Kurt Sutter’s FX biker drama series Sons of Anarchy is one of the most popular shows of the past few years. Viewers who didn’t catch it when it was on the air have been binge-watching it on Netflix, meaning it picks up new fans every day.
Whether it’s the politics of a criminal organization they respond to or simply the engaging cast of characters, Sons of Anarchy is widely beloved. When fans get to the series finale episode, “Papa’s Goods,” they quickly start to miss the show. So, here are some similar series you’re sure to love.
Updated on July 5th, 2020 by Ben Sherlock:It’s been six years since the acclaimed series finale of Sons of Anarchy, “Papa’s Goods,” aired on FX, and it still remains one of the most popular TV shows out there. Although it’s a relic from the bygone era of broadcast television, Sons made its name as a brilliantly binge-worthy drama in the streaming age. The only downside is that when the series is over, fans are left with nothing to watch. So, we’ve added a few new entries to this list.
Airing on Sons’ own network, FX, Justified is a neo-western series adapted from the works of Elmore Leonard – particularly the short story “Fire in the Hole.” The show’s crime and western stories perfectly capture the pulpy vibes of Leonard’s work, while the cast is spectacular.
Timothy Olyphant is as charming as ever in the role of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and he has a terrific repartee with Walton Goggins, who plays the villainous Boyd Crowder.
One of the main appeals of Sons of Anarchy is its brutal violence. It’s an action-packed show that isn’t afraid to make its audience squeamish with hard-hitting fight scenes and shootouts.
A similarly action-packed show with a similar boldness is Netflix’s The Punisher, the most faithful on-screen adaptation yet of the titular vengeful Marvel Comics vigilante. Jon Bernthal is the perfect actor to bring Frank Castle to life, and anchors the series with real passion and emotional anguish.
Hand Of God
After Ron Perlman ended his stint playing Clay on Sons of Anarchy, he took the lead role in Hand of God, one of Amazon Prime’s first original series. The show only lasted for two seasons, so it’s an easy binge.
Perlman plays a character who is perhaps even more flawed than Clay: a judge who likes the bend the rules and find loopholes in the law, cheats on his wife with a call girl, and becomes convinced he can hear the voice of God after his son’s suicide attempt.
Both Sons of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire are intimate studies of a criminal organization. In Sons, it’s a biker gang in contemporary California. In Boardwalk Empire, it’s a band of bootleggers operating during the Prohibition era.
Created by The Sopranos writer Terence Winter and exec-produced by Martin Scorsese (who also directed the pilot), HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is one of the most riveting (and underrated) crime series in TV history. The star-studded cast includes recognizable faces from the big screen, like Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, and Bobby Cannavale.
Part of the fun of watching Sons of Anarchy is the multi-episode storylines in which the criminal characters are never out of the woods. Each action has consequences, and those consequences lead to further consequences, and everyone’s screwed.
The same goes for the Byrde family at the center of Netflix’s Ozark, which stars Jason Bateman as a money-laundering accountant who takes his family on the run when his business partner crosses the wrong people.
Okay, this one is cheating a little bit, because it’s a spin-off from Sons of Anarchy set in the same universe. But the only reason FX made it in the first place was so that fans who missed the flagship series would have another biker drama to watch.
What’s interesting to see is how fans who followed SAMCRO for seven seasons are able to empathize with a rival gang in the spin-off. It’ll make you question everything you thought you knew about the power balance in Charming. It follows a bunch of new characters with their own relationships and personal problems.
If what you liked in Sons of Anarchy was the complicated family dynamic and the inner workings and politics of a criminal organization, then David Chase’s mob drama The Sopranos is the show for you. It has all the illegal activities, contraband deals, FBI stings, internal betrayals, business meetings, and turf wars as Sons, swapping a California motorcycle gang for a New Jersey mafia family.
Sons of Anarchy is a lot less surreal than The Sopranos, as the latter show features as many dream sequences as Twin Peaks, but it is possibly the greatest TV series of all time, so even if you’re resistant to that kind of thing, it’ll undoubtedly hook you in.
