The Decade’s Best Action/Adventure Series

Television

A decade is a long time in television, and we’re gathering the best programming across a bunch of fun categories.

We’re starting with the best action/adventure series.

Did your favorite make the list?

Action-Adventure

Game of Thrones – HBO (2011-2019)

Let’s get it out of the way. Games of Thrones had a rocky ending. That doesn’t take away from the seven incredible seasons that came before it, though. Game of Thrones is one of the defining shows of the decade.

Having such a large ensemble cast is no easy task, but Game of Thrones managed to get us invested in each player in the war for the Iron Throne. The show had something for everyone: action, adventure, romance, and dragons.

From its opening scene being introduced to the white walkers, to the birth of Dany’s dragons, to the Red Wedding, to the wall being brought down, the show delivered one breathtaking moment after another.

Nikita – The CW (2011-2013)

Nikita Poster

A reboot of the 90s spy drama La Femme Nikita, Nikita carried on the tradition of the badass female spies that came before her like her predecessor and Sydney from Alias.

Maggie Q shined as Nikita and she was supported by a stellar cast with amazing chemistry. The show had so many twists and turns leaving us constantly on our toes.

Nikita met its end too soon but its short run allowed it to go out on a high note and remain one of the best adventures of the decade.

Galavant – ABC (2015-2016)

Galavant Poster

Galavant only lasted for 18 half-hour episodes, but it crammed in pretty much everything a person could want in an adventure show. Heroes and heroines quested to save kingdoms and their true love.

They had run-ins with dwarves, giants, magicians, pirates, and unicorns. The series climaxed with a legendary battle where the royals, the jester, the queen, the henchman, the hero, and the hero’s BFF fought alongside and against each other to determine who would rule the realms.

In a decade where every television show wanted to be Game of Thrones, Galavant stood out because it journeyed (or rather sang and danced) in the opposite direction. The show didn’t win Emmys — not even for its ear-worm title song — or garner huge ratings.

None of that stopped the show from telling big, poignant stories of heroism and redemption. It was “Epic, wild, a real butt-clencher!”

Timeless – NBC (2016-2018)

Timeless Poster Tall

The time-traveling series didn’t gain much love from critics and its heavily serialized nature meant low-ratings and a premature cancellation.

But because of it’s layered and exciting re-imaging of history, the series gripped a compact and passionate audience that followed Lucy, Wyatt, Rufus, and even Garcia Flynn to any century as they attempted to defeat Rittenhouse.

The series excelled in storytelling and historical portrayals (for history buffs and non-history buffs alike), and the elaborate costume made you forget all about the technicalities of time travel.

And despite being plot-driven, character development never took a backseat in the Lifeboat.

Once Upon a Time – ABC (2011-2018)

We all need a little magic in our lives. Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis did something that’s never been done before with Once Upon a Time, a brilliantly modern re-telling of Disney’s fairytale classics that charmed audiences of all ages.

The whimsical plots tested what you thought to be true about Snow White, Prince Charming, Captain Hook, the Evil Queen and more.

Most importantly, it examined what it meant to be good and evil proving that no one is born with darkness (it’s learned) and that it’s never too late to become a better version of yourself — the hero.

Through its seven-season run, the character development carried the series with lessons about hope, loss, love, and how to undo any kind of curse.

Blood Drive – SyFy (2017)

Blood Drive Poster

One 12-episode season was all we got from the explosive bloody horror adventure.

Colin Cunningham landed every actor’s dream psycho MC role. But the star was definitely the blood, guts, and creatively dispersed body count.

Reminiscent of 1975’s cult classic film Death Race 2000, Blood Drive achieved higher comedic and attention-grabbing success. Shame it didn’t last.

But at least it was able to exit on a maximum speed high note. Definitely worth repeat viewing and bingeing.

The Arrowverse – The CW (2012-present)

Crisis on Infinite Earths Poster

The CW took a gamble with a retelling of The Green Arrow’s origin story that cascaded into their flagship series.

In a single universe retelling the tales of superheroes of the DC Universe, you can imagine getting stranded on a remote island, becoming genetically modified after an explosion of a particle accelerator, taking a ship through time and space and a whole lot more.

