Top 10 TV Shows Everyone Should Watch At Least Once
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 TV shows everyone should watch at least once.
For this list, we’ll be looking at beloved and critically acclaimed shows that make for must-watch TV!
What’s your all time favorite TV show? Let us know in the comments below!
#10: “The Office” (2005-13)
This mockumentary remains incredibly popular, and for good reason. It’s both very funny and very comforting. Set in the office of a Pennsylvania paper company, “The Office” became enormously successful thanks to its sharp writing, relatable setting, and brilliant performances - particularly that of Steve Carell as the bumbling, offensive, but ultimately well-meaning Michael Scott. Unlike the more abrasive UK original, this American remake makes for a relatively warm and cheerful watch; watching each episode is like revisiting family. Various shows of this mockumentary style popped up throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, but none were as good as “The Office.”
#9: “The Leftovers” (2014-17)
Many fans and critics compare “The Leftovers” to “Lost”, both for the involvement of showrunner Damon Lindelof and for the unique mystery at the heart of the story. “The Leftovers” doesn’t concern a magic island, but the random disappearance of 2% of the world’s population. Unlike “Lost”, the mystery of “The Leftovers” isn’t really the point - it’s merely a vehicle to explore the characters and the themes. The show never really took off owing to a somewhat rickety first season, but the second and third seasons were so beautiful and well made that critics began regarding “The Leftovers” as one of the greatest shows ever made. It only lasts 28 episodes, so there’s no good excuse for ignoring it.
#8: “Lost” (2004-10)
Regardless of its infamous ending, “Lost” is required TV viewing. Following survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island, it managed to keep viewers guessing throughout its six season run. Unfortunately, something is “lost” (sorry) while streaming the show today. A huge part of the allure was going online and discussing the endless theories and studiously analyzing every last pixel of a given screenshot. But even without the real-time excitement of online discussions, “Lost” makes for stellar viewing thanks to its standout cast and character writing, cinematic production values, and of course the sense of adventure at its heart. “Lost” may have infamously fumbled the landing, but there’s still nothing else like it on TV. When “Lost” is on top of its game, it’s spectacular.
#7: “The Simpsons” (1989-)
“The Simpsons” is so great and so institutionalized in the pop culture consciousness that it cannot possibly be ignored. It may be the most important and influential TV show of all time - especially regarding the explosion of animated sitcoms that followed - and its lovable cast of characters have become iconic. Bart has been included on the Time 100 list, and The Simpsons have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Add in the wider cast of Springfield and some of the smartest and funniest writing on TV, and you have the greatest animated sitcom ever made.
#6: “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-08)
The great thing about Nickelodeon’s “Avatar” is that anyone can enjoy it. Yes, it aired on Nickelodeon and was made primarily for children, but it contains so many great themes, characters, and stories that adults can enjoy it as well. While each episode typically portrays a self-contained story of its own, there is also an overarching plot that sees Avatar Aang learning to control the elements so he can defeat the Fire Nation. Aside from the remarkable storytelling, the show is also rife with humor and fantastic production values, which includes gorgeous animation and epic music.
#5: “The Wire” (2002-08)
This expansive crime drama was created and primarily written by David Simon, who worked at The Baltimore Sun for thirteen years. He spent most of that time covering crime, and it’s there that he learned the inner workings of a typical American city. He used his knowledge to write “The Wire.” Unlike most crime dramas, “The Wire” isn’t really concerned with telling an exciting story (although it does certainly do that). Rather, it’s more interested in exploring how disparate parts of a city - like the police force, politics, streets, schools, and media - come together to form a whole. The show has garnered immense acclaim for its realism and literary ambitions, and watching it at least once is an absolute must.
#4: “Twin Peaks” (1990-91; 2017)
Most things from David Lynch are worth experiencing - even if they leave you feeling confused and kinda icky. Following a string of classics like “Eraserhead”, “The Elephant Man”, and “Blue Velvet”, Lynch turned to television and released “Twin Peaks” through ABC. It was unlike anything seen on TV at the time, and it’s still unlike anything seen on TV. Like most of Lynch’s work, “Twin Peaks” is bizarre and nightmarishly surreal, and while it begins as an offbeat detective story about a recently-murdered teenager, it soon spirals into outright insanity. It’s hard to define “Twin Peaks” because “Twin Peaks” can’t really be compared to anything. It’s “Twin Peaks”, and that’s what makes it so memorable.
#3: “Game of Thrones” (2011-19)
Based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire”, “Game of Thrones” changed television forever. Chronicling a war for control of the fictional Seven Kingdoms, the show was filled with fantastic storytelling, rich world building, and a stellar cast of unforgettable characters. It also featured unbelievable production values. “Game of Thrones” effectively bridged the divide between “television” and “film” with its sets, visual effects, and epic scope, and sequences like Hardhome and The Battle of the Bastards will remain firmly ingrained in our collective pop culture consciousness. At a time when streaming was fragmenting TV, “Game of Thrones” got everyone talking and tuning in week-after-week.
#2: “The Sopranos” (1999-2007)
Most of the dramas mentioned on this list wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for “The Sopranos.” On the surface, this show details the criminal and personal lives of a specific Italian-American mob family - particularly that of its leader, Tony Soprano. But while the mob stuff is obviously great, “The Sopranos” was always more interested in exploring more mundane yet universal themes around psychology, generational divides, and family. Like a Great American Novel, it tells one specific story while also touching on a wide range of concepts relating back to the human condition. It also helps that the show is very funny, and it could even be considered a workplace comedy of sorts. It has a little bit of everything, and it does everything masterfully.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Six Feet Under” (2001-05)
A Gorgeous Show About Death with a Fantastic Series Finale
“Rick and Morty” (2013-)
An Inventive, Hilarious & Smart Animated Sitcom from Justin Roiland & Dan Harmon
“I Love Lucy” (1951-57)
Perhaps the Most Influential Sitcom in Television History
“Stranger Things” (2016-)
A Wonderful Throwback to ‘80s Sci-Fi
“Band of Brothers” (2001)
Arguably the Greatest Miniseries Ever Made
#1: “Breaking Bad” (2008-13)
No other TV show has ever matched the sheer intensity of “Breaking Bad.” Like a great crime novel, “Breaking Bad” is a true page-turner - or at least the TV equivalent - thanks to absolutely relentless cliffhangers. Telling the story of a high school chemistry teacher with terminal cancer who starts producing meth to provide for his family, “Breaking Bad” is a tale of intrigue and suspense. Its ambitious narrative succeeds thanks to stellar character development, award-winning acting, gorgeous and inventive cinematography, a unique setting in Albuquerque, and some gut-busting humor. It also led to the magnificent spin-off “Better Call Saul.” Every aspect of its production is masterful, and it can be regarded as the prime example of how a television show should be made.