Godfather of Harlem is a crime drama series about notorious mob boss Bumpy Johnson, who returns after serving a ten-year sentence to reclaim his throne from the Genovese family, who have risen to power in his absence. The series is set in 1960s Harlem, New York City and is inspired by real-life mob boss Ellsworth Raymond Bumpy Johnson. Since its premiere in 2019, the series has garnered critical acclaim for tackling issues such as corruption, the negative impact drug use has on society, the mistreatment of African Americans, and the political aspirations of the time.
Created by Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, the series boasts a dazzling, all-star cast that includes such talent as Forest Whitaker, Vincent D’Onofrio, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Sorvino, Nigel Thatch and Ilfenesh Hadera. Among the many shows popular as mafia crime thrillers, the Epix series stands out for its sure plot line, which makes it all the more compelling. If you like shows in this genre that captivate you in this way, here’s a handy list. You can watch most of these series similar to Godfather of Harlem on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
8. Romanzo Criminale – La Serie (2008-2010)
Romanzo Criminale tells the story of an Italian criminal named Lebanese whose life’s work is to rule the underworld of Rome. He does this by creating a gang of merciless criminals. Lebanese leads the gang along with his cronies Freddo and Dandi, who are involved in all sorts of illegal activities common in Italy from the 1970s to the 1990s. As in The Godfather of Harlem, the series follows the rise of a crime lord over time and the impact of his power play on society.
7. History of a Clan (2015)
‘Historia de un Clan’ describes the criminal activities of the Puccio clan. While posing to society as a respectable church-going family, they actually make a living by taking people hostage, demanding ransom, and murdering the victims. All of this is done at home, with her four children also taking on responsibilities. The series, directed by Luis Ortega, is based on the exploits of the real-life Puccio family in Argentina. Similar to The Godfather of Harlem, the series shows the impact of a family’s involvement in crime on future generations.
6. Narcos (2015-2017)
A crime buff’s treat, Narcos gives a chronological look at the real-life stories of the drug lords responsible for the cocaine trafficking boom in Colombia in the late 1980s. It centers on drug lord Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), who succeeds despite law enforcement’s efforts to control the cocaine trade. The bold and original series was developed by Chris Brancato in collaboration with José Padilha, Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro. The two series are similar in the dark maneuvers of the protagonists to stay on top. What they also have in common is the depiction of the effects of drug abuse on the political and social aspects of the time.
5. Gangs of London (2020-)
‘Gangs of London’ is a British series that sets its premise in the power game of international crime families that rule the city of London. The crime drama follows the chaos wrought by the assassination of the head of London’s most influential crime family and all the measures his son Sean Wallace takes to restore balance, with his family in control of the city. Similar to The Godfather of Harlem, the television series centers on a series of crime families at war and vying for control of major cities like New York and London. The shows also have an elaborate panache that captivates viewers.
4. Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
Created by Emmy Award-winner Terrence Winter, Boardwalk Empire is inspired by Nelson Johnson’s non-fiction book of the same name. Set in the Prohibition era of the 1920s, the crime drama tells the story of Enoch Nucky Thompson, a crime king who seizes power in the political sphere of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The series won a 2011 Golden Globe for Best Television Series Drama and received over 50 Emmy nominations. It is similar to The Godfather of Harlem in that both are historical dramas that deal with powerful criminals and their lifestyles.
3. Peaky Blinders (2010-2014)
Our list would not be complete without Peaky Blinders, set in 1900’s Birmingham, England. It is a gangster crime drama about the crime gang of the same name and their enterprising leader Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy). He attracts the attention of a Detective Chief Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who is sent by Winston Churchill to rid the city of street criminals. The series shows the ambitious expansion of Tommy Shelby’s power as he overcomes one hurdle after another. Similar to The Godfather of Harlem, the cunning protagonist strives against all odds to make his way to the top.
2. Animal Kingdom (2016-2022)
Animal Kingdom is about 17-year-old Joshua Cody, who moves in with his grandmother’s family after the death of his mother from a drug overdose. As it turns out, this is not a normal family. It’s a Southern California gangster clan (led by Joshua’s grandmother Smurf) who live a life of luxury through their involvement in serious crimes. The series, like The Godfather of Harlem, balances family ties with criminal activities. The focus here is on the dynamics of family relationships.
1. The Sopranos (1999-2007)
The Sopranos follows DiMeo family underboss Tony Soprano, who sees a psychiatrist to deal with his personal and professional problems. He suffers from clinical depression and is mentally disturbed. The series is similar to The Godfather of Harlem in the dilemma of a man with a criminal background balancing his family and professional life.