All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (2024)

Survivor is an American CBS reality competition that's been running since 2000. It is hosted by Jeff Probst and involves a group of contestants stranded on a remote island who must complete physical and mental challenges for rewards and immunity from elimination. Contestants are voted out each episode until one is ultimately given the title of "Sole Survivor" and wins the grand prize money.

Survivor has continued to be a massively successful show since its debut and has continued to prove itself to be one of the most iconic and well-regarded reality TV shows of all time, especially with the release of its recent season, Survivor 46. As the series continues to evolve and maintain itself as a premiere reality TV show, it becomes even easier for fans to look back on the show's past and see all the amazing seasons throughout its history. Fans are drawn in by each Survivor season's unique theme, the compelling character storylines, and the thrilling challenges. Though the show has had 46 seasons thus far, there are a few that many fans agree to be the best of the anthology series. These best seasons of Survivor keep viewers on the edge of their seats, from start to finish.

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (1)
Survivor

TV-PG

Adventure

Reality TV

Game Show

Where to Watch

*Availability in US

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Release Date
May 31, 2000

Creator(s)
Charlie Parsons

Cast
Jeff Probst

Studio
CBS

Seasons
46
Main Genre
Reality-TV

46 'Survivor: Island of the Idols'

Season 39 (2019)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (8)

While there is always going to be debate and conversation surrounding which Survivor seasons are the best, there has been no question as to which season is the worst, as Survivor: Island of the Idols has held the mantle ever since its airing. The season's main twist is that contestants would go off by themselves to a third camp featuring legends Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine, where they would get advice on the game and compete in a small challenge for a reward.

This twist is not necessarily the reason that the season is the unanimous king of trash, however (even if the twist was inconsequential and messed with the pacing of each episode), as the true cause is the infamous drama surrounding contestant Dan Spilo. Dan was a player who came under fire for inappropriately touching other contestants in the game, and when contestant Kellee Kim spoke up about her experiences, she would end up being voted out as Dan was too pivotal to other players' games. Dan would eventually be ejected from the game for misconduct with a non-contestant, well after it was too late, and forever casting a disgusting shadow over the entire season.

45 'Survivor: Nicaragua'

Season 21 (2010)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (9)

It would be difficult for any season to have to follow up the widely beloved and acclaimed Survivor: Heroes vs Villains, especially a season of new contestants, but Survivor: Nicaragua managed to disappoint even the most optimistic of viewers. The season attempted a multitude of twists to usher in a new era of Survivor, but the majority of these were largely flops and miscalculations in impact, such as the immediately forgotten Medallion of Power.

Even outside of these twists, the season is riddled with issues that all come together to make one of the biggest messes of a season the show has ever seen. Just a few of these issues include aggressive and toxic infighting among contestants, an old vs. young tribe split that left one tribe completely dominating over the other, multiple contestants quitting in the final 9, and the lazy casting of Super Bowl-winning coach Jimmy Johnson. The season ushered in a dark era of the show of lackluster and underwhelming seasons that would last for several seasons.

44 'Survivor: Thailand'

Season 5 (2002)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (10)

While Survivor's early seasons for the most part have done an exceptional job of aging gracefully when compared to the other, trashier reality competition shows of the early 2000s, this cannot be said for Survivor: Thailand. The season easily features the most unlikable cast of any season, with next to none of the contestants coming across as anything close to likable or rootable in the slightest. The gameplay was also deeply uninterested and a relic of early Survivor, being a very dominating and underwhelming trek to the finish for the dominating alliance.

It's no shock that, over 40 seasons later, only a single player from Thailand's cast has returned to play a second time, with Shii Ann Huang returning for All-Stars, where she was a much better character and contestant. The season overall simply feels much more in line with the multitude of other annoying, gossip-filled 2000s reality shows that gained notoriety based on infighting and unlikable people. It's a far cry from the rest of the series and is a season that Survivor has largely attempted to leave forgotten in the sands of time.

43 'Survivor: Redemption Island'

Season 22 (2011)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (11)

Survivor: Redemption Island had an interesting premise in attempting to be defined by its game-changing twist of having contestants compete to return to the game after being voted out, The season is largely remembered for being the biggest steamroll and display of dominance seen in the show's history, with returning player Rob Mariano making a mockery out of this selection of newbie players. His inclusion in the season, combined with the inclusion of infamous survivor villain Russell Hantz, felt less like a fun twist and more of pandering the the popularity and success of a recent season.

