Period dramas provide unparalleled comfort compared to other television genres, such as comedies and romcoms. Through Downton Abbey and Bridgerton, period dramas invite viewers to explore and learn about the lavish societies and houses of people living in 18th and 19th-century England and to become captivated by dramatic and interesting stories relating to family commitment and forbidden love.
TV shows like The Crown have inspired us to swap our comfortable tracksuits for pearls and evening gowns. In contrast, the Bridgerton mentioned above has seen a crowd of fans frantically seek out corsets, evening dresses, and arm gloves.
Fortunately, there are many period dramas on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime and Netflix. They help us ease you out of summer and into autumn when Regency-era bustles and ribbon headbands are far more fashionable than bikinis and swimsuits.
We have listed the best period dramas, ranging from The Crown and Pride and Prejudice to old-school Jane Austen adaptations. They provide enough escapism and happiness for all your Saturday nights to come.
Bridgeton is undoubtedly one of the most famous period dramas to capture the hearts of Netflix viewers. It is Netflix’s most-watched English show, breaking records. As a result, it has become a firm favourite in households worldwide.
The series, based on Julia Quinn’s bestselling novels, follows the love lives of the powerful Bridgerton siblings as they enter Regency London’s ruthless marriage market. The first season explores young Daphne’s debut and the difficulties of navigating true love. It provides viewers with a look into high society, women’s expectations, and some rather saucy sex scenes.
The second season focuses on Anthony, her older brother. After falling for his intended bride’s sister, he becomes involved in a town scandal. We’re already counting down the days until Bridgerton’s third season premieres.
The pinnacle of historical dramas, Downton Abbey, is one of the most-watched TV programmes of all time. It is the most lucrative British costume drama since Brideshead Revisited in 1981. The acclaimed series was written by Julian Fellowes and was initially published in 2010.
It plunges us into the upheaval of the 20th century. The aristocratic Crawley family’s lavish house is located in the heart of Yorkshire. Their servants are the subjects of a television series that chronicles their life between 1912 and 1926.
The four drama-filled seasons of the Emmy and Golden Globe winner focus on the British royal family. There has never been a better occasion to dive into the lives, loves, and heartbreaks of the renowned family, with season five on the horizon. The series examines Queen Elizabeth II’s life, from her accession to the throne to the political and personal events that influenced her reign. Her 1947 marriage to Prince Philip is depicted in season one. The most recent season focused on Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana’s courtship.
Pride and Prejudice
The award-winning series from 1995 is still one of the most special adaptations. It is widely recognised as the most remarkable on-screen representation of Jane Austin’s classic novel. The drama explores the impact of Mr Darcy’s entrance and how it drives Elizabeth Bennett’s marriage-obsessed mother to extremes. He is a high-class, wealthy gentleman.
After meeting at a ball, Bennett and Darcy begin a wonderful love tale, but it is not without its difficulties. One of the key moments in television history is Colin Firth’s portrayal of a wet Darcy emerging from a lake.
The inspirational period drama follows four young, independent sisters as they make their way through the world and stars British actors Emma Watson and Florence Pugh. Based on the novel by author Louisa May Alcott, the series depicts the daily challenges young women in the 19th century had to deal with. The sisters pursue their aspirations in Concord, their hometown, and Paris, defying the restrictions placed on women at the period.
The Personal History of David Copperfield
With this short version, director Armando Lannucci offers a new perspective on Charles Dickens’ iconic character David Copperfield and his famous novel. The drama tells the story of a teenage orphan who attempts to overcome many obstacles to become famous and wealthy.
The historical drama, which received seven Academy Award nominations, is based on Ian McEwan’s book of the same name. What happens is a tragic love story with a painful beginning and a heartbreaking conclusion. In the World War II drama starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, a younger girl accuses her sister’s lover of a crime without evidence. Get the tears ready if you cry easily, as we do before watching this.
In this drama, set in the early 19th century, Pugh plays a youngster who is wed off to an older man who lives on their estate. She experiences her first taste of freedom while he is away on business when she falls for the love of her life. The drama takes on a suspenseful quality thanks to the actor’s mesmerising performance. Her character comes to terms with how little power women of her period had over their lives in the pre-feminist era.
The biography Becoming Jane details Jane Austen’s early years in the United Kingdom. Although Austen (played by Anne Hathaway) wants to be a writer, her parents want to see her marry a wealthy man. That is until she starts to fall for an Irishman who does not give any means of support. The historical drama depicts Austen’s passionately driven rise to literary greatness.
Another Jane Austen adaptation? Yes. In contrast to contemporary dramas like Atonement, Emma is a fun and funny period piece that offers some much-needed pleasure. Emma Woodhouse (Anna Taylor-Joy) is seen in the series experiencing the hardship of growing up and finding love in high society. The series reimagines how one achieves a happy ending.
This dark comedy, set in the 18th century, features Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. It centres on Queen Anne and the complicated relationship between her two’ favourites,’ who fight for her love and attention. The harsh and intense performances in the series earned it an astounding 10 Oscar nominations in 2019.
