What comes to mind when you think of ‘Spartacus’? Sex? Blood and Gore? Sultry Roman women? Or sweaty, stout men with Herculean builds? Perhaps all of these traits would only form the skeleton of the tremendously popular TV show. Based on a historical figure that was Spartacus, the renowned gladiator who rebelled against the powerful Roman Empire, along with some of his companions, the tv series has successfully managed to keep us engrossed and glued to our television screens. Although most of the tv show has been dramatized and the ensuing events are mostly fictional in nature, perhaps the only things that have been retained are the extremes – of sex, violence, and gore. And maybe to a certain extent, explicit nudity.
From Season 1, ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ through Season 2 which was called ‘Spartacus: Vengeance’ and the finale Season 3 named ‘Spartacus: War of the Damned’, we witnessed ‘Spartacus’ evolve and become even the more powerful with each passing episode. Though there was some hiatus related to the casting of the lead actor, with a spin-off coming through mid-way, the tv show concluded as we had expected of it. If we keep the bloodshed and the violence aside, the series also heavily emphasizes on the political setup in the European society of the time.
By the means of this list, we bring to you some equally enjoyable, thrilling tv shows (and maybe even more) which would rekindle your love for TV shows like ‘Spartacus’. Here’s the list of TV shows similar to Spartacus that are our recommendations. You can stream some of these TV shows like Spartacus on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime. We’ve tried to include such series which have a fair share of battle scenes, blood spillages, gore, sex, and a hell lot of thrill. Rest assured, you won’t be missing your beloved television series ever again. Here goes,
13. Merlin (2008-2012)
We have all heard the phrase “Merlin’s Beard!”. ‘Merlin’ tries to bring the charm and the magic of the revered warlock on screen, and it doesn’t fail us at the outset. The tv show retells Merlin’s adventures, wherein he has to take up the reins and help protect a kingdom, save the prince, and also revive the magic that once prevailed therein. Replete with historical (although mostly fictional) portrayals, magic, treacherous twists, and dragons, this tv show does bear some degree of similarity with ‘Spartacus’. A potentially promising series, with a weaker cast.
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12. The Borgias (2011-2013)
A series depicting the rise and rise of the Borgia family to the zenith of the papacy, their incessant power struggle, and their philosophical battles among allies and nemeses alike, some steamy sex scenes among plots and killings, ‘The Borgias’ is mostly reminiscent of ‘Game of Thrones’ in a softer, more accommodating way, though its resemblance with ‘Spartacus’ is even the more convincing. ‘The Borgias’ has now been cancelled after 3 seasons, yet, its impact remains and so does the cliffhanger that left us wondering at the end of its third season. And P.S. – Jeremy Irons is unmissable as Rodrigo Borgia.
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11. The Last Kingdom (2015-Present)
With a near-successful two-season run and currently been renewed for its third season, ‘The Last Kingdom’ might pretty well be walking the steps of ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Vikings’. With similar references like seven kingdoms and many characters resembling the Vikings of lore, ‘The Last Kingdom’ follows the tale of Uhtred, the Saxon leaders, the Ragnars, and circles around slavery, violence, revenge killings, the contests for power, and the invasions. Even though ‘The Last Kingdom’ does possess the knack to look upon ‘Game of Thrones’ as its precursor, yet can develop in an unprecedented way to become much more.
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10. Marco Polo (2014-2016)
One of the costliest Netflix’ series based on the famed Italian explorer and his time spent in the court of Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire, ‘Marco Polo’ is the story of the explorer’s loyalty and fealty to Kublai Khan as a war looms on his empire and he has to confront a power strife against his own brother. While the story depicts Marco Polo’s rise from being a prisoner to a trusted aide of Kublai Khan, it also highlights Marco Polo’s love interests, his ingenuity, and his able mindedness in the times of need. A decent effort if you’re okay with some brilliant production design, costlier setups, good visual cosmetics, along with an about average storyline. On a parting note, yeah, the king kinda looks funny.
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9. The Tudors (2007-2010)
One can easily draw parallels between ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Spartacus’ without much effort. With a four-season long run and centred around King Henry VIII of England in the 14th Century, ‘The Tudors’ follows the regular turmoils of a King and his Kingdom – political unrest, corruption, changing allegiances, wars, diseases, miseries, and deaths. Among all, ‘The Tudors’ indicates at a rough era braved by the ancestors of the present Monarch of England, starting from Elizabeth I. ‘The Tudors’ though is compelling in terms of its story, the scale is much smaller than what was expected of such a series, which undermines it to a larger extent. Also, the bewitching Natalie Dormer is to watch out for.
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8. Da Vinci’s Demons (2013-2015)
The opening credits of ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ remains one of my favourites for a tv show, after ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Under the Dome’. Revolving around the genius inventor, philanthropist Leonardo da Vinci in the 14th century Italy, this David S. Goyer’s series is a captivating watch, at least for a couple of seasons. The series begins with a young Leonardo and his weird, unusual inventions, his inner struggles, his initial setbacks, his love interests and quests to uncover the secrets of the Book of Leaves, and his allegiance in shaping the history of Rennaissance in Italy. Though the series becomes more complicated with cults and fantasy quests coming in its later seasons, it still retains the charm of medieval Europe and has beautifully (although fictionally) portrayed the hypothesized life and times of Leonardo da Vinci.
