Now that all three seasons of NBC’s are finally available on Netflix, fans have been ripping into the episodes with starved fervor. Developed by Bryan Fuller (, , , ), the psychological horror-thriller series first aired from 2013 to 2015. The show follows key characters first introduced by Thomas Harris in his bestselling books , , , and , all of which were adapted as feature films prior to the airing of the series.
Horror fans are certainly familiar with the iconic character Hannibal Lecter, famously portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 Academy Award-winning film . The forensic psychiatrist-turned-serial killer uses his keen intellect and charm to seduce and then devour his victims. In the NBC series, Hannibal—portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen—has not yet been incarcerated for his crimes, and is still keeping his cannibalistic habits well hidden from the public eye.
Meanwhile, Hugh Dancy stars as criminal profiler Will Graham. The volatile FBI agent was first introduced in Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon, which launched two very different film adaptations: (1986) and (2002). Hannibal takes full liberties with Graham’s character, elaborating on the source material to take the storyline in exciting new directions. Where Graham was initially portrayed as a hard-nosed lawman with a bad temper, he’s now a complex, stormy intuitive who works in front of his job, not behind it.
In Hannibal, the two men cross paths when Graham is tasked with hunting down a serial killer. Jack Crawford is Agent-in-Charge of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit; you may remember Scott Glenn's portrayal of Crawford in The Silence of the Lambs. In the show, Crawford, played by Laurence Fishburne, assigns Graham to work closely with forensic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. While working together, Hannibal and Graham discover that they have more in common than either of them could have ever guessed.
Have you already devoured all three seasons of Hannibal on Netflix? If you’re hungry for some fresh blood, we have some thrilling recommendations for you. Check out the shows like Hannibal below for more conflicted anti-heroes, predators in plain sight, and unsettling investigations into the depths of the human psyche.
Like Hannibal, David Fincher’s Mindhunter goes past the front-page, surface-level details of murders, and digs deep into the minds of the monsters who committed them. The show pairs two FBI agents, Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), as they investigate patterns of violence in the early days of criminal psychology.
Tench initially has a hard time believing there’s any method to the madness of the killers they’re profiling, which include some of history’s worst: think Charles Manson, Richard Speck, and Ed Kemper. Ford, on the other hand, has an almost innate understanding of the inner workings of these criminal minds. Like Will Graham, it’s almost too easy for Ford to put himself in the killers’ shoes to get a read on why they did what they did, and what they’re capable of doing next. And as he comes to learn, it’s just a bit harder to slip off those shoes at the end of the day than he expected.
The Fall (2013-2016)
Let’s all admit it: it’s nearly impossible not to like Hannibal’s main character, even though he murders people and consumes their flesh. The best horror television shows give us unique insight into the bad guys and their deadly charm, causing us to reluctantly root for them.
BBC Two’s crime series The Fall centers around Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson (played by the fantastic Gillian Anderson), a self-secure, sharp-witted woman working to unlock the motives of a family man living a sinister double life. Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) seeks out business women, wins their trust, and then brutally strangles them to death. But why? And will Detective Gibson, in studying his motives, be able to keep herself from getting sucked into his pathological allure?
The Blacklist (2013-)
Elusive criminal Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) has finally turned himself in, and agrees to work with the FBI to hunt down the individuals on their most wanted list in exchange for immunity. Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) hasn’t been working as an FBI profiler for very long—which is why she doesn’t understand why Reddington demands to work with her, and only her. Fans of Hannibal’s unlikely duo of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter will enjoy this equally strained, yet oddly complementary, pairing.
For eight whole seasons, fans of the show Dexter got more and more wrapped up in the “dark passenger” lifestyle of the show’s titular character, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). In real-life crime history, there have been instances of active serial killers working side-by-side with law enforcement. It may seem counterproductive for a murderer to run towards the law, rather than away from it—but as Dexter knows, there’s no better way to stay fully informed of what’s going on in an investigation.
