Entertainment The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
228.3k votes 18.8k voters 202.8k views 169 items

List Rules Pilot episodes only

Ranker Video Ranking The Top 10 Best TV Pilots Ever Made

The greatest TV pilots of all-time are single episodes of television that introduced us to what would soon be iconic characters and casts. A TV pilot is the first episode of a TV sitcom, drama, cartoon, or even reality show that introduces the cast and story to audiences and asks them (in as little as 22 minutes) to stick around and watch the show throughout its run. While many of these shows are now considered to be among the best TV shows of all time, many didn't know they were watching the beginnings of history when they tuned in to these top TV pilot episodes.

Some of the greatest TV pilots featured things you didn't think you'd ever hear on television (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), the introduction of characters that would drive the top cult TV shows of all-time (Twin Peaks, The X-Files), and even moments in TV history that- even a decade before their release- would have been censored and disallowed from ever airing on television (The Following). These greatest TV pilots became some of the best TV shows currently on the air with some of the greatest TV characters ever.

What was the best TV pilot ever? That's what this list is here to help the TV viewing public decide. This list is a round-up of the best sitcom pilots, best sci-fi pilots, and the best drama pilots ever to make it to air on television. If you don't see your favorite TV pilot on the list, make sure to add it so it can compete for the #1 spot on the list of the all-time greatest TV pilots.
list ordered by

1
5,296 2,963
Breaking Bad is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn

2
3,479 3,345
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

3
5,183 2,159
Game of Thrones is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke

4
4,024 2,716
Lost is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Naveen Andrews, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia

5
5,030 2,089
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

6
2,831 2,342
Sherlock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs

7
1,405 2,215
Cheers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger

8
1,737 1,792
That '70s Show is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
PeteBoyle added Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis

9
2,915 1,837
Firefly is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk

10
2,242 1,727
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

11
2,075 1,403
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
isadora added Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy

12
1,573 1,114
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

13
1,759 1,581
Arrested Development is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Portia de Rossi

14
1,332 1,456
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn

15
1,034 1,443
Mad Men is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser

16
1,853 1,667
The Big Bang Theory is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco

17
1,507 1,441
Scrubs is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Sarah Chalke

18
2,237 1,414
Futurama is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Billy West, John DiMaggio, Katey Sagal

19
1,622 1,302
Friends is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

20
1,734 1,492
How I Met Your Mother is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Josh Radnor, Jason Segel, Cobie Smulders

21
1,342 1,277
Battlestar Galactica is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Jamie Bamber

22
1,369 929
House is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
SteveGraham added Hugh Laurie, Omar Epps, Robert Sean Leonard

23
521 1,078
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
lostshadow added Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley

24
941 1,052
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern

25
1,103 1,191
Freaks and Geeks is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The All-Time Greatest TV Pilots
Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco