clock menu more-arrow no yes
"Where are my streaming options?!" cries the Night's King.
"Where are my streaming options?!" cries the Night's King.
HBO

Manage your Game of Thrones withdrawal with one of these 17 shows

Another season of Game of Thrones has come and gone in blood, fire, and shocking twists. But as you hunker down for season six of the show to begin sometime in 2016, you may be wondering what to watch in the meantime.

Fortunately for you, we are experts of the television arts, and we've spent our time combing streaming libraries and programming listings for the series that will be perfect fits for the Thrones-size hole in your heart. In fact, we've found 17 of them.

1

The 100

The CW has become a surprising home for solid genre programming in the past several years, and this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama is the network's most fascinating dive into world-building in quite a while. It starts 100 years after nuclear war destroyed life on Earth, aboard an overcrowded space station that hopes to alleviate its burdens by sending 100 teenagers down to the surface of the radioactive planet below to see if things are safe enough to recolonize. Jaw-dropping twists and great character work follow from there.
Watch it: It's on Netflix. The third season will air on The CW sometime in 2016.

2

Banshee

Game of Thrones airs on HBO, a network known for quality television. What's less known is that HBO has a scrappy younger sibling that's started making some excellent programming of its own. Consider Banshee, for instance, a series about an ex-con who adopts the identity of the sheriff of a small town in Pennsylvania, only to find himself embroiled in a series of unlikely battles against local crime lords. (Also, the Amish are here, as is a Native American tribe.) The show has some of TV's absolute best fight scenes, and when it's on its game, it's a rocketship.
Watch it: The first season is on Amazon Prime. All three seasons are on MaxGo, Cinemax's streaming site for subscribers.

3

Batman: The Animated Series

This early 1990s cartoon broke out of every box television animation was thought to occupy, with stylish, moody stories of Gotham City and the Dark Knight that appealed to adults as much as they did to children. The show's visuals, in particular, are worth tuning in for, influenced heavily by mid-20th century styles and architecture and conjuring up a Gotham that feels like the most primal version of the city. The show also tells some terrific Batman stories, and it offers up some of the most definitive interpretations of the comic's most famous heroes and villains. Also, Mark Hamill's work as the Joker is worth watching for in and of itself.
Watch it: The series is available on Amazon Prime.

4

Black Mirror

Like nothing else on TV, Black Mirror takes the basic idea behind The Twilight Zone (a new science fiction story with new characters every week) and updates it for our age of interconnection. The prime minister of the United Kingdom might have to have sex with a pig to save the life of one of the royals. A lonely woman conjures the presence of her dead lover via his social media accounts. A reality TV show is the only salvation offered to residents of a far-future civilization. And so on. Though only seven episodes of the show exist so far, Black Mirror has easily taken a position as one of the best shows of the era.
Watch it: The series is streaming on Netflix.

5

Boardwalk Empire

It's easy to forget now, but a few months before Game of Thrones debuted, HBO debuted this 1920s-set gangster epic, which was expected to become its next mega-hit. Instead, Thrones took that position, and Boardwalk ran for a respectable five seasons before exiting the airwaves in late 2014. The time is ripe, however, to rediscover everything that made Boardwalk as good as it could be. Yes, the pacing could be a touch too stately in every season's early going, but those seasons always built to beautiful cataclysms. Plus, it was one of the few shows as unafraid as Game of Thrones of bumping off major characters.
Watch it: The first two seasons are on Amazon Prime, while the entire five-season run is on HBO Go.

6

Carnivàle

In the early 2000s, in the wake of the success of The Sopranos, HBO was greenlighting anything it thought would be interesting, even if it didn't scream "massive hit." That's how this ultra-strange, weirdly rewarding show about a traveling carnival in Great Depression America ran for two seasons that garnered a rabid cult fan base but little in the way of mainstream acceptance. The show reimagined 20th-century American history as an ancient battle between good and evil, then filtered all of that through the visuals of the great Westerns. It's legitimately like nothing else in TV history. And if you reach the end of the run and are disappointed with the abrupt ending, fear not. Creator Daniel Knauf revealed to me in 2013 what his plan for the ultimate end of the show had been.
Watch it: Both seasons are on Amazon Prime.

7

Deadwood

This critic's pick for the greatest TV series ever made, Deadwood is another show from the period when HBO was making pretty much anything it could. Like Game of Thrones, this series has dozens of series regulars and semi-regulars, but it crams all of them into one tiny town on the edge of the frontier in post–Civil War America. The show is a fantastic deconstruction of the Western, filled with some of the best dialogue in TV history and rich, rewarding character work. It also boasts an ensemble cast that's second to none and a wonderful, symbolic retelling of the birth and life of the American West. Sadly, the show was ended too soon, but don't let that keep you from its wonders.
Watch it: All three seasons are on Amazon Prime.

8

Fringe

This sci-fi cop show aired on Fox for five seasons. When it began, it seemed like a CSI ripoff with future tech and pseudoscience instead of forensics, but it slowly but surely turned into something else entirely, involving two warring factions (whose identities I wouldn't dare spoil), weird journeys into impossible worlds, and a father's love for his son having enough power to destroy the world. It occasionally struggled to make all of this coherent (especially in the later seasons), but at its best, Fringe is a headlong rush into gigantic ideas and even wilder plotting.
Watch it: The entire series is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

9

Hannibal

By all rights, the story of cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter should never have been revived. But when NBC decided to make a new series about the character, it at least had the good sense to hire showrunner Bryan Fuller, who turned the series into an examination of good, evil, and the intimacy of friendships between two men. The show has only gotten more baroque and far weirder over the course of its run, but it's also perhaps the most beautiful series on television, frequently presenting images unlike anything out there. It's a dark and twisted journey into the darkness of humanity, but it always finds ways to keep from being too overbearing.
Watch it: The first two seasons are on Amazon Prime, while the third season airs Thursdays at 10 pm Eastern on NBC.

