Everybody loves a hero, but we seem to have a healthy appetite for antiheroes, too. Some of the most popular TV shows ever have been about characters who weren’t just flawed but were downright bad. (Here, also, are the 50 greatest movie heroes.)
To determine the best TV shows about antiheroes, 24/7 Tempo reviewed audience ratings from the Internet Movie Database. Television shows were ranked based on average IMDb user rating as of January 2022. Only shows that revolve around antiheroes or protagonists with morally questionable behavior were considered. In the case of a tie, shows with more user reviews were ranked higher. All other information also came from IMDb.
The No. 1 show on our list is “Breaking Bad.” Created and produced by Vince Gilligan, it stars Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and turns to crime to provide for his family. He starts making crystal meth and becomes a criminal kingpin, causing many deaths directly or indirectly. “Breaking Bad” is regarded as one of the greatest TV series ever, although some critics said it glorified crime. (These are the 100 best TV dramas of all time.)
At No. 2 is “The Wire,” a drama series that explores crime, corruption, and policing in Baltimore. It features a large ensemble cast, including real-life figures. The characters are richly drawn: the supposedly good guys all have flaws, and many of the bad guys have redeeming features. Creator David Simon said it’s “really about the American city, and about how we live together. It’s about how institutions have an effect on individuals.”
“Game of Thrones” holds the No. 3 spot. Based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” this neo-medieval fantasy epic features a large cast of characters, including heroes, antiheroes, and everything in between. It’s popular in part because of the rich storytelling — bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.
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