The Best Period Dramas to Watch Right Now

Credit - Everett Collection (2); HBO; Netflix

The appeal of a truly great period drama lies in its ability to transport the viewer to another time and place. How else to explain the delight of watching a historical show hinging on the secret romances and jaw-dropping scandals of high society during New York’s Gilded Age or a royal family thrown into tumult by the many love affairs of its king?

The most apt example of this may be the delicious third season of Bridgerton, the dishy Regency era series from Shonda Rhimes, the first half of which is now streaming on Netflix, which will no doubt give the ton (and the gentle readers who are watching from home) plenty to talk about with its fantastical costumes, new plot twists, and spicy storylines. Those who eat up the first four episodes quickly (the next four are due to arrive on June 13) and are still looking for a period drama fix are in luck—there’s a plethora of historical shows that deliver chills, thrills, and lots of romance across multiple eras and countries.

From Regency era dramas to Renaissance romances, here are the best period drama TV shows to watch now.

Read more: TV Dramas About British Royalty, Ranked by Salaciousness

Call the Midwife

Inspired by Jennifer Worth’s memoir of the same name about her time as a nurse and midwife in the East End of London in the 1950s, the show centers on a group of midwives, nurses and nuns who work at Nonnatus House. Drama and hilarious hijinks ensues as the team helps provide care and welcome new lives for the expectant mothers and families of Poplar, England.

Where to watch: Netflix, current season on PBS


The rich inner life of a burgeoning poet is explored in Dickinson, the endearing and hilarious series about the coming of age of a young Emily Dickinson (Hailee Steinfeld). Delving into the mythology surrounding the famously reclusive poet, the show is a charming, absurdist reimagining of one of the literary world’s most beloved voices.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

Downton Abbey

Upstairs-downstairs drama is at its most compelling and addictive in Downton Abbey, a series that centers on the wealthy and titled Crawley family and the crew of servants who maintain their lifestyle at their country estate in Yorkshire.a. From familial tensions and torrid love affairs to untimely deaths and societal shifts, the Crawleys provide a compelling look at the final days of aristocracy and their dying way of life in post-Edwardian England.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Peacock


Two warring brothels in 18th century London provide the high stakes drama that fuels the saucy historical drama Harlots. The series centers on Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton,) a tenacious madam and brothel owner, who’s determined to make a better life for her and her two daughters, no matter the cost. Come for the strong female-driven storylines and stay for the truly memorable costumes.

Where to watch: Hulu

Mad Men

The slick glamour of the 1960s advertising world is the backdrop for Mad Men, a dark drama that oscillates around the charismatic, though hard-drinking and philandering executive Don Draper (Jon Hamm). The series, which centers on the tensions in Don’s professional and personal life, as well as the many secrets he keeps, is also a keen observation of the rapidly changing social landscape of America in the 1960s.

Where to watch: AMC+

Mary & George

Based on the novel The King’s Assassin, Mary & George follows a family’s scandalous rise to power and riches thanks to the scheming of an ambitious, status-hungry mother, Mary Villiers (Julianne Moore,) the Countess of Buckingham. In seven episodes, she ascends to influence by helping her son George (Nicholas Galitzine) become the lover of King James I of England, though it soon becomes clear that Mary and George are willing to resort to nefarious tactics to maintain their newfound status.

Where to watch: Starz


In Reign, the life of a young Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) makes for a soapy drama, as she navigates an arranged marriage, an overbearing mother-in-law, the pressures of court life, and a distant cousin (Elizabeth I of England, ever heard of her?) who’s trying to lay claim to her throne.

Where to watch: The CW, Amazon Prime


Based on Jane Austen’s final unfinished novel of the same name, Sanditon has all the author’s requisite traits: a plucky heroine, a bevy of handsome suitors, and plenty of Regency-era drama. After moving to the sleepy beach resort town of Sanditon, independent Charlotte (Rose Williams) seeks a new start, but finds that her plans are complicated by romance. From finding a new friend in the West Indian heiress Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) to falling for the spirited gentleman Sidney Parker (Theo James), Charlotte navigates plenty of unexpected connections.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime, PBS Passport

The Borgias

The notoriety swirling around the infamous and powerful Borgia family, who dominated Italy during the Renaissance after their patriarch Rodrigo became the pope, is rich fodder for The Borgias. Filled with hedonism, betrayal, ruthless cruelty, and even murder, the show is a salacious historical romp through one of Italy’s most colorful chapters.

