The 25 best TV shows of 2022

Best of 2022
(Image credit: Best of 2022)

The best TV shows of 2022 prove just how diverse our screen time has become. While fantasy and sci-fi epics dominated, tender and impactful dramas fought through the noise to make an impact. Netflix, Disney Plus, and HBO continued to release groundbreaking and zeitgeist-grabbing shows that had everyone talking around the watercooler – because, finally, after over a year stuck at home, we were allowed to just chat around the watercooler again.

Meanwhile, major series – Atlanta, Peaky Blinders, Better Call Saul – came to an end, and stunning new series – Station Eleven, Yellowjackets, Severance – started up. The Rings of Power fought House of the Dragon for our attention, and Andor proved that the best stories in a galaxy far, far away don't need the Force to make them thrilling.

The Total Film team spent hours arguing over what to include on our best TV shows of 2022 list – but we finally got there. Due to the nature of our magazine, we leaned towards series with big-picture scope and spectacle, especially those with movie-like leanings. Of course, there were some shows without those things that are just too good to ignore. Here are our picks for the greatest shows of the year. Enjoy!

25. Under the Banner of Heaven

Under The Banner of Heaven

(Image credit: Disney Plus/FX)

Under The Banner of Heaven isn’t your typical crime drama. Less concerned with the typical whodunnit structure, the slow, somber seven-part show is a blistering exploration of religion – and how far it can be tested. Adapted by Dustin Lance Black from Jon Krakauer’s book, the limited series focuses on a horrific crime within the Church of Latter Day Saints community as a mother and her baby daughter are brutally murdered. Andrew Garfield leads the cast as Mormon detective Jeb Pyre whose attempts to catch the killer cause him to question the very pillars of his own faith. Daisy Edgar-Jones, Billy Howle, Wyatt Russell, and Sam Worthington complete an impressive ensemble cast in the riveting character-driven drama. Fay Watson

24. Yellowjackets


(Image credit: Showtime)

In a year where cannibals ruled our screens (looking at you, Fresh and Bones and All), Yellowjackets got there first. The series follows two dual timelines: one focuses on the aftermath of a catastrophic plane crash and how the surviving teenage girls stay alive; the other centers on the same characters but 25 years later. How, exactly, did this group of adolescent castaways survive for so long without rescue? Melanie Lynsky and Christina Ricci are standouts in the adult cast, while their teenage counterparts (Sophie Nélisse and Sammi Hanratty) echo their mannerisms and performances seamlessly in flashbacks. Emily Garbutt

23. Atlanta seasons 3 + 4

Donald Glover in Atlanta

(Image credit: FX)

Atlanta was one of the bonafide greats, sitting between Battlestar Galactica and House on our list of the best TV shows of all time. All Donald Glover had to do was stay the course for the final two seasons, filmed back to back amid the pandemic. That didn't happen. The show's creators decided to set the third season in Europe, and when we did return to the United States, the episodes were self-contained short films that varied wildly. By challenging us, though, Glover secured Atlanta's spot among the pantheon of peak TV. Some of the reviews may be rugged now, but when we look back on the adventures of Earn, Paper Boi, Van, and Darius – especially considering the spectacular back-to-actual Atlanta fourth season – we will forever see one of the greats. Jack Shepherd

22. Ms. Marvel

Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Marvel's Phase 4 was a mixed bag – but that had nothing to do with the franchise's newcomers. Where Thor and Doctor Strange had mixed sequels, the young upstarts stole our hearts. Ms. Marvel broke ground with its affable, Avengers-adoring protagonist, arguably the most instantly likable superhero since Tom Holland swung onto screens as Spider-Man. Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan breathed fresh life into the MCU, reminding everyone just how fun these adventures can be. Sure, some of the action was a little tired, and the story wrapped itself in a few knots, but Ms. Marvel was a damn-good fun time that was able to deftly feature an important, message-laden episode about the impact of British rule in India. Jack Shepherd

21. What We Do in the Shadows season 4

What We Do in the Shadows season 4

(Image credit: Disney/FX)

Has there been a funnier comedy creation this year than Baby Colin Robinson? The answer is no, there has not. The energy vampire portrayed by Mark Proksch was transformed into an infant, and every time the on-purpose poorly CGI beast appeared on screen, it was laugh-out-loud funny. Colin was thankfully used sparingly with What We Do In The Shadows excelling thanks to its astounding all-star cast (particularly Emmy-nominated Matt Berry) and longing storylines that got funnier and funnier. Now, does anyone else fancy a vial of blood with Sofia Coppola and Jim Jarmusch down Nadja's nightclub, or just me? Jack Shepherd

