Period dramas are an easy way to escape the present and lose yourself in another time and place, with events that are entirely a work of fiction or sometimes with a hit of actual events. Because period dramas represent a different place and time, they are very enchanting; the change of everything in the show, attire, daily interactions, what’s allowed and what’s not to mention, and the language itself is mesmerising.
The online streaming service Netflix is rich in period dramas from different genres that will make your heart skip a beat as you watch. Many of the featured shows were produced by Netflix, while the online service bought the streaming rights to several other shows.
In this article, we will bring you some of the best Netflix period dramas, so be prepared to take a trip to different worlds, times and languages.
One hundred years after the Vikings began to impose their power over Europe, we reach the events of Valhalla, the nearing end of the Vikings. This period drama details horrendous cultural and religious clashes between the Scandinavian culture and the English one. As the two cultures clash, Viking leaders face their people’s mass abandonment of Scandinavian gods and embrace Christianity, which destroys the core of their pagan beliefs.
Historical era: the beginning of the 11th century.
Stars: Sam Corlett, Frida Gustavvson, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, and Laura Berlin.
Call the Midwife
Situated in East London, this period drama explores the difficulties faced by midwives from the late 1950s to the beginning of the 1960s. The show has a backdrop of the ongoing political and social problems at the time, such as the difficulties that come with pregnancy, poverty, racism and diseases. Call the Midwife also follows the strong bonds the featured midwives form together as they face other challenges for working as midwives in the post-war era.
Historical era: Late 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s.
Stars: Helen George, Laura Main, Jessica Raine and Stephen McGann.
This spinoff from the original Narcos series is set in Mexico and follows the rise of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, in the 1980s. This period drama shows how Gallardo had to unify various gangs to build his drug empire. On the other hand, officer Kiki Camarena of the DEA moves to Guadalajara to assume his new post but soon finds out his job is to chase Gallardo. Unfortunately, Gallardo kills Camarena, and another officer is assigned to avenge Camarena and catch Gallardo.
Historical era: the 1980s.
Stars: Michael Peña, Diego Luna, Alyssa Diaz, Joaquín Cosío and Ernesto Alterio.
The Queen’s Gambit
Walter Tevis wrote The Queen’s Gambit, the novel from which this period drama is derived, to tell the story of Beth Harmon. Beth excelled at chess as a young woman, and although she aspired to become an elite chess player, her journey was far from easy. The show also highlights the numerous difficulties Beth faces during this period of time, such as sexism, addiction, depression and the patriarchal society around her.
Historical era: the 1950s and 1960s.
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Isla Johnston and Moses Ingram.
Outlander follows the Second World War nurse Claire Randall in 1945 when she goes on a honeymoon with her husband, and she suddenly finds herself at the Craigh na Dun standing stones, which mysteriously transfers her back in time to 1743. The events put Claire in the path of Jamie Fraser, a Scottish highlander, and they soon fall in love. Except Claire still searches for a way to get back to Craigh na Dun to go back to her original time. This period drama also features many actual events during both periods of time it takes place.
Historical era: the 1740s to 1770s and mid-1940s to 1960s.
Stars: Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies.
Back in 1843, two servants murdered their masters, the same way Margaret Attwood detailed in her best-selling novel, Alias Grace, on which the show is based. After Grace Marks and James McDermott murder Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery, they are arrested by the authorities for investigation and trial. This period drama brings the story through Grace’s words as she recounts her abusive childhood to the investigative psychiatrist, Dr Simon Jordan. However, as the show progresses, it isn’t clear whether Grace is telling the truth or manipulating Dr Jordan. The show’s cinematography greatly confuses the audience as to what to believe, if Grace is guilty or not.
Historical era: mid-1800s.
Stars: Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, and Anna Paquin.
Based on the novel carrying the same name by Lisa McGee, this period drama follows a group of friends who attend a Catholic school in Derry, Ireland, during the 1990s or the period known as The Troubles in Irish history. Despite the seriousness of the backdrop events, the show is packed full of comedy and induces non-stop laughter. The protagonist Erin Quinn is an intelligent girl with dreams of popularity, and luckily the silly things she does in order to reach her goal are always contained by her friends and family.
Historical era: early 1990s.
Stars: Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Dylan Llewellyn and Nicola Coughlan.
Anne with an E
This period drama retells the heartwarming story of Anne Shirley, as derived from the best-selling novel Anne of Green Gables. The Cuthbert family own the Green Gables farm, and they adopt Anne, who was a teenage orphan at that time. We will witness the prejudice and bullying Anne faces from her classmates, even from the Cuthberts as well until society finally begins to accept her and she’s able to make true friends. Through the show, Anne gains a best friend, and one of her fiercest rivals eventually becomes friends with her, or perhaps even more than friends.
