Top 25 Cult TV Shows of All Time

…at least, according to TV Guide. Needless to say, the list is very Genre-heavy.

25. Freaks & Geeks
24. Absolutely Fabulous
23. Forever Knight
22. H. R. Pufnstuf
21. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman
20. Twin Peeks
19. Dark Shadows
18. Doctor Who
17.The Avengers
16. My So Called Life
15. Quantum Leap
14. Beauty & the Beast
13. Babylon 5
12. Family Guy
11. Mystery Science Theater 3000
10. Pee-Wee’s Playhouse
9. Xena: Warrior Princess
8. The Twilight Zone
7. The Prisoner
6. The Simpsons
5. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
4. Farscape
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
2. X-Files
1. Star Trek

41 replies on “Top 25 Cult TV Shows of All Time”

  1. GusherJizmac says:

    Synchronize Swatches!
    They left off Parker Lewis Can’t Lose!

  2. Emmett says:

    Trust me, I know what I’m doing!
    And where is Sledge Hammer? The greatest cop show of all time.
    And Firefly? Doesn’t Firefly even get an honorable mention?

    • mbourgon says:

      Re: Trust me, I know what I’m doing!

      And where is Sledge Hammer? The greatest cop show of all time.

      Coming out on DVD this summer.

      And Firefly? Doesn’t Firefly even get an honorable mention?

      Yeah, that is odd. Give it a year or two. I would have said that it was too soon, but Farscape’s on there. Personally I can’t believe they put Star Trek on there. Before the movie, sure, it was cult. But now that there’s been too many movie and TV shows, it’s just old.

  3. y42 says:

    Pffft!
    Nothing by
    Gerry
    Anderson
    ?!? For shame…

  4. Boglin says:

    Questionable
    Does the Simpsons really qualify for a cult show? I know it has a large devoted following, but that’s exactly my point. It has a large devoted following. I would think that it would be too mainstream to be a cult show. Besides, if we’re going to count Simpsons, why not count Seinfeld or Days of Our Lives? Soap opera fans can be every bit as crazy as scifi people.

    • starbreeze says:

      Re: Questionable

      Does the Simpsons really qualify for a cult show? I know it has a large devoted following, but that’s exactly my point. It has a large devoted following. I would think that it would be too mainstream to be a cult show. Besides, if we’re going to count Simpsons, why not count Seinfeld or Days of Our Lives? Soap opera fans can be every bit as crazy as scifi people.

      *grin* what if you’re both. i’m a sci-fi nut but i also have been hooked on Days of Our Lives since my evil college roommate subjected me to it. am i doubly insane?

      • Timeshredder says:

        Re: Questionable

        am i doubly insane?

        Yes.

        On another note, Firefly is too outside of the mainstream, from a TV guide point of view. Give it a few years and a movie, and it may make one of their lists.

        • Emmett says:

          Re: Questionable

          On another note, Firefly is too outside of the mainstream, from a TV guide point of view. Give it a few years and a movie, and it may make one of their lists.

          But isn’t that just the point of cult shows? to be out of the mainstream?
          OTOH what can I expect from TV Guide?

        • starbreeze says:

          Re: Questionable

          am i doubly insane?

          Yes.

          Mmm… feel the love.

          • Timeshredder says:

            Re: Questionable

            Mmm… feel the love.

            I trust you aren’t actually offended. It’s sort of absurd for me to suggest anyone else has media-related obsessions.

        • Lucy says:

          Re: Questionable
          Actually TV Guide named Firefly as one of it’s favorite new
          shows coming out in 2002 and said ” Firefly looks ambitious,
          provocative and original. Underestimate the gifted Whedon at
          your own peril.” I think they also awarded it “the best show
          your not watching” that year too.
          I am surprised they missed Firefly.

    • pythor says:

      Re: Questionable

      Does the Simpsons really qualify for a cult show? I know it has a large devoted following, but that’s exactly my point. It has a large devoted following. I would think that it would be too mainstream to be a cult show. Besides, if we’re going to count Simpsons, why not count Seinfeld or Days of Our Lives? Soap opera fans can be every bit as crazy as scifi people.

