The 12 Best Period Dramas to Watch on Netflix
People love period dramas. The most recent successful example of the genre is Downton Abbey, which has captivated British and American audiences alike.
However, Downton Abbey is far from the only good period drama worth watching. There are plenty of historical movies and period dramas on Netflix.
Here’s a list of the best period dramas (TV shows and movies) available to watch on Netflix right now…
1. The Duchess
The Duchess is a 2008 period drama movie about English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire. Keira Knightley takes the lead role. She is ably supported by Ralph Fiennes, Hayley Atwell, Charlotte Rampling, and Dominic Cooper.
The plot takes you on a journey through the Duchess’ loveless marriage, the sexual double-standards of the time, and the poor treatment of women in the 18th century.
2. The Crown
The Crown is one of the best Netflix originals . It tells the story of the life of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The first season starts in 1947 when Elizabeth marries Prince Philip and ends with Princess Margaret’s engagement to Peter Townsend in 1955.
As the series progresses, the modern-day comes into focus, making it less of a period drama. The fourth season features the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.
And in case you’re interested, Queen Elizabeth has watched the show. She reportedly enjoyed it, but found some aspects to be “too heavily dramatized.”
3. Juana Inés
For the next historical drama on our list, we depart European shores and head to 17th century colonial Mexico. Juana Inés was one of the most important figures in both the Spanish Golden Age and Mexican classical literature. She was a nun, scholar, poet, and philosopher who won plaudits for battling the entrenched dominance of men in the religious and scientific worlds.
This seven-part series is filmed in Spanish, so non-Spanish speakers should either turn on the subtitles or learn to speak Spanish using these apps before watching.
Let’s stay in the Americas. When Calls the Heart tells the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a young Canadian woman who leaves high society to become the only teacher in a small coal-mining village on the west coast of the country.
The series starts in 1910, and there are five seasons for you to enjoy, along with three Christmas specials. Erin Krakow takes the lead role, with Daniel Lissing being the main supporting actor.
5. The Tudors
The British royal family perfectly lends itself to period dramas, and The Tudors is the second show on the list that uses them as inspiration.
This show takes you back to 16th-century England and the reign of Henry VIII. The four series each cover an important aspect of the king’s life. His fallout with the Pope, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, the reformation revolts, and the siege of Boulogne all enjoy ample coverage.
The Tudors received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Drama Series in 2007. We think the show is one of the best period dramas on Netflix.
The 1800s were a unique time in Britain. The century began with the industrial revolution taking hold across the north of the country and ended with Queen Victoria leading the largest empire in the world’s history.
North and South takes place in the middle of the century, around the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851. The show is based on the 1855 book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell.
The plot follows Margaret Hale, a wealthy southerner who moves to the industrial north. Stories about class and gender are a recurring theme, as is Britain’s increasingly dominant role in the world.
Versailles is a Franco-Canadian show. The plot follows King Louis XIV of France as he authorizes the construction of the vast Palace of Versailles in the outskirts of Paris during the 17th century.
As you’d expect with a period drama set in the 17th century, the show has large dollops of royal intrigue, backstabbing nobility, love stories, and politics. George Blagden plays the lead role of King Louis.
The Crown isn’t the only historical drama about the British royal family on Netflix that’s worth watching. If you’re up-to-date with all the latest episodes, you could try watching Reign to fill the gap.
Reign tells the story of Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1500s. The Scottish monarch was widely considered to be the legitimate Queen of England by Catholics, but her cousin, Elizabeth I of England, was prepared to do everything in her power to stop her popular family member acceding to the throne.
Peaky Blinders offers a grittier storyline than some of the other dramas on this list. Set in the post-World War I era, it follows the lives of a notorious street gang from Birmingham in the UK.
With its heavily atmospheric cinematography and unique visual style, the show has won numerous awards. Cillian Murphy plays the lead role.
There are multiple seasons available to watch, with the show set to culminate when the first air raid siren of World War II goes off in the city.
Set between 1776 and 1781, Turn: Washington’s Spies tells the true story of a cabbage farmer from New York State who’s commissioned to help spy on the British during the American Revolutionary War.
All four seasons of the show are available on Netflix. Some critics have attacked the show from deviating too far from historical accuracy, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
11. Call Me Francis
Call Me Francis chronicles Pope Francis’ rise as a religious leader during Argentina’s Dirty War between 1974 and 1983. The war saw 30,000 people disappear, the majority of whom were never relocated.
The series begins with the future Pope living as a Jesuit in his hometown and ends with him negotiating deals between the government and the armed uprising.
Call Me Francis consists of just one season and four episodes. And it’s in Spanish, so again, you’ll probably need to use subtitles.
One of the most famous figures in Latin American history is the Venezuelan army general, Simon Bolívar.
Bolívar was a liberator who fought against Spanish occupiers across the region. By the time of his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1830, he had helped to free Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, and the territories of Quito and New Granada. This period drama recounts his life.
Be warned, it’s a long watch. Although only one season was filmed, it comprises of a mammoth 63 episodes, each of which is 50 minutes long.
More Awesome Netflix Recommendations
Period dramas are more popular than ever, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available on Netflix. If you’d like to do your own research, try using Netflix’s secret codes. The code for “Period Pieces” is 12123.
And if you have enjoyed our period drama recommendations, make sure you check out some of the other genres we’ve covered. To get you started, read our list of the best British crime dramas on Netflix .