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The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s

Updated October 18, 2019 12.0k votes 871 voters 55.2k views60 items

List RulesDrama 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.

 

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  • 1
    Magnum, P.I. is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    246
    104

    Magnum, P.I.

    Tom Selleck, John Hillerman

    Premiered1980

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

  • 2
    M*A*S*H is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    234
    97

    M*A*S*H

    Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers

    Premiered1972

    M*A*S*H is an American television series developed by Larry Gelbart, adapted from the 1970... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Quantum Leap is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    210
    104

    Quantum Leap

    Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell

    Premiered1989

    Quantum Leap is an American television series that originally aired on NBC for five seasons,... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Miami Vice is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    198
    110

    Miami Vice

    Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas

    Premiered1984

    Miami Vice is an American television drama series created by Anthony Yerkovich and produced by... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Knight Rider is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    189
    105

    Knight Rider

    David Hasselhoff, Edward Mulhare

    Premiered1982

    Knight Rider is an American television series that originally ran from September 26, 1982, to... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    The Wonder Years is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    181
    98

    The Wonder Years

    Fred Savage, Dan Lauria

    Premiered1988

    The Wonder Years is an American television comedy-drama created by Neal Marlens and Carol... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    MacGyver is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    173
    69

    MacGyver

    Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar

    Premiered1985

    MacGyver is an American action-adventure television series created by Lee David Zlotoff. Henry... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    The A-Team is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    185
    111

    The A-Team

    George Peppard, Mr. T

    Premiered1983

    The A-Team is an American action-adventure television series, running from 1983 to 1987, about... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    The Love Boat is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    166
    105

    The Love Boat

    Gavin MacLeod, Bernie Kopell

    Premiered1977

    The Love Boat is an American television series set on a cruise ship, which aired on the ABC... more on Wikipedia

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    #270 of 439 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time#125 of 297 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History

  • 10
    Moonlighting is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    180
    132

    Moonlighting

    Cybill Shepherd, Bruce Willis

    Premiered1985

    Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14,... more on Wikipedia

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    #290 of 639 The Best TV Shows To Binge Watch#179 of 390 TV Shows That Only Smart People Appreciate

  • 11
    Dallas is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    188
    114

    Dallas

    Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval

    Premiered1978

    Dallas is a long-running American prime time television soap opera that aired from April 2,... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Charlie's Angels is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    132
    78

    Charlie's Angels

    Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett

    Premiered1976

    Charlie's Angels is an American drama television series that aired on ABC from September 22,... more on Wikipedia

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    #50 of 313 The Best Female-Led TV Shows#1181 of 1,321 The Best Guilty Pleasure TV Shows

  • 13
    Fantasy Island is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    130
    74

    Fantasy Island

    Ricardo Montalban, Hervé Villechaize

    Premiered1978

    Fantasy Island is an American television series that originally aired on the American... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Hill Street Blues is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    173
    119

    Hill Street Blues

    Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Warren

    Premiered1981

    Hill Street Blues is an American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    The Greatest American Hero is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    133
    106

    The Greatest American Hero

    William Katt, Connie Sellecca

    Premiered1981

    The Greatest American Hero is an American comedy-drama television series that aired for three... more on Wikipedia

    More The Greatest American Hero 

    #93 of 308 The Best Sci-Fi Television Series Of All Time#118 of 537 TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time

  • 16
    Highway to Heaven is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    127
    89

    Highway to Heaven

    Michael Landon, Victor French

    Premiered1984

    Highway to Heaven is an American television drama series which ran on NBC from 1984 to 1989.... more on Wikipedia

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    #259 of 507 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time#93 of 105 The Best Fantasy TV Shows

  • 17
    Cagney & Lacey is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    157
    117

    Cagney & Lacey

    Tyne Daly, Al Waxman

    Premiered1982

    Cagney & Lacey is an American television series that originally aired on the CBS television... more on Wikipedia

    More Cagney & Lacey 

    #233 of 295 The Best Duos of All Time#56 of 120 The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

  • 18
    Star Trek: The Next Generation is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    163
    130

    Star Trek: The Next Generation

    Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner

    Premiered1987

    Star Trek: The Next Generation is an American science fiction television series created by... more on Wikipedia

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  • 19
    Murder, She Wrote is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    156
    100

    Murder, She Wrote

    Angela Lansbury, William Windom

    Premiered1984

    This show is a television mystery series starring Angela Lansbury as mystery writer and... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Remington Steele is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    137
    116

    Remington Steele

    Stephanie Zimbalist, Pierce Brosnan

    Premiered1982

    Remington Steele is an American television series co-created by Robert Butler and Michael... more on Wikipedia

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    #33 of 89 The Best 1980s Primetime TV Shows#21 of 66 The Best Crime Fighting Duo TV Series

  • 21
    Taxi is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    99
    78

    Taxi

    Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway

    Premiered1978

    Taxi is an American sitcom that originally aired from 1978 to 1982 on ABC and from 1982 to... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Dynasty is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    139
    133

    Dynasty

    John Forsythe, Linda Evans

    Premiered1981

    Dynasty (ABC, 1981) is an American prime time television soap opera created by Richard and... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Matlock is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    133
    99

    Matlock

    Andy Griffith, Linda Purl

    Premiered1986

    Matlock is an American television legal drama, starring Andy Griffith in the title role of... more on Wikipedia

    More Matlock 

    #10 of 43 The Best Serial Legal Dramas of All Time#39 of 164 The Best Mystery TV Shows

  • 24
    Bionic Woman is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    104
    87

    Bionic Woman

    Michelle Ryan, Miguel Ferrer

    Premiered2007

    Bionic Woman is an American science fiction television drama that aired in 2007, which was... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Doogie Howser, M.D. is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Dramas from the 1980s
    121
    120

    Doogie Howser, M.D.

    Neil Patrick Harris, Max Casella

    Premiered1989

    Doogie Howser, M.D. is an American comedy-drama television series that ran for four seasons on... more on Wikipedia
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