Historical era: the 1890s.
Stars: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, Lucas Jade Zumann, Aymeric Jett Montaz and Dalila Bela.
This period drama is about Mr. Sunshine, Eugene Choi, a Korean man who was into slavery in Korea but escaped to the United States after its expedition to Korea in 1871. In the US, Choi succeeds in becoming a Marine and goes back to Korea for a mission. While on his mission in Korea, Eugene Choi falls in love with Go Ae-Shin, who is an aristocrat’s granddaughter. The lovers face many stumbling blocks, some political such as Japan’s annexation of Korea and the fights with the Righteous Army struggling to keep Korea’s independence. The other stumbling blocks are about class, with class differences between the two lovers, and romantic problems, since Go Ae-Shin is betrothed to another man.
Historical era: late 1800s.
Stars: Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Tae-Ri, Kim Min-Jung, Byun Yo-Han and Yoo Yeon-Seok.
The street gang, Peaky Blinders and their cunning boss Tommy Shelby are terrorising the streets of Birmingham. When Winston Churchill, the political veteran, charges Major Chester Campbell to haunt down the Peaky Blinders, a breathless chase ensues. Campbell’s mission stumbles across many obstacles, as he’s forced to come face-to-face with the gang, Britain’s Communist Party and the Irish Republican Army’s flying columns. Shelby’s international expansion ambitions, on the other hand, mess with Campbell’s campaign as we witness the dangerous game unfold in this period drama.
Historical era: after WWI.
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle, Ned Dennehy and Helen McCrory.
Frontier reflects the fur trade in the 1800s in Canada and North America, a trade which is dominated by the Hudson’s Bay Company. This company seeks to keep a monopoly of the fur trade while enforcing unjust practices on smaller traders. Declan Harp, who is half Irish and half Cree, challenges Hudson’s Bay’s domination over the business. Intending to remove the company’s hold over the fur trade and Canada, Declan Harp is ready to do everything it takes to achieve his goals in this bloody period drama.
Historical era: late 1800s.
Stars: Jason Momoa, Landon Liboiron, Greg Byrk, Jessica Matten and Zoe Boyle.
Based on the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, this period drama takes place during the Regency era in London, where young women who have become eligible for marriage are being presented to society in order to attract possible suitors. The show follows the story of eight siblings of the Briderton family as they attempt to find love and settle down over the several seasons of the series. Bridgerton is a beautiful display of fashion, royal gossip and intriguing details of the matchmaking process in that period of time.
Historical era: early 1800s.
Stars: Adjoa Andoh, Lorraine Ashbourne, Ruby Barker, Sabrina Bartlett and Jonathan Bailey.
The Crown follows the detailed life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II, from her early life, her youth and her ascension to the English throne and all the significant events in British history that took place during this period of time. The show also features several notable characters, which present a significant time leap every two seasons. Many actors changed as well from season to season. Still, the show remains an audience favourite for its accurate depiction of the royal family and is also a great introduction to British history.
Historical era: the 1950s to the 1990s.
Stars: Claire Foy, Matt Smith, Eileen Atkins, Jeremy Northam and Vanessa Kirby.
The Last Kingdom
The Last Kingdom is a gory period drama that follows the story of the formation of England through the story of Uhtred, an Anglo-Saxon man who was adopted by the Danes, known as the Vikings. Uhtred is torn between the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes, the first won’t trust him again after his adoption, and the second ones won’t accept him because he is a stranger. Despite all the difficulties he’s facing, Uhtred must prove himself both as a skilled warrior and capable leader and decide whether he is Anglo-Saxon or Dane, or perhaps a new mixture of both.
Historical era: 9th century.
Stars: Alexander Dreymon, David Dawson, Tobias Santelmann and Emily Cox.
Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker
Madam C.J Walker’s name was immortalised after she became the first female self-made millionaire in the US. Born as Sarah Breedlove, she had to walk a rigid path as she fought racism as a black woman. This period drama details the difficulties she faced as an activist and businesswoman at the beginning of the 20th century. Although dramatised, the show brings many actual facts from Walker’s life, as written by her adoptive great-great-granddaughter.
Historical era: late 1800s and early 1900s.
Stars: Octavia Spencer, Tiffany Haddish, Garrett Morris and Carmen Ejogo.
