The Big Cigar: 10 Similar Shows That Deserve Your Attention

Apple TV’s ‘The Big Cigar’ narrates a partially true story of Black Panthers Party founder Huey P. Newton, escaping the FBI under the guise of making a movie. Created by Jim Hecht and Janine Sherman Barrois, the show introduces us to a popular and charismatic Newton who is uplifting African-American communities while being monitored by the FBI as a security threat. With the bureau set on arresting him, Newton decides to flee to Cuba. To help cover up his escape, Newton is assisted by Hollywood producer Bert Schneider, who cooks up a plan to smuggle him across the border as part of a location film shoot. The thrilling biographical adventure leaves us wanting more of shows like ‘The Big Cigar.’

10. Aquarius (2015-2016)

Crafted by John McNamara, ‘Aquarius’ transports us to Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Detective Sam Hodiak investigates the disappearance of a teenage girl, Emma Karn, who is drawn into the world of Charles Manson’s cult. Like ‘The Big Cigar,’ the series delves into a tumultuous era, exploring themes of social upheaval, political unrest, and the rise of counterculture movements. Hodiak’s investigation leads him into the heart of Manson’s commune, where he confronts psychological manipulation and violence to find Emma and bring Manson to justice.

9. We Own This City (2022)

Under the creative direction of David Simon and George Pelecanos, ‘We Own This City’ narrates the gripping true story of Baltimore’s police corruption scandal. Set against the backdrop of Baltimore’s cityscape, the show follows a group of rogue police officers led by Sgt. Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal), as they exploit their authority for personal gain. While the task force’s illegal activities escalate, Detective Sean Suiter finds himself caught in the crossfire, torn between loyalty to his colleagues and his duty to uphold the law.

The show highlights issues of rampant crime, police brutality, abuse of power, ineffective leadership, and a growing economic divide. Fans of ‘The Big Cigar’ will appreciate the show’s raw depiction of societal problems that Huey P. Newton himself stood against, forcing contemplation on how far the nation has progressed since his time. Highlighted by Bernthal’s stellar performance, the show is incredibly well put together and goes pedal to the metal with the very first episode.

8. Show Me a Hero (2015)


‘Show Me a Hero’ chronicles the true story of Nick Wasicsko (Oscar Isaac), a young mayor faced with the daunting task of implementing a federal court order to build low-income housing in the predominantly white neighborhoods of Yonkers, New York. When the Supreme Court orders the desegregation of neighborhoods, Wasicsko navigates the complexities of race, politics, and public opinion to get the project passed.

Wasicsko becomes embroiled in a heated battle that divides the community along racial lines, with many groups lobbying for and against following the court decision. The show is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Lisa Belkin. Those who liked ‘The Big Cigar’ for tackling the racial themes of its time will be enthralled by another riveting true story in ‘Show Me a Hero,’ which explores the extent of institutional and social resistance to desegregation.

7. When They See Us (2019)

Created by Ava DuVernay, ‘When They See Us’ brings to light the harrowing true story of the Central Park Five – five black and Latino teenagers wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise face an uphill battle against the criminal justice system, facing racial bias, coercion, and injustice at every turn. Through poignant storytelling and impeccable performances, ‘When They See Us’ will appeal to fans of ‘The Big Cigar’ as it exposes the deep-rooted flaws and systemic racism within the legal system.

6. Escape at Dannemora (2018)

‘Escape at Dannemora’ is a gripping Showtime miniseries created by Brett Johnson and Michael Tolkin. Based on real events, the show follows the shocking 2015 prison escape of two criminals, Richard Matt and David Sweat, from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. The escape was made possible owing to a female employee’s romantic involvement with the convicts and her willingness to help them escape.

