20 Best Anti-Hero TV Shows Ever Made
The Best Anti-Hero TV shows ever made. For years, a hero had to be good but then we all realized, other people had stories to tell as well that could be just as compelling. An anti-hero is the person who saves the day, but they may have a less than savory way of doing it. They are redeeming because they are usually doing it for a good cause, like their family or justice. Here is the list of the best Anti-Hero tv shows ever made.
#20 Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because she drinks, she swears and she generally could care less about you. While most superheroes see their powers as a gift, for Marvel’s Jessica Jones her super strength is a curse. She does absolutely everything possible to not help anyone and be left alone.
This, of course, doesn’t work out and time after time, she is the only one that can help. The writing and characters are great, and it somehow finds a way to take us through different highs and lows of Jessica. Even though she should be at the top of the game non-stop considering how badass she is.
#19 Prison Break
Who would have ever thought that you would route for a bunch of prisoners would make the list for best anti-hero TV shows, but Prison Break takes us there. Sure the main two guys are wrongly accused but they are surrounded by some bad dudes who will do anything for freedom and a little cash.
Maybe we are all routing against injustice, but we route for these guys. The show is gritty and well written, almost hinging on soap opera it has so many crazy twists, turns and over the top situations. This takes you on a wonderful ride that makes you not want to stop. The later seasons were not great (how often can you break out of prison) but the show on the whole is definitely one you should watch.
Weeds makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows for obvious reasons. No one expected a show about a weed dealer would be the show that pulls at our heartstrings but Weeds is. Why do we care about a drug dealer? Because she is doing everything she can, at any cost, to save her family. The matriarch of the family is Nancy Botwin, she is a little loose with the laws and we love her for it.
Its like breaking the speed limit, if people aren’t getting hurt, then what’s the big deal. This entry in to best anti-hero TV shows ever comes from creator Jenji Cohen, the creator of Orange is the New Black. She has a nack for very serialized linear stories with great characters and this is no different. Very much worth a watch, especially given some of the other wonderful characters like uncle Andy and the guy that Kevin Nealon plays.
This one makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because the Punisher is one of those characters that Hollywood has tried over and over and over again but has finally gotten it right. Jon Bernthal makes for the perfect good intentioned ruthless killer in the very well-made Netflix series. Even though he brutally murders and would rather be drenched in blood than relent, its ok because it is bad people and he is doing it in the name of revenge.
We all tend to be ok with revenge if we think it is warranted (it was, these guys killed his wife) and so this is all ok. We love it because we too want to also taste that sweet justice. The show’s unwillingness to sugar coat things really gives this gritty real-life vibe with stakes and it is a tone that is so very refreshing. This is one was short-lived because of the high D’s foray into streaming but it was fantastic while it lasted..
Californication makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because it stars one of the best written degenerate characters ever. This one is a little different from the other ones on the list, as the lead character Hank Moody played by David Duchovny isn’t off killing people, he is just a womanizing dick who fell azz backwards into money he didn’t really work too hard to earn.
That character is what makes this all special, he oozes a coolness but under that he just falls apart at any chance he gets. Destroying any relationship (including daughter and ex-wife) and ultimately decimating everyone around him. This dramedy has tremendous ups and downs that take you through amazing warm moments to moments that make you pull your hair out for thinking how could he screw this up so bad. It is a lot of fun and it teaches, definitely worth a watch.
#15 Boardwalk Empire
Boardwalk Empire makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because it surrounds the various characters from one of the most notorious crime epidemics in history. This true life story brought to life by the great Martin Scorsese depicts one of the most prevailing times for organized crime, the prohibition era of the 1920s and early 1930s.
Amazing characters fight across America to make it to the top, and they are not playing Parcheesi, blood is shed at the hands of some of history’s most ruthless crime figures. Not only does this production of this best anti-hero TV showstopper have tier one award winning cast, but the production value and storylines were top notch.
Even though it is based on an Australian show that ran for eleven seasons, this iteration has been able to have a life of its own and set itself apart, making it over nine seasons itself. At the center are the Gallaghers, a down on their luck lower class family that will do whatever it takes to stay together and support one another. Their situation has led to an adrenaline shot of resourcefulness for the six-ish kids that have to take care of their alcoholic and unemployable father played by William H Macy.
