All 40 Survivor Seasons, Ranked (Spoiler-Free)
In honor of Netflix adding two seasons of CBS reality show Survivor to its platform, I have ranked all 40 seasons from
In honor of Netflix adding two seasons of CBS reality show Survivor to its platform, I have ranked all 40 seasons from best to worst. Obviously, these are my own opinions, and you may find yourself loving my least favorite season and hating my favorite one. If that seems to be the case, then it might be better to follow this list from bottom up instead!
Where to Watch Survivor
Netflix only has two seasons available for streaming: Heroes vs. Villains (season 20) and Cagayan (season 28). Here are other streaming platforms where you can watch Survivor:
CBS All Access (all 40 seasons)
Hulu (seasons 1-34)
Amazon Prime (seasons 1, 3, and 12-28)
Pluto TV (random seasons)
If you have Amazon Prime already, I highly recommend just getting the CBS All Access add-on and watching all 40 seasons there.
Ranking All 40 Survivor Seasons From Best to Worst (No Spoilers)
It was a little difficult to rank all 40 Survivor seasons without spoiling anything, but I tried hard to be descriptive when explaining why I thought a season was good (or bad), while being vague enough to not give anything away. Most seasons, I think, were pretty enjoyable to watch, so my first 32 rankings are all seasons that I would still recommend. The last eight seasons might be good to watch for historical purposes, but they will definitely not be as satisfying.
Note: Some seasons, such as season 20’s Heroes vs. Villains, feature returning players (players who have competed in an earlier season). If you want to watch the seasons in the order of my rankings without spoiling prior seasons, I would highly recommend skipping those particular seasons for now. For your convenience, I have marked the seasons that include returning players and listed their seasons of origin.
1. Cagayan (Season 28)
Players were separated into three tribes: Beauty, Brains, and Brawn. This season probably has the best cast of new players, and they all contributed in creating one of the most enjoyable seasons of Survivor. The post-merge episodes, which I usually find to be a bit boring, were fun to watch, and the season only becomes more entertaining from there.
2. Cook Islands (Season 13)
Players were separated by ethnicity: African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Caucasians. Although highly controversial, and probably best to never duplicate, this season’s tribal divisions made for the most diverse cast of Survivor, and the season was all the better for it. Luckily, CBS has a new diversity initiative, so hopefully we’ll get another season like Cook Islands again (minus the segregation).
3. Winners at War (Season 40)*
20 Survivor winners return to reclaim the title of sole survivor, and it’s as epic as it sounds. A big part of this season’s charm is the nostalgia of seeing players who haven’t played for a long time. I would not recommend watching this season first if you want to avoid spoilers, but if you’re interested in only watching the seasons where the returning players came from, then I would recommend watching seasons 3, 7, 8, 11, 13, 16, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37.
4. Pearl Islands (Season 7)
Pearl Islands is one of the highest ranking seasons among fans, and rightfully so. The players’ antics begin immediately and their dynamics with each other lead to one of the most amusing seasons of the show.
5. Heroes vs. Villains (Season 20)*
Returning players were divided into two tribes: Heroes vs. Villains. This cast is excellent, and the first challenge, which the contestants played with intensity and aggression, sets the tone for the rest of the game. There are hilarious moments, great (and questionable) strategic moves, and several amusing metaphors about monarchs. (Returning players came from seasons 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19).
6. Cambodia: Second Chance (Season 31)*
Players who have only played once were voted in by the public to compete again. This cast is all playing to win, and they deliver a highly entertaining season filled with great gameplay and strategy. (Returning players came from seasons 1, 2, 7, 12, 15, 18, 19, 25, 27, 28, 29, and 30).
7. Millennials vs. Gen. X (Season 33)
Players were divided into two groups that showcased players’ generational differences: Millennials vs. Generation X. This cast of new players created a highly dynamic season. It had entertaining moments, one devastating tribal council, and a tear jerker of a finale. What more could you ask for?
8. Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites (Season 16)*
Players were divided into two groups: Fans vs. Favorites. Fans of the show competed against fan-favorite players. This is an iconic season of Survivor, and it contains arguably the most referenced and memorable moment in Survivor history. (Returning players came from seasons 7, 9, 12, 13, 14, and 15).
9. Palau (Season 10)
A likable cast of new players begins the season with a surprising twist, and it leads to interesting relationships, lively group dynamics, and an enjoyable season all around.
