15 years ago, Breaking Bad gifted viewers with an iconic character. This character was a high school chemistry teacher who would become one of television’s most memorable antiheroes: Bryan Cranston’s Walter White. We all miss Breaking Bad, and there’s really nothing quite like it, but below we’ve gathered 15 Shows like Breaking Bad for you that could potentially fill the Walter White-sized hole in your TV watching.
Created by Vince Gilligan, the critically acclaimed drama follows the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher who turns to making and selling methamphetamine with former student Jesse Pinkman to seemingly secure his family’s financial future after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.The show portrays the transformation of Walter’s character from a mild-mannered and law-abiding citizen to a ruthless meth producer and dealer. Walter’s descent is gradual until he becomes unrecognizable by the time the latter seasons come along.
List of Shows Like Breaking Bad
1. Better Call Saul (2015)
There’s no avoiding this obvious choice as it easily makes the list of shows like Breaking Bad, because it is a spin-off of the hit series. Long before his run-in with Walter White, we are treated to the series of events that shape Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman, the titular character into the Criminal Lawyer he is in Breaking Bad. Set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the series explores Jimmy’s journey from an underdog struggling to make ends meet as a public defender.
We get an expansive look at characters like Gus Fring and Mike Ehrmantraut. Better Call Saul has been praised for strong performances across board, and being of high quality enough that it can be regarded as one of the best series of its time, even without being in the Breaking Bad universe. Suffice to say that this next best thing to the classic series is for you.
2. Ozark (2017)
Ozark is a crime drama similar to shows like Breaking Bad, the series tells the story of Marty Byrde, a financial advisor who moves his family from Chicago to the Ozarks to launder money for a Mexican drug cartel. As they settle into their new life, they encounter several obstacles, including a local criminal family and the FBI.
Delving into the impact of crime on a seemingly normal family with themes of morality, power, and loyalty we see the Byrdes navigate their way through the criminal underworld while trying to keep their family safe. With intense plot twists and intricate characters, this show deserves its place on the list for its tense and suspenseful atmosphere, complex characters, and intricate plot twists that are sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
3. The Wire (2002)
I’m sure you enjoy watching crime drama series similar to Breaking Bad, if so then The Wire is another series for you to enjoy. The Wire is a groundbreaking television series that premiered way back in 2002, and even though it only grew in popularity years after it ended, is currently seen by fans and critics alike as one of if not the greatest show of the 2000s. If you already a fan of of this show, read: Shows Like The Wire.
The show tackles tough topics head on,from a poor education system, to the drug epidemic ruining the community to corruption and politics. The Wire is one of the true masterpieces of modern television shows and if there’s one show you have to reach back into the archives of the 2000s to watch, then The Wire is definitely one of them.
4. Narcos (2015)
For fans of shows like Breaking Bad and Walter White’s quiet ruthlessness, you will love the true drug king Pablo Escobar. Set in Colombia during the late 1970s through the 1990s, Narcos is a gritty crime drama that examines the rise of the cocaine trade in Colombia from multiple perspectives.
Narcos is true to life, especially in terms of setting, with molecular detail sometimes being put in to recreate some scenes that had been captured in real life, maybe in news footage or old video archives. Narcos is a consistently great show which even spawned spin-offs, like Narcos: Mexico.
5. The Shield (2002)
Similar to Shows like Breaking Bad, The Shield also centers around the main character’s descent into criminal activity. The series is about the ins and outs of one of the most corrupt police units in the force, the strike team. This unit is led by Vic Mackey played by Michael Chiklis, police chief who does all he can get away with to put crooks behind bars.
This series is a great showcase of how the good guys aren’t actually good sometimes. The Shield is sort of a reminder of the character of Hank in Breaking Bad, especially when he was overly desperate to catch a culprit by all means. This would definitely serve as a worthy substitute for any viewer suffering from Breaking Bad blues.
6. The Sopranos (1999)
If you’re looking for shows like Breaking Bad that explore the complex mindset of the antihero, David Chase’s contemporary mafia drama might just be it. The Sopranos is regarded as one of the finest crime shows on television and could easily be slated as a template to the issues that Breaking Bad so expertly explored. Gilligan once even said, “Without Tony Soprano, there would be no Walter White.”
The Sopranos presents a mob boss who tries to balance work and family, the boss Tony Soprano is played brilliantly by James Gandolfini. This seven season series effortlessly submerges viewers into its complex world. The end result is a leading man that is iconic as Walter White if not more. Already seen the show? Read this: Shows like The Sopranos.
7. Justified (2010)
In a lot of shows like Breaking Bad, it’s all about blurring the lines between what’s right and wrong, and FX’s Justified is very similar in that regard. U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is tasked with bringing a rapid and widespread change to the drug and crime infested area where he has been transferred to work a job.
He ends up being distracted from this goal by a friend who comes back into his life. Justified is a fast paced show that looks to explore the psyche of a man on the edge, and also how crime can eat at the very fabric of the society making it near impossible for it to be rehabilitated.
