Top 10 Gritty Shows Like 'The Handmaid’s Tale' That'll Hook You Instantly

Updated on June 25, 2020
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Rahul is a TV addict who can't get enough of twisted, gasp-inducing shows like "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Black Mirror".

What Series Are Like The Handmaid's Tale?

Hulu has been on a roll lately with its original shows, delivering one hit after the other. With series like 11.22.63, The Path, and now The Handmaid’s Tale, its reputation as a streaming giant has elevated to new heights. As a result, people have been paying more attention now whenever rumors or news of a new Hulu show surfaces.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a dark, depressing tale taking the audience to a dystopian future where the US is taken over by a deranged fundamentalist group, leading to chaos and mayhem that soon befalls the whole country. It’s worth engrossing yourself in its twisted and disgusting affairs because the good days are right at the end of the tunnel, or at least we hope so.

I could sing praises of this show’s delightful disparity all day, but I don’t suppose you’re here for that. If you’ve stumbled upon this piece, it's probably because you’re looking for shows like The Handmaid’s Tale while you agonizingly wait for its next season. Let’s cut to the chase. I have got your fix.

Shows Similar to The Handmaid's Tale

  1. Black Mirror
  2. The Leftovers
  3. Outlander
  4. Game of Thrones
  5. Harlots
  6. The Man in the High Castle
  7. Killing Eve
  8. 3%
  9. The Americans
  10. Alias Grace

1. Black Mirror

Did you love the dystopian mayhem in The Handmaid’s Tale? Black Mirror will give you the same dark, twisted vibe as you binge through its neatly crafted episodes.

Each episode packs a different story, starting as a normal, everyday opera, only to somehow morph into a harrowing nightmare by the end. The pacing and acting are so consistent that you can’t help but wonder, how something as nice can be turned into this dark, suffocating material. That's the beauty of it.

Do pay attention to its satirical undertone or you’ll miss the whole point. Since everything takes place in the near future, the stories are believable, and it works in favor of this show as it’s like peeking into the inevitable fate of humanity.

The realization that the various outrageous themes of this show could easily be our reality adds to the paranoia and dread. These paralyzing thoughts will be a common occurrence as the showrunners seem to know how to pit the audiences against their own demons. Black Mirror is one of a kind experience, without a doubt. Head on over to Netflix and devour the whole thing. Embrace its darkness, and try not to get depressed.

Every episode is knitted with utmost care, punctuated with horror and satire. By the end of your binge, you’ll be compelled to give some serious thought about the kind of world we’re living in.

2. The Leftovers

Created by Mimi Leder, The Leftovers is another thought-provoking show taking you on a ride of a wide range of emotions. I have never watched a show with such a precise blend of sorrow and joy. It’s hard not to love this show for its daring, off the rails storylines that seem over-the-top, yet so relatable and believable.

Do you remember Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) from The Handmaid’s Tale? Of course, you do. After June, The Handmaid’s Tale’s protagonist, Lydia is among the few who leaves a long-lasting impression on the viewers. Ann once again doesn’t disappoint in her role of a deranged cult member, bringing a sense of authority and authenticity.

The plot follows the disappearance of the world’s 2% population. One moment they were there, and then they vanished, forever. The Leftovers is more about capturing people’s plight as they struggle to come to terms with the fact that their loved ones aren’t coming back. The show takes place three years after this ‘sudden departure.’ Things have settled since then, more or less. Questions, however, haven’t. Its bleakness and disparity are sometimes unbearable, as it triggers a storm of emotions every time you binge it.

Strangely, even as everything seems lost, there is always a feeling of hope and positivity, possibly because of serene background score that works like a band-aid for viewers.

Ever wonder how people can cry and laugh at the same time? How is it possible for an entertainment medium to evoke two conflicting emotions at once? About time you experienced it for yourself! Keep the tissue papers ready. You will need it.

3. Outlander

Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novel of the same name, Outlander is currently the best period drama on TV, period(see what I did there?). Much of its outlandish time-traveling sequences ask for a suspension of disbelief, but it remains intriguing even in its weirdest of moments.

