Entertainment

The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated February 21, 2020 161.6k votes 15.5k voters 267.1k views 260 items

List Rules American/British shows only; fantasy/sci-fi's included; live action only; mini-series included

The greatest TV dramas of all time are the ones that make you feel connected to characters you will never meet in real life to the point where you obsess about their exploits as much as your own. These top TV dramas rank high among the best TV shows of recent memory with many touting characters on the list of best TV characters ever.

Many of these greatest TV drama series, like Lost and the Sopranos, have already come to a close (earning them places on the list of the best TV series finales), while others like Mad Men and Breaking Bad are on the verge of closing up TV shop and leaving us to inevitably wonder about the lives of the surviving characters and what could have happened with the characters that get killed off (I've got even odds on Walter White buying a ticket to the meth lab in the sky in the Breaking Bad finale). Medical TV shows, crime shows, and more grace this list of excellent TV dramas. 

What is the best drama series in TV history? Tough question to answer considering many of the best TV series are dramas (and a lot of them are good!) Use this list of the greatest TV dramas ever to cast your vote for the top drama series and, if your favorite drama series isn't on the list, make sure to add it so other real people can get caught up in the fictional lives of your favorite TV drama characters.

 

list ordered by
1
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

Premiered: 2008

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 54

Network: AMC

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Crime Fiction, Crime, Suspense, Drama, + more

Breaking Bad is an American drama television series created and produced by Vince Gilligan. The show originally aired on the AMC network for five seasons, from January 20, 2008, to September 29, ...more
2
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 73

Network: HBO

Genres (Tv): Medieval fantasy, Drama, Adventure film, Epic, Action, + more

Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011) is an American fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, based on the series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin. Nine noble ...more
3
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

Premiered: 1999

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 86

Network: HBO

Genres (Tv): Drama

The Sopranos is an American drama television series created by David Chase. Revolving around the fictional New Jersey-based Italian-American Tony Soprano, the show portrays the difficulties he ...more
4
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn

Premiered: 2002

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 60

Network: BBC Four, HBO

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama

The Wire is an American drama television series set and produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Created and primarily written by author and former police reporter David Simon, the series was ...more
5
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

Premiered: 2010

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 8

Network: British Broadcasting Corporation

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Crime, Drama, + more

Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it ...more
6
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

Premiered: 2007

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 78

Network: AMC

Genres (Tv): Drama, Period piece, Costume drama

Mad Men is an American period drama television series created by Matthew Weiner. The series premiered on July 19, 2007 on the cable network AMC and is produced by Lionsgate Television. The ...more
7
The Twilight Zone is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Rod Serling, Robert McCord, Jay Overholts

Premiered: 1959

Number of Seasons: 5

Number of Episodes: 156

Network: UPN, CBS

Genres (Tv): Anthology, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, + more

The Twilight Zone is a 1959 American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is a series of unrelated stories containing drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, ...more
8
House is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

Premiered: 2004

Number of Seasons: 8

Number of Episodes: 177

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Procedural drama, Drama, Mystery, + more

House is an American television medical drama that originally ran on the Fox network for eight seasons, from November 16, 2004 to May 21, 2012. The show's main character is Dr. Gregory House, a ...more
9
House of Cards is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
gschwayze added Kevin Spacey, Michel Gill, Robin Wright

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 13

Network: Netflix

Genres (Tv): Drama

House of Cards is a 2013 American political drama television series developed and produced by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of the BBC's mini-series of the same name and is based on the ...more
10
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi

Premiered: 1972

Number of Seasons: 11

Number of Episodes: 251

Network: CBS

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Medical drama, Sitcom, Satire, Military, + more

M*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970 feature film MASH. The series, which was produced in association with 20th Century Fox Television for ...more
11
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

Premiered: 2010

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 35

Network: AMC

Genres (Tv): Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Suspense, Drama, Horror Film, Thriller, + more

The Walking Dead (A&E, 2010) is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series developed by Frank Darabont, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie ...more
12
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

Premiered: 2006

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 80

Network: Showtime

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Crime Fiction, Action/Adventure, Police procedural, Suspense, + more

