What are the best and worst TV finales of all time? To find out, we examined the most popular shows listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB). We scanned the list to find the top TV shows that have ended, and out of that list of popular shows, we took a closer look at each TV show’s rankings both for the show overall and for its last episode.
Looking at 100 shows total, we found TV’s most unforgettable finales, both the epically good wrap-ups and the horrific mistakes. Some of the best TV show finales were memorable events, considered the ending of an era, while some of the worst final episodes seemed to ruin or damage the series as a whole. Either way, they’ve created some powerful reactions.
Without further ado, these are the top series finales measured by their IMDB ratings!
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The Top 10 Best Series Finales of All Time
Out of the most popular shows on IMDB, these have the highest ratings for their final episodes. These may be considered the best TV finales ever:
- Breaking Bad — “Felina” (9.9/10)
- Chernobyl* — “Vichnaya Pamyat” (9.9/10)
- The Office — “Finale” (9.8/10)
- Avatar: The Last Airbender — “Sozin’s Comet, Part 4: Avatar Aang” (9.8/10)
- Person of Interest — “Return 0” (9.8/10)
- The Americans — “START” (9.8/10)
- Hannibal — “The Wrath of the Lamb” (9.8/10)
- Friends — “The Last One: Part 2” (9.7/10)
- Parks and Recreation — “One Last Ride: Part 2” (9.7/10)
- Spartacus — “Victory” (9.7/10)
Several on our list of the top ten series finales are shorter productions; Hannibal only had to wrap up the plot in 39 episodes, and Chernobyl only had five. (We gave Chernobyl an asterisk because it’s technically a TV miniseries.)
Meanwhile, Friends finished out its ten years and 236 episodes in a very well-received final send-off, and The Office gave its massive cast a proper send-off after 188 episodes. Neither was likely an easy task for the writing staff!
But out of our list of the best TV show endings, Breaking Bad takes the cake. That may be because creator Vince Gilligan always intended to end the series after five seasons. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, “But really, Breaking Bad was intended to be a finite story from the get-go. It was designed to be closed-ended and not have even the possibility of going on indefinitely. It’s really incumbent upon us to bring it to as satisfying a conclusion as possible.” As a result, it’s widely considered to have one of the best TV endings ever, not just by IMDB fans but by sources like Variety and The Washington Post.
The Top 10 Worst Series Finales of All Time
Out of the IMDB’s most popular shows list, these are the worst TV show endings, according to their rating:
- House of Cards — “Chapter 73” (2.6/10)
- Two and a Half Men — “Of Course He’s Dead: Part 2” (3.9/10)
- Game of Thrones — “The Iron Throne” (4.2/10)
- Dexter — “Remember the Monsters?” (4.6/10)
- True Blood — “Thank You” (5.1/10)
- Pretty Little Liars — “Til DeAth Do Us Part” (5.5/10)
- How I Met Your Mother — “Last Forever: Part 2” (5.6/10)
- The Brady Bunch — “The Hair-Brained Scheme” (5.7/10)
- Baywatch — “Rescue Me” (5.9/10)
- The Good Wife — “End” (5.9/10)
The opposite of the best TV series endings ever, which wrap up plot lines satisfyingly, often give powerful send-offs to the most important characters, and typically seem like they were planned from the beginning, are the worst endings ever, which are often rushed, ambiguous, and/or disappointing, sometimes even featuring entirely different actors and characters. Such was the case for both House of Cards and Two and a Half Men.
Two and a Half Men was a 7.0-rated sitcom originally starring Charlie Sheen, who was fired. Not many people expected it to keep going successfully in his absence. House of Cards, though, had an overall series rating of 8.8 out of 10, and it dropped down all the way to 2.6 out of 10 for the finale. Critics and fans decried this awkward finish after Kevin Spacey was kicked off the show.
But those were two situations where the writers were thrown huge curve balls. What’s your excuse, Game of Thrones?
Despite being Emmy-nominated, the writers of Game of Thrones have come under fire (pardon the dragon joke) from fans and critics alike for “The Iron Throne,” some insisting that this final episode not only ruined that season but the series as a whole because of its convoluted, inconsistent themes.
See how other shows have dipped in quality or stuck the landing in the final episode in our infographic!