Watchworthy

The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated July 8, 2020 1.6M votes 76.7k voters 724.5k views 389 items

List Rules Only series that have aired new episodes since 1998.

This best TV show list represents the combined opinions of thousands of TV fans. Anyone can vote on this list of the best TV shows of recent memory, making this list a truly trustworthy way to find the best TV show. You can even add your own list to these TV show rankings.

Including shows like Friends and The X-Files, the best TV shows ever in the past 20 years features the latest television series as well as classics such as Seinfeld and Frasier. From sitcoms to dramas and animations to miniseries, this list has got them all. If your favorite recent shows are missing, go ahead and add them!

What are the best TV shows of recent memory? Whether you're looking for the best TV shows to add to your Netflix queue or you just want to share your picks for the best TV series of the last few decades, this is the place to tune in to the tastes of TV fans around the world. Figure out what much see TV you have to catch up on below and cast your votes for the best television in recent history. 

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list ordered by
1
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

Premiered: 2008

Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Thriller, Neo-western, Tragedy

Breaking Bad (AMC, 2008) is an American neo-Western crime drama television series created by Vince Gilligan. After being diagnosed with cancer, a depressed high school chemistry teacher (Bryan ...more
2
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

Premiered: 2011

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 Office is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski

Premiered: 2005

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Mockumentary

The Office (NBC, 2005) is an American mockumentary sitcom television series developed by Greg Daniels, based on the 2001 British series. Led by manager Michael Scott (Steve Carell), the office ...more
4
Friends is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

Premiered: 1994

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

Friends (NBC, 1994) is an American sitcom television series created by David Crane and Marta Kauffman. The personal and professional lives of six friends (Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa ...more
5
The Simpsons is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner

Premiered: 1989

Genres (Tv): Animation, Television comedy, Comedy, Family Film

The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of a middle class American lifestyle epitomized by the ...more
6
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

Premiered: 1999

Genres (Tv): Crime drama

The Sopranos (HBO, 1999) is an American crime drama television series created by David Chase. New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) deals with personal and professional issues in ...more
7
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

Premiered: 2006

Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Psychological thriller, Mystery, Dark comedy, Police procedural

Dexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American crime drama mystery series developed by James Manos Jr., based on the 2004 novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. When he's not doing forensic work ...more
8
Lost is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Naveen Andrews, Emilie de Ravin, Matthew Fox Jorge Garcia

Premiered: 2004

Genres (Tv): Supernatural drama, Science fiction, Mystery

Lost (ABC, 2004) is an American drama television series created by Jeffrey Lieber, J. J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof. After a horrific plane crash, a group of strangers are forced to work ...more
9
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

Premiered: 1993

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
10
South Park is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mary Kay Bergman

Premiered: 1997

Genres (Tv): Animation, Television comedy, Sitcom, Satire, Animated cartoon, + more

South Park (Comedy Central, 1997) is an American adult animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In the small town of South Park, four boys get caught up in all sorts of bizarre ...more
11
House is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

Premiered: 2004

Genres (Tv): Medical drama

House, M.D. (Fox, 2004) is an American television medical drama created by David Shore. An antisocial maverick doctor (Hugh Laurie) who specializes in diagnostic medicine does whatever it takes ...more
12
Family Guy is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green

Premiered: 1999

Genres (Tv): Black comedy, Animation, Sitcom, Animated cartoon, Comedy, + more

Family Guy is an American adult animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series centers on the Griffins, a family consisting of parents Peter and Lois; ...more
13
Buffy the Vampire Slayer... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters

Premiered: 1997

Genres (Tv): Supernatural, Horror, Comedy-drama, Teen drama, Action, + more

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB, 1997) is an American supernatural drama television series created by Joss Whedon, based on the 1992 film. Destined to slay vampires, a young woman (Sarah ...more
14
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

Premiered: 2007

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 2007) is an American television sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady. A woman (Kaley Cuoco) who moves into an apartment across the hall from two brilliant but ...more
15
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

Premiered: 2002

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
16
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

Premiered: 2007

Genres (Tv): Period drama, Serial drama

Mad Men (AMC, 2007) is an American period drama television series created by Matthew Weiner. Womanizing advertising executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm) balances work and pleasure, while harboring ...more
17
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

Premiered: 2010

Genres (Tv): Apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, Suspense, Drama

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
18
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

Premiered: 2001

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Medical drama

Scrubs (NBC, 2001) is an American medical comedy-drama television series created by Bill Lawrence. In the unreal world of Sacred Heart Hospital, intern John "J.D." Dorian (Zach Braff) ...more
19
The Wire is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn

Premiered: 2002

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

The Wire (HBO, 2002) is an American crime drama television series created and written by David Simon. The series features the Baltimore drug scene, as seen through the eyes of drug dealers and ...more
20
Stranger Things is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard

Premiered: 2016

Genres (Tv): Sci-fi, Horror, Supernatural, Period drama

Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016) is an American science fiction-horror web television series created by The Duffer Brothers. When a young boy (Noah Schnapp) disappears, his mother (Winona Ryder), ...more
21
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

Premiered: 2010

Genres (Tv): Crime drama, Mystery

Sherlock (BBC One, 2010) is a British crime television series created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, based on stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The brilliant yet insensitive detective ...more
22
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

Premiered: 1998

Genres (Tv): Romance Film, Sitcom, Comedy

That '70s Show is an American television period sitcom that originally aired on Fox from August 23, 1998, to May 18, 2006. The series focused on the lives of a group of teenage friends living in ...more
23
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

Premiered: 2003

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Comedy

Arrested Development (Fox, 2003) is an American television sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz. Level-headed son Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) takes over family affairs after his father is ...more
24
Modern Family is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Ed O'Neill, SofĂ­a Vergara, Julie Bowen

Premiered: 2009

Genres (Tv): Sitcom, Mockumentary, Family, Comedy, Family Film

Modern Family (ABC, 2009) is an American comedy television sitcom created by Francisco Bobadilla. Three different but related families face trials and tribulations in their own unique way from ...more
25
Doctor Who is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years
Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith

Premiered: 1963

Genres (Tv): Sci-fi, Adventure, Drama

Doctor Who (BBC, 2005) is a British science-fiction television show created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber, and Donald Wilson. The further adventures in time and space of the alien adventurer ...more