Former FCC Chairman Newton Minow once called television a “vast wasteland,” but it’s come quite a long way since those words were spoken in 1961. The success of series such as I Love Lucy set the stage for greater things to come, and, in the modern era, television productions are as beloved as most movies, if not more so.
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From triumphant high fantasy tales as seen in Game of Thrones to universe-spanning adventures in Doctor Who, television is an excellent medium for storytelling, and, according to IMDb, these episodes represent the very best of the best that medium has to offer. Some have produced the best TV episodes of all time.
Updated on April 17th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: The way media is typically consumed has changed pretty dramatically over the past decade. Theaters, to many, seem antiquated after the rise of online streaming services, and more and more viewers are opting to ditch cable in favor of platforms such as Hulu or Amazon. This may sound fairly catastrophic, but it’s not a harbinger of the end of television as it has been known for seventy-some years. Fantastic series still debut regularly, and the advent of streaming has allowed more niche projects to be greenlit. Additionally, most of the highest-rated TV episodes of all time debuted in the last decade, indicating that TV is as relevant as it ever was.
15 Doctor Who: Blink (2007) – 9.8
Stream On HBO Max
One of the longest-running television shows in history, Doctor Who is a cornerstone of British pop culture that has literally outlived generations of people. It is so old that dozens of the older episodes are actually missing and are thought to be totally lost becuase preservation practices weren’t all that robust when the show first began.
Ironically, Doctor Who’s highest-rated episode is one that doesn’t involve the titular doctor much. Stuck in 1969, the Doctor tries to stop the Weeping Angels, agreed upon to be one of the scariest monsters in the series, from hijacking the TARDIS with the help of Sally Sparrow.
14 LazyTown: Robbie’s Dream Team – 9.8
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The children’s show LazyTown has gone down as perhaps the most impactful television production ever to come from Iceland. The show’s penultimate episode, titled “Robbie’s Dream Team,” features the iconic villain Robbie Rotten cloning himself in order to assemble a team capable of capturing the titular town’s fitness-loving heroes once and for all.
While it certainly wasn’t made with older audience members in mind, “Robbie’s Dream Team” attracted millions of viewers thanks to the Robbie-led song “We Are Number One,” which became a huge internet meme. The event culminated in a major charity effort for Robbie Rotten actor Stefan Karl Stefansson, who suffered from cancer.
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13 Rick and Morty: The Ricklantis Mixup (2017) – 9.8
Stream On HBO Max
Messing around with the concept of alternate realities is one of Rick and Morty’s signature tropes, and the episode “The Ricklantis Mixup” does it exceptionally well. The episode revisits the famous Citadel of Ricks where Ricks and Mortys from millions of alternate universes have formed a secret society of their own.
At the end of the episode, an evil version of Morty takes control of the place. It won several accolades from various sources such as the Annie Award for “Outstanding Achievement for Writing in an Animated Television.”
12 Person of Interest: If-Then-Else (2015) – 9.8 (11008+ Votes)
Stream On HBO Max
Person of Interest is not a name as popular as some of its contemporary competitors, but, at the time of its debut, it proved to be so popular that a high-profile series such as CSI was pushed aside to make time for airing it. The 11th episode of the fourth season, “If-Then-Else” acts as a climax to one of the longest-running storylines in the series against the A.I. named Samaritan.
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Protagonist John Reese and his companions, with the help of The Machine, attempt to stop the Samaritan from causing an international economical disaster.
11 Chernobyl: Vichnaya Pamyat (2019) – 9.8
Stream On HBO Max
Retelling the story of a historical event in the form of a movie or TV series can certainly prove to be challenging. It needs to be factually accurate, and, at the same time, unless it’s a documentary, dramatic enough to capture the attention of the general audience.
HBO’s Chernobyl manages to do both meticulously, and all the critical acclaim it has deservingly received is proof of that. The fifth and final episode wraps up its tale of one of the worst man-made disasters in history and the politics behind it in an excellent manner, and the ratings reflect that.
10 Hannibal: Mizumono (2014) – 9.8
Stream On Hulu
Hannibal is one of those shows that didn’t garner much attention while it was airing, but it has achieved something of a cult status in recent years as more people have come to appreciate it, especially since its cancellation.
“Mizumono” is the culmination of the second season of the show and sees Will Graham and Jack Crawford making their final move against the serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter. The plan falls apart at the last minute, but the moments leading up to it are the show’s most jarring and suspenseful.
9 The Office: Finale (2013) – 9.8
Stream On Peacock
NBC’s The Office is one of the most celebrated comedy series of all time and deserves recognition in the halls of television history alongside series such as Friends and Seinfeld. The show had changed quite a bit over its nine-season run, but it maintained a charm and draw nearly unparalleled in the modern TV space.
