16 Best Movies Like Breaking Bad – Screen Rant

From crime comedies to gangster sagas, the best movies like Breaking Bad share the series’ love of visual creativity and transformative narratives.
Some of the best movies like Breaking Bad can, like Breaking Bad, also be considered as one of the greatest examples of the crime genre ever presented on screen. As the final part of Better Call Saul's final season begins to collect its much-deserved awards, that desire to experience the cinematic joys that Vince Gilligan can co. can produce will start to be seeping back into the back of fans' minds, but there are thankfully so many choices when it comes to great crime movies that are similar to Breaking Bad​​​​​​.
From crime comedies to gangster sagas, the best movies like Breaking Bad share the series' love of visual creativity and transformative narratives.
This dark crime comedy from director E.L. Katz really makes the audience feel the desperation of the main character as he embarks on a night of escalating dares that are being encouraged by a wealthy couple. The film reaches such extreme states of degradation and brutality in such a short period of time that the methodology behind how each dare is set up and executed becomes indisputably impressive.
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Besides the film's social commentary on the power that money and pride have to change a human being for the worse, Cheap Thrills should also be of interest to Breaking Bad fans as it stars actor Pat Healy in the lead role. While Healy did not appear in Breaking Bad, he did end up playing an important role in the final season of the prequel series Better Call Saul and there are numerous shades of Walter White in his character from Cheap Thrills.
Melissa Leo received an Oscar nomination for her lead role as a struggling mother of two who breaks bad and becomes involved in a people-smuggling ring in this drama thriller from writer and director Courtney Hunt. Hunt would also receive an Oscar nomination for her screenplay, with the work of both her and Leo easily being worthy of taking the award.
Frozen River, like Breaking Bad, really stresses the aspects of poverty that fuel crime, producing a film that's both an emotionally involving crime thriller and a painfully honest domestic drama. Set during Christmas in the northernmost part of Upstate New York, the movie, like Breaking Bad, also derives a huge amount of personality from its location's environment and culture, as well as the sets. The film never goes for the intensity of Breaking Bad in its humor or violence, but it does match the show in terms of how authentic each character, home, and situation feels.
Even after Breaking Bad's success, Bryan Cranston has always typically been a supporting actor in movies as opposed to a leading man. However, there are exceptions and the one that Breaking Bad fans should really take notice of is Brad Furman's The Infiltrator. The film is an adaptation of Robert Mazur's autobiographical novel, which tells the story of his time as a U.S. Customs special agent when he played a part in taking down part of Pablo Escobar's drug empire in the 1980s.
Cranston is very well-cast in the role as Mazur's undercover work requires him to lead an incredibly dangerous double life, and Cranston's capability to slip between roles is well-documented throughout Breaking Bad and get its chance to stretch its legs again here. Like Breaking Bad, The Infiltrator also isn't defined entirely by its often stylized look into the criminal underworld and has a lot of consideration for family drama too. It's an aspect of the film that feels sincere thanks to the performances and the screenplay, which was adapted from Mazur's novel by Furman's mother, Ellen Brown Furman.
Though not discussed in the same way as classic crime films like The Godfather or Goodfellas, Steven Soderbergh's Traffic permanently altered the genetic makeup of the genre and its influence can be seen clearly in Breaking Bad and beyond. Soderbergh's distinctive use of color, particularly the yellow tones used for the segments of the story set in Mexico, would heavily inform Breaking Bad's visual style.
Traffic also remains one of the most notable films about the War on Drugs released in the 21st century. Like Breaking Bad, the movie looks at the issues of the U.S./Mexico drug trade from both sides of the border and has as much time for discussing the emotional struggles of addiction as it does for the dangers of tangling with the cartels. The ensemble is also outstanding, with Benicio del Toro winning an Oscar for his performance as well as Soderbergh winning Best Director.