The 2017 miniseries Howards End, an adaptation of E.M. Foster’s famous book, focuses on the lives of two sisters negotiating life and love in high society. The novel, which occurs around the turn of the 20th century, is presented from the views of three families from various socioeconomic classes: the wealthy Wilcoxes, the intellectual Schlegels, and the working-class Basts. The Schlegel sisters are keen on aiding the Bast household and destroying the Wilcoxes’ socioeconomic prejudices.
Persuasion is played by Cosmo Jarvis, Dakota Johnson, Henry Golding, and Suki Waterhouse. It tells the story of the protagonists Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth’s long-forgotten love and how they were given a second chance. The series, based on Jane Austen’s book of the same name, chronicles the lives of Anne, one of Sir Walter’s three daughters, a wealthy and influential English aristocracy (Corin Redgrave).
Since her family convinces her not to marry her real love, Frederick, due to his low social position, part of Anne’s wish stays unfulfilled. The flame between them, however, never went out. Old flames rekindle between the two when Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars years later with financial advantages and a socially esteemed naval officer rank.
It is directed by Cracknell and is a must-watch if you enjoy romantic comedies about the “one who got away.” Watch the historical drama for its gorgeously ornate costume design and Cracknell’s humorous adaptation of this timeless novel by Jane Austen.
This series vividly depicts Emily Bronte’s life, one of the most well-known and innovative authors of the millennium, who the world lost at 30. The story focuses on Emily, played by Emma Mackey, and recounts the challenging years leading up to the author’s outstanding work Wuthering Heights.
It provides a glimpse into her thrilling, inspiring, and defiant transition into womanhood. Frances O’Connor makes her promising directorial debut with this coming-of-age series set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire moors.
The American period drama Babylon, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is scheduled for a Christmas 2022 release. Brad Pitt plays John Gilbert, Margot Robbie plays Clara Bow, and Tobey Maguire serves as executive producer for the ensemble cast. In the film, Maguire also makes a cameo as Charlie Chaplin, a legendary silent film actor.
The movie reportedly tackles Hollywood’s glittery and glamorous side and the industry’s shift from silent films to motion pictures with a synchronised soundtrack. However, Paramount has yet to reveal the plot (talkies) publicly. Jean Smart and Olivia Wilde are also featured in the cast.
The Wonder is a psychological thriller depending on the best-selling book by Irish-Canadian playwright Emma Donoghue. It explores the lives of a “wonder” girl who seems to go without food for extended periods. Sebastián Lelio directed the Netflix film, which stars Florence Pugh as Lib Wright and is set in the enigmatic valleys of 19th-century Ireland.
Pugh portrays an English nurse whose presence is urgently needed in Ireland to examine and evaluate the 11-year-old miraculous girl Anna O’Donnell (Kla Lord Cassidy). She is a devout Christian. Due to her remarkable ability to survive without food, she has become a popular tourist attraction. Townspeople swarm to see O’Donnell, who soon becomes a fantastic phenomenon.
A journalist sceptical of this survival story’s apparent miracle joins Wright. The journalist questions whether something more sinister is at work.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
In the fourth season of The Crown, actress Emma Corrin played the part of Princess Diana. In this historical drama, she will play Lady Constance Chatterley, a free-spirited noblewoman. It is directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and is based on DH Lawrence’s novel of the same name. It tells the tale of Lady Chatterley, a woman who has an exciting affair with a gamekeeper (Jack O’Connell) after losing her love for her husband. She experiences more desire and intimacy during this procedure than she could have imagined.
The Woman King
The Woman King is a historical epic movie written and co-authored by Dana Stevens and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. It is based on actual events that happened in the Kingdom of Dahomey. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the movie was one of the most potent African states.
The compelling narrative follows the tenacious military general Nanisca (Viola Davis) and her recruit Nawi (Thuso Mbedu). They fight off adversaries and against those who have damaged their sense of honour. Lashana Lynch, John Boyega, Sheila Atim, Adrienne Warren, Jayme Lawson, and Hero Fiennes-Tiffin are other cast members.
Mr Malcolm’s List
The historical drama, released in July 2022, was written by Suzanne Allain and directed by Emma Holly Jones, who will make her feature film debut. The tale was taken from Allain’s book of the same name. In the film, a young woman named Selina Dalton (Frieda Pinto) in 19th-century England falls in love with a shady, wealthy suitor named Mr Malcolm (p Drsù). Zawe Ashton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, and Theo James are also featured in the movie.
The historical romance story, which centres on the traditional “enemies-to-lovers” viewpoint, follows the life of Mr Malcolm as he looks for a suitable bride for himself. He is looking for a woman who will satisfy his extensive list of exacting demands.
Pinto portrays a rural girl who first hates Mr Malcolm and tries to have him murdered with the help of her friend Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton). He rejects the latter because she does not fit his requirements. She ends up courting him in a (not so) unexpected turn of events.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
In this new drama, played by The Crown’s Emma Corrin and SAS Rogue Heroes’ Jack O’Connell, Connie, Lady Chatterley battles with her marriage after her husband’s wounds from World War I. The summary says: “She meets and falls in love with the gamekeeper Oliver Mellors on the Chatterley family estate. Their private liaisons cause her to experience a sensual sexual awakening. Connie’s decision to follow her love or stay with her husband and conform to the expectations of Edwardian society forces her to make a decision. It will change the course of her life.
What is the next period drama on your list?