8. Peaky Blinders (2013)
Peaky Blinders is a British crime drama set in 1920s Birmingham, England. Similar to shows like Breaking Bad that both feature morally ambiguous protagonists who engage in criminal activities and the lengths that they will go to protect their loved ones. The critically acclaimed series follows the story of the Shelby family, who run a gang known as the Peaky Blinders.
Led by the charismatic and ruthless Thomas Shelby, the Peaky Blinders put their hand in anything illegal that can get them money. The Shelby family faces numerous challenges but tend to find a way to overcome it together as a family. Throughout the series, viewers are taken on a thrilling journey through the world of organized crime, and I reckon you should come along for the ride too.
Also Read: Shows like Peaky Blinders
9. Bloodline (2015)
Bloodline is another show similar to Breaking Bad with family dynamics and character transformation. The dramatic television series that follows the Rayburn family, who run a hotel in the Florida Keys. When the black sheep of the family, Danny, returns home, long-buried family secrets are brought to the surface. As the family tries to protect their reputation, they must confront their past and deal with the consequences of their actions.
The series explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the effects of trauma on the human psyche. Bloodline is known for its strong performances, intriguing plotlines, and atmospheric cinematography that captures the beauty and darkness of the Florida Keys.
10. Deadwood (2004)
Fans of series like Breaking Bad’s modern day Western feel might also enjoy this outlaw-centric period drama created by David Milch. Set in the lawless town of Deadwood, a gold mining outpost in South Dakota, during the late 1800s. The show follows a range of characters, who try to get their piece of the pie in a world without order.
Deadwood takes plenty of inspiration from history, combining fiction with real-life people and events. The series explores themes of greed, power, and corruption, as the characters struggle to survive in a town that is constantly on the brink of violence and chaos. The show and its characters might prove to be a good substitute for Walter White fans.
11. Boardwalk Empire (2010)
Leaving the world of drugs behind to instead focus on the illegal sale of alcohol, Boardwalk Empire is set in America during the Prohibition era. A worthy watch after shows like Breaking Bad, it follows Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, a corrupt politician and bootlegger who runs the city’s underworld with the help of his associates.
The show expertly handles Nucky trying to navigate his personal and family life, while keeping a handle on his new ‘business venture’. Boardwalk Empire ran for five seasons with enough episodes that will definitely take the viewer’s mind off Walter and his escapades.
12. Banshee (2013)
Just as in shows like Breaking Bad, Banshee is a tale rife with corruption, antiheroes, and plenty of bloodshed to boot. Instead of drug pushers moving meth, the show features a gang of diamond thieves who find themselves at odds with their former boss, a Ukrainian mobster named Rabbit. The parallels go beyond the plot and further to the protagonist; an ex-convict who assumes the identity of a small-town sheriff in Banshee, Pennsylvania to shield himself from discovery.
The show follows Lucas Hood as he uses his skills as a criminal to maintain order and protect the town from various criminal elements. The series features intense action sequences, complex characters, and explores themes of morality, and redemption. Banshee ran for four seasons and was praised for its gripping storytelling and strong performances.
13. ZeroZeroZero (2019)
ZeroZeroZero is a television series that explores the complex and dangerous world of the international cocaine trade. The show follows a shipment of cocaine from Mexico to Italy and the various individuals and organizations involved in the drug’s production, transportation, and distribution.
The series similar to Breaking Bad, especially in terms of the drug trade, gives us a top-down exploration of the process from the harvesting to processing to selling and transporting, all without missing a beat. If you loved Breaking Bad, you should also have this show on your radar.
14. Power (2014)
In shows like Breaking Bad which revolve around a protagonist who leads a double life, Walter White is a high school teacher who becomes a meth manufacturer. In Power it’s James ‘Ghost’ St. Patrick, a New York City nightclub owner who also happens to be a high-profile drug dealer. The show follows Ghost’s struggle to balance his legitimate business and his criminal empire, while keeping his family safe and his personal life personal.
Much like Breaking Bad that has strong, complex characters that are well-developed over multiple seasons, with their own well thought backstories and well written motivations. Power offers a thrilling and captivating look into the dark and dangerous world of organized crime.
15. Oz (1997)
As is the case with a series like Breaking Bad, Tom Fontana’s Oz presents a rich and memorable drama with a gritty look over the course of just a handful of seasons. A groundbreaking TV series is set in a fictional Oswald State Correctional Facility, or “Oz” for short. Despite its focused prison setting, Oz offers great depth and gives a balanced view of the prison system.
It’s easy to say a prison show should have a diverse cast, and that it’s a given. However, this is not the case as diverse doesn’t always mean quality, Oz has a diverse and quality ensemble cast, all which combine to provide a thought-provoking look at the life of a prisoner. This can certainly be compared to Gilligan’s show, as both shows explore the criminal underworld in great detail.
Also Read: Shows like The Blacklist
Here’s a list of TV shows like Breaking Bad that didn’t make it, which you can also check out:
- Sons of Anarchy
- Good Girls