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20 Best Thriller TV Series of All Time

January 26, 2019
16 min read

Being a binge-watcher and couch-dweller myself, Thriller TV Series have been on my radar for quite a while now. We’ve had an umpteen number of Thriller TV series, though not specific only to this very genre but generalised all over. The versatility of the plot varies between gory and romantic, scary or comic, at differing levels of their script fidelity, from one TV series to another. Based on the different kind of audiences that we are, we possess a multifaceted taste in various sub-genres of thrillers. The very idea of binge watching a thriller TV series sounds taxing, exhaustive and adrenaline pumping, all at the same time, given the expectations are met at the fag end.

Here’s my take on the best TV shows out there that you should be watching (not binge watching for the time being may be), if you are into thrillers topped up with bits of action, mystery, drama, romance and horror. Also, I have considered only those thriller TV shows for this list which has one of its genres as “Thriller” as per the IMDB. Meaning no offense to the 2500+ of those series who couldn’t make this list, I have considered all the avenues like the IMDB rating, popularity, my own perspective about the TV series, friends’ and families’ opinion, availability in general and many other factors unknown even to me to conjure this up. So here goes the list of top thriller TV series ever. You can watch some of these best thriller TV shows on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

20. Sense8 (2015-Present)

Probably a dream story of many, interlinking people with the use of some kind of a supernatural phenomenon, in this case, the Homo Sensorium, ‘Sense8′ is a story of mentally interconnected folks from different parts of the world. The best thing I like about Sense8 is the ability of all the eight Sensates to form one symbiotically living organism, like a remote colony, and sharing things like their day-to-day thoughts etc. Throw in an antagonist who was previously chasing the mother of all Sensates, a few more Sensates living symbiotically separately from the present group of eight and the thrill percolates down further.

Presently in its Season 2 and counting (well, hopefully), Sense8 is like any other collaborative setup, albeit remotely and using each others’ “superpowers” to conquer the evil. Like an X-Men of sorts, only separated by boundaries. Let’s sincerely hope to see more action and less of drama in the upcoming episodes or seasons.

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19. Person of Interest (2011-2016)

A series comprising the conflicts of enigmas between what is ethical and what’s not, what is actionable and what may not be, ‘Person of Interest’ exploits the impressive technological prowess of “The Machine” which provides actionable credible artificial intelligence on the probable terrorist attacks and other deadly crimes. In the interest of the ethical angle of the usage of said Machine, for it was made for a higher purpose, the developer of “The Machine” restricts the information used only to a Social Security Number, either of the victim or the criminal (a.k.a. the Person of Interest). Bring in a vigilante ex-Green Beret who’s willing to break a few bones, a few competing machines (Samaritan) and the CIA of course, who has to be involved in all high techy science projects and viola, Person of Interest!

‘Person of Interest’ has evolved to gather a cult following and there’s surely more to come, given the Jonathan Nolan-J.J Abrams’ blessing continues. Probably we can expect a few more twists and turns, accompanied with a bouquet of new characters.

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18. Hannibal (2013-2015)

No, this isn’t about the movie but about the more recent and broader TV series which has been creating some waves. An extremely talented FBI profiler confronts a cannibalistic serial killer and the rest is the story of their relationship that borders between symbiosis and invasion. As Will Graham, the profiler gets into the shoes of Mr Lecter, the thrill runs high and it is slightly cringeworthy to watch Hannibal gourmet the hell out of human body parts.

Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is no less than a satanic, abominable and excruciatingly cold and haunting render of the purported Hannibal per se and is the best thing about the series. With the approval of the likes of IGN, IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes of this series, its events and performances are savoury of the taste it puts to the screen. Though we’re yet to witness the legendary Silence of the Lambs season, we’re raring to watch more of this, given the fact that it hasn’t aired for the past two years.

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17. Lost (2004-2010)

An ABC series spanning six seasons, originally conceived by the likes of J. J. Abrams, ‘Lost’ has grown and evolved from being a mere story of survivors of a plane crash on a tropical island to the parallel timelines, The Others, the mysterious Smoke Monster, mythical and advanced technological leaps and conflict of interests. Captivating performances and beyond imagination sci-fi stuff makes ‘Lost’ stand out among its peers and have had one of the highest numbers of viewers in television series’ history. Though it has officially ended, ‘Lost’ brought forward so many characters, notions and thrills onboard that were certainly very high in magnitude as well as the brilliance of containing everyone in the same place. A replacement for ‘Lost’ may never be Found.

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16. Supernatural (2005-Present)

Spanning a massive 12-season and 250+ episode spell, Supernatural has got to be one of the oldest running TV series on this list, which is still on the air and I hope it stays that way. A story of two brothers who had lost their mother and have a knack to ward off supernatural forces forms the premise of the series. They, along with their avenging instinct for their mother’s and father’s death, hunt dreadful demons and make to-and-fro turns to the Hell itself. The CGI is superb and has probably bettered the TV Series level of the CGI, save the likes of Game of Thrones. Why would one watch ‘Supernatural’ is to satisfy the urges and curiosities around the phenomena beyond human control and the fictitious know-how on prevention if such situations do exist. Won’t recommend it for binge-watching though.

