100 Best Shows from the Last Five Years

100 Best Shows from the Last Five Years

June 11, 2024

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In the ever-evolving landscape of television, these ten extraordinary shows have stood out as shining beacons of excellence from the past five years. From gripping dramas to innovative comedies and groundbreaking narratives, these series have pushed boundaries, captivated audiences, and left an indelible mark on the medium. With compelling storytelling, stellar performances, and bold creativity, these shows represent the pinnacle of recent television achievements. So, whether you’re looking to catch up on recent must-see series or seeking new binge-worthy obsessions, join us as we celebrate the best shows that have shaped the last five years and elevated the art of television to new heights.

11. Normal People

best

9.1

Country

Ireland

Actors

Daisy Edgar-Jones, Paul Mescal

Moods

Character-driven, Dark, Depressing

The author of the much-loved New York Times bestseller, Sally Rooney, is among the writers of this TV dramatisation, directed by Irish compatriot and indie director Lenny Abrahamson. Abrahamson, who also gave us Frank and the film adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s Room, builds on Rooney’s fantastic source material and an evocative soundtrack to create an intense, atmospheric drama about the vitality and violence of young love.

Initially set in rural Ireland, Normal People follows Marianne Sheridan (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell Waldron (Paul Mescal) as they are figuring out themselves, their connection, and impending adulthood. And that is all I am going to say at this point, because I feel that it is best to know as little as possible going in.

Every detail of every scene feels studied, laying bare the raw emotion of the two main characters. The dialogue is sharp and funny. The acting is flawless. One thing is certain, if you like modern drama that is as much about how and what is said as about what is actually happening, you will have to watch Normal People!

12. Dark

best

9.0

Country

Germany, United States of America

Actors

Anatole Taubman, Andreas Pietschmann, Angela Winkler, Anne Ratte-Polle

Moods

Challenging, Dramatic, Gripping

If you liked Netflix’ Stranger Things gloomy suspense, sit tight because there is a lot more of where that came from in Dark. Here is what they have in common: the aesthetic, great music, and they’re both about the disappearance of a child. Other than that, it is very difficult to compare Dark to anything else I’ve seen before.

This German show is about a town with a long and dark history, which is brought to the forefront of the collective conscious when a child goes missing. The plot twists and turns through decades of history – and that’s as much as I will share without ruining the show for you. 

Dark uses beautiful aesthetic, both visually and musically, to be compelling and painfully tension-ridden. 

Season two has more bouncing between timelines and more dark and inexplicable events, as now six people are missing. 

13. The Leftovers

9.0

Actors

Amy Brenneman, Carrie Coon, Christopher Eccleston, Justin Theroux

Moods

Thought-provoking

What would you do if 2% of the world’s population disappeared without any apparent reason? This haunting human catastrophe is the premise of the HBO series The Leftovers. Starting three years after the event (dubbed the “Sudden Departure”), it homes in on small town coming to grips with the ramifications of this question, particularly police chief Kevin Garvey, played by Justin Theroux, who inadvertently finds himself at the center of it all.

For some inexplicable reason, it is relatively unknown compared to other HBO shows but this has to change. It is innovative, has an amazing Max Richter soundtrack, as well as a stellar cast, including Liv Tyler and an outstanding Carrie Coon. Created by Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, whose 2011 novel the show is based on, The Leftovers is a must-watch mixture of grim and gripping, but also beautiful, engrossing television!

14. Homecoming

9.0

Country

United States of America

Actors

Bobby Cannavale, Chris Cooper, Julia Roberts, Stephan James

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Thrilling, True-crime

Julia Roberts first small-screen role is that of Heidi Bergman, a woman working as a caseworker at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center, a facility that helps war veterans return to civilian life. Her boss Colin Belfast, superbly played by Bobby Cannavale, is a busy and eager man with questionable motives. Four years on, Bergman no longer works for the mysterious facility, when a visitor forces her to confront what she has been telling herself about her past.

Created by Sam Esmail, who also brought you Mr. Robot, this is mysterious sci-fi at its best. A haunting vibe, heart-stopping cinematography, and a slew of stellar supporting actors like Shea Whigham and Stephan Janes make Homecoming a gripping and breathtaking experience. With each episode clocking in at about 30 minutes, you will frequently be left hungry for more.

15. Barry

best

9.0

Country

United States of America

Actors

Anthony Carrigan, Bill Hader, Henry Winkler, Sarah Burns

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Funny, No-brainer

Former SNL cast member and comedy legend Bill Hader is the writer and main protagonist of the HBO-produced and three-time Emmy-winning series Barry. Part psychological thriller, part dark comedy – one of many new series in the “dramedy” genre – deals with the unlikely premise of a PTSD-ridden low-rent assassin, who, after travelling to LA to execute an actor, decides to dedicate his life to the amateur theatre scene. (Watch out for the always amazing Henry Winkler as the acting class teacher! He was rightly nominated for an Emmy for this performance.)