As someone who’s pulled a few all-nighters to finish the books, I know how difficult and demanding it must have been to bring this fictional historical piece to the small screen. From time travel, war, to romance, the story moves at a breathtaking pace in the books, taking its sweet time to get into the nitty-gritty of things. The show, however, omits some details in favor of a more action-oriented, evenly-paced drama.

Claire, our protagonist, calmly swings back and forth between the two timeliness, is a composed heroine, who knows how to deal with wars and its villains. She doesn’t turn her back on the face of tragedies, facing them head-on. As the show takes twisted, and sometimes, suffocating turns, her gumption and determination rub on the viewers as well. Even in its darkest moments, there is an uncanny serenity - something you must witness first hand.

If you’re looking for an unpredictable show like The Handmaid’s Tale where the plot changes on a dime, Outlander won’t disappoint you. Even if you’ve read the books, don’t miss out on this gem of a show. While you’re at it, check out some similar shows to Outlander that will blow you away.

4. Game of Thrones

While seven kingdoms of Westeros engage in brutal wars and skirmishes to get to the Iron Throne and rule everyone, something sinister lurks beyond the walls, waiting for the right moment to strike and spread the darkness.

Game of Thrones has been entertaining over the course of seven seasons so far. Even in its weakest of moments, the show is head and shoulders above the horde when it comes to the entertainment value.

This is not your usual fantasy drama. If you’ve read Martin’s novels, upon which this series is based, you already know the disconcerting territories it ventures into. GOT introduces you to incest, politics, sex, and love, in just the first episode. Guess what’s coming next?

The good guys you root for wind up in a ditch, most of the times. Despite taking place in a fantastical land where dragons and magic are a reality, the show’s cruelly dark storylines often mirror the real-life unfairness and cruelty. And as Cersei, one of the most hated characters of this show, rightly puts it “Money is power.”

Yes, the series is gloomy, and at times difficult to stomach, but undoubtedly some of the finest TV on offer. If you’re in love with shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones won’t disappoint you.

A lot has happened in Game of Thrones in the last 7 seasons. Hunker down in a safe place, and catch up with everything. Winter is coming!

5. Harlots

Harlots takes us back to the 18th century London, where two adjacent brothels are engaged in a manipulative war with each other to get a larger piece of the pie of the market.

Think The Handmaids Tale with the gender role reversed. Men aren’t in charge here, these harlots are, who engage in scheming and other shameful shenanigans to move up in the order. The ruthless competition leads to a lot of drama, revenge, and some blood spilling, which is worth your time.

There’s nudity, tons of it, and seldom any of it is pretty. Most of the times, you’ll be staring a man’s fat bum as he thrusts with all his might. Painted a pretty picture, haven’t I?

Harlots truly shines when it comes to storytelling, flashing out every character’s story in detail while keeping the overarching plot moving at the same time. Maintaining a balance between backstories and the main storyline can be a challenge for a TV show, but Harlots handles it well, giving both facets appropriate screen time.

6. The Man in the High Castle

Ever wondered how things would have turned out had Nazis won the second world war? The entire world order would be different. This show takes this nightmarish idea and molds it into one of the most poignant and resonating storylines you’ll witness on small screen.

The Man in the High Castle doesn’t delve into the details of what happened during the Second World War. The haunting images in the opening scenes perfectly outline everything in the best way possible, leaving everything else to your imagination.

Events depicted in this show aren’t plausible, but we’re talking about a fictional show here. The moment you begin to doubt its authenticity and start hunting for potholes in what is otherwise a breathtaking show, it loses its appeal, instantly.

This show is not meant for binging. There’s so much going on in an episode, especially with subtle references, that wrapping your head around everything can be an arduous exercise. Give it time, and let the alternate reality sink in. Forget about historical accuracy for a few moments, and enjoy this gem of a show.

7. Killing Eve

In the era of dark, depressing shows, a dose of Killing Eve is just what the doctor ordered. Add this show to your binge list. It will come in handy for when you want to cheer yourself up a little bit. No, it’s not a sitcom or satire. The deadpan humor will induce a few chuckles here and there, but cloaked in its dry humor, lies a twisted cat and mouse game between a serial killer and an investigator.