These shows are also interconnected so that fans who watch get little nuggets of story by watching every series with epic annual crossovers that throw the heroes into crisis mode as they fight for the survival of themselves, their cities, their countries, their planets, and the multiple universes.

Vikings (2013-2020)

Vikings Poster

Vikings debuted as one of the most thrilling series on the air. Airing after the success of The Tudors from the previous decade, it took a step even farther back into history that ultimately brought the lore of an entire civilization to life on the small screen.

Ragnar, Lagertha, Rollo, and Loki started it but the next generation is carrying it home as the Norse men and women explore and conquer well beyond their initial small footprint on the planet.

And the Vikings production value and performances proved that History could deliver on scripted content.

Leverage – TNT (2008-2012)

Leverage Poster

To this day, the world could still use a little more leverage. In an age of reboots and revivals, it’s not a matter of if this series will find its way back to us again, it’s only a matter of when.

It’s a cult-hit classic that only gets more timely and relevant with age. It was something oddly satisfying and hopeful about this ragtag group of criminals playing “Robin Hood” seeking justice for the wronged “little guy.”

Each installment there was a new client in need, a new dangerous mission, and a new entertaining adventure.

For five seasons, we followed a thief, hacker, hitter, grifter, and mastermind as a lovable group of “bad guys” with a heart of gold who made the worst guys pay proving that sometimes the bad guys are the only good guys you got.

It was a found family series that was equally as action-packed, heartwarming, thrilling, dark, and funny. It’s timeless.

Banshee – Cinemax (2013-2016)

Banshee Poster

Banshee was absolutely fearless in its storytelling blending the law, crimes (and criminals), action, and some of the best-stylized violence ever committed to screen. The story was one of corruption and second chances with a unique film style and a top-notch cast.

It was unique in its premise and touched on some wildly controversial characters dealing with those issues within the Amish community.

Lead Anthony Starr was a commanding (and sexy presence, while his female counterpart, Ivana Milicevic matched the bar making them titillating to watch.

And we cannot forget the wonderful performance by Hoon Lee as the flamboyant bad-ass, Job.

Homeland – Showtime (2011-2020)

Homeland Poster

When Homeland debuted, it was one of the most powerful shows on television. Exploring the lives of CIA agents on foreign soil, it struck a nerve still tender after our conflicts with the Middle East.

A decorated military officer’s return from a years-long hostage situation was compelling and thought-provoking.

Carrie and Saul were a team who thought about ethics before pulling the trigger on their ops, and we gained a bit of trust in their portrayal.

While some of the heat was pulled after Brody’s death, when the CIA team returned to the States, and after Carrie and Saul fell out with each other, the series never stopped exploring tough situations with a wide range of potential solutions.

Doctor Who – BBC America (2005-ongoing)

Old Doctor Who Poster

The 2010s witnessed this decades-old British phenomenon regenerate its Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Doctors.

The decade opened with the arrival of the Eleventh Doctor in the boyish and endearing visage of Matt Smith. This was also the era of the Ponds (Arthur Darvill, Karen Gillam), River Song (Alex Kingston), and the Silence. 

From Smith, the reins were passed to the first-ever SCOTTISH Doctor, Peter Capaldi, whose adventures included companions Clara (Jenna Coleman), Nardole (Matt Lucas), and Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie).

In a sign of the times, the Twelfth Doctor’s central conflict was introspective, best exemplified by Doctor Who Season 9 Episode 11, “Heaven Sent,” a pinnacle piece of acting wherein The Doctor is the only character on-screen for nearly the entire episode.

Times continued to be a-changin’ as the Thirteenth Doctor caused great upheaval with the audacity to be female. Jodie Whittaker took on all challengers — including the toothy “Tim Shaw” — and proved herself a powerful and innovative version of this beloved figure.

Doctor Who has endured not because it is an immutable pillar of British culture but because it evolves and adapts, inviting its viewers to grow and develop with it. Long live Team T.A.R.D.I.S.!

What’s your favorite action/adventure series? If yours didn’t make the list, be sure to hit the comments with your choice!

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