HBO's Chernobyl Is Currently The Highest-Rated TV Show, Beating Out Breaking Bad, The Wire

emily watson chernobyl
(Image credit: hbo press)

The argument over the "best TV show of all time" is one that could (and likely would) last until the end of recorded time, with many votes being cast for HBO classics like The Wire and The Sopranos, or for AMC's Breaking Bad. A new drama has entered the competition, though, in the form of HBO's Chernobyl, which is currently the top-rated TV show on IMDb, beating out the hits mentioned above and more.

At the time of this writing, Chernobyl is sitting atop everything else in the list of IMDb's Top 250 Top-Rated TV shows, where it's enjoying a mighty score of 9.6. And much like there aren't any real-world situations that perfectly mirror the events that led to the 1986 nuclear disaster, no other TV series on IMDb's list can perfectly mirror Chernobyl's high marks.

Take a look at the rest of the Top 12 to see just how well Chernobyl's ranking sits against the other scripted and unscripted hits on the list. (Note: the similar scores made 12 the easier number to use here.)

1. Chernobyl - 9.62. Planet Earth II - 9.53. Band of Brothers - 9.44. Planet Earth - 9.45. Breaking Bad - 9.46. Game of Thrones - 9.47. The Wire - 9.38. Our Planet - 9.39. Cosmos (2014) - 9.210. Blue Planet II - 9.211. Cosmos (1980) - 9.212. Rick and Morty - 9.2

Chernobyl's cast and crew definitely have some bragging rights to lord over every other show on TV, though the subject matter makes it a fairly challenging show to loudly praise without offering up context. But it's really just another major win for HBO on the critical acclaim front, as the cable network boasts four different series at the top of the IMDb heap.

It's definitely interesting to note that both Chernobyl and the #3 Band of Brothers are miniseries, which almost definitely plays into continued supremacy on a list like this. For instance, Game of Thrones just recently wrapped up a final season that completely polarized fans and critics, which could feasibly have had a drastically negative effect on the epic fantasy drama's overall score. Meanwhile, Band of Brothers' legacy will forever go untarnished, without the diminishing returns of follow-up seasons.

While dramatic cable miniseries about nuclear plant disasters aren't exactly traditional TV hits, HBO's Chernobyl is celebrating a success that is the result of skilled filmmaking and scheduling. Creator Craig Mazin and his creative team put tireless efforts into making the drama as realistic and pulse-pounding as possible, with a second-to-none cast of thespians such as Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård and Jared Harris, among many.

To speak to the latter point, HBO began airing Chernobyl in the middle of Game of Thrones' final season, though not on the network's usual Sunday-night lineup. (A comedy like Barry is arguably a better palate cleanser for G.o.T.'s death and destruction.) That didn't stop HBO from advertising Chernobyl before and after Thrones' record-breaking episodes, which was probably the best possible form of raising awareness.

It should be noted that Chernobyl is working with a smaller voter base than those of other series on the list. Currently, just over 74,000 people have rated Chernobyl on IMDb, while Breaking Bad had 1.2 million votes, and Game of Thrones had 1.5 million. (The Wire wasn't so far ahead, with around 244,000 votes.) Perhaps if Chernobyl gets to the point when another 1.2 million people rate it, it may fall from its vested spot atop the rankings.

Just in case anyone thinks that IMDb's list is weighted to go in Chernobyl's favor – is that even possible? – the series is getting high marks all across the Internet's aggregate sites. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the HBO drama has locked down a 96% Fresh rating after 48 critical reviews, with an average rating of 8.83 out of 10. Its audience score isn't official yet, but the average rating there is a 4.8 out of 5. Meanwhile, over on Metacritic, Chernobyl rocks an 83 critics score, and a 9.5 user score.

It's also true that Chernobyl's ratings could be better on the viewership side of things, though HBO is likely pumped for the Monday-night totals it's been getting. The second and third episodes both reached over a million viewers, which is pretty awesome, and it's presumed that even more people are tuning in after the fact via HBO Go and HBO Now.

For those who want to catch up, do so immediately, because Chernobyl's finale will be airing on HBO on Monday, June 3, at 9 p.m. ET.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.