Most people look forward to summer all year long, spending the winter at work or during school daydreaming about the beach, barbeques and more beach. But for “Game of Thrones” fans stuck between seasons of the hit HBO show, it can be a cruel season because they're missing out on all the blood, incest and decapitation they crave.
HBO has yet to confirm when “Game of Thrones” will be back for a fifth season, but all signs point to April 2015 as the likeliest time fans will be able to find out what fate befalls the House Lannister and Bran Stark, among other cliffhangers. The tension is only heightened for those fans who have plowed through the entire “Song of Ice and Fire” book series so far, with the “Winds of Winter” release date still unannounced.
The good news is that there are more than enough books, TV shows and movies similar to “Game of Thrones” for any fan who can't live without the world-building and sinister backstabbing that makes the show so enjoyable. “Thrones” creator George R.R. Martin has specifically mentioned a number of the works below as inspiration for his own story.
The Lord of the Rings
No question the most obvious comparison to “Game of Thrones,” the story of Frodo Baggins’ quest to destroy “the one ring to rule them all” is a clear influence on the seemingly never-ending travails of Brienne, Khaleesi and others. Martin has admitted as much, telling Entertainment Weekly that J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece was the “great model” for “A Song of Ice and Fire" because it “begins with a tight focus, and all the characters are together. Then by the end of the first book the Fellowship splits up, and they have different adventures.”
The Wars of the Roses
Martin has also admitted that his series was influenced by the real-life events of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York from 1455 to 1485 in England. The conflict was the result of financial and societal troubles after the Hundred Years War against France, with members of each family vying for the English crown. The decades-long drama, which was revisited in a book by author and historian Alison Weir, among many others, included assassinations, dramatic battles and secret marriages. Martin has denied basing any of his own characters on an actual person in the Wars of the Roses, but scholars have been quick to compare the Lancasters and Yorks with the Starks and Lannisters (note the similar names).
This epic 2011 remake of the classic 1963 Japanese film has earned nothing but praise (and a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) for its depiction of an unemployed band of samurai who have been deployed to stop a sadistic warlord from taking over feudal Japan. Usually available on Netflix, the movie is in Japanese with English subtitles, but most viewers will have a difficult time looking away from the awe-inspiring action scenes. There’s more than enough murky politics to satisfy “Thrones” fans and at 45 minutes the final battle sequence is rivaled only by the Battle of Blackwater.
This Danish political drama has more often been compared to Netflix’s “House of Cards,” but both shows update the manipulative politics of King’s Landing for the 21st century. Like “13 Assassins,” “Borgen” is only available with subtitles, but what it lacks in English it makes up for in cold calculation. It delves into the story of Birgitte Nyborg, who unexpectedly becomes the first female prime minister of Denmark and becomes slowly corrupted by the intricacies of navigating the political system. Newsweek dubbed “Borgen” the best TV show you’ve never seen" and Stephen King praised the show as a “bleaker, Nordic version of ‘The West Wing.’”
Crusader Kings II
One of the most popular computer games released in recent years, “Crusader Kings II” will appeal to “Game of Thrones” fans for whom books and movies just aren’t enough. The immersive game is set in the Late Middle Ages and includes a slew of historical figures including William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great, and Constantine X Doukas (who did not in fact live on the same times and places). Gamers start by beginning their own dynasty and spend hours working to make sure the family name lives on, even when the individual characters are killed either by assassination or in battle. It’s so similar to “Game of Thrones,” in fact, that “Crusader Kings II” developers released an add-on in 2012 that fully converts the world of the game to the “Song of Ice and Fire” series.