To many (the undersigned included), “Breaking Bad” is the best television show of all time. The odyssey of Walter White, a chemistry teacher turned into a millionaire drug lord, is one of the most complex pieces of television ever made.
With a total of five great seasons, this show will slowly make the viewer partner in crime with a good guy who becomes the villain. We won’t go on bragging about why “Breaking Bad” is so great. If you haven’t seen it yet and you like the films on this list (or even if you don’t!), you should see it as soon as possible. If you have already seen it, then you know why it gets all the praise it gets.
These are 10 films that have either influenced “Breaking Bad,” have a similar theme, or in the case of “The Infiltrator” and “Smashed,” even star the show’s lead actors, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.
Please let us know in the comments if you know any other films that should have made it on this list.
1. The Infiltrator (2016)
If you don’t find it a little strange to see Bryan Cranston as the guy who gets drug dealers caught, this might be the best choice for a movie to console your post “Breaking Bad” nostalgia.
“The Infiltrator” is set in the 60s and tells the true-story of Robert Mazur (Cranston), a U.S. Customs Service special agent who tries to get hold of evidence on the money laundering machine behind the BCCI, the bank which helped Pablo Escobar’s cartel clean their dirty money. After he sets up a false identity as corrupt businessman Bob Musella, Mazur manages to infiltrate Escobar’s cartel.
As far as storytelling and direction goes, the film brings nothing new to the table, but Cranston gives a superb performance, one of his best since the Walter White days.
2. Smashed (2012)
This film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul as a couple who struggle with alcohol addiction. Winstead’s character, Kate, who is a schoolteacher, finds herself in the embarrassing situation of vomiting in front of her pupils. Ashamed, she lies that she’s pregnant, but soon the truth comes to light. The film goes on to depict her attempt to get sober and the couple’s problems that emerge when her partner remains the sole drinker.
Unlike many other films about addiction, “Smashed” has a very lighthearted, even comedic tone and makes you sympathetic toward its characters. Even though you know they might not be the best people, you get to understand them and take their side. For instance, a teacher being expelled from her school due to alcoholism seems reasonable, but you can’t help and feel a bit of unfairness when you see this happening to Winstead’s character.
“Smashed” is a great film that has mostly slipped under the public’s radar. However, critics appreciated it, including Roger Ebert, who said, “Mary Elizabeth Winstead is sort of wonderful in this movie, worn and warm,” and called the film a success.
3. Good Time (2017)
One of 2017’s biggest surprises, “Good Time” is surely bound to become a classic. Robert Pattinson gives his best performance so far as Connie Nikas, a character that has been compared by many to Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver.” Connie and Nick, his mentally challenged brother, try to rob a bank, but things don’t go according to plan when Nick gets caught and taken into custody.
Pattinson’s character tries to rescue his brother from the police, but his mission turns out to be way harder than initially thought when a series of unexpected events happen.
If instead of Connie Nikas you’d have Jesse Pinkman, this film’s script would make for a great “Breaking Bad” episode. The action takes place during one night and translates into an alert, entertaining film which will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is indeed a good time.
4. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Sidney Lumet’s final film before his death in 2011 didn’t receive as much recognition as his more famous works such as “12 Angry Men” or “Dog Day Afternoon,” but it’s nothing short of a masterpiece.
Just like in “Breaking Bad,” the film follows normal people who choose to do crazy things in order to get money. Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman play Andy and Hank Hanson, two brothers who decide to rob their own parents’ jewelry store. They hire an experienced thief to help them with their scheme, but things don’t go according to plan when their mother accidentally gets shot. From there on, everything in the brothers’ lives falls apart.
This film amazes, not only through the award-worthy performances from its talented cast, but also through the unconventional yet captivating nonlinear storytelling. It feels like a puzzle, always taking you back and forth in time, and in the end constructing a perfect observation on the downfall of a family.
“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” is thrilling, dramatic and funny at the same time. This is how films should be made.
5. Scarface (1983)
“Scarface” needs no introduction. It has been regarded as one of the best mob movies of all time and has influenced lots of later works, “Breaking Bad” included. The film follows the life of Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant played by Al Pacino. Montana starts doing jobs for local drug dealers and slowly works his way up through Miami’s organized crime business, becoming a multimillionaire drug kingpin.
Vince Gilligan, the creator of “Breaking Bad,” described the character of Walter White as Mr. Chips turned into Scarface. Of course, Pacino’s iconic character from the 1983 cult film is a very different person than White. He is never really a good guy, not even early in the film, and his actions are backed by mostly different motivations.
However, he also puts great value on his family, always trying to help his mother and sister with money and protection, and he showcases a level of intelligence superior to others like him. But there is another more important thing that makes “Scarface” and “Breaking Bad” very similar, and that is how they both make us root for the bad guys.
If you’re passionate about cinema, you’ve surely already seen or at least heard about “Scarface,” and it ain’t no news that it is a great film. However, it would be unfair to make a “Breaking Bad” list without it.