The final episode of Game Of Thrones aired more than three months ago… and we’re still waiting for a worthy replacement. HBO has confirmed it has several spin-offs planned but these won’t be appearing for another year or more. There’s also a Lord Of The Rings series, Netflix’s The Witcher and an adaptation of The Wheel Of Time to look forward to. But what about right now?
To help fill that Viserion-sized hole in your life, we’ve assembled a list of 20 TV shows and movies that share similar themes and motifs to Game Of Thrones. Whether you loved the show for its gritty realism, dark magic, political backstabbing or gratuitous nooky, you’ll find a suitable substitute below.
Most of these TV shows and movies are available on streaming services and iTunes/Google Play. We’ve also included links to Amazon Australia for those who prefer to own physical copies.
A note on our selection criteria: You may notice that some of our choices are not from the fantasy genre. This was deliberate. The beauty of Game of Thrones is that it has the scope and complexity of a meticulously researched historical drama. (Indeed, George R. R. Martin originally toyed with having no magic in the series at all, but eventually changed his mind so he could throw in some dragons.) We’ve subsequently widened our net to include fictional works set in the real world, from Ancient Rome to Medieval Europe. Basically, as long as it contains swords, highly compelling characters and lashings of sex and/or violence, we considered it fair game!
TV Shows that are like Game of Thrones
Some consider Rome to be a forerunner to HBO’s Game Of Thrones, laying much of the groundwork for large-scale period TV drama. Beginning with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul and ending with his nephew’s rise to power, Rome proved that TV could be every bit as epic as cinema. The show features a sprawling cast of characters who are constantly forging alliances and double-crossing each other as they strive to consolidate power. (Sound familiar?)
There are also plenty of shock deaths for people who don’t know their history – by the last episode, practically everyone is sailing up the river Styx. Because this is a HBO series, there are one or two wholly gratuitous sex scenes per episode; just like another show we could mention.
Watch it if: you enjoy GoT’s complex diplomacy and bloody betrayals.
Loosely based on the Scandinavian epics Ragnars saga Loðbrókar and Ragnarssona þáttr, Vikings follows the masculine adventures of Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok; a real-life historical figure whose exploits became legendary in Medieval Europe. Vikings is mostly shot on location in Ireland which lends an epic, cinematic feel to proceedings. It also shares many of the same themes that make Game Of Thrones great, including sibling rivalry, the personal cost of ambition and a hero’s heart in conflict with itself.
Watch it if: House Greyjoy was your favourite family on GoT.
Spartacus is like Game Of Thrones‘s dumber, sexier sibling. Inspired by the titular Thracian gladiator who led a slave revolt against Ancient Rome in 73 BC, the show is equal parts Gladiator, Game of Thrones and 300. The sex and violence is laughably stylised and the whole thing threatens to descend into a music video at times – but those who persevere will be rewarded by the story and characters. Spartacus ran for four seasons and is well worth checking out if you need a guilty pleasure.
Watch it if: you like ogling GoT’s ripped warriors.
The Borgias is a historical melodrama about Italy’s most infamous family. Set during the Renaissance, the show follows the debauched, bloody exploits of the titular Borgias who allegedly hosted orgies in the Vatican palace, practiced incest and murdered multiple rivals at court. (In other words, they were essentially real-life Lannisters.)
The show plays fast and loose with historical accuracy, but that only makes it more fun. The series includes a few tragic deaths and some excellently choreographed battle scenes — everything that a Game Of Thrones fan needs, really. It also benefits hugely from the thespian talents of Jeremy Irons as Pope Alexander VI.
Watch it if: House Lannister is your favourite GoT family. You monster.
Before George R R Martin’s Game Of Thrones was published, the biggest franchise in fantasy fiction was the Sword Of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. In 2008, the books were adapted into a TV show by Sam Raimi who produced two seasons before its untimely cancellation.
Legend Of The Seeker follows the adventures of Richard Cypher; a simple farm boy who embarks on a perilous quest to overthrow an evil wizard who turns out to be his daddy. In other words, it’s a shameless rip-off of Star Wars/The Lord of The Rings; complete with a princess to rescue and an old magical mentor who shows our hero the ropes. Shot on location in New Zealand, the show isn’t a patch on Game Of Thrones but it’s probably the best fantasy series this side of Xena: Warrior Princess.
