What are the best fantasy series of all time? In today’s media landscape, there’s a fantasy series for everyone. Due to the epic scope of so much fantasy material, the best of the genre seen on screen is often thought of as the domain of fantasy movies. But, that hasn’t really been true for a long time, especially since Game of Thrones forced itself into the cultural consciousness.
Now, however, with the Rings of Power, House of the Dragon, and much else, highly anticipated fantasy series with even higher budgets are hitting TV screens thick and fast. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon books are getting a Disney Plus TV series after the disaster that was the movie adaptation. Percy Jackson, too, is benefiting from the genre’s resurgence on the small screen and will also be getting a series on the streaming service.
There has rarely, if ever, been a better time to be a fan of fantasy. So while acknowledging that either of the two new giants could shake things up pretty quickly, we decided to go through the endless catalogue of fantasy TV in order to put together the definitive list of the best fantasy series of all time. You might want to watch Aragorn’s speech at the Black Gate to prepare yourself because this is going to be quite the ride.
What are the best fantasy series?
- Game of Thrones
- Attack on Titan
- The Witcher
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- What We Do in the Shadows
- The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- The Sandman
- Midnight Mass
Game of Thrones (2011 – 2019)
Game of Thrones was so close to taking the undisputed crown as the best fantasy series of all time. Then, as we all know, the final season went and threw it all away. However, the first five seasons – at least – can still be regarded as the best example of fantasy television ever created. It was the perfect blend of political intrigue, action, drama, and dragons, and completely faithful to George R R Martin’s novels in plot and tone.
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Undoubtedly, the series declined as it outpaced Martin’s written work, and it ended completely without fanfare after years of being the biggest series on television. Nevertheless, the ambitious prequel series House of the Dragon has redeemed the series, rekindling our love of Westeros and opening up the possibility of even more spin-offs. Roll on House of the Dragon season 2 release date 2.
Attack on Titan (2013 – present)
This dark, animated fantasy series is widely regarded as one of the greatest Japanese anime series of all time. It deserves its spot on this list for managing to tackle dark themes while still containing that awe-inducing sense of scale that comes with the best of fantasy.
That scale is provided by the titular titans. They are the terrifying, humongous humanoids that act as the antagonists in the series. Their dominance on the series’ world means that the human population is forced to live behind gigantic walls to protect themselves and their families.
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The series focuses on Eren’s journey to combat the Titans, while exploring the lore behind their mysterious origins. You’ve got plenty of choice in how you watch it, too, because Attack on Titan is equally watchable in either the original Japanese with subtitles or with the nearly-as-good English dub.
The Witcher (2019 – present)
The Witcher’s two seasons, soon to be three, stand as some of the best fantasy television available. The series is an adaptation of the book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, which has also famously been adapted into the epic video game series of the same name. The series is completely distinct from other fantasy series, and it embraces the dark and gothic, with a total rejection of the bright and airy aesthetic that’s seen in other series such as Wheel of Time.
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It follows the story of Geralt of Rivia, a genetically mutated Witcher, and his growing relationship with the young princess of Cintra, Ciri. An unapologetic nerd, Henry Cavill’s passion and dedication to honouring the source material shines in every second he’s on the screen. He imbues Geralt with that passion, and the result is one of the most memorable and distinctive characters on television. We can’t wait to see more of him when he returns in The Witcher season 3.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003)
Before the Avengers and before Firefly, Joss Whedon was reshaping the face of modern fantasy with the creation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show was originally conceived as a fun twist on the well-worn horror trope of the young blonde woman being the victim of the horror because, this time, she’d be biting back.
Demons, vampires, and all manner of other ghoulies were the antagonists (and occasionally the protagonists too) as Buffy Summers sought to come to terms with her responsibility as the latest in a long line of ‘slayers’. With the help of some fantastic supporting characters, the series combined an exciting and original premise with a cocktail of horror with endless fun.