This description sounds drab but it is actually really sweet, all these kids care about is each other, its them versus the world and they are fine with that. The amazing characters of this show drive great storylines and on top of that, there is moment after moment that everyone can relate too. A show like this really makes you appreciate family and if nothing else it sure is a fun ride.
#13 Ray Donovan
Ray Donovan makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because of the stone cold lead. Liev Schreiber has the demeanor of an antihero, a chiseled villain looking behemoth with the acting chops and personality to sell a heart of gold. We know right away that while he is out there “fixing” problems, we care about this guy.
He is surrounded by a sh*tstorm of troubled family that only he seems to be able to help. And the worst criminal he has to deal with is his dad, played by Jon Voight. The story lines are good and the stakes and characters keep you on your toes. This is a unique look at a criminal element which also helps make this a refreshing watch another unique character piece on the list of best anti-hero TV shows ever.
#12 Orange is the New Black
This is the second series on the list of the best anti-hero tv shows from writer/creator Jenji Kohan (Weeds) who really knows how to take the viewer on a journey on the backs of strong characters. This one is no different, you would think that for a show with around 20 + main characters, you would constantly not care and forget everyone.
This is not true, you both know and care about everyone through well placed flashbacks and story development that push forward the narrative. No one thought a show about female prison inmates would be any good, but being one of Netflix’s most popular shows of all time, those people were sure put to shame. Netflix deserves credit for the pushing the envelope and bring us many of the best anti-hero TV shows of all time.
#11 House of Cards
House of Cards makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because it took the evil lead character to a whole new level of quality. Yes, the lead of this one is a terrible human being that we all hope never to see again, but lets not take away from a pioneering show that has a great cast and crew and look created by the great David Fincher. The story lines were so over the top and crazy but written so eloquently and made to be so believable it was scary.
The worst thing that happen to the show was a president being elected that made House of Cards storylines seem tame by comparison. This was one of the early shows that put Netflix on the map, it was one of the early shows that help pioneer spend theatrical money on TV shows (like Game of Thrones was doing) and proving that was sustainable. If you don’t like the show at least thank it for kicking the quality of your tv programming up a notch.
#10 The Wire
The Wire is one of the pioneers of the non law bidding lead and an easy choice for the list of the best anti-hero TV shows. Before this time, TV was more linear and black and white, your lead was the hero and by the end of a particular episode they had defeated evil and saved the day.
Well life is not so black and white and The Wire shows this, showing a criminal element doing whatever they had to do to survive. The story lines were incredibly well written and ground breaking for it’s time. The show also gave us Idris Elba so bonus points for that.
#9 Sons of Anarchy
Sons of Anarchy makes the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because it brilliantly showed an element of crime you do not see too much anymore. You always see these real life biker clubs out there with their branded jackets and you think good for them, finding like-minded individuals like that, but what harm could they possibly do. They are basically wearing symbols on their backs that saw “arrest me” even if they were doing the slightest bit of crime.
Sons of Anarchy showed us that you can represent and still F sh*t up. Led by attractive Bad Boy Charlie Hunnam this biker gang cared about their own but weren’t afraid to get a little messy if the situation called for it. The writing was great and you really believe these guys are doing it but were always intelligent enough to stay one step ahead of the law. Jam packed with amazing characters and twists for days, its no wonder this one is on top of so many lists.
#8 The Shield
If you want gritty drama and a well-written cop show, The Shield is the title on the list of the best anti-hero TV shows for you. If you know nothing about this show, that is one of the best ways to go in. The show opens with our lead Vic Mackey played by Michael Chiklis killing a cop he suspects of being a rat in cold blood.
It really sets the tone for this 89 episode downward spiral. Every episode will shock you in how far this group of reengage cops will for their own financial benefit. The writing is just so good, the tension needs to be cut with a knife it is so thick. This is one of the older shows on the list but it definitely still holds up.
This entry to the list of the best anti-hero TV shows because it has someone at the lead you might not expect, and it benefits greatly from this. I think if you ask someone who the least likely hero in the world would be, serial killer may be at the top of the list. With Dexter though it works. Again it goes back to the concept of street justice, bad people getting what they deserve.
