Rahul is a TV addict who can never get enough of good shows. His all-time favorites are The Wire, Breaking Bad, and The Sopranos.
What TV Series Are Similar to Spartacus?
Spartacus isn't a show for everyone. With no dearth of blood, gore, brutal fights, and half-naked people on screen, it can get overwhelming, even for a hardcore Game of Thrones fan. It has received its fair share of criticism for its boldness. While it's far from perfect, it does get a lot of things right.
The acting and cinematography, for instance, are perfect. The perfect close-ups show the raw emotions on the blood-soaked faces of gladiators as they murder their way to glory. Its main storyline always stays on course. It never strays too far from its roots.
This moody period drama is a visual extravaganza, especially for the gorehounds. Being a huge fan, I have compiled a list of some other TV shows like Spartacus to quench your thirst for some gritty drama. Let’s take a look.
Shows Similar to Spartacus
- The Shannara Chronicles
- Game of Thrones
- Hell On Wheels
- Black Sails
- Da Vinci's Demons
- The Borgias
- The Tudors
1. The Shannara Chronicles
Based on a series of novels of the same name, this show had a rocky start in its first season. However, it didn't take long for the pace to pick up. If you struggle to stick with this series after two or three episodes, I suggest you stick with it just a little longer.
I know MTV is not famous for developing gritty dramas that appeal to an older audience. The network focuses on more teen-oriented programming. The Shannara Chronicles, however, is pretty different from other MTV shows.
As someone who is fond of Shannara novels, I was anxious when I heard that MTV was picking it up for an adaptation. I’m glad to report that they’ve outdone themselves. While the scale and depth doesn‘t match the majestic grandeur of TV shows like Spartacus and Game of Thrones, it is still colorful and fun to watch.
If you can stomach the cliche teenage love triangles (because MTV), you will dig it.
2. Game of Thrones
The story takes place in the fictional land of Westeros where seven kingdoms are at war as they try to bring each other down and get to the Iron Throne. With the undead lurking outside the fortified walls, things are bound to get uglier.
The story moves along swiftly over the course of eight seasons. You will fall in love with the deeply-flawed characters. Unfortunately, you will likely see them get brutally killed. It’s unnerving to witness the death of your beloved characters. The series can be very bleak, but this is what makes Game of Thrones one of a kind.
If you somehow still haven’t watched this series, it's about time you lost your Game of Thrones' virginity. Once you are done binging on it, take a look at some similar shows to GOT that will keep you hooked.
Airing on History, Vikings tells the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a farmer who becomes the king of Norway and leads a slew of invasions on England and France.
Being a history buff, I was excited to see someone making a TV series revolving around Vikings and their relentless raids. Being on a network that had no experience with dramas meant that the series could go either way. Thankfully, History knew what they were doing.
As with many historical dramas, it was only a matter of time before people started comparing it to the legendary Game of Thrones. While it may not be a match to GoT in terms of epic battle scenes, Vikings can give the former a run for its money when it comes to its enchanting storylines. Besides, it has its own devoted fan base.
I might get a lot of flack for this, but I think Vikings does a better job in telling a focused story and tying up its loose threads than GoT. Nevertheless, both of them are good shows. If you’re looking for more of this sub-genre, check out some similar shows to Vikings.
A spoiled billionaire goes missing. When he mysteriously returns home after five years, he’s not the same guy anymore. For better or worse, the last five years had changed him. He has turned into an unflinching killing machine. Equipped with a bow, he embarks upon a mission to right all the wrongs as he brings culprits to justice.
What’s a superhero show doing here? For starters, it’s gritty, mature, and depressing - just what one would expect from a show like Spartacus. There might not be a lot of similarities on the surface, but these two shows share the same gene. Once the show gets its hooks on you, it's hard to leave your seat. Better buckle yourself in.
HBO’s Rome is set during the last days of Roman Republic. It chronicles the lives of everyone living under that regime.
If you want to get an accurate depiction of Ancient Rome, you might be better off watching documentaries or reading history books. However, this show isn't too far off when it comes to portraying the grim realities of that era. You have to give props to the showrunners for paying close attention to costumes, sets, and dialogue. You’d be hard-pressed to point out any inaccuracies.