20. Obi-Wan Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi season 2

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

With the prequel trilogy enjoying a critical reappraisal among the Star Wars fan base, this six-episode miniseries – set between Episodes III and IV – was cannily timed. Showrunner Joby Harold and director Deborah Chow delivered a moving glimpse into Obi-Wan’s inner anguish, while deepening his connection to both Skywalker twins – particularly Vivien Lyra Blair’s spirited young Leia. Ewan McGregor clearly relished his return, getting under the tormented Jedi’s skin, while the final episode gave us a lightsaber battle for the ages and provided a redemptive return for the much-maligned Hayden Christensen. Chris Schilling

19. Hacks season 2

Jean Smart in Hacks

(Image credit: HBO Max)

This year saw Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder return as veteran stand-up Deborah and down-on-her-luck writer Ava in the second season of comedy drama Hacks. The pair’s dysfunctional mentorship-turned-friendship continued to sizzle as they embarked on a tour of crumbling, small-town venues to road-test Deborah’s new stand-up special – all with a breached NDA, a lawsuit and an eccentric tour manager named ‘Weed’ looming over them. Hacks continued to be one of TV’s most refreshing shows for its portrayal of female friendship, ageism and queerness – and, crucially, it’s funny, too. Emily Garbutt

18. Moon Knight

Moon Knight

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Starring Oscar Isaac as both mercenary Marc Spector and his perma-flustered English persona Steven Grant, Moon Knight was a welcome disruption to the Marvel formula. While a world-ending threat remained, the series opted for a deeper, quieter character study of Spector’s dissociative identity disorder – and ever-shifting personalities. The more contemplative tone helped accentuate a trippy thriller that saw Spector flanked by a pantheon of Egyptian gods and pursued by ruthless cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), offering a pitch-perfect blueprint for the MCU’s more experimental future. Bradley Russell

17. The Boys season 3

Maeve in The Boys

(Image credit: Amazon)

Showrunner Eric Kripke continued to explore the real lives of "supes" in this adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic-book series set in a world where superheroes exist as marketable commodities. This visceral, darkly funny season saw the debut of a Bennie-snorting, bourbon-glugging, thinly disguised version of Captain America named Soldier Boy, while the humans are equally flawed in a universe that respects how superpowers would actually work – including the extremely messy consequences when a supe capable of shrinking accidentally sneezes while inside someone. Paul Tanter

16. Barry season 3

Bill Hader in Barry

(Image credit: HBO)

Co-created by Alec Berg and Bill Hader, Barry follows Hader’s titular hitman- turned-aspiring-actor – an odd concept if ever we’ve heard one. But for three seasons Barry has delivered on the laughs, gasps, shocks and tears. Season 3 was another electrifying mix of dark comedy and raw emotion, grappling with abuse, PTSD and forgiveness, all while propelling the overarching story into more complex and knotty territory. You’d be forgiven for thinking such an offbeat idea might not be able to maintain its momentum, but this latest run was just as pulse-pounding and startlingly hilarious as ever. Molly Edwards

15. We Own This City

We Own This City

(Image credit: Sky)

Written by George Pelecanos and David Simon, quality was guaranteed, and while this couldn’t get close to matching The Wire (what can, especially in just six episodes?), its true-story chronicling of the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force was immersive and shocking. The time-flopping narrative was anchored by Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, played with trademark intensity by Jon Bernthal, whose excellent year in TV continued with American Gigolo. We Own This City hit hard: "We saw it as an opportunity to talk about the current state of policing in America," said Pelecanos. Jamie Graham

14. Peaky Blinders season 6

Cillian Murphy holding a gun in Peaky Blinders season 6

(Image credit: BBC Studios)

It didn’t quite wrap things up – there is a mooted movie for that – but this final season of Steven Knight’s British gangster epic proved just how far it’s come from the days of bootlegging Brummies brandishing caps sewn with razor blades. Here the fascists were on the march, the IRA were back, and cracks were splintering in the Shelby family – rocked by the loss of matriarch Polly (Helen McCrory, whose untimely death was handled with real dignity). While showstopping showdowns were largely absent, this was more about internal conflict: the brilliant Cillian Murphy’s Tommy had never been so troubled. James Mottram

13. The Sandman

The Sandman

(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s apparently unfilmable comics masterpiece proved that dreams do sometimes come true... Despite his Zoolander-esque pout, Tom Sturridge was perfectly cast as Morpheus, an imperious immortal who rules over the realm of the unconscious while tricksy sibling Desire plots his undoing. Gaiman’s direct involvement has ensured the series remains faithful to the original material, with stories taking us from the blasted plains of Hell to a far scarier roadside diner. Although its production values sometimes left a little to be desired, The Sandman surprised and enthralled audiences. William Salmon

12. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 8

(Image credit: Amazon)

Amazon lavished a fortune on its Lord of the Rings TV show, and – from the huge cast to the spectacular visuals – it was money well spent. Using Tolkien’s extensive appendices for inspiration, first-time showrunners John D. Payne and Patrick McKay explored Middle-earth’s Second Age, playing fast-and-loose with canon as they teased the origins of Sauron and those infamous rings. "We weren’t interested in a retread or a prequel," said Payne. "We wanted to tell a story that would stand on its own feet." The result was epic fantasy that could hold its own against anything on the big screen. Richard Edwards

11. Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities 

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities - The Murmuring, directed by Jennifer Kent

(Image credit: Netflix)

Anthology shows can often be a mixed bag episode to episode, but this Netflix series fronted by monster master Guillermo del Toro delivered a consistently high standard of nightmare fodder. The fanciful filmmaker did his best Alfred Hitchcock Presents impression, introducing stories featuring 'curiosities' ranging from wickedly designed demons to a mutant rat king. And while his cabinet boasted stars such as Tim Blake Nelson and Kate Micucci, del Toro was really showcasing the directing talent who all, fittingly for one of the show’s key influences, clearly love their craft. Matt Looker

10. Derry Girls season 3

Dylan Llewellyn and Saorise-Monica Jackson dancing in The Agreement Derry Girls 1-hour special

(Image credit: Channel 4)

The final season of Lisa McGee’s spiky sitcom gave a fitting send-off for her teen heroines, even if it was hard to ignore the Bridgerton-enforced sidelining of Nicola Coughlan’s Clare – one reason, perhaps, for the out-of-nowhere flashback episode with the girls’ mothers. That Liam Neeson, Fatboy Slim, and Chelsea Clinton were persuaded to make cameos was a testament to the show’s impact, while a closing special on the Good Friday Agreement referendum was a perfect example of its facility for marrying the personal with the political. "It always felt like that’s where I should naturally end the show," said McGee. Neil Smith

9. Station Eleven

Station Eleven

(Image credit: HBO)

Patrick Somerville’s adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s 2014 novel dared to make changes, tweaking relationships and transposing the action from Canada to America. Everything worked, resulting in a smart, sincere, affecting series. There are hints of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal as travelling players make their living 20 years after a flu pandemic has ravaged civilisation. The production started before Covid but came out during the pandemic; fortunately, the darkness is pushed back by the characters’ indomitable human spirit. "The show isn’t about a spiral of despair," said Somerville. "It’s about rebuilding and healing." Jamie Graham

8. Stranger Things season 4

Eddie Munson in Stranger Things season 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

"It is a darker season, and the kids are no longer kids," warned showrunners the Duffer brothers ahead of the fourth season of Netflix hit Stranger Things. They weren’t wrong. Epic in scope and length (total runtime: 13 hours) and featuring the needle drop of the summer (Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’), the season saw El, Max, Will and co battling psychic life-sucker Vecna, while Joyce tried to break Hopper out of Russia. MVP, though, was D&D- loving Eddie (Joseph Quinn), whose ‘Master Of Puppets’ solo slayed. And best of all? A humdinger of a cliffhanger that brilliantly turned the show Upside Down... Josh Winning

7. The Bear

The Bear

(Image credit: Hulu)

Set in a Chicago sandwich shop, Christopher Storer’s groundbreaking series was one of the surprise hits of 2022. The tightly constructed and utterly immersive eight-part drama brought viewers into hotshot chef Carmy’s (Jeremy Allen White) kitchen after he returned home to the crumbling family restaurant. The premise is elevated by Storer’s propulsive directing that’s as powerful in its very, very loud moments as in its quieter reflections about the all-consuming nightmare of grief. Faultless performances all round, too, as Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Ayo Edebiri shone, but the real standout star was White in a career-defining turn. A shoo-in this awards season? Yes, chef! Fay Watson

6. This Is Going To Hurt

This Is Going To Hurt

(Image credit: BBC)

After a period of standing in the streets clapping for the NHS, This Is Going To Hurt proved a sobering de-romanticisation of the institution. The dark comedy was based on the memoirs of former OB/GYN Adam Kay, who is played here by Ben Whishaw ("If you were casting yourself, wouldn’t you choose Ben Whishaw?" asked Kay). Though it doesn’t call for the end of socialised medicine, and Episode 6 proved a damning indictment of the private alternative, it shows just how brutal the NHS can be. Witty zingers were landed by Whishaw and the phenomenal Ambika Mod, who co-starred as student doctor Shruti, but it was the slow-burn tragedy that deserved the biggest round of applause. Leila Latif

