There is a persistent stereotype that movies are far superior to TV series, but many TV shows are far more popular than films and have a dedicated audience and fan base. On top of that, the storyline in a TV series is often deeper, more nuanced and creative than in a film. In fact, we're convinced that some TV shows are just as good if not better than films, and the TV series on the list below are prime examples of outstanding cinematography.
And while they vary greatly in both genre, complexity and release date, what unites all of these shows is their exceptional popularity. We’re convinced that everyone should at least be familiar with these 14 TV series, and with that goal in mind, we added a trailer and short description to each item on our list. We hope you’ll enjoy this collection and find a new recommendation or a forgotten favorite that suits your taste.
If you only want to watch one nature documentary, this should be it. Go on a breathtaking high definition adventure to all corners of the Earth led by iconic English broadcaster David Attenborough. Admire the natural world in all its glory and learn about the astounding variety and complexity of life on Earth.
Genre: comedy, family
One of the funniest and wittiest TV shows to ever appear on television, ‘I Love Lucy’ remains the standard for any sitcom even today. One of the most astonishing aspects of this TV series is that even young people today can appreciate Lucille Ball’s hilarious stunts and witty character. Very recommended to rewatch with the family.
3. The Twilight Zone (original series: 1959-1962, also 1985-1989, 2001-2003, and 2019)
Genre: fantasy, horror, history
One of the most outstanding and experimental TV series of all time is ‘The Twilight Zone’, with the ongoing renewals of the 1950-1960's classic being the best proof of its success. The show is a collection of separate stories about characters that find themselves in extraordinary situations as they enter the mystical twilight zone. The TV series is all about surreal experiences and the ways people deal with them, it’s a true masterpiece.
Genre: crime, drama, thriller
A collection of seemingly-unrelated cold-blooded murder investigations in the equally cold and icy setting of Minnesota and North Dakota reveal a lot about society and human nature. These strange and mysterious stories always keep the viewers on their heels and are guaranteed to move and make you emote.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the ever-hilarious comedy sitcom about New York stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld. He and his awkward and funny friends get into a number of seemingly-ordinary life situations that somehow suddenly spiral into being equally curious, hysterical and embarrassing. This TV show classic is perfect for those who crave a good laugh.
Genre: action, adventure, mystery, Sci-Fi
Although the original Star Trek series ended in 1969 due to budget problems, it spawned a media franchise that extends to this day. Star Trek is arguably the most successful TV series in history that earned millions of dedicated fans. The uniting theme of all the series and films is space exploration, action, and morality in a unique world of the future.
Genre: crime, drama, mystery
‘Twin Peaks’ is the original criminal mystery show created by David Lynch that will immerse you in the dramatic events surrounding a tragic murder investigation. Every aspect, every small detail of the show is aesthetic and eye-catching, and the storyline is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a must watch and must rewatch, in our opinion, and the 2017 renewal is a great reason to revisit this classic.
Genre: drama, mystery, Sci-Fi
‘The X Files’ is one of the most iconic 90’s TV shows that introduced the secret agent character investigating strange and paranormal cases we now see everywhere, just think about the Men in Black franchise. The series revolves around the dynamic duo of FBI investigators Fox Mulder and Dana Scully whose specialty is to investigate paranormal phenomena.
A period drama set in New York in the 1960s, ‘Mad Men’ tells a story about a mysterious and yet extremely successful ad agent Donald Draper. The vintage setting and troubled nature of Donald’s character also allows the writers and directors of the TV series to highlight many psychological, moral and social issues, which make the storyline very unique and compelling.
Genre: crime, drama, thriller
If you’re a fan of criminal drama, ‘The Wire’ is a must see. The show dissects the Baltimore drug scene, showcasing it from both the criminal and the law enforcement perspective. The show has a rather complex storyline, but in essence, it shows the complex dynamic of city life in Baltimore and how crime influences every other aspect of life.
Genre: adventure, drama, family, Sci-Fi
This British TV show has been around since the early 1960s and continues strong to this day (admittedly, with some interruptions). It has a massive cult following all over the world, with whole generations of families following the Doctor’s mind-boggling adventures through space and time. If you’re a fan of science fiction and haven’t seen this one, you have a lot of catching up to do.
Genre: action, adventure, drama
Few TV series got as much publicity as this one, and we’re sure you’ve heard about it, too, even if you haven’t seen the show itself. ‘Game of Thrones’ is a dark and complex story set in a Medieval-like fictional world that showcases the fight of several noble families for the power over the cursed Iron Throne. Somehow, snow zombies, magic and other mystical creatures are also part of the story. The series is known for being graphic and brutal, so we don't recommend watching it with kids.
Genre: comedy, satire
Let’s continue on a much sillier note with Monty Python’s collection of satirical and surreal sketches that defined all the subsequent British humor, ‘Monty Python's Flying Circus’. If you don’t like British or surreal humor, beware of this show, but if not, you have to watch the entire thing. From the iconic parrot sketch to confuse-a-cat, these sketches will make you chuckle.
Genre: drama, history
Harvesting nuclear energy can be really dangerous, we learned that the hard way after the tragic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986. This historical HBO miniseries showcases the progression of the catastrophe, how it was handled by the USSR government and how it affected the world. This series just started in May 2019 so you can follow its progression (as of June 6, 2019, 4 episodes have been released).