The 26 Best TV Shows With Unreliable Narrators

There’s a saying that claims every story has three sides: your side, my side, and the truth. Thus, it is always pertinent to listen with a hefty grain of salt in mind when it comes to a one-sided narrative.

Of course, the TV landscape is not free of this, and when a show is told from one angle only, we have to make sure to put on our detective hats and skepticism because it is up to us to tease out the truth when presented with a story as told by an unreliable narrator.

I mean, is Joe Goldberg truly a feminist, as he claims?

In TV shows with unreliable narrators, we encounter storytellers who are deceptive puppeteers of the truth, trying to craft a world in which they are the hero, the good guy, or even the victim.

As viewers, we become both investigators and spectators, attempting to decipher the riddles and untangle the knots that the writers artfully weave through the narrator.

Each revelation can lead to new perspectives, illuminating the hidden facets of a story we thought we knew.

So, grab a bowl of popcorn and a suspiciously large magnifying glass as we embark on a journey through TV shows where narrators are as unreliable as the weather forecast during a tornado.

Mr. Robot, USA Network (2015 – 2019)

Meet Elliot Alderson, a brilliant but socially withdrawn computer expert working for the cybersecurity firm, All Safe, during the day while moonlighting as a vigilante hacker by night.

With his exceptional hacking skills, Elliot is recruited by the mysterious anarchist, Mr. Robot, to join fsociety – an underground hacking collective.

As the plot thickens, we encounter the unreliable narrator aspect of the story – Elliot’s mental health struggles, primarily dissociative identity disorder, introduce ambiguity and doubt into the narrative.

We soon learn that his alternate personality is Mr. Robot, and through his perspective, we are drawn into a world of conflicting emotions, ethical dilemmas, and personal struggles.

However, the lines between Elliot and Mr. Robot blur, leaving us to question who truly holds the reins of the narrative.

We can’t help but constantly wonder what is real and what is not as our protagonist continuously unravels as the seasons progress.

You, Netflix (2018 – present)

Perhaps one of the most divisive shows, You, based on the books by Caroline Kepnes, introduces us to the charismatic, handsome, and self-proclaimed feminist Joe Goldberg – a deeply disturbed man with an obsessive and manipulative mind.

The story unfolds from Joe’s perspective, inviting us into the twisted labyrinth of his mind, where reality and delusion entwine.

Driven by a relentless pursuit of love, Joe fixates on different women, convinced that he knows what’s best for them.

His intrusive narration paints him as a romantic hero, but his actions reveal a chilling portrait of a predator.

As viewers, we become unwilling witnesses to Joe’s escalating obsession and the lengths he’ll go to secure what he believes is true love.

The show’s unreliable narrator aspect becomes increasingly apparent as we witness Joe’s selective memory and rationalizations for his sinister deeds.

He masks his dark nature with a charming façade, leaving those around him oblivious to the darkness lurking beneath.

Legion, FX (2017 – 2019)

In this mind-bending show, we are invited into the mesmerizing world of psychological exploration and mutant powers, where nothing is as it seems.

The series follows David Haller, a troubled young man who believes he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

As we delve into his tumultuous life, we are thrust into a reality where the line between perception and delusion blurs.

David’s mind becomes our focal point, and his narrative challenges our understanding of reality.

As a mutant with extraordinary powers, he possesses telepathic and telekinetic abilities, which further complicate his mental state.

The show uses inventive visual storytelling, surreal imagery, and non-linear narratives to reflect the complexity of David’s mind.

However, we can’t help but question the authenticity of David’s experiences and the accuracy of his memories.

As the story unfolds, we encounter multiple perspectives and alternate versions of events, leaving us to decipher what is genuine and what is a product of his fractured psyche.

Dexter, Showtime (2006 – 2013)

Based on the books by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter immerses us into the chilling world of Dexter Morgan, a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department by day and a clandestine vigilante serial killer by night.

The show masterfully balances the roles of protagonist and anti-hero as we explore Dexter’s psyche and his unique moral code.

As a forensic expert with a dark past, Dexter is driven by an insatiable need to dispense justice to those who have escaped the legal system.