      Of particular interest to me is that they left out Dallas. Talk about cults? That show had people protesting in the streets! The fact that it was left out of this list means that the list was quite obviously compiled by someone without the competence or knowledge of television history needed to do the job right.

  5. Gaewyn says:

    Wow!
    A lot of these I watched… I mean… man how long has it been since I stayed up late in college doing homework and ran across “Forever Knight”. Nothing like watching an edgy vamp movie at 1 am to help the “emotional response”

    And of course… my favorite Babylon 5. Finally have all the eps on DVD! Woo!

    Farscape of course just rocked… i fell out of watching that after the first 2 seasons though :{ @#[email protected]$# DSS system.

    MPFC I love… I mean… who can beat sketches about eating your dead mother. :P I only wish they would air the repeats more regularly on BBCA and such

    :} Anyways.. enough memories :}

  6. dubbayoo42 says:

    #18?
    I’ll grant the list was generated in the US, but wow, Doctor WHo all the way down at #18? That’s insanely low…

    • NoPoet says:

      Biased results

      I’ll grant the list was generated in the US, but wow, Doctor WHo all the way down at #18? That’s insanely low…

      That’s true mate. In the UK, I’d say Doctor Who has a cult following comparable to that of Star Trek. Unfortunately, the TV poll only takes American opinion into account (there’s a surprise) so it doesn’t reflect a realistic opinion at all. Since when did American viewers speak for the whole world? I’ve never heard of at least 15 programmes on that list.

      • Babbster says:

        Re: Biased results
        It does seem odd that a magazine sold in America would be so US-centric……

        • Timeshredder says:

          Re: Biased results

          Let’s not forget Canada, and the absence of Red Green from the list.

          • Babbster says:

            Re: Biased results
            I can’t front on Red. Pretty darned funny stuff.

            • GrimSean says:

              Re: Biased results

              I can’t front on Red. Pretty darned funny stuff.

              While we’re at it, what about Trailer Park Boys? Or is it too ‘new’ to be considered?

              gnome sayin’?

      • starbreeze says:

        Re: Biased results

        I’ll grant the list was generated in the US, but wow, Doctor WHo all the way down at #18? That’s insanely low…

        That’s true mate. In the UK, I’d say Doctor Who has a cult following comparable to that of Star Trek. Unfortunately, the TV poll only takes American opinion into account (there’s a surprise) so it doesn’t reflect a realistic opinion at all. Since when did American viewers speak for the whole world? I’ve never heard of at least 15 programmes on that list.

        Doctor Who! Don’t forget Red Dwarf! :)

        • NoPoet says:

          Re: Biased results
          Starbreeze, reading your post made me realise I hadn’t mentioned Red Dwarf. That is one of the funniest comedies of all time:

          “They’ve taken Mr Rimmer. Sir, they’ve taken Mr Rimmer!”

          “Quick, let’s get out of here before they bring him back!”

          With my remark about the survey being Americacentric, I don’t have a problem with that at all. What DID bother me is getting the impression the results were being called the world’s greatest cult hits.

  7. theangrymob says:

    Two Words…
    Max Headroom

    It’s so rare for TV to make fun of itself (The Simpsons not withstanding).

  8. CosmicNavigator says:

    I must be old!
    When I see the list I am reminded of other great cult shows that haunted me, inspired me or amazed me. Who here remembers nightstalker, crime story or the wonderful shows that we enjoyed on UHF like Ultra-Man, Space1999, Dr. Who and Robo-Tech. I am sure there are many follwers out there that might be a little over 30 yrs. of age. I cry ever time I hear “runaway” by del shannon. Dice Clay at his finests! LOL

    • The Doctor says:

      This Is STUPID!!!
      Star Trek number 1? Is this just the original or the whole franchise. Original wasn’t amazing…Enterprise is rubbish.
      Where is Red Dwarf!
      Buffy…at 3? It was always brilliant. Even during season 6 it was only bettered by the spin-off Angel. The X Files was a great show but then it went down hill and kept going. Buffy should at least be number 2.
      …And finally. Doctor Who at 18?!!! Doctor Who inspired so many TV shows, including Star Trek (as did Red Dwarf with the hard light hologram).
      This poll is not rewarding shows for consistency or ideas.
      What’s the point?