Dexter is an American television drama series. Set in Miami, the series centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter pattern analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life ...more
13
Fargo is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
LanaYoshii added Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks

Premiered: 2014

Number of Seasons: 1

Network: FX

Genres (Tv): Drama

Fargo (FX, 2014) is an American black comedy drama anthology television series created by Noah Hawley, and inspired by the 1996 film. Various chronicles of deception, intrigue and wrong doings ...more
14
Band of Brothers is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston

Premiered: 2001

Number of Episodes: 10

Network: British Broadcasting Corporation, HBO

Genres (Tv): Miniseries, Action/Adventure, Drama, Military, Adventure film, + more

Band of Brothers is a 2001 American WWII drama miniseries based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose's 1992 non-fiction book of the same name. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom ...more
15
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

Premiered: 1993

Number of Seasons: 9

Number of Episodes: 202

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Cryptozoology, Supernatural, Crime Fiction, Drama, Live action, + more

The X-Files is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by Chris Carter. The program originally aired from September 10, 1993 to May 19, 2002 on Fox, spanning nine ...more
16
Buffy the Vampire Slayer... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters

Premiered: 1997

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 144

Network: UPN, The WB Television Network

Genres (Tv): Paranormal romance, Supernatural drama, Supernatural, Action/Adventure, Drama, + more

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an American television series which aired from March 10, 1997 until May 20, 2003. The series was created in 1997 by writer-director Joss Whedon under his production ...more
17
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney

Premiered: 1999

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 156

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Political drama, Drama, Serial drama

The West Wing is an American serial political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin that was originally broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1999, to May 14, 2006. The series is set ...more
18
The Americans is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
LanaYoshii added Keri Russell

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 2

Number of Episodes: 13

Network: FX

Genres (Tv): Drama

The Americans (FX, 2013) is an American period drama television series created by Joe Weisberg. Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys) are two Soviet KGB officers posing as ...more
19
Lost is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

Premiered: 2004

Number of Seasons: 6

Number of Episodes: 121

Network: American Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Supernatural drama, Action/Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, + more

Lost is an American television drama series that originally aired on the American Broadcasting Company from September 22, 2004, to May 23, 2010, over six seasons, comprising a total of 121 ...more
20
Star Trek: The Original ... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Premiered: 1966

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 79

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Action/Adventure, Drama, Adventure film, Action, Science Fiction

Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry that follows the adventures of the starship USS Enterprise and its crew. It later acquired the retronym of ...more
21
Deadwood is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker

Premiered: 2004

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 36

Network: HBO

Genres (Tv): Western, Drama, Historical fiction

Deadwood is an American western television series created, produced, and largely written by David Milch and aired on the premium cable network HBO from March 21, 2004, to August 27, 2006, ...more
22
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

Premiered: 2002

Number of Seasons: 1

Number of Episodes: 14

Network: Fox Broadcasting Company

Genres (Tv): Space Western, Space opera, Drama, Comedy-drama, Science Fiction

Firefly is an American space western science fiction drama television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as an executive ...more
23
Star Trek: The Next Gene... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
RondaBandy added Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes

Premiered: 1987

Number of Seasons: 7

Number of Episodes: 178

Genres (Tv): Action/Adventure, Drama, Adventure film, Action, Science Fiction

Star Trek: The Next Generation is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry twenty-one years after the original Star Trek series debuted in 1966. Roddenberry, ...more
24
Downton Abbey is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern

Premiered: 2010

Number of Seasons: 3

Number of Episodes: 25

Network: ITV

Genres (Tv): Drama

Downton Abbey is a British period drama television series created by Julian Fellowes and co-produced by Carnival Films and Masterpiece. It first aired on ITV in the United Kingdom and Ireland on ...more
25
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest TV Dramas of All Time
Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Dennis Farina

Premiered: 1990

Number of Seasons: 20

Number of Episodes: 456

Network: NBC

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Police procedural, Drama, Legal drama, Legal

Law & Order is an American police procedural and legal drama television series, created by Dick Wolf and part of the Law & Order franchise. It originally aired on NBC and, in ...more