His narration guides us through his internal struggle between his Dark Passenger, the name he gives his compulsion to kill, and his desire to maintain a semblance of humanity.

The show is told from his perspective, and we can’t help but be sucked into his twisted idea of being a hero operating in the dark, making us question his unreliable claims of righteousness and moral superiority.

He operates in a world of “rules for thee and not for me,” where every dark action is justified by his twisted code of ethics.

The Replacement, BBC One (2017)

Let’s take a suspenseful and psychological journey into the world of workplace rivalry and identity ambiguity.

Meet Ellen Rooney, an ambitious architect who becomes pregnant and goes on maternity leave.

Her temporary replacement, Paula Reece, initially seems competent and friendly, but as the plot unfolds, we are drawn into a web of uncertainty and doubt.

As Ellen returns to work, she becomes increasingly convinced that Paula is trying to take over her life both personally and professionally. The show masterfully introduces an unreliable narrator aspect through the lens of her postpartum anxiety and paranoia.

Throughout the series, the tensions between Ellen and Paula escalate, heightening the psychological drama and creating an atmosphere of eerie unpredictability.

How I Met Your Mother, CBS (2014 – 2019)

Taking things in a heartwarming and funny direction, we take a journey through the folly of finding love as told through the eyes of Ted Mosby while he recounts, to his children, the story of how he met their mother.

Set in New York City, the show follows Ted and his close-knit group of friends – Marshall, Lily, Barney, and Robin – through the ups and downs of life, love, and friendship.

As the series unfolds, we come to realize that Ted is an unreliable narrator, as his recollections of events, relationships, and the personalities of his friends sometimes differ from their perspectives, adding comedic flair and a sense of nostalgia.

Ted’s penchant for romanticising the past and his occasional embellishments add layers of charm and complexity to the narrative.

The Affair, Showtime (2014 – 2019)

The Affair is a compelling drama that offers an exploration of human relationships, secrets, and the unreliability of memory.

The series centers around an extramarital affair between Noah Solloway, a struggling writer and married father, and Alison Lockhart, a waitress grieving the loss of her child.

What sets the show apart is its unique narrative structure. Each episode features two distinct viewpoints – one from Noah’s perspective and the other from Alison’s.

The unreliable narrator aspect becomes evident as we encounter conflicting accounts of the same incidents, leaving us to question whose version of events to trust.

The dual perspectives offer a nuanced exploration of human subjectivity, questioning how memory can be influenced by desire and guilt.

Money Heist, Netflix (2017 – 2021)

Also known as La Casa de Papel, Money Heist is a gripping Spanish heist crime drama that takes viewers on an adrenaline-fueled rollercoaster of emotions.

The series centers around The Professor, a brilliant and enigmatic criminal mastermind who recruits a group of highly skilled individuals to carry out an ambitious heist on the Royal Mint of Spain.

The narrative unfolds from the perspectives of both the robbers and the hostages, offering a multifaceted portrayal of the events.

As viewers, we are introduced to a diverse group of criminals who adopt city names as aliases, adding an air of enigma to the story.

The unreliable narrator element emerges as characters’ loyalties shift, alliances form, and hidden agendas come to light.

The line between hero and villain becomes blurred, and we are left to question the true intentions of each player in this high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

True Detective, HBO (2014 – present)

Prepare for a gripping anthology crime drama that takes viewers on a haunting journey through the investigations of heinous crimes and the complexities of the human psyche.

Each season features a new set of detectives and a different case, delving into the dark underbelly of society.

The show’s narrative structure is a key element that adds intrigue and complexity. It often involves multiple timelines and perspectives, which heightens the unreliable narrator aspect.

As the story unfolds, we encounter conflicting accounts of events, leading us to question the reliability of the characters’ recollections.

The flawed and deeply human characters are immersed in a world of moral ambiguity and personal demons, making their perspectives subject to bias and self-doubt.

Euphoria, HBO (2019 – present)

The hugely controversial series Euphoria burst onto our screens as a raw and unapologetic drama series that offers a candid glimpse into the lives of modern-day teenagers as they navigate the complexities of adolescence, addiction, and identity.

Set in a suburban town, the show follows Rue Bennett, a young woman struggling with addiction, as well as her friends and peers who face their own challenges.

