12 TV Shows You Can Stream Right Now to Fill the Game of Thrones Void

Jason Momoa stars in Frontier
Jason Momoa stars in Frontier
Netflix

After eight seasons of hype, dread, dragons, and fan theories, we finally said goodbye to Game of Thrones. So what’s next on your streaming schedule? What TV show could possibly replace the incredible battles, roster of duplicitous schemers, and unpredictable plotlines of George R.R. Martin’s bleak and brutal fantasy saga? Thankfully, you’ve got options—and plenty of them.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of 12 series you can stream right now that should help as you’re going through Westeros withdrawal. Some of these shows feature complex plots and power struggles like in Game of Thrones but in completely different settings, while others are different takes on the fantasy genre, just in case dragons are really your thing. One even takes the familiar Game of Thrones themes and sets the whole thing in space. So check out our choices below, because no one should be without a series to binge. 

1. The Last Kingdom

Based on the series of historical-fiction novels by author Bernard Cornwell, BBC/Netflix’s The Last Kingdom checks plenty of the boxes that Game of Thrones fans will be looking for—most notably a roster of colorful villains, brooding heroes, sword-clanging battle scenes, and blood-soaked quests for power. And while it’s easy to view the whole thing as a poor man’s take on the HBO hit, the series separates itself by being rooted in actual historical events, namely the 9th-century rule of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. The series is seen through the eyes of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a man who grew up in the beer halls of the Danes but now fights against them for Alfred’s Saxon armies in the pursuit of a unified England.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. Deadwood

Despite being off the air for 13 years, HBO’s foul-mouthed Western drama still ranks among the network’s greatest achievements. It’s based on the actual town of Deadwood, South Dakota, a mining camp that was established in the late 1870s and attracted vices of all shapes and sizes. The series, created by David Milch, examines the town as it evolves from a patchwork of disreputable businesses and outlaws into a more integrated community where law and order attempt to prevail. At the center of it all sits Al Swearengen, owner of The Gem saloon, a profane force of nature who manipulates the town and its people to ensure he remains at the top of the heap. Like Game of Thrones, Deadwood is an examination of power and the necessary lengths one needs to go to seize control and maintain it. Once you blow through the first three seasons, you’ll only have to wait until May 31 for the much-too-long-awaited Deadwood: The Movie to premiere on HBO. 

Where to watch it: HBO GO, Amazon Prime Video

3. Rome

The brainchild of Bruno Heller (Gotham) and the inimitable John Milius (Apocalypse Now, Conan the Barbarian), the ambitious Rome proved to be a success with critics in the mid-2000s and helped lay the groundwork for what the future of the network would look like. The series brought historical events to life with a realistic (and oftentimes ruthless) touch, including the assassination of Julius Caesar (played by Game of Thrones star Ciarán Hinds).

Though the series met a premature end due to its cost, the twisting plots, sprawling cast of morally questionable characters, and the old-world brutality of the series set the stage for what HBO could do with Game of Thrones once the network was in the position to produce a show with a budget to match its ambitions.

Where to watch it: HBO GO, Amazon Prime Video

4. The Expanse

The Expanse has been described as “Game of Thrones in space” so many times online that the comparison has lost all meaning, but both shows do share many trademarks, including mounting tensions between factions, separate narratives that slowly weave together with chess-like precision, top-notch world-building, and a cast of maladjusted characters trying to navigate their way through all of it. The simmering conflict between Earth, Mars, and the Belt should echo Westeros just enough to leave fans intrigued without feeling like they’ve been there, done that.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video

5. The Tudors

This one is simple: If you’re drawn more to the political intrigue of Game of Thrones rather than the pervasive gore and fantasy, then The Tudors will fit you like a slipper. This one chronicles the vicious reign of King Henry VIII (played by a not-nearly-fat-enough Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who moves from wife to wife seeking an heir to the throne and leaving plenty of heads in his wake. There’s also the requisite political fare to deal with, such as traitors in his inner circle, rebellions, assassinations, and Henry VIII’s own growing paranoia.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. Vikings

This is a no-brainer for the Game of Thrones fan. Vikings has the power struggles, bloody battles, and repulsive villains you love to hate, but it ditches the fantastical and instead opts to be (loosely) based on the exploits of a real (though even that’s up for debate) Norse figure, Ragnar Lothbrok, played by Travis Fimmel. Here, Lothbrok is portrayed as an everyman farmer who finds himself commanding armies, leading raids against England, and etching his name into legend. Though not as hardcore as Game of Thrones (hey, it’s The History Channel, after all), Vikings still offers up plenty of bloody chaos that’s well worth your TV time.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu

7. The Crown

There’s not a sword or dragon or White Walker in sight, but The Crown’s meticulous waltz through history shares plenty of DNA with the goings-on in the fantasy realm of Westeros. This bingeable masterpiece is a meditation on power done right—it examines the sacrifices that need to be made as a queen, the inevitable personal suffering that goes along with it, and the near-impossible decisions that must be made on an everyday basis. Throughout the show, the Sword of Damocles is always right above Queen Elizabeth’s (Claire Foy) head, as she’s torn between her duties to herself, her family, and her people, all while dealing with conflicts from within her own inner circle that threaten to undermine her. Season 3, which will see Olivia Colman replace Foy as Queen Elizabeth II (and Game of Thrones's Tobias Menzies take over the role of Prince Philip from Matt Smith), is due to premiere some time this year.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. Frontier

Jason Momoa has become one of Game of Thrones’s most successful alums after he broke out as Khal Drogo in the first season—even doing the unthinkable and turning Aquaman into a $1 billion global smash. But if you really need a binge fix, it’s his role as the moody outlaw Declan Harp on Netflix’s Frontier that should scratch that itch. Set during the 18th-century North American fur trade, focused specifically on the Hudson Bay Company’s ruthless dominance over the market, Frontier showcases Momoa doing what he does best: brooding to excess, taking down bad guys, and looking like he kind of needs a shower the entire time. All with that trademark Momoa charm, of course.