Watch it if: you wish GoT was a bit more like Dungeons & Dragons.
Remember the Game of Thrones episode that opened on Ian McShane leading a group of cheerful peasants building a sept? That scene (and the more violent one that follows) is basically Pillars Of The Earth in a nutshell, right down to the casting of McShane. The eight part miniseries is an adaptation of the Ken Follet book of the same name. Its central plot revolves around the building of an ambitious Gothic cathedral, though the series follows everyone from the lowliest worker to the multiple claimants to the throne of England as they struggle and fight for power.
Watch it if: you like the depictions of medieval society in GoT.
In this series, GoT’s very own Margaery Tyrell (AKA Natalie Dormer) got her start playing a similarly scheming Boleyn girl, we’d be remiss to skip this one twice. Like a lot of the shows on this list it makes history sexy, bringing us a Henry VIII that’s a little different from the fat old man we recognise from his portraits. The four-season series follows the political and romantic intrigues of his court, introducing you to the key players of the time in a show that manages to be at least vaguely historically accurate.
Watch it if: you really miss Margaery.
Sexy history! Are we seeing a theme here yet? Da Vinci’s Demons is a semi historical, semi fantastical account of a young Leonardo Da Vinci, navigating the trials of being an eccentric genius in politically volatile Renaissance Italy. The show follows both his dealings with the powerful Medici and Pazzi families, as well as the ever-present Catholic Church. It also has a more mystical subplot involving a search for the Book Of Leaves and a mysterious cult that believes Da Vinci has the power to see the future. All of this is backgrounded by the pre-requisite historical bodice-ripping sex scenes, of course.
Watch it if: your favourite parts of GoT were set in King’s Landing.
With The Last Kingdom we move from lush, sexy history into shows that prefer to lend a gritty, bleak cast to days gone by. Set in 9th Century England, The Last Kingdom depicts the so-called ‘Heptarchy’ or seven kingdoms of ancient England. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s roughly the historical inspiration for the seven kingdoms of Westeros. The show, an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories series of novels, follows the orphaned son of a Saxon lord who has been raised by viking Danes. It’s a good one for fans of Vikings too.
Watch it if: you’re a supporter of the King in the North.
Another day, another series of historical-fantasy novels adapted for the small screen. Outlander is a time travel epic-cum-wartime drama stretched across two eras – part World War II and part 1743 Scotland. It tells the story of WWII nurse Claire Randall, who is transported back through time to the Jacobite risings while on a trip to Inverness, Scotland. It captures both the lushness and the bleakness of its historical and geographical setting, with gorgeous costumes and fierce battles aplenty.
Watch it if: you’re a fan of GoT’s complex female characters.
Movies that are like Game Of Thrones
Ironclad is an underrated historical adventure that chronicles King John’s attempts to reclaim the English throne in 1215. The film shares many of the same elements as HBO’s Thrones adaptation; particularly the award-winning Blackwater episode. There’s a motley assortment of lords, knights and brigands struggling to stay alive, brutal swordplay with copious amounts of spurting claret, an assortment of lumbering siege engines and improbably attractive commoners in ill-fitting corsets (including the fashion model Bree Condon).
The film also boasts a cameo from Charles Dance (AKA Tywin Lannister) as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Watch it if: you love GoT’s siege warfare and gritty combat.
We’d be remiss not to include 1982’s Conan The Barbarian on this list: after all, Martin has cited Robert E. Howard as a chief influence on his own writing. While Milius’ bombastic adaptation isn’t perfect, it remains the best movie version of Conan we have. If you can get past Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Austrian-oak acting, the film has a lot to offer Game Of Thrones fans – there are warring realms, exotic cultures, unknowable magic and gratuitous violence and nudity (natch).
Like HBO’s Game Of Thrones, the film benefits from a realistic, historical look thanks to on-location shooting in Europe. The swordplay and practical effects are also impressively authentic looking – real animal blood was used in many of the fight scenes. We’re not sure why it has such a hokey reputation; it’s actually a very solid movie.