A large part of the conflict in Sons of Anarchy came from the gang mentality and the clashes between members of a crime syndicate. It was also a very violent, very compelling, and very addictive drama series. Steven Knight’s Peaky Blinders has all of that.
It’s the story of a Birmingham gang in the early 20th century as they struggle to stay together following the outbreak and conclusion of the First World War. Just like recognizable faces like Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman starred in Sons, movie stars like Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy can be found in the cast of Peaky Blinders.
Queer As Folk
If you’re looking for a show with subject matter that’s similar to Sons of Anarchy, then Queer as Folk probably isn’t the show for you. It’s about as different from Sons of Anarchy as it could possibly be. The show focuses on the lives of three gay men living in Manchester, England.
So, it’s hardly a show about bikers and arms dealers in California. However, if your favorite part of Sons of Anarchy was the compelling lead performance by Charlie Hunnam in the role of Jax Teller, then you should definitely check out Queer as Folk, the show that gave him his start.
Hell On Wheels
AMC’s Hell on Wheels is a TV drama built around the western genre. But it’s not a western in the vein of a John Wayne movie – it’s not that clean. It’s dark, it’s violent, it’s gritty. Tonally, it’s very much in line with Sons of Anarchy, even if it takes place in a different historical period.
One of the most interesting angles in Sons of Anarchy is the fact that the characters have shaky morals. Well, the lead character in Hell on Wheels is a former Confederate soldier who fought to protect his right to own slaves in the Civil War – what’s morally shakier than that?
Not every storyline in Sons of Anarchy revolved around the drug trade – sometimes they were selling guns instead – but more vaguely, it was a show about a criminal gang that made its money in an illegal trade.
Narcos is an almost documentary-like examination of the Colombian drug trade, telling the true-to-life story of the Escobar enterprise and the DEA’s struggle to bring it down. Just like the titular biker gang in Sons, Escobar’s cartel got away with its crimes by giving back to the community, and being revered rather than feared. In this sense, Narcos is basically real-life Sons of Anarchy.
The Bastard Executioner
Shortly after Sons of Anarchy ended, creator Kurt Sutter was given another series order by FX. His follow-up was an action-packed historical series called The Bastard Executioner. This show might seem vastly different from Sons of Anarchy, but it has the same badass characters, graphic violence, and fast-paced storytelling – all of the hallmarks of Sutter’s work – to make it the perfect show for any fan of Sons.
The series’ hook is the moral complexity of its lead character’s job (sound familiar?). It only lasted one season due to low ratings, but if you liked Sutter’s first series, you’re bound to like his second one.
Sons of Anarchy is a show for dudes about dudes. It’s about dudes who ride motorcycles and sell guns to other dudes. If your favorite aspect of the show was this masculine, testosterone-driven excitement, then check out Prison Break.
It’s about a dude who gets himself sent to prison with a bunch of other dudes so that he can break out another dude, his brother. The show loses the plot a little bit after the second season, as it jumps across the globe and the characters are pursued by a mysterious organization called “the Company,” but it’s always an action-packed thrill-ride.
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter actually cut his teeth in the television game as a writer on Shawn Ryan’s own FX crime series The Shield. It’s a cop drama, but it’s the opposite of every cop drama you’ve ever seen. Instead of telling the story of the cops who work valiantly in the pursuit of justice, The Shield tells the story of a dirty cop who works illicitly in the pursuit of money.
Hawaii Five-0 this ain’t. If Sons is FX’s answer to HBO’s The Sopranos, then The Shield is FX’s answer to The Wire. The Shield is just as bleak in its portrayal of police corruption as The Wire, but it’s much easier to follow, much more action-packed, and much pulpier in its dialogue.
Sons of Anarchy is part of a larger movement on the small screen that is being referred to as the “Golden Age of Television.” These are cinematic shows that transcend the confines of TV and feel more like really long movies that have been cut into smaller segments and broadcast on a TV network.
The peak of this “Golden Age of Television” is unquestionably Breaking Bad. It set the template: a flawed leading man with a protégé and a troubled marriage, the rise and fall of a criminal enterprise, and a bunch of secrets being kept between a family – and it’s all punctuated by fantastic acting.