Here Are Some of the Most Visually Stunning TV Shows Ever Made

ytsfreeAugust 29, 2022

As television continues to get more cinematic, and the divide between streaming and network shows wears thin, the cinematography and set design of small-screen entertainment gets more impressive each year. An influx of creative talent willing to take risks in the medium has gifted us with stories that aren’t just well written, but rich in visual wonders. In some ways, television has become bolder than film, with long-form narrative allowing brilliant shows like Legion to experiment with incredible visuals and psychedelic storytelling.

Without these changes, a show like Fargo wouldn’t be able to reference its cinematic predecessor so convincingly, expanding on the Coen Brothers’ original universe with iconic visuals. Thanks to the cinematic sensibilities of shows like The Wire and Mad Men, many now harness the power of well-crafted shots to hook viewers. Set and costume design also helped make period dramas like Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey so enjoyable and immersive. Groundbreaking advancements in visual effects and increased television budgets made shows like Game of Thrones possible. Seriously, Jar-Jar Binks walked so those dragons could fly. As these innovations have trickled down, shows have been able to tackle increasingly fantastical and supernatural material. As a result, the boundaries of what is possible on the small screen continue to expand.

Updated: August 2022: To keep this article fresh and relevant by adding more information and entries, this article has been updated by Stephen Rosenberg.

While successful lower-budget, less innovative shows often surpass four or five seasons, more visually daring (and concept-heavy) shows often face cancellation after relatively short runs. Some, however, have found their groove. Embracing quality over quantity helped immortalize the following nine shows as some of the most visually stunning series ever.


11 Sense8

It’s easy to see the bold influences of the Wachowski sisters, the dynamic duo behind The Matrix, in the rich, colorful world of Sense8. This supernatural drama follows a global group of eight individuals who find out that they share a psychic connection transcending language and geography, from Mumbai to Mexico. As the telepathic “sensates” get accustomed to their new connections, they draw on one another’s strengths, using them against the organization trying to capture them. A truly global show that envisions the world as a beautiful place worth saving, Sense8 was a visual gem that deserved more seasons.

10 Dark

In Dark, a small German town at the edge of the Black Forest, has a troubled history of disappearances. Things get weirder when teenage Jonas and his friends press deeper into the woods for answers, only to open a can of worms that complicates time and space. The aesthetic of this mind-bending German series can best be described by its title and the way it introduces each episode. The striking visuals start with the opening credits of each episode, a beautifully kaleidoscopic opening sequence that you won’t want to skip past. If you come for the look of the show, you will definitely want to stay for the twisty, intricate plot in this international treasure.

Related: These Are Some of the Most Underrated Television Shows of All Time

9 Yellowstone

Yellowstone has bucked the trend of Network TV’s ratings decline, becoming a runaway hit over the past few years. Besides its fascinating character dynamics and family drama, viewers have feasted their eyes on the stunning, wide-open landscapes of Big Sky Country. Filming in Utah and Montana, the expansive vistas of the American West speak for themselves in this series. The new prequel, 1883, has brought more of the same eye candy and added period details, giving viewers a glimpse into the ancestral Dutton’s journey west.

8 Euphoria

One of the most popular (and meme-worthy) shows on television right now, HBO’s Euphoria isn’t your average high-school drama: it’s a gorgeously shot, well-designed piece of visual art. The series has experimented with digital formats, and season two was shot entirely on 35 mm Kodak Ektachrome. Scroll through your Twitter feed, and you’re bound to see at least one still from the series– maybe it’s Sydney Sweeney as Cassie, crying at her mirror, surrounded by roses; or Zendaya as Rue, soaked in purple light and drugged-out bliss. What the show lacks in writing it certainly makes up for in style—its makeup and outfit trends have taken TikTok by storm and become a Zoomer hit.