      • NoPoet says:

        Re: This Is STUPID!!!
        That’s why I bitched about it being American-centric. As if Buffy is better than Angel. Who wants to hear a whiny girl complaining about her life? I once heard SMG interviewed saying her character Buffy is popular because “She’s comfortable wuith who she is.” OMG, ROFLMAO! Show me one episode where Buffy didn’t complain about some aspect of her life (apart from the ones where she died).

        A UK or worldwide list of cult shows would be totally different to the list at the top of this page.

        • The Doctor says:

          Re: This Is STUPID!!!

          That’s why I bitched about it being American-centric. As if Buffy is better than Angel. Who wants to hear a whiny girl complaining about her life? I once heard SMG interviewed saying her character Buffy is popular because “She’s comfortable wuith who she is.” OMG, ROFLMAO! Show me one episode where Buffy didn’t complain about some aspect of her life (apart from the ones where she died).

          A UK or worldwide list of cult shows would be totally different to the list at the top of this page.

          What?!!! If you had to deal with the forces of darkness everyday, try and keep up with studies (or earn a living), and have a social life, don’t you think you’d whine a little. Buffy is an angsty program (not in a contrived “Little Ball Of Hate – It’s so unfair” kind of way but in a “life is difficult” kind of way. What SMG was talking about was that Buffy is at home with who she is (ie. doesn’t try to conform) she’s not the most popular, most bright, she doesn’t have a lot of friends (at least not at the beginning. BTVS is about growing up. Every season she learns something about life (Season 5 – Death is a part of life…). Growing up – It’s difficult but at the end you’re better.

          • NoPoet says:

            Re: This Is STUPID!!!

            What?!!! If you had to deal with the forces of darkness everyday, try and keep up with studies (or earn a living), and have a social life, don’t you think you’d whine a little. Buffy is an angsty program (not in a contrived “Little Ball Of Hate – It’s so unfair” kind of way but in a “life is difficult” kind of way. What SMG was talking about was that Buffy is at home with who she is (ie. doesn’t try to conform) she’s not the most popular, most bright, she doesn’t have a lot of friends (at least not at the beginning. BTVS is about growing up. Every season she learns something about life (Season 5 – Death is a part of life…). Growing up – It’s difficult but at the end you’re better.

            Of course I’d whine a little, but bitching relentlessly for seven series is too much. I pretty much stopped watching Buffy after series three when Faith got stabbed and the Mayor died. From its pilot, Angel was a vastly better series.

            Joss Whedon is generally an excellent writer but he could find nothing for the Buffy gang to do that was remotely compelling for me; I can’t relate to a whiny blonde who wears tight skirts for fighting vampires. She even stopped beating monsters up in favour of talking about herself — there was very little slayage going on compared to the amount of monsters Angel kills. The plotline with Willow suddenly becoming a lesbo would have been laughable if it wasn’t so crap. And when they started referring to themselves as the Scooby Gang…I have got a wide array of better things to do with my life than watch a “Scooby Gang” whining about the trials and tribble-ations of being female while exhibiting anti-male, girl power sentiment.

            Don’t get me wrong — seasons 2 and 3 of Buffy were among the best, most astonishing, most jaw-droppingly cool television I can imagine, and I am not some kind of chauvinist woman-hater — but I know poor quality television when I see it, and seasons 1, 4, 5, 6 and the terrible season 7 should have seen Joss Whedon delivered to the asylum in House on Haunted Hill for some exploratory surgery.

            • The Doctor says:

              Re: This Is STUPID!!!

              …seasons 1, 4, 5, 6 and the terrible season 7 should have seen Joss Whedon delivered to the asylum in House on Haunted Hill for some exploratory surgery.

