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Top 10 Best International Soap Operas

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
A good drama works in any language. For this list, we'll be ranking the most popular, influential or long-running soap opera programs from around the world. We'll be focusing specifically on soap operas outside the continental United States for this list, however, so shows like "Dark Shadows" or "The Bold and The Beautiful" will not be considered. Our list includes "Shortland Street," "Hotel Caesar," "Winter Sonata," "EastEnders," "Neighbours," and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 International Soap Operas.

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Top 10 International Soap Operas

A good drama works in any language. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10International Soap Operas.

For this list, we'll be ranking the most popular, influential or long-running soap opera programs from around the world. We'll be focusing specifically on soap operas outside the continental United States for this list, however, so shows like "Dark Shadows" or "The Bold and The Beautiful" will not be considered.

#10: "Un posto al sole" (1996-)

Believe it or not, television didn't properly debut within Italian culture until the mid-‘50s, and continued to play second fiddle to the country's massive film industry right on through the ‘60s and ‘70s. Perhaps this explains why Italy's state-run Rai Network was somewhat late to the party in bringing soap opera television to the masses. "Un posto al sole" was one of the first soaps to hit Italian T.V., and earned a following just as public attention in the country was finally beginning to focus on the small screen. Sure, this Naples-set soap may not be the most original daytime drama around, but it's well worth watching for anyone remotely interested in the history of Italian television.

#9: "Goede tijden, slechte tijden" (1990-)

A lot of the soap operas on this list today boast prestigious pedigrees as some of the longest-running television programs in their country. This is exactly the case with "Goede tijden, slechte tijden," or "Good Times, Bad Times," which has been televised in the Netherlands since 1990. Many of the country's most recognizable actors have passed through the cast of "Goede tijden, slechte tijden," while many of the show's storylines delivered the same sort of juicy melodrama present within its North American contemporaries. 2016 even saw the venerable soapreceive a spinoff series, "Nieuwe Tijden," a.k.a. "New Times," proving that interest remained high even after 15 plus years of broadcasting.

#8: "Shortland Street" (1992-)

We head to New Zealand for the next soap opera on our list, "Shortland Street." The show draws some comparisons to the American soap "General Hospital" due to its medical setting, but "Shortland Street" actually had some difficulty drawing in viewers when it first hit the airwaves in 1992. In fact, the show was close to cancellation, and would have been had a year's worth of episodes not been ordered in advance by its network, Television New Zealand. Thankfully, ratings and viewer response picked up, perhaps due in part to "Shortland Street”’s decidedly dramatic tone. The show even featured a violent serial killer angle in 2007, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "killer T.V."

#7: "Hotel Caesar" (1998-2017)

Scandinavia has a wealth of popular soap operas to its credit, with one of its most long-running and popular being Norway's "Hotel Caesar." There seems to be no topic that's out of bounds for this fearless show, as "Hotel Caesar" made a name for itself by pushing the boundaries of sex and violence – even by soap opera standards. In later years, it would continue to break new ground for the genre by including more action and humor. Sure, attempting to tie up all the myriad plot threads which have spun through the controversial "Hotel Caesar" over the years may be a tall order, but that's honestly half the fun.

#6: "Winter Sonata" (2002)

The next soap opera on our list might be one of the most unique examples in the genre. "Winter Sonata" was a hugely popular and influential soap from South Korea which spawned legions of fans and imitators. The show was directed by Yoon Seok-ho as the second installment of his four-part "Endless Love" series, and eschews the traditionally trashy soap opera style in favor of a far more sentimental and romantic one. Sure, there's a classic amnesia plotline going on, but "Winter Sonata" relies more on visual style, evocative music and the passionate performances of its cast. Consider this one highly recommended, and a quick watch at only 20 episodes.

#5: "EastEnders" (1985-)

All the soaps on this list have passionate followings in their native countries, but few possess enough trans-continental crossover appeal. This isn't the case with "EastEnders," however, as the revered British soap has earned praise and found fans around the world. Sure, one might not think that a soap opera set in southern England could resonate with a North American audience, but "EastEnders" isn't your ordinary program. There's a real attention to story and character development, with a strong sense of family running throughout all of the twists, turns and intrigue. Funny, violent and controversial, but never boring, "EastEnders" is one of a kind.

#4: "Home & Away" (1988-)

Australia has had a number of successful and influential soap operas over the years, but "Home & Away" might be the one that has had the most impact internationally. "Home & Away" has had to deal with quite a few censorship issues over the years, largely thanks to its envelope-pushing content. Today, there seems to be no shortage of drug use, sex and crazy situations in the soap opera world, but "Home & Away" took what was essentially a simple premise of a small New South Wales seaside community and turned it into a world-spanning cult hit. Oh, and did we mention Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, used to be on this show? Well, now you know!

#3: "María la del Barrio" (1995-96)

Speaking of international appeal, "María la del Barrio" is a massively popular Mexican telenovela; one which has inspired passionate groups of fans around the world. Sure, there are more over-wrought theatrics, plot twists and salacious materials than you can shake a stick at here, but "María la del Barrio" shines through the presence of lead actress and singer Thalía. Her beauty and charm seem to keep her character's near-constant suffering at bay, while at the same time elevating the titular María to being one of the all-time greatest soap opera heroines.

#2: "Neighbours" (1985-)

We mentioned earlier how Australia has been home to more than a few popular soap operas, and our next entry is undeniably one of its most famous exports. "Neighbours" was actually cancelled not long after its 1985 debut, before a pick-up by a rival network resulted in the show skyrocketing in popularity. "Neighbours" deals with all of the dramatic issues one would expect from a soap opera, from romantic and family bust-ups to ratings-nabbing criminal storylines. The show has also featured a number of high-profile performers run through its cast, including Aussie pop star Kylie Minogue and "Suicide Squad" actress Margot Robbie.

Before we name our number one soap, here are a few honorable mentions!

"Avenida Brasil" (2012)

"Number 96" (1972-77)

"Lindenstrasse" (1985-)

#1: "Coronation Street" (1960-)

This is it: the biggest and most iconic name in British soap opera history. "Coronation Street" has been on the air for an astonishing 50-plus years, and has featured a veritable who's who of British television acting talent. The show has dealt with just about every sort of conceivable drama one could concoct for a T.V. soap, yet it's somehow transcended that tag to become almost intrinsically linked with the nation's culture. "Coronation Street" isn't just huge in the U.K., though; having earned and kept fans from all around the world, with no sign of its T.V. domination waning anytime soon.

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