You are constantly inside the head of Dexter Morgan and with this you see the sick and fragile individual that is just trying to keep it together. You really feel for him. From the overarching storyline to the creative way Dexter hunts and murders his Prey in each episode, everything is incredibly well thought out and satisfies so many urges.
Damages brings us one of the most ruthless characters ever appearing on screen in Lawyer Patty Hewes played by Glen Close. The length she goes to get what she wants is insane and in some of the reveals you have to get up and walk around they are so mind blowing.
The back and forth between her and the more bright eyed young lawyer played by Rose Byrne, shows incredibly chemistry and really drives the narrative in a direction that makes you never see what was coming. This is one of the shows on the list of best anti-hero TV shows that was incredibly underrated. Do yourself a favor and watch the entire series right now.
#5 Game of Thrones
Some might be mad that Game of Thrones is not higher up on the list of the best anti-hero TV shows, but that just goes to show you how much greatness there is out there. This one needs no introduction, this show changed the game. Game of Thrones showed that spending theatrical money on tv was worth it. The stories, the characters, the fantasy, the red wedding, purple wedding, pokadot wedding (ok I made that one up).
It is all top notch and something unlike we have ever seen. The world is huge and you feel it. The show is the definition of epic and is no surprise it has been nominated for 132 Emmys and actually won 47 of those. This truly is a benchmark for television and worth a watch if for nothing else than to be in the conversation that absolutely everyone is having.
#4 Mad Men
This slow burn of a gem on the list of the best anti-hero TV shows kind of snuck up on us but by the end it, and its alcoholic something-he’s-not protagonist Don Draper played by Jon Ham, a house hold name. Set in the roaring 60s at the center of the world, a New York ad agency, this show made old fashions and drinking in the office cool again. Our hero Don Draper is not a good person but he is just so genius at what he does, everyone looks away.
Very much the troubled artist. Looking past all his womanizing and other indiscretions, the man just oozes “cool”. Ever frame of this show is stylish and cool and puts you deep into thought. Every moment reveals something special and takes you along for the ride. This is why the show is enjoyable. Do yourself a favor and give this show that helped propel AMC into the TV brand stratosphere a chance.
Jason Bateman has seemed to re-invent himself over and over during the course of his 30+ year career and he did it again with Netflix’s ultra-dark small-town crime story Ozark. Under what seems like a mild-mannered family man is a blue-collar criminal that gets in too deep. The cartel is going to kill him until he throws up one last hail marry guaranteeing he could launder millions of dollars in a very short time in a quaint little town for which the show is named.
This event, which kicks off the series, snaps this family into a mode of animalistic ally protecting their cubs at any cost. The stakes keep getting higher and higher but somehow, they are able to fool everyone and make it seem like they were just a regular old pillar of the community until it all slowly unwraps. This title on the list of the best anti-hero TV shows may still be early in its run, but between the amazing Jason Bateman and Laura Linney to the amazing tone and production value to the intense story lines, this is one that you can watch over and over again and still be on the edge of your seat.
#2 Breaking Bad
Talk about a reinvention, when this show started no one thought that the zany dad from Malcom in the Middle could play this Meth dealer but Bryan Cranston proved without a doubt that we were all wrong. His transformation from the begin to the end shows us almost a completely different Walter White and one of the best TV performances ever attempted.
Forget about the lead for a second thought and just bask in the fact that this is also widely held as one of the best-written shows in history. The plots and structure of the show were so well thought out and layered that it is an absolute pleasure to see every minute unfold. This show is a must and easily one of the best anti-hero TV shows ever produced.
Sopranos is arguably one of the best TV shows since the beginning of time and easily takes the top spot on the list of the best Anti-hero TV shows. Even the WGA (the people who write scripts) have proclaimed that it is the best show ever written. Talk about your anti-hero, Tony Soprano is as bad as they come mobster and you could care less, you want him to win. Maybe it is because he is doing it for his family, or maybe because this is what he was born into and what could he do, or maybe it is because he is always fair.
He sets a line and he doesn’t cross it, he wants success and not war. He cares about his people. The balance of good and evil is why this was all able to work. You saw the inter-workings of Tony and you cared for him. On top of this was a pen of amazing characters and amazing storylines, all coupled with an almost documentary look on how organized crime goes down.
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