What to watch after The Idol

The Weeknd and Sam Levinson’s flop series offers an example of how not to do it
Shows like The Idol Here are 9 sleazy  options to watch next

After a month of cringe-worthy dialogue, diabolical sex scenes and that big final ‘twist’, The Idol is officially over. Even if you haven’t been hate-watching along, you’ll undoubtedly know all about the show, which, as its creators predicted, has become the most talked-about show of the summer, for all the worst reasons.

Created by Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye and Euphoria’s Sam Levinson, the series was supposed to be a music industry satire about an aspiring pop idol, Jocelyn’s (Lily-Rose Depp) complex relationship with a cult leader (Tesfaye), who’s allegedly helping her reboot her career. Instead, it’s been decried as gratuitous male gaze torture porn.

Now that it’s finally over, you might subliminally have got a taste for controversy and sleaze. So, to give you something you’ll actually enjoy watching, here’s our pick of 10 series or films that are thematically similar to The Idol, but actually understood the assignment.


Although Levinson’s wildly successful debut series has also been accused of excessive nudity and sex, the show is lightyears ahead in its storytelling and character development. If you want to give him another chance – and you’ve somehow avoided watching it all this time – then it might be time to pick up Euphoria. The series – which boasts Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, and Jacob Elordi among its stars – centres on the turbulent lives of teenagers in California, and all of the teenage angst and hedonistic abandon that comes with it. As The Idol’s been described as “a bad Euphoria parody”, watching Euphoria is feels like watching what could have been.

Basic Instinct

Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 erotic thriller was clearly an inspiration for The Idol – or, as one critic put it, “a film that The Idol desperately wishes it were”. Basic Instinct sees a police detective (Michael Douglas) enter into a passionate affair with the prime suspect (Sharon Stone) of his investigation into the brutal murder of a rock star. Sound familiar? As well as actually featuring in The Idol – when Jocelyn and Leia (Rachel Sennott) are shown watching it – Depp and Tesfaye have both cited the film as an influence for it. If the similarities in plot and obvious references weren’t enough, Basic Instinct was shrouded in controversy, too, due to its sexually explicit content and alleged exploitation. It’s also regarded as a masterpiece, unlike The Idol, so it’s worth a watch.

Madonna: Truth or Dare

Although The Idol wasn’t about any specific pop star, Tesfaye did confirm that its creators pulled inspiration “from Britney, from Madonna, from every pop star that’s gone through any kind of serious pain”. So, why not get clued up on these influential figures? If you’re after for similar vibes, the best place to start is the unflinching 1991 documentary film, Madonna: Truth or Dare, which chronicles the superstar’s life during her 1990 world tour. On its release, Madonna’s overt sexual exploration was criticised, but in the years since, the film has been praised for its honest depiction of female sexuality, as well as for its casual depiction of homosexuality – something that was groundbreaking at the time.


Although The Idol was originally intended to be told through a “feminist lens”, Tesfaye reportedly wanted to pivot away from that – which Levinson was seemingly on board with. But if you want to watch something sexy and feminist, then you can’t go wrong with Hustlers. The 2019 comedy-drama is based on a 2015 The Cut article about a group of New York strippers who steal money from the city’s stock traders and CEOs by drugging them and running up their credit cards. It also stars J-Lo, Lizzo, and Cardi B, who do the musician-to-actor jump much better than Tesfaye.

Eyes Wide Shut

Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is, in comparison to The Idol, a masterclass in how to do sex scenes. The psychological drama tells the story of a doctor (Tom Cruise) whose wife’s (Nicole Kidman) revelation that she considered having an affair leads him to become obsessed with a sexual encounter of his own – an obsession that leads him down a mysterious path. For those who haven’t seen the film, its reputation probably precedes it – you’ve heard of that infamous orgy scene, right?


Given the fanfare about The Idol online, it makes sense to delve into another Extremely Online cultural phenomenon next. Enter: Zola. A film based on a Twitter thread that opens with the best tweet of all time: “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this bitch fell out? It’s kind of long, but full of suspense.” Co-written by Jeremy O. Harris and starring none other than Succession’s Cousin Greg (Nicholas Braun), Zola tells the story of a stripper, who’s convinced by a friend to go on a roadtrip to earn money. What unfolds, though – sex, murder, and a near-suicide – ends up being way more than what she bargained for. It is, as promised, full of suspense.

Vox Lux

There’s been lots of talk about Vox Lux being the compelling pop star story you should watch instead of The Idol – or, in this case, after it. The 2018 musical drama film, which stars Natalie Portman and Jude Law, tells the story of a young girl who rises to pop stardom after a tragedy, but who struggles to navigate the pressures of her newfound fame alongside the trauma of the past. In many comparisons to The Idol, Vox Lux has been praised for its complex portrayal of womanhood and fame – unlike Tesfaye and Levison’s Jocelyn, whose character is often reduced to her sex appeal – as well as its sensitivity to suffering. The costume design is also particularly phenomenal, if you’re into style as well as substance.

9 ½ Weeks

Similarly to The Idol, Adrian Lyne’s 1986 erotic drama film 9 ½ Weeks was initially a flop. But, probably unlike The Idol, it’s gained a cult following over the years. The film centres on a passionate, obsessive affair between a New York art gallerist (Kim Basinger) and a Wall Street broker (Mickey Rourke), whose controversial BDSM encounters have seen the film dubbed “the original Fifty Shades”. It's worth noting that 9 ½ Weeks also shares similar controversies to Levinson’s show, with Basinger and other crew members alleging that she was pushed to her limit on set, with the former describing her experience as “traumatic”.

Spring Breakers

Like The Idol, Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers sparked major debates on its release. Some argue its depiction of women was sexist and objectifying, while others suggest it’s actually a complex look at feminism and empowerment. The 2012 comedy crime film – which stars James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, and Selena Gomez – tells the story of four college friends who, while on spring break, meet a drug dealer and eventually get absorbed into his world of drugs, crime, and violence. Wherever you land on its stance, it’s a good follow-on from The Idol – at the very least as another hate-watch.