Through its nonlinear structure and distinct character-focused episodes, the series delves deep into the minds of its diverse and flawed characters.

The show unabashedly exposes the highs and lows of teenage existence, depicting everything from heartbreak to self-discovery.

As viewers, we are confronted with the harsh realities and emotional turmoil that these young characters experience.

The characters’ own perspectives often paint a distorted picture of reality, reflecting the complexities of their emotions and personal struggles.

As we see events unfold through their eyes, we are challenged to discern the truth behind their actions and motivations.

Fleabag, BBC Three (2016 – 2019)

This critically acclaimed British comedy-drama follows the life of a sharp-witted and troubled young woman known only as Fleabag.

Through a series of monologues and candid interactions with the audience, she invites us into her often chaotic life in London.

Unreliable narration plays a central role in Fleabag.

As she addresses the audience directly, we are privy to her innermost thoughts and feelings, but it becomes evident that she is not always forthright with her emotions.

The show brilliantly navigates between what is said and what is left unspoken, creating a captivating sense of intrigue and ambiguity.

Fleabag’s razor-sharp wit and irreverent humor offer a refreshing take on life’s complexities, while her tumultuous relationships with family, friends, and lovers add depth and authenticity to the narrative.

The Fall, BBC Two (2013 – 2016)

The Fall is a tense and atmospheric psychological thriller that delves into the cat-and-mouse game between Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and a meticulous serial killer, Paul Spector.

Set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the show explores the unsettling nature of human darkness and the complexities of criminal investigations.

The narrative unfolds from two distinct perspectives – the relentless pursuit of justice by Stella Gibson and the calculated actions of Paul Spector.

As viewers, we witness the dualities of these complex characters, each driven by their own motivations and inner demons.

Unreliable narration is a key aspect of the show, as we are given insight into both Stella’s and Paul’s inner thoughts and vulnerabilities.

Their minds serve as a battleground of emotions, secrets, and desires, blurring the lines between right and wrong.

Big Little Lies, HBO (2017 – 2019)

Set in Monterey, California, where the idyllic facade of a picturesque town conceals a web of secrets and lies, Big Little Lies revolves around a group of seemingly perfect mothers, each harboring their own dark truths and personal struggles.

The narrative is ingeniously structured, weaving together present-day events with police interviews, creating a compelling mystery from the outset.

As the story unfolds, we are introduced to these women’s and their families’ lives, slowly unraveling the interconnected web of relationships and hidden traumas.

The show is riddled with unreliable narrators as each character offers their own version of events through the police interviews.

The multiple perspectives and shifting alliances create an engrossing tapestry of deception and intrigue.

As the tension mounts and secrets begin to surface, the stellar performances by an ensemble cast bring depth and authenticity to the characters, making them relatable and engaging.

Russian Doll, Netflix (2019 – present)

Follow Nadia Vulvokov, a cynical and sharp-witted woman, as she finds herself trapped in a never-ending time loop on the night of her 36th birthday.

As she repeatedly dies and returns to the same moment, Nadia embarks on a quest to break free from the bizarre and confounding cycle.

The show’s narrative is a labyrinth of twists and turns, brilliantly utilizing the time loop concept.

As Nadia experiences various deaths and rebirths, the story delves into her past and personal struggles.

Each loop presents new challenges and reveals different facets of Nadia’s character.

Her perceptions of the world and her relationships with others evolve with each iteration, keeping viewers guessing about the true nature of her predicament.

The unreliable narrator aspect is a core element of Russian Doll as we journey alongside Nadia through her fractured reality.

Her sarcastic humor and seemingly unshakable confidence mask a deeper sense of insecurity and emotional pain, creating a fascinating, multi-layered character.

Mr. Mercedes, Audience (2017 – 2019)

Based on the novel by Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes is a gripping crime thriller that follows retired detective Bill Hodges, who becomes obsessed with solving a chilling and unsolved case involving a demented killer known as Mr. Mercedes.

The narrative delves into the psychological cat-and-mouse game between Hodges and the sadistic murderer, Brady Hartsfield.

As the investigation unfolds, we are taken on a heart-pounding journey through the darkest corners of the human psyche.

