9 Breathtaking TV Shows Like 'Spartacus' That Will Hook You Right Away
What Series Are Like 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, never straying 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 -
How'd you rate The Spartacus out of 5 stars?
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 new kid on the block was off to a rocky start in the first season. It didn’t, however, take long to pick up the pace. So, if you avoided this series after watching 2-3 episodes, it’s about time you pick it up again.
I know MTV is not famous for developing gritty dramas that appeal to the older audience. They are more teen-oriented. The Shannara Chronicles, however, is pretty different from the rest of the shows airing on the network.
As someone who is fond of Shannara series, I was anxious when I heard MTV is picking it up for 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 still is colorful and fun to watch
If you can stomach 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, trying to bring each other down and getting to the Iron Throne. With the undead lurking outside the fortified walls, things are bound to get uglier.
Over the course of 7 seasons so far, we’ve gotten only a few answers to the burning questions. It answers a few and raises a few more. The story trudges along swiftly, as you fall in love with its deeply-flawed characters, only to see them getting brutally killed. It’s unnerving to witness the death of your beloved characters. It can depress, and at times, suffocate you with its bleak twisted tales, but this is what makes Game of Thrones one of a kind.
As is the case with all good things, it’s going to end sooner than we'd want. Airing sometime in 2019, the 8th season is going to be its last. The showrunners clearly don’t want to drag the series too far into irrelevance.
If you somehow still haven’t watched it, 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 channel, 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 with not much experience under its belt meant that the series could go either way. Thankfully, History channel 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 for the 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. If the recently extended season orders are anything to go by, the fervid fanbase is only getting bigger.
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 by the end- something I found lacking in 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 have changed him, turning him into an unflinching killing machine. Equipped with a bow and arrows, he embarks upon a mission to right all the wrongs and 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 unstick yourself from the seat. Better buckle yourself.
HBO’s Rome is set during the last days of Roman Republic, chronicling the lives of everyone living under that regime.
If you want to get an accurate idea of how things worked back then, maybe watching documentaries or reading history books would help. This show, however, isn't too far off when it comes to exposing the grim realities of that era. Props to the showrunners for paying such close attention to costumes, sets, sceneries, and dialogues. You’d be hard-pressed to point out any inaccuracy.
Its obsession with being too accurate is what got it canceled, though. Just after two seasons, HBO pulled the plug, stating that it’s 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’s on a quest to find killers of his wife. On his way, he comes across the transcontinental railroad project, connecting the Wild West to the Eastern side. He gets involved in it, only to make matters 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 Silver from the beginning. It chronicles both their lives as they become some of the most feared pirates of all time.
Those who watched the first few episodes and gave up on it missed out on one of the best fictional dramas of all time. It can feel flashy in the beginning but becomes a better show by the 4th episode. The first season is decent, second topples it, and the third absolutely nailed it! If anything, Flint and his crew's adventures get more daring with every season.
Toby Stephens breaths new life to Flint's character with his seal of authenticity. Zach McGowen’s portrayal of Charles Vane isn't far behind either. You might think he’s a bad guy. In the later episodes, though, you realize that he is the most badass pirate in the show. In contrast, there are a few other characters you’d 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 10 episodes per season, 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 survived on a network channel for three full seasons. Trust me; it’s better than most of the premium TV shows popping left and right.
The chemistry between Wills and Hannibal, two central characters in the show, is something you have to witness first hand. They both know one of them would kill the other sooner rather than later. Still, they spend time together like nothing has happened, realizing 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 just after 3 seasons. While it was praised all around the world, it never quite brought the numbers. The silver lining is, you still have three brutal, violent season 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 road, Da Vinci’s Demons chronicles the life of Leonardo Da Vinci, a genius, who had extraordinary inventions credited to his name. The story focuses on his mid-20s adventures as he was trying to shape the future of the world.
Again, this is one of the series that takes some liberties and almost revamps the whole history in favor of a snappy story and a flamboyant protagonist. It’s not a documentary on Vinci’s life. If you’re looking to dig up 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 set-pieces to eccentric storylines, Da Vinci’s Demons comes out all-guns-blazing right from the very first episode and never lets up the pace.
This show takes liberties with the King Arthur’s legend and 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 the 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, shedding light on the mischievous childhood of King Arthur.
This retake on 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.
11. The Borgias
The Borgias follows the story of Rodrigo Borgia, a cunning patriarch who came to power in Italy, thanks to his ruthlessness and diplomacy.
Compared to shows like Spartacus or Game of Thrones, The Borgias takes its time to get going. The first few episodes lay the groundwork for the fireworks to come. The fans of Spartacus series will feel right at home as sex, violence, and gore become a common theme.
The first season stays within the confines of the family, never attempting to explore the renaissance era beyond that. Wisely enough, the second season expands beyond Rodrigo Borgia's quest to attain papacy, exploring the politics and scheming of that era.
12. The Tudors
From their even, bright teeth to well-groomed beards, it feels as if hygiene was the utmost concern in the Tudors’ regime. People taking the mickey out of this fictional historical drama need to understand that it’s not a documentary - it never meant to be. A show doesn’t have to be faithful to history, just because it’s based upon it. And faithful The Tudors certainly is not.
Its inaccuracies and liberties aside, The Tudors undoubtedly is one of the most underrated drama on the small screen. With tons of blood, gore, violence, and some invigorating drama on offer, The Tudors cements its place as one of the best shows like Spartacus.
Once you’re done watching above shows, you should give The Last Kingdom, Legend of The Seeker, and Boardwalk Empire a shot. Did I miss out on any good shows? Let me know in the comments section.