35 Period Dramas to Watch on Amazon Prime – Mini-Series and TV Shows Edition (2016)

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Doctor Thorne - Period Dramas on Amazon Prime
Photo: ITV

With the latest news that Amazon Prime Video will now be open to monthly subscriptions, the time had come for another period drama recommendation list! Amazon Prime has several great period drama miniseries and TV Shows (partially thanks to their new deal with BBC) that offer up the perfect binge for all you period drama fans. From favorites like Downton Abbey and romantic Jane Austen adaptations to some fabulous period drama mysteries and lesser known jewels just waiting to be discovered by larger audiences, there is something for everyone. Like always, I typically selected series with TV-14 content or below. I also linked to the reviews for each period drama (if we have one). Enjoy!

RELATED See Willow and Thatch’s (a kindred spirit blog) List of Masterpiece Classics on Amazon Prime! 

35 Period Dramas to Watch on Amazon Prime

(In No Particular Order)

#1: Downton Abbey (Seasons 1-5)

Downton Abbey Dowagerisms
Isobel, Cora & Violet. Photo: ITV

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Downton Abbey — a sprawling, lavish Edwardian mansion nestled in the Yorkshire landscape — needs an heir. Dame Maggy Smith stars as Violet, the stubborn Dowager Countess of Grantham matriarch of Downton. Hugh Bonneville stars as her son, the stoic, unflappable Lord Crawley. Elizabeth McGovern is his far-sighted American wife, Cora. From Academy Award-winner Julian Fellowes. This is the original un-edited UK version of the program.

Why You Should Check It Out: If you STILL are one of the few people on the planet who haven’t seen Downton Abbey, then go and make this a priority ASAP. This addictive period drama will capture your hearts with unforgettable characters and love stories to die for. Also, Maggie Smith’s one-liners are hysterical.

Also available on Amazon Prime UK.

#2: Doctor Thorne (2016) – Coming May 20th

Doctor Thorne Amazon Prime
Doctor Thorne Photo: ITV

Amazon Prime Synopsis: From the creator of Downton Abbey. Dr. Thorne lives a quiet life with niece Mary in Greshambury, home of the wealthy Gresham family. Unbeknownst to others, the Greshams have lost their fortune and matriarch Lady Arabella has a scheme to regain it via an arranged marriage with her son and an American heiress. However, her son plans to elope with Mary, which complicates Lady Arabella’s plans.

Why You Should Check It Out: Because I know there are a ton of you out there going through Downton Abbey withdrawal, what better way to fill the void than another period drama by Julian Fellowes? If you’re looking for a new romantic miniseries, add this one to the top of your list! You can catch the trailer now and begin streaming on May 20th!

RELATED | Doctor Thorne Review

#3: Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Amazon Prime Period Dramas
Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (1995)
Photo: BBC

Amazon Prime Synopsis: This is the definitive Pride and Prejudice and the most successful TV period drama ever. Starring Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle and a fabulous supporting cast, this BBC/A&E co-production pulsates with energy as lively, witty Elizabeth Bennet charms smouldering, haughty Darcy against a backdrop of a picture postcard countryside, small-town assembly rooms and stately English homes.

Why You Should Check It Out: I dare anyone not to love Colin Firth’s portrayal of the iconic Mr. Darcy! For Austen addicts, what better way to spend your time than several hours watching one of the best books ever written turned into one of the best adaptations to hit the small screen? For those of us who have seen this countless times, Amazon Prime just gives us another excuse to binge it once more. Not that we need an excuse or anything…

RELATED | Pride and Prejudice – A 20th Anniversary Review

#4: Poldark (2015) Season 1

Poldark Amazon Prime Period Dramas
Photo: BBC

Amazon Prime Synopsis: It’s 1783 and Ross Poldark returns from the American War of Independence to his beloved Cornwall to find his world in ruins: his father dead, the family mine long since closed, his house wrecked and his sweetheart pledged to marry his cousin. But Ross finds that hope and love can be found when you are least expecting it.

Why You Should Check It Out: Aidan Turner as the Byronic Poldark is just about pitch perfect and so is the rest of the TV Series. Romance, characterization, and the gorgeous Cornwall scenery make this one not to miss. I’m just waiting for season 2! Anyone else loving the Ross and Demelza love story?

RELATED | Poldark Review

#5: Mercy Street (2015) Season 1

Mercy Street Amazon Prime Period Dramas
Photo: PBS

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Based on real events, Mercy Street takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of a distinctive cast of characters — doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists — realizing the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War.

Why You Should Check It Out: While lacking something, this is still a decent and engaging period drama that actually takes place in America!

RELATED | Mercy Street Review

#6: Grantchester (2015) Season 1

grantchester-amazon prime period dramas
Photo: ITV

Amazon Prime Synopsis: In GRANTCHESTER, a young vicar and a veteran cop join forces to solve baffling murders around a placid English village in 1953.

Why You Should Check It Out: James Norton is absolutely incredible in this role. A new addictive pleasure that every period drama fan should check out, particularly if you love shows with a focus on mysteries AND characterization.