Created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, this suspense drama refuses to play by the rules. Instead, this female-centric series writes its own rules, breaking the old stereotypes as it races to the end of what might be one of the best first seasons of a TV drama in a while.

Killing Eve doesn’t take much time to get going. It introduces us to Villanelle, a likable, cold-hearted killer in the first few seconds, as she shows irreverence and ruthlessness, even with a cute little kid, who just smiled and waved back at her. This is just a beginning of a series of dramatic, outlandish, and sometimes, cartoonish mayhem to follow. If you enjoy that little sadistic scene, you’ll love the guilty-pleasures of Killing Eve.

It’s knowingly absurd, even in the bleakest of moments. Its weirdness is more like a lever to progress the overarching plot forward. Despite its capriciousness, the show manages to retain its dark tone.

8. 3%

There is no dearth of dystopian shows on TV. Most of them, however, gun for the title of most depressing shows on offer. From Alias Grace to Black Mirror, every show has its own unique way of telling its depraving tales. This Brazilian Netflix original, however, takes a refreshing approach to the tried and tested formula, bringing an uplifting, intriguing piece of drama that’s being devoured everywhere, except in the West.

While it brings nothing new to the table, it still is an intriguing tale that’ll hook you instantly. All its episodes brim with life and permeate with diversity with each episode focusing on a separate character. As the show progresses further, everyone’s backstories are flashed out, making audiences connect to them better.

The first season felt a little lackluster, mainly because it was playing coy with the details. Obviously, this Netflix original is gearing up for a long haul. The second season answers some of the lingering questions and raises a few more. Here is hoping that the third season keeps up the momentum!

9. The Americans

Created by Joe Weisberg, The Americans is a period piece taking place during the cold war at its peak. With spies from both sides infiltrating the highest of ranks in respective countries, it provides the showrunners a perfect canvas to show their creativity while not straying too far from the ghastly reality.

The story follows two Russian spies living in the 80s America, playing cat and mouse with the government. One of their few friends, an FBI officer, lives right next to them with no idea about the storm brewing right under his nose. When he starts probing into their seemingly normal life, the fissures crack open.

The Americans is one of the best spy thrillers to air on TV. Since we know how the Cold War panned out, you’d think that it would be predictable, and this is where you are mistaken. All its six seasons are nail-biters. Once you start binging, you’d want to finish it in a few sittings. It might take some time to get going, especially in the first season. Stick to it, and reap the rewards of your patience.

10. Alias Grace

Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel of the same name, Alias Grace takes us back to the 18th century and puts us in the shoes of Grace Marks, a domestic servant who has been accused of two murders and sentenced to prison for life.

The miniseries toys with the idea of her being innocent and guilty. Years later, when she meets a doctor, she is compelled to recall her past and finally tell her side of the story. And then it all begins. A simple story slowly takes a sister turn as we learn more about her past. Perhaps she’s telling the truth or just amusing the doctor and herself with a tale concocted in her demented head.

Whatever the case is, it’s terrifying to the core, especially at the end where she pours wickedness and trickery into the mix. We’re seeing everything from her eyes, as she witnessed, or probably made them up. How much of her narrative is true? You be the judge.

Sarah Gordon’s performance as Grace Marks evokes sympathy, suspicion, and increasing dread, all at the same time - a testimony to her incredible acting. She’s playing in the biggest of leagues!

Although it takes some liberties, this adaptation stays faithful to the original material. The way everything is brought to life in such meticulous detail is nothing short of incredible.

As both The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace use source materials of the same author, the inevitable comparisons, however unfair they may be, will be drawn. Alias Grace doesn’t have the flair and narrative smoothness of The Handmaid’s Tale, but this mini-series has a few sneaky tricks up its sleeve. Since it’s based on true events, it’s twice as scary as the fictional dystopia of The Handmaid’s Tale. As this psychological thriller adds a little superstition into the mix, the show evolves into something else altogether.

Did I miss out on some shows like The Handmaid's Tale? Let me know in the comments section.


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    • Cristianasmarques profile image

      Cristiana Marques 

      19 months ago from Portugal

      You made my day!!

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      19 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I've been watching Black Mirror. It's been very strange viewing, but interesting!


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