While other seasons that mixed returning players and new players at least attempted to have a balance in the level of gameplay and competence on display, Rob's leadership qualities and control of his tribe made him an obvious winner before the merge even happened. While it can certainly be considered fun by some viewers to see a legend of the game wipe the floor with a new cast, for a majority of other viewers the stakes and tension are simply nonexistent.

42 'Survivor: Worlds Apart'

Season 30 (2015)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (12)

Survivor: Worlds Apart splits its contestants into three tribes of six, themed around the economic and professional backgrounds of their members and designating them as either Blue Collar, White Collar, or No Collar. While this style of occupation and style-based division has worked both in the past and since, something about this specific cast brought out a great deal of toxicity and infighting that made the season a largely uncomfortable watch.

Especially in the post-merge aspect of the game, there is constant infighting and harsh words being tossed around by contestants to one another, with a focus on belittling and insults over actual gameplay. While there are some shining moments and effective gameplay from some key competitors, the overall tone and takeaway of the season is one that is largely sour and difficult to justify going back to compared to other seasons.

41 'Survivor: One World'

Season 24 (2012)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (13)

Easily one of the biggest examples of missed potential in a twist in Survivor history, Survivor: One World's major twist is that it had both tribes living at the same camp with one another, along with being separated by sex. This simple yet ingenious twist seems like it would be a smash hit, allowing for a multitude of new possibilities in terms of strategy and gameplay, it quickly became apparent that such high-level gameplay would not happen in One World.

One World's pre-merge is defined by messy and chaotic gossip and unlikable characters that take control of the game, making for an unenjoyable and increasingly baffling watch. When these figures leave the game and the merge begins, it manages to only be boring, as one tribe holds a massive dominance over the other, and it becomes increasingly apparent who the obvious winner is going to be. While it may feature one of the strongest and most commanding winners in the show's history, this level of dominance without competition didn't result in entertaining television.

40 'Survivor: Africa'

Season 3 (2001-2002)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (14)

While nearly all the older seasons of Survivor have considerably aged in the face of the more modern seasons of the show, Survivor: Africais a prominent example of a season that has not aged with grace. While the previous seasons still feature some significant high-level gameplay that has helped them age well compared to contemporary seasons, Africa crumbles under the weight of its location choice.

The early seasons of the show made a point of going to wildly different locations, as well as having more focus on the contestants surviving the elements, as opposed to the social gameplay of the game. Africa proved to be one of the toughest and most exhausting locals that the show ever went to, resulting in the cast largely being exhausted and low energy for the majority of the season. This, combined with the sub-optimal early gameplay of the show, makes it an increasingly difficult season to return to over 20 years later, despite its positives for the time.

39 'Survivor: Gabon'

Season 17 (2008)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (15)

Easily one of the messiest and most chaotic casts in the history of the show, Survivor: Gabon is most commonly remembered and recognized for some of the worst and dumbest gameplay seen in the show's history. For what was always going to be a landmark season in the show's history, being the first season to be aired in high definition video quality, the main takeaway from fans was less of the beautiful African landscape and instead the increasingly stupid decision-making.

While chaos and disorder can normally result in a great Survivor season when complimented with high-level gameplay and exciting twists, Gabon's complete lack of even mid-level gameplay only annoyed audiences at the time. In the years since its release, however, a certain selection of fans have grown fond of Gabon, falling in love with its distinctly different style and painfully below-average gameplay. Combined with a surprisingly likable winner and some great challenges, the season is far from the worst of all time that some see it as, but it's also far from being exceptional.

38 'Survivor: Edge of Extinction'

Season 38 (2019)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (16)

Another season that is largely defined by an extra phase of the game added after the vote out, Survivor: Edge of Extinction introduces the titular Edge of Extinction, an island where every voted-off contestant goes. While there, they face much harsher living conditions than those still in the game, and at two different points in the game, all compete in a challenge for a chance to return to the game. The season also saw a selection of returning players, including Kelley Wentworth, David Wright, Aubry Bracco, and Joe Anglim.

While the Edge of Extinction twist would prove itself to find meaningful success in Survivor: Winners at War, it only proved to hinder the viewing experience of its debut season. When a good portion of the episode is set aside to be focused on a group of people who were already voted out and have little to no bearing on the game, it increasingly made for a pacing issue for the season. While the season got off to a fun and exciting start, this twist resulted in a post-merge that was largely scattered and unfocused, as well as one of the worst Survivor winners among fans.

37 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Season 23 (2011)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (17)

Following up on the themes and twists of Survivor: Redemption Island, Survivor: South Pacific brings back the controversial Redemption Island twist, as well as bringing back two new iconic returning players, Coach Wade and Ozzy Lusth. While it made for a more entertaining and exciting season than Redemption Island, South Pacific still falls under several of the same pitfalls and issues that came from the previous season while inviting new issues of its own.

