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The Best '90s TV Dramas 

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Updated November 18, 2019 11k votes 983 voters 32.2k views 43 items

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.
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1
Buffy the Vampire Slayer... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1997

Actors: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters

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

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2
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993

Actors: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

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

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3
Charmed is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1998

Actors: Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano

Charmed (The WB, 1998) is an American fantasy drama television series created by Constance M. Burge. Sisters Prue (Shannen Doherty), Piper (Holly Marie Combs) and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) discover ...more

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4
Law & Order: Special... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999

Actors: Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni, Ice-T

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC, 1999) is an American police procedural, legal, crime drama television series set in New York City. In the style of the original Law & Order, ...more

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5
ER is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
Blanche2 added 1994

Actors: Anthony Edwards, George Clooney, Julianna Margulies

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

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6
Law & Order is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1990

Actors: Chris Noth, Sam Waterson

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

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7
Beverly Hills, 90210 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1990

Actors: Jason Priestley, Shannen Doherty, Luke Perry

Beverly Hills, 90210 (Fox, 1990) is an American teen drama television series created by Darren Star. A group of friends living in Beverly Hills, California make their way through life from their ...more

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8
The Sopranos is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999

Actors: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco

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

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9
Angel is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1999

Actors: David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter, Alexis Denisof

Angel (The WB, 1999) is an American supernatural television series created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, and a spin-off from the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel (David ...more

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10
Xena: Warrior Princess ... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1995

Actors: Lucy Lawless, Renée O'Connor, Ted Raimi

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

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11
7th Heaven is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1996

Actors: Stephen Collins, Catherine Hicks, Jessica Biel

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

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12
Dawson's Creek is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1998

Actors: James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams

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13
My So-Called Life is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1994

Actors: Claire Danes, Bess Armstrong, Wilson Cruz

My So-Called Life (ABC, 1994) is an American teen drama television series created by Winnie Holzman. A 15-year-old girl (Claire Danes) and her trials and tribulations of being a teenager and ...more

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14
Boy Meets World is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
HarryJMedina added 1993

Actors: Ben Savage, Rider Strong, William Daniels

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15
Touched by an Angel is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1994

Actors: Roma Downey, Della Reese, John Dye

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

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16
Quantum Leap is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1989

Actors: 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

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17
Northern Exposure is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1990

Actors: Rob Morrow, Janine Turner, Barry Corbin

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

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18
Walker, Texas Ranger is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993

Actors: Chuck Norris, Clarence Gilyard Jr., Sheree J. Wilson

Walker, Texas Ranger (CBS, 1993) is an American action crime television series created by Leslie Greif and Paul Haggis, inspired by the film Lone Wolf McQuade. Texas Ranger Cordell Walker (Chuck ...more

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19
NYPD Blue is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993

Actors: Dennis Franz, Gordon Clapp, James McDaniel

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

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20
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
Twin Peaks 1990

Actors: Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick

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21
Melrose Place is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1992

Actors: Heather Locklear, Andrew Shue, Courtney Thorne-Smith

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22
Party of Five is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1994

Actors: Matthew Fox, Scott Wolf, Neve Campbell

Party of Five (Fox, 1994) is an American television teen and family drama created by Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman. After their parents' untimely death, five siblings (Matthew Fox, Scott ...more

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23
Baywatch is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1989

Actors: David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth

Baywatch is an American action drama series about the Los Angeles County Lifeguards who patrol the beaches of Los Angeles County, California, starring David Hasselhoff. The show was canceled ...more

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24
Ally McBeal is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1997

Actors: Calista Flockhart, Greg Germann, Jane Krakowski

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

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25
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woma... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best '90s TV Dramas
1993

Actors: Jane Seymour, Joe Lando, Chad Allen

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

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