Fans of the neo-Western elements of Breaking Bad will find no finer a replacement for them than the ones in this story of two bank-robbing brothers from screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. Directed by David Mackenzie, Hell or High Water contains much of the hard-talking dialogue that made Sheridan's series Yellowstone such a success but is driven forward by its electrifying robbery scenes and is given its aesthetic soul through the view of the wide and barren landscapes of West Texas produced by Mackenzie's longtime cinematographer Giles Nuttgens.
Anyone who also loved the dynamic between Hank and Steve Gomez on Breaking Bad will also get a lot out of the intertwining story that follows the two Texas Rangers hunting the two brothers. As the viewer becomes more involved with each pair, the moral ambiguity of the story becomes more pronounced, and, like Breaking Bad, Hell or High Water possesses an overwhelming power to make the audience root for the bad guy.
As what is still the pinnacle of contemporary neo-Western filmmaking, the Coen brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men is visually stunning and viscerally engaging. The simple story follows a man who discovers a briefcase full of money from a deal gone bad in the desert and the killer hired to find him and get it back, but it's the wider themes of choice and predestination at play that really make the film feel as robust as it does.
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Breaking Bad fans will not be left wanting by the film's plentiful acts of cold-blooded acts of violence, but the main draw is still the strength of the performances and the Coens' direction. Javier Bardem created a movie villain for the ages with his Oscar-winning turn as hitman Anton Chigurh, with his being only one of the four major awards that the film took home that night.
Ric Roman Waugh’s prison thriller Shot Caller stars Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a successful California stockbroker who pleas down to a short prison sentence after a fatal car accident. Once inside the system, however, he finds himself at the mercy of prison’s gangs, particularly the local White Supremacists, and is forced to sink further and further into a life of violent crime in order to survive.
The harsh realities and injustices of the system that the main character finds himself trapped within echo many of Breaking Bad’s social commentaries, especially how a normal man becomes a part of a violent White Supremacist criminal culture.
Johnnie To’s Hong Kong crime drama Life Without Principle follows a loosely-connected ensemble of small-time players (a cop, a low-level gangster, and a bank teller) as they face morally compromising situations in their collective quest to simply get by in modern life.
Fans of Breaking Bad’s focus on the mundane reality of crime will find a lot of similarities in Life Without Principle, particularly in its examination of moral equivalency and guilt. To’s following crime movie, Drug War, is also worthy of note due to its similar subject matter to Breaking Bad, despite a more traditional action thriller structure.
Anurag Kashyap’s gangster epic, Gangs of Wasseypur, is a two-part story spanning over fifty years of bloody rivalry in the titular Wasseypur neighborhood of India. The film sets its scenes and conflicts in rich detail, ultimately facilitating a gargantuan story of iconic personalities and bitter family feuds.
Wasseypur’s desert landscape and the movie’s shocking violence will bring back memories of Breaking Bad’s alternate take on the kind of tragic crime fable that was, more often than not, reserved for the American mafia or the metropolitan streets of tourist hubs like New York, Paris or Hong Kong.
Writer and director David Michôd's Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom revolves around a highly dysfunctional family of bank robbers in Melbourne as they face extinction from a trigger-happy police squad that’s out to finish them once and for all. After the death of his mother, 17-year-old Joshua Cody finds himself flung back into this family that she attempted to keep him from, and Joshua is irrevocably sucked into their paranoid and murderous world.
For Breaking Bad fans, James Frecheville’s performance as Joshua will no doubt conjure up memories of Jesse Pinkman being in way over his head. But the whole ensemble evokes the flawless network of performances that went into making the realistic ecosystem of Breaking Bad's drama. Unsurprisingly, was adapted into a successful US-set TV show that ran from 2016 to 2022.
Breaking Bad was a show that wasn't afraid to keep adapting itself and experimenting to find whatever worked best for a particular idea whilst always striving to feel cinematic. This often draws comparisons to Quentin Tarantino’s mish-mashing of genres and techniques, and there are a lot of direct references to Tarantino's visual style in the show. But there are also many distinct similarities to be found between Breaking Bad and Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.