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15. Daredevil (2015-Present)

Taking a step back from the Devils and then there’s Daredevil. Certainly a better version and attempt by Marvel as compared with the movie, Daredevil kicks some serious ass and beats the crap out of criminals and thugs with ease, given his heightened senses and his combat training, along with his skills as a lawyer. The best thing about the Daredevil series is its action sequences and the casting. Matt Murdock played by Charlie Cox is comparable with Robert Downey Jr. for Iron Man. Also, for the first season, casting Vincent D’Onofrio for Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin could not get any better. Daredevil along with Jessica Jones is probably one of the handful good stints by Marvel in the television space, given it maintains the present form.

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14. Dexter (2006-2013)

Inclined more towards a darker side, Dexter, who is a bloodstain analyst with the Miami Police Department, turns to a cold yet careful and methodic serial killer, complete with synthetic gloves and plastic screens. Instead of just killing any random person unlike a psycho, he goes after the dreaded paedophiles, rapists and other killers themselves, who have somehow bypassed the judiciary and law. The intent, the specific ways of killings and the way of getting away after killing the bad guys is at its best in ‘Dexter’. The plot is shown more like a Karma phenomenon, what you help with during daytime is nullified during the nights, is one of its kind in probably most of the history. And no, we aren’t talking any superpowers or supernatural phenomenon here. ‘Dexter’ should probably make a comeback and reoccupy the void it has left in the minds of millions of viewers.

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13. The Wire (2002-2008)

One of the highest rated series on IMDB by more than 0.2M reviewers, ‘The Wire’ stands out from other drug-related, mobster TV series because of its multifaceted and micro-environmental approach in the arena of drugs. While all the characters, them being drug dealers, addicts, crime cohorts, the police and the lawmakers, are tightly interwoven, the granular viewpoint of their individual lives, their gangs and their leaders steals the show. Apart from the performances, the varied perspectives of the same very place in every season is something to look out for. ‘The Wire’ consumes both your time and thrill and gives the best outcome possible.

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12. Mr Robot (2015 – Present)

Rami Malek plays Elliot, a cyber-security engineer.

Drawn coarsely based on how ‘Dexter’ was, a lonely socially awkward cyber-security engineer turns to vigilante hacking in the night. Similar to how aloof people are like, Elliot, the protagonist, finds it difficult to cope with day to day things yet who’s adept at his area of work. Though he’s shown as being responsible for the death of his neighbour, a mysterious anarchist, one Mr Robot hires Elliot to work as a hacker on his behest for society. The plot is as compelling and thick as it gets, with a specific agenda and the intended nemesis of E Corp a.k.a. Evil Corp. Mr Robot has beaten its own standards with the second instalment and probably there’s a lot more to explore for Elliot in the forthcoming ones. The sheer confusion, conviction and composure of Elliot and the technically and scientifically sound scripts (thanks to the expertises of the likes of Black Hat, DEF CON and Tanium etc.) makes Mr Robot one of the frontrunners of modern TV thrillers.

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11. Narcos (2015-Present)

Based on the life and lies of Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord and billionaire, Narcos makes one wonder and at times believe in the notorious supply chains and the revenue accumulated thereafter from production and smuggling of Cocaine across the American borders. The rise and fall of Escobar, amidst a lot of corruption, arrests and escapes, shows the grim reality of drug-dependency and of the money mongers who contrive such heinous crimes under the cover of drug smuggling. A life full of betrayals and dogfights, Pablo Escobar’s shoes are the ones none could step into. And nobody should.

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10. Twin Peaks (1990-1991, 2017-Present)

A widely watched show of the 90s, which was later cancelled due to less viewership, ‘Twin Peaks’ is the story set in a fictional town of Twin Peaks outside DC. As the body of a homecoming queen is discovered under mysterious circumstances, the plot thickens when further truths are revealed on the dual standards about her life. The story progresses with the investigation of the unsolved murder mystery and the subplots involved therein. Twin Peaks has been often regarded as one of the greatest television dramas of all time and certainly one of the best thrillers too at that.

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9. Prison Break (2005-2009)

‘Prison Break’ constitutes the minuscule and intricate dynamics of the Fox River State Penitentiary and the story of plots and twists around attempts of escape from the said prison. The protagonist’s brother, who has been convicted and is on a death row is to be supposedly saved by means of an escape from the prison by digging underneath it. The ensuing seasons involve the recapturing of the escaped convicts, their lives outside of the mundane prison cells and the other side of their individual personalities. Look out for the performances of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.

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8. Black Mirror (2011-Present)

A TV show dealing with the other side of the technological advancements and its drawbacks (example, a webcam which has been snooping sensitive information that it’s not supposed to), ‘Black Mirror’ poses the chilling revelations and the after-effects of every leap and bound made in the field of information technology. Something that mustn’t be missed and also not be taken too seriously, just in case if one gets too hooked to it. A perfect binge material, as none of the episodes of any season, is interrelated. Happy watching!

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7. Stranger Things (2016-Present)

More than the thrill, the most I liked about ‘Stranger Things’ was the horror angle to it. Set in the 80s Indiana, a young boy disappears under mysterious circumstances and a search operation follows, by the police, his friends and family. Spiced up with quite a lot of supernatural phenomena like telekinesis, unnatural human based experiments producing supernatural results and the “old-era unknown technology causing negative effects” viewpoint gives it a chilling advantage among TV shows. Add a few monsters and everything becomes even the more compelling.

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6. True Detective (2014-2015)

A story that explores the relationship between two criminal investigators Rustin and Martin is bumped by their past relationship which had turned sour, the rough patches in their personal lives and a washed out (literally) investigation which they are supposed to recount seventeen years hence. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are irreplaceable in their respective roles and are far away from sharing an amicable relationship. Though being a little slow at its execution (warning, no binge please), ‘True Detective’ is eerily detailed and unpredictable. The following season too, albeit with a different cast, has a similar tang to it, and quenches the thrill thirst quite well.

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5. The Walking Dead (2010-Present)

A TV series that shook and baffled many of us, thanks to the dead people walking, ‘TWD’ is and has always been a matter of eager wait. A Sherrif who suddenly wakes up in a hospital finds himself in a world free of humans but replete with the walkers. As he struggles to find more people like him, the closer he moves to the despicable reality that the humans have become far more hostile than the walkers and that there’s no avail and escape from the dreadful epidemic. ‘The Walking Dead’ has broken all kinds of ceilings in terms of stellar performances and even taller scripts. As we wait for the eighth instalment of the series, the slow transformation of a group of people to communities and countries (if at all) could be interesting, all amidst the walkers.

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4. Fargo (2014-Present)

The first season is my personal favourite, only because of Billy Bob Thornton. Fargo has fascinated many of us either by the means of movie or the series. The Minnesota tales have been the interest of many due to their spontaneity and the justness they portray, albeit in a dark unbecoming way. Primarily being a murder investigation, the “getting away with a murder” part was something that was worth seeing. Like I mentioned, Billy Bob as Lorne is as spontaneous, cold-blooded and deceitful as he gets. So do Peggy and Ed and Ray and Nikki. Fargo is unsettling and nail-biting with its own moments of malice and quirk.

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3. Mindhunter (2017-)

‘Mindhunter’ tries to poke at the curtain of the mystery that is closest to us and yet, still, far from reach- the human brain. Especially, the brain that doesn’t act like the other, normal ones. This show follows two FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench as they try to understand what makes a serial killer tick. One of the best shows to debut last year, ‘Mindhunter’ is based on the book of the same name by former FBI agent John Douglas, in collaboration with the writer Mark Olshaker. Helmed by David Fincher, ‘Mindhunter’ is a near-perfect portrayal of the incidents depicted in the book. I say near-perfect because the creators have taken some creative licence (not that I’m complaining) in drawing up the characters and managing their storylines.

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2. Sharp Objects

Image result for sharp objects

‘Sharp Objects’ is one hell of a show, while I also admit that it is increasingly difficult to watch. Unfailingly, the show has a very niche group of audience it would appeal to. It operates simultaneously as a whodunnit, an examination of the psyche of a handful of broken women and their upbringing, while diving deep into the complex web of emotions and thoughts that constitute a person, also represented by random, quick cuts in scenes showing seemingly unrelated visuals derivative of the protagonist’s conflicted state of mind. It is dark, almost bleak, and psychologically disturbing at so many levels, often unforgiving in its dramatic repealing of the many secrets the human brain is capable of housing under the complex umbrella term ‘behavioural psychology’. All that chatter is not to take away from the show the visible effort and meticulousness put into crafting each shot and making things all the more eerie and unsettling. Kudos to the makers for retaining the essence of the novel in almost all aspects, and bringing to us a show that is increasingly well made and incredibly well acted.

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1. Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

One of the highest rated TV shows in the history of TV shows and in the history of TV itself, ‘Breaking Bad’ is as ripe as it gets with age. Ingenious and later infamous chemistry teacher and cancer patient Walter White exploits his and his crime cohort-cum-student Jesse’s skills and needs to synthesise methamphetamine or Crystal Meth, which is apparently the best ever that has been produced, thanks to the technical know-how. As the series progresses, Walter White gets more restless and dilapidated while he’s stuck between gangs, his cancer and the DEA of course. ‘Breaking Bad’ is the mother of all televised series out there and is here to stay that way for a very long time.

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