              Ah-Ha! If you stopped following Buffy after series 3 then how can you judge what followed it? Season 4 was excellent, the willow\Tara subplot was handled well even though when I found out about it I thought it sounded dumb. Hush and Restless are two of the greatest eps of Buffy ever and the idea of The Initiative was extremely well thought out. And of course, Adam. Nuff said.
              Season 5 was also excellent with the idea of The Key and included the brilliant episodes The Body and The Gift.#
              Season 6…It wasn’t great but still alot better than most television on at the time. Once More With Feeling was very good as was the shocking demise of Tara and the Dark Willow episodes. Also Normal Again with Buffy in the asylum was really really good too.
              Season 7. Brilliant simply because it built on the whole mythos of the series with an amazing finale. THE greatest episode of buffy ever.
              You lost your way. You should have kept watching.

              • NoPoet says:

                Re: This Is STUPID!!!

                I didn’t stop watching it, I stopped following it — I stopped caring. I didn’t make any time for it, catching it when nothing decent was on. Yes, Adam was awesome, but the Initiative angle (while more enjoyable the second time I saw the episodes) was badly mismanaged — where has the military been all these years? will they be seen again? — they raised too many questions. The finale was amazing with the constant running battle through the facility, but it came way too late after too many uninspiring “Buffy grows up” episodes.

                The episodes you quote were fantastic — I saw them all — but even Enterprise seasons 1 and 2 had good episodes. Does that have any effect when the other episodes were inconsequential and mediocre? Nothing happened in Buffy seasons 4-7 that came close to the emotional response of the Angelus and Faith plot arcs. In fact the show became laughable with all those supermodels living in Buffy’s house (including the WORST “English” accents I’ve ever heard, they were so bad they were downright insulting — they even make Spike’s accent sound realistic, and they remind me of the time the entire audience laughed during the secene with the Royal Air Force pilots stranded in the Iraqi desert in Independence Day).

                “Normal Again” could quite simply have the best concept ever. “Is Buffy’s whole life nothing but a deluded dream?” reinforced by a genuinely outstanding finish. The episode wasn’t as good as (for example) Enterprise’s “Damage” because the action lacked the punch, it lacked the spectacle, but the ending almost made up for this single handedly.

                Don’t even mention season seven of Buffy, or I’ll just start shouting “SELL-OUT! SELL-OUT! BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRL OVERLOAD!” Come on mate, they stopped obeying Buffy’s orders and kicked her out for Christ’s sake, and introduced a pointless new uber-villain (the priest) about three episodes before the end.

                I used to love Buffy seasons 2 and 3. Angel season 4 and Enterprise season 3 have totally eclipsed them for me but they’ll still have a special place in my heart. A shame Whedon’s inherent feminism started to take over and Buffy the Vampire Slayer became Buffy the Vampire Beater who Runs Away from Battle and Talks To Her Friends While the Monsters Escape.

                • NoPoet says:

                  Re: This Is STUPID!!!

                  A shame Whedon’s inherent feminism started to take over and Buffy the Vampire Slayer became Buffy the Vampire Beater who Runs Away from Battle and Talks To Her Friends While the Monsters Escape.

                  I meant to say “Buffy the BOYFRIEND Beater”, not Vampire beater. I don’t even think she killed any vampires in the last few seasons.

                  • The Doctor says:

                    Re: This Is STUPID!!!
                    Well I thought that Season 5 had probably one of the most emotionally satisfying arcs they ever did, Joyce Summers brain tumour. It was well played especially with the shocking death just when things seemed to be all right.
                    But anyway Season 7…Yes you’re right about Molly’s “accent”. It was ****! So i’ll let you have that one. It was embarrasing.
                    The potentials didn’t all look like supermodels though I can understand part of your point. Since in America there are many people with weight problems how come there aren’t any over weight potentials. The season opener was great…the scene in Istanbul was great and made you wonder what was going on. The idea that The First has figured out a way of stopping all slayers one and for all by killing the potentials and then the slayer was genius. That’s using the mythology of the entire universe well. Each episode added more questions…Who are those girls at the start of the episodes who are getting killed? Who is Principal Wood? I thought he could be an undercover Watcher. Is Giles dead? That was a clever one. Is Dawn a potential? That was clever because it fed off fan theorys and then after seemingly confirming them it turned it around again. The finale is THE best episode of Buffy ever because said what they had been trying to say since the beginning. The battle was amazing. I didn’t know who would live or who would die and I didn’t want to find out till the dust settled. Caleb made a good adversary as did The First. What more can I say. It worked.

