Entertainment

The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s  

Ranker TV
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12.4k votes 788 voters 47.4k views 62 items

List Rules Drama series that aired on television between 1980 and 1989

If you’re an avid television fan, chances are there's at least one 1980s drama series that you love. For the first time, television was starting to step away from procedural elements, towards more serialized series. Procedural cop and detective shows were still among the biggest hits of the decade, however, shows like "Dallas," "St. Elsewhere," and "Dynasty" were leaning more towards long-term story arcs. These types of shows remain popular today as well.

The 80s were known for the flashy television shows. "Miami Vice" and "21 Jump Street" were known for their hot lead actors and unique 80s fashion. There was also a push towards fantasy and science fiction television like never before, with dramas such as "Quantum Leap," "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Greatest American Hero."

What were the best dramas of the 1980s? This list of the best dramatic television that aired during 1980-1989 has been ranked by the community. Did the 80s drama series you think are best make the list? Cast your votes below and see where the 1980s dramas you think are great rank.

 

list ordered by
1
M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
PayMie added Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swi
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
2
Magnum, P.I. is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley

Check out our list of the original Magnum P.I.'s best episodes.

Magnum, P.I. is an American television series starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living on Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran from 1980 to 1988 in first-run broadcast on the ...more
3
The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
curly67 added Fred Savage, Dan Lauria, Daniel Stern
The Wonder Years is an American television comedy-drama created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black. It ran on ABC from 1988 through 1993. The pilot aired on January 31, 1988, following ABC's ...more
4
Quantum Leap is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell, Deborah Pratt
Quantum Leap is an American television series that originally aired on NBC for five seasons, from March 1989 through May 1993. Created by Donald P. Bellisario, it starred Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam ...more
5
Dallas is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval, Patrick Duffy
Dallas is a long-running American prime time television soap opera that aired from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991, on CBS. The series revolves around a wealthy and feuding Texan family, the ...more
6
MacGyver is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar, Bruce McGill
MacGyver is an American action-adventure television series created by Lee David Zlotoff. Henry Winkler and John Rich were the executive producers. The show ran for seven seasons on ABC in the ...more
7
Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis, Allyce Beasley
Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14, 1989. The network aired a total of 66 episodes. Starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as ...more
8
Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren, Bruce Weitz
Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987. Chronicling the lives of the staff of a single police ...more
9
Knight Rider is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare, Richard Basehart
Knight Rider is an American television series that originally ran from September 26, 1982, to August 8, 1986. The series was broadcast on NBC and stars David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a ...more
10
Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
LanaYoshii added Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes
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
11
Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Saundra Santiago
Miami Vice is an American television drama series created by Anthony Yerkovich and produced by Michael Mann for NBC. The series starred Don Johnson as James "Sonny" Crockett and Philip ...more
12
Cagney & Lacey is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Tyne Daly, Al Waxman, John Karlen
Cagney & Lacey is an American television series that originally aired on the CBS television network for seven seasons from March 25, 1982 to May 16, 1988. A police procedural, the show stars ...more
13
The A-Team is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
George Peppard, Mr. T, Dwight Schultz
The A-Team is an American action-adventure television series, running from 1983 to 1987, about a fictional group of ex–U.S. Army personnel who escape and, while still on the run from the army, ...more
14
Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
lloyd-barker added Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith
Charlie's Angels is an American drama television series that aired on ABC from September 22, 1976 to June 24, 1981, producing five seasons and 110 episodes. The series was created by Ivan Goff ...more
15
The Love Boat is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell, Ted Lange
The Love Boat is an American television series set on a cruise ship, which aired on the ABC Television Network from September 24, 1977, until February 27, 1987. The show revolves around the ...more
16
St. Elsewhere is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Ed Begley Jr., William Daniels, Howie Mandel
St. Elsewhere is an American medical drama black comedy television series that originally ran on NBC from October 26, 1982, to May 25, 1988. The series starred Ed Flanders, Norman Lloyd and ...more
17
Fantasy Island is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Ricardo Montalban, Hervé Villechaize, Christopher Hewett
Fantasy Island is an American television series that originally aired on the American Broadcasting Company network from 1977 to 1984. A revival of the series originally aired on the same network ...more
18
Dynasty is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins
Dynasty is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on ABC from January 12, 1981 to May 11, 1989. The series, created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and produced by Aaron Spelling, ...more
19
Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan, Doris Roberts
Remington Steele is an American television series co-created by Robert Butler and Michael Gleason. The series, starring Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan, was produced by MTM Enterprises ...more
20
The Greatest American Hero is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
William Katt, Connie Sellecca, Robert Culp
The Greatest American Hero is an American comedy-drama television series that aired for three seasons from 1981 to 1983 on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, it premiered as a two-hour ...more
21
Highway to Heaven is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Michael Landon, Victor French
Highway to Heaven is an American television drama series which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989. The series aired for five seasons, running a total of 111 episodes. It was shot entirely in ...more
22
L.A. Law is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
curly67 added Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Alan Rachins
L.A. Law is an American television legal drama series that ran for eight seasons on NBC from September 15, 1986 to May 19, 1994. Created by Steven Bochco and Terry Louise Fisher, it contained ...more
23
Murder, She Wrote is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Angela Lansbury, William Windom, Ron Masak
This show is a television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons with 264 episodes from 1984 to 1996 on ...more
24
Matlock is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Andy Griffith, Linda Purl, Kene Holiday
Matlock is an American television legal drama, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of attorney Ben Matlock. The show, produced by The Fred Silverman Company, Dean Hargrove Productions, ...more
25
Doogie Howser, M.D. is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
Neil Patrick Harris, Max Casella, Belinda Montgomery
Doogie Howser, M.D. is an American comedy-drama television series that ran for four seasons on ABC from September 19, 1989 to July 28, 1993, totaling 97 episodes. Created by Steven Bochco and ...more