tv)Reality Competition, Suspense, Game show, Adventure Film, Reality television

    Loosely modeled after "The Hunger Games" this CW competition show pits hunter against prey in a quest to win $250,000. Twelve teams of two will take turns hunting and capturing each other as they trek through the wilderness and survive on bare rations.
    amazon buy button
  • 24
    So You Think You Can Dance is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    598
    712

    So You Think You Can Dance

    Mark Thompson, Nigel Lythgoe

    Premiered2005

    Genres (Tv)Talent show, Interactive television, Game show, Reality television

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  • 25
    The Biggest Loser is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Reality Competition Series
    538
    684

    The Biggest Loser

    Bob Harper, Alison Sweeney

    Premiered2004

    Genres (Tv)Game show, Reality television

    amazon buy button

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