Epix’s Godfather of Harlem has developed into a true crime-drama masterpiece with the passion and experience of its stellar cast, bringing some of the biggest names in New York history to life. The show covers so many contemporary issues of 1960s America that it is almost impossible to classify it simply as a crime drama. The partnership between Bumpy Johson (Forest Whitaker) and Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) as they stand up against the oppression of African Americans creates an astonishing level of moral conflict.
Character development has seen each main character grow to resonate with the fanbase in their own way, and now fans don’t want to see the electrifying third season end. There has been no confirmation of a fourth season yet, so while waiting for the next installment of the thriller, here are other shows that every Godfather of Harlem fan will enjoy.
What it’s about: Marty Byrde is a genius financier with a perfect career in Chicago until his bosses, who were laundering money for the Navarro cartel, put him in trouble by stealing from the ruthless drug lords. Marty proposes a scheme to start laundering money from the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri to save himself and his family. Moving to the Ozarks not only enslaves the family to the cartel but also puts them in trouble with local criminal groups that don’t appreciate the entrance of the genius and his drug money.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Ozark’s main characters must survive in a murky world of violence and crime and deal with tough moral choices daily. Legal problems also hang on the shoulders of the Byrdes, just like the Johnsons, forcing them to make hard choices, some of which can be judged as evil. The action and intensity of scenes are very similar, as both shows have similarly dark themes around them, with antiheroes as lead characters. Like Bumpy, Marty’s biggest motivation to survive is his family; he will do anything to protect them.
9. Peaky Blinders
What it’s about: Set in post-WWI Birmingham, Peaky Blinders is like the UK version of Godfather of Harlem, taking viewers to a period when gangs still controlled cities. The show is about the Shelby brothers, who return to a lawless country after fighting in the war and decide to take over Birmingham with the help of their gang, Peaky Blinders. The leader, Thomas Shelby, has bigger ambitions than gang activity. He wants to build an empire, which forces him to go into politics.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Thomas Shelby and Bumpy Johnson are very similar lead characters, both interested in improving their society but willing to do illegal things to survive against all odds. With the government systems working against him, Thomas Shelby employs the same tactics as Bumpy to survive. The show also features a diverse cast with lots of focus on action that is satisfying to watch.
8. The Cleaning Lady
What it’s about: Thony De La Rosa is a qualified doctor from the Philippines who came to The US illegally to get a liver transplant for her son from a rare-match donor. She works as a cleaner to make ends meet until she witnesses a murder and is forced to become “the cleaner” for an Armenian mob boss to stay alive. Her life gets intertwined with Arman’s (the killer that hired her) as the two develop feelings for each other, and circumstances force them to become partners in crime.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Like Bumpy Johnson, Thony is a dedicated parent just trying to keep her child and family alive in a heavily segregated society. The life of an illegal immigrant in the US is not different from that of Black Harlemites in Godfather of Harlem. Eventually, Thony is forced into the business of selling drugs to survive, and her story becomes more like that of Bumpy. The Cleaning Lady also packs lots of action in each episode, just like Godfather of Harlem, with plot twists that make it more entertaining.
7. Animal Kingdom
What it’s about: 17-year-old Joshua “J” Cody’s life turns for the worst when his mother dies of a heroin overdose, and he is forced to move in with his extended family, The Codys. The family runs a criminal organization in Oceanside, California, led by the family’s matriarch, Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody. J has to get along with his Freewheeling relatives, who are less than pleasant and who force him into close brushes with death every day. The family lives on the edge, doing anything to make money, including pulling off heists and dealing drugs.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Like Bumpy Johnson’s world, every day in Animal Kingdom is lived on the edge because every wrong step gets you killed. The show explores the harsh reality of how a life of crime can lead to the collapse of an entire generation, just like in the case of the Gigante family in Godfather of Harlem. Although the lead character is not a crime boss, the view from Joshua’s perspective is just as interesting as Godfather of Harlem because it tells the story of the victims better.
