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Shows That May Be Just Too Scary For TV

Updated January 11, 2021 23.8k votes 3.5k voters 55.6k views75 items

List RulesOnly scripted series—no reality shows.

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).

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  • American Horror Story1
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    American Horror Story

    Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott

    Premiered2011

    American Horror Story (FX, 2011) is an American anthology horror television series created by... more on Wikipedia

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  • Tales from the Crypt2
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    Tales from the Crypt

    John Kassir, Roy Brocksmith

    Premiered1989

    Tales from the Crypt, sometimes titled HBO's Tales from the Crypt, is an American horror... more on Wikipedia

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  • The Twilight Zone3
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    The Twilight Zone

    Rod Serling, Robert McCord

    Premiered1959

    The Twilight Zone is a 1959 American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is... more on Wikipedia

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  • Supernatural4
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    Supernatural

    Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles

    Premiered2005

    Supernatural (The CW, 2005) is an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric... more on Wikipedia

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  • The Walking Dead5
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    The Walking Dead

    Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal

    Premiered2010

    The Walking Dead (A&E, 2010) is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series... more on Wikipedia

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  • Hannibal6
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    Hannibal

    Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen

    Premiered2013

    Hannibal (NBC, 2013) is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed... more on Wikipedia

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  • The X-Files7
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    The X-Files

    David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson

    Premiered1993

    The X-Files is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by Chris... more on Wikipedia

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  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?8
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    Are You Afraid of the Dark?

    Ross Hull, Raine Pare-Coull

    Premiered1991

    Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology television series.... more on Wikipedia

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  • Tales from the Darkside9
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    Premiered1983

    Tales from the Darkside is an American anthology horror TV series created by George A. Romero;... more on Wikipedia

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  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents10
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    Alfred Hitchcock Presents

    Alfred Hitchcock, Harry Tyler

    Premiered1955

    Alfred Hitchcock Presents is an American television anthology series hosted by Alfred... more on Wikipedia

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  • Bates Motel11
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    Bates Motel

    Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore

    Premiered2013

    Bates Motel (A&E, 2013) is an American psychological horror drama television series based on... more on Wikipedia
  • Goosebumps12
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    Goosebumps

    R.L. Stine, Kathryn Short

    Premiered1995

    Goosebumps is a Canadian horror fantasy anthology television series based on R. L. Stine's... more on Wikipedia

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  • Dexter13
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    Dexter

    Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter

    Premiered2006

    Dexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American crime drama mystery series developed by James Manos... more on Wikipedia

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  • Night Gallery14
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    Night Gallery

    Rod Serling, Gary Collins

    Premiered1970

    Night Gallery is an American anthology series that aired on NBC from 1970 to 1973, featuring... more on Wikipedia
  • The Outer Limits15
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    The Outer Limits

    Bob Johnson, Ben Wright

    Premiered1963

    The Outer Limits (ABC, 1963) is an American horror and speculative fiction anthology... more on Wikipedia

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  • Channel Zero16
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    Channel Zero

    Paul Schneider, Fiona Shaw

    Premiered2016

    Channel Zero (Syfy, 2017) is an American horror anthology television series created by Nick... more on Wikipedia
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer17
    373
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    Buffy the Vampire Slayer

    Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan

    Premiered1997

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB, 1997) is an American supernatural drama television series... more on Wikipedia

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  • Twin Peaks18
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    Twin Peaks

    Kyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn

    Premiered1990

    Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990) is an American mystery horror drama television series created by Mark... more on Wikipedia

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  • The Haunting of Hill House19
    48
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    The Haunting of Hill House

    Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino

    Premiered2018

    The Haunting of Hill House is the first season of the Netflix supernatural anthology... more on Wikipedia

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  • Friday the 13th: The Series20
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    Friday the 13th: The Series

    Colm Feore, Louise Robey

    Premiered1987

    Friday the 13th: The Series is an American-Canadian horror television series that ran for... more on Wikipedia

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  • Stranger Things21
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    Stranger Things

    Winona Ryder, David Harbour

    Premiered2016

    Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016) is an American science fiction-horror web television series... more on Wikipedia

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  • Criminal Minds22
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    Criminal Minds

    Shemar Moore, Matthew Gray Gubler

    Premiered2005

    Criminal Minds (CBS, 2005) is an American police-procedural television program. The series... more on Wikipedia

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  • Penny Dreadful23
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    Penny Dreadful

    Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton

    Premiered2014

    Penny Dreadful (Showtime, 2014) is a British-American horror drama television series created... more on Wikipedia

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  • Grimm24
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    Grimm

    David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell

    Premiered2011

    Grimm (NBC, 2011) is an American fantasy police procedural drama television series created by... more on Wikipedia

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  • American Horror Story: Murder House25
    23
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    American Horror Story: Murder House

    Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott

    Premiered2011

    American Horror Story: Murder House is the first season of the FX television series American... more on Wikipedia

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