Special Report

The 25 Best Anti-Hero Shows of All Time

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.

Click here for the best antihero shows ever made

Source: Courtesy of Showtime Networks

25. Californication
> IMDb rating: 8.3/10
> IMDb user votes: 176,767
> Series run: 2007-2014
> Cast: David Duchovny, Natascha McElhone, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon

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Source: Courtesy of Fox Network

24. 24
> IMDb rating: 8.3/10
> IMDb user votes: 180,606
> Series run: 2001-2010
> Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carlos Bernard, Dennis Haysbert

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

23. Ozark
> IMDb rating: 8.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 224,481
> Series run: 2017-Present
> Cast: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Sofia Hublitz, Skylar Gaertner

Source: Courtesy of HBO

22. Boardwalk Empire
> IMDb rating: 8.5/10
> IMDb user votes: 181,704
> Series run: 2010-2014
> Cast: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham

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Source: Courtesy of Showtime Networks

21. Shameless
> IMDb rating: 8.5/10
> IMDb user votes: 223,506
> Series run: 2011-2021
> Cast: Emmy Rossum, William H. Macy, Ethan Cutkosky, Jeremy Allen White

Source: Courtesy of FX Network

20. Sons of Anarchy
> IMDb rating: 8.5/10
> IMDb user votes: 281,088
> Series run: 2008-2014
> Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Mark Boone Junior, Kim Coates

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Source: Courtesy of FX Network

19. Justified
> IMDb rating: 8.6/10
> IMDb user votes: 93,816
> Series run: 2010-2015
> Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

18. Deadwood
> IMDb rating: 8.6/10
> IMDb user votes: 101,668
> Series run: 2004-2006
> Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Brad Dourif

Source: Courtesy of AMC+

17. Mad Men
> IMDb rating: 8.6/10
> IMDb user votes: 225,046
> Series run: 2007-2015
> Cast: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones

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Source: Courtesy of CBS

16. Dexter
> IMDb rating: 8.6/10
> IMDb user votes: 697,258
> Series run: 2006-2021
> Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, James Remar

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

15. The Shield
> IMDb rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 77,484
> Series run: 2002-2008
> Cast: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace

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Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

14. Oz
> IMDb rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 95,134
> Series run: 1997-2003
> Cast: Ernie Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Lee Tergesen, Dean Winters

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

13. Curb Your Enthusiasm
> IMDb rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 119,219
> Series run: 2000-Present
> Cast: Larry David, Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

12. BoJack Horseman
> IMDb rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 135,455
> Series run: 2014-2020
> Cast: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Aaron Paul

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Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

11. Rome
> IMDb rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 163,950
> Series run: 2005-2007
> Cast: Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson, Polly Walker, Kerry Condon

Source: Courtesy of Netflix

10. House of Cards
> IMDb rating: 8.7/10
> IMDb user votes: 486,972
> Series run: 2013-2018
> Cast: Kevin Spacey, Michel Gill, Robin Wright, Kate Mara

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Source: Courtesy of National Broadcasting Company

9. Seinfeld
> IMDb rating: 8.8/10
> IMDb user votes: 288,434
> Series run: 1989-1998
> Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, Jason Alexander

Source: Courtesy of Disney Media Distribution

8. The Mandalorian
> IMDb rating: 8.8/10
> IMDb user votes: 386,119
> Series run: 2019-Present
> Cast: Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Giancarlo Esposito, Chris Bartlett

Source: Courtesy of Endemol Worldwide Distribution

7. Peaky Blinders
> IMDb rating: 8.8/10
> IMDb user votes: 439,737
> Series run: 2013-Present
> Cast: Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, Helen McCrory, Sophie Rundle

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Source: Courtesy of HBO Max

6. Sherlock
> IMDb rating: 9.1/10
> IMDb user votes: 868,894
> Series run: 2010-2017
> Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

5. The Sopranos
> IMDb rating: 9.2/10
> IMDb user votes: 355,142
> Series run: 1999-2007
> Cast: James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli

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Source: Courtesy of Adult Swim

4. Rick and Morty
> IMDb rating: 9.2/10
> IMDb user votes: 451,457
> Series run: 2013-Present
> Cast: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer, Sarah Chalke

Source: Courtesy of HBO

3. Game of Thrones
> IMDb rating: 9.2/10
> IMDb user votes: 1,927,269
> Series run: 2011-2019
> Cast: Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey

Source: Courtesy of Home Box Office

2. The Wire
> IMDb rating: 9.3/10
> IMDb user votes: 313,676
> Series run: 2002-2008
> Cast: Dominic West, Lance Reddick, Sonja Sohn, Wendell Pierce

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Source: Courtesy of American Movie Classics

1. Breaking Bad
> IMDb rating: 9.4/10
> IMDb user votes: 1,633,865
> Series run: 2008-2013
> Cast: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt

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