I am huge into historical shows and movies, and especially those that involve some great costumes, great drama, and great plots. I am convinced that you could create a show set anywhere in the past, give it a smidge of romance and a lot of drama, and I'll probably sit down and watch at least a few episodes.
I thought I would share some of my ultimate faves from Netflix:
This show is one of the best I have seen in a while, and it is still relatively unknown, which is a shock to me, but then again, it does show on BBC2 really late at night when it is on the air.
The story follows Louis XIV, The Sun King, as he builds Versailles while also dealing with his younger brother, Phillipe, who likes to crossdress and is openly gay (and I'm not spoiling anything. You'll know that from the first time you see him), his wife, his mistress, and a court full of nobles who will do anything to get to the top.
Versailles has been accurate enough in its retelling of events that some scenes are even included in documentaries about the famed palace (of course, not the sexual aspects, but more the designs and battles, both on the battlefield and in the bedrooms).
This is a mature show, for sure, and there is nudity, strong language, and a lot of violence, to provide some warning.
2. Call the Midwife
This show is usually more fun than dramatic, but it does have its moments of being quite intense. Based on the memoirs of midwife Jenny Worth, this show follows a group of midwives in 1950s London and the nuns they work with at Nonnatus House. It's fresh, fun, and gives a lot of info about what exactly went into healthcare and midwifery decades ago. My mom and I devoured the first few seasons and now there is even more to catch up on (and I'm guilty of needing a refresh, too).
As well as showing the healthcare aspect of the show, it also gives a crucial glance into what women were supposed to know, learn, and do in polite society. The characters see a wide range of families, but also go through issues of race, sex, gender norms, and even at times, what it means to turn your back on what you expected of life for an entirely new path.
3. Marie Antoinette
This movie has been deemed a contemporary classic in the last couple of decades, and while its accurate storytelling methods could be called into question (I don't actually think the queen listened to rock music and wore Converse with her gowns and wigs), it does do the basic job of telling a more complex story- with a new twist that makes it easier to swallow and understand for audiences that want a less dry telling of the events.
Not many documentaries focus solely on the eventual fall of Versailles through the lens of what Marie Antoinette was going through, but this account moves all the way from her betrothal to King Louis XIV all the way to the end of her reign. Other people are involved, for sure, but this story is all Marie's.
4. Alias Grace
Another vaguely historical show, this Netflix original comes from the work of the same name by Margaret Atwood (the same author as Hulu show basis The Handmaid's Tale). It claims to be based on true events, some even comparing it a bit to real- life killer Lizzie Borden. I will have to do more research to know how true that is.
The story details the story of a maid who is accused of killing her employers. While investigating the crimes and autopsying the bodies, a young doctor falls for the maid, who has no real details about her known to the public.
I know I have to watch this past this first episode, and if I'm being honest, I really only was looking into it for the Atwood name drop, but those who like shows with crime and drama will love this show.
5. The Paradise
This show is a bit different from what I typically watch simply because it is a show that is much more popular in the UK and was not heavily advertised here. For those who don't mind delving into a bit of a slow build up, this show is a unique and dramatic look at the biggest department store chain in England- starting with the bankruptcy of the company and moving back to that point throughout the show.
It feels very new and exciting at times, and boring at other times, but it is fun to watch something I normally would not have heard of. The old fashions and elegant atmosphere makes it different than other shows.
6. The Crown
Okay, so this show is pretty well known. It is a Netflix original, and one of its highest viewed. That being said, for those of you who are on the fence or have not watched this gem, you need to immediately.
Not only is the British royal family still important (I mean, everyone was watching the royal wedding recently, or was talking about it, or at least knew about it), but this story is incredible. I had no idea that Queen Elizabeth II was kind of badass at times in her younger youngs. She takes the throne and is immediately wrapped in scandal. Her husband doesn't want to listen to her, Winston Churchill wants to help her but is bound to the government to act a certain way, and her sister wants to marry a commoner. THIS SHOW IS NUTS SOMETIMES.
I don't want to give too many spoilers, but this show is relevant, timeless, and important.
Another show that has been around for a while is the CW teen drama Reign, telling the story of a young Mary Queen of Scots and her marriage to Prince Francis of France. Her home country is at war and she was sent away to safety, though arriving in King Henry and Queen Catherine de Medici's court is almost worse- and someone is plotting to destroy everything. This show has everything- romance, drama, beautiful clothes (if not a bit too modern), friendship, and a sexy half-brother for the prince who did not exist in real life- just to create a love triangle.
I used to sneak downstairs to watch episodes of this while my parents were out of the house after my bedtime. Since then, I've been obsessed.
This show is relatively new, and from a person who has watched a lot of historical shows (and her mother), it is not the most captivating. I think the main draw is Jason Mamoa, who many people know as either Khal Drogo on Game of Thrones or Aquaman from the Justice League. Mamoa's character is a trapper living in the woods of Canada, under British rule during the 1600s. Besides lots of drama and use of swords, Jason Mamoa is shirtless a bit, which kept my attention when the show got slow (yes, that is shallow, but I don't really mind). The love story between some of the other characters is simplistic, but good, and the women on the show are powerful and working around the roles society wants to give them.
Ooh, and there are lots of British and Irish accents, too, if that's your sort of thing.
9. Turn: Washington's Spies
Even though you know the eventual outcome of this colonial drama, it's very interesting to see how the war shapes up in this adaption of Alexander Rose's novel of the same name. The audience gets to see both patriot soldiers and British, and, contrary to what I thought would happen, there are people I love and hate on both sides. One of my favorite characters is British Captain John Andre, whose relationships and life in Philadelphia is super interesting.
This show is always super complicated, with the main character spying for the resistance while living in a mainly loyalist town with his magistrate father. Heart pounding, suspenseful episodes are hard to stop watching.
10. Ripper Street
For anyone who likes true crime, Ripper Street is a show that couples the investigation into Jack the Ripper with romance, suspense, intrigue, and lots of British slang and sass. I have yet to meet a show from BBC that I have not liked, and this is one of the shows that, though it is mature rated and has been out for a while, I remembered the trailer well from when I was younger, watched the first episode, and now need to watch everything else as quickly as possible (and rewatch, now that there are more seasons).
Which show are you most excited to watch? Let me know in the comments below.