The Best TV Series Exploring War and Conflict

The Best TV Series Exploring War and Conflict

Television has frequently portrayed war and conflict since the 1950s.

To determine the best TV shows about war and conflict, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on audience ratings from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. Television series and television mini-series dealing with war and other major conflicts were ranked based on IMDb user ratings. Only TV shows with at least 5,000 user votes were considered. In the case of a tie, the show with the greater number of user votes was ranked higher. Documentaries were excluded.

Recent series have depicted World War II from ground level, like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” or shown the espionage side, as in “Turn” about the American Revolution or “The Americans” on Cold War spies. (These are the best TV spy shows of all time.)

Other top-ranked programs showcase special forces units, like “The Unit” based on Delta Force, the Israeli show “Fauda,” or “SAS Rogue Heroes” about the British SAS.

For comic relief there are classic comedies like the British “Allo Allo!” and “Blackadder Goes Forth” or the American dramedy. They offered humorous takes on the grim reality of war. Across genres, examining war and conflict through a television lens has captivated audiences for decades.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

25. North & South: Book 1, North & South (1985)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10
> IMDb user votes: 11,209
> Cast: Kirstie Alley, Georg Stanford Brown, David Carradine

The six-episode series focused on two young men, one from South Carolina (Patrick Swayze) and one from Pennsylvania (James Read), who become friends while attending West Point Academy. As the Civil War looms, their divided loyalties test their friendship. Besides the aforementioned cast, the series featured recognizable television actors Lesley-Anne Down, Morgan Fairchild, Robert Guillaume, and Hal Holbrook, as well as country music legend Johnny Cash.

Source: Courtesy of CBS

24. The Unit (2006-2009)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10
> IMDb user votes: 22,238
> Cast: Dennis Haysbert, Regina Taylor, Audrey Marie Anderson

Created by famed playwright David Mamet, “The Unit” followed a covert team, based on the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, on top-secret missions. Operatives often had to go undercover in different countries, which took a toll on their mental health and jeopardized family relationships.

Source: Courtesy of Starz

23. The Pillars of the Earth (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10
> IMDb user votes: 31,755
> Cast: Ian McShane, Matthew Macfadyen, Eddie Redmayne

Adapted from the historical novel of the same name, the award-winning “The Pillars of the Earth” centers on the construction of a cathedral during a civil war between England and Normandy in the 12th century and how the fight to build it destroyed people’s lives.

Source: Courtesy of BBC Worldwide

22. Dad’s Army (1968-1977)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 6,744
> Cast: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn

“Dad’s Army” is a British sitcom about several Home Guard (armed citizen militia) volunteers and their misadventures during World War II as they prepare for a German invasion that is deemed imminent. A spin-off motion picture was released in 1971.

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

21. Wolf (2018)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 7,804
> Cast: Ahu Türkpençe, Serkan Çayoglu, Emir Benderlioglu

This Turkish miniseries follows members of the country’s police tactical units, whose mandate is to prevent terrorist attacks at home and to rescue hostages. The show covers four years of history, starting in 2014, shortly after the rise of the Islamic State.

Source: Courtesy of BBC America

20. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2015)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 13,300
> Cast: Bertie Carvel, Eddie Marsan, Marc Warren

One of several historical dramas on the list, “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is set in an alternate reality. During the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, two men – one a magician who lives as a recluse, the other is his protégé — use magic to help England in the war.

Source: Courtesy of Banijay Rights

19. SAS Rogue Heroes (2022-2024)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 14,844
> Cast: Connor Swindells, Jack O’Connell, Alfie Allen

“SAS Rogue Heroes” is a historical drama telling the story of how the now revered British Army Special Air Service (SAS) was created during World War II. The second season is expected to air in 2024.