10

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna Clarke's gorgeous 2004 novel was one of the best fantasy reads of last decade, which makes its TV miniseries adaptation a natural fit for Game of Thrones fans. Clarke's story, set during the Napoleonic Wars, imagines a Britain where magic makes a slow return, right as Britain is going off to war with France. The novel, modeled on the lightly satirical social comedies of Jane Austen, has gotten, appropriately enough, a TV adaptation that plays around with the conceits of BBC miniseries adaptations of great British novels. It's a great fit for those who want some weekend fantasy that will go down with slightly less intensity than Thrones.
Watch it: It is currently airing on BBC America on Saturdays at 9 pm Eastern. Catch up on the BBC America website.

11

Justified

On its surface, a modern cop show set in the rural backwoods of Kentucky would seem an odd recommendation for Game of Thrones fans, but this show also features deeply considered character backstories, a sprawling mythology for its universe, and frequent scenes where the characters just sit and talk for the pleasure of talking to each other. Plus, with six seasons to watch, you know you'll have plenty to take in, and you have the benefit of knowing that those six seasons tell a complete story, which ends in one of the most satisfying drama series finales of the past several years.
Watch it: The series is available on Amazon Prime.

12

The Legend of Korra

The common concern with this spinoff from the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender is that if you haven't seen the parent series, you'll have no idea what's going on. But since Korra is set many, many years after that earlier series, it has only the loosest of connections to that show, and some judicious Wikipedia searching will turn up anything else you need to know. Why watch? This is a deeply felt, shockingly vital look at a girl's coming of age, mixed with brilliant action sequences, a deep mythology, and characters whose relationships will keep you tuning in. And it ends in one of the most quietly revolutionary series finales in TV history.
Watch it: The series is available on Amazon Prime.

13

Penny Dreadful

Let's face it: The appeal of Thrones for many is the way that it gleefully flaunts the rules of TV propriety when it comes to sex and violence. And in those regards, there's not much else like it, unless you count this Showtime horror mashup, set in Victorian London and featuring some of the most famous monsters of all time. (There's Frankenstein's monster! And there's Dracula! And so on!) The show has a refreshingly egalitarian take on human sexuality, and it features more blood and gore than you could possibly prepare yourself for. All horror fans owe it to themselves to check this one out.
Watch it: The run of the show is available on Showtime's Showtime Anytime streaming app. Season two is just wrapping up on Showtime at 10 pm Eastern on Sundays.

14

Spartacus

Here's another pay cable show with ample amounts of sex and violence that somehow manages to keep either from feeling completely gratuitous. Lusty and bloody, Spartacus retells the famous story of a Roman slave revolt with pedal pressed firmly to the metal and an endless string of character and plot reversals. Plus, at just three seasons and a half-season miniseries, it's a show that most viewers can plow through in a couple of weeks, and its hyperstylized images will likely appeal to those who wish Thrones would give in, just a little bit, to its own inner weirdness.
Watch it: The complete run of the series is available on Netflix.

15

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Game of Thrones is known for its intense serialization, so fans would do well to check out the Star Trek series that best explores the period when TV was making slow inroads into telling longer, more complicated stories over many weeks. Deep Space Nine certainly has its share of standalone episodes and traditionally entertaining elements, but it also tells an epic, galaxy-spanning story of war amid the stars. It helps that the show also features some of the best characters in all of the Star Trek universe (including one played by Alexander Siddig, Game of Thrones' own Prince Doran), as well as a rich, complicated space station world that it explores every nook and cranny of over its seven-season run.
Watch it: The series is available on NetflixAmazon, and Hulu.

16

Twin Peaks

There likely wouldn't even be the kind of TV industry that could support a show like Game of Thrones without the outsider weirdness (and surprise success) of the two-season wonder Twin Peaks. The series, which follows the investigation into the death of a teenage girl in a small Pacific Northwest town, sprawls out into some of the strangest stuff ever put on television, all while anchored in a surprisingly deep mythology of good versus evil. Plus, Showtime is planning a revival of the series to air in 2016, so now is a great time to get caught up.
Watch it: The entire run of the series (so far) is available on Netflix.

17

Vikings

This is the closest thing you'll get to a direct Game of Thrones clone on this list. And perhaps surprisingly, it's a really good show! It follows the very loosely adapted exploits of the real life figure Ragnar Lothbrok. The series' exploration of his Norse world can feel, at times, like being dropped right into a fantasy universe, and his party's raids on other nearby countries have a bit of the feel of a sci-fi exploration series, with the characters encountering strange, alien societies. The show isn't as deep as Thrones, perhaps, but it's an appealing, pulpy ride and far better than anything with so straightforward a title has any right to be.
Watch it: The series is available on Amazon Prime.


Movies

What the movies of this pandemic reveal

Culture

Gabby Petito’s disappearance, and why it was absolutely everywhere, explained

The Goods

What would a healthy social media platform even look like?

View all stories in Culture