                    • fiziko says:

                      Re: This Is STUPID!!!

                      Since in America there are many people with weight
                      problems how come there aren’t any over weight potentials.

                      The powers that be have high standards? They need a girl
                      who can handle her power when she gets it, so that tends
                      to imply some natural athletic talent from the outset. I
                      can accent the Slayers being in (at least close to) good
                      shape when they get chosen. I can’t explain why they’re
                      more attractive than the rest of the population, though; I
                      see no tactical advantage to that, unless those old guys
                      who started it all were horny and their preferences got
                      bound to the selection process.

                    • NoPoet says:

                      Re: This Is STUPID!!!
                      I think male horniness has a lot to do with it since Buffy used to wear short skirts to fight Vampires. What is it with female fighters baring flesh during battle?

                      By season 7 I’d lost all interest so when watching it I was basically not paying much attention. I did love the season 6 cliffhanger – “We will give you what you want — YOUR SOUL” has got to be the best moment ever. Pity they completely squandered this potentially awesome storyline with Spike sort of rambling pointlessly all the time and Buffy failing to give a s**t.

                    • The Doctor says:

                      Re: This Is STUPID!!!

                      I did love the season 6 cliffhanger – “We will give you what you want — YOUR SOUL” has got to be the best moment ever. Pity they completely squandered this potentially awesome storyline with Spike sort of rambling pointlessly all the time and Buffy failing to give a s**t.

                      Buffy did care in the end but he just didn’t believe it.

  9. Icehouseman says:

    What I thinks…
    I’ve watched Dr. Who and Red Dwarf; didn’t like either of them, but I see everyone’s point about wanting them on this US list. On the other hand where is Firefly, Space Ghost C2C, Futurama and Red Green? There are lots of “cult” shows and TV Guide couldn’t add every single show on there. I’m waiting for someone who is gonna ask why Seinfeld or ER isn’t on the list. Star Trek TOS is the best of the Trek and it’s good to see it as number 1. X-Files is pure cult. I’ve watched it on occasion and think it deserves number 2. I dunno about Buffy, I’ve never seen it. Babylon 5 should be in the top five. Farscape is good enough for #4. I’d put Python #6 and remove the Simpsons. MST3K would be #7 and so on…

    • The Doctor says:

      Re: What I thinks…

      I’ve watched Dr. Who and Red Dwarf; didn’t like either of them, but I see everyone’s point about wanting them on this US list. On the other hand where is Firefly, Space Ghost C2C, Futurama and Red Green? There are lots of “cult” shows and TV Guide couldn’t add every single show on there. I’m waiting for someone who is gonna ask why Seinfeld or ER isn’t on the list. Star Trek TOS is the best of the Trek and it’s good to see it as number 1. X-Files is pure cult. I’ve watched it on occasion and think it deserves number 2. I dunno about Buffy, I’ve never seen it. Babylon 5 should be in the top five. Farscape is good enough for #4. I’d put Python #6 and remove the Simpsons. MST3K would be #7 and so on…

      What is Space Ghost C2C and Red Green. I’ve never heard of them.
      Oh and by the way The X Files WAS pure cult. I went downhill after a while. Pity.
      If you like Firefly try watching Buffy from Season 1 (not excellent at first but worth it for later seasons). See if any of your friends have it and borrow it.

  10. mechmorph says:

    Cult?
    Star Trek stopped being “cult” as soon as the first newspaper reported people had started calling themselves “trekkers.” And the Simpsons? Come on. If this were a list of real “cult” shows, ditch shows like Star Trek, Simpsons, Mary Hartman (what IS that, anyway?), Quantum Leap, Beauty and the Beast, and add shows like Robotech (which still has a following), Alien Nation, Lazarus Man and, what the heck, Love and Curses. Angel should be at least No. 2, above Buffy. Firefly needs to be in there somewhere. Keep Dark Shadows just for its legendary factors. But what do I know? I never like any show that has more than 10 percent of its scenes filmed in daylight. And just to round out the gripe, what idiot put the Prisoner at No. 7? Obviously, it has to be No. 6!!