The entire saga was framed as a documentary about the lives of a group of workers in a Scranton, Pennsylvania office, and the final episode of The Office sees the characters attending a panel about the documentary in which they had for so long participated. It was an introspective and fittingly meta way to send off the series.
8 The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue (2020) – 9.8
Stream On Disney+
The season 2 finale of Disney’s blockbuster Star Wars series The Mandalorian is an emotional rollercoaster ride. It is not without its faults—the shoddy CGI implementation of Luke Skywalker left some critics baffled—but the drama and the sheer epicness outshined it all.
In its last moments, the episode provides a glimpse of what Luke at his full potential can accomplish in terms of strength, something a big part of the fanbase had wanted to see for a long time. Plus, calling the final scene between Grogu and Mando “heartwrenching” would still be an understatement.
7 Six Feet Under: Everyone’s Waiting (2005) – 9.9
Stream On HBO Max
Six Feet Under ran on HBO for five seasons from 2001 to 2005 and struck viewers as a brilliantly-written drama about a family who ran a funeral home. The series won a total of nine Emmys and is often credited as one of the greatest television productions of the 2000s.
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Perhaps fittingly, “Everyone’s Waiting,” the final episode of the series, features a lengthy flash-forward sequence depicting the deaths of the show’s major characters. Death was always central to the series, and this full-circle ending was a poignant and tragically beautiful way to wrap things up.
6 Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Phantom Apprentice (2020) – 9.9
Stream On Disney+
Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered on Cartoon Network in 2008 and lasted for five seasons, shifting to Netflix for a fifth and seemingly final season. However, the series was revived on Disney+, with a seventh season launching in 2020.
This Clone Wars episode heavily features fan-favorite Star Wars characters Dark Maul and Ahsoka Tano, includes some franchise-defining lightsaber battles, and explains the hitherto unsung roles they played in the events of the third canonical Star Wars installment.
5 Bojack Horseman: The View From Halfway Down (2020) – 9.9
Stream On Netflix
Those with only a casual awareness of the Bojack Horseman series may believe it to be yet another satirical animated series in the vein of shows like Family Guy or South Park, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While it features a cast of anthropomorphized animals, it carries emotional and introspective qualities one might only expect to find in a Hemingway novel.
The episode sees Bojack dream of a dinner party that’s attended by those he had known in life who had passed on. Bitter and raw, it strikes at the very core of Bojack’s misanthropic character.
4 Mr. Robot: 407 Proxy Authentication Required (2019) – 9.9
Stream On Amazon Prime
Created by Homecoming director Sam Esmail and featuring Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek, Mr. Robot is the story of a socially-challenged programmer who joins an anarchist group of hackers. “407 Proxy Authentication Required” didn’t amaze viewers and critics just from a storytelling point of view; it was visually stunning and even featured some top-notch choreography.
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The whole episode takes place in a single area, between two rooms, almost like a stage play, and it is even divided into “acts.” It’s something like a modern-day version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope.
3 Game of Thrones: Battle Of The Bastards (2016) – 9.9
Stream On HBO Max
No matter how disappointed many fans had been left after the series finale, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the previous seasons consist of some of the highly praised episodes ever on television. “Battle Of The Bastards” was an epic showdown between two of Game of Thrones’ most show-stealing characters.
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A horrendous villain since the very beginning, nothing gave fans more pleasure than seeing John go to war against Ramsey. The exceptional choreography of the fight sequences made it even more memorable.
2 Attack on Titan: Hero (2019) – 10.0
Attack on Titan is not just another anime series; it has transcended to the level where it is larger than life and the genre itself. The drama and action in “Hero” were simply off the charts.
In it, Commander Erwin rallies a literal suicide squad towards the Beast Titan in order to distract him and the others while Levi unleashes the fury of God on them from behind. It’s an undeniably epic sequence, and it’s up there with top-tier anime moments from acclaimed series such as Cowboy Beebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
1 Breaking Bad: Ozymandias (2013) – 10.0
Breaking Bad is one of the most critically acclaimed TV shows ever, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of its episodes holds the rare distinction of being a ten-out-of-ten. Every minute of its fifth and final season is absolutely jam-packed with drama and action, and “Ozymandias” is the peak.
It is the tragic end to nearly seven years worth of storytelling. Hank is killed by a gang of nazis, and Jesse is taken captive. The White family falls apart once and for all as Walt is forced to flee the country. It’s arguably the greatest hour of TV ever produced.
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About The Author
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Mahir Wasif is a college student with an ever growing passion and interest for all things entertainment related such as movies, tv shows and video games. Although ScreenRant is his first time writing for a professional medium, he is hopeful that the time and effort he invests here will prove to be beneficial for all the parties involved, the readers and he himself.
Always having had a natural knack for internet gossip and news, Mahir now spends his time better by sharing his skills and knowledge with a wider audience.
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