The defining aspect of South Pacific has to come from Coach's infamous alliance known as "The Family", which went beyond simply being a tight-knit alliance and bordered on cult-like levels of devotion and worship. Coach played into his reputation as a spiritual player and was able to convince and manipulate an alliance to the end of the game, which while exceptional gameplay, was far from the most exciting to watch. The season does have its highlights, such as the under-the-radar gameplay of Sophie Clarke and a great self-vote out from Ozzy, but it isn't enough to save the overall viewing experience.

36 'Survivor: Ghost Island'

Season 36 (2018)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (18)

One of the most interesting and inventive themes of the show's history, Survivor: Ghost Island leans into its spooky side, focusing on the mistakes of previous seasons' players. Players would have an opportunity to visit the titular Ghost Island, an island filled with props and idols from seasons past that can be brought back to use in the game through a game of chance. However, this twist would largely be overshadowed by the level of gameplay present.

Ghost Island starts off great, with a highly engaging and chaotic beginning that is arguably one of the most unpredictable and enthralling pre-merges in recent memory. However, after the villain of the season is taken down at the merge, the rest of the season becomes a predictable and relatively boring slog where the duo of Domenick Abbate and Wendell Holland take control of the game and thwart all those who attempt to take them down. With the hindsight of how the season ends, it makes sense as to why it would be edited this way, but it still makes for an awkward experience as a full package.

35 'Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers'

Season 35 (2017)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (19)

Easily one of the strangest and most confusing themes the show has provided, Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers splits contestants into three tribes themed around how they are seen by their communities. What the season loses in its strange theme it makes up for in exciting television, having many exciting moments, a memorable cast with rootable heroes and dastardly villains, and some highly memorable challenges.

While the season certainly has a lot going for it, it's often seen from a negative viewpoint because of its questionable finale twist, something that, while a staple of the show nowadays, was a seemingly unfair twist at the time that soured the season. This is the season that would introduce the change of the final four always competing in a firemaking challenge, a change that works as long as the contestants are aware of it and can plan around it. This group of contestants was informed at the last possible moment, making the twist feel unearned and like an excuse to keep a fan favorite in the running. Still, when putting aside the awkward ending, there are still a lot of great moments present in the season.

34 Survivor: Vanuatu

Season 9 (2004)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (20)

Survivor: Vanuatu would bring back the male vs female tribes twist that was introduced in Survivor: The Amazon. However, unlike other interpretations of this twist where the result would be primarily even, the majority of Vanuatu would be completely dominated by the women's tribe, taking a commanding lead in challenges and continuing to vote out the men well into the tribe swap and merge. This makes the first half of Vanuatu extremely low stakes and uninteresting, as it focuses on the eliminations of relatively boring dude bros to pave the way for the second half of the game.

This second half, however, is easily some of the strongest and most cutthroat gameplay that Survivor had seen up until this point, as it follows the ultimate underdog, Chris Daugherty, as the last man remaining alongside 7 remaining women. Despite all odds, he's able to lie and scheme his way through what appears to be the worst position possible, making for some of the most engaging and exciting content possible. It's a season that will surely deliver if you give it the time and effort, but you have to slog through a highly uninteresting pre-merge to get to that point.

33 Survivor 43

Season 43 (2022)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (21)

Survivor 43 easily features both the highest highs and the lowest lows of the modern era of Survivor, as it went away with lackluster twists and changes in the previous seasons (the hourglass twist), but also doubled down on changes that not everybody enjoyed. The standout is that the season arguably tries its hardest in the show's history to emphasize great emotional moments and heartfelt experiences, from powerful flashbacks to stories of perseverance throughout.

This makes for a dichotomy that, even among the new seasons, feels completely different from every other season of Survivor, resulting in having as many fans as it does haters. Even still, there's a great deal to enjoy about the season, from its highly unpredictable and unexpected winner's edit to its highly memorable cast of characters and standout moments. While it may be the worst of the new era of the show, it's certainly far from being a bad season.

32 Survivor: Caramoan

Season 26 (2013)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (22)

The second rendition of fans vs favorites, Survivor: Caramoan brings in a team of superfan new contestants to compete against a team of recent all-star favorites, including the likes of Malcolm Freberg, Phillip Sheppard, and John Cochran. While the season certainly had a rough beginning with several contentious and uncomfortable moments in the pre-merge, it slowly comes into its own with some exhilarating blindsided, power shifts, and some of Survivor's flashiest idol plays.