7 The OA

Gone far too soon, The OA remains one of the wildest, most visually inventive shows to ever hit streaming. Prairie reappears in her suburban Michigan town after having gone missing for seven years. Formerly blind, she returns with her vision, a new name and strange stories of captivity and near-death experiences. A lot of the power of Prairie’s stories hinges on the visuals of the series—a collage of styles and genres that truly create the impression of inter-dimensional travel. The second season pushed the innovations of the first even further, a modern techno-noir vision of San Francisco that took us on a captivating journey into the imagination of creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. Hopefully, they can one day follow-up their brilliant, shocking cliffhanger.

6 The Leftovers

The Leftovers remains an underrated masterpiece. One of its strengths is its uncompromising visuals, some of the finest to ever grace our television screens. Breathtaking camerawork and meticulous design helped bring realism to its supernatural premise. As the characters moved states, and then continents, the series never lost its painstaking attention to detail, though it evolved visually, including more expansive shots and a brighter palette. The colorful architecture of Jarden, Texas, the setting of season two, wonderfully contrasted with the dark blues and greens of season one’s Upstate New York setting. For the series’ final season, set in Australia, production designer Jon Paino worked with Aboriginal artists to design and decorate the set.

5 Loki

One of the MCU’s first few series to premier on Disney+, Loki is perhaps the most spectacular looking thus far. As most of the episodes end up traveling between timelines and existence planes, the series just becomes more visually stunning as it goes on. When Loki and Sylvie end up at The End of Time, both their battle with other Lokis against Allioth and their meeting with Kang’s variant at The Citadel look incredible. With season two on the way, we can only imagine how amazing the special effects will look as the duo is sure to enter multiple different dimensions and timelines.

4 Westworld

Imaginative world-building has defined Westworld‘s captivating vision of the future, featuring jaw-dropping architecture and the beautiful landscapes of its central robot theme park(s). This drama adapted the classic ’70s flick using modern technology and set design, backing up its sci-fi premise with strong visual effects and sleek cinematography. The wonders only grew as the story branched out to include more than the initial Wild West park, the story of robot revolution spilling into the real world and other Delos parks–even a “Westeros” one. The series’ stunning version of 2058 gave us a technologically advanced (albeit morally corrupt) Los Angeles. What treasures will season four bring?

3 Hannibal

The gruesomely creative Hannibal set a new standard for visual horror, creating intricate crime scenes and artful gore to be savored. Showrunner Bryan Fuller’s idea of highbrow horror involved bodies contorted into sculptures, dinners that look like they deserve a Michelin star (just don’t think too much about the ingredients), and captivating dream sequences. The show tracks the love/fear relationship between Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson) and criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Its stunning, exquisite sets make Hannibal’s atrocities both terrifying and enticing to Will, and to us.

2 Stranger Things

Stranger Things has the pressure to both create a visual accomplishment of its 1980s setting, along with the darkly fantastical world of the Upside Down. The fan-favorite and critically acclaimed series does both with flying covers, contrasting the worlds brilliantly, while making them feel like we’re right in them. Not only do the environments look fantastic, but the special effects, especially on Vecna in season four, are some of the best practical application usage in horror and sci-fi television. The audience wouldn’t be nearly as engaged with the world of Stranger Things if it didn’t look so absolutely immersive.

Related: Here’s What Makes NBC’s Hannibal the Best Lecter Adaptation

1 American Gods

Though it had a relatively short, under-the-radar run, American Gods (created by Bryan Fuller, who also did Hannibal) boasted some stunning visual effects and exceptional creativity. Based on a darkly whimsical Neil Gaiman novel, the series faced a serious challenge in adapting its fantastical world to television in the post-Social Media world. The plot follows Shadow Moon, a recently released convict who is thrust into a war between the gods, both old, and new. Pitting the ancient gods of Slavic and Norse legend against the modern gods of the digital age made for riveting storytelling and fantastic visual world building. Its beautiful, strange visions, like a Fire Jinn in a New York Cab, or the goddess Bilquis working the streets of Los Angeles, are impossible to shake.


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