When it comes to the hierarchy of TV shows, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos are at the very top of the food chain. Though the two crime series are very different, as one is about a desperate civilian who is forced into crime and the other is about a man who was born into the life of crime, there are still a ton of similarities.
The similarities mostly lie in the quality that is put into the shows, as they both look great, both have incredibly well-told narratives, and both shows feature the apex of acting on TV. But they also share some through lines too, such as the protagonists’ relationships with their families, the way they keep the audiences guessing, and their polarizing endings.
Breaking Bad: Creative Narratives
The Sopranos has some incredible narratives surrounding its characters, but as they are generally character studies and completely grounded in reality, the creativity pales in comparison to Breaking Bad’s insane take on the criminal underbelly of Albuquerque.
Breaking Bad is full of brilliantly constructed sequences, such as the train heist and the moving meth lab, and it’s full of incredible plot twists.
The Sopranos: True To The Location
Breaking Bad’s Albuquerque is almost a character in itself, as one of the best things about the show is all of its panoramic vistas of the desert. However, with The Sopranos being based in New Jersey, the location isn’t just a backdrop.
It actually influences everything about the show, from the characters’ vernacular and local dialect to their upbringing. And though New Mexico looks great, it doesn’t exactly have that influence over the show.
Breaking Bad: Unique Characters
With every character of The Sopranos acting typically New Jersey-like and having been brought up there their whole lives, there’s very little difference between their decisions and the way they act. However, when it comes to Breaking Bad, there are so many different walks of life crawling around the world.
Whether it’s the criminal lawyer with a camp flare, a scumbag meth dealer who cares greatly for kids, or an alpha male DEA agent breaking bread with the very drug lord he’s trying to track down, the show is filled to the brim with colorful characters.
The Sopranos: Realistic Depiction
Though it has made for some great story arcs in Breaking Bad and as realistic as the show started out, it’s unarguable that the Vince Gilligan helmed show is pretty unrealistic, even if it has spawned a bunch of copycat Heisenbergs.
On the flip side, The Sopranos couldn’t be any more realistic, as every choice that every character makes is calculated and measured, and any wrong choice a character makes has similarly realistic repercussions. And though the therapy sessions being unnecessary is one of the unpopular Reddit opinions about the show, they have been praised by real life therapists for their accuracy.
Breaking Bad: Expansive World
The Sopranos rarely strays outside of New Jersey, and though the show certainly doesn’t need to veer outside the crossroads of the east, Breaking Bad seems globe-trotting in comparison. The world of Breaking Bad is vast.
Not only does it literally veer far out of Albuquerque, but it creates a whole universe of unique criminals and corrupt companies, such as Madrigal. Gus Fring’s whole operation in season four is so all-encompassing that it has even expanded into Better Call Saul.
The Sopranos: The Acting
The acting from both camps is incredible and the performances in both shows are what any actor should strive for. But when it comes to Breaking Bad, the further away from Bryan Cranston the narrative gets, the less impressive the performances are.
However, the acting in The Sopranos is top tier across the board, whether it’s Tony’s crew or the guest appearances from Steve Buscemi and others. Even the child acting is great.
Breaking Bad: It’s More Exciting
Whether it was attempting to murder 10 inmates in different prisons in the space of two minutes or his game of chess with Gus Fring in the final episodes of season four, Breaking Bad has never failed to excite audiences.
Even though excitement wasn’t the drive of The Sopranos, the gangster show is extremely subdued compared to Breaking Bad, and even the big event between Tony and the FBI, which the series kept eluding to and teasing, never happened.
The Sopranos: Involves More Of The Family
The biggest problem with Breaking Bad is that Walter’s family just sat there looking all glum while they were left in the dark about what Walt was up to. The Sopranos heavily involved all of Tony’s family, and it all made sense. Tony’s son started committing crimes as he was influenced by what he saw of his father, his daughter struggled with her father’s career choices, and his wife denounced being a mob wife, but only when it suited her.
There was so much family drama going on in The Sopranos that Tony had to deal with alongside his mobster duties, whereas Walter’s family is just brushed to the side.
Breaking Bad: Cinematography
There’s no denying that the way Breaking Bad looks gives even the most beautiful movies ever made a run for their money. Between the deserted vistas, the contrasting colors, the warped looking time-lapses, and even the camera being attached to an upturned spade, the way the show looks is so captivating.
Even when it comes to the montages of Jesse and Walt cooking crystal meth, the show is jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
The Sopranos: The Ending
Though there are many reasons why it’s the perfect series finale, Breaking Bad’s last episode was never going to satisfy everyone, as every fan had their very own theory on how it was going to end. Because the show was so tightly wrapped up and tried to satisfy everybody, it was a little too neat.
However, the ending to The Sopranos is still being discussed today, as it was left open-ended and is the subject of loads of fan theories.