Unfortunately, the obsession with being accurate is what got the series canceled. After two seasons, HBO pulled the plug, stating that the show was leaking too much money. Nevertheless, you still have two amazing seasons to binge!
6. Hell on Wheels
Hell on Wheels takes us back to the 1860s in the US, right after the Civil War. The plot revolves around a former soldier who is on a quest to find the ones who murdered his wife. On his journey, he comes across the transcontinental railroad project that plans to connect the Wild West to the East. He gets involved in the project, which makes his plans more complicated.
This show has it all – gruesome murders, love affairs, and a dark sense of humor. There are no good or bad guys here as everyone is doing what they can to survive. You’ll relate to even the most loathed characters at times. Overall, it's a gritty show that has a lot going for it.
7. Black Sails
Set 20 years before Robert Louis’ Treasure Island, Black Sails tells the story of Flint and "Long" John Silver. It chronicles both of their lives as they become two of the most feared pirates of all time.
Those who watched the first few episodes and gave up on the show missed out on one of the best fictional dramas of all time. It can feel flashy in the beginning, but it becomes a better show by the fourth episode. The first season is decent, the second season topples it, and the third season absolutely nailed it! If anything, the adventures of Flint and his crew get more daring with every season.
Toby Stephens breaths new life into Flint's character. Zach McGowen’s portrayal of Charles Vane isn't far behind either. You might think he’s a bad guy. In the later episodes, however, you realize that he is the most badass pirate in the show. In contrast, there are a few other characters you'll love in the beginning only to realize that they’re selfish and self-centered.
If you’re looking for some gritty TV shows like Spartacus, Black Sails should keep you busy for a while. With only 38 episodes in the series, you’ll be looking for more soon. Read on!
Hannibal doesn’t exactly fit in the category of historical/fantasy TV shows. I have included it because it’s amazing and everyone needs to watch it. It’s amazing how a series as graphic and gory as this one survived on network television for three full seasons. Trust me; it’s better than most of the premium TV shows popping up left and right.
The chemistry between Wills and Hannibal, the two central characters in the show, is something you have to witness. They both know one of them will kill the other sooner rather than later. However, they spend time together like nothing has happened. They realize that their enemy is the only friend they’ve got. It might seem puzzling at first, but once you understand the intricacy of their relationship, you’ll be invested in their story.
It’s a shame that Hannibal was canceled after three seasons. While it received strong praise, it never quite brought in big ratings. The silver lining is that we still have three brutal, violent seasons to binge. If you like all the graphic killings and executions in shows like Spartacus, Hannibal should be a pleasant surprise.
9. Da Vinci’s Demons
Starring Tom Riley in the lead role, Da Vinci’s Demons chronicles the life of Leonardo da Vinci, a genius who had extraordinary inventions credited to his name. The series focuses on his adventures in his mid-20s as he was trying to shape the future of the world.
This is one of those series that takes some liberties with history in favor of a snappy story and a flamboyant protagonist. It’s not a documentary on da Vinci’s life. If you’re looking to dig up accurate history, pick up a good book instead.
The question is, are you going to pass on this show just because it’s not what you read in the history books? The inconsistencies are noticeable. If you can overlook the inaccuracy, you’re in for a treat. There’s a lot of action and drama waiting for you on the other side.
Despite its fair share of flaws, the series has a lot going for it. From its breathtaking sets to its eccentric storylines, Da Vinci’s Demons comes out guns blazing right from the very first episode, and it never slows down the pace.
This show takes liberties with the legend of King Arthur. It morphs it into a soap opera about a young wizard’s story to help a bully. Since magic is banned in this realm, our young man must keep his magical prowess under wraps as he shapes a better future.
If you’re familiar with this legend, you know Arthur’s story comes to a screeching halt as he ends up betrayed by those he held closest. In contrast, Merlin is an upbeat story that sheds light on the mischievous childhood of King Arthur.
This reimagining of a well-established legend was a difficult choice to recommend, especially since this fantasy series lacks the vigor and flamboyance of Spartacus. Despite its small scale, Merlin still is uncannily addictive.