Anthology television series have been popular since the early days of television. Classics such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and modern anthology hits such as the highly-praised Black Mirror and Love, Death & Robots are prime examples of stellar anthology series. For those not too clued up on the term, an anthology TV series is a series that presents a different story and different characters in each episode, season, or segment of a show.
While many anthology series follows the episodic format of telling a different story, in recent years, it’s become popular for many franchises to tell a different story with each season, and these include American Horror Story, True Detective, and Channel Zero. Let’s take a look at the highest-rated anthology series of all time as per IMDb.
10 Science Fiction Theatre (1955 – 1957) (8.2)
Science Fiction Theatre is a science-fiction anthology series that aired in the late fifties. Hosted by Truman Bradley, the stories told in this show were extrapolated from actual scientific data available during the 50s. Episodes included stories about UFOs, telepathy, and space flight, of course. Currently, there is no official streaming service to watch Science Fiction Theatre.
9 Thriller (1960–1962) (8.2)
Thriller is an anthology series that aired from 1960 to 1962, hosted by Boris Karloff. Initially, the show told ordinary stories about mystery and crime, but later episodes began to delve into gothic horror stories.
Several of the gothic horror stories were based on literary works by authors including Charlotte Armstrong, Robert Bloch, and Cornell Woolrich. Thriller is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
8 The Outer Limits (1963–1965) (8.2)
“We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.” Who could forget the iconic voice opening narration of this classic sci-fi anthology series?
The original show, not to be confused with the Canadian-American 90s series, aired from 1963 to 1965 and featured various well-established actors known for their other works. Both the original and the revival series are available to stream on Amazon Prime.
7 Icons (2002– ) (8.4)
Not all anthology series are works of fiction. Some take the form of documentary-style series, and Icons is one such series. Icons, which started airing back in 2002, is G4 doccie-anthology series that features original profiles, interviews, and the stories of figures, characters, and companies which helped shaped the modern-day video game industry. It’s a must-watch for gamers and lovers of nostalgia-laden true stories. You can stream Icons on YouTube.
6 ToonHeads (1992– ) (8.4)
ToonHeads is another documentary-style anthology series that focuses on the golden age of American animation. Every episode is different, featuring a different full episode of a classic cartoon, plus commentary, and the history behind some of the most memorable cartoon shorts ever made. Currently, there is no official streaming service to watch ToonHeads.
5 Look and Read (1967 – ) (8.4)
Look and Read is another example of a different kind of anthology series. The children’s anthology series first aired back in 1967 and features many different stories, which are a blend of sci-fi, adventure, and even horror.
The difference here is that often episodes included educational segments that were aimed at improving the literacy skills of the children who watched them. Look and Read is available for streaming on BBC.
4 Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955 – 1962) (8.5)
One of the original masters of horror, Alfred Hitchcock, hosted a horror anthology series. Alfred Hitchock Presents ran from 1955 to 1962 and covered various short stories rooted in crime, horror, drama, and even comedy. The show told the stories of people from various backgrounds who committed murder, theft, suicide, and other forms of criminal activities. Alfred Hitchcock Presents is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
3 Love, Death & Robots (2019– ) (8.5)
Love, Death & Robots captured audiences’ imaginations last year when it aired on Netflix, and the internet has been crying out for a second season since the first. It takes the form of short episodic stories that span a multitude of genres and animation styles, including science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and comedy. The variety in animation styles in Love, Death & Robots make it a visual feast to behold; it includes everything from traditional anime, hyper-realistic 3-D style animation, and even a Pixar-inspired style short featuring three robots and a cat are the names of the game.
If you haven’t seen it yet, this anthology is bite-sized, and you could easily binge in one sitting before rewatching it several times. Love, Death & Robots is available for streaming on Netflix.
2 Black Mirror (2011– ) (8.8)
Perhaps the most popular modern anthology show on this list, Black Mirror first aired on Britain’s Channel 4 in 2011 and ran on the British network until 2014 before being picked up by Netflix in 2016. Black Mirror is praised for its approach in examining modern society, specifically regarding the potentially catastrophic consequences of emerging technologies. Since 2011, Black Mirror has had five seasons, plus a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style, interactive film titled Bandersnatch.
Black Mirror‘s Netflix series also brings in the star power of notable actors such as Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Moss, Jon Hamm, Bryce Dallas Howard, and more playing roles in the popular series. Black Mirror is available for streaming on Netflix. (8.8/10)
1 The Twilight Zone (1959–1964) (9.0)
The Twilight Zone is perhaps the most well-known anthology series on this list. The original series aired from 1959 to 1964, with a modern version of the show helmed by Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out) having started last year.
The original OG version (and the modern version) tells episodically-formatted anthology stories that see seemingly ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinarily supernatural situations, which they attempt to solve in remarkable ways. Stream The Twilight Zone on Netflix. (9/10)