TMP: Top 5 Horror TV Shows of All-Time

top 5 horror tv shows returning videotapes

thursday movie picks is a weekly feature at wandering through the shelves

Ever since I read what this week’s topic was going to be, I’ve been dying to get to it. In the last feature before Halloween, Wandering Through the Shelves‘s Thursday Movie Picks brings you the best horror television has to offer. My picks may not be terribly original this time, but if we’re picking favourites, these are it.

I’ve only now realized we can choose five movies/tv shows, and not just three, and I intend to take full advantage of that because, indeed, there are many great horror tv shows. Here’s some honourable mentions: Stranger Things (2nd season premieres tomorrow!), True Blood, American Horror Story, Supernatural, and Bates Motel. For some of them it’s too soon to be in a Top Five, others I love but are admittedly flawed, and others I still haven’t finished.

So with that in mind, here are my Top 5 Favourite Horror TV Shows, in no particular order:

horror tv shows the x files

#05 The X-Files (1993-)

Admittedly not the scariest of the bunch, The X-Files pioneered a type of 90s sci-fi horror that explores the “Monster of the Week” format, against a background storyline of high level government conspiracy. A narrative that would later inspire shows like Supernatural, which also combines comedic gore and dramatic suspense.

In the 90s show, there’s even a little extremely slowburn romance! So, even if you’re not big on aliens, guaranteed there’s something in it for everyone. And as it turns out, the show is coming back in 2018!

horror tv shows twin peaks the return

#04 Twin Peaks (1990-)

While the first two seasons are somewhat toned down on the horror front, Twin Peaks: The Return goes full-on horror with Frost and Lynch at the helm in a more daring time, free to explore the kind of surreal, body horror mindblowing nightmares we’ve mostly come to expect from director David Lynch.

Also using comedy to lighten its darkest themes, in Twin Peaks we come to know a quirky small town through the eyes of our hero, FBI Agent Dale Cooper. You may not understand most of what the directors duo are trying to say – indeed some episodes might try your patience with their odd pace and seemingly indecipherable plots – but you’re guaranteed a ride like no other.

the exorcist horror tv show

#03 The Exorcist (2015-)

I know, I know, I can’t seem to shut up about this show. But honestly, The Exorcist is the only series in this list on the air right now, it’s all I have! And past experiences (ahem, Hannibal), got us all spooked with low ratings cutting horror shows short so, bear with me.

In case you didn’t get it in the other million times I mentioned this show, The Exorcist is a sequel to the 70s horror cult movie. The first season revolves around the Rance family, but instead of Reagan being possessed again, the demon’s target is one of her daughters. Like in the original, we get two priests who soon realize this case is just the tip of a huge, demon-infested Catholic Church. Also like in the original, it is bloody disgusting, though not nearly as disturbing. The first season is a bit too commercial, doesn’t have the best production, doesn’t take enough risks – still, it is good, and most importantly, it gets better.

Being an anthology series, in the second season we leave the Rance family behind (in what condition, you’ll need to see it to find out!) and arrive at a haunted island, where John Cho is the head of a foster family of five, now six, kids. We don’t know much beyond that at this stage, but the Catholic Church storyline is still in the background, with Herrera and Daniels still as leads. With a solid new setting and perfectly cast characters, now the show looks cleaner, uses clever narrative devices, and is absolutely nailing religious/possession horror.

horror tv shows hannibal

#02 Hannibal (2013-2015)

When news of a show based on Thomas Harris’s classic novels arrived, many Hannibal fans, still feeling the echoes of Hannibal Rising‘s cringeworthy disaster, were hesitant to fully embrace their excitement. What could the creator of Pushing Daisies, aka the sweetest tv show ever you should’ve already seen, bring to the table? And who the hell is this Mikkelsen guy?! Too many still don’t know the answer, but those of us who watched, loved, and live taunted by the possibility of a fourth season, are fully aware of what Hannibal did for the franchise.

