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12 Shows like The Wire Every Crime And Suspense Fan Should Watch

shows like the Wire

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.

Honourable Mentions

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: 

  1. The Crown
  2. The Young Pope
  3. The Underground Railroad
  4. The Shield

When Lost aired over a decade ago, its successful narrative created a pop culture impact and changed the landscape of television. If you are a fan and want to watch shows like Lost then you can have a look at this list we made just for you.

Lost

The hugely successful television series Lost aired in 2004. The premise, as we know, deals with a group of people surviving a commercial passenger plane crash on a remote island. The show masterfully explores supernatural and sci-fi elements on this mysterious south Pacific island. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTu8iDynwNc

The use of cliffhangers at the end of each episode of Lost kept the viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately craving for the next episode to come. Even though it's a large ensemble cast, most of the characters receive a justifiable personal arch. Lost was inspired by the movie Castaway and became one of the most expensive pilots to be shot at the time! Lost continues to be appreciated for its originality in storytelling and dynamic character arcs. 

List of TV Shows Like Lost

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Manifest
  3. Lost Room
  4. Twin Peaks
  5. The Prisoners
  6. Battlestar Galactica
  7. The New People
  8. Flight 29 Down
  9. Fringe
  10. Alcatraz
  11. Under the Dome
  12. Dark

1. The Leftovers (2014)

IMDB ratings: 8.3/10

Cast: Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Margaret Qualley

Creator: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

The director of Lost, Damon Lindel also created a supernatural drama series called The Leftovers. The show begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’  where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear. The Leftovers isn't about WHY people are gone, it's about how the ones who remain dealt with their loss, people often try to comfort themselves with dreams, angels, gods, or even death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLT3YUALJno&t=8s

The Leftovers will leave you with so many questions but beyond words, you have to feel it and savour its unanswered questions to find peace. The Leftovers is an incredible television series that starts incredibly well but loses its way by the series's end. I have to say though, Carrie Coon has brilliant moments in the end. The Leftovers is so weird, fragmented and nonsensical at times that it reminds me of Lost. If you are looking for shows like Lost, I recommend that you give The Leftovers a try.

2. Manifest  (2018) 

IMDB ratings: 7.1/10

Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez 

Creator: Jeff Rake


The Manifest is a supernatural drama show about a bunch of people who discover that they lost 5 years of their lives when they landed in New York after their aeroplane faced severe turbulence. All the people on the plane were presumed to be dead. Now, these people have to find a way to adjust themselves to a new life around their loved ones. Mild spoiler! They learn their loved ones and the rest of society is not as they left it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1hNAIzkQWY

I found that the show’s premise was very intriguing and the actors give a very convincing performance. The narrative details of the show, however, in my opinion, are a bit sloppy and inconsistent. The writers surely have room for improvement but their concept is incredibly thrilling. Every episode of Manifest keeps you on your toes. Manifest has completed 3 seasons up until now and continues to be on air. Manifest is a pretty good choice if you want to watch TV shows like Lost.

3. Lost Room (2006)

IMDB ratings: 8.1/10

Cast: Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Peter Jacobson

Creator: Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom

This lesser-known show The Lost Room is an American Sci-fi television miniseries which only had 3 episodes of 90 mins each and no follow-up seasons. The show was based on a very unique idea where the room in question (known as the ‘Lost Room’) and the objects in the said room had supernatural powers. This strange room is set in a 1960s motel along the iconic U.S. Route 66. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfWrECLnFYU

One day the protagonist (Peter Krause) Joe Miller’s daughter disappears inside the room. Joe, with the help of objects present in the room, tries to find his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning). The story of Lost Room was intensely engaging. I found the direction and the actor’s performances to be absolutely brilliant. It baffles me that the creators did not return to make another short season within the same concept. If you have been searching for TV series like Lost then I can assure you that Lost Room will be worth a watch.

4. Twins Peaks (1990) 

IMDB ratings: 8.8/10

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch

Creator: David Lynch

David Lynch, the well-known director of weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet created an iconic show called Twin Peaks. It is a hauntingly eccentric show about the investigation of the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer. Believe me, as odd as the show may seem at first, you will grow to love it, after all, it is considered to be one of the best mystery shows ever created. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwn9ou_nf-I

With the mysteries, the supernatural elements and the list of bizarre characters, Twin Peaks has it all. In my opinion, the cinematography of the show was truly ahead of its time. Kyle’s Dale Cooper was especially entertaining. Twin Peaks’ experimental formula of the satirical soap opera is extremely unsettling yet rewarding to watch, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in search of TV shows like Lost then Twin Peaks won’t disappoint you.

The Prisoners (1967)

IMDB ratings: 8.5/10

Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat and Geroge Markstien

Creator: Patrick McGoohan


The Prisoner centres around an unnamed British agent (Patrick McGoohan) who tries to flee his country after abruptly quitting his high-ranking government job. He is abducted and held captive in a strange ‘sea-side’ village that is isolated from the rest of the world. This village is a highly secure and monitored place filled with weird technology. There are only 17 episodes to this late 60s show but it manages to bring up such surreal surprises, it's sure to leave a great impact on the viewer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JrNr85fPms

The Prisoner’s unique concept influenced many popular shows including Lost. The creators of Lost even cited the show. I was very impressed by how ahead of its time The Prisoners proves to be. If you want to watch more shows similar to Lost the Prisoners should definitely be on your list.

6. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos and Tricia Helfer 

Creator: Glen A. Larson

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica is a reboot of the original 1978 miniseries of the same name. Do not be mistaken by the title, the show is not related to Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica is set in the 7th millennium AD and follows Cylons, the robot enemy of humanity that resurfaces to destroy the 12 colonies of Mankind. Only a few survive and are able to escape on ships led by a powerful warship called Battlestar Galactica. Mankind struggles to fight the Cylons and work their own political agendas and disputes while finding their long-lost 13th colony Earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnYsf2Yv8i8

The show is a dark, intense and gritty socio-political commentary with EPIC cinematic value. The script is especially clever and as a huge fan of sci-fi shows, this show ticks the boxes in all the right categories. When the show was released, it blew the viewers and critics away. As far as an obsessive and gripping story goes, Battlestar Galactica is one of the most similar to shows like Lost. 

7. The New People (1969)

IMDB ratings: 7.3/10

Cast: David Moses, Zooey hall and Tiffany Boiling

Creator: Larry Gordon Aaron Spelling

The New People is an American Tv series that aired only for 1 season and is focused on a couple of college students who survive a plane crash. The incident takes place while they were returning from a trip to Southeast Asia, their plane crashes on an island in the south of the Pacific ocean. 

By now this show must already be sounding a lot like Lost to you, and it surely is. The remaining group of people discover an unusual truth about the island: there’s an above-ground unused nuclear test site filled with supplies for the survivors. If you want to see more plane survival stories like Lost then The New People should definitely be on your list.

8. Flight 29 Down (2005)

IMDB ratings: 7.2/10

Cast: Allen Alvarado, Halle Hirsh and Corbin Bleu

Creator:  Stan Rowgow D. J. MacHale

The show Flight 29 Down is a drama series about a group of pre-teens/teens who are stranded on a South Pacific island after their plane crashes in a tropical storm while they were flying from an eco-adventure camping trip in Palau. The show is in many ways a younger version of the Adult-centred show Lost but sans the supernatural elements. I’d say that the show draws inspiration from the show The New People.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLeG0w3kL8k

Flight 29 Down uses the technique of a video diary as a plot device for the viewers to keep up with the story of these children. It was very engaging to watch young intelligent characters finding their way on the island. The first two seasons of the show are quite engaging but I seemed to lose interest in its 3rd and final season. Regardless, Flight 29 Down is a really good series to watch if you want to see TV shows like Lost.

9. Fringe (2008)

IMDB ratings: 8.4/10

Cast: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson

Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci

Fringe is a popular Sci-fi crime drama television series. It may seem like a standard procedural drama at first, but the show actually explores the parallel universe, alternate versions of people filled with crazy scientific experiments. I personally had a great time watching this show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29bSzbqZ3xE

Fringe is actually inspired by shows like Lost, The X-files and The Twilight Zone. The 3 main characters of the show work with a special division called Fringe. There are so many brilliant twists and turns in Fringe that in my opinion, the show is at the top of its category. If you are searching for TV series like Lost, I strongly recommend you watch Fringe

10. Alcatraz (2012)

IMDB ratings: 6.9/10

Cast: Sarah Jones, George Garcia and Jonny Coyne 

Creator: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt

This American fiction show is based on the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary built on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. The prison is now closed but once kept some of the most dangerous criminals of America. The show takes the liberty to make a show around the conspiracies of the place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V514ACIGp_k

In the interesting premise we see that under unknown circumstances, 256 inmates and 46 guards of the prison disappear without a trace. Later the disappeared ones start to appear one by one without ageing a day and resume their criminal activities with no realisation of disappearance. A special government unit is dedicated to finding and putting those criminals back in prison. If you are looking for mystery shows similar to Lost, try watching Alcatraz. 

11. Under the Dome (2013)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Alexander Koch and Rachelle Lefevre

Creator: Stephen King

Based on a novel written by the sci-fi legend Stephen King, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town called Chester's Mill, when a huge, transparent and indestructible dome suddenly cuts them off from the rest of the world. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y5YeYrqUk

Now the trapped residents try to find a way to discover the truth, origin and purpose of these domes. This journey forces them into situations where they learn more about each other than they ever knew. Under the Dome may not be on the top of this list but it’s quite a decent watch if you’re looking for mystery shows similar to Lost

12. Dark (2017)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari and Gina Stiebitz

Creator: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

The German-language Netflix series Dark is an interesting blend of Science fiction and Mystery. Truly a compelling and mind-bending story to watch. At the beginning of Dark, many children suspiciously start disappearing in the German town of Winden. The dark past of generational mysteries of 4 families living in the town namely, Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler, and Tiedemann is brought to light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrwycJ08PSA

After the discovery of a wormhole, the lives of the families intertwine more than one can imagine. I believe every element of the show is top-notch, especially Dark’s cinematography, which is a TRUE masterpiece. If you are looking for TV series similar to Lost then the intense and gripping story of Dark is sure to keep you engrossed.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few TV shows like Lost that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Carnivale
  2. Yellowjackets
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Black Mirror
  5. Flashforward