10 politically thrilling shows like ‘House of Cards’

Image via Netflix

House of Cards, Netflix’s political thriller created by Beau Willimon, premiered in 2013 and immediately caught fans’ attention for its unexpected plot twists and ever-present tension. The engaging drama laid the groundwork for a boom in online television. The show follows congressman Frank Underwood as he commits unspeakable crimes, ignores morals, and does whatever it takes to achieve the presidency of the United States. Following Kevin Spacey’s sexual harassment scandal, the series killed off his character, and he was absent from the entire sixth and final season.

During its run, the series received critical acclaim, earning 33 Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and was the first original television series in an online-only streaming format to receive key Emmy nominations. Despite its dramatic conclusion in 2018, it remains a fan-favorite series of political betrayal and personal struggle. Here are shows to watch that are just as politically thrilling as Netflix’s House of Cards.

Scandal

ABC’s Scandal was insanely popular during its original run, which received multiple Emmy Awards and SAG Awards nominations in its own right. Created by Shonda Rimes — who also created Grey’s Anatomy — the intense drama series follows crisis manager Olivia Pope, a former White House aide and political “fixer” who runs her own firm in Washington D.C. The series focuses on Pope’s personal crisis-solving agenda, while simultaneously showcasing her personal relationship with President Fitzgerald Grant.

Much like House of Cards, Scandal shares a similar premise of complications in the political world, including themes of betrayal and endless power struggles. Though the overall violence is less in Scandal, there are a variety of unexpected twists that makes the series memorable. House of Cards fans will surely enjoy its gripping narrative and lively characters. You can watch it now on Hulu.

The Crown

Over the course of nearly five seasons, The Crown has been regarded as one of the most popular original series on Netflix. Created by Peter Morgan, the engaging historical drama follows the decorated reign of Queen Elizabeth II as she handles the pressure of assuming the throne at the young age of 25, following the death of her father. Later seasons include the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, as well as Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

Even though The Crown is strictly focused on British politics surrounding Britain’s Royal Family, its focus on dysfunctional political figures is what makes it such an intense drama series that deserves a watch. Additionally, the series occasionally undergoes a change in its cast every few seasons, which makes for some deliciously-dramatic characters. You can watch it now on Netflix.

The Newsroom

HBO’s The Newsroom was a captivating political drama that blended the pitfalls of real-life news events with strained personal relationships. Created by Aaron Sorkin, the series premiered in 2012 and concluded after three seasons in 2014. The series follows Republican news anchor Will McAvoy and the dramatization of his personal life which inadvertently clashes with his complicated professional life.

On paper, House of Cards and The Newsroom may appear different, though both lead protagonists in their respective shows are at the center of political news controversies. Both shows also include a plethora of intriguing characters and their in-depth backstories. As such, there’s plenty here for fans of House of Cards to enjoy. You can watch it now on Hulu.

Homeland

Upon its premiere on Showtime in 2011, the intense political drama became one of the most successful shows on the television network, concluding after eight seasons in 2020. Created by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, and based on the Israeli series Prisoners of War, the gripping story follows Carrie Mathison, a bipolar CIA agent assigned to capture terrorists all around the world. Mathison is determined to track down a U.S. Marine who she believes has betrayed the country.

Much like House of Cards, Homeland teeters on psychological drama while blending with political conflict. While Claire isn’t as cruel and calculated as Frank Underwood, the political betrayal and masterful suspense surely makes the show worthy of a watch. Fans also experience their own interior struggle to determine if Brody, the aforementioned U.S. Marine, is truly as innocent as he seems. You can watch the series now on Hulu.

Veep

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a national treasure. Moreover, Veep has proven to be a refreshing, comedic approach to the complications of the political realm. An American adaptation of British series The Thick Of It, Veep premiered in 2012, spanning seven seasons until its dramatic conclusion in 2019. The political satire follows the chaotic life of Selina Meyer, who serves as the Vice President of the United States.

Like House of Cards, the drama series focuses on political figures’ determination to become dominant forces in Washington. The engaging series explores the estranged relationships in Selina’s life, much like the ever-present troubled relationships in Frank Underwood’s circle. While Selina is undoubtedly more likable than Frank, both characters are complex political forces who share more in common than initially meets the eye. You can watch it now on Hulu.

Bodyguard

BBC’s Bodyguard is a riveting series that first captured fans’ attention with its unexpected twists and endless suspense. Created by Jed Mercurio, the series premiered in 2018 to rave reviews and is currently in development for its much-anticipated second season. Bodyguard follows Police Sergeant David Budd, a Scottish war veteran suffering with the effects of PTSD, who is assigned to protect Home Secretary Julia Montagu despite their strict political differences.

Even though the shows are represented in counties split by the Atlantic Ocean, House of Cards and Bodyguard equally address deeply-rooted political issues that create a multitude of dramatic scenarios. The series is jam-packed with outrageous characters who test themselves in unfathomable situations, with Richard Madden’s performance in particular receiving strong critical acclaim. You can watch it now on Netflix.

The Good Wife

The Good Wife is a hidden gem amongst a plethora of shows focused on political corruption and various power struggles. The critically-acclaimed series premiered in 2009 and ran until 2016. It follows Alicia Florrick, the wife of a former shamed State Attorney who resorts to working as a litigator to support her children and improve her stale image. The series features an ensemble cast, including Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

The similarities of political troubles and memorable characters are prominent in both House of Cards and The Good Wife. Much like Kevin Spacey’s strong performance as Frank Underwood, Julianna Margulies’s standout performance as Alicia Florrick is one of the many reasons the show is such a satisfying watch. The series also includes a variety of other interesting characters which help establish both the main plots and subplots as well. You can watch it now on Paramount Plus.

The West Wing

Aaron Sorkin’s classic political series is one of the most discussed television series of all time. The West Wing essentially laid the groundwork for many series with themes of betrayal and struggles within the political landscape. The political drama first premiered in 1999 on NBC and concluded after seven seasons, in 2006. The engaging series follows President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, and his complex cabinet in the West Wing of the White House.

The West Wing is arguably the most similar series to House of Cards when it comes to showcasing the strong difficulties faced in the political atmosphere. The series features a variety of dysfunctional characters who struggle to stay afloat in the ever-changing political climate. As a result, fans of House of Cards will admire its consistent narrative and interesting cast. You can watch it now on HBO Max.

Designated Survivor

Designated Survivor is another show extremely similar to House of Cards’ exciting premise. Created by David Guggenheim, the series premiered in 2016 and concluded after only three seasons, in 2019. It follows Thomas Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who is suddenly sworn in as President of the United States after an explosion kills all other successors before him.

Despite Designated Survivor’s limited run, the series left a lasting impression for its engaging plot and colorful characters. While House of Cards’ Frank and Claire are constantly slandered for their criminalistic ways, Kiefer Sutherland’s Thomas Kirkman is a likable character who never resorts to questionable tactics to achieve the presidency. As such, the show is the opposite when it comes to criminal behavior in political figures, though it remains just as intriguing. You can watch it now on Netflix.

Succession

Succession is one of the most discussed series in the television landscape right now. Created by Jesse Armstrong, the series premiered on HBO in 2018 and is now awaiting its much-anticipated fourth season. The political satire follows the controversial Roy family, including patriarch Logan Roy, whose health is in decline. Thereafter, his power-hungry children claw and bite to rise in the family rankings in an attempt to control Waystar RoyCo, the family’s successful media company.

While Succession is different from House of Cards in terms of the political aspect, its complex characters are just as determined to maintain power, and much like both Frank and Claire Underwood, will do whatever it takes to succeed. The first three seasons are available to watch right now on HBO Max.