RELATED | Grantchester Review

#7: Arthur & George (2015) Season 1

Period Dramas on Amazon Prime - Arthur and George

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) stars as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, in this adaptation of Julian Barnes’s thrilling novel.

Why You Should Check It Out: While I haven’t seen Arthur and George, it has a fabulous cast with a great premise. I don’t know about everyone else, but I never tire of anything to do with Sherlock or Arthur Conan Doyle.

#8: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Period Dramas on Amazon Prime
Young Indiana Jones
Photo: CBS

Amazon Prime Synopsis: The now legendary, almost mythical character of Indiana Jones once had a childhood. Every episode starts out with the elderly man that he is in the 1990’s getting into a specific situation where he has to tell a story from his past. The stories go back to when he was ten years old and on a world tour with his father, and to his late-teens when he fought in World War I.

Why You Should Check It Out: I remember watching this one growing up and I loved it. Nostalgia aside, I say Indiana Jones Chronicles is a wonderful choice for those of us who still remember it and for those looking for something that is good family fun. Make sure to look up the correct order of episodes, however, as Amazon has the episodes all mixed up.

#9: Upstairs Downstairs Seasons 1 and 2 (2011)

Upstairs Downstairs Photo: BBC Worldwide
Upstairs Downstairs
Photo: BBC Worldwide

Amazon Prime Synopsis: It’s 1936, and six years since parlor maid Rose left Eaton Place, fate brings her back as housekeeper to its new owners, Sir Hallam and his wife Lady Agnes. Rose soon finds she has her work cut out as she recruits a new ‘downstairs’ family to help run the elegance and finery if the ‘upstairs’ world, it soon becomes apparent there lies a labyrinth of secrets, lies and scandal.

Why You Should Check It Out: If you like Downton Abbey or the original Upstairs Downstairs, you probably can’t go wrong with this well cast period drama TV series. Is it as addicting as Downton? No. That being said, Upstairs Downstairs is still definitely worth your time because of the compelling characters and performances by the excellent cast.

RELATED | Top 25 Shows To Satisfy Your Downton Abbey Addiction

#10: Cranford Season 1 (2007)

Period Dramas on Amazon Prime - Cranford
Photo: BBC

Amazon Prime Synopsis: This witty story, starring the Oscar-winning Judi Dench, follows the absurdities and tragedies in the lives of the people of Cranford. Set in the 1840s, Cranford is a small northern English town on the cusp of change. Talk of a new railway being built brings fears of the breakdown of law and order. The arrival of a handsome new doctor from London causes a stir among the ladies’ in the town.

Why You Should Check It Out: Cranford will make you cry, laugh, and fall in love with its fabulous ensemble of characters. Judi Dench is an absolute marvel in this and I can’t recommend Cranford enough! Definitely, one of my top picks. After finishing season 1, I also suggest buying season 2 to finish the story out. You’ll even get to see Tom Hiddleston before he became a star.

#11: The Crimson Field (2015)

Period Dramas on Amazon Prime - The Crimson Field
Photo: BBC/PBS

Amazon Prime Synopsis: In a tented field hospital on the coast of France, a team of doctors, nurses, and volunteers work together to heal the bodies and souls of men wounded in the trenches of WWI. The hospital is a frontier: between the battlefield and home front but also between the old rules, hierarchies, class distinctions, and a new way of thinking.

Why You Should Check It Out: The Crimson Field is a recent discovery of mine, and I fell absolutely in love with it in a matter of minutes! From the writer of the new (and fabulous) adaptation of And Then There Were None, she has a distinct style of authentic period dialogue and characterization so real, the characters might as well actually exist. She also excels at romance. I just wish the series had been picked up for a second series.

Content Note: There are a few instances of war nudity and few scenes of brief bad language.

RELATED | Romantic Moment of the Week: The Love Stories of The Crimson Field

#12: Lark Rise to Candleford (2008)

Photo: BBC Lark Rise to Candleford
Photo: BBC

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Rich, funny and emotional, the first series follows the relationship of two contrasting communities: Lark Rise, the small hamlet gently holding on to the past, and Candleford, the small market town bustling into the future. Seen through the eyes of young Laura, their inhabitants endure many upheavals and struggles as the inexorably change comes; their stories by turns poignant, spirited and uplifting.

Why You Should Check It Out: Watch Lark Rise because of the rich characters (including Dorcas and her ‘weaknesses’), lovely romances, and heartwarming stories. This is a great choice if Road to Avonlea was one of your favorite shows growing up. This is a feel good period drama that entire families can enjoy.

RELATED | Lark Rise to Candleford Review

#13: The Duchess of Duke Street Season 1 (1976)

duchess of duke street
Photo: BBC

Amazon Prime Synopsis: A drama based on the life of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel. Louisa Trotter begins as an assistant cook, becomes Edward VII’s mistress and then owner of a fashionable London hotel.

Why You Should Check It Out: From the one of the writers of the original Upstairs Downstairs, this may be a good selection if you are missing Downton and the themes explored there. The one setback, however, is that if you want to watch season 2 you will have to get the DVD.

#14: Bleak House (2005)

Bleak House
Bleak House
Photo: BBC Worldwide

Amazon Prime Synopsis: A drama based on the life of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel. Louisa Trotter begins as an assistant cook, becomes Edward VII’s mistress and then owner of a fashionable London hotel.

