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).
Premiered: 2011American Horror Story (FX, 2011) is an American anthology horror television series created by... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1989Tales from the Crypt, sometimes titled HBO's Tales from the Crypt, is an American horror... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1959The Twilight Zone is a 1959 American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. It is... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2005Supernatural (The CW, 2005) is an American fantasy horror television series created by Eric... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2010The Walking Dead (A&E, 2010) is an American post-apocalyptic horror television series... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2013Hannibal (NBC, 2013) is an American psychological thriller–horror television series developed... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1993The X-Files is an American science fiction horror drama television series created by Chris... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1991Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology television series.... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1983Tales from the Darkside is an American anthology horror TV series created by George A. Romero;... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1955Alfred Hitchcock Presents is an American television anthology series hosted by Alfred... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2013Bates Motel (A&E, 2013) is an American psychological horror drama television series based on... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1995Goosebumps is a Canadian horror fantasy anthology television series based on R. L. Stine's... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2006Dexter (Showtime, 2006) is an American crime drama mystery series developed by James Manos... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1970Night Gallery is an American anthology series that aired on NBC from 1970 to 1973, featuring... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1963The Outer Limits (ABC, 1963) is an American horror and speculative fiction anthology... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2016Channel Zero (Syfy, 2017) is an American horror anthology television series created by Nick... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1997Buffy the Vampire Slayer (The WB, 1997) is an American supernatural drama television series... more on Wikipedia
Twin PeaksKyle MacLachlan, Russ Tamblyn
Premiered: 1990Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990) is an American mystery horror drama television series created by Mark... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2018The Haunting of Hill House is the first season of the Netflix supernatural anthology... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 1987Friday the 13th: The Series is an American-Canadian horror television series that ran for... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2016Stranger Things (Netflix, 2016) is an American science fiction-horror web television series... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2005Criminal Minds (CBS, 2005) is an American police-procedural television program. The series... more on Wikipedia
Premiered: 2014Penny Dreadful (Showtime, 2014) is a British-American horror drama television series created... more on Wikipedia
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Premiered: 2011American Horror Story: Murder House is the first season of the FX television series American... more on Wikipedia