Unreliable narration comes into play as we explore the complex motives and distorted perspectives of both Hodges and Brady.

The show masterfully weaves together the perspectives of the detective and the killer, leaving us questioning the boundaries between good and evil.

Throughout the series, we are immersed in a world of suspense, tension, and unexpected twists.

The exploration of the character’s motivations and inner struggles adds depth and authenticity to the story, making it a compelling and emotionally charged crime thriller.

Perception, TNT (2012 – 2015)

Tune into a thought-provoking crime drama that follows Dr. Daniel Pierce, a brilliant and eccentric neuroscience professor with a unique perspective on reality.

Dr. Pierce is highly respected for his expertise in the human mind, but he also struggles with schizophrenia, which leads to hallucinations and delusions.

As the series unfolds, we are drawn into Dr. Pierce’s world, where his keen intellect and extraordinary insights into human behavior let him assist the FBI in solving complex criminal cases.

However, the unreliable narrator aspect of Perception becomes apparent as we are privy to Dr. Pierce’s hallucinations and questionable perceptions of the world around him.

Through his eyes, we experience the interplay between what is real and what is a product of his mind, keeping us constantly on our toes, unsure of what to believe.

The show skillfully portrays the fine line between brilliance and madness and the challenges Dr. Pierce faces in distinguishing between the two.

Bojack Horseman, Netflix (2014 – 2020)

A bizarre but critically acclaimed animated series, Bojack Horseman, offers a unique and introspective take on Hollywood, fame, and the human condition.

Set in a world where anthropomorphic animals and humans coexist, the show follows the life of BoJack Horseman, a washed-up 90s sitcom star struggling with depression, addiction, and a relentless search for validation.

As a character-driven series, the show delves into the complexities of its flawed and multi-dimensional characters, each with their own arcs and internal struggles.

BoJack himself serves as an unreliable narrator, often grappling with his past and trying to navigate his present.

Throughout the show, we are taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, witnessing BoJack’s highs and lows as he grapples with his own self-destructive tendencies and attempts to make meaningful connections with others, albeit in a darkly comedic manner.

Odd Taxi, TV Tokyo (2021)

In this Japanese anime television series, we follow the mysterious and thrilling story of Odokawa, a walrus taxi driver in a bustling city.

The show combines elements of mystery, drama, and psychological intrigue to create a compelling narrative.

Odokawa is an enigmatic character who leads a mundane life, driving his taxi and interacting with a diverse array of passengers.

However, he harbors a complex web of secrets and hidden motives beneath the surface.

Unreliable narration plays a significant role in Odd Taxi, as the show presents events from multiple perspectives, often leaving viewers to piece together the truth behind the interconnected plotlines.

As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that not all characters are what they seem, and the true nature of their intentions is shrouded in ambiguity.

Serial Experiments Lain, TV Tokyo (1988)

Settle in for a mind-bending and surreal anime series that delves into the complexities of technology, identity, and the nature of reality.

The show centers around Lain Iwakura, a young girl who becomes immersed in the virtual world of The Wired after receiving an email from a classmate who recently committed suicide.

Thus begins the blur between the real world and the digital realm, challenging viewers’ perceptions of what is tangible and what is virtual.

Unreliable narration is a central aspect of the series, as the lines between Lain’s thoughts, dreams, and reality become increasingly ambiguous.

Her identity and motivations become enigmatic, leading viewers on a thought-provoking journey of introspection and philosophical exploration.

The show’s unique art style, haunting soundtrack, and surreal atmosphere contribute to its deeply immersive and unsettling nature.

The OA, Netflix (2016 – 2019)

Meet Prairie Johnson, a young woman who resurfaces after being missing for seven years, now calling herself the OA.

The narrative unfolds in a non-linear fashion, alternating between the present and Prairie’s past experiences, both during her disappearance and in her previous life.

Through intricate storytelling and flashbacks, we learn about her time in captivity and the mystical experiences she claims to have had.

The viewers and those around her are often left questioning her story, making her an unreliable narrator.

As she shares her extraordinary encounters and the existence of parallel dimensions, we are left to decipher the authenticity of her claims and the nature of her identity.