In typical Bill Hader fashion, this genre-mix is still a lot more comedy than thriller and one cannot help but root for hapless Barry, while he dodges one bullet after the other, as it were, navigating Chechnyan mobsters, the FBI, and his intense acting peers. A lovely, funny, and smart show about a seemingly emotionless guy trying to escape his past.

16. Happy Valley

best

9.0

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Adam Long, Amit Shah, Charlie Murphy, George Costigan

Moods

Binge-Worthy, True-crime

While the BBC is famous for making some great understated drama series about the dark side of detective work (Luther, Line of Duty, Broadchurch), it has raised the bar with Happy Valley. It’s so good, it successfully breathes new life into the middle-aged but strong-willed small-town police officer trope, taking it to some uncomfortable and difficult places with exceptional writing.

Said small-town police officer is Catherine Cawood from West Yorkshire, impressively portrayed by Sarah Lancashire. Cawood has a hard time coming to terms with the release of a man from prison, who she is connected to in a fateful way and whose comeback coincides with a kidnapping attempt by a local drug kingpin. These events reveal the criminal underbelly of a seemingly quaint small town. Hidden behind its ironic title, Happy Valley will keep you on your toes with understated suspense, dry humor, and a quietly devastating storyline.

17. Patriot

best

9.0

Actors

Kathleen Munroe, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus, Michael Dorman

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Thrilling, True-crime

Patriot is about a secret agent meddling with the Iranian elections to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Ok, so like Homeland? Yes, and also very much no. Its protagonist is not a hardened, larger-than-life secret operative but a singer-songwriter stoner with PTSD.

As far as spy dramas go, Patriot certainly takes a lot of risks. Professional assassin John Tavener (played by Michael Dorman), whose dad (played by the amazing Terry O’Quinn from Lost) is the intelligence chief, is on an undercover mission in Iran. But, he’s not sure he wants to be. On top of that, he faces an incompetent federal bureaucracy, challenges to maintaining his cover, and bouts of mental illness.

Tavener is no hero. Patriot is more a mix between offbeat spy thriller and workplace comedy with a lot of dark humor in between.

18. RIPLEY

best

9.0

Country

Switzerland, United States of America

Actors

Andrew Scott, Dakota Fanning, Johnny Flynn

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Character-driven, Mini-series

Ripley delivers an atmosphere-driven, intimately engaging suspense story fueled by money and deceit. The exposition moves slowly, albeit with gorgeous transitions and deliberate, cinematic shots to gush over. But the rich narrative possibilities open up by the second episode, where captivating acting and tense storylines anchor the show simultaneously. Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott), Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn), and Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning) each contribute to an uncomfortable three-way dynamic that you can’t look away from, each a piece of an equation you inexplicably want to root for. This mini-series is a thoroughly compelling, quietly funny work of art already dressed for the awards shows.

19. 1994

best

9.0

Country

Mexico, N/A

Actors

Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive, Mini-series

Have you finished Wild Wild Country and are up for another binge-worthy documentary? If so, 1994 might be a compelling option for you to consider. Released on Netflix for the 25th anniversary of the events in 2019, most of the story would be hard to believe if it wasn’t… you know… based on facts and backed up by archival footage and interviews. As it often goes with documentaries, truth is stranger than fiction.

In 1994, the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, also known as the EZLN or the Zapatistas, declared war on the Mexican government. This happened after the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was signed into law. Incumbent Mexican president Salinas (pictured above) selected prominent reformist presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio to become his heir. Just three months later, Colosio was shot in Tijuana on live television.

1994 is a rich, informative, and fascinating account of this violent and tumultuous year in Mexican history, featuring in-depth interviews with many of those pulling the strings at the time, including former president Salinas. As the people being interviewed point out, understanding the relevance of 1994 in Mexican politics will help you understand the country’s political and economic landscape today.

20. Sex Education

best

8.9

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Actors

Aimee Lou Wood, Alistair Petrie, Anne-Marie Duff, Asa Butterfield

Moods

Funny, Slice-of-Life

Pressured by the feeling that everyone is having sex except him, Otis (Asa Butterfield), like most teenagers, is very uncomfortable with sex, masturbation, and intimacy in general. In addition to the standard-issue teenage awkwardness, to make things worse, he grows up in a sex-positive household under the watchful eyes of his mother Jean, played by Gillian Anderson, who is a sex therapist. Obviously, the subject is omnipresent as are erotic art, oversized dildos, and coitus-craving couples all over the house. The twist comes when he transforms his tribulations into a business model by teaming up with bad girl Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey) to counsel his teenage peers on sexual issues of all kinds. As you can imagine, uninitiated teenagers have a lot to offer in that department. Apart from its raunchy premise and explicit images, this is a hilarious, diverse, and warm teen comedy thanks, in particular, to the writing of playwright Laurie Nunn. Lauded by critics for its honesty, this future comedy classic will surely teach you a thing or two about sexuality yourself.

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