The scariest TV shows manage to provide major frights with excellent drama. Unlike these excellent paranormal reality TV shows, the programs listed here are primarily scripted TV shows. Which TV shows gave you the most scares? Vote for your favorites, vote down any that didn't send you diving under the couch in fear, and feel free to re-rank this list too.
Some of the best scary TV shows are also, not surprisingly, among the greatest TV shows of all time. In addition to being one of the most frightening television shows ever made, The Twilight Zone was also one of the best TV shows ever, period. The same can be said for the likes of The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and The Walking Dead. Anthology series such as American Horror Story and The Terror offer fresh scares each season, and some seasons are scarier than others.
What makes a scary TV show great? A fantastic, compelling storyline and frightening characters, for sure, but don't underestimate the power of some wicked special effects, too. Some shows on this list also qualify as taut psychological thrillers, but it doesn't mean they aren't genuinely terrifying at times.
If you haven't seen some of the scariest TV shows listed here, you might be able to find them quickly. Sadly, some of the shows on this list were canceled way before their time, though some bit the dust with good reason (Cult? Really? Awful, CW, just awful).
- 1Tales from the Crypt, sometimes titled HBO's Tales from the Crypt, is an American horror... moreJohn Kassir, Roy Brocksmith
- 2American Horror Story (FX, 2011) is an American anthology horror television series created by... moreConnie Britton, Dylan McDermott
- 3The Twilight Zone is a 1959 American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is... moreRod Serling, Robert McCord
- 4The Walking Dead (A&E, 2010) is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series... moreAndrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal
- 5Hannibal (NBC, 2013) is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed... moreHugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen
- 6Supernatural (The CW, 2005) is an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric... moreJared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles
- 7The X-Files is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by Chris... moreDavid Duchovny, Gillian Anderson
- 8Alfred Hitchcock Presents is an American television anthology series hosted by Alfred... moreAlfred Hitchcock, Harry Tyler
- 9Tales from the Darkside is an American anthology horror TV series created by George A. Romero;... morePaul Sparer
- 10Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology television series.... moreRoss Hull, Raine Pare-Coull
- 11Goosebumps is a Canadian horror fantasy anthology television series based on R. L. Stine's... moreR.L. Stine, Kathryn Short
- 12Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB, 1997) is an American supernatural drama television series... moreSarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan
- 13Bates Motel (A&E, 2013) is an American psychological horror drama television series based on... moreVera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore
- 14Night Gallery is an American anthology series that aired on NBC from 1970 to 1973, featuring... moreRod Serling, Gary Collins
- 15Dexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American crime drama mystery series developed by James Manos... moreMichael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter
- 16The Outer Limits (ABC, 1963) is an American horror and speculative fiction anthology... moreBob Johnson, Ben Wright
- 17Friday the 13th: The Series is an American-Canadian horror television series that ran for... moreColm Feore, Louise Robey
- 18Grimm (NBC, 2011) is an American fantasy police procedural drama television series created by... moreDavid Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell
- 19Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990) is an American mystery horror drama television series created by Mark... more
Twin PeaksKyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn
- 20Channel Zero (Syfy, 2017) is an American horror anthology television series created by Nick... morePaul Schneider, Fiona Shaw
- 21Penny Dreadful (Showtime, 2014) is a British-American horror drama television series created... moreJosh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton
- 22Kolchak: The Night Stalker is an American television series that aired on ABC during the... moreDarren McGavin, Simon Oakland
- 23True Blood (HBO, 2008) is an American fantasy horror drama television series created by Alan... moreAnna Paquin, Stephen Moyer
- 24The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix, 2018) is an American supernatural horror television... moreMichiel Huisman, Carla Gugino
- 25Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016) is an American science fiction-horror web television series... moreWinona Ryder, David Harbour