Even with the numerous negative aspects of the season, it's always a joy to see many fan-favorite contestants getting their second chance to compete, some of them even outperforming and doing better than their first time out. The fans tribe also features a number of genuine standout members, although it would take until the merge for them to come into their own and successfully find their footing in the game and as an on-screen personality. While not as effective or memorable as the first fans vs favorites season, it proves the novelty and effectiveness of the theme as a whole.

31 Survivor: Fiji

Season 14 (2007)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (23)

Survivor: Fiji certainly has a rough start, thanks to its failure of a defining twist, the 'haves vs have-nots' twist. The twist had one of the two tribes having a wildly luxurious camp filled with amenities while the other tribe had barely a camp at all. This easily resulted in one of the most painfully dominant pre-merges in the show's history, yet it thankfully picks up considerably once the tribes are merged and the twist is abandoned.

The exceptional cast and strategy are fully able to be brought to the spotlight during the merge, with a highly likable cast, entertaining challenges, and a number of pivotal Survivor firsts. The season would see the first implementation of several strategies that would eventually become commonplace in Survivor strategy, such as splitting votes to flush out an immunity idol. The season also saw the first successful usage of an immunity idol in the show's history, making for a dynamic and electric moment that would forever change the game as a whole.

30 Survivor: Marquesas

Season 4 (2002)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (24)

While it was originally considered an outlier of the earlier seasons of the show due to its last-minute change of locations which resulted in several awkward low-budget challenges, Survivor: Marquesas still has a lot to offer for Survivor fans. It features some of the strongest strategic gameplay of the early seasons of the show, as well as featuring a memorable cast of both legendary one-time appearances and a bonafide Survivor legend.

While most would recognize the season for featuring the first appearance of Rob Mariano, whose cutthroat and dominating playstyle was a staple of the first half of the season, it's after his exit that the season truly shines. Contestants like Paschal English, Kathy Vavrick-O'Brien, and Vecepia Towery all come into their own in making the second half highly electrifying and exciting from a gameplay point of view.

29 Survivor: Guatemala

Season 11 (2005)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (25)

Survivor: Guatemala saw 16 new contestants competing against two returning players, Bobby Jon Drinkard and Stephenie LaGrossa, who were infamously the last remaining members of their tribe in the previous season, Palau. Now back and acting as leaders for their respective tribes, Guatemala acts as a perfect blending of some of the most exciting players in recent memory with an equally competent and enthralling new cast.

Outside its returning players, Guatemala is relatively sparse when it comes to twists and themes, allowing it to be a season defined by Survivor at its very essence and core. The cast especially is a true highlight, as there are great connections and divides across the cast that make for a highly entertaining season. Some exceptional and underappreciated gameplay has made the season a highlight in the early days of the show.

28 Survivor: Panama

Season 12 (2005)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (26)

Survivor: Panama is the season most often recognized for popularizing the Exile Island twist, an unexpected twist in the show in which a player is banished from their tribe for a day to Exile Island, forced to live on their own separate from existing camps. This twist, while simplistic at first glance, completely opened up the game of Survivor strategically, especially with the advent of Immunity Idols able to be found on Exile. This twist would eventually become commonplace in Survivor, yet it's far from the only reason that Panama works so well as a season.

Panama features some of the earliest inklings of high-end strategy and game knowledge from a large majority of the new cast, as opposed to previous seasons where the strategy would be rallied by a select few masterminds. Iconic contestants like Cirie Fields and Terry Deitz found their start in this season, with even the one-time players being massively entertaining and iconic within the Survivor fanbase. While often looked over in favor of more flashy seasons that would follow, Panama has a distinct energy as a sort of last hurrah for this distinct era of the show.

27 Survivor: Samoa

Season 19 (2009)

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (27)

It's easy for Survivor seasons to end up being defined by a singular star player who takes up the majority of the screen time, in most cases being the season's winner. No season in the show's history is more greatly defined and revolved around a singular player than Survivor: Samoa, which is confined to the groundbreaking gameplay of notorious villain Russell Hantz. It can make the season's viewing experience conflicting for some viewers, as those who aren't a fan of Russell's style of play may find the season to be a chore to get through.

However, there is a reason that Russell has become such an emblematic and powerful figure as one of Survivor's most infamous villains, as his level of play in Samoa was simply unheard of at the time. Russell completely revolutionized how Survivor would be played from then on out with his fast-paced flashy playstyle of finding idols without clues to survive one vote at a time, while brewing chaos and mistrust till the end. It makes Samoa an incredibly enjoyable season to watch unfold, as it becomes a wild game of chess where Russell controls all the pieces.

All 46 Seasons of 'Survivor,' Ranked (2024)
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