American audiences love a good period drama, especially those set in olde worlde England. The most recent example of this genre is Downton Abbey, which has captivated American audiences.
However, Downton Abbey is far from the only period drama worth watching. And, as it’s only available on Netflix in Canada, Australia, and Japan, you’ll probably want to know what other period dramas are worth watching.
In this article, we list the best period dramas available to watch on Netflix right now. And we can personally recommend each and every one of them.
Sense and Sensibility was the first published work by acclaimed British author, Jane Austen. It went on sale in 1811. The novel follows the story of the Dashwood sisters as they leave their home to move into a distant relative’s small cottage.
The 2008 television adaptation is a three-part series starring Janet McTeer, Charity Wakefield, and Hattie Morahan. It won nominations for several awards, including Outstanding Costume Design, Best Score, and Best Cinematography at the BAFTAs.
2. The Duchess
The Duchess is a 2008 drama 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.
3. The Crown
The Crown is one of the best Netflix originals. It tells the story of the life of 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 Margret 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.”
4. Juana Inés
For the fourth show 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.
The seven-part series is filmed in Spanish, so make sure you turn on the subtitles (or learn Spanish using these free apps).
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.
6. 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.
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 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 reoccurring theme, as is Britain’s increasingly dominant role in the world.
Poldark is set in the 1800s in Cornwall, a county on the southwestern tip of England that’s famous for its tin mining.
Ross Poldark is the central figure. He returns from the American War of Independence and finds his mineral business in ruins. The main storyline sees him try to wrestle back control of his mines from a rival.
Aidan Turner—one of many actors tipped to be the next Bond—plays the lead role.
9. Parade’s End
Parade’s End is an adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s trilogy of novels of the same name. The story begins in the build-up to World War I and tracks the lives of three people whose lives interweave in unforeseen ways.
The outbreak of war signals the end of their aristocratic way of life. By the end of the five episodes, the protagonists’ worlds are unrecognizable from those which they previously enjoyed. With Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, some commentators have called the show the “highbrow Downton Abbey.”
Note: If you enjoy TV shows and movies about the two World Wars, check out our list of films everyone who loved Dunkirk should watch.
The BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s second work is now more than 20 years old, but it has aged exceptionally well. The series was responsible for turning Colin Firth—who plays Mr. Darcy—into a household name around the world.
For those who don’t know, Pride and Prejudice is a humorous romantic drama set in Britain’s Georgian era. The story follows the lives of five sisters who need to marry well to secure the future of their estate.
Are you getting fed up with shows set in Britain? Then let’s head to Turkey. Magnificent Century is about Suleiman the Magnificent, a 16th century Ottoman Sultan.
His 46-year reign saw the pinnacle of the Ottoman Empire. He built an empire larger than Alexander the Great that stretched from modern-day Vienna all the way to the Sahara Desert in the south and the Persian Gulf in the east.
Magnificent Century ran for four seasons before eventually ending in 2013. But it’s all now available to watch on Netflix.
12. The Paradise
We’ll end the list back in Victorian Britain. The Paradise is set in the country’s first department store in 1875. It uses Émile Zola’s novel Au Bonheur des Dames for inspiration.
In many ways, it’s a traditional rags-to-riches story. Scottish woman Denise Lovett arrives at the store and is immediately considered to be a rising star by the owner, John Moray.
The story follows her battles with her co-workers, her fascination with the luxury of modern life, and her feud with the daughter of the shop’s benefactor who wants to marry Moray.
The series ran for two seasons and 16 episodes.
Even More Netflix Recommendations
Period dramas are more popular than ever. In this article, 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 in detail here at MakeUseOf. There’s our list of the best British crime dramas and the best Nordic dramas to get you started.