Top 10 TV Dramas of All Time

Script written by Craig Butler. Not enough drama in your life? You haven’t been watching enough TV. While the small screen was once looked upon as the small time, it’s become a hotbed of great drama in recent years. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 TV dramas of all time. For this list, we’re looking at shows that had longevity, critical acclaim and/or were ratings successes. So, if your favorite drama only ran for one or two seasons, we’re very sorry. Special thanks to our users e-sam, Luke Alvarado, Peter Ohara, Trent Reznor, GabrielMarinho, Nays Baghai, Eric Zebrowski and Kevin Stolaj for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 TV Dramas of All Time


Not enough drama in your life? You haven’t been watching enough TV. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 TV dramas of all time.

For this list, we’re looking at shows that had longevity, critical acclaim and/or were ratings successes. So, if your favorite drama only ran for one or two seasons, we’re very sorry.

#10: “ER” (1994-2009)

This hospital drama was a sensation when it premiered because, unlike most ‘90s TV dramas, it felt like a movie – with long steadicam shots, amazing cuts, and a sense that the look was as important as the content. But ultimately, content was king: its astonishing cast, scripts that bordered on but never crossed into soap opera and constant, propulsive tension gave viewers the thrill of being part of an ER team.

#9: “Law & Order” (1990-2010)

This drama ran for so long, it’s easy to forget how good it was at its best. Sure, each episode followed a formula – one part police procedural, one part legal drama. But that formula actually gave its creators freedom to delve deeper into the psyches and souls of participants. The changing cast over the years kept the show fresh with fascinating faces who could also act up a storm.

#8: “Game of Thrones” (2011-)

Fantasy dramas usually get short shrift when it comes to respect, but “Game of Thrones” is so awesome and done with such skill, it demands critical attention. Dark in tone and filled with enough intrigue for ten series, it’s also flat-out epic. But even with all that going on, it’s the focus on relationships and personalities that keeps viewers hungry for more. Well, that and the sex and violence.

#7: “The X-Files” (1993-2002)

You got a conspiracy theory? Chances are “The X-Files” beat you to it, and that’s part of what made this sci-fi show so astounding. With the incredible David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in the lead, paranoia and paranormal activity were immensely appealing. The intelligent scripts that treated the sci-fi subject matter seriously also shouldn’t be neglected. “X-Files”’ secret is that it made you believe its catchphrase: “The truth is out there.”

#6: “Mad Men” (2007-15)

Great shows keep surprising viewers. “Mad Men” has plenty of plot hooks and twists that do that, plus it’s got the whole snappy dialogue thing down. But it’s the unpredictability of its characters, from Don Draper on down, that makes it stand out. These people do the same random things for unknowable reasons we all do: It’s called human behavior, and in the hands of these creators it’s enthralling.

#5: “The West Wing” (1999-2006)

No one writes speeches like “West Wing” creator, Aaron Sorkin. Big speeches, little speeches – sometimes just a paragraph. That’s this show’s secret weapon: it loves language. It loves ideas. And it puts all that in the mouths of funny, heartbreaking, driven characters who are enmeshed in awesomely inventive plot twists, intrigues and relationships. Kind of makes politics look…fun.

#4: “M*A*S*H” (1972-83)

Yes, technically “M*A*S*H” is a sitcom, not a drama – but few dramas of any era tackled as many serious issues and presented them as compellingly as this groundbreaking series. The deathly seriousness of war – and the need for humor in the face of it – permeates this show. In the background of the hilarious antics of Hawkeye, Hot Lips and their cronies is the knowledge that death is right around the corner.

#3: “The Wire” (2002-08)

On the surface, “The Wire” is an exciting police procedural. Underneath, it’s an incisive, frighteningly personal look at the troubles of urban America. Perhaps what makes it most noteworthy is that, despite the seriousness of the problems many of its characters face, there’s always a feeling of hope and optimism: these people may be let down by society, but their humanity still shines through.

#2: “Breaking Bad” (2008-13)

This AMC series follows a good man down a destructive path into crime; yet Walter White is complex enough to retain audience sympathy. We root for him, even as he’s murdering people and building a criminal empire. White is dark, morally ambiguous and often downright cruel; yet Bryan Cranston’s portrayal is so layered and nuanced we’re drawn back to him time and again – and rewarded with spectacular drama.

#1: “The Sopranos” (1999-2007)

When we listed the Top 10 HBO shows, we gave the nod to “GoT” because that more original series best exemplified the network’s epic production values and limitless imagination. But if we’re choosing the godfather of today’s must-watch shows in the broader sense, that honor goes to the more relatable “Sopranos.” Proving cable TV could produce both quality drama and a ratings smash, this series excelled thanks to a cast of sterling performers. However, it angered many by depicting gangsters as family men; but that dual emphasis made it memorable.

Do you agree with our list? Which TV dramas keep you glued to your seat? For more entertaining top 10s like this one published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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