The Sopranos was not the first TV series to explore the mob, but it did break new ground by keeping the perspective solely on Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and his crime family, as well as his actual family, rather than splitting the focus with law enforcement. It also allowed an antihero like Tony to be the main character in his own story, which has now become common in TV series. For its time, The Sopranos was truly innovative and remains one of the best shows in TV history.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Sopranos, we’re taking a look at five mob shows and movies you should watch if you loved Tony Soprano’s story. Our two movie choices clearly inspired The Sopranos, while The Sopranos inspired two other shows. Our fifth pick is an underrated TV series from the ’80s that predates The Sopranos by over a decade with its own morally ambiguous storylines.
Yes, The Godfather is the obvious choice for this list. But in many ways, it’s also the only choice that had to be here. The Sopranos not only constantly drops references to The Godfather, Tony Soprano and his gang absolutely love the film. Francis Ford Coppola has directed some great movies in his career, but none that were greater than this one. (Although The Godfather Part II fans may disagree.)
The original film is a decade-spanning crime saga featuring Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone crime family. Al Pacino plays Vito’s youngest son, Michael Corleone, who is not a part of the family business. But when Vito is nearly assassinated by his rivals, Michael has to set aside his moral qualms and sit at the head of the table for the Corleone family. And Michael may prove to be even more ruthless than his father.
Watch The Godfather on Paramount+.
The Godfather Part II star Robert De Niro was one of the main cast members of Martin Scorsese’s best crime movie, Goodfellas. The late Ray Liotta starred as Henry Hill, a real gangster who worked his way up through the Italian mob for decades before eventually sharing his story with the world. De Niro played one of Henry’s closest friends, James “Jimmy” Conway, while Joe Pesci played their mutual friend, Tommy DeVito.
Goodfellas also has a Sopranos connection through Lorraine Bracco, who played Henry’s wife, Karen Hill, before portraying Dr. Melfi opposite Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano. But this movie belongs to Liotta’s character more than anyone else, as Henry unrepentantly walks the audience through the important choices that defined him.
Goodfellas is available to rent or buy on Prime Video and other outlets.
Steve Buscemi only had a single season as a major character on The Sopranos, but he eventually had his own mob epic in Boardwalk Empire. Former Sopranos executive producer Terence Winter created the show, and Scorsese helmed the pilot episode, establishing Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, an Atlantic County politician with deep ties to organized crime during the Prohibition era.
Several historical gangsters, including Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham), had large roles in this show. Michael Shannon also stars as Nelson Van Alden, a Bureau of Prohibition agent obsessed with taking down Nucky to the point where he completely self-destructs and falls from grace. And that was just the beginning of Van Alden’s story! Boardwalk Empire never reached the heights of The Sopranos‘ popularity, but it deserves all of the acclaim that it gets.
Watch Boardwalk Empire on Max.
Before he started hanging out among The Walking Dead, Jeffrey Dean Morgan headlined Starz’s mob drama, Magic City. Morgan portrays Isaac “Ike” Evans, the owner of a Miami resort hotel called the Miramar Playa. In 1958, Evans is so desperate to make sure that his hotel survives that he makes a devil’s bargain with Benjamin “Ben The Butcher” Diamond (Danny Huston), a Jewish-American mob boss who becomes Ike’s silent partner.
Making that alliance was risky enough for the Evans family. Unfortunately for Ike, his oldest son, Steven Evans (Steven Strait), is having an affair with Diamond’s wife, Lily Diamond (Jessica Marais). And that’s just playing with fire.
Watch Magic City on Peacock.
Wiseguy was truly ahead of its time, both in terms of its subject matter and the show’s moral ambiguity. This was also one of the first primetime dramas to fully embrace the serialized storytelling that has become an industry norm. Ken Wahl starred in the first two seasons as Vinnie Terranova, an FBI agent who went deep undercover in the Atlantic City mafia.
During his first extended assignment on the show, Vinnie befriended Sonny Steelgrave (Ray Sharkey) before he took over his crime family and elevated Vinnie to be his No. 2. Vinnie felt conflicted about betraying that friendship for his investigation. Once Vinnie was finished with the Steelgrave crime family, his reputation as a mobster allowed the FBI to use his cover to infiltrate other criminal organizations. Vinne’s skills may have been a boon for law enforcement officials, but they played havoc with his personal life.
Watch Wiseguy on Peacock.