When it comes to binge-watching my latest period drama, I confess that I tend to turn to Netflix and Amazon Prime (Hulu does have that pesky commercial problem after all). However, with a recent upgrade I can now watch period dramas on Hulu without all the advertising interruptions. And with this new upgrade, I decided to do some serious browsing (like a network to network browsing).
I wanted to discover the best of what Hulu had to offer and find I did. It was startling to discover that Hulu has such a rich variety of period dramas from all over the world. By the time I finished scrolling, I had a couple hundred titles on my list, several I knew and several I had never even heard of.
That list was slightly overwhelming so I decided that for the purposes of this article I would focus on the TV movies, the mini-series, and TV shows with at least a touch of romance, and titles that had full seasons (you can catch all of Grand Hotel on Netflix for instance). I also aimed for programs with less explicit content (think TV 14 and below – although the content of some of the titles I kept remain unknown to me). Hopefully, you will find just the perfect program on this list, and perhaps do some scrolling on your own (as this list only scratches the surface). There really are numerous hidden gems just waiting to be found!
EDIT: As this is a streaming site with constant new deals and content changes, the period dramas available are subject to change. This is what was available in October 2015.
50 Romantic Period Dramas to Watch on Hulu
(In Alphabetical Order)
#1: The 39 Steps (2008)
Hulu Synopsis: Richard Hannay is caught up in a deadly conspiracy which threatens his life and the safety of Great Britain. As he attempts to unravel the mystery, he forges an alliance with a feisty suffragette and is thrust into a series of thrilling adventures.
Why You Should Check it Out: Well, besides the fact that it is expiring from Hulu soon, “The 39 Steps” stars Persuasion’s Rupert Penry-Jones.
#2: Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004)
Hulu Synopsis: Agatha Christie’s crime thrillers featuring the author’s much-loved spinster sleuth Miss Jane Marple.
Why You Should Check it Out: Each episode is like a standalone mystery movie that is just thrilling entertainment. There are a lot of familiar guest stars too…
#3: Bleak House (2005)
Hulu Synopsis: At the heart of this star-studded adaptation of the literary classic by Charles Dickens is the story of the icily beautiful Lady Dedlock, who nurses a dark secret, and the merciless lawyer Tulkinghorn, who seeks to uncover it.
Why You Should Check it Out: This adaptation of Bleak House has to be one of the best Charles Dickens adaptations available. Great cast (including Gillian Anderson), exquisite costumes, and a script make this one a must see!
#4: Buffalo Girls (1995)
Hulu Synopsis: Discover the bold escapades of Calamity Jane and her illustrious cohorts, as they travel the Wild West in search of her long-lost daughter and the West they once knew. From the novel by Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove).
Why You Should Check it Out: For the life of me, I could not figure out if there was romance in this particular period drama (I haven’t seen it yet). But with Angelica Huston at the helm, I figured this mini-series is at least a whole lot of Wild West fun!
#5: Cranford (2007)
Hulu Synopsis: This witty and poignant story, starring the Oscar-winning Judi Dench, follows the small absurdities and major tragedies in the lives of the people in the small northern English town of Cranford in the 1840s.
Why You Should Check it Out: Watch this amazing, emotional, and funny period drama for the goosebumps! The love stories are fabulous, the acting phenomenal, and the story is to die for (the series IS based on an Elizabeth Gaskell novel). If you love shows like Road to Avonlea, The Paradise, or Lark Rise to Candleford, you will no doubt fall in love with Cranford. Tom Hiddleston even shows up for season 2!
#6: Daniel Deronda (2002)
Hulu Synopsis: Andrew Davies’ adaptation of George Eliot’s last, most ambitious novel, charts a love story set in Victorian high society. Torn between two women, Daniel embarks on a quest to discover his true identity. Fate, however, leads to a surprising twist.
Why You Should Check it Out: Starring Hugh Dancy, Romola Garai, and Hugh Bonneville, Daniel Deronda not only has amazing star power, it is absolutely one of the best period dramas of all time. I can’t gush about this one enough. It’s romantic, the story is captivating, and the characters all have extreme depth. My only quibble is Mirah, but that’s for another discussion…
#7: David Copperfield (1999)
Hulu Synopsis: Follow David Copperfield from birth to manhood as he meets an extraordinary range of sinister and benevolent characters. From Pegotty, the devoted servant, to the sadistic Mr. Murdstone, unctuous Uriah Heap and eternal optimist Mr. Micawber.
Why You Should Check it Out: Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) plays the young David Copperfield in this adaptation! Maggie Smith also plays an important role. Overall, this version of the Charles Dickens classic is another example of why BBC stands out when it comes to superb and satisfying productions of the classics.
#8: Elizabeth R (1971)
Hulu Synopsis: Glenda Jackson gives a regal performance as Queen Elizabeth I, from a terrified princess surrounded by treachery, to assured monarch and liverish old…more lady.
Why You Should Check it Out: Known for its historical accuracy, there’s a reason why this older period drama is still remembered to this day. Sure, the sets aren’t what they are now, but the performances and script make this one to definitely watch if you love historical dramas.
#9: Emma (2009)
Hulu Synopsis: Certain of her skill as a matchmaker, Emma Woodhouse persuades her friend Harriet to reject an advantageous marriage proposal to a local farmer in favor of dashing Mr. Elton. So begins a story which challenges Emma’s naivety and her social preconceptions.
Why You Should Check it Out: While there have been several awesome Emma adaptations of Jane Austen’s romantic classic, I confess that this version is my favorite. Jonny Lee Miller and Romola