Downton Abbey is a period drama that details the lives of the Crawley family, an aristocratic family living in their estate, Downton Abbey, in the Yorkshire countryside, with their servants. We get to see how the political events that took place in England at the time affected both the people living upstairs and those living downstairs, and the writers mixed in some personal problems for both people to add extra drama to the show. Political events mentioned in the series are all real-life events from British history.
Historical era: From 1912 to 1926.
Stars: Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan and Elizabeth McGovern.
Cable Girls shows us the opening of the National Telephone Company in the Spanish capital, Madrid, during the 1920s. The company hired women to fill the telephone operators’ jobs and granted them several concessions and freedoms that were not given in other sectors at the time. The Cable Girls are the four main protagonists who have to deal with many of the issues presented by the era they live in, beginning with the sexism women face with regard to their role in society. Drama, romance and politics intertwine in Netflix’s first Spanish language period drama and original series.
Historical era: the 1920s.
Stars: Blanca Suárez, Maggie Civantos, Ana María Polvorosa and Nadia de Santiago.
Although Reign doesn’t precisely depict true historical events, it features many of the critical stages in the journey Mary, Queen of Scots took to rise to power in the French court. The period drama follows Mary’s early years in the court and shows how Mary struggles to manage her feelings for France’s crown prince Francis and his illegitimate brother Bash. The French Queen at the time, Catherine de Medici, meddles with magic in order to control everyone in the court, including her mad husband, King Henry II, except that Mary begins to cultivate power and is able to fight Catherine back. Throw in the clashes between Mary and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, and you’ve got a very captivating show.
Historical era: mid and late 16th century.
Stars: Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, Torrance Coombs and Toby Regbo.
The Borgias takes us back to Renaissance Italy, to the House of Borgia and their infamous rise to the papacy. Despite the scandals, cruelty, bribery, simony, intimidation and sometimes murder that paved the way for the Borgias to reach the papal office, they still hungered for more power and money. The Borgias earned the title of one of the worst criminal families in history for the atrocities they committed. Although many of the show’s characters are based on real-life characters, the majority of the events are fiction in this thrilling period drama.
Historical era: the 1490s.
Stars: Jeremy Irons, François Arnaud, Holliday Granger and Peter Sullivan.
If the name Medici sounds familiar to you, then this is an opportunity to learn about their history. This period drama follows the Medici family in the Renaissance era in Florence; they were the Pope’s bankers. The show spans three seasons; the first recounts the murder of Giovanni de Medici, head of the Medici family and the taking over of the family’s business by his son, Cosimo de Medici. This season also shows the construction of Florence’s Duomo, which is one of the historically-off facts of the show. The second and third seasons tell the story of Cosimo’s grandson Lorenzo de’ Medici, referred to as The Magnificent. The show is also filled with melodic and great opera-like music.
Historical era: early 15th century.
Stars: Richard Madden, Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Sharman and Annabel Scholey.
Get behind Hollywood’s magic after WWII and dive into the chaotic world of the film industry. We see real-life inspired stories of writers, filmmakers, actors and actresses as they battle the odds to make their way to the screen. Hollywood zooms in on the story of three aspiring artists, an actress, a screenwriter and a filmmaker. The trio fights the systematic mechanisms of the film industry together as they stand against racism and work on paving the way for many talented people to follow suit.
Historical era: 1946 to 1949, after WWII.
Stars: David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Jeremy Pope and Laura Harrier.
The English Game
If you’re interested in finding out how football started, The English Game series will give you all the need-to-know information. In the 1870s, in Great Britain, the country’s wealthiest monopolised football. Two friends and football players, however, changed the game’s future forever when they worked to end the game’s monopoly. As Old Etonians and James Walsh come head to head in the FA Cup quarterfinals, the show brings us the schemes brewing behind the curtains to change football and England forever. Despite the criticism of the series’ historical accuracy, it remains a most enjoyable watch.
Historical era: the 1870s.
Stars: Edward Holcroft, Kevin Guthrie, Niamh Walsh, Craig Parkinson and Charlotte Hope.
The Last Czars
The Last Czars is more of a docudrama since a significant part of the show is to document the life of Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, the last Czar from the Romanov Dynasty. This period drama shows us everything, from the political dilemma that accompanied Nicholas’ rise ascension to the throne and the great havoc caused by Rasputin amongst the Russians at the time. This Netflix period drama shows us the many roles Nicholas has to play, a ruler, a husband and a kind father; this show promises everything.
Historical era: late 1890s to early 1990s.
Stars: Robert Jack, Susanna Herbert, Ben Cartwright and Bernice Stegers.