10. David vs. Goliath (Season 37)
Players were divided into two tribes: David vs. Goliath. Yes, like the Bible. But don’t let the biblical reference stop you from watching what is one of the most riveting seasons of the show. Every episode was entertaining and this was due to a compelling cast of new players, including two of my favorites! This season truly encapsulates what it means when players come to outwit, outplay, and outlast.
11. Borneo (Season 1)
The season that started it all. Although I created a ranking of all the seasons, I still highly recommend watching everything chronologically. If you’re only interested in watching the “best” Survivor seasons, then I implore you to at least watch this season first. This season best captures the social experiment aspect of Survivor, and the winner sets the stage for future players of the game.
12. Tocantins (Season 18)
This season has one of the most entertaining casts of new players, a handful who come back to play again. There are a lot funny moments and great stories, making it a pretty easy season to watch in one sitting (the opening credits is a great time for bathroom breaks).
13. Philippines (Season 25)*
Players were divided into three tribes that were captained by returning players, specifically, players who were pulled out of their season for medical reasons. Usually, the downside to seasons that feature new and returning players is that the returning players steal all the spotlight. That is not the case here. The new players are all entertaining characters, and the addition of returning players further enhances a season filled with amusing moments and great gameplay. (Returning players came from seasons 2, 13, 16, and 19).
14. China (Season 15)
This is a great season for new viewers. It has an amazing cast, a unique location, and the perfect balance of story and strategy.
15. Marquesas (Season 4)
The most underrated season of Survivor. There are many firsts that happen here, and some great strategic moments as well. The cast is enjoyable to watch, and there are a couple of favorites that I still hope will one day play again. (Jeff Probst, if you’re reading this, please cast other returning players from Survivor Marquesas).
16. The Amazon (Season 6)
Players were divided into two tribes of men and women. This is a pretty dated season, specifically because of the blatant sexism and other questionable remarks from the players, but I would still recommend it. There are interesting characters, great gameplay, and a lot of funny moments that make this season worth watching.
17. Caramoan: Fans vs. Favorites (Season 26)*
Returning players compete against new players of the game. Most of the returning players are enjoyable, but the new players seem dull in comparison. Despite this imbalance of characters, this season has great strategic moments, entertaining scenes, and a good winner as well. (Returning players came from seasons 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, and 25).
18. Panama: Exile Island (Season 12)
Players were divided by age and gender into four different tribes. This is probably the wackiest and most chaotic season of Survivor, and I mean that in the best way possible. This season has a great blend of characters, and their interactions with each other are what truly make this season shine.
19. Game Changers (Season 34)*
Although it’s an unpopular opinion, I really liked this season. One of the main issues fans had with it was that players who weren’t necessarily “game changers” were given that label to fit the theme of the show. Questionable theme choice notwithstanding, I still found this season to be pretty enjoyable. It has some great returning players, impressive strategic moments, and several crazy tribal councils. (Returning players came from seasons 2, 7, 12, 16, 18, 20, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, and 33).
20. Fiji (Season 14)
The twist at the beginning of this season isn’t the best, but I think the end more than makes up for it. Other than Cook Islands, this is the most diverse cast of Survivor, and that gets a few points in my book. There is a compelling story here, and the few players that are great are so likeable that they balance out the less savory players of this season.
21. San Juan Del Sur: Blood vs. Water (Season 29)
Players compete against their loved ones. I personally liked this season of Blood vs. Water more than the first, and found the dynamics between these players to be more entertaining than its original counterpart. There are some fairly memorable characters here, and a couple of them even return to play again.
22. Gabon (Season 17)
The most reality show season of Survivor. The characters were phenomenal and they all interacted with each other in the most amusing ways. I will argue that this season actually had pretty decent gameplay, but that it is often deemed as bad strategic decisions because of how character-driven everything was. Overall, it is one of the funniest and most underrated seasons of the show.
23. Blood vs. Water (Season 27)*
Returning players compete against their loved ones. This season is ranked lower than the second Blood vs. Water season because I wasn’t a big fan of the twist in the beginning, and because the season started off a little too slow. However, once the players find their footings, the season really takes off, producing several compelling stories and an excellent narrative arc. (Returning players came from seasons 1, 2, 7, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, and 24).
24. Africa (Season 3)
This season takes the survival aspect of the show a little too seriously, but it has an interesting cast of characters and one of the most likable Survival winners ever.