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer paved the way to subsequent modern fantasy series like Supernatural and Grimm, led to an equally excellent spin-off series Angel, and is generally recognised as one of the pillars of classic television. So, how could any list of the best fantasy series omit Buffy? It also happens to have one of the greatest musical intros of all time. Seriously, it kicks so much ass.
What We Do in the Shadows (2019 – present)
The other side of the coin to Buffy the Vampire Slayer is What We Do in the Shadows. The series is based on the comedy movie of the same name, which was written by New Zealand duo Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement.
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The premise (four vampire roommates going about their daily life in modern-day New York City) is already absurd enough, but it’s the execution where the series truly sets itself apart. The show is shot in a mockumentary style, which is the perfect way to frame the comedy of the bizarre world of the main characters. And, of course, it almost goes without saying that Matt Berry’s performance alone makes the series worth watching.
The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance (2019)
The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance is a Netflix series which acts as a prequel to the ’80s movie The Dark Crystal. You don’t need to have watched the film, however, to appreciate the series, which is a perfect introduction to the conflict between the Gelfling clans and Skeksis. The series is also overflowing with the talent of its excellent voice cast, which manages to utilise the majesty of Mark Hamill’s voice to its full potential.
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The series might be most notable, however, for its aesthetic prowess. Every episode brought about a stunning blend of practical and digital visual effects, all centred around the unparalleled puppetry of the Jim Henson Company. It’s a travesty that the show was cancelled after one season because it was so consistently beautiful.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983 – 1985)
He-Man is a wild ride, filled with wizards made of cloth, guns, and an exceptional level of camp. The story kicks off when a relatively weedy, timid young prince discovers a magic sword that turns him into the ultra buff He-Man. Yes, that’s right. The character is so manly that he’s actually called He-Man – just so that there’s no confusion.
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It features the cackling menace Skeletor as its central antagonist, and for many the character is the single best thing about the series. Skeletor is flanked by his own host of evil allies, who all share the same uninventive naming convention. For example, there’s Evil-Lyn (an evil sorceress), Beast Man (a very hairy man who likes animals) and Ram-Man (basically Juggernaut from the X-Men movies).
Don’t let the simplicity fool you, though. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is as epic as the name suggests. It focuses on the huge struggle between the forces of good and evil, which sees a wide variety of fantastical magic and weaponry fighting against each other for control of the land of Eternia.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005 – 2008)
It’s often assumed, incorrectly, that fantasy is a genre designed specifically for children. That might be wrong, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of excellent fantasy series for children. Perhaps the very best of all is Avatar: The Last Airbender.
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The series follows Aang as he learns to control the four elements, Water, Earth, Fire, and Air, while battling against the tyrannical fire nation. Like the best series for children, it never shied away from exploring difficult and complex themes and issues.
Since it concluded, it has been followed up by the equally excellent Legend of Korra which is absolutely worth a watch, if you’ve finished Avatar: The Last Airbender and are desperately looking for more bending action.
The Sandman (2022)
Like Dune or Lord of the Rings, it was initially assumed that Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic book series The Sandman was unadaptable. It turns out that such an assumption would turn out to be dead wrong.
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The series was adapted to the screen largely with the help and support of Gaiman himself, and it shows. The Sandman combines excellent visual work with enthralling characters to create a word that is so rich, and so deep, while still remaining accessible.
Even though it’s just one season in, the Netflix television adaptation has proved that it has what it takes to tackle the source material, and make a truly excellent fantasy series along the way. If The Sandman season 2 is finally greenlit, and we can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be, it will be able to prove that its success wasn’t a fluke, cementing itself as one of the best fantasy series of all time.
Midnight Mass (2021)
Let’s get this out of the way from the off. Yes, Midnight Mass is a fantasy series. The Mike Flanagan show tells the story of an ancient vampire that’s brought into an isolated island in a bid to give the inhabitants immortality in exchange for fresh blood. You don’t get much more fantasy than that.
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It is also, of course, a horror story that explores the line between life and death. On top of all that, it’s packed full of stunning performances. Rahul Kohli and Hamish Linklater, in particular, ensure that the lofty series always has one foot in reality, even with the impending threat of a vampire invasion