Greatest Television Finales

March 14, 2019 by Steven M. Peters

Source: Courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution
A dedicated television viewer may invest hundreds of hours into watching their favorite program. The person grows to know every trait of the characters and waits with bated breath to discover their ultimate fate. For this reason, a series finale can often make or break a show’s reputation.

A successful final episode provides a sense of closure for viewers, and assures them that their time was well spent. Especially with many of today’s serials, in which each episode ties together to tell one long story: audience members hope for a conclusion that is worthy of the ride.

24/7 Wall St. has identified the 13 greatest television finales based on user ratings from the Internet Movie Database. These are the finales that left viewers the most happy and fulfilled.

The highest rated finales are often those of well-loved shows. After spending 10 seasons with the cast of “Friends,” for instance, fans were eager for the closure that the final episode of the 62-time Emmy nominated show would bring for the six characters they’d grown to care about over the years. A staggering 52.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the episode in May 2004, and today it remains one of the top-rated television finales.

It’s not necessary for a series to be especially popular to have a great finale. The Syfy channel series “12 Monkeys” never had the reach of “Friends,” yet its smart and well-written final episode rivaled that of the NBC sitcom’s in the eyes of those who watched it.

Click here to see the greatest television finales.

To determine the greatest television finales of all time, 24/7 Wall St. identified the television episodes tagged as “series finale” with the highest ratings on the Internet Movie Database. Each episode was also required to have at least 400 user ratings in order to ensure a wide consensus on the show’s level of quality.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television Distribution

13. The Middle
> Original run: (2009 – 2018)
> Finale title: A Heck of a Ride
> Rating: 9.6/10
> Starring: Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Charlie McDermott

After airing for nine seasons on ABC, the family sitcom “The Middle” concluded with a two-episode finale in 2018. The conclusion — which focused on the series’ Heck family — was a hit with viewers, who rated it more than 2 points higher than the overall series on IMDb.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

12. Justified
> Original run: (2010 – 2015)
> Finale title: The Promise
> Rating: 9.6/10
> Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Jere Burns

The crime drama “Justified” was a standout series on the FX network, garnering eight Emmy nominations over its five-season run, and winning two. The final season was especially well received — it holds a 100% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. NPR television critic David Bianculli called the final episode a “triumph” that “was as unpredictable and poetic and entertaining and memorable as the series itself.”

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television Distribution

11. Forever
> Original run: (2014 – 2015)
> Finale title: The Last Death of Henry Morgan
> Rating: 9.6/10
> Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Alana De La Garza, Joel David Moore

Supernatural drama “Forever” won’t be considered among the longer-running series, running for just one season before ABC canceled the show. While ratings for the series started low, they gradually increased as “Forever” built its fanbase. The final episode, “The Last Death of Henry Morgan,” was a success with these fans, who bestowed upon it a rating of 9.6 out of 10 with 1,600 user votes on IMDb.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Television

10. Angel
> Original run: (1999 – 2004)
> Finale title: Not Fade Away
> Rating: 9.6/10
> Starring: David Boreanaz, James Marsters, J. August Richards

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” spinoff “Angel” had a successful run, generating five seasons. And it ended on a high note. Video game and entertainment website IGN described the final episode as “dramatic, sad and moving,” while IndieWire called it a “perfect final note.”

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Source: Courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

9. 12 Monkeys
> Original run: (2015 – 2018)
> Finale title: The Beginning Part 2
> Rating: 9.7/10
> Starring: Aaron Stanford, Amanda Schull, Todd Stashwick

The Syfy channel’s “12 Monkeys” — based on the 1995 film of the same name — doesn’t have exceptionally high ratings online for the entire series, with IMDb users rating it a middling 7.7 out of 10. However, the show reached its peak with its finale, “The Beginning Part 2,” which is its highest rated episode. The finale was praised for being both unpredictable and thorough in its wrapping up of loose ends.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Television

8. The Americans
> Original run: (2013 – 2018)
> Finale title: START
> Rating: 9.7/10
> Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Brandon J. Dirden

“The Americans” was the recipient of four Emmys as well as the Golden Globe for “Best Television Series – Drama.” Co-showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields revealed in a 2018 interview with “Variety” that they were extremely pleased with the spy drama’s ending, stating that “It does seem like the story is over to us.”

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Television

7. Person of Interest
> Original run: (2011 – 2016)
> Finale title: Return 0
> Rating: 9.7/10
> Starring: Jim Caviezel, Kevin Chapman, Amy Acker

“Person of Interest,” which ran for five seasons ending in 2016, is considered by some to be one of the best science fiction series ever. The show may have been at its very best during its final, which is regarded as well constructed — and thoroughly emotional — episode.

Source: Courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

6. Parks and Recreation
> Original run: (2009 – 2015)
> Finale title: One Last Ride
> Rating: 9.7/10
> Starring: Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman

Award-winning sitcom “Parks and Recreation” was a hit among viewers as well as critics — scoring 90% and 92%, respectively, on Rotten Tomatoes. After seven seasons, fans were ready for the sentimental outpouring found in the finale “One Last Ride” — which jumped forward and backward in time, showing the course of the characters’ lives — and gave it the highest rating of all the show’s episodes on IMDb.

Source: Courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

5. The Office
> Original run: (2005 – 2013)
> Finale title: Finale
> Rating: 9.7/10
> Starring: Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer

Four years prior to the debut of “Parks and Recreation,” NBC introduced U.S. audiences to another hugely successful mockumentary-style sitcom — “The Office.” Millions of people tuned in to see the final fate of the employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. The episode was nominated for three Emmys and won the award for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series.

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Source: Courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

4. Friends
> Original run: (1994 – 2004)
> Finale title: The Last One: Part 2
> Rating: 9.7/10
> Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow

“Friends” earned its reputation as one of the best shows in television history running for 10 years on NBC and receiving 62 Emmy Award nominations. As a result of the show’s popularity, 52.5 million viewers tuned in for its finale, ensuring its status as a major cultural event.

Source: Courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution

3. Parenthood
> Original run: (2010 – 2015)
> Finale title: May God Bless and Keep You Always
> Rating: 9.8/10
> Starring: Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard

NBC’s “Parenthood” was far less popular than many of the other programs with beloved finales, and it struggled with ratings throughout its six-season existence. Its final episode had just under 5.5 million viewers — a fraction of the number that tuned in for the finale of “Friends.” The series was considered one of the best family dramas on television during its run by those fans that stuck with it, however, and its finale was near-universally liked by its viewers.

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Source: Courtesy of HBO

2. Six Feet Under
> Original run: (2001 – 2005)
> Finale title: Everyone’s Waiting
> Rating: 9.8/10
> Starring: Peter Krause, Michael C. Hall, Frances Conroy

HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” which tells the story of a family of morticians, was a critical success over its five seasons, winning three Golden Globe awards and nine Emmys. The series never shied away from the topic of death, and the finale was no different, offering viewers a glimpse of each character’s demise.

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

1. Breaking Bad
> Original run: (2008 – 2013)
> Finale title: Felina
> Rating: 9.9/10
> Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul

“Breaking Bad” tells the story of Walter White — a high school chemistry teacher turned soulless crystal meth dealer. The series won 16 Emmy Awards has a diehard fan base and is considered by many to be one of the greatest television series of all time. The show’s finale, “Felina,” has a near-perfect score on IMDb with nearly 68,000 users voting. The episode wrapped up all of the beloved series’ loose threads, leaving fans with a sense of closure.