25. Samoa (Season 19)
This season is usually ranked low among fans because a majority of the season’s focus is on one player. I, however, enjoyed watching their intensity (insanity) play out on the screen, and found the rest of the cast to be pretty fun as well. There are some great moments here, and we even get to witness the emergence of a common Survivor strategy for future seasons to come.
26. All-Stars (Season 8)*
Popular players from previous seasons return to compete again. There is an unsavory moment this season, one that might reasonably upset some viewers, but other than that, the great gameplay and compelling moments make this season worth watching. (Returning players came from seasons 1 to 7).
27. Ghost Island (Season 36)
There are no returning players here, but the premise of this season is based on iconic Survivor moments, and as a result, spoils a lot of previous seasons. I wouldn’t recommend this season to viewers who have only just started watching, but I think it’s a good season to watch. It has entertaining characters, enjoyable moments, and even a Survivor first.
28. Kaoh Rong (Season 32)
Similar to Survivor Africa, this season really emphasized the survival aspect of Survivor. It has an interesting cast, with both heroic and villainous characters, but the unpredictability of this season has such an equal amount of satisfying and unsatisfying moments that it earns a lower ranking on my list.
29. Guatemala (Season 11)*
This season had two returning players from season 10 and an adequate cast of new players. There were a lot of good things about this season: a good cast, some good moments, and good gameplay. Overall, it was a good season. It just simply wasn’t great.
30. The Australian Outback (Season 2)
This is a classic “old-school” season and one that is a popular favorite among long-time fans. I watched Survivor out of order (which I still regret to this day), and consequently watched this season after I had watched most of the others. I had become so used to the fast-paced energy of newer Survivor seasons that this season felt a little too slow. There is an impressive winner, however, and many iconic Survivor characters were first introduced here. I would still recommend it, just as long as it’s watched before the more exciting seasons of the show.
31. Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers (Season 35)
Players were divided into three tribes based on their dominant characteristics: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers. I think this season gets a lot more criticism than it deserves. It’s hard to explain those exact criticisms without spoiling the season, but I partly agree with some of them (just not as intensely). This season is okay—it has interesting characters, compelling storylines, and even some good moments of strategy.
32. Nicaragua (Season 21)
Two tribes were divided into younger and older players. This is probably the most outrageous season of Survivor. It wasn’t great, but it was still pretty entertaining.
33. Vanuatu: Islands of Fire (Season 9)
Two tribes were divided by gender. The pre-merge portion of this game moves at a snail’s pace, but the post-merge portion is enjoyable. Just not enjoyable enough to give this season a higher ranking.
34. Redemption Island (Season 22)*
Two returning players lead two tribes of new players. Other than maybe one or two of them, all the new players are uninteresting and easily overshadowed by the big personalities of the returning players. The twist this season isn’t as compelling as production thinks it is, and the storyline makes for a pretty forgettable season. (Returning players came from seasons 4, 8, 19, and 20).
35. One World (Season 24)
A lackluster cast of new players save for a few exceptions. All the strategy in this season is used by one person. This isn’t bad, but it also doesn’t make for very exciting television.
36. Edge of Extinction (Season 38)*
Four returning players, three of whom I found enjoyable in their previous seasons, lead tribes of new players. This season has a good enough cast of new players, but the twist adds an element to the game that completely ruins the season. (Returning players came from seasons 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34).
37. South Pacific (Season 23)*
Two returning players lead two different tribes of new players. Other than a few good moments, this was a pretty unentertaining season. There are some likable players, but they aren’t great enough to make the ranking of this season any higher. (Returning players came from seasons 13, 16, 18, and 20).
38. Worlds Apart (Season 30)
Players were divided into three tribes: White Collar vs. Blue Collar vs. No Collar. The season is interesting at first, but it quickly takes a dark turn, and the few good moments do nothing to offset the unbearable moments that it later has.
39. Thailand (Season 5)
An unpleasant cast in a below average season.
40. Island of the Idols (Season 39)*
This season technically has returning players in it, but they serve as non-playing mentors to the actual players of the game. I can’t explicitly state why I dislike this season without spoiling a major aspect of it, but the gameplay is not worth watching for the deplorable acts of the cast and production. Would not recommend. (Mentors came from seasons 4, 7, 8, 20, 22, and 34).
*Seasons with returning players