Planet Earth and its sequel ten years later take up the top two spots on IMDB’s list.
1. Planet Earth Planet Earth II (2006, 2016)
The first series was filmed over four years across an astonishing 64 countries, and over 11 episodes we meet some of the most alien creatures living 11 kilometres down in the deep ocean, as well as the majestic lions of the African savannah, and the Arctic polar bears roaming the icy wilderness. Planet Earth II explores how animals survive in the world’s different habitats: Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands, and Cities.
2. Band of Brothers (2001)
This Golden Globe-winning mini series, based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s non-fiction novel, follows a World War II unit called East Company of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, from their training in 1942 to the Normandy landings through to 1945.
3. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Remember when we all first fell in love with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul? We were right to do so; Breaking Bad is often hailed one of the best TV shows ever made, winning a total of 16 Emmy Awards (four of which were Best Actor Emmys for Bryan Cranston).
Should you need reminding, Walter White (Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. With the help of a former student (Paul), he turns to manufacturing meth to secure his family’s future.
4. Chernobyl (2019)
Chernobyl was a sensation when it came out last year, gaining rave reviews from critics and dominating the conversation in many a WhatsApp group. The miniseries transports us to April 1986, where an explosion rips through the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
It’s a haunting, horrifying and unforgettable look at one of the world’s most catastrophic man-made disasters. After just three of its five episodes aired, Chernobyl made its way to the top of IMDB’s list.
5. The Wire (2002-2008)
Created by author and former police reporter David Simon, The Wire is a wildly popular crime drama series set in Baltimore, focusing on the city’s drug scene told through the eyes of its kingpins and its law enforcement.
Though The Wire didn’t exactly receive great ratings when it aired and never won any Emmy Awards, it’s now regarded as one of the best TV shows of all time and shot many actors to fame, including Idris Elba and Michael B Jordan.
6. Blue Planet II (2017)
Sir David’s back in one of the top spots, this time exploring the Earth’s oceans in this award-winning, jaw-dropping series.
As well as giving us a never-before-seen insight into the breathtaking underwater world, Blue Planet II was a rallying cry to protect our oceans and its astonishing wildlife, on which plastic pollution and rising sea levels are having a devastating effect.
7. Our Planet (2019)
Much like his BBC Earth productions, Sir David’s Netflix series Our Planet invites us to explore the world in all its majesty, while also forcing us to face up to how climate change is impacting it.
From the polar bears and walruses who find their frozen habitats in peril, to the intelligent orang-utans who live in rainforests – the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on our planet that, thanks to deforestation, are disappearing faster than anywhere on Earth.
8. Cosmos (2014)
This science documentary series is a remake of the 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (more on that later). Its thirteen episodes are a mind-boggling exploration of the universe; its laws of nature and coordinates of space and time.
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage has scooped numerous awards since its release, one of which was the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s Prize in Critical Thinking, which praised the show for opening ‘the eyes of a new generation to humanity’s triumphs, its mistakes, and its astounding potential to reach unimagined heights.’
9. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Smashing viewership records, raking in 58 Emmys and cementing itself as one of the most-loved TV shows of all time, it’s no wonder Game of Thrones made it into the top 10.
Based on George R. R. Martin’s series of fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire, the show sees nine families fight for control over the continent of Westeros.
10. Cosmos (1980)
Carl Sagan’s award-winning 13-episode original Cosmos series became one of the most widely watched series in the history of public TV in the US, with some sources claiming it’s been viewed by 700 million people worldwide.
Inspiring a love of science and the universe in so many, the documentary tackles subjects such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in a digestible and passionate way.
11. The Last Dance (2020)
This hit Netflix docs-series is an unrivalled deep-dive into basketball’s biggest cultural star and his team’s iconic era: Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls.
Using unaired footage from the 1997-98 season, when they went for their sixth NBA title in eight seasons, The Last Dance follows Jordan’s remarkable career as well as the multiple championship-winning side that would make sporting history. It also serves some real nostalgia for any ’90s babies that grew up during the ‘Michael Jordan era’.
12. Rick and Morty (2013-)
Arguably the most-loved adult animated sitcom to come out of the U.S since Family Guy, Rick and Morty follows the inter-dimensional escapades of boozy, sociopathic scientist Rick Sanchez and his fretful teenage grandson, Morty.
Season 4 is dropping on Netflix this week.
13. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
One of the most popular anime series on Netflix, Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in a world divided into four nations – the Water Tribe, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation and the Air Nomads.
Only the Avatar, who can master all four elements, can beat the evil Fire Nation who wants to conquer the world. It’s up to Aang, the long-lost Avatar, to save the universe.
14. The Sopranos (1999-2007)
The Sopranos often bags one of the top spots on lists of the best TV shows ever made. In 2013, TV Guide ranked it *the* best television series of all time, as did Rolling Stone in 2016, saying the show ‘changed the world’, paving the way for the ambitious breakthrough shows of the following years (Breaking Bad, The Wire).
The world’s best-loved antihero, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, presiding over an organisation of gangsters who are all trying to balance their personal family lives with their murderous day jobs.
15. The World At War (1973)
The World at War is an award-winning documentary that covers the entire history of World War II, from the 1920s to the aftermath of the Cold War in the 1950s.
Narrated by Laurence Olivier over 26 episodes, it’s remembered by many as one of the most powerful and groundbreaking shows ever aired, using archive footage alongside interviews with those who fought and watched on during the war, painting a vivid picture of what it was really like to be there.
16. Life (2009)
Across ten episodes, Sir David explores the incredible lengths animals and plants go to in order to survive on our planet.
From the Japanese macaques who fight off the cold by lounging in thermal springs, to the young ibex who escape foxes by running up an almost vertical cliff edge, this is another extraordinary wildlife documentary from the BBC that we’ll be enjoying for years to come.
17. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2010)
Another popular anime offering, this time a more adult show based on the Fullmetal Alchemist manga by Hiromu Arakawa. Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric must battle to find the Philosopher’s Stone, hoping to reclaim their bodies after suffering physical damage while trying to resurrect their mother.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a highly-rated, action-packed supernatural anime that almost directly follows the original manga comics.
18. Sherlock (2010-2017)
Created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, this modern retelling of the famous sleuth and his parter solving crimes had viewers hooked throughout its four seasons.
19. The Vietnam War (2017)
This ten-part, 18-hour documentary series about the Vietnam War took over a decade to make.
Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, it features interviews with 79 witnesses (from Vietnamese combatants and civilians to American soldiers and anti-war protestors), as well as archival footage of which researchers examined 1,500 hours’ worth.
20. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
Spanning five seasons and 156 episodes, The Twilight Zone is an American anthology television series created and presented by Rod Serling which sees each episode present a stand-alone story of disturbing or surreal events (which is where we get the phrase ‘entering the twilight zone’).
It’s often hailed as one of the best-ever TV shows in both drama and sci-fi categories.