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Survivor: The 10 Best Seasons, Ranked | ScreenRant

After more than 40 seasons and 20 years on the air, Survivor remains one of the best, most successful and most popular reality TV competitions on television. But with all that history, it's only natural that the show has seen many ups and downs. 

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While no season of Survivor is a total failure with nothing to offer, certain seasons are better and more popular than others. Certain casts gel together better than others to create compelling alliances, rivalries, strategies and all-around drama. When all these elements coalesce into a perfectly cohesive whole, it makes for a top-tier Survivor season.

10 Survivor: Tocantins — The Brazilian Highlands (Season 18)

In a tie between Survivor: Philippines, Survivor: China, and Survivor: Tocantins, the latter narrowly inches out solely on the ridiculousness of Survivor legends Benjamin "Coach" Wade and Tyson Apostol. Coach is Survivor's zaniest, most quotable character, while Tyson wins the "class clown/smartass" superlative.

Winner of Survivor: Tocantins J.T. Thomas played what's called a "perfect game" by never having a vote cast against him throughout the game, and then receiving every single vote to win at the final tribal council. In the heart of the Brazilian highlands, Tocantins provides an interesting and unusual environment for Survivor.

9 Survivor: Cook Islands (Season 13)

Survivor: Cook Islands pushed the envelope and caused controversy when it premiered in 2006 by featuring four starting tribes that were divided by race. Season 13's dubious theme eventually dissolved as Jeff mentioned it less and less as the game carried on, and Cook Islands presents one of the best tribe underdog storylines in the show's history with the success of the "Aitu 4" alliance.

Several Survivor legends played for their first time in Cook Islands, including Parvati Shallow, Ozzy Lusth, Yul Kwon, Candice Cody, and Jonathan Penner. Although it might drag on a bit in the middle, this season finishes strong with a nail-biting final tribal council and unpredictable winning vote.

8 Survivor: Palau (Season 10)

Survivor: Palau is distinctive from any other season due to its challenges. The Ulong tribe, one of the most cursed tribes in Survivor history, lost literally every single immunity challenge before the merge, with their tribe picked off one by one until fan-favorite Stephenie LaGrossa was the last woman standing. She was subsequently voted out soon after merging alone with Koror, but she returned twice in Survivor: Guatemala and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.

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Palau was also a great location for the tribes to make due, with some interesting fishing and wildlife. During the merge, two Palauan natives taught the tribe how to fish and cooked them a proper feast. Even better, Tom Westman, the season's winner, got drunk off the local's rum. This was a highly entertaining sight given Tom's typically stoic nature.

7 Survivor: Millennials Vs. Gen X (Season 33)

Survivor's 33rd season originally gave fans pause with its newfangled, peculiar theme: Millennials vs. Gen X. Worried this would be more of a gimmick than anything, fans had low expectations for season 33 but were pleasantly surprised by the results.

In fact, season winner Adam Klein treated all of his castmates to a weekend in Vegas after the live finale show and reunion, and they seem to still be thick as thieves. The cast provides an exemplary demonstration of building upon the unique friendships developed on the island by surrendering any bitterness or resentment left in the game.

6 Survivor: Pearl Islands (Season 7)

Survivor: Pearl Islands will almost always make any superfan's top 10 list. Season 7 features an all-star cast of Survivor legends like Rupert Boneham, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Andrew Savage and, of course, the notorious bad-boy villain who lied about his dead grandmother: Jonny Fairplay.

The seventh season's first episode, "Beg, Barter, Steal" is undoubtedly the best season premiere of Survivor to date. In it, the two tribes scurried through a local village to barter for items to bring back to their camp, and it features an iconic scene in which Rupert steals the other tribe's shoes after he notices they were left unattended.

5 Survivor: Cambodia — Second Chance (Season 31)

This season uniquely stood apart from every other season by being the only all-returnee cast of players who had never won and played only once. CBS opened a "Second Chance" ballot of 40 previous contestants, starting from the second season, The Australian Outback,  and extending into the season currently airing at the time, Worlds Apart.

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Fans voted for their favorite players, and the top 20 were revealed during the live reunion show for Worlds Apart. With a stellar cast, next-level strategy, and unpredictable gameplay Survivor: Cambodia is easily one of the best seasons to date. Cambodia's historic final six vote caused Jeff to bring a whiteboard on stage, demonstrating the politics and wild strategy like a football coach mapping out his team's plays.

4 Survivor: David Vs. Goliath (Season 37)

Though it may come as a surprise to feature this new-school season so high, Survivor: David Vs. Goliath earns its way to the top by flaunting one of the best casts ever shown. There isn't a member of the David vs. Goliath cast who wouldn't be a great returnee, and it features some of the most likable players in Survivor's history. It makes for a lively, entertaining time throughout the entire season.

David vs. Goliath has an unpredictable winner, gave fans the first use of an immunity idol nullifier (which went down successfully without a hitch), and has two celebrities: screenwriter Mike White (School of Rock, The White Lotus) and WWE wrestler John Hennigan (aka John Morrison), who both won over the fanbase.

3 Survivor: Micronesia — Fans Vs. Favorites (Season 16)

In the first rendition of  the "Fans vs. Favorites" theme, Survivor: Micronesia featured an outstanding "favorites" tribe of all-stars, which began with voting out notorious bad-boy Jonny Fairplay and ultimately ended with flirtatious bad-girl Parvati Shallow taking home the title of Sole Survivor.

Micronesia is home to some of the show's funniest moments of all time, from Ozzy's fake idol made from a carved stick that Jason Siska convinces Eliza Orlins to play, to Erik Reichenbach being manipulated by the final four women, aka the "Black Widow Brigade," into giving up his final five immunity necklace. This season brings high levels of entertainment and strategy.

2 Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains (Season 20)

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains often appears at the No. 1 spot in top Survivor seasons lists, but not this time. Though it may seem like a hot take, the fact that the Heroes vs. Villains cast never had a chance to see villainous player Russell Hantz play before competing alongside him seems a little silly, if not unfair, bumping its spot from "best season of all time."

That being said, it's still a timeless, top-tier season. Heroes vs. Villains left audiences on the edge of their seat week after week, and the nature of the Heroes vs. Villains theme and all-returnee camaraderie made for great TV. Not to mention the season is hilarious, with J.T.'s letter to Russell and James Clement's opinions about "banana etiquette" and "Superman in a fat suit."

1 Survivor: Cagayan — Brains Vs. Brawn Vs. Beauty (Season 28)

Survivor: Cagayan continued the uphill streak of highly ranked Survivor seasons, beginning with Survivor: Philippines back in season 25, coming a long way from a period of the worst Survivor seasons ever, i.e., seasons 21 through 24. Cagayan is arguably the best season to date, featuring a near-perfect cast that would be interesting to watch in any iteration played, even a reverse boot order.

Survivor: Cagayan also provides an excellent illustration of a jury that isn't bitter, rewarding the $1 million prize to police officer Tony Vlachos, who unabashedly backstabbed them and lied to their faces. There were so many great story arcs throughout the season, from Kass and Spencer's feud to Tony speaking llama and creating the spy shack, plus the unforgettable "Cops R Us" dynamic between Tony and Sarah Lacina.

NEXT: The 10 Most Cursed Survivor Tribes


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