If you’re interested in what life was like in the past (and you’re a TV buff), chances are, you’re a big fan of historical drama shows.
There’s just something about the life of past kings and queens, princes and princesses or even of people in the 15th to 18th century that’s so intriguing you want to see it relived.
Be it for their dark history or just their exquisite attire, life in the olden times is just so interesting. There’s no scarcity for it in books and movies, and lately, in TV shows. So if you have an affinity for historical fiction or truth, here’s a list of the best historical drama shows on TV that will surely get you going.
1. Wolf Hall
Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Claire Foy
Thomas Cromwell, a charming confident man and secretary of former Cardinal Wolsey, steps into the life of the treacherous King Henry VIII. He soon became a close advisor to the King — a role that led him closer to danger.
This is the story of Queen Victoria — how she rose to the throne at the age of 18, her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert.
The story and journey of a man who became the greatest hero of his age — Ragnar Lothbrok, King of the Viking tribes who exhibits Norse traditions and devotion to the gods. It was believed that Ragnar was a descendant of Odin, the god of war and warriors.
4. Downton Abbey
The series tells the complicated lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family which began when Lord Grantham’s heir died aboard the Titanic, making his distant cousin Matthew Crawley, a lawyer from Manchester, next to the throne, and whom he never met. Meanwhile, the family’s servants also have opinions about the family’s affairs.
5. The Crown
The story focuses on a 25-year-old newlywed Queen Elizabeth II and the prospect of her leading the world’s most famous monarchy and the events that shaped the second half of the 20th century.
6. The Tudors
This series centres on the Renaissance dynasty under the reign of King Henry VIII with the ruthless Cardinal Wolsey as his advisor and his search for a way to end his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to make Anne Boleyn his wife.
The series focuses on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, who arrived in France as a 15-year-old girl, engaged to Prince Francis. There she’s faced with political and sexual intrigues in the world of the French court.
8. The Last Kingdom
It was 872 and the invading Danes have conquered most kingdoms in what we now know as England, which left the kingdom of Wessex alone and defiant under King Alfred’s ruling. Through these, a hero rose, Uhtred. a Saxon nobleman who was captured by the Danes and raised as one of their own. Now, his loyalty will be tested. Will he choose the country of his birth or the people of his upbringing?
9. Black Sails
This series follows Captain Flint and his pirates operating out of Nassau in the Bahamas. This happened 20 years before the fictional events of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”.
10. Marco Polo
The story features the adventures of famous explorer, Marco Polo, in Kublai Khan’s court in 13th century Mongolia, in a world of power, greed, betrrayal, sexual intrigue, rivalry and blood-lust.
11. The Borgias
Stars: Jeremy Irons, François Arnaud, Holliday Grainger
This follows the Borgias as they try to control the Roman Catholic church in the 15th century, through murder, intrigue, war and marriage alliances. With the help of his son, Rodrigo Borgia uses bribery to secure his position as Pope Alexander VI, but he’s got a few enemies of his own in the College of Cardinals who made a plot against him.
Stars: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Duncan Lacroix
This features the story of an English married combat nurse from 1945 who is swept back in time to 1743, and was thrown to an unknown world where she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior. But she later found herself torn between two different men in two irreconcilable lives.
Frank Griffin, an outlaw terrorising the 1880s American West, hunts down Roy Goode, his partner turned enemy. Roy hides out at a ranch as Frank’s chase leads him to La Belle, New Mexico – a town mysteriously made up almost entirely of women. (IMBD)
The story revolves around the lives of a disillusioned ex-lawman, Wild Bill Hickok and a man who wants to find a new start for himself, Seth Bullock. They then find themselves on the opposite sides of a legal battle for Al Swearengen, a saloon owner, hotel operator, and the emerging boss of Deadwood in South Dakota — a town stained with crime and corruption.
15. Band of Brothers
Stars: Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston
This follows the story of “E” Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the US Army 101st Airborne Division, starting from their initial training which began in 1942 to the end of World War II. It’s a tale of comradeship between ordinary men who did extraordinary things.
