What to Watch Next If You Loved Chernobyl

From AMC's The Terror to the documentary Citizenfour, here's what to watch after you've finished the addictive HBO miniseries.

by | June 14, 2019 | Comments

Chernobyl Jared Harris (HBO)
(Photo by HBO)

The five episodes HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl — about the 1986 reactor explosion of the Soviet nuclear power plant, the disastrous fallout, and failed government cover-up — are at once addictive and engrossing, as well as bleak, violent, heartbreaking, and horrific.

If you’ve finished all of the series, which is currently Certified Fresh at 96% on the Tomatometer, and are searching for more entertainment to lose yourself in, Rotten Tomatoes has a few suggestions for your next binge.

Whether it’s a story about government cover-ups, a lone hero’s search for the truth, or humanity’s perseverance following a devastating disaster, let us guide you toward your next small-screen addiction.

IF YOU LIKE: Chernobyl‘s exploration of deep government cover-ups…

Citizenfour (2014) 96% 

One of the driving forces in the Chernobyl story is the enduring search for the truth amid a briar patch of lies perpetuated by the Soviet government. Mikhail Gorbachev’s administration did what it could to stop the news of the accident from spreading — everything from cutting phone lines to just not letting people leave — and of course, that plan failed. America has its own complicated relationship with government interference, which is something explored quite well in Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizenfour. Here, we get a profoundly personal look at Edward Snowden, the infamous whistleblower who released classified documents implicating the NSA in invading the privacy of unknowing Americans. In an era of so-called “fake news” and conspiracy theories, the film is an eye-opening entry that not only displays how those in power can misuse their privilege, but also shows how fragile our collective concept of law and order can be when giving in to blind trust and complacency.

IF YOU LIKE: Chernobyl‘s dramatization of environmental disaster…

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) 97% 

Spike Lee attends Netflix Original Series "She'’s Gotta Have It" Premiere 11/11/16 in New York (Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Netflix)
(Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Netflix)

Spike Lee’s four-part docu-series When the Levees Broke gives a close-up look at the 2005 devastation Hurricane Katrina left in its wake. If HBO’s New Orleans–centered series Treme was way too long or dramatized for your liking, Lee’s documentary may be exactly what you’re looking for. Here, he gives a necessary perspective on how the category five hurricane damaged wreaked havoc on New Orleans, exploring the faulty nature in which the levees were built. The doc gives some well-educated reasoning behind the levees’ demise — thanks to a collection of news footage and interviews with politicians, journalists, and engineers who provide their recollections of the event and the fallout that followed. Both Chernobyl and When the Levees Broke walk viewers through mind-blowing catastrophes that, if the research and work had been done properly, could have been prevented, acting as a valuable lesson of preparation and accountability — and a reminder that history’s love of repeating itself should not be ignored.

IF YOU LIKE: Chernobyl‘s slow-burn horror…

The Terror 86% 

The big bad in Chernobyl is completely unseen, giving audiences a constant feeling of dread as the danger in question is just there, around every corner. That same, slow-burn sense of foreboding can be found in season 1 of AMC’s anthology horror series The Terror, which is Certified Fresh on 55 reviews. But while Chernobyl‘s threat is based on something completely real, The Terror takes the historical disappearance of The HMS Terror and HMS Erebus — two ships involved in Britain’s Arctic expedition of 1845 — and puts a supernatural spin on things. Based on Dan Simmons’ bestselling novel, season 1 of the program fills in the blanks on what happened, throwing in a hellish blood-thirsty monster for good measure. With a stellar ensemble cast of British actors, including Jared Harris (who stars in Chernobyl as Valery Legasov), we highly recommend that you don’t sleep on the series. (Expected August 12, season 2 of The Terror is set during World War II and centers on a series of bizarre deaths that haunt a Japanese-American community, and a young man’s investigation into the malevolent entity responsible.)

IF YOU LIKE: Chernobyl‘s exploration of a broken political system and its community impact…

The Wire 94% 

David Simon’s The Wire expertly explored how Baltimore’s political system, the city’s street-level community, and its criminal underbelly are all interconnected, weaving a narrative fabric that many programs are still striving to achieve. We’re not necessarily saying that Chernobyl did in five episodes what The Wire did in five seasons, but the storytelling similarities might appeal to you. Both programs shine a light on a deeper truths: that the actions of those up top are no better than those committed by the Avon Barksdales and Stringer Bells of the world. Both programs expose the faults in the bigger political systems at play, reminding viewers of the power of truth and the impact of those consequences.

IF YOU LIKE: Chernobyl‘s theme of a  life-threatening search for the truth…

Homeland 85% 

The quest for the truth in a wasteland of fear and deceit is a subject that will never go out of style. The truth simply doesn’t care about the lies people tell. In some way or another, it will find its voice. Sometimes, that voice comes from an underdog fighting through the mud all in the name of what is right and just. In Chernobyl, it’s Valery Legasov (Harris), Boris Shcherbina (Stellan Skarsgard), and Ulana Khumyuk (Emily Watson) trudging through the trenches, doing their part in getting the word out about what happened at the power plant while superseding the USSR’s faulty plan to keep everything a secret. In Homeland, that person takes the shape of CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), who, while struggling with the daily challenges of living with a sometimes debilitating mental illness, works tirelessly, regularly sacrificing her own well-being to ensure America’s safety against a whole cavalcade of outside threats.

IF YOU LIKE: Chernobyl‘s subtle take on the KGB…

The Americans 96% 

We see the KGB mostly lurking in the shadows of Chernobyl, but the organization is definitely there. Referenced as a “circle of accountability,” the series gives the Soviet Union’s security agency just enough screen time to portray just how sinister the outfit was. In FX’s hit spy-thriller The Americans, viewers get a more up-close-and-personal perspective of the notorious organization as it focuses on Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two seemingly average American citizens raising their family in the suburbs. But an ordinary husband and wife they are not — Elizabeth and Philip are undercover KGB officers who struggle with their own allegiances to their country while also facing the daily challenges of maintaining a marriage and family during the Cold War ’80s.

IF YOU LIKE: Jared Harris…

Mad Men 94% 

We already mentioned The Terror, which should definitely be on your to-watch list. Not only is season 1 of AMC’s anthology horror series supported by an epic ensemble cast of British talent — including Ciarán Hinds and Tobias Menzies — it’s fronted by Harris. If you’ve only recently discovered the actor’s work, you should know that Harris has been thriving in the world of prestige television for quite some time. His villainous portrayal of David Robert Jones on Fox’s sci-fi thriller Fringe, his noble King George VI in Netflix’s The Crown, and his insurgent Anderson Dawes in Amazon’s The Expanse are all worth checking out. That said, it was the actor’s Emmy-nominated performance as Lane Pryce in Mad Men — the financial officer who helped bring ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce into existence — that helped cement him as a powerful performer in the Peak TV game.

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