Often regarded as one of the greatest television shows of all time, it is no surprise that fans are looking for shows like Breaking Bad. The incredible character arc of Walter White saw him transform from a mild-mannered family man and teacher to a ruthless and deadly drug lord. The show was filled with complex characters, shocking twists, and a riveting look at the crime genre. While there are few shows to reach the peaks, there are shows like Breaking Bad that capture its best qualities.
Despite ending a decade agoBreaking Bad has aged incredibly well and it is still going strong on streaming with new audiences finding it and old fans rewatching it. Despite its age, the escapades of this teacher-turned-kingpin antihero still make for a compelling watch. Still, there will always be a yearning for other crime-laden shows that are similarly hard-edged and rich. The great programs in the vein of Vince Gilligan’s action-drama will help fans recapture some of the intense brilliance they found in Breaking Bad.
15 Better Call Saul (2015-2022)
It may seem like an obvious choice, but Better Call Saul certainly did a great job carrying on the legacy of Breaking Bad. Not only do fans get the return of the sly lawyer Saul Goodman taking on the lead role, but the show features other memorable characters from Breaking Bad like Tuco Salamanca, Mike Ehrmantraut, and the icy villain Gus Fring. Better Call Saul rings similar in both its premise and tone, as the show follows the downtrodden protagonist become an antihero and plunge into the criminal underworld of New Mexico. While there’s plenty of zany humor via Goodman’s typical zingers, this crime show stresses more dramatic elements throughout.
14 The Shield (2002-2008)
Breaking Bad was particularly effective in showing that even the most seemingly upstanding person can be corrupted under certain circumstances. This crime drama similarly stresses this cautionary tale, honing in on police corruption in the fictional Farmington district of Los Angeles. Shawn Ryan’s award-winning show has captivated audiences for 7 seasons with its thrilling plots involving everything from drug lords to train heists. Like Breaking Bad, this drama showcases a darker, grittier side to American society, and it’s all the more gripping because of it.
13 Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
The notion of smuggling alcohol may not seem like a particularly intense or high-stakes premise compared to Walt’s drug empire. Yet, this was considered a major crime circa 1920s America, and this period crime show excels in taking its viewers on a ride to the brief, but turbulent era of Prohibition. During its run from 2010 to 2014, Boardwalk Empire has notched a whopping 57 Primetime Emmy Awards while winning 20. This is namely thanks to some convincing performances, dynamic narratives, and authentic set pieces that paint the scene nicely. Just like Walt, the mobster Nucky Thompson finds enemies around every corner and threats building up against him which adds to the endless tension in the series.
12 Oz (1997-2003)
As is the case with Breaking Bad, Tom Fontana’s Oz presents a rich and memorable drama with a gritty bent over the course of just a handful of seasons. Despite its focused prison setting, Oz offers depth and intrigue by shifting between different characters of various traits and moral standings – bouncing from prisoners to the staff, all the way up to the Warden. This can certainly be compared to Gilligan’s show, as can the often unexpected, shocking deaths. Along with hits like The Sopranos, this show helped propel HBO into the stratosphere in terms of television clout.
11 The Walking Dead (2010-2021)
Though there are no zombies to be had in Breaking Bad, there’s certainly a similar amount of bloodshed and bodies in the course of this fun horror romp. Being based on a prominent comic book series, there’s no shortage of world-building and thrilling action in this zombie thriller. Unlike Gilligan’s drama, some fans have noted this 11-season epic for perhaps overstaying its welcome a bit. Regardless, the adventures of deputy Rick Grimes and company provide many “edge of the seat” moments, particularly in its early seasons. Grimes’ actor Andrew Lincoln has even cited inspiration from Gilligan’s series in preparation for his role in The Walking Dead. It makes sense, as the show contains a similarly gritty western theme.
10 Banshee (2013-2016)
While it’s a bit over-the-top and heavy on the action compared to the more subdued Breaking Bad, there are certainly aspects of this thrilling romp reminiscent of Gilligan’s show. 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 extend to the protagonist; an ex-convict who takes on a new identity to shield himself from discovery. The show hosts a slew of colorful characters and plenty of action-packed cheese throughout.
9 Orange Is The New Black (2013-2019)
Breaking Bad provides some gripping drama infused with some fairly dark comedy to balance things out. Such is also the case with this hit Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black. This award-winning show has kept viewers coming back for a whopping 7 seasons, becoming the streaming services’ most-watched original series. This isn’t surprising to the show’s millions of fans, as the prison shenanigans from Orange is the New Black‘s fun characters provide some uniquely compelling TV. The show also takes a break from the glum settings of this female prison, presenting dramatic flashbacks of major events of various characters. Like AMC’s classic show, this comedy-drama uses deep, character-driven plots laced with gritty undertones to flesh out its narrative.
