Entertainment

The Best '90s TV Dramas  

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List Rules The greatest drama TV series that aired during the 1990s

The best ‘90s drama shows weighed heavily toward sci-fi premises, but gave equal time to angsty teen dramas and crime procedurals. In fact, we have the 1990s to thank for the exponential growth of the Law and Order franchise. Though some of the greatest TV dramas of the ‘90s might be comedy-drama hybrids rather than straight-up drama, the hour-long format allowed those shows to tackle more serious subjects than a sitcom.

Some of the ‘90s greatest dramas dominated what came to be known as water-cooler viewing, like The X-files, Twin Peaks, and The West Wing. Other shows didn’t quite dominate in the ratings, like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and The Sopranos, yet they secured a spot in TV history as some of the best ever in the genre.

As the Internet grew in access and popularity, we saw some of the greatest ‘90s dramas draw from the new phenomenon. (Recall Ally McBeal’s use of the dancing baby meme.) Though DVR wasn’t introduced until 1999, VHS recording allowed for delayed viewing, necessitating the rise of the SPOILER ALERT.

Finally, we have to thank a few of the best ‘90s drama shows for launching the careers of Jessica Biel (7th Heaven), Claire Danes (My So-Called Life), and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), reviving the careers of James Spader (The Practice), Rob Lowe (The West Wing), and Robert Downey, Jr. (Ally McBeal). And, really, we have to thank Dick Wolf for filling the airwaves end to end with witty banter and weeping victims.
list ordered by
1
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1997
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
2
Charmed is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1998
Charmed is an American television series created by Constance M. Burge and produced by Aaron Spelling and his production company Spelling Television, with Brad Kern serving as showrunner. The ...more
3
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993
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
4
ER is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
dee123 added 1994
ER is an American medical drama television series created by novelist Michael Crichton that aired on NBC from September 19, 1994, to April 2, 2009. It was produced by Constant c Productions and ...more
5
Law & Order: Special Victims U... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is an American police procedural, legal, crime drama television series set in New York City, where it is also primarily produced. In the style of the ...more
6
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1990
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
7
Beverly Hills, 90210 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1990
Beverly Hills, 90210 is an American drama series that originally aired from October 4, 1990 to May 17, 2000 on Fox and was produced by Spelling Television in the United States, and subsequently ...more
8
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999
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
9
Angel is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999
Angel is an American television series, a spin-off from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The series was created by Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, in collaboration with David ...more
10
Dawson's Creek is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1998
Dawson's Creek is an American teen drama television series about the fictional lives of a close-knit group of friends beginning in high school and continuing in college. The series stars James ...more
11
7th Heaven is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1996
7th Heaven is an American family drama television series, created and produced by Brenda Hampton. The series premiered on August 26, 1996, on The WB, the first time that the network aired Monday ...more
12
Xena: Warrior Princess is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1995
Xena: Warrior Princess is an American/New Zealand television series filmed in New Zealand. The series aired in syndication from September 4, 1995, until June 18, 2001. The series was created in ...more
13
My So-Called Life is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1994
My So-Called Life is an American teen drama television series created by Winnie Holzman and produced by Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. It originally aired on ABC from August 25, 1994, to ...more
14
Walker, Texas Ranger is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993
Walker, Texas Ranger is an American television series created by Leslie Greif and Paul Haggis. It was inspired by the film Lone Wolf McQuade, with both this series and that film starring Chuck ...more
15
The West Wing is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999
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
16
Touched by an Angel is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1994
Touched by an Angel is an American supernatural drama series that premiered on CBS on September 21, 1994, and ran for 211 episodes and nine seasons until its conclusion on April 27, 2003. ...more
17
Boy Meets World is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
HarryJMedina added 1993
Boy Meets World is an American television sitcom that chronicles the coming of age events and everyday life-lessons of Cornelius "Cory" Matthews. The show follows Cory and his friends ...more
18
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1990
Northern Exposure is an American television series that ran on CBS from 1990 to 1995, with a total of 110 episodes. It dealt with a New York City physician, Dr. Joel Fleischman, who is sent to ...more
19
NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993
NYPD Blue is an American television police drama set in New York City, exploring the internal and external struggles of the fictional 15th precinct of Manhattan. Each episode typically ...more
20
Melrose Place is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1992
Melrose Place is an American primetime soap opera that aired on Fox from July 8, 1992 to May 24, 1999, for seven seasons. The show follows the lives of a group of young adults living in an ...more
21
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks (Showtime, 2017) is a miniseries that follows FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in a continuation of the original 1990 series, created by David Lynch.
22
Party of Five is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1994
Party of Five is an American teen drama television series that aired on Fox for six seasons, from September 12, 1994, until May 3, 2000. Critically acclaimed, the show suffered from low ratings ...more
23
Ally McBeal is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1997
Ally McBeal is an American legal comedy-drama television series, originally aired on Fox from September 8, 1997 to May 20, 2002. Created by David E. Kelley, the series stars Calista Flockhart in ...more
24
Quantum Leap is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1989
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
25
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is an American Western drama series created by Beth Sullivan and starring Jane Seymour who plays Dr. Michaela "Mike" Quinn, a physician who leaves Boston in ...more