TV

The 27 best TV finales of all time, according to IMDb

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Tom Victor
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The toughest task with any successful TV show is finding a way to end it.

It’s part of the reason why shows like The Simpsons have kept going long after many feel they should have come off the air.

It’s also why some people have a lot more love for two-season shows than those which had time to outstay their welcome. Even those like Fawlty Towers, which is surely remembered much more fondly than if its two seasons were spun out into 20.

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We’ve taken the mathematical approach to finding the best TV finales out there – IMDb episode ratings.

The database lets viewers decide between good and bad, and that means the more divisive finales out there don’t make the cut.

There’s no room for The Sopranos’ last episode ‘Made in America’, or ‘The Interview’, which brought the UK version of The Office to a close – both of those have scores of 9.0, which isn’t quite enough for the upper echelons.

We’ve bent the rules ever so slightly, making room for one or two shows which returned after ‘final’ episodes, but only when the episodes in question were undeniably framed as finales.

Anyway, we’re sure you’ll disagree with a bunch of these, so prepare to get angry at your favourite not making the cut. Some spoilers follow.

  1. 27.

    'The Shield'

    The Shield

    Episode Name: ‘Family Meeting’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “What do we want from a series finale? Is it a feeling of closure, so we can walk away feeling as if the story in which we’ve invested our time has been settled in proper fashion? Is it ambiguity, so we can pick up the story from the storytellers and play out possible scenarios in our imaginations and online arguments for years afterward? The answer is, ‘Yes, both’. It’s a near impossible demand, and no finale delivered both closure and ambiguity better than The Shield.” - Steven Hyden, Grantland.

  2. 26.

    'The O.C.'

    Episode Name: ‘The End’s Not Near, It’s Here’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “Despite its shortcomings, the finale of The O.C. managed to solidify itself as a truly memorable finale thanks to the scenes that made up its final third.” - Eric Goldman, IGN

  3. 25.

    'Gilmore Girls'

    Episode Name: ‘Bon Voyage’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “Maybe, just maybe, this was the only way Gilmore Girls could have ended.” - Denise Martin, Los Angeles Times

  4. 24.

    'House'

    Episode Name: ‘Everybody Dies’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “A perfectly appropriate final episode for one of TV’s most jagged primetime shows, full of psychological truths, brutal realities, honest confrontations and an unspoken, underlying theme that might best be summarized as ‘Screw ’em if they can’t take a joke.’” - David Hinckley, New York Daily News

  5. 23.

    'Frasier'

    Episode Name: ‘Goodnight Seattle, Part 2’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “All in all, the Frasier finale did what the series did best all these years: amuse you with small, sharp moments.” - Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

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  1. 22.

    'Desperate Housewives'

    Episode Name: ‘Finishing the Hat’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “As much as Desperate Housewives will rightfully be remembered as a frothy suburban comedy, it was its seedy (if not always consistent) underbelly that made it a nervier, more interesting series than it might have been coming from a less puckish mind than Marc Cherry’s.” - Michael Slezak, TVLine

  2. 21.

    '24'

    Episode Name: ‘Day 8: 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.’

    IMDb Rating: 9.2

    Critics Say: “Finally, in his greatest moments of grief and fury, [Jack Bauer] showed us the most vulnerable, despairing side of the man of action.” - Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

  3. 20.

    'Mad Men'

    Episode Name: ‘Person to Person’

    IMDb Rating: 9.3

    Critics Say: “This non-abruptness, along with the ends that are left only half-tied, all add to the sense that this is by no means the end for these brilliant, complex, three-dimensional characters who, over the past eight years, we have come to know so well, become friends with even. They carry on; it’s just that we don’t get to watch any more. And hell I’m going to miss it.” - Sam Wollaston, the Guardian

  4. 19.

    'Charmed'

    Episode Name: ‘Forever Charmed’

    IMDb Rating: 9.3

    Critics Say: “The best way they could have ended, really, was to surround the finale with family - one of the main reasons people fell in love with the show.” - Gavin Hetherington, SpoilerTV.com

  5. 18.

    'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

    Episode Name: ‘Chosen’

    IMDb Rating: 9.3

    Critics Say: “The final Buffy from Joss Whedon’s pen was a reason to celebrate in 2003: back was the snappy dialogue we’ve come to expect from the show over the years. In essence the show came to life just as its run drew to a close. Not a bad way to go out.” - Brian Ford Sullivan, The Futon Critic

  6. 17.

    'The Vampire Diaries'

    Episode Name: ‘I Was Feeling Epic’

    IMDb Rating: 9.4

    Critics Say: “It was a beautiful finale, full of epic hellos and farewells, familiar faces, and a twist to rival the cliffhanger of season three. Look, the rules of this show were fast and loose the last few years.” - Rebecca Serle, Vulture

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  1. 16.

    'Fringe'

    Episode Name: ‘An Enemy of Fate’

    IMDb Rating: 9.4

    Critics Say: “For the viewers who stayed on it, through the good and the ugly, the two-hour series finale capped off in a way that the entire series was meant to, hitting an emotional chord with a sacrifice that gave arguably Fringe’s best relationships its due.” - Philiana Ng, The Hollywood Reporter

  2. 15.

