They say those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, so let's learn everything there is to know about history because I definitely don't want to repeat anything we've done ever, especially in the last few years. But why stick your nose in a book when you can watch history play itself out via the best historical TV dramas available with the press of a few buttons? The good news is that Netflix has a huge catalog of them to choose from.
While these shows may not always be super accurate, they make history exciting with high-stakes drama and opulent costumes that are most certainly way out of your budget. If you're among those who can't get enough of these racy period pieces, grab a cup of tea and settle in for some quality entertainment. We've got you covered with a list of the best historical dramas currently streaming on Netflix.
Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James star in this film set in the late 1930s about a wealthy widow who hires an archaeologist to dig up the large burial mounds on her property, only to uncover the remains of a large ship from the Dark Ages. The movie is a fictionalized version of the real story of the 1939 Sutton Hoo excavation, and it also deals a lot with the complicated relationships between the characters as they grow closer the longer the excavation continues. It's like the old saying goes: nothing is sexier than being covered in dirt and dust. -Allison Picurro
The first fruit of Shonda Rhimes' massive Netflix development deal follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) through her first season out in 1800s London society and her rollercoaster journey of falling in love with a reluctant duke (Rege-Jean Page), and it introduces us to the rest of the Bridgerton siblings and their immediate social circle as the elusive Lady Whistledown mysteriously catalogs all of the their gossip for her anonymous column. It's Pride and Prejudice meets Gossip Girl and Scandal in the most delicious way possible. Heads up: Though the art for the series may make it look like a demure relaxing binge, Shonda and company stay true to the spirit of the source material, and things get very steamy as you get further into the season. -Megan Vick
Ryan Murphy created this drama following actors during Hollywood's "Golden Age," a movie boom after World War II, as they chased their dreams to make it big in Tinseltown in an industry that doesn't normally treat outsiders well. There's revisionist storytelling here with real characters mingling with those made up just for the film, and it posits a situation where life today could be better if things went just a little differently back then. Darren Criss, Dylan McDermott, and Jim Parsons star.
This South Korean drama set around 1592 is like Game of Thrones, only better. A king falls ill and sparks a plague that finds people rising from the dead. With the disease starting to spread, it's up to the Crown Prince Lee Chang (Ju Ji-hoon) to not only protect his father's deadly secret but also find a way to keep the plague from advancing toward the capital while thwarting a coup against his family. Season 2, which is now streaming, picks up with the undead now roaming freely and the Crown Prince working to gain allies to help him reclaim the throne while the Queen Consort Cho (Kim Hye-jun) plots to control the undead.
This lavish series offers an intimate look at Queen Elizabeth's reign, chronicling her personal drama, romances, political rivalries and the historical events that shaped not only her life but that of the latter half of the 20th century. Netflix announced in January that the series will come to an end after Season 5, with Imelda Staunton serving as the eponymous monarch. Seasons 1-2, which explore the early years of Elizabeth's reign, starred Claire Foy in the titular role. Olivia Colman took over for Foy in Season 3 as the queen entered middle age. Season 4 again stars Colman and brings the series into the 1980s, which means Lady Di (Emma Corrin) and Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) join the mix.
Based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name, this Canadian limited series centers on Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), an Irish immigrant and domestic servant accused of murdering her boss and his housekeeper. It's a gripping crime drama with biting social commentary as a psychologist weighs in on whether or not Grace, who'd been subjected to abuse at the hands of her wealthy overlord, should be pardoned by reason of insanity.
In the aftermath of WWI, Britain is a hotbed for despair and criminal acts as returning soldiers, regular citizens, and local gangs fight for survival in the midst of economic upheaval. This drama set in 1919 centers on the infamous Peaky Blinders gang led by Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy), a war hero who aspires to someday go legitimate. His daily operations are threatened by the arrival of Inspector Chester Campbell, a hotshot out of Belfast looking to rid Britain's streets of the rampant crime.
This Showtime series chronicles Rodrigo's ascension to popehood through bribery, extortion and torture during the Renaissance era. The series, which boasts an all-star cast anchored by Jeremy Irons as the corrupt cardinal, features sex, drama and blasphemy which means it's definitely worth checking out.
If you're really into Game of Thrones, you'll probably dig this action-packed drama set in 9th-century England when the country was divided into seven kingdoms -- all at war. Based on the novel of the same name by Bernard Cornwell, the story follows Uhtred who must walk a dangerous path as he is forced to choose between the nation he was born in and the one in which he was raised. It might not have dragons but you'll never be bored with the interconnected drama and awesome sword fights. Season 4, which is now streaming, finds our hero the most vulnerable he's ever been.
This epic original 2014 Netflix drama follows the famed explorer as he navigates risky interpersonal relationships while at the court of Kublai Khan in what is now Beijing. While the series is grounded in political rivalries and sexual intrigue, it also takes you out on the open seas where the explorer finds adventure and, of course, plenty of danger.
Mr. Darcy himself Matthew MacFadyen headlines this drama mystery set in the wake of Jack the Ripper's reign of terror in London in 1888. The 2012 series follows the members of H Division, a special task force trying their best to maintain order in a chaotic city rife with paranoia and the rumblings of a seedy underground criminal network.
For those who were devastated over Robb Stark's untimely end on Game of Thrones, this one's especially for you. Richard Madden again plays a conflicted heartthrob who must take over the family business upon the sudden death of his father, but you won't have to worry about any Red Weddings. Instead, the 2016 series serves up family drama, steamy romances and a gorgeous Italian backdrop during the Renaissance. The third and final season, which is now available, will see the Medici fortune threatened by a brewing war.
Based on the novel of the same name by Alexander Rose, this series -- which originally ran on AMC for four seasons starting in 2014 -- turns the Revolutionary War into a thrilling spy adventure. Set in a dangerous world filled with double agents, code-breaking and covert operations, the series follows a secretive network charged with uncovering British military strategies. Their exciting adventures serve as the foundation for modern espionage and prove that history is so much cooler when you throw spies into the mix.
Perhaps the most modern series on this list, this acclaimed BBC show follows Jenny (Jessica Raine), a midwife who is surprised to find herself assigned to a convent in London during the 1950s instead of the private hospital she was expecting. Surrounded by nuns, she soon develops close friendships with the other nurses as their lives intersect with the women and families that they treat. If Friends were a period drama, it probably wouldn't look like this but you should check the series out anyway.
Considered more of a historical fantasy than an accurate depiction of Queen Mary of Scotland's life at French court, the CW took many liberties with the story -- most notably the costumes which included off-the-rack pieces from designers like Alexander McQueen. However, the series turned Mary and Francis' engagement and eventual marriage into an epic tale of romance and tragedy, and kept you on your toes with dangerous liaisons and supernatural mysteries within the confines of a gorgeous castle.
History, feminism and progress intersect in this Spanish-language drama set just before the financial crisis of 1929. The story explores a world quickly changing through four women from different backgrounds who are hired as telephone operators in what turns out to be a progressive workplace. A tale of sisterhood as they attempt to break through the glass ceiling, the show will leave you feeling every bit empowered and also longing for their stylish threads.