Source: Courtesy of American Movie Classics

18. TURN: Washington’s Spies (2014-2017)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 22,258
> Cast: Jamie Bell, Heather Lind, Samuel Roukin

In the middle of British-occupied Long Island, former childhood friends become unlikely spies and help the aspiring American nation win independence. This series was inspired by the actual Culper Ring, an early espionage network that was sometimes directed by George Washington himself. The series was based on the Alexander Rose novel of the same name.

Source: Courtesy of A+E Networks

17. War & Peace (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 24,281
> Cast: Paul Dano, James Norton, Lily James

This drama, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel of the same name, is set during the height of Napoleon’s war with Russia. Starring A-listers like Lily James and Paul Dano, the show follows five wealthy families in Russia and how their lives change in the shadow of war.

Source: Courtesy of HBO Entertainment

16. Strike Back (2010-2020)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 32,191
> Cast: Philip Winchester, Sullivan Stapleton, Michelle Lukes

This eight-season British-American co-production, based on the novel of the same name, follows a clandestine British military intelligence secret unit called Section 20 as members embark on action-packed missions around the world.

Source: Courtesy of Disney Platform Distribution

15. Snowdrop (2021-Present)
> IMDb user rating: 8.2/10
> IMDb user votes: 10,528
> Cast: Jung Hae-in, Jisoo Kim, Ren Hanami

This South Korean show, based on true events, tells a love story amidst political turmoil, s a South Korean student falls in love with a man who, unbeknownst to her, is a North Korean spy. The show takes place in 1987, during the period of a mass protest movement for fair elections – which eventually led to the establishment of a democratic government in South Korea.

Source: Courtesy of yes Studios

14. Fauda (2015-Present)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10
> IMDb user votes: 30,964
> Cast: Lior Raz, Itzik Cohen, Neta Garty

One of the most intense series about war and conflict is the Israeli-produced “Fauda,” whose title is the Arabic word for “chaos.” It also is the codeword Israeli special forces use when a mission doesn’t go as planned. That happens frequently during the series, which tries to put a human face on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and view it from both perspectives. To date there are 48 episodes, all of the white-knuckle variety.

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

13. The Pacific (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10
> IMDb user votes: 114,893
> Cast: James Badge Dale, Joseph Mazzello, Jon Seda

The 10-part miniseries from the producers of the acclaimed “Band of Brothers” miniseries captured the fury of the Pacific campaign in World War II. The show follows U.S. Marines fighting the Japanese on the islands of Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. Among the actual soldiers portrayed in the movie are author Robert Leckie, Medal of Honor winner John Basilone, and Lewis “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.

Source: Courtesy of American Broadcasting Company

12. Roots (1977)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 17,889
> Cast: LeVar Burton, Robert Reed, John Amos

“Roots” was an important miniseries that detailed the inhumanity of slavery in a way many Americans had not previously experienced on television. It aired over eight consecutive nights and was seen by 130 million viewers, a record at that time. The series dramatized author Alex Haley’s family line from the enslavement of ancestor Kunta Kinte to the freedom of his descendants. Besides African-American stars LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, and John Amos, the cast also featured TV veterans Chuck Connors, Ed Asner, and Lloyd Bridges

Source: Courtesy of Warner Home Video

11. ‘Allo ‘Allo! (1982-1992)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 25,843
> Cast: Gorden Kaye, Carmen Silvera, Vicki Michelle

The British import is about a French café owner in occupied France during World War II who deals with German soldiers, a French Resistance leader, and hidden British airmen while concealing an affair with his waitress from his wife.

Source: Courtesy of CBS

10. MASH (1972-1983)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 58,817
> Cast: Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit

The sitcom “M*A*S*H,” about unconventional but dedicated U.S. Army surgeons operating on the wounded near the front during the Korean War, ran for 11 seasons, longer than actual combat in Korea. The anti-war series, which won 14 Emmy awards, was unsparing in showing realistic scenes of doctors operating on wounded soldiers. M*A*S*H” also broke barriers by addressing issues such as PTSD and homosexuality. The show’s finale aired 40 years ago this month and was watched by 77% of the television-viewing audience, the largest percentage ever to see a single TV show up to that time.

