Survivor just finished its 42nd season, which once again highlighted, for better or worse, what makes a good season of the show: a strong cast of interesting players, twists that make the game better rather than worse, and a truly gratifying climax with a winner who most can agree deserves the prize.
Not every season of the popular reality show has been a slam dunk, but over the past 20 years or so, a good number of them have been and are ranked as the best.
Ranker says that all 10 of the best seasons happened between seasons 13 and 37. Fans think each winner deserved it and played a good game, and some of the blindsides in these seasons are some of the most famous and historic in NFL history.
9. Survivor: Philippines (Season 25)
Survivor: the Philippines gave three people who had to leave the island because of health problems a second chance by letting them come back as tribe captains for the 25th season.
Even though at first glance the order of the team captains seemed a bit random, the season did not disappoint. Russell Swan’s Matsing tribe was known to be cursed because they lost the first four immunity challenges and he was again voted out before the merge. Also, the famous partnership between the winner, Denise Stapley, and Malcolm Freberg was very interesting and helped the season do well.
8. Survivor: Millennials Vs. Gen X (Season 33)
The cast of Millennials vs. Gen X was one of the most close-knit in the history of Survivor. The castaways stayed friends even after the show was over, and they didn’t let any bad feelings stop them from voting in the Final Tribal Council.
The season was worth watching because of the likeable cast and the mind-blowing blindsides that Jay, Adam, and David planned. In the last episode, Adam’s story came full circle when he was named Sole Survivor after being honest about how he and his mother had always wanted to play the game together, but because she had cancer, he had to do it alone.
7. Survivor: David Vs. Goliath (Season 37)
After a few seasons that didn’t stand out, Survivor came back with one of the best seasons in the show’s history. David vs. Goliath had one of the best casts the show had ever seen, and contestants like Angelina Keeley, Christian Hubicki, and Gabby Pascuzzi were fan favorites.
The reality show got some new twists with David vs. Goliath, such as the idol nullifier. This change made it possible for the Davids to win and for Nick Wilson to beat two Goliaths in the Final Tribal Council. Overall, season 37 was fun and interesting, and there were a lot of people to cheer for.
6. Survivor: Cook Islands (Season 13)
Ranker’s list of the best Survivor seasons may surprise you because the Cook Islands is so high on it. With a theme that was so controversial, the 13th season of the reality show almost put an end to the whole thing.
The people in the Cook Islands were put into four groups based on their race. This twist got a lot of bad reviews, and the tribes ended up switching places and joining together after only a few episodes. But once the theme was thrown out, the season became easier to watch and less weird.
It was also the first time that famous Survivor players like Parvati Shallow, Ozzy Lusth, Yul Kwon, and Jonathan Penner appeared on the show.
5. Survivor: Blood Vs. Water (Season 27)
The Blood vs. Water twist was added to Survivor’s 27th season to change things up. This meant that 10 former castaways and their families would play a game for $1 million against each other.
This twist led to some of the most famous moments in the show’s history, like Ciera Eastin voting out her own mother, fan-favorite all-star Rupert Boneham leaving the game for his wife, and Candice and John Cody going off on former NFL player Brad Culpepper. Tyson Apostol also won this season, which showed that he wasn’t just funny but was also a great Survivor player.
4. Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance (Season 31)
For season 31, it was the first and only time so far that fans could vote for who they wanted to see on Survivor. The theme was “Second Chance,” and people who had played only once and lost were asked to come back.
The all-star cast included Survivor stars like Kelly Wiglesworth from the first season and Joe Anglim, Spencer Bledsoe, and Ciera Eastin(Twitter) from more recent seasons. Not only was the season great because of the people who were in it, but it also had a great ending when Jeremy Collins won the $1 million prize.
3. Survivor: Cagayan — Brawn Vs. Brains Vs. Beauty (Season 28)
The first episode of Survivor: Cagayan had a strange theme: the three tribes were based on stereotypes of brains, brawn, and beauty. It quickly moved past its original idea and ended with one of the best winners in the series’ history.
The 28th season of Survivor showed that even a theme that seems silly at first can lead to a great group of contestants and an even better winner. Tony Vlachos played the game in the craziest (and entertaining) ways, so it was always a long shot that he would make it to the final tribal council, let alone win the whole thing. Until it didn’t.
2. Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Season 16)
Fans of the game competed against some of their biggest role models, who had been on Survivor before. Fans vs. favorites led to a conclusion that many people already knew would be true: returning contestants were much better at the game than their fans.
Parvati Shallow, Amanda Kimmel, and Cirie Fields were able to really shine in Micronesia. They took control of the game, made the Black Widow Brigade, and went their own way to the end. They did whatever it took to win, and after three seasons in a row where men won, they proved that Survivor is also a game that women can win.
1. Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains (Season 20)
Heroes vs. Villains is not only the best season of Survivor with all-stars, but it is also the best season overall. First of all, the actors were amazing. It was made up of players from almost every era of the show, and they all played the typical roles of hero and villain.
All of the contestants were on the same island, which led to iconic alliances and heartbreaking eliminations, like Cirie Fields being voted out before the merge for the first (and only) time in her Survivor career. The winner of the season was also the first person to win Survivor twice. This made history, and the season is still known as the best season of the show to this day.