The Sympathizer: 10 Similar Shows You Should Watch

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

‘The Sympathizer’ brings to the screen the intricate tale of a conflicted protagonist navigating the complexities of loyalty, identity, and espionage in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Adapted from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the historical black comedy-drama series is helmed by co-showrunners Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar, with Park also taking on directorial duties.

Set against the backdrop of post-war turmoil, the narrative follows the journey of the Captain, a double agent embedded within the South Vietnamese army, as he grapples with the moral dilemmas of betrayal and allegiance. Forced to flee to the US alongside his general, the Captain finds himself torn between conflicting loyalties, embroiled in a web of intrigue within the South Vietnamese refugee community. If you crave more tales of espionage, political tension, and personal conflict, here are ten shows like ‘The Sympathizer’ that deserve your attention and screen time.

10. London Spy (2015)

‘London Spy’ is a British espionage thriller television series created and written by Tom Rob Smith. The plot revolves around Danny (Ben Whishaw), a young man who gets entangled in a complex web of espionage after falling in love with a mysterious man named Alex. As Danny goes further into Alex’s world, he discovers shocking secrets and faces grave dangers. Similar to ‘The Sympathizer’, ‘London Spy’ explores themes of betrayal, identity, and moral ambiguity, offering a suspenseful and thought-provoking narrative filled with unexpected twists and turns.

9. Tehran (2020-)

Tehran‘ is an Israeli espionage thriller television series created by Moshe Zonder and Omri Shenhar. The plot follows Tamar Rabinyan, a Mossad agent tasked with hacking into and disabling Iran’s air defenses while on an undercover mission in Tehran. As Tamar tackles the layers of her mission, she faces numerous challenges and moral dilemmas, blurring the lines between right and wrong. The series stars Niv Sultan as Tamar, alongside Shaun Toub, Menashe Noy, and Shervin Alenabi in prominent roles. Much like ‘The Sympathizer’, ‘Tehran’ looks into the intricacies of espionage and the personal sacrifices made by individuals caught in the midst of political conflict, offering a suspenseful narrative.

8. The Night Manager (2016)

The Night Manager‘ is a British espionage thriller television series adapted from John le Carré’s novel of the same name. Created by David Farr, the series follows Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier turned hotel night manager, who gets entangled in a dangerous world of international arms dealing and espionage. As Pine forages into the shadowy underworld, he must stay on top of a treacherous web of deceit and betrayal while attempting to bring down the elusive and influential arms dealer, Richard Roper. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, and Olivia Colman, ‘The Night Manager’ offers a thrilling and suspenseful narrative filled with intrigue and high-stakes espionage, reminiscent of the complex and catchy storytelling found in ‘The Sympathizer.’

7. Patriot (2015-2018)

‘Patriot’ shares thematic similarities with ‘The Sympathizer’ in its exploration of espionage, moral ambiguity, and the complexities of loyalty. The show follows John Tavner, a melancholic intelligence officer tasked with preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As Tavner navigates the dangerous world of international espionage, he battles with the ethical dilemmas inherent in his mission and the toll it takes on his personal life. Created by Steven Conrad, ‘Patriot’ features a stellar cast including Michael Dorman, Kurtwood Smith, and Michael Chernus. With its dark humor, intricate plotting, and nuanced characterizations, ‘Patriot’ offers a gripping narrative that resonates with fans of ‘The Sympathizer.’

6. The Bureau (2015-2020)

‘The Bureau’ jumps deep into the clandestine world of intelligence operations, echoing the themes of secrecy, loyalty, and betrayal explored in ‘The Sympathizer.’ Set within the French intelligence agency, the series follows agent Guillaume “Malotru” Debailly as he carves his way through the complications of espionage while grappling with his own moral compass. Created by Eric Rochant, ‘The Bureau’ features a stellar ensemble cast led by Mathieu Kassovitz and Sara Giraudeau. With its gripping narrative and nuanced portrayal of the intelligence community, ‘The Bureau’ offers a great exploration of the human cost of espionage, making it a must-watch for fans of ‘The Sympathizer’.

5. Berlin Station (2016-2019)

In ‘Berlin Station,’ the intrigue of espionage intertwines with the complexities of personal morality, mirroring the thematic depth found in ‘The Sympathizer.’ Created by Olen Steinhauer, the series follows CIA agents stationed in Berlin as they navigate a web of political alliances and personal loyalties. Brimming with a tense atmosphere and morally ambiguous characters, ‘Berlin Station’ offers an engrossing portrayal of the shadowy world of intelligence gathering. Starring Richard Armitage and Rhys Ifans, the show plunges into the personal and professional struggles of its characters, exploring the blurred lines between duty and conscience. For viewers captivated by the intricate storytelling of ‘The Sympathizer,’ ‘Berlin Station’ promises a similarly riveting experience.

4. The Little Drummer Girl (2018)

‘The Little Drummer Girl,’ based on John le Carré’s novel, is an espionage thriller that follows actress Charlie Ross as she becomes embroiled in a plot orchestrated by Israeli intelligence. Directed by Park Chan-wook and starring Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgård, and Michael Shannon, the series explores elements of identity, betrayal, and moral ambiguity against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like ‘The Sympathizer,’ ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ explores the intricacies of espionage and the human cost of ideological warfare, offering a thought-provoking examination of loyalty and deception in the realm of international intrigue.

3. Deutschland 83 (2015)

‘Deutschland 83’ presents an enthralling narrative set in the heart of the Cold War, focusing on Martin Rauch, a young East German border guard thrust into the world of espionage by the Stasi. Crafted by Anna Winger and Joerg Winger, the series stars Jonas Nay as the protagonist. Against the backdrop of 1980s Germany, it unravels the intricate political landscape and personal sacrifices of the time. Similar to ‘The Sympathizer,’ ‘Deutschland 83’ sheds light on the moral dilemmas inherent in espionage, exploring themes of loyalty and betrayal amidst the turbulent historical backdrop of the era.

2. The Spy (2019)

In the intricate web of espionage, where loyalties blur, and identities shift like shadows, both ‘The Spy’ and ‘The Sympathizer’ tread the treacherous terrain of covert operations with gripping intensity. ‘The Spy‘ unfolds the captivating tale of Eli Cohen, a Mossad agent who infiltrates Syrian society in the 1960s. Created by Gideon Raff, the series stars Sacha Baron Cohen in a transformative performance. As Cohen immerses himself deeper into his covert role, the lines between truth and deception blur, echoing the moral ambiguity explored in ‘The Sympathizer.’ Against geopolitical tension, ‘The Spy’ probes the question of loyalty, sacrifice, and the human psyche in the risky world of espionage.

1. The Americans (2013-2018)

‘The Americans’ plunges deep into the furtive world of espionage, chronicling the lives of Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, Soviet KGB officers posing as an American couple during the Cold War. Created by Joe Weisberg, the series intricately explores the conundrums of identity, allegiance, and moral ambiguity as the Jennings navigate the treacherous landscape of espionage while maintaining their cover amidst the backdrop of suburban America.

With stellar performances by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, ‘The Americans’ captures the tension and psychological depth akin to ‘The Sympathizer’. Exploring the ethical quandaries of undercover agents, both series probe into themes of allegiance, treachery, and the profound toll of duplicity. This renders ‘The Americans’ an enthralling choice for aficionados of ‘The Sympathizer.’

Read More: The Sympathizer: Where is the Show Filmed?