Where to watch: Paramount+, Hulu

The Buccaneers

Based on Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel of the same name, The Buccaneers is a high-spirited adventure through the world of 1870s London high society, as seen through the eyes of five American heiresses. Starring Kristen Froseth and Imogen Waterhouse as the lively St. George sisters at the forefront of the group, the young women must navigate cultural clashes, romantic entanglements, and interpersonal drama on their hunt for high-ranking husbands.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

The Empress

When the free-spirited Duchess Elisabeth “Sisi” von Wittelsbach of Bavaria (Devrim Lingnau) accompanies her family to meet her older sister’s potential husband, the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria (Philip Froissant), an unexpected connection with the emperor leads to Sisi marrying Franz and becoming the empress. It’s a twist of fate that drastically alters Sisi’s life, changes the course of Austrian history, and helps to make her one of Vienna’s most iconic and beloved figures.

Where to watch: Netflix

The Gilded Age

Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes returns to the familiar subject matter of money, power, and class, albeit across the pond with The Gilded Age. Set in the late 19th century in a rapidly changing New York City, the series focuses on the tensions between new and old money families in high society, as advancements in technology and industry and huge cultural and political shifts change the world around them. While the show’s ostentatiously grand sets and costumes are a feast for the eyes, the real draw of the show is its wealth of starry talent, which includes Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald and Cynthia Nixon.

Where to watch: Max

The Great

The epic tale of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia gets a cheeky satirical revamp with The Great, an irreverent dramedy created by The Favourite screenwriter, Tony McNamara. Loosely based on the rise of Catherine, who began life as a Prussian princess with little power and rose to become one of Russia’s most powerful leaders (following successfully starting a rebellion against her then-husband, Emperor Peter III), the series stars Elle Fanning as Catherine and Nicholas Hoult as Peter.

Where to watch: Hulu

The Serpent Queen

Catherine de Medici, one of the most misunderstood monarchs of the 16th century, takes center stage in The Serpent Queen. The series follows Catherine (played by Samantha Morton and Liv Hill, as older and younger Catherine, respectively) from her youth as an orphaned Italian teenager to her 30-year reign as the Queen of France. As she rises to power, she navigates a loveless marriage, the demands for an heir, and cutthroat court life to become one of the most influential—and notorious—rulers of all time.

Where to watch: Starz

The Spanish Princess

Based on the Philippa Gregory novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse, The Spanish Princess tells the story of how Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon became the Queen of England. The show follows Catherine’s journey as a teenager to meet Prince Arthur, the heir apparent of the King of England, whom she has been betrothed to as a child in a political deal that promises to bring peace between Spain and England. Conflicts arise, however, when Arthur suddenly dies and Catherine must find a way to save the fates of both countries and her way to the throne, which leads her to marry Arthur’s brother, Henry VIII—becoming the first of his six wives.

Where to watch: Starz

The Tudors

The scandalous history behind King Henry VIII of England and his six wives comes to life in the racy series, The Tudors. Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the polarizing king, the show focuses on not only his many love affairs and relationships in pursuit of securing a male heir, but how his rule changed religion, politics, and infrastructure in England forever.

Where to watch: Paramount+, Hulu, Fubo TV


Based on Diana Gabaldon’s novel of the same name, Outlander centers on Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a former World War II nurse whose happily married life is upended when she time travels back to 1743 Scotland, where she is swept up in a steamy romance with Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan,) a Scots warrior, leading to an epic love triangle that traverses time and space. The result is two period dramas contained in one thrilling show.

Where to watch: Netflix, Sling TV,

Palm Royale

Things aren’t quite what they seem in Palm Royale, the stylish comedy about Maxine (Kristen Wiig,) a spunky social climber in 1969 Palm Beach who’s learning the lengths she’ll go to to be accepted at the titular exclusive club by its snooty clientele. She soon discovers that this circle of high society has plenty of secrets of its own, that range from clandestine lovers to attempted murderers.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

Peaky Blinders

The thrilling but nefarious underworld of organized crime in 1920s post-war Britain is the inspiration for Peaky Blinders, which centers on a powerful street gang of the same name led by the Shelby family and its icy patriarch, Thomas “Tommy” Shelby (Cillian Murphy). In the gritty universe of the Peaky Blinders, robbery and racketeering are common trades, while violence and brutality are simply a way of life. For Tommy, a truly compelling anti-hero, power and revenge are the only forms of salvation that he can find from his demons, making the show an endless pursuit of both.

Where to watch: Netflix

Queen Charlotte

The complex and compelling backstory of Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is the richfodder for Bridgerton’s prequel of the same name. The series, which is loosely based on the real-life story of Queen Charlotte and her husband, King George III of England, gives a nuanced look at the franchise’s most formidable character. Starring India Amarteifo as the fiercely independent young Queen Charlotte, the show tackles everything from her racial identity as the possible first Black Queen of England to her truly epic love match with a young George (Corey Mylchreest,) resulting in what may be the best offering from the Bridgerton universe.

Where to watch: Netflix

Write to Cady Lang at