8 Blood Drive (2017)
The campy action levels are definitely revved up to the max in this dystopian car-centric action show. Yet, that’s what makes it such a uniquely fun watch. The premise – which involves an anarchic society and car engines that run on human blood – makes Breaking Bad look tame by comparison. Still, this cheesy Syfy series is likely to draw much of its same audience, with its infusion of action, drama, and some comic relief for good measure.
The protagonists Arthur and Grace, played convincingly by Alan Ritchson and Christina Ochoa, serve as the centerpieces amidst this violent, chaotic, and (literally) divided landscape. The audience may wantto see these characters come out on top and win this car scramble across the US – despite them occasionally feeding a body into their engine to do so.
7 Happy! (2017-2019)
There are definitely Walter White vibes when it comes to Happy!‘s grizzled, downtrodden police detective Nick Sax (Christopher Meloni), who’s spiraled into a life of substance abuse and seemingly going off his rocker. This troubled, but likable protagonist is complimented by – of all things – an animated creature amusingly voiced by Patton Oswalt. It’s revealed that this odd critter is the manifestation of an imaginary friend of a little girl, who’s been kidnapped by a psychotic man dressed as Santa. The show features various hijinks and plenty of violence as the creature, “Smoothie,” leads him to the kidnapped child. Yes – this is quite a peculiar romp. Still, it’s one worth checking out, especially for fans of dark, twisted storylines with a dollop of humor.
6 Deadwood (2004-2006)
Shifting gears to a program that’s a bit more subdued, but no less nuanced, Deadwood holds the distinction of being a fairly modern Western drama that’s truly captivating. While there are many who still feel robbed of the HBO show’s abrupt end after only a few seasons, each of the 36 episodes is chock-full of character dramas and thrilling plotlines. This is all dressed with some gritty, authentic set pieces and solid performances that make viewers feel like they are following the harsh lives of Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen. While it takes place in 1870’s South Dakota, the rough-and-tumble setting of Deadwood and its way of life is a distinctly rich, foreign one that’s easy to get lost in.
5 Weeds (2005-2012)
Weeds could be seen as “Breaking Bad” before Breaking Bad, given the wealth of similarities. This charming, yet dark suburban dramedy can be considered a more tame version of that show. It similarly revolves around a troubled protagonist living a dual life as a parent and a drug pusher. Yet, in this case it’s a single mom (Mary-Louise Parker) selling marijuana to get some extra dough for her family. The show likewise hosts tons of colorful supporting characters that bring life to the show. This ranges from the nosy neighbor played by Elizabeth Perkins, to Nancy’s wisecracking brother-in-law Andy and quirky neighbor Doug, played by Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon respectively.
4 Fargo (2014-2020)
This offshoot of the cult-classic film Fargo emphasizes a darker, more violent angle than other Breaking Bad-like shows. Still, as could be expected from a Coen Brothers project, the audience does still get plenty of that dry and dark humor sprinkled in, as the show follows the slew of quirky and often troubled antiheroes. As the name Fargo somewhat implies, there are a number of intense, unique crime capers, corruptions, and cover-ups among the dismal, cold backdrops of Minnesota and North Dakota. Memorable performances of some big names in acting, such as Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks, and even Breaking Bad‘s own Bob Odenkirk help give life to this gripping, downbeat drama.
3 The Sopranos (1999-2006)
It’s tough to talk about action-dramas in television without bringing the iconic show, The Sopranos, into the discussion. This dynamic, in-depth series is renowned by many for its quality production, nuanced writing, and emotionally gripping plots – traits which Breaking Bad fans will no doubt appreciate. While it ended in a rather “abrupt” manner in mid 2007, The Sopranos contains 6 entertaining seasons rich with detail. The show centers on Tony Soprano as he tries to balance his criminal enterprise with family life. David Chase’s HBO romp feels like one massive mobster movie in TV form, and it’s one Breaking Bad fans shouldn’t miss.
2 Sons Of Anarchy (2008-2014)
The life of a criminal is usually rife with drama and insanity, which tends to make for compelling TV. Such is the case with Sons of Anarchy, an FX crime drama that hinges on crude and dark plotlines to provide many “edge of the seat” moments. If the show looks and feels authentic in its presentation and convincing biker outlaws, that’s partly because of David Labrava’s input – an actual former member of the Oakland Hells Angels. Like Better Call Saul was to Breaking Bad, this renowned crime show also spawned its own spinoff, 2018’s Mayans M.C. which hones in on Mexican-American culture.
1 The Wire (2002-2008)
This renowned HBO drama checks off most of the key Breaking Bad boxes, aside perhaps on its comedic tinge. There’s a similarly complex commentary on society, featuring a slew of downtrodden antiheroes. Likewise, The Wire also conveys the dangers of forces like wealth, power, and drugs in their ability to corrupt and lead to violence and chaos. Each season of The Wire hones in on a different premise and setting, drifting from one institution and set of characters to the next. The often negative influences of these powers at play are reminiscent of Gilligan’s show, as are the bouts of exciting action and drama throughout.