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40 Best TV Shows In The Past 30 Years

by Mary McFarren

Here’s a list of the most popular and highest-rated series in the past few decades. From comedy to fantasy, to drama – take your pick!

Game of Thrones (2011)

Source: Wired.com

Game of Thrones is a fantasy drama that was created based on the book of R.R. Martin “A Song of Ice and Fire”. The plot revolves around nine families fighting for the land and ultimately the Iron Throne. The show ran for eight seasons, totaling 73 episodes.

Breaking Bad (2008)

Source: The Guardian

Breaking Bad is a multi-layered crime drama that begins with a depressed high-school teacher being diagnosed with terminal cancer. To secure his family’s future, the professor teams up with his ex-student to cook meth. And everything that can possibly go wrong – would. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul received numerous awards including Emmy Awards, Tony Award, and Gloden Globe.

Stranger Things (2016)

Source: Vox

If you’re missing the 1980s, Stranger Things is the show for you. The story follows neighborhood kids while they’re fighting off gruesome creatures from Upsidedown. It’s a science fiction drama that will keep you sealed to the screen.

The Sopranos (1999)

Source: Betanews

The Sopranos is a crime drama about the Jersey mobster dealing with personal and professional issues. All’s well until the patriarch of the family ends up on the psychiatrist’s couch. Late James Gandolfini gave a phenomenal performance as the protagonist.

Black Mirror (2011)

Source: Fandome

A dystopian society is shaken by a few people trying to question all the technology that’s supposed to help them. Or did it enslave them? Five seasons of absolutely phenomenal shows.

Walking Dead (2010)

Source: Dan of Geek

Walking dead is a post-apocalyptic, horror drama that revolves around a sheriff who leads a group of people trying to survive. In a fight or flight situation, all human flaws, as well as virtues, surface in all of their glory.

Mare of Easttown (2024)

Source: Lola Magazine

We’re not used to seeing Kate Winslet in TV shows, but the Oscar-winning actress did an amazing job portraying Mare, a detective, a mom, a daughter, and an ex-wife. It’s a crime series entwined with drama that ran for only one season.

Sherlock (2010)

Source: The Guardian

Sherlock is a four-part mini-series produced by BBC One. It’s a modernized story about Sherlock Holmes solving crimes in modern-day London. Benedict Cumberbatch did a magnificent job in the role of the present-day Sherlock.

The Office (2005)

Source: Franchise Hound

The Office is a mockumentary sitcom based on the British series. Steve Carell plays the manager of the agency for adventures, romances, and mishaps. Guaranteed fun.

Money Heist (2017)

Source: Dan of Geek

Netflix’s series exceeded the expectations with the first season. The plot revolves around the fool-proof plan to print billions in the Royal Mint of Spain. A few things went wrong, though. The show is currently running its fifth, and last season.

The Wire (2002)

Source: IGN

The Wire ran for five seasons in 60 episodes. It’s a crime drama that gives us a different perspective through the eyes of the drug dealers, good cops, crooked cops, and politicians.

The X-Files (1993)

Source: Forbes

The iconic series is created by Chris Carter, and the story follows two FBI detectives, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, investigating supernatural affairs.

South Park (1997)

Source: Gradski Portal

South Park is an adult animated sitcom that follows four boys through their strange adventures.

Mindhunter (2017)

Source: Vanity Fair

Mindhunter is a psychological thriller based on a true story about the young FBI agent Holden Ford who tries to implement the never-seen-before method of profiling to catch the most brutal serial killers.

Vikings (2013)

Source: Take 5

Vikings is a historical fantasy drama about the common man who finds fame among farmers and eventually becomes the king. The rulership brings many unexpected friendships as well as nemeses.

Better Call Saul (2015)

Source: TV Line

The prequel of Breaking Bad is a smash hit. Saul Goodman is the witty lawyer who dreams to hit it big. And he does, but it comes at a great price.

True Blood (2008)

Source: The Guardian

True Blood is a horror drama about a waitress with psychic abilities who discovers a whole new (under)world. If you like fantasies involving vampires, this is the right fit for you.

The Crown (2016)

Source: The NYT

A beautifully done series that chronicles Queen Elizabeth’s reign up until today. The peek inside Buckingham Palace’s walls gives us a better understanding of some decisions from history.