It took the cultured cannibal and turns him into the epitome of not only intelligence but also sophistication and damn good taste, using opulent visuals that go further than spiking your macabre curiosity – they elevate murder to an art form.

penny dreadful horror show vanessa ives

#01 Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

If you got this far, you must be a true horror fan! Welcome. Here’s your reward: a show that takes all the classic horror characters you grew up loving and fearing, and has them inhabit the same world, interacting with each other.

Dr. Jekyll, Dorian Gray, Frankenstein and his living dead, Dracula and other vampires, witches, a werewolf… you name it, it’s there. Best of all? Eva Green as the lead, Vanessa Ives. I can’t say I loved every minute of it (you might find some storylines a bit boring at times), but overall, Penny Dreadful is the ultimate horror show. Set in foggy Victorian London, it’s bloody, poetic, well acted, and endlessly dark.

Have you seen any of these shows? Let me know what you think
and what your favourite horror tv series are in the comments!
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12 Comments

  1. October 26, 2017 / 8:08 PM

    I think the most I’ve seen is of Hannibal and I tried twice but couldn’t get past the first half of season 1. Penny Dreadful has been on my radar for a but never got to it. I am very excited for Stranger Things 2 though. 😀

    • October 27, 2017 / 7:21 PM

      It’s a shame you didn’t like it but I get it. If you ever see Penny Dreadful I hope you like it. It’s got quite a bit of adventure, lots of storylines and human relationships, so it might be easier to like. Still, it’s all about monsters!

      I’m SO excited too, been waiting all day to get home so I can start binging!

  2. October 27, 2017 / 1:36 AM

    I used to watch The X-Files, here and there, but was never really a fan. I always forget there’s a TV show for The Exorcist. My daughter is pumped for the 2nd season of Stranger Things so I’m sure I’ll see at least a little of that, like I did for season one.

    • October 27, 2017 / 7:25 PM

      It’s okay, god knows there are enough The X-Files obsessed fans out there 😂 People forget The Exorcist exists (maybe the marketing hasn’t been so good??) and they really shouldn’t because that might get it cancelled!

      Stranger Things has been quite the phenomenon, and with good reason. Such a cool show.

  3. Sonia (A Film A Day)
    October 27, 2017 / 4:25 PM

    Twin Peaks is such a great pick! How did I not think of that one?! I absolutely love Hannibal. It is my #1 horror TV show. I haven’t seen the others though, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Penny Dreadful.

    • October 27, 2017 / 7:32 PM

      I think it’s easy forget there’s true horror in Twin Peaks, especially in the new season.

      Right?! Hannibal was SO good. It’s a shame it got cancelled. You’ll probably like Penny Dreadful, it’s such a treat for horror fans, and it was amazingly cast – Eva Green, Josh Hartnett and Timothy Dalton are leads!

  4. October 29, 2017 / 4:52 AM

    I’m so happy I found blog! I had no idea you moved – love the new blog name and site!
    Great picks! X-Files is the best. I’m interested to know what they have up their sleeve around season eleven.

    • November 4, 2017 / 12:34 PM

      I missed you! Thanks 😊

      I’m excited for the new season too, hoping they do good!

  5. October 30, 2017 / 1:20 AM

    I love the X Files and picked that one also. I found it great even though the writers seemed to lose track with all the twists and turns. I don’t have any desire to see Hannibal or The Exorcist even though you love the latter. I don’t know Penny Dreadful but it sounds good.

    • November 4, 2017 / 12:40 PM

      With so many seasons it’s hard to keep up the quality, but overall I love it, too. Penny Dreadful had its up and downs in my opinion, or at least I didn’t care for all the characters, but the main storyline was amazing – Eva Green is such a good actress!

  6. November 6, 2017 / 4:25 PM

    Great list! Oh my god that Twin Peaks screenshot. What an insane episode of television. I’ll never forget it.

    • November 9, 2017 / 11:41 PM

      Thanks, Alex! At the time that episode frustrated me a bit (but then, all great Lynch movies make me want to throw something at him), but looking back it was positively genius. So glad they got to take the risk.

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