Khal Drogo fans might also want to check out the 2011 remake which stars the horse lord himself; Jason Momoa. That’s your cue to start swooning, ladies.
Watch it if: you prefer GoT’s epic fantasy elements.
Starring Sean Bean (AKA Ned Stark) and Carice van Houten (AKA Melisandre), this 2010 movie almost feels like Game of Thrones fan fiction. Both actors play similar roles to their characters on GoT – Bean is a stoic knight with a strict code of honour while van Houten is a mysterious witch who may or may not be evil.
Okay, so the film is actually set in Medieval Europe during the Bubonic plague – but the nameless village where most of the action takes place might as well be in Westeros. Much like Game Of Thrones, the film keeps its supernatural elements to the sidelines, which makes for some creepy ambiguity. It also has some interesting things to say about the role of women in a patriarchal society; culminating in a bloody retribution that brings Daenerys Targarean to mind. Be warned though; this film is as bleak as its name suggests.
Watch it if: you’re a fan of GoT’s grisly death scenes.
Queen Margot, or La Reine Margot to give it it’s native title, is a 1994 French film based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas. It follows the power struggle between Catholics and Protestants in 16th century France, with the titular Margot de’ Medici used as a political pawn to forge alliances and spill bloodshed. The film looks extravagantly gorgeous (especially when Isabelle Adjani is onscreen) and the endless betrayals and intrigues are pure Game Of Thrones.
Oh, and if you thought the Red Wedding was bad, just wait until you see Margot’s nuptials which culminate in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Rob Stark got off lightly, frankly.
Watch it if: you’re a fan of GoT’s Machiavellian court intrigue.
While Ridley Scott’s Crusader epic wasn’t too well received upon release in 2005, GoT fans should definitely check it out. With huge battles, tragic romances, the rise and fall of kings and plenty of character deaths, it offers every ingredient a Thrones fan could want. If you can track it down, we recommend the director’s cut which adds a whole 45 minutes of new footage.
Watch it if: you like GoT’s gorgeous cinematography and intense battle scenes.
Another historical epic, Centurion is an imagining of what happened to the Roman Empire’s Ninth Legion when it disappeared in Caledonia in the early 2nd Century. It pits Roman soldiers against the Pictish tribes, united as one people under king Gorlacon. While its historical accuracy is questionable, it includes some badass warrior women and brutal historical violence in equal measure. If you’re still pining after Ygritte, you’ll love some of the women of Centurion.
Watch it if: you like watching the Wildlings fight.
Excalibur is a 1981 film by Deliverance director John Boorman and it’s unapologetically weird as shit. Loosely based on the Arthurian legends, the movie was shot entirely on location in Ireland using real castles. The use of misty lenses gives it a dreamlike quality not found in Game Of Thrones – but this is more than made up for by the gritty locations and bloody battle sequences.
Watch it if: you like GoT’s sword-and-sorcery elements and rugged vistas.
This Danish film starring Mads Mikkelsen as a Scandinavian warrior named One Eye, and is one of the films that gets close to the complexity of Game of Thrones’ twisting plotline. One Eye has to face a number of brutal situations from being enslaved in a cage thanks to his fierce reputation to enduring a long and difficult journey by sea to a strange land. Valhalla Rising is as brutal and unforgiving as you might expect a film about an angry caged viking might be, but its true value really comes in placing you right there in the moment with Mikkelsen’s character.
Watch it if: you’re a follower of the Drowned God.
Like many historical fantasy films of the ’80s, Ladyhawke is just a little bit camp, but that’s just part of its charm. Captain Etienne Navarre and his lover Lady Isabeau have been cursed – he must take on the form of a wolf by night, while she becomes a hawk each day. The two are helped by escaped thief Philippe Gaston, also known as The Mouse, to overthrow the corrupt Bishop of the city and in doing so, break their curse.
Watch it if: you miss Bran’s wolf-warging adventures.
Nah. I can’t back this up. But watch Krull anyway. It’s ace!
Anything we missed out on? If you’ve found your own Game Of Thrones substitute, let us know what it is in the comments section below.
This story has been updated since its original publication. Additional reporting by Hayley Williams.