11. Borneo (Season 1)
The one that started it all over 17 years ago now, it’s kind of incredible how well Survivor: Borneo still holds up. No one fully knew what to expect from the show other than watching people try to make it through 39 days with primitive resources, all while competing physically to stay alive—more or less.
However, what makes Borneo such an important season beyond being the first ever is the first-ever Sole Survivor, Richard Hatch. He wasn’t necessarily a physical threat, but he turned expectations for the game on its head by emerging as its first-ever villain. He was calculated and strategic (and naked for at least half the game) and appeared unflappable throughout his entire game. Hatch was seemingly a transplant from later seasons playing a step ahead of everyone else.
There are plenty of other memorable moments and characters from the inaugural season of Survivor. Between the ineffable Rudy Boesch nearly making it to FTC at 72 years old to Susan Hawk’s speech proclaiming her support for Richard, it was a fun season throughout. But more than anything, it established the dynamics of the game that there’s more to it than just being a physical beast—you’ve got to play the game.