5. Peacemaker

Peacemaker (2022)

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Some may have thought John Cena’s titular antihero irredeemable after betraying the team and murdering handler Rick Flag during the climax of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. However, this boisterous spin-off not only gave Peacemaker his redemption, but also his own crew, serious daddy issues, and a gory alien conspiracy. In Cena’s charmingly earnest performance, a portrait of a tormented man emerged, desperate for the approval of his father (Robert Patrick, spitting acid). Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma and Steve Agee were among the colourful supporting cast, but the tender friendship between man and eagle is where tears were shed. A dance routine set to Wig Wam’s ‘Do Ya Wanna Taste It’ also gave the DCU a title sequence for the ages. Joel Harley

4. Better Call Saul season 6

Better Call Saul

(Image credit: AMC)

How do you top a show like Breaking Bad? Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have repeatedly answered that question with this masterful prequel series, and never more so than in this sixth and final season. As Bob Odenkirk’s slippery lawyer, Saul Goodman, finally saw his past catch up with him – never has there been a better use of a dumpster than in the final episode – loose ends were tied, sometimes brutally. There were welcome cameo appearances along the way, but the real potency came from watching attorney Kim Wexler (a mesmerising Rhea Seehorn) – the one major character whose fate still had a big question mark over it. Her relationship with Goodman’s alter ego, Jimmy McGill, remains one of modern TV’s great love affairs. James Mottram

3. House of the Dragon

Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO Max / Ollie Upton)

Debate concerning the quality of the final seasons of Game Of Thrones remains as heated as dragon’s breath, and with the track record for prequels to major fantastical series being spotty at best, one wouldn’t be blamed for expecting House Of The Dragon – based on George R.R. Martin’s prequel tome Fire & Blood – to fail. That it not only succeeded, but actually excelled, is largely down to the exceptional performances, the ensemble giving us a dynasty of often contemptible characters you simply love to watch hate each other – much like Dynasty. Highlights included Emma D’Arcy and Olivia Cooke as the central squabbling duo, Rhys Ifans’ schemer, and Paddy Considine providing a "tragic majesty that my book [King] Viserys never quite achieved", as Martin has described it. Josh Slater-Williams

2. Andor

Diego Luna in Andor

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Pitched more than once as "Dickensian" pre-release, the latest Star Wars spin-off didn’t ignite the greatest of expectations. Yet Tony Gilroy’s maxi-series portrait of a pre-Rogue One Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) swiftly proved itself to be mean streets ahead of this year’s other SW fare (even Lego Summer Vacation). Limiting itself to one cute droid and eschewing other core staples – lightsabers, alien sidekicks, metaphysics – it often felt far, far away from saga formula, and all the chewier for it. Revelling in the mundane (from Imperial bureaucracy to Rebel fundraising), this isn’t a grand adventure: "It’s about people surviving," says Luna. “People making decisions to keep them moving forward.” Another 12-episode stretch beckons; we can’t wait for more of these hard times. Matthew Leyland

1. Severance

Zach Cherry, Adam Scott, Tramell Tillman, Patricia Arquette, and John Turturro in Severance

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

If you asked most Monday-morning commuters whether they’d like to fast-forward to Monday night, they’d probably all jump at the chance. That’s what Mark (Adam Scott) does when he’s offered a medical "severance" procedure – hereafter only remembering the bits of his day when he’s not in the office. The problem is, the other half of his brain never gets to leave his desk.

Dan Erickson’s work/life-balance thriller is too sweet for horror, too scary for comedy and too believable for pure sci-fi, ending up instead with something that felt entirely unexpected. Directors Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle worked wonders with the labyrinthine office design (part Terry Gilliam, part Apple Store), and Scott soars alongside Patricia Arquette, Britt Lower, John Turturro, Dichen Lachman, and Christopher Walken.  "I think the secret sauce is the humanity," said Erickson, now filming Season 2. Even before a finale that runs almost too tense to watch, Severance stood as a new high- water mark for original, emotional, mysterious storytelling – as well as a reminder of why working from home isn’t so bad after all. Paul Bradshaw

Those are the best TV shows of 2022. Now, get ready for the new TV shows heading your way over the next 12 months.

Jack Shepherd
Freelance Journalist

Jack Shepherd is the former Senior Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar. Jack used to work at The Independent as a general culture writer before specializing in TV and film for the likes of GR+, Total Film, SFX, and others. You can now find Jack working as a freelance journalist and editor.

With contributions from