Why You Should Check It Out: One of the best Dickens adaptations available, Bleak House is a period drama that just works on every level. The cast, the writing, the exquisite costumes, and the intriguing Victorian story make this a must-see in my book.

RELATED | Bleak House Review

#15: Emma (2009)

Emma
Photo: BBC

Amazon Prime Synopsis: This BBC WGBH/Boston Co-Production features an all-star cast including Romola Garai (Atonement) as Emma, Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) as Mr. Knightley, and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, The Book of Eli) as Mr. Woodhouse. Beautiful, clever, and rich Emma Woodhouse is convinced she is good at matchmaking after her older sister and her governess both marry suitable husbands. Certain of her talents, Emma plays a dangerous game as she persuades her new friend, the young, pretty and socially inferior Harriet to reject an advantageous marriage proposal to a local farmer in favour of dashing Mr Elton. So begins a story which challenges Emma’s naivety and her social preconceptions. Fresh and funny, this perceptive adaptation brings Jane Austen’s comic masterpiece to life.

Why You Should Check It Out: How many ways can I gush about this adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, Emma? Well, the actors are just about perfect. Romola Garai shines in the leading role, and Jonny Lee Miller is, as always, as swoon-worthy as an Austen hero can be. But then there’s Michael Gambon in the role of Emma’s father. NO ONE else can ever play this part with such perfection. This is a romantic, well-developed adaptation (the miniseries helps every character get their due) that every Austen and period drama fan alike should see.

RELATED  | Emma Review

#16: Home Fires Season 1 (2015)

Home Fires
Photo: ITV

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Starring Masterpiece favorites Samantha Bond (Downton Abbey) and Francesca Annis (Reckless) as part of a remarkable group of women living in a small rural village during World War II. Separated from husbands, fathers, sons and brothers for years at a time, they find themselves under extraordinary pressures in a rapidly fragmenting world.

Why You Should Check It Out: A well written period drama about women that celebrates women. A great pick if you love the series, Call the Midwife. This is one that I watched with my mother, which made the experience all the more memorable.

RELATED | Home Fires Review

#17: Z: The Beginning of Everything (2015)

Christina Ricci as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Z: The Beginning of Everything. Photo: Amazon Studios.
Christina Ricci as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Z: The Beginning of Everything. Photo: Amazon Studios.

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Z: The Beginning of Everything is a bio-series of the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, Southern Belle turned flapper, writer and icon of modern feminism.  Starting right before Zelda meets unpublished writer F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1918, Z dives into the fascinating life of a woman ahead of her time and the story of the most famous, and infamous, couple of the Roaring 1920s.

Why You Should Check It Out: Catch the pilot episode of this Amazon Original Series before the rest of the show is released! While short, I enjoyed the taste of this witty drama based on Zelda Fitzgerald and am impatiently anticipating the next episode!

Content Note: This is TV-14 for slight nudity.

Also available on Amazon Prime UK.

RELATED | Z: The Beginning of Everything Review

#18: The Forsyte Saga Seasons 1-2 (2003)

The Forsyte Saga
Photo: ITV

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Based on John Galsworthy’s novel of the same name, The Forsyte Saga chronicles the lives of an English family over 34 years from the Victorian era through World War I. Superior, arrogant and confident, the Forsytes are the ultimate power family.

Why You Should Check It Out: An addictive drama with a dashing young Ioan Gruffudd thrown into the mix! Well, worth viewing. The Forsyte Saga also stars Rupert Graves, Damian Lewis, Amanda Root, and Gina McKee.

#19: Empresses in the Palace (2011)

Empresses in the Palace - Period Dramas on Amazon Prime
Photo: Dongyang Hua’er Film & TV Co.

Amazon Prime Synopsis: Set in 1722 during the Qing Dynasty, sweeping drama EMPRESSES IN THE PALACE is an epic tale of love, betrayal and scandal told from inside the Imperial Harem – the story of one emperor and his countless women. In a world filled with treachery and corruption, who will truly win the Emperor’s heart and reign supreme? In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Why You Should Check It Out: An epically romantic Asian drama, the story has definitely made my own ‘must watch’ list. What’s also great about this historical drama is that we can watch the series from beginning to end! This is unrated so I am therefore unsure of the content.

#20: The Three Musketeers (2013)

The Three Musketeers - Period Dramas on Amazon Prime
Photo: Karoprokat/ Amazon

Amazon Prime Synopsis: A brand new interpretation of everyone’s favorite Musketeers. Follow Athos, Porthos & Aramis in their heroic adventures throughout the royal courts of 17th century France. (Russian with English subtitles).

Why You Should Check It Out: I included this relatively unknown Russian series for those interested in giving this adaptation a try! Let me know how it goes…

Content Warning: This is unrated, so I am unsure of the content. Enter at your own risk.

Turn the page for more period drama recommendations!

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Autumn Topping

CO-FOUNDER & EDITOR

"Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile," L.M. Montgomery. In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and also graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely blog and works at The New York Public Library as a YA Librarian.

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