Sharp Objects, HBO (2018)

Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects follows Camille Preaker, a journalist with a troubled past who returns to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls.

As the narrative unfolds, the show paints a haunting picture of the town’s oppressive atmosphere and the dysfunctional dynamics within Camille’s family.

The show masterfully weaves together the investigation of the murders with Camille’s own personal demons, blurring the lines between past and present.

Unreliable narration plays a significant role in Sharp Objects, as we are taken on a journey through Camille’s fragmented memories and traumatic experiences.

Her struggle with self-harm and unresolved trauma creates a gripping, emotionally charged narrative that keeps viewers on edge.

Throughout the series, the tension mounts as Camille’s investigation forces her to confront the disturbing secrets buried within her family and the town.

Hannibal, NBC (2013 – 2015)

Hannibal is a chilling and visually stunning psychological thriller that follows the twisted relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham and the brilliant forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter.

Set in a world of gruesome murders and psychological mind games, the series explores the darkest depths of the human psyche.

The narrative revolves around Will Graham, a gifted profiler with a unique ability to empathize with serial killers.

As he delves into the minds of murderers to solve their crimes, he becomes entangled in a psychological battle with Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a cultured and sophisticated psychiatrist with a sinister snacking secret.

Unreliable narration is a prominent feature as the audience is taken into the minds of both Will and Hannibal.

Will’s unstable mental state and Hannibal’s manipulative nature create an unsettling atmosphere where the lines between truth and deception blur.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu (2017 – present)

Based on the iconic and culturally relevant novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale is a powerful and dystopian drama series set in the near future in the fictional Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian society where a theocratic regime has stripped women of their rights and liberties.

The narrative follows Offred, a handmaid whose sole purpose is to bear children for the ruling class.

Handmaids are subjected to a dehumanizing existence, assigned to households where they serve as vessels for procreation.

Unreliable narration is a key aspect of the series, as Offred’s internal monologue reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings, often in contrast to her outward behavior.

Her internal struggle for self-preservation and resistance adds depth to her character and emphasizes the importance of individual agency in the face of oppressive systems.

The Kettering Incident, Showcase (2016)

In this Australian drama, we take on a compelling blend of mystery, psychological thriller, and science fiction elements.

Set in the remote town of Kettering in Tasmania, the show follows the enigmatic disappearance of two young girls, which brings forth a series of disturbing events and dark secrets.

The narrative centers around Dr. Anna Macy, a skilled doctor who left Kettering under traumatic circumstances when she was a teenager.

However, she returns years later to visit her ailing father and becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding the missing girls.

As Anna grapples with repressed memories and recurring blackouts, we come to realize she may not be the most reliable narrator and while she tries to uncover the truth behind the girls’ disappearance and the strange occurrences in the town, she begins to question her own sanity and the reality of her experiences.

The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, Netflix (2022)

In The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window, we meet Anna, an agoraphobic woman who spends her days spying on her neighbors from her window.

Her life takes a mysterious turn when she believes she witnesses a murder in the house across the street.

As Anna becomes obsessed with solving the apparent crime, she is pulled into a series of comical and suspenseful misadventures.

The show blends elements of dark humor, mystery, and satire as it parodies classic thriller tropes while exploring Anna’s quirky and unstable perspective.

Unreliable narration comes to the fore as Anna’s agoraphobia and overactive imagination blur the lines between reality and fantasy, leaving viewers questioning the authenticity of her observations and conclusions.

Ultimately, the show offers a fresh and comedic take on the thriller genre, providing viewers with a mix of laughter and suspense.

The Black Donnellys, NBC (2007)

In this gripping and intense drama series, we follow the lives of four Irish-American brothers living in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

The narrative is framed as a retrospective, with the story being narrated by Joey Ice Cream, a childhood friend of the Donnelly brothers.

Through his eyes, we are taken on a journey that chronicles the rise and fall of the Donnelly family and their involvement in organized crime.

However, his often clouded and one-sided narrative rarely delves into the whole story, making him an unreliable narrator that we need to decipher.

As he recounts the events, we are given insight into the complexities of the brothers’ relationships and the moral dilemmas they face in their pursuit of survival and success.

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