The Top 10 Soap Operas of All Time

How do we decide the top 10 soap operas of all time? There are plenty of ways to determine what makes a soap great—the storylines, the characters, the history—but there’s always that “X-Factor,” the thing that makes us tune in every day or remember a soap from yesterday with a particular fondness.

Following, in no particular order, are 10 all-time favorites.

01
of 10

'All My Children'

Susan Lucci on the Set of 'All My Children' - August 11, 2005
FilmMagic / Getty Images

What makes a star? In today's world, charisma, money, and talent are only pieces of the puzzle. Being in trouble with the law is a benchmark for celebrity, and if Erica Kane's rap sheet is any indication, she is and always will be at the top of fans' A-list…and so is "All My Children."

02
of 10

'The Young and the Restless'

53rd Monte Carlo TV Festival - Opening Ceremony
Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

A work of art. Over the years "The Young and the Restless" has managed more than 1,000 consecutive weeks in the No. 1 spot for daytime dramas.

03
of 10

'Days of Our Lives'

The Cast of 'Days of Our Lives'
Jeff Katz / Getty Images

"Days of Our Lives" is a timeless classic that’s always cool and contemporary. A few years back, Lauren Koslow, who plays Kate Roberts, regularly appeared on screen rocking two black tips with a pale manicure. Who couldn’t watch Rafe all day long?

04
of 10

'Ryan's Hope'

Reruns of "Ryan's Hope," which originally ran on ABC from 1975–1989, are addictive. And RH was a precursor to "The Sopranos." It’s true. RH was the first daytime drama to have a major mob storyline. The cast for RH was as sublime as its amazing dialogue and heartfelt stories. Sad to say, Bernard Barrow (John), Nancy Addison (Jill), and Nicolette Goulet (who replaced Mulgrew as Mary) are now deceased.

05
of 10

'General Hospital'

Gloria Monty
Joan Adlen Photography / Getty Images

The 1963 soap opera "General Hospital" is credited for starting the trend of the “super couple” for all soaps. Luke and Laura (Tony Geary and Genie Francis) set the standard. Rafe and Sami on "Days of Our Lives," Ryan and Greenlea on "All My Children," Cane and Lilly on "The Young and the Restless," and Brody and Jessica on "One Life to Live" were all compelling, but they all followed in the footsteps of Luke and Laura.

06
of 10

'As the World Turns'

30th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards Press Room
Mark Mainz / Getty Images

The real power of a soap opera lies in couples made up of characters as wacky and, yes, flawed as we are. Who can forget Tom and Barbara and Hal and Barbara, two incredibly complex couples supported by an unforgettable story on "As the World Turns"? This story resonated because even though everyone knew that Tom and Margo were each other’s true love and belonged together, at the same time it was clear that Margo could have just as easily been happy with Hal. And vise versa.

07
of 10

'Guiding Light'

The 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards - Press Room
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

For many of us, September 18, 2009, will live on as, well, the day the “music” died. Primetime TV shows come and go all the time, but soap die-hards are more connected to our long-lasting shows, which makes endings like "Guiding Light"'s even harder. Its viewers might have been only 1.2 million people—not a lot by today’s standards—but they were a dedicated bunch. Their final glimpse at the characters left them satisfied that, at the very least, Josh and Reva were back in each other’s arms.

08
of 10

'Another World'

Photo from the daytime drama Another World of the marriage of characters Mac Cory and Rachel

 NBC Television/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

"Another World" covered it all, even a dead wife coming back as a ghost on her husband's wedding day to give him and their daughter her blessing. If you didn't catch it the first time, hit the reruns. Other than those clothes we wore in the '80s, you'll love it...you may even still love those clothes, too.

09
of 10

'The Edge of Night'

Who can forget hearing Bob Dixon energetically announcing the show's title, "Theee Eeeeeeeedge...of Night!"? Bob Dixon was the first announcer in 1956. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on the passion between Calvin and Dee Dee. A favorite moment came near the end of the series run when Mike and Nancy, after having slept in twin beds for nearly their whole married life, finally decided to "go all out and buy a double bed."

10
of 10

'Santa Barbara'

"Santa Barbara" was quirky, funny, surprising, and deeply touching. When Augusta Lockridge was blinded in a tunnel collapse in 1985, President Ronald Reagan sent the actress who played August a heartfelt note telling her that he and Nancy were praying for a quick recovery. The writers on "Santa Barbara" took chances, and it paid off with dozens of awards and solid ratings. Eden and Cruz were the ultimate soap couple, and Eden’s rape remains one of the most memorable storylines in soap history.