Rebellion tells the story of the Easter Rising that took place in 1916, with the aim of gaining Ireland’s independence. The period drama and historical fiction show follow a number of friends from three different locations, Dublin, Belfast and London, who work to achieve a higher goal. However, the roles these friends play aren’t always coherent, which results in rising conflicts between them. This show sheds light on the part of Irish history that gets overlooked often and was created to commemorate the passing of 100years on the Easter Rising, even though not all the historical events in the show are a true reflection of what happened in the real Easter Rising.
Historical era: mid-1910s.
Stars: Charlie Murphy, Ruth Bradley, Brian Gleeson and Sarah Greene.
When the land of Germania Magna was occupied by the Romans, who ruled the region with an iron fist, it was hard for the Germanic tribes to unite and defeat their rulers, not with the heavy taxes, punishments and in-tribe fighting. Their father gave away Arminius and his younger brother Flavus to Rome as a token of peace between his tribe and the empire. When Arminius’ foster father and ruler of Germania, Publius Quinctilius Varus, summons him to help maintain the peace in the region, Arminius is appalled by the atrocities his former people are subjected to.
Barbarians is a period drama which tells the story of when Arminius becomes the chief of his former tribe and unites all Germanic tribes with one goal in sight: to end the rule of the Roman Empire on their land once and for all.
Historical era: the end of the 9th century.
Stars: Laurence Rupp, Jeanne Goursaud and David Schütter.
Alchemy of Souls
The Hong sisters bring yet another one of their masterpieces to the screen. Alchemy of Souls is a period drama that takes place in a fictional land called Daeho, where an assassin by the name of Naksu is bent on killing all the mages in the country. Naksu can perform forbidden types of magic that allow her to shift bodies, and after a fierce fight with a group of mages, she is fatally wounded, so she switches bodies with another woman called Mu-Deok. Except that Mu-Deok has a weak body and costs Naksu her magical powers. She crosses paths with a cursed noble called Jang Uk, who can’t practice magic. As the mages search for the new person Naksu possessed, Jang Uk promises to protect Naksu in Mu-Deok’s body, hoping that she will help him break his curse and practice magic.
Historical era: the Joseon era.
Stars: Lee Jae-Wook, Jung So-min, Go Yoon-Jung and Hwang Min-Hyun.
A thrilling mixture of docudrama and psychological thrill, Wormwood is a retelling of a secret biological government project during the 1950s. The show includes actual footage and a recorded interview with one of the scientists who worked on the project, Frank Olson, who mysteriously died from an LSD dosage in 1953. Wormwood is a period drama that will surely leave you puzzled for some time after watching since the events of the series are stranger than fiction.
Historical era: the 1950s.
Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, Scott Shepherd and Christian Camargo.
Troy: Fall of a City
This period drama follows the fate of Troy, the city that met its end because of Prince Paris’ and Helen of Sparta’s love affair. The war between Troy and Sparta lasted for a decade, and the show brings us both sides of the story, with the humans fighting their best and the Greek gods interfering in the story. Complete with great acting, beautiful costumes and a perfect portrayal of the gods; this period drama is a great way to fall back in the epic battle’s history.
Historical era: 13th century BC.
Stars: Louis Hunter, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, David Threlfall and Bella Dayne.
Pablo Escobar’s name is high-resounding the in the world of drug manufacturing. Narcos narrates the drug cartel’s beginning, his entry into the drug world and his infamous rise to power. The investigative missions of two DEA agents eventually led to Escobar’s demise and the fall of his great Medellín Cartel. Agents Steve Murphy and Javier Peña recount their hectic pursuit of Escobar and the difficulty of uprooting this massive industry in Columbia.
Historical era: the 1970s.
Stars: Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Joanna Christie and Pedro Pascal.
After a mining accident wiped out nearly all the male population in the far western village of La Belle, it was up to the village’s women to keep the wheel of life turning. Roy Goode seeks refuge in the village to hide from those he betrayed, Griffin and his gang. When Alice Fletcher deems that Goode is worth saving, she comes under fire from the remaining population for picking a fight that wasn’t hers. One of the few men left is the Sheriff, who takes Fletcher’s side and offers her protection while his own sister continues to pull the authority rug from beneath his feet.
Historical era: mid-1880s.
Stars: Jack O’Connell, Michelle Dockery, Merritt Wever and Jeff Daniels.
We’d like to argue that our list of Netflix period dramas is a must-watch. Each of the diverse, thrilling and action-packed shows promises you a distinctive journey through its story. We hope you’re thrilled enough to pick one of the shows and journey back to old times and places, especially as several of them promise new seasons soon.