At the heart of the story is the manipulative relationship between inmate Richard Matt (Benicio Del Toro) and prison employee Joyce Mitchell. As Matt brings David Sweat on board his escape plan, the two seduce Mitchell, blurring the lines between captor and captive. Like ‘The Big Cigar,’ ‘Escape at Dannemora’ narrates an unbelievable but true escape story with help from the most unexpected of places. The cast members seem to effortlessly step into their roles, essaying a bizarre and raunchy tale too complex for the headlines.

5. Seven Seconds (2018)

Image Credit: JoJo Whilden/Netflix

Conceived by Veena Sud, ‘Seven Seconds’ transports us to Jersey City in the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident of a black teenager by a cop. The incident sparks racial tensions. A driven prosecutor searches for answers while the policeman responsible grapples with the morality of hiding the truth to keep his job and family. As Assistant Prosecutor KJ Harper and Detective Joe Rinaldi investigate the case, they uncover layers of corruption and cover-ups that implicate both law enforcement and city officials. With powerful performances and a thought-provoking narrative, ‘Seven Seconds’ is sure to enthrall fans of ‘The Big Cigar’ as it delves into themes of race, justice, and morality.

4. Gangland Undercover (2015-2016)

‘Gangland Undercover’ narrates the true story of Charles Falco, an undercover informant who infiltrated one of America’s most notorious biker gangs, the Vagos Motorcycle Club. Created by Stephen Kemp, the show introduces us to Falco as he is offered a chance to avoid prison in favor of working for the government and entering the world of outlaw motorcycle gangs. As he gains the trust of the Vagos gang, he gathers crucial intelligence on their criminal activities, including drug trafficking, violence, and illegal weapons dealing.

With intense action sequences and gripping storytelling based on real events, ‘Gangland Undercover’ draws several parallels with ‘The Big Cigar.’ It is particularly lauded for a gritty and authentic portrayal of the criminal underworld, shedding light on the complexities of undercover work and its sacrifices.

3. Lawmen: Bass Reeves (2023)

Paramount’s ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ spins the tale of the titular historical figure, who was one of the first Black U.S. marshals west of the Mississippi River. The show, created by Chad Feehan, is based on Sidney Thompson’s first two books of ‘The Bass Reeves Trilogy.’ The narrative follows Bass Reeves as he takes up the difficult job of cleaning up the town and region under his charge, chasing down bandits, settling disputes, and squaring off against dangerous gunslingers.

Reeves and his family’s life is made even more difficult by local KKK members who find Reeves’ stature as a lawman unacceptable. Fans of ‘The Big Cigar’ will undoubtedly root for Reeves as a legend of changing times like Huey P. Newton. Both shows follow trailblazing figures who fought racism and oppression head-on.

2. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (2015)

‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution’ is a powerful documentary directed by Stanley Nelson that delves into the history and impact of the Black Panther Party. Through archival footage, interviews, and expert analysis, it chronicles the rise of the Black Panthers, their activism, and the government’s efforts to dismantle the movement. It explores the Panthers’ community programs, such as free breakfast programs and health clinics, as well as their tactics and confrontations with law enforcement.

Nelson provides a nuanced portrayal of the Black Panthers, highlighting their contributions to the civil rights movement while also examining internal conflicts and controversies within the organization. ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution’ offers a compelling insight into a pivotal moment in the nation’s history that gives detailed context to the story of ‘The Big Cigar.’

1. The Sympathizer (2024)

Based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, ‘The Sympathizer’ centers on the Captain, a double agent working for the Viet Cong, embedded in Los Angeles in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The Captain was undercover in the South Vietnamese military, and as he lands in a refugee camp, he catches the eye of the CIA, who recruit him as a double agent for them. The genre bending show also stars Robert Downey Jr. in multiple roles depicting the establishment’s war, intelligence, and propaganda machine.

Created by Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar, ‘The Sympathizer’ presents a nostalgic setting similar to that of ‘The Big Cigar.’ Both feature intense intrigue, the plight of marginalized communities, and engaging adventures involving intelligence organizations.

Read More: The Big Cigar’s True Story, Explained