The crime show ‘The Wire‘ explores the streets of Biltmore as a microcosm of the US’s war on drugs and consequential urban decay. The story follows a bunch of Policemen, Drugs dealers and influential people with deep ties in the world of politics, media, and the underground. The human complexities and realistic social commentary on the institutions are marked by the finest writing. The Wire is an underrated hard-boiled fiction. If you’re a die-hard fan of this series, we have curated a list of brilliant shows like The Wire, have a look.
List of TV Shows Like The Wire
Here Is Why These 12 TV Shows are like The Wire
1. True Detective (2014)
The show True Detective is a seasonal fantasy series following a pair of detectives, namely Rustin Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson). The detectives are in pursuit of a serial killer in Louisiana with links to occult crimes from over 17 years. True Detective is a fantastic TV series, the performances by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson left us speechless. Check out more shows like True Detective.
The story unfolds in a way you won’t expect, True Detective is not just about a typical fashionable pair of detectives solving crimes through the streets of London but about two broken degenerating people struggling to resist the corrupting world around them. The show makes clever and witty use of vocabulary in the narrative to describe the feelings of the characters. Well, the second season of the show is quite weak, but True Detective does manage to pick up where it started by its third season. If you want to see shows like The Wire, I recommend that you check out True Detective.
2. Ozark (2017)
Ozark is a masterfully crafted crime thriller that hits all the right notes and refuses to dial down the tension for even a second. More importantly, Ozark achieves a quite simple feat that most of its predecessors and competitors can’t- it’s good to watch. The story of the show follows a financial adviser who drags his family from Chicago to the Missouri Ozarks.
Here, he must launder $500 million in 5 years to appease to the drug boss. The universe is immersive- the pale blue sky, the faded green forests and the giant mirror of a lake draw you in immediately and you feel at home in this deep, dark and twisted world. This is probably one of the best shows of all time, so do yourself a favour and check out Ozark if you’re a fan of shows like The Wire.
3. Small Axe (2022)
The Small Axe is outstanding at the highest level imaginable. The show is based on the real-life experiences of the West Indian community in London between 1969 and 1982. Through its cinematic aesthetics and powerful storytelling, director McQueen delivers a portrayal of courage, communal and cultural pride, and moral clarity that is both powerful and generous.
From going through the educational system in the UK, the nightlife, the racism and the riots. Small Axe is a feat of art and politics that reaches out to uplift, inspire and embrace yourself. There are five full-length movies in the Small Axe series. Small Axe is a triumph and an excellent option for shows like The Wire.
4. Mindhunter (2017)
Produced by the iconic David Fincher along with Charlize Theron and Penhall, the psychological crime thriller Mindhunter is based on the 1996 book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker ( former special agent). Their experiences inspired the show. For years, John pursued extremely notorious serial killers and rapists and, along the way, developed profiling techniques to catch them.
Mindhunter is absolutely outstanding in every respect. Extremely well-directed with meticulous attention to detail- the mid to late ‘70s. The show is a tour de force in the field of criminal psychology. The combination of the academic relative rookie who wants to get inside the minds and motivations of serial killers is juxtaposed with the world-weary hard-bitten veteran FBI agent. A gripping show like Mindhunter is worth a watch if you are in search of shows similar to The Wire.
5. The Night Of (2016)
The Night Of is an American 8-part crime drama television miniseries based on the first season of Criminal Justice. The show explores the dark corners of NYC’s criminal-justice system as they swirl around a young Pakistani-American man, Nasir Khan who is accused of murder in this riveting eight-part miniseries.
The Night Of has a very, very thrilling experience. Riz Ahmed’s effortless demeanour conveys so much without verbally explaining, which is rare. The writing is succinct and there’s so much to the narrative a viewer can explore on his/her own. The Night Of is a must-watch if you’re looking for a series like The Wire. Check it out.
6. The Sopranos (1999)
The Sopranos is primarily set in New Jersey and New York City and follows Tony Soprano, an Italian-American mobster, trying to balance his family life with his role as boss of the Soprano family. The birth of cinema-quality television, The Sopranos paved the way for shows like Breaking Bad, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, etc. The sheer brilliance of the writing, acting, directing and cinematography are on display throughout all 6 seasons of The Sopranos really cannot be overstated.
