Each of the reality shows on this list—which is curated by reality blurred editor and TV critic Andy Dehnart—represents the genre of reality TV at its finest: artfully crafted entertainment that focuses on real-life drama among real people, whether they’re living their lives or playing a game in an artificial context.
The reality TV shows here are the best of the best.
Links will guide you to full reviews of each series and reality blurred’s coverage of the show, and most importantly, point you to where you can watch, binge-watch, and/or buy the series. (Some of those may be affiliate links that will send a few cents back to reality blurred to support its mission to cover the best of reality TV.)
The best reality shows ever
Anderson Cooper hosts a game of immersive puzzles and deceitful relationships filmed in epic European locations.
Two filmmakers create movies using the same script. A beautifully shot and dramatic look at the creative process.
The Great British Bake-Off
A charming, supportive competition with an abundance of puns and warmth but none of the annoyances of most cooking competitions. Absolutely flawless.
The first season of this social and physical game of survival changed U.S. broadcast television, establishing the template for character-driven, cinematic competition.
Making a Murderer
A detailed and riveting investigation into the conviction of a man convicted of—or was he framed for?—murder.
A real-life Downton Abbey, with ordinary people living as if they were in Edwardian England.
A high-tension thriller in which activists fight against whalers and their own inexperience.
Real people enter an immersive fictional fantasy world to compete—not for prizes, but for themselves. It flawlessly combined fictional elements with a reality competition.
The Real World
The first modern reality series put seven strangers in a house together and edited their lives into a soap opera. The first three seasons—New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco—are must-watch, while anything through season 9 is classic Real World. (Only season one is currently watchable, alas.)