Source: Courtesy of FX Network

9. The Americans (2002-2015)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 101,830
> Cast: Keri Russell, Matthews Rhys, Noah Emmerich

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys played Soviet spies masquerading as owners of a travel agency and parents raising a suburban Virginia family. The drama takes place during the 1980s with flashbacks to the spies’ lives in the Soviet Union. Besides the risks involved in their high-stakes missions, there is tension between the spies, one of whom begins to doubt his commitment to the cause. They also must keep their true identities secret from their children. Creator Joseph Weisberg drew upon his experiences in the CIA to develop the show, which won four Emmys during its six-season run.

Source: Courtesy of Cartoon Network

8. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2020)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 101,153
> Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter

This animated Star Wars series portrays what happened between the events of “Episode II – Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” (2005) in the franchise’s universe. All seven seasons of the show are now available for streaming on Disney Plus.

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

7. Generation Kill (2008)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10
> IMDb user votes: 55,001
> Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, James Ransone, Lee Tergesen

“Generation Kill,” which aired in 2008 for seven episodes, won three Emmy Awards. The series tells the story of the first 40 days of the war in Iraq through the eyes of an elite team of Marines as they grapple with inadequate supplies and poor communication. Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård (“Big Little Lies”) plays a Marine sergeant, and the role boosted his career.

Source: Courtesy of History Channel

6. Vikings (2013-2020)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10
> IMDb user votes: 541,566
> Cast: Katheryn Winnick, Gustaf Skarsgård, Alexander Ludwig

“Vikings” tells of the exploits of Ragnar Lodbrok, a well-known Norse hero, who becomes famous as an ambitious Viking raider in England and is eventually crowned a Scandinavian king. Later seasons follow the stories of his sons and their adventures in England, Scandinavia, present-day Russia, and North America.

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

5. Mr. Sunshine (2018)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 8,311
> Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Kim Tae-ri, Yoo Yeon-Seok

A poor Korean boy escapes and gets smuggled into the United States after America’s Shinmiyangyo Expedition to Korea in 1871 but eventually returns to his homeland and falls in love with an aristocrat’s daughter. It turns out her family is part of a secret plan by Japan to colonize Korea.

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

4. Rome (2005-2007)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 174,223
> Cast: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker

Set in the final days of the Roman Republic, “Rome” includes portrayals of historical figures such as Mark Antony, Cicero, and Julius Caesar. The show received seven Emmy Awards over its two-year run and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama Series.

Source: Courtesy of BBC One

3. Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)
> IMDb user rating: 8.8/10
> IMDb user votes: 53,836
> Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry

One of few comedies on this list, “Blackadder Goes Forth” takes place on the Western Front in the trenches of World War I in 1917. The award-winning show, which has a total of six episodes, follows a captain in the British Army and several other soldiers who try to escape.

Source: Courtesy of NBC Universal Global Distribution

2. Das Boot (1985)
> IMDb user rating: 8.9/10
> IMDb user votes: 30,973
> Cast: Jürgen Prochnow, Herbert Grönemeyer, Klaus Wennemann

“Das Boot” is a 1985 miniseries about life on a German submarine, the U-96, during World War II. It is based on Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s 1973 best-selling novel of the same name and the Oscar-nominated movie it spawned. The miniseries depicts life aboard a submarine as mostly confined drudgery, punctuated by periods of sheer terror.

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

1. Band of Brothers (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 9.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 475,054
> Cast: Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston

This 10-part miniseries was created by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, who also collaborated on the WWII epic “Saving Private Ryan.” The miniseries, based on the book by historian Stephen Ambrose, follows the triumphs and tragedies of members of the 101st Airborne Division’s Easy Company as they fight their way across France and into Germany. The miniseries was hailed for its realistic battle scenes and for portraying the psychological toll combat takes on soldiers.

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