We all have our ultimate favorites when it comes to TV series, and critics are quick to put together lists of the top rated TV shows we should definitely be watching.
Although not an official list, the selection below reveals a compilation of some of the best offerings on the small screen right now, with synopses lovingly borrowed from Rotten Tomatoes. Take a look to confirm what you love, or to simply discover the next thing on your must-watch TV list:
1. True Detective (2014)
In many ways, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson sparked a trend of high-profile Hollywood actors making a bold foray into television drama, and it's understandable why. Two series in, and this American anthology crime drama from HBO remains one of the top-rated TV shows of all time. Here's the synopsis for the first installment:
The series opens in 1995 as good ol' boy Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and his brooding, Texas-born partner, Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), are called to the scene of a gruesome, ritualistic killing of a young woman, who was posed by a tree, adorned with deer antlers on her head and accompanied by strange symbols. Fast-forward to 2012, Hart and Cohle are grilled by another pair of detectives (Tory Kittles, Michael Potts) who are investigating a case that bears striking similarities to the one before. In between is a glimpse of 2002, when Hart and Cohle struggled to deal with their inner demons in separate but equally destructive ways.
2. Breaking Bad (2008)
Mention Breaking Bad in casual conversation and you'll often hear a squeal of approval from a loyal fan in the vicinity. Indeed, when the show hit our screens back in 2008, it attracted a cult following within weeks and led to some of the most epic binge-watching sessions of all time. Remind yourself why with this short synopsis snippet:
Informed he has terminal cancer, an underachieving chemistry genius turned high school teacher uses his expertise to secretly provide for his family by producing the world's highest quality crystal meth.
3. Sherlock (2010)
Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic book series has been adapted countless times over the decades, but it is the 2010 British version that has snagged the best spot as one of the top rated TV shows in recent years. Starring a rather quirky Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson, it has all the makings of a stellar mystery series. Below is the trailer for the first season:
4. Band Of Brothers (2001)
HBO's historic miniseries Band of Brothers is based on a nonfiction book by Stephen E. Ambrose. Expertly produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, it brought fame to an array of future acting greats such as Damian Lewis, Michael Fassbender, Simon Pegg and Tom Hardy, who all initially starred in the series in minor roles. Here's the synopsis:
A 10-part miniseries based on Stephen Ambrose's bestseller about a World War II unit called Easy Company, 2nd Battalion of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army, that begins with their training in Georgia in the spring of 1942, follows them into France on D-Day and ends with the Allied victory in Europe in 1945.
5. Game Of Thrones (2011)
These days, it appears that the appeal of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones knows no bounds. With each season, the medieval fantasy catapults its immense fan base right into the social and political struggles of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, a world permeated by dark themes and intricate storylines. Without a doubt, the show is now considered one of the top rated TV shows of all time. If you're unfamiliar with its territory, here's a short synopsis:
While a civil war brews between several noble families in Westeros, the children of the former rulers of the land attempt to rise up to power. Meanwhile a forgotten race, bent on destruction, plans to return after thousands of years in the North.
6. The Wire (2002)
An unsettling glimpse at Baltimore's narcotics scene through the eyes of its dealers and the city's law enforcement services. The epic urban drama does not shy away from violence or hard-hitting themes and every year it is ranked incredibly highly by fans, new and old. Here's the opening to the very first season:
7. Firefly (2002)
For hardcore fans of sci-fi, Firefly takes us on an intergalactic adventure like no other, which is why outrage was rife when it was cancelled after just one season. Here's what all the fuss is about:
A former rebel and his shady crew embark on galactic missions for profit in a transport ship, the ironically named Serenity, in this space swashbuckler set 400 years in the future. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' creator Joss Whedon pitted the crew against the Alliance, a totalitarian interplanetary regime. 'It plays like a normal drama except that it's floating in space,' said Whedon. It was an ambitious and original sci-fi enterprise, but 'Firefly' never caught on and was gone in three months.
8. Planet Earth (2006)
For those who want a break from fictional television series for a second, Planet Earth has it all. Narrated beautifully by the soothing voice of British naturalist David Attenborough, the documentary's high-definition cinematography plunges audiences right into the epicenter of our planet's wonders.
Whether in an exploration of the world's caves, deserts, jungles or deep oceans, there is always something to marvel at in each episode. As an example, here's some jaw-dropping footage of a great white shark attack:
9. The Sopranos (1999)
When Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) first burst onto the scene in The Sopranos, the show redefined television as we know it. Since its release in 1999, it remains one of the most beloved and rated series around. For those who are unfamiliar with its gritty territory, here's the synopsis:
A conflicted New Jersey crime boss seeks therapy to cope with mob and family pressures in this addictive, stunningly original drama, which can be chillingly violent, wrenchingly moving or darkly funny.
10. Fargo (2014)
When the TV adaptation of the 1996 Coen brothers cult movie Fargo hit our screens, expectations were understandably high. Thankfully, FX studio's efforts paid off in what became a series that beautifully channels the meticulous composition and somber mood of a new breed of cinematic television. To date, Fargo's three seasons, which are still running, are highly regarded. Here is the synopsis for the first season, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Adam Goldberg and Bob Odenkirk:
A drifter named Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) brings trouble to small-town Minnesota and influences insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) into murder. Meanwhile, a pair of local police officers are trying to piece together a series of murders which they believe is connected to Malvo and Nygaard.
What do you think is the top rated TV show of all time?