There’s a strong resemblance between Boyle’s overall use of cameras, particularly smaller ones attached to actors or props, and Michael Slovis’ cinematography on Breaking Bad. Each story is also an honest, heartbreaking, and wildly creative portrait of drug culture and addiction, which is seen especially in Aaron Paul's and Ewan McGregor's performances as young and disaffected men trapped by them.
Jamie Foxx plays the underachiever under the wing of a bad element and Tom Cruise takes on the role of the murderous mastermind in Michael Mann’s Collateral, the story of a cab driver forced to escort and assist a contract killer through one night of work across Los Angeles. There’s no examination of the drug business, but there is as much duality, lies, manipulation, and towering criminal persona as a Breaking Bad fan could possibly want.
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The confined space that the lead duo finds itself in, like Breaking Bad’s RV, pushes the pair of actors to create the biggest fireworks out of their characters’ dialogue and dynamic– and sparks do fly. Foxx was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at that year’s Oscars, losing to Morgan Freeman but going on to win Best Actor for Ray that same night.
Josh and Benny Safdie’s film Good Time is a whirlwind crime spree through New York that is very reminiscent of Breaking Bad’s DIY perspective on serious crime. Like Bryan Cranston did with Walter White in Breaking Bad, Robert Pattinson creates another main character who's so evil that the audience can’t help but be impressed. Pattinson's amateur bank robber will do anything to protect his brother and the entire city becomes a playground, or battlefield, in his mission to avoid the cops and get paid.
It’s rare to see a protagonist as devoid of morality as Pattinson's is in anything, let alone a feature film. The realism not only accentuates this but, like in Breaking Bad, it creates a world where the sharp turns in the story seem all the more genuine and incredible.
Yoon Jong-bin’s film Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time chronicles a particularly corrupt moment in South Korea’s history and serves as a fascinating character study that–like Breaking Bad–highlights how the biggest forces in the volatile world of crime are often the wannabe pretenders.
Choi Min-sik delivers a performance in the film that's truly worthy of comparison to Bryan Cranston's in Breaking Bad as he plays a minor customs official with absurd aspirations to become a criminal kingpin. His character’s mixture of impressive ingenuity and utter buffoonery is hugely reminiscent of Walter White, displaying a similarly impressive range of emotions and demonstrating a dedication to the performance that feels of a once-in-a-lifetime quality.
Being mostly set in prison doesn’t make Jacques Audiard’s modern crime epic A Prophet feel any less far-reaching. Like Breaking Bad, it’s a movie bursting with intelligent tricks to make its world feel more real whilst never letting that world feel predictable. Sudden bursts of intense and sometimes almost bizarre violence can inject themselves into the monotony of day-to-day life at any moment.
In the film, actor Tahar Rahim plays a nobody who begins to find his way in a vast network of warring factions, cultures, and languages in France's underworld. As Breaking Bad does, A Prophet serves as much as a time capsule designed to preserve something from its time period as it serves as entertainment.
Sicario takes the tensest and most violent moments from Breaking Bad, condenses them, and dials up their cinematic features to their extreme. Denis Villeneuve’s crime film provides a brief glimpse into the deepest and darkest recesses of the War on Drugs through a story that follows Emily Blunt's FBI agent as she's embroiled in a shady Cartel assassination.
Fans of Dave Porter’s pulse-pounding score in Breaking Bad’s scenes of crisis will enjoy late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ominous magnum opus from Sicario. The legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins similarly outdoes himself to make a world of limitless deception and evil within the U.S./Mexico drug trade look visually arresting and even beautiful in parts.
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After an unexpected 3-year stint as the editor-in-chief of a small online magazine for a film networking company, Mark Birrell joined Screen Rant’s lists section in 2019 and now leads the Update team, keeping the site’s list content fresh and relevant. An avid cinephile, when neither writing nor editing, Mark can most likely be found on his Twitter account @markwbirrell either searching for the most obscure movie recommendations on the internet or posting observations from his biannual rewatch of either Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. (Sometimes both simultaneously.)


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