Entertainment

Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV  

Ranker TV
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List Rules Scripted TV shows only, please (no Reality TV).

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-FilesTwin 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).

list ordered by
1
Tales from the Crypt is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
John Kassir, Roy Brocksmith, Miguel Ferrer

Premiered: 1989

Number of Seasons: 7

Tales from the Crypt, sometimes titled HBO's Tales from the Crypt, is an American horror anthology television series that ran from June 10, 1989, to July 19, 1996, on the premium cable channel ...more

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2
The Twilight Zone is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Rod Serling, Robert McCord, Jay Overholts

Premiered: 1959

Number of Seasons: 5

The Twilight Zone is a 1959 American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is a series of unrelated stories containing drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, ...more

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#3 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writingfeaturing Creepy Parallels Between 'American Horror Story' And 'The Twilight Zone' You Never Even Knew Existedlisted on Longest Running Sci-Fi TV Shows

3
American Horror Story is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Evan Peters

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 2

American Horror Story (FX, 2011) is an American anthology horror television series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. An anthology series centering on different characters and locations, ...more

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#97 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing #22 of 780 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watchfeaturing 28 Facts You Didn't Know About American Horror Story

4
The X-Files is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi

Premiered: 1993

Number of Seasons: 9

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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#13 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writingfeaturing Fan Theories About The X-Fileslisted on Longest Running Sci-Fi TV Shows

5
Hannibal is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 1

Hannibal is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in the novel Red Dragon by ...more

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6
Tales from the Darkside ... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Paul Sparer

Premiered: 1983

Number of Seasons: 4

Tales from the Darkside is an American anthology horror TV series created by George A. Romero; it debuted in 1984. Similar to Amazing Stories, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, ...more

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7
The Walking Dead is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies

Premiered: 2010

Number of Seasons: 3

The Walking Dead (A&E, 2010) is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series developed by Frank Darabont, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie ...more

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8
Alfred Hitchcock Present... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Alfred Hitchcock, Harry Tyler, John Williams

Premiered: 1955

Number of Seasons: 10

Alfred Hitchcock Presents is an American television anthology series hosted by Alfred Hitchcock. The series featured dramas, thrillers, and mysteries. By the time the show premiered on October ...more

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#55 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writing #66 of 2,286 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Timelisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

9
Are You Afraid of the Da... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
JaidenDalBello added
Ross Hull, Raine Pare-Coull, Jodie Resther

Premiered: 1991

Number of Seasons: 7

Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology television series. The original series was created by D.J. MacHale and Ned Kandel, and was picked up by Nickelodeon in ...more

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10
Goosebumps is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
HollyMiller added
R.L. Stine, Kathryn Short, Cody Jones

Premiered: 1995

Number of Seasons: 4

Goosebumps is a Canadian horror fantasy anthology television series based on R. L. Stine's Goosebumps books. It was one of the two popular television horror anthology children's series in the ...more

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11
Supernatural is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Katie Cassidy

Premiered: 2005

Number of Seasons: 8

Supernatural (The CW, 2005) is an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric Kripke. Two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles), follow their father's ...more

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#79 of 219 The TV Shows with the Best Writingfeaturing Destiel vs. Wincest: A History Of Supernatural's Craziest Shipslisted on Longest Running US Drama Shows

12
The Outer Limits is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Kevin Conway, Joe Pascual

Premiered: 1995

Number of Seasons: 7

The Outer Limits is a US-Canadian television series that originally aired on Showtime, the Sci Fi Channel and in syndication between 1995 and 2002. The series is a revival of the original The ...more

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#320 of 780 The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch #180 of 2,286 The Greatest TV Shows Of All Timelisted on Longest Running Sci-Fi TV Shows

13
Dexter is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
MWM added
Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas

Premiered: 2006

Number of Seasons: 7

Dexter is an American television drama series. Set in Miami, the series centers on Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter pattern analyst for Miami Metro Police Department who also leads a secret life ...more

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14
Buffy the Vampire Slayer... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters

Premiered: 1997

Number of Seasons: 7

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

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15
Bates Motel is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
wiabux added
Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot

Premiered: 2013

Number of Seasons: 1

Bates Motel is an American drama thriller television series developed for television by Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano, and produced by Universal Television for the cable network ...more

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16
Night Gallery is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Rod Serling, Gary Collins

Premiered: 1970

Number of Seasons: 3

Night Gallery is an American anthology series that aired on NBC from 1970 to 1973, featuring stories of horror and the macabre. Rod Serling, who had gained fame from an earlier series, The ...more
17
Twin Peaks is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Twin Peaks
Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn, Sherilyn Fenn
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.

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18
Grimm is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz

Premiered: 2011

Number of Seasons: 2

Grimm is an American police procedural fantasy television drama series. It debuted in the U.S. on NBC on October 28, 2011. The show has been described as "a cop drama—with a twist... a dark ...more

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19
Friday the 13th: The Ser... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Colm Feore, Louise Robey, Chris Wiggins

Premiered: 1987

Number of Seasons: 3

Friday the 13th: The Series is an American-Canadian horror television series that ran for three seasons, from October 3, 1987 to May 26, 1990 in first-run syndication. The series follows Micki ...more

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20
Kolchak: The Night Stalk... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Jack Grinnage

Premiered: 1974

Kolchak: The Night Stalker is an American television series that aired on ABC during the 1974–1975 season. It featured a fictional Chicago newspaper reporter—Carl Kolchak, played by Darren ...more

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21
Penny Dreadful is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
MWM added
Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Eva Green
Penny Dreadful (Showtime, 2014) is a British-American horror TV series created for Showtime and Sky by John Logan, who also acts as executive producer alongside Sam Mendes. The title refers to ...more

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22
True Blood is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
MWM added
Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell

Premiered: 2008

Number of Seasons: 6

True Blood is an American television drama series produced and created by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, detailing the ...more

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23
Beyond Belief: Fact or F... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Mabie1 added
Jonathan Frakes, Don LaFontaine, James Brolin

Premiered: 1997

Number of Seasons: 4

Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction is an American television anthology series created by Lynn Lehmann, presented by Dick Clark Productions, and produced and aired by the Fox network from 1997 to ...more

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24
Sleepy Hollow is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
wiabux added
Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Lyndie Greenwood

Premiered: 2013

Sleepy Hollow is an American supernatural drama television series that premiered on Fox on September 16, 2013, that aired on Mondays at 9:00 pm ET. The series is considered a "modern-day ...more

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25
Millennium is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV
Lance Henriksen, Megan Gallagher, Terry O'Quinn

Premiered: 1996

Number of Seasons: 3

Millennium is an American television series created by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, that aired on the Fox Network between 1996 and 1999. The series follows the investigations of ex-FBI ...more

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