At one point, violence, nudity and profanity was non-existent on television. That slowly changed, as writers and show-runners were able to provide more content aimed at adults. Television shows are now able to push the envelope on what they can depict. In recent years, violence on TV has even surpassed film in many ways. Some feel that the violence on certain shows is excessive and goes too far, while others want more of it. Many of these shows actually changed what was acceptable in the level of violence on TV. Despite the violence, many of these shows are critically acclaimed and held in the highest of regards. Here is a look at 10 of TVs most violent shows of all time.
11) The Sopranos January 10, 1999 – June 10, 2007
Many critics consider HBO’s The Sopranos as one of the most influential shows of all time. The series revolved around a New Jersey crime boss, Tony Soprano, who suffers from anxiety and depression, trying to find balance in his family life and criminal life. It had a big impact on television, as it changed the way TV dramas were presented. It was one of the first shows to present the high quality and complex storytelling of dramatic films on the small screen. The series was also one of the first to feature excessive nudity, constant profanity and graphic violence. In fact, the series stepped up the violence in each season with many considering season 3 to be the most graphic and brutal. The series was nominated for 111 Emmy Awards during its run and won 21 of those awards.
10) Criminal Minds September 22, 2005 – Present
Criminal Minds is a police drama on CBS. The story follows profilers in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. The series is unique in that it focuses on the criminal opposed to the crime. The series is known for its intense violence and sometimes disturbing nature. Mandy Patinkin, who played Jason Gideon in the first three seasons, left the series because he felt uncomfortable with the graphic violence and disturbing content that they dealt with.
9) 24 November 6, 2001 – Present
FOX’s 24 is an espionage, crime thriller that follows former Counter Terrorist Unit (C.T.U) agent Jack Bauer, as he attempts to save the world. The show is both critically and commercially successful, winning numerous awards, including Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The show has many fight scenes and gun battles throughout the series’ entire run. The show has received some criticism for its violence, specifically the depiction of torture. In the first five seasons, the show had 67 scenes in which a character was being tortured. The series has shown not only the villains, but also the heroes using torture to get information. The main protagonist, Jack Bauer, has used torture several times throughout the series. Some feel that it glorifies torture, while others defend the series, noting that it is fictional. Regardless, the series remains popular with its fans.
8) Spartacus January 22, 2010 – April 12, 2013
Spartacus ran for three seasons on the Starz network and also includes a prequel mini-series. The series followed historical figure Spartacus, who led a slave uprising against the Roman Republic. The series was critically acclaimed and was a big success for the network. In addition to having nudity and profanity, the series was known for its intense and graphic depiction of violence.
7) American Horror Story October 5, 2011 – Present
American Horror Story is a horror anthology series on FX. The series has been both critically and commercially successful. The show has received widespread praise for its cast and the unique self contained seasons. It might be a little difficult to do a show that features a haunted house, inmates in an insane asylum, witches and a clown killer with no violence. It’s known for its sexual content, dark and twisted storylines and its graphic violence. Despite being on TV, the series pushes the violence to the level of a horror film. American Horror Story has been a huge success for FX, as it brings in big ratings.
6) Dexter October 1, 2006 – September 22, 2013
Showtime’s Dexter followed Miami police blood analyst, Dexter Morgan who is actually a serial killer, but he only goes after bad guys. The series was very successful and lasted several seasons. Much of the criticism of the show was aimed at the violence. Specificity, some critics took issue with the protagonist being a serial killer. Despite the fact that Dexter struggled with his desire to kill, many felt that the graphic violence and the justice he was seeking was a mixed message. Unfortunately, several real life murders were committed and the killers noted that their inspiration came from Dexter. Although, many fans and critics do feel that Dexter should not be held responsible for those actions. The show remained very popular amongst its fans. The finale brought in 2.8 million viewers, which makes it the largest audience for a show in Showtime’s history.
5) Sons Of Anarchy September 3, 2008 – Present
Sons Of Anarchy revolves around an outlaw motorcycle gang in the fictional town of Charming. The main protagonist of the series is Jackson “Jax” Teller. The series airs on FX and at one point, gained the network’s largest ratings. The show has been very well received by critics who have praised the show’s exceptional writing, fantastic directing and it’s phenomenal cast. Katey Sagal has received universal acclaim for her portrayal of Gemma Teller Morrow. The series is also known to feature very graphic and brutal violence. Many episodes have featured stabbings, shooting, torture and very hard to watch beatings. The series remains very popular and has just started its final season.
4) The Walking Dead October 31, 2010 – Present
The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic horror show on AMC. The series is based on the comic book of the same name. The plot follows a group of survivors living in world full of flesh eating zombies. The Walking Dead features an enormous amount of violent, gruesome and brutal murders of zombies. Humans have also died and in very tragic scenes, but the deaths of zombies outnumber the humans. The show was an instant success and remains popular with fans. The series is full of violent and sometimes very hard to watch scenes. Many zombies have had their heads either blown off or had some type of sharp object driven through their skull. If there is a zombie union, the creators of The Walking Dead should be worried.
3) Oz July 12, 1997 – February 23, 2003
Oz follows the lives of inmates and prison guards at Oswald State Correctional Facility. Oz is the show that started it all for premium channel HBO. It was the first one hour original drama produced by HBO and in many ways, would foreshadow the future direction of HBO. It paved the way for shows like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. The series was universally critically acclaimed. The show was known for its realistic characters, dark storylines and the brutal and graphic violence. It was also very disturbing and gruesome. At that time, Oz was considered to be the most violent show on TV.
2) Boardwalk Empire September 19, 2010 – Present
HBO’s Boardwalk Empire revolves around corrupt political figure, Nucky Thompson, who is at the center of Atlantic City and bootlegging during the 20’s and 30’s. The series has been universally praised both critically and commercially. The series is created by former Sopranos writer, Terrance Winter and executive produced by Martin Scorsese. The series shares many similarities with The Sopranos, in terms of tone and presentation. In terms of the violence, Boardwalk picks up right where The Sopranos left off. The series is known for its tremendous writing, fantastic acting and graphic and brutal violence. The series has just entered into its final season.
1) Game of Thrones April 17, 2011 – Present
Many consider Game of Thrones one of the most violent shows currently on the air. The critically and commercially acclaimed show is a massive hit for HBO. HBO itself is known for pushing the envelope on all of their shows when it comes to nudity, coarse language and violence. Game of Thrones is known for its great acting, incredible writing, profanity, an enormous amount of sexual content and extreme and very graphic violence. The series contains numerous awesome fight scenes and battles that are often disturbing and gruesome. When a character’s head is cut clean off or an arrow goes straight through someone’s eye, the series makes sure to capture every single second of it. They even go as far to show the blood dripping out and the nerve ends hanging out. Many consider Game of Thrones one of the most popular shows of all time.