With Netflix’s hit horror series stranger things Back on the platform in May 2022, it’s worth wondering where the streaming phenomenon sits in the annals of the all-time great TV shows. To take the pulse of the masses, the good folks at Ranker have put together a fantastic roster of old and new horror shows that continue to scare casual and hard-core genre fans, many of whom embrace the anthology format.
From rabid zombies and bloodthirsty cannibals to killer clowns, evil aliens, deadly demons and more, it’s time to find out which horror shows reign supreme.
One of the longest-running television shows in history, regardless of genre, scope, and exhaustive storylines of Supernatural continue to provide endless entertainment. Whether Sam and Dean are hunting a monster of the week or tending to the overall arc of heaven and hell, the heartfelt bond between actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles is the heart and soul of the show.
Brothers Sam and Dean Winchester set out to make their father proud by continuing his demon-hunting legacy, traveling the country to solve people’s paranormal problems. More than scared, fans tune in to see the brotherly bond between Sam and Dean, watching them grow and evolve from insecure young men to mature, confident protectors who learn to honor their father’s enduring legacy.
Thanks to a fantastically scary turn from Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal somehow manages to live up to the iconic namesake in the performance immortalized by Anthony Hopkins in Thesilenceofthelambs. The show is about the early life of Hannibal Lector and his tenuous relationship with idealistic FBI criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).
Drawing from the mythology of the films by delving deep into Hannibal’s past, the show has been praised for its atmospheric visual aesthetic, likable characterization of Lector himself, unpredictable story twists and, of course, the performance. imposing and truly terrifying by Mikkelsen.
The Walking Dead
Cultural phenomenon if any, The Walking Dead all but reinvented the zombie genre by giving it a soapy dramatic makeover intended for episodic television. Conceived by Frank Darabont before Greg Nicotero took over, the series focuses on human drama first, with the bloody zombie action receding as the series progresses.
Beyond the viscerally gruesome zombie attacks and stellar makeup/FX work, what makes The Walking Dead so remarkable is how it portrays humanity at its triumphant best and tragic worst during an apocalyptic event, testing viewers with indirect moral dilemmas at every unpredictable turn.
Alfred Hitchcock presents
Always ahead of the curve, the master of suspense presaged many anthology horror shows with the 1955 debut of Alfred Hitchcock presentsan influential touchstone that paved the way for The twilight zone and shows of his ilk. Spanning seven seasons and 268 episodes, including the pilot directed by Hitchcock himself, the series blends horror, crime, comedy, suspense and sci-fi in the most terrifying way imaginable.
Hitchcock’s classic horror movie psychology was almost made as a TV episode of the series, with Bates’ famous hilltop mansion also used for the episode “An Unlocked Window.” Available to stream on Peacock, Alfred Hitchcock presents proved that shorthand horror could succeed on the small screen.
Although it serves as a nostalgic pastiche of a slew of 1980s horror and sci-fi movies that the creators idolize, stranger things is a true horror television phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity. The young cast contributes greatly to the overall appeal of the series, which centers on the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, besieged by an evil parallel dimension known as The Upside Down.
The hugely expensive, special effects-driven show does a good job of tapping into Amblin Entertainment’s halcyon horror days and evoking the childlike sense of wonder of movies like Gremlins, ET, and The Gooniesetc By focusing on adult, teen, and tween characters, the show provides spooky entertainment for every age group and demographic, which is one of the reasons for its universal appeal.
According to Ranker, the two parts This The 1990 miniseries is one of the most terrifying television shows of all time. Indeed, Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise, the sharp-toothed evil killer clown, is the stuff of childhood nightmares and beyond.
Adapted from the hugely popular Stephen King novel by director Tommy Lee Wallace, This follows the Loser Club, a group of seven young outcasts who spend a summer battling the obnoxious shape-shifting clown of the sewers. Thirty years later, in Part 2, the children have grown into adults and return to Derry, Maine to once again face the evil scourge, finally ending the 3-decade reign of terror. As King does best, it’s the relatable characters that make the horror linger so deep under the skin.
Ticking both the horror and sci-fi boxes, X files will go down as one of the greatest television shows of all time, regardless of genre. Created by Chris Carter, the show has challenged, intrigued, terrified and captured the collective imagination of viewers for a quarter of a century. The show is simply faultless for its creativity and longevity.
Whether it’s tracking a monster of the week or dealing with the underlying UFO/alien story, it’s the laid-back chemistry between FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully ( Gillian Anderson) who made the show run so well and for so long, especially in how their opposite optimistic-pessimistic nature regarding their willingness to believe in the paranormal. With two feature film spinoffs to boot, The X-Files won over almost a viewer by the end of the show.
american horror story
Entering its 11th season this fall, american horror story continues to reinvent itself through its anthology premise that allows for a new villainous theme each season. Witch covens, summer camp slashers, brainwashing cults, vicious vampires and Florida freakshows are just a taste of what the bold and daring series entails.
While the loss of Oscar winner Jessica Lange is hard to overstate, AHS continues to go to dark and daring places that most horror TV shows are too scared of, making for one of the most sordid and sinister experiences on the tube. There’s also a fun, self-reflective sense of biting humor in the series that will tickle the most ardent horror heads.
Tales from the Crypt
Fusing camp, kitsch, and dark humor with graphic violence, quirky stories, and truly chilling performances, Tales from the Crypt remains one of the most entertaining horror television shows of all time. With episodes written and directed by some of the most talented names in the horror genre, including Tobe Hooper, William Friedkin, Richard Donner, Tom Holland and many more, the half-hour show marries the macabre with the tableau. from the 1950s comic book series. it’s based on better than most.
With 93 episodes produced on HBO from 1989 to 1996, horror fans should check out the second episode of Season 1, Zemeckis’ “And All Through the House,” one of the anthology episodes of scariest holiday-themed horror that pays direct homage to the 1972 film version of Tales from the Crypt.
The twilight zone
Rightly, Ranker fans said The twilight zone as the greatest horror TV show of all time. It’s hard to argue against the historic anthology series that has been giving viewers nightmares for generations, despite only airing for five years, from 1959 to 1964.
Hosted by creator Rod Serling, The twilight zone takes the basic principle of Alfred Hitchcock presents, doubles the length of each episode and gives the stories a dizzying sci-fi twist to create a unique experience at the time. Sure, the prolificacy of 156 episodes produced in five years is one thing, but the anthology nature of the structure ensured excitement every time, keeping the show fresh, chilling, and unforgettable.
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