Go for it if you want some taste of realism with outstanding entertaining storylines. The complexity of each character is explored so well in depth that I can’t imagine the research that went into the writing of this show. Each episode has a universe of its own, and you will take away a lot during every watch-time of the show, that’s how layered every episode is, maybe every scene too. So, if you just watched a series like The Wire, then The Sopranos is a brilliant choice for you.
Also Read: Shows like Person Of Interest
7. Breaking Bad (2008)
Few shows can match up to the excellence of Breaking Bad as it’s considered to be amongst the best shows of all time. The protagonist Walter Benjamin (Bryan Cranston) is a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and so decides to get into the meth-making business, where he meets a man called Jesse.
Breaking Bad’s every single episode is so engaging that it’s worth binge-watching entire seasons in one go. The acting, the direction, the storyline, everything is done to such PERFECTION that we could not fault much even if we tried, the show is consistently good till the end. If you want to watch a series similar to The Wire, then the prestige drama Breaking Bad will be one of the best shows for you.
8. Peaky Blinders (2013)
The British drama show Peaky Blinders may be a fictional story of the Birmingham underworld but it is based on a real story of the gangs known by the very same name ‘Peaky Blinders’ from the late 19th century. The story follows a dangerous cut-throat man called Thomas Shelby ( Cillian Murphy). He leads a gang consisting of his brothers with the support of his Aunt Polly Grey. Together these criminals try everything in their power to move up in the world, and (mild spoilers!) Soon enough, Thomas becomes a powerful crime lord.
At face value, Thomas is not the kind of character someone would like, but Cillian provides such a charm to the character, that his incredible Brummie accent will make its way into your own vernacular. Everything about the show is so good, you will not regret a minute of it (maybe except for the 5th season). If you are looking for shows similar to The Wire then Peaky Blinders could be a great pick for you.
9. Sharp Objects (2011)
Based on the 2006 debut novel by Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects is, trust me, a BRILLIANT show. The story is centred around a crime reporter Camille Preaker (Amy Adams). Camille faces traumas at a young age that drive her out of her hometown but years later, she is forced to return to investigate a crime.
Now back in the town, she reunites with her strange and uptight mother and her younger sister which in turn makes her confront her own demons. The twists of the show are shocking to say the least. If you are looking for shows like The Wire then you definitely should consider watching Sharp Objects.
10. The Leftovers (2014)
Also known for creating shows like Lost, Damon Lindelof created The Leftovers along with the novelist Tom Perotta whose book this is adapted from. The Leftovers is a supernatural drama tv series, the story begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’, where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear.
This sudden event causes many changes, giving rise to cult groups like the white-clothed nihilists’ Guilty Remnant and a decline in mainstream religions. The show is dystopic in nature and quite surreal to watch. With a brilliant cast and genius writing, The Leftovers should definitely be on your list if you’re searching for a series like The Wire.
11. House Of Cards (2013)
Set in Washington, D.C., House of Cards is a story of Frank Underwood, an amoral politician and Democrat from South Carolina’s 5th congressional district, and his equally ambitious wife Claire Underwood. The show is an absolutely power-packed, ruthless political drama about revenge and power.
House Of Cards is thoughtfully scripted to make the political world tasteful with characters of many delights. The performances are delivered with much insight, and the relation between the press and power brokers as the series begins reveals the hypocrisy political prowess holds within. House Of Cards is a terrific choice for shows similar to The Wire.
12. Mad Men (2007)
Mad Men is the ultimate ensemble drama series with adult themes that drill deep into the human psyche and often self-destructive behaviour patterns of the 1960s post-WWII Greatest Generation that populated the high-flying, high-pressure Madison Avenue ad agency in New York.
The show’s creator Matthew Weiner (previously executive producer/writer of The Sopranos) takes viewers on a high-ball roller coaster of human experiences that explore the pursuit of bliss, the depths of where one can go, and the winding roads of inner angst one must often travel. For shows similar to The Wire, Mad Men is a great binge-worthy show for you.
Here are a few incredible series like The Wire that are just as good but didn’t make the list, you can check them out nonetheless:
- The Crown
- The Young Pope
- The Underground Railroad
- The Shield