    'Blackadder Goes Forth'

    Episode Name: ‘Goodbyeee’

    IMDb Rating: 9.4

    Critics Say: “While the sitcom always had a snarky, clever edge to its examination of class hypocrisies, it never got quite this dark. But really, what other way is there to conclude a story about the trench warfare of World War I, where thousands of Brits (and Germans, and many others) ran at each other’s machine-gun lines for no particularly good reason other than they were told to do it?” - David Sims, The A.V. Club

  3. 14.

    'Sons of Anarchy'

    Episode Name: ‘Papa’s Goods’

    IMDb Rating: 9.5

    Critics Say: “‘Papa’s Goods’ might have been long — way past your bedtime kind of long — but it had everything fans of the show needed in order to say goodbye to Jax Teller and the rest of the SAMCRO gang.” - Amber Dowling, Uproxx

  4. 13.

    'Newhart'

    Episode Name: ‘The Last Newhart’

    IMDb Rating: 9.5

    Critics Say: “Viewers did not feel cheated; this was the best it-was-all-just-a-dream scenario ever, one that didn’t dishonour the eight seasons of sublime silliness that preceded it.” - Gary Susman, Rolling Stone

  5. 12.

    'Spartacus: War of the Damned'

    Episode Name: ‘Victory’

    IMDb Rating: 9.6

    Critics Say: “This is the kind of series one hopes is not soon forgotten. Looking back on Spartacus as a whole, it seems impossible that it ever will be.” - Kevin Yeoman, ScreenRant

  6. 11.

    'Community'

    Episode Name: ‘Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television’

    IMDb Rating: 9.6

    Critics Say: “‘Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television’ feels like an ideal finale to Community as we know it. As funny and warm and self-referential as ever, it remains faithful to this season’s more grounded approach and closes a run that some have found uneven, in a way that can’t fail to satisfy the show’s loyal Greendale Human Beings.” - Mark Harrison, Den of Geek

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  1. 10.

    'Angel'

    Episode Name: ‘Not Fade Away’

    IMDb Rating: 9.6

    Critics Say: “One of the few dramas that ended in a way that felt emotionally, tonally and thematically appropriate.” - Maureen Ryan, Huffington Post

  2. 9.

    'Parks and Recreation'

    Episode Name: ‘One Last Ride: Part 2’

    IMDb Rating: 9.7

    Critics Say: “Though they had their quirks, Leslie and her co-workers always did the right thing, showed each other how much they cared, and situations always worked out for the best. Even April, the character who is supposed to hate everything, was kind of a sweetheart deep down.” - Brian Moylan, the Guardian

  3. 8.

    'The Office (US)'

    Episode Name: ‘Finale’

    IMDb Rating: 9.7

    Critics Say: “Seeing The Office tie up its loose ends couldn’t help but be a nostalgic, bittersweet experience for anyone who admired the show along the way. Because despite Pam’s closing note, at its best The Office was far from ordinary and, even if its most-rewarding days were in the rear-view mirror, deserved to finish on top.” - Brian Lowry, Variety

  4. 7.

    'Friends'

    Episode Name: ‘The Last One, Part 2’

    IMDb Rating: 9.7

    Critics Say: “It may have been impossible for any one episode to live up to the hype and expectations built up around the Friends finale, but this hour probably came as close as fans could have reasonably hoped.” - Robert Bianco, USA Today

  5. 6.

    'Friday Night Lights'

    Episode Name: ‘Always’

    IMDb Rating: 9.7

    Critics Say: “This was the simple resolution that FNL’s finale offered - and it’s why, though I sobbed through watching this finale, it didn’t feel sad. It just felt right.” - James Poniewozik, Time

  6. 5.

    'Six Feet Under'

    Episode Name: ’Everyone’s Waiting’

    IMDb Rating: 9.8

    Critics Say: “It’s rare that a sensibility remains so unified and so unshy on a fancy soap opera; melodramatists too often get scared of being called hysterics and betray their genre, blowing it off for dumb stunts or trying, in some 11th hour, to sober up and turn manly. But the producers of Six Feet Under never cared about impressing the Wire or Deadwood audiences. They had their ratio, and they saw it through. Six Feet Under was a beautiful series, and its finale will suffice.” - Virginia Heffernan, The New York Times

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  1. 4.

    'Scrubs'

    Episode Name: ‘My Finale, Part 2’

    IMDb Rating: 9.8

    Critics Say: “I can’t imagine a better ending for this show: earnestly sentimental but not gruesomely corny.” - Margaret Lyons, Entertainment Weekly

  2. 3.

    'Parenthood'

    Episode Name: ‘May God Bless and Keep You Always’

    IMDb Rating: 9.8

    Critics Say: “Even though it was based on a movie that had previously been adapted into a (short-lived) TV show, it felt unique, and the finale felt exactly like the way this special, potentially last-of-its-kind show should have ended.” - Alan Sepinwall, Uproxx

  3. 2.

    'Person of Interest'

    Episode Name: ‘Return 0’

    IMDb Rating: 9.9

    Critics Say: “That’s one of the most disappointing things about the end of Person of Interest—not being able to see and feel all of these particular performances on a regular basis anymore. That really proves the series finale did its job.” - LaToya Ferguson, The A.V. Club

  4. 1.

    'Breaking Bad'

    Episode Name: ‘Felina’

    IMDb Rating: 9.9

    Critics Say: “For all of the work put into Breaking Bad, this series was a major accomplishment. We knew the end was coming. We knew Walt would have to do something, and we knew about the ricin and the M60. We saw it all coming and that didn’t even take away one bit of the ending.” - Seth Amitin, IGN

(Images: Rex/AMC)