In Hannibal, the main character keeps his crimes safely under wraps by working closely with profiler Will Graham and hiding in plain sight. In Dexter, the likable villain’s career as a forensic technician specializing in blood spatter analysis is a great shield for his after-work hobby...spilling more blood.
Prodigal Son (2019-)
Officially renewed for a second season in May of 2020, Prodigal Son explores the bizarre dynamic between a father and son. Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) works for the NYPD, where he uses his uncanny ability to anticipate a killer’s next move to solve cases with near-predatory efficiency. He comes by these instincts naturally, it turns out.
Malcom’s father, Dr. Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen) is a former surgeon who was locked up in an asylum after it was discovered that he’d been using his scalpel to hack up people on his days off. Having previously wanted nothing to do with his father, and for good reason, Malcom eventually turns to him for assistance, much like Will Graham turns to Hannibal. After all, one knows more about killers than a killer himself.
True Detective (2014-)
True Detective, especially the first season, rolls out its storyline with the same kind of slow-building, horrific tension that can be found in Hannibal. From one episode to the next, viewers have no hope of anticipating what manner of hell Louisiana homicide investigators Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) are about to uncover. Since most of the ungodly details of their murder investigation reveal themselves in broad daylight, viewers are left with a nightmarish feeling that lingers, even while sitting in the apparent safety of their own homes.
Bates Motel (2013-2017)
Original momma’s boy Norman Bates is played with cringeworthy precision by Freddie Highmore in this A&E show. The prequel series to Alfred Hitchcock’s provides the backstory to Norman’s descent into madness and murder. Vera Farmiga’s acting chops in the role as Mrs. Bates show that, with this particular family, nurture might just outweigh nature. If your stomach was strong enough to make it through every season of Hannibal, you’ll be able to handle Bates Motel with ease.
The Following (2013-2015)
Kevin Bacon plays FBI agent Ryan Hardy in the crime thriller TV series The Following. Hardy is on the hunt for an elusive serial killer-turned-cult leader, whose ability to lure people over to his side rivals that of Hannibal Lecter himself. It takes a truly cunning mind to make a really bad idea, like joining a cult, seem like a great one. If you want to see more of Bacon in the psychological horror genre, check out the film , which received a digital release due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Continuing the Hannibal theme of rooting for the bad guy, the Netflix series Ozark follows the misadventures of the Byrde family. After entering into a business partnership with the Mexican cartel and finding himself in over his head, Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) moves his family to the remote Ozarks region of Missouri. There, they work together to set up a money laundering empire that leads them further and further into danger.
American Gods (2017-)
Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller also developed American Gods, a dark fantasy series based on Neil Gaiman's 2001 . Ricky Whittle stars as Shadow Moon, a convict who is released from prison a day early so that he can attend his wife’s funeral. Once he’s finally free, he comes to meet Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), a mythical god who is also a con artist.
Six Feet Under (2001-2005)
From episode to episode of Hannibal, you’re never quite sure what you’ll see in the next scene. Some of the surprises that pop up are alarming, to say the least. Similarly unpredictable is Six Feet Under, which ran for five seasons on HBO. Six Feet Under deals with the otherworldly ins and outs of the Fisher family, who run a funeral home and live in close quarters with death itself.
The Break (2016-)
This French language crime series from Belgium only has two seasons, but both are currently available on Netflix, and both are so dark that they will very possibly put a heavy cloud of doom over you after binging them. Much like Hannibal, the storyline revolves around a detective (Yoann Blanc) and a psychiatrist (Jasmina Douieb) who work together to track down a killer.
Killing Eve (2018-)
Not since Hannibal Lecter has there been a villain so likable, so seductive, and so darkly funny as Killing Eve’s Villanelle (Jodie Comer). From the very first episode of the first season, when she knocks an ice cream cone out of a child’s hand and is visibly delighted by the distress she’s caused, Villanelle has held viewers exactly where she wants them: glued to the screen, intrigued, enamored, and more than a little afraid.
Featured still from "Hannibal" via Netflix