    “I am not a number! I am a free man!”

    • NoPoet says:

      Re: Cult?
      The Prisoner might have fared better if anyone understood what the show was on about. It’s pretty legendary in the UK, but not in a good way.

      • The Doctor says:

        Re: Cult?

        The Prisoner might have fared better if anyone understood what the show was on about. It’s pretty legendary in the UK, but not in a good way.

        Sorry…I sound like i’m just trying to contridicte you all the time but i’ve living in England i’ve never actually heard anyone say anything bad about The Prisoner and now that i’ve seen a couple of episodes I like it. And so far it does make sense (even though on BBC4 they are being shown out of order!).

  11. my-two-cents says:

    Angel v Buffy
    I agree that the list is far too American-centric to justify its title. However, anybody with the ability to reason must recognize Buffy as a far bigger cult show then Angel could ever hope to be. Angel didn’t make the list for a reason, actually lots of reasons.
    One, it’s a spin off. It wouldn’t even exist without Buffy. Notice that Star Trek TOS made the list, and TNG isn’t even on it? Angel if forever tied to Buffy, and lacks the originality and fan following to ever escape its shadow.
    Two, Buffy is a far superior show to Angel. Buffy is a great show because it explores the pathologies of all its characters, and justifies their concurrent interaction. As a result, you understand them perfectly, and why/how they change. Angel doesn’t do this so well. Angel himself is the guy from beginning to end, and those around him change mostly from external forces beyond their control. Their archs are not as well earned, as they are on Buffy. As a result, they lack the cult following that fans of Buffy have for their characters.
    Three, Buffy fans are far more obsessed then Angel fans. They just are. They buy all the DVD’s, know all the writers, episode titles, go to conventions, have more websites on the internet, more message boards, more chat rooms, they buy more memorabilia, write more letters, write more fan fiction. Every possible factor that you could measure for fan following and obsession, Buffy has more of it.
    Five, Buffy fans are smarter then Angel fans. Just look at me as an example. (Granted, I can’t spell, but otherwise it’s all good.)

  12. melkubrick says:

    Just my thoughts
    Hi

    I consider myself to be pretty educated when it comes to television. I was really excited to see this list, I’ve been looking everywhere for it.

    Before I go into my rant about the list I want to protest one little thing. One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Twin Peaks and I think it should have been way higher than #20. That show defines what it is to be a cult and if it weren’t for that show, others like Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, and above all The X Files would have never come into existance. David Lynch defines everything about cults and Twin Peaks should be in the top 10.

    I pretty much agree with Star Trek as the #1 cult show of all time but some of the positioning when it comes to other shows bothers me. One of them is Doctor Who. Even though I never watch the show I realize that it’s fanbase is amazingly huge and should be higher on this list. I’m a little surprised that Ab Fab was even considered for this list. I wouldn’t consider it a cult show. But then again, with the amount of people in the gay community (like myself) that watch that show, I’m not surprised. I’m so happy Family Guy made it on there. I would have put MST3K a bit higher though. I also love Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Definitely one of my favorite shows of all time. I was surprised The Simpsons was on there because it’s such a part of the mainstream. But, again, when you look at the legion of fans that it has it’s really no surprise it made the list. Then there’s Monty Python. Dear God, how I love that show. It’s SOOOOOOOO funny and it absolutely deserves to be on this list. And even though I never really liked Buffy or X Files they were ranked in the appropriate positions.

    I was surprised that shows like Are You Being Served?, Eastenders, Red Dwarf, Red Green, Queer as Folk, Once & Again, Dead Like Me, Carnivale, Deadwood, The Sopranos, Futurama, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021, American Gladiators, South Park, The Critic, Saved by the Bell, Walker: Texas Ranger, In Living Color, Mad TV, Second City TV, Strangers With Candy, Get Smart, The Tick (Animated), Invader Zim, Spongebob Squarepants, Animainiacs, Pokemon, The Larry Sanders Show, St. Elsewhere, Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order (Any of them), Ally McBeal, and Clerks: The Animated Series were not on this list. That’s my two cents worth.

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