16. The White Queen
This is a story of “love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder” between three different women — Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville — who will do everything (manipulate and seduce) in their quest for power and onto the English throne.
17. The White Princess
Based on Philippa Gregory’s best-selling novel and part of The Cousins’ War book series, The White Princess is about the story of Elizabeth of York, the White Queen’s daughter and her marriage to King Henry VII. However, their personal and political conflicts could threaten to tear the kingdom apart once again.
18. Mad Men
Stars: Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser
The series focuses on the lives of those who work in one of New York’s most prestigious advertising agencies in the 1960s on Madison Avenue, particularly those on Sterling Cooper, known as the “Mad Men”, and one mysterious but extremely talented ad executives, Donald Draper stands out from the rest — despite having lived a troubled life.
19. The Bletchley Circle
A housewife, who used to break codes that were used by the German military at the Bletchley Park during the WWII finds a similar pattern emerging nine years later when some women are brutally murdered in London. She then enlists her three former colleagues to track down a serial killer.
20. Mr Selfridge
This is the story of the flamboyant and visionary American founder of Selfridge’s, a department store in London.
21. The Americans
During the Cold War, two Soviet spies pose as a typical American couple, whose neighbours, coworkers and friends, even their children, were unaware of the true nature of their activities. At home, their the typical parents. At work, they’re travel agents. But at night, they spy into the lives of confidants, lovers, dupes, and historical figures from the Reagan-era Cold War.
Stars: Pedro Pascal, Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook
This is the real life story of one of the most notorious drug lords in history — Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his dealings with other drug kingpins who manipulated the growth and spread of cocaine drug cartels worldwide. It also focuses on Steve Murphy, a a DEA agent sent to Colombia on a U.S. mission to capture Escobar and ultimately kill him.
After fighting in the American Revolution, Ross Poldark returns to England only to find the woman he hoped to marry engaged to his cousin, and his father dead and the property he inherited slowly deteriorated. He tries to rebuild his life and tries to win back the woman he loved, but suddenly finds a new one where he least expects it.
24. John Adams
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, John Dossett
This follows the life of one of America’s Founding Fathers, its second President, John Adams and his role in the first 50 years of the nation, which began with the Boston Massacre of 1770 through his years as an ambassador in Europe, to his terms as vice president and president of the United States, and up to his death on July 4, 1826.
This series features the brainchild of 28-year-old King Louis XIV of France in 1667 — the greatest palace in the world, Versailles. However, things got complicated with a drained budget and some affairs and political intrigues.
26. Peaky Blinders
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Paul Anderson, Helen McCrory
Set in Birmingham, England in 1919, this follows a gang who stitch razor blades in the peaks of their caps and the vicious boss Tommy Shelby, who wants to move up in the world.
27. Medici: Masters of Florence
Stars: Richard Madden, Stuart Martin, Annabel Scholey
In the early 15th century, in Florence, Cosimo de’ Medici is suddenly in charge of his wealthy, banking dynasty family when his father, Giovanni suddenly dies. However, Cosimo is concealing a secret — his father was murdered, and now, he and his brother are on a mission to find their father’s killer to protect the wealth and power of their family.
28. Boardwalk Empire
Stars: Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon
During the Prohibition era of the 1920s, Atlantic City, New Jersey politician, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the treasurer of Atlantic County also conspires with gangsters. With this, the Federal Government begin to take an interest in him.
29. Call the Midwife
Stars: Vanessa Redgrave, Jenny Agutter, Laura Main
The series follows the lives of midwives living in East London in the late 1950s to early 1960s, discovering the harsh living conditions of the slums and the bravery of mothers.
Stars: Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Chernus, Christopher Denham
Set in Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1943, a team of government scientists are on a top secret Manhattan Project to build the world’s first atomic bomb before the Nazis. Meanwhile, their families adjust to a life on the military base.
Which of these historical drama shows is your favourite?
- TV shows
- TV shows