6. Queen Of The South
What it’s about: Teresa Mendoza was the humble girlfriend of a drug runner for Epifania Vargas in Culiacan, Mexico, until her boyfriend was “killed,” forcing her to flee to the US. After crossing the border, she worked for another drug cartel belonging to the wife of the drug lord that tried to kill her in back Mexico. She decides to emancipate and start her own distribution business because she knows how the whole business works and can’t stand the violence that the other kingpins commit in their business.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Like Bumpy, Teresa is forced to run her business in a dangerous environment where she is seen as inferior and undeserving, despite putting in all the effort. Teresa is smart with numbers, just like Bumpy, and her ability to negotiate with dangerous people and create delicate alliances is similar to that of Bumpy. The build-up to the action in each Queen of The South episode is detailed.
What it’s about: Kin is the short name for Kinsellas, a crime family in Dublin which takes on an international cartel n revenge for killing their little boy. The family is not nearly powerful enough to fight the cartel, but their commitment to family and blood drives them on. Therefore the show ends up in a David vs. Goliath situation where the protagonists are choked and overpowered but just don’t give up.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: The Kinsellas have many things in common with Bumpy Johnson because they stand up to forces they can’t defeat. There is no chance of anyone winning the gang war in the show, just like in the case of Bumpy’s fight against the Genovese family. The emotion and strong family ties involved in the show keep fans begging for more.
4. Zer Zero Zero
What it’s about: The show follows the violence, corruption, death, and chaos that surround the shipment of cocaine around the world through the eyes of a Lynwood family who own a shipping company and supplement their income by supplying drugs. The patriarch is killed by the authorities, forcing his daughter Emma Lynwood to take charge of the company just as an Italian mob boss, Don Minu, awaits the shipment in a bid to save his fractured organization.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Unlike Godfather of Harlem, which only focuses on Harlem, Zero Zero Zero is a combination of three stories running concurrently across the world because of a single shipment of cocaine. The show has more scenic locations than Godfather of Harlem but with an equally star-filled cast and strong family connections. The show is engaging, with detailed scenes that don’t deviate from the main plot.
What it’s about: Despite being the son of a former Russian Mafia boss, Alex Godman, who was raised in London, distances himself from his family’s criminal activities until the mafia kills his uncle and threatens to wipe out his family, forcing him to act. Alex goes to war with a powerful mafia boss in a world he has tried to avoid all his life. He partners with a crooked Russian-Israeli businessman, Semiyon Kleiman, who shares the same hatred for Vladimir Kalyagin, the mafia leader trying to kill Alex. Still, Alex doesn’t like the alliance because it presents a moral dilemma for him.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Like Bumpy, Alex only goes to war when his family is threatened and does his best to keep everyone safe by keeping his family away from the gang wars. He built a thriving investment company in London, but his Russian roots caused extra scrutiny on him by authorities causing investors to avoid him. He finds himself treated as an outsider in his own country, just like Bumpy Johnson. McMafia has similar action and emotional intensity to Godfather of Harlem, and it feels like the same events in Harlem are playing out on a bigger stage.
2. Power Book IV: Force
What it’s about: Having been exiled from New York after the death of his lifelong partner and friend Ghost, Tommy Egan moves to Chicago and tries to establish a new drug empire. Being an outsider in the new city, he fights lots of opposition. His biggest opposition comes from the powerful Flynn family, who control all drug distributions in the city and whose patriarch hates Tommy at first sight. Tommy manages to create partnerships with an old colleague from New York and the daughter of his arch-rival to establish his base despite the opposition.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: Like Bumpy, Tommy comes to Chicago as an underdog at the mercy of strong forces and has to be smart and fight to survive. Every alliance Tommy creates is delicate; he must respect and protect them because his life depends on it. The intense action scenes with heavy gunfire and violent fights in the Power franchise are similar to Godfather of Harlem, and Force is one of the best.
What it’s about: The show is about the rise of the two brothers, Charles and Demetrius “Meech” Flenory, from the streets of Southwest Detroit to form the Black Mafia Family, one of the biggest criminal empires in the US in the 1980s. They rose from what was known as the murder capital of the world, with Demetrius coordinating the gangs and the distribution network. At the same time, Charles used his connections to get markets and help the brothers launder their proceeds.
Why it’s like Godfather of Harlem: BMF is like a bigger version of a Harlem gang if Bumpy Johnson had a brother to help him run the streets. The violence and inequality of the brothers’ society are the same as what Bumpy has to deal with in Godfather of Harlem. The lead characters, just like Bumpy, are both antiheroes, brought up in an unequal society where they deal with lots of oppression and poverty.