Where to watch it: Netflix

9. The Shannara Chronicles

Based on author Terry Brooks’s Sword of Shannara trilogy, this MTV-produced fantasy drama was obviously created in a post-Thrones world, but it still managed to do enough things right to carve out its own niche. Rather than being set in a Middle Earth-esque second world, The Shannara Chronicles takes place on our Earth thousands of years after a nuclear war devastated most of humanity. Downer though it may be, this gives life to a world full of wonders, including winged demons, lavish kingdoms, and the half-human/half-elf Wil, who must save the world from an impending evil once thought long vanquished.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. Outlander

Fantasy blends with history in Outlander, a show about a WWII combat nurse named Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) who falls backward in time to 18th-century Scotland. If having to deal with both the Axis Powers and British redcoats in a single lifetime sounds stressful, add the fact that Claire is married to Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) in the 20th century and falls in love with, and marries, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) in the 1700s. This genre-packed mashup, based on the ongoing book series by Diana Gabaldon, leans on the romance more than Game of Thrones ever did, but its engrossing plots, stylish action, and impressive period-piece visuals should win over anyone looking for a new series to stream.  

Where to watch it: Starz, Starz on Hulu

11. Merlin

After spending eight seasons trudging through the bleak, unforgiving battlefields of Westeros, it might be a good idea to lighten the mood a bit—and BBC’s Merlin is the perfect fantasy romp to remedy the GRRM blues. This series tweaks the King Arthur legend by reimagining the timeless wizard (Colin Morgan) and the once and future king (Bradley James) as young contemporaries finding their way in a kingdom where magic has been banned, legends are in their infancy, and a talking dragon is always hanging around to dole out some sage advice. It won’t pack the dramatic punch of Game of Thrones, but Merlin delivers enough heart and whimsy to prove that brighter fantasy still has a place on television. 

Where to watch it: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu  

12. The White Queen/The White Princess

George R.R. Martin may have created a fantasy world for his A Song of Ice and Fire series, but real events from our own history helped its formation. One of the key events that Martin borrowed from was the famed War of the Roses, a series of civil wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster for the claim to the English throne. Starz’s The White Queen and its sequel, The White Princess, retell this story, from its beginning all the way to the start of King Henry VII’s reign. The two miniseries are based on the historical fiction book series by author Philippa Gregory, and they feature all of the betrayals, strong-willed women, and royal drama of Westeros—but in a fast-paced two seasons you can blow through in a week.

Where to watch it: Starz

10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox
© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that in 2016 Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. To celebrated the film's 15th anniversary, here are some facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. Deb is based on Jerusha Hess.

Jared Hess’s wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.'"

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. "The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me," she told Rolling Stone. "Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before."

2. Napoleon's famous dance scene was the result of having extra film stock.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.”

Heder told HuffPost he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt "pressure" to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. Napoleon Dynamitefans still flock to Preston, Idaho to tour the movie's locations.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. Idaho adopted a resolution commending the filmmakers.

'Napoleon Dynamite' filmmakers Jerusha and Jared Hess
Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. Napoleon was a different kind of nerd.

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told HuffPost. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. The title sequence featured several different sets of hands..

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. Napoleon Dynamite messed up Netflix's algorithms.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. Napoleon accidentally got a bad perm.


© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LaFawnduh's real-life family starred in the film.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A short-lived animated series acted as a sequel.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

This story has been updated for 2019.

Harry Potter Fans Are Waiting 10 Hours or More to Ride Hagrid’s Roller Coaster

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

Muggles will do anything to be a part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal Orlando opened up its newest ride this week at its version of Hogsmeade, the village that surrounds Hogwarts castle. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure takes wannabe wizards and witches on a twisting, high-speed flight through the mystical Forbidden Forest.

Diehard fans began waiting overnight outside the park in anticipation of the ride, and it looks like just about everyone had the same idea. At 8:30 a.m. on opening day, the line was already eight hours long, and quickly stretched to 10 hours long by 10:30 a.m., CNN reports.

The line is worth the wait for many fans of the franchise. As Potterheads already know, Rubeus Hagrid, beloved friend of Harry Potter and the gang, has a special affinity for mysterious creatures. So who better to see the beasts of the forest with than the half-giant?

Participants on the ride can choose to sit in Hagrid’s sidecar or in the driver’s seat. The winding track includes appearances by some of our favorite wizards, like Arthur Weasley, and creatures benevolent and otherwise, such as Cornish pixies, massive spiders, and the three-headed dog, Fluffy.

Fans aren’t the only ones wanting to experience the ride. Some of the stars of the film series had a little reunion in Orlando this week to celebrate the opening, including Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood).

Unlike the fans, however, they have magic (fame) to keep them from having to wait in 10-hour lines.

Happy riding, Potterheads!

[h/t CNN]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER