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Top Five Most Influential Cult TV Shows

By: Donna Chaffins | Date: December 23, 2014 | Categories: Pop Culture, TV

There are shows that have shaped TV, and there are those that have turned into cult followings. Exactly what inspires a show to influence such popularity varies. A group of highly dedicated fans identify (usually ironically) with a show that is considered eccentric, provocative, anti-establishment, or a comedic success. Five of the most influential cult TV shows include:

5 most influential cult tv shows

Arrested Development

In this cult comedy classic, Michael Bluth is forced to run the family business in Orange County after his father is sent to jail for committing a white-collar crime. He struggles with balancing the demands of his bizarre, dysfunctional, and spoiled family while trying to maintain a positive role model image for his teenage son, George Michael. The massive cult following enabled its return after being canceled following the third season.

Breaking Bad

High school chemistry instructor Walter White learns that he has terminal lung cancer. When he realizes that his disease could leave his family with nothing, he decides to team up with a former student to try and make some extra money. Together they turn an old RV into a portable crystal meth lab. This show has become such a cult classic that you can even get Breaking Bad action figures.


The survivors of an airplane crash are stranded on a seemingly deserted and mysterious island. Each person conceals a secret and as the series progresses we learn that the island is constructed of a security system complete with underground bunkers and violent shadow-figures threatening their survival.

The X-Files

As special agents for the FBI, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully investigate unexplained cases referred to as the X-Files. The government attempts to convince them that everything they uncover is a lie, but they stop at nothing to prove the tagline of the show: the truth is out there.

Dr. Who

This British science fiction TV program first aired in 1963 and is a significant part of British pop culture. Elsewhere it quickly emerged as a cult TV favorite. Over the seasons, different actors have headlined as the Doctor, who escaped from the planet Gallifrey in a stolen time machine. The transition is intelligently written into the plot because the Doctor can take on a new appearance and personality when his body is fatally wounded.

The Next Cult TV Show

What is the next cult TV show that will attract a fanatical following? The answer depends on both casual and devoted fans who want to depart from mainstream TV. The size of the audience is insignificant. However, loyalty and commitment are essential factors for the next unofficial cult TV show to earn its place in the ranks.

37 Responses to Top Five Most Influential Cult TV Shows

  1. veronica lee says:

    I totally loved Breaking Bad! I am guessing that Walking Dead will be the next to earn its place in the ranks.

  2. Mai Tran says:

    No “Friends”???? I’m mad about “Friends”. I have not watched any from your list.

  3. I loved Lost but couldn’t keep up with the missed episodes after a few months! And I totally agree with Veronica Lee with The Walking Dead! I absolutely love that show! It’s a must watch for sure!

  4. Kelly says:

    X-files is/was one of my all time favorites. I would add; Firefly and The Killing. Both great shows. Off the air too soon!

    • Tammy says:

      Oh yes on Firefly, there is so much fanfare around the only season of the show! We actually just introduced our daughter to it on Netflix over the Christmas break when she was home from college.

  5. kimi says:

    I loved all those shows. I cried when Lost ended. I cry each time the Dr regenerates.

  6. Lisa Coomer Queen says:

    The only one of these I’ve watched is the X-files and I loved it. I’m like the rest of you, Walking Dead will be next.

  7. Tammy says:

    We watched all of X-Files and Lost, and we’ve watched some of Dr. Who. I think we lost the channel for a while or something because I don’t know why else we would have stopped watching! I agree that Walking Dead is likely another ‘cult’ TV show (which we also happen to watch). I would almost say so was Star Trek, considering the original series didn’t last that many seasons, but then look at how many movies and other shows it spun off!

  8. Dawn Keenan says:

    Although I have never watched these shows, my entire family loved Lost.

  9. I binge watched Breaking Bad and loved it!

  10. Trish F says:

    My son and husband are BIG Breaking Bad fans and years ago I loved watching X-files. My son was into Lost but I lost interest after a couple of episodes. I never got into the other two but I think Twin Peaks should of been on the list just because, even after 25 years there is still a big cult following.

  11. Victoria says:

    Man the x-files was an amazing show so I totally agree with you on that one 🙂

  12. Mary G Loki says:

    I remember growing up watching the X-files! And the Twilight Zone!

  13. Jenn says:

    I was just in New MExico where Breaking Bad was filmed and it was pretty cool.

  14. Jasmine says:

    I think Walking Dead should be on your next list, but honestly Supernatural has been going for almost 10 years and there are thousands of fans like me who have been watching from the start as well as many new fans along the way. Cult? Maybe not? Loyal fandom? Most definitely!

  15. Carol Nine says:

    Lost was a favorite of mine. I watched every episode. I am now starting to watch all the episodes of Breaking Bad.

  16. HilLesha says:

    I never became a fan of TV shows until Pretty Little Liars and The Walking Dead. I also love Revenge, but I think it’s too cheesy and soap opera-ish to be considered as a cult TV show. 😀

  17. Crystal says:

    Lost is one of my all-time favorite shows. I watched it each week, but have rewatched the entire series multiple times.

  18. Anne Marie Carter says:

    I knew of all of these TV shows, though the X files was the only show that I watched when it was on TV. Yes, I think that show helped to bring similar shows on to the screen, just like the other shows that you have listed have done so.

  19. Raijean says:

    Can you believe, I’ve never seen any of these shows. I’m going to do better in 2015.

  20. Ty says:

    I’ve only seen the X-files but I’ve heard of the other but I just haven’t seen them before.

  21. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and My So Called life should totally be on that list.

  22. Deborah Caudill says:

    I agree with and watched all the shows on your list. I also watched Firefly and The. Walking Dead. Two others should be added and both starred Timothy Olyphant,Deadwood and Justified. Redwood was on HBO and ended years ago, but you can still watch it. The other one is Justified, but this is the last season. Also, Sons ofAnarchy was a great one and Netflix has 6 seasons on now. I believe Supernaturalreal is a cult show. With a huge following. Revolution h ad the potential to have a cu l t following, but was cancelled.

  23. Colleen says:

    The only one of these I’ve seen is Lost and I loved the show until the end. I guess I just didn’t get it quite so much.

  24. Good list, surprised Pretty Little Liars didn’t make the cut though!

  25. CD says:

    Breaking Bad is the best show I’ve ever seen and I’ve watched a lot.

  26. laura rubenstein says:

    OMG I loved Lost! It was one of the best shows Ever!!

  27. Liz Mays says:

    The only one I’ve watched is Breaking Bad and I’m nowhere near done with it. I think I’m on season two, but it’s awesome!

  28. Raijean says:

    So, I finally caught and episode of Breaking Bad and it was so good, I can’t wait to watch more.

  29. molly c says:

    I used to be terrified of x files!

  30. Tania B says:

    I still remember waiting every week to watch the newest episode of X-files. Man, I loved that show and still do when I go and watch it on Netflix. Still in love with David Duchovny too *wink*

  31. lola says:

    love lost and breakin bad!
    it is not new, but i love to broke girls

  32. Marcie W. says:

    I recently heard they are thinking of bringing back the X-Files, which was one of my favorites. I am also 7 episodes away from finishing the entire Breaking Bad series.

  33. Kait says:

    My husband loved Breaking Bad from the first day it aired. I also remember Xfiles from when I was younger!