Narcos (2015)

Source: YouTube

Once again the drug trade in Colombia during the 1980s has gripped the viewers. The series has three seasons that chronicle the war on drugs from police and kingpins’ perspectives.

The Big Bang Theory (2007)

Source: CBS

A witty comedy about geeky roommates with a sexy new neighbor. Two nerds plus a hot girl are all you need for a ton of funny adventures.

Mad Men (2007)

Source: E! Online

Mad Men series are a period drama that follow a charming executive trying to balance work and pleasure, while hiding some secrets of his own.

Lost (2004)

Source: USA Today

A plane crash forces the survivors to fight for their lives on the tropical island. Beautiful scenery and a story with a lot of twists are well worth watching.

Orange Is The New Black (2013)

Source: Vox

When a law-abiding citizen ends up behind bars due to some long-forgotten crimes, it can be a life lesson. This comedy-drama is full of witty humor and dramatic moments.

Law & Order (1990)

Source: Designer Women

The iconic series follows two detectives and a prosecutor while they solve cases on the streets of New York. The series ran for more than two decades and has become one of the must-watch. Many episodes are based on real-life events, like the OJ Simpson trial, Michael Jackson accusations, and many more.

Family Guy (1999)

Source: Prime Video

Family Guy is an adult animated series. The plot is pretty straightforward – a simple guy living in the suburbs with his family. It’s a story many can find a common thread.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000)

Source: USA Today

CSI is the reason why jurors began asking from the state to show them hairs and fibers in order to find the defendant guilty. Before CSI scientists, we didn’t know that you can conclude the pathline of the victim based on a fruit fly.

Fargo (2014)

Source: AMC

Fargo is a comedy/drama that ran for four seasons. Every season there was a different plot with various characters. The only thing they share is the location – midwest.

Lucifer (2016)

Source: Entertainment Weekly

If so happens that Lucifer leaves Hell, he would be living in Los Angeles running a nightclub, and occasionally working with the police. What a plot.

That ’70s Show (1998)

Source: Entertainment Weekly

The cult series never gets old. The humor still feels fresh, even though the series started airing two decades ago. Living in a suburban WIsconsin in the 1970s is fun, right?

Planet Earth (2006)

Source: BBC

Never-before seens shots were on display in the first part of Planet Earth. From the deepest oceans to the skies, Earth is beautiful.

Ozark (2017)

Source: Dan Of Geek

Ozark is a fast-pacing drama about the family on the run from drug dealers. They need to launder a lot of money in a short period of time. Will they make it?

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (2005)

Source: NME

A group of outcasts try to find a second chance in life. In the meantime, they are managing the Irish pub in South Philly.

Queen’s Gambit (2020)

Source: Prolog

A magnificent story about a lonely girl who finds peace and solace in a game of chess.

Dexter (2006)

Source: Screen Rant

Dexter is a crime drama that focuses on the forensic scientist turning a serial killer. Why? Tune in. It’s an acclaimes show that ran for seven seasons for a reason.

Friends (1994)

Source: Polygon

An iconic comedy about three girls and three guys trying to find their way in life. Until that happens, they go from one mishap to the next, while stopping by to talk about it at the Central Perk.

The Simpsons (1989)

Source: Deadline

An animated adult series that was critically acclaimed and still has a huge fanbase around the world. Dummy Homer, and his family, Marg, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are trying to live a peaceful suburban life in Springfield, USA.

Two and a Half Men (2003)

Source: E! Online

The story revolves around two guys and a boy living together. A hedonistic writer, an uptight brother, and a kid. The series ran for 12 seasons with endless reruns. It never gets old.

Homeland (2011)

Source: Dan of Geek

A crime/drama following the FBI agent who goes awry played by Claire Danes. The show revolves around the war on terror and an agent who starts questioning its true purpose.

Westworld (2016)

Source: IGN

Westworld is a science fiction drama/thriller. A Wild West theme park populated by robots is welcoming rich clients to play around without the fear of repercussions. Many things can go wrong in this setup, and they do.

Unbelievable (2019)

Source: The NYT

The series is based on a book that is based on real-life events. What happens when rape victims are not trusted? Will they continue to fight alone, or get help from the female police agents? A bit of both. A disturbing story about girls who were victimized twice – by the perpetrator, and by society.