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7. Black Sails (2014-2017)
Perhaps the only worthwhile tv series on pirates so far, ‘Black Sails’ focus in its entirety on a high-profile treasure hunt (as with any pirate-related representations), the struggle to retain it, with many other players, pirate vessels, naval commands, and hidden secrets coming to the fore. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel ‘Treasure Island’ the series revolves around Captain Flint, the protagonist and a former naval officer who has turned to piracy. The entire story has been beautifully wrapped around that of Captain Flint’s and has ample references to bloodshed, assassinations, power shifts, and the never-ending lust for treasure.
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6. Rome (2005-2007)
The fall and fall of Julius Caesar, his demise, followed by the rise of an Octavian to become Augustus, the first Roman emperor, ‘Rome’ has all the elements of a historical television drama with the necessary twists, shocks, and edge-of-the-seat moments. What’s most impressive about the show was the historical accuracy, the apt portrayal of fall of Rome, the usual blood and its gory moments for dramatization, and the tragic conclusion. ‘Rome’ is although a road less travelled, it surely was extremely promising in its guise.
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5. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
The Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy award-winning series ‘Boardwalk Empire’ is often touted as the most historically accurate series of all time. Set in the 1920s of New Jersey, the story revolves around a treasurer and a political figure of the Atlantic City Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, who is the mastermind of all the corruption and is liaisoning with gangsters and crooks alike while playing innocent and morally upright in public’s view during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s and 1930s. The ensemble cast, the well-layered performances, Martin Scorsese’s involvement in the series, breathtaking plot, violence, impeccable screenplay, and one hell of a power struggle constitute the ingredients of this critically and commercially successful venture. What’s more to ask, when we have a better, albeit a modern and a more engrossing version of ‘Spartacus’, eh?
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4. True Blood (2008-2014)
Yep, it is all covered in blood, although in a slightly different way. This epic, seven-season long TV series revolves around Anna Paquin as Sookie, in a world where Vampires and synthetic blood is completely acceptable, and the Vampires have fast-forwarded to fighting for their own rights instead of looking for humans or animals to prey upon. As the series progresses, Sookie tries to find her way out of the weird happenstances around her and she falls for a vampire, thus changing the dynamics of her ecosystem even further. With ample steamy sequences, bordering on homosexual stereotypes and some good amount of violence, ‘True Blood’ is the present-day alternative of ‘Spartacus’.
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3. Vikings (2013-Present)
Now to the touted series of the intimidating Norsemen (or rather, Norse Gods) of the Scandinavia, with Ragnar Lothbrok in the lead, ‘Vikings’ is mostly ‘Spartacus’, sparing the geographical and mythological differences. Though again consisting of many fictional additions and leaving very less to the history or to viewers’ imagination, ‘Vikings’ highlights the expanses of the Vikings empire, the sieges on the lands of France and British regions, and the attacks they led on their adversaries, their religious, social and political inclinations and most importantly, the valour and righteousness of the people belonging to the dark ages. Though ‘Vikings’ lacks the sexual portrayals to a larger extent when compared with the likes of ‘Spartacus’, it still is relatable in terms of its steady script, the feudal struggles and the copious amounts blood splashing all around.
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2. House of Cards (2013-Present)
Had it not been mired in all the controversies, ‘House of Cards’ promised us the potential to be one of the greatest tv shows of all the time. The chilling and edgy demeanour of Congressman and later the 46th US President Frank Underwood is enough to get us riling with anger and gritting our teeth in retaliation. Frank’s wife, Claire also shares his conniving, unending thirst for power and as the series progresses, Frank adopts all kinds of resorts to put an end to his arch nemeses and to attain the level of the POTUS, which he does at the onset of season three. Murders, sexual advances, political betrayals, and a deep, dark undertone form the core of this acclaimed series, with enough moments to send a chill down your spine.
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1. Game of Thrones (2011-Present)
This was an easy guess, the favourite tv series that ever was and will be. Notwithstanding the popularity surrounding it, if one looks at the coherence, dramatization, dialogues, music and the storyline first hand, there’s a clear winner among all the tv shows out there. Not only ‘Game of Thrones’ has set new standards for other tv shows with each passing episode, it also has created new benchmarks for itself and has been sitting atop those benchmarks with an inexplicable ease. Surrounding a volley of characters, primarily Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Arya Stark, Sansa Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen, ‘Game of Thrones’ is the epitome of all power struggles leading to a single Iron Throne and numerous takers, with all the stories interwoven in such intricate and impeccable manner that it wouldn’t be possible for one to choose sides at any juncture. Not to mention the sudden, shocking deaths, the breathtaking battle scenes (worthy to mention ‘Battle of the Bastards’, ‘The Spoils of War’ etc.), the double standards, the political implications, the fantasy, the gore, and the unfathomable character-depths. ‘Game of Thrones’ has always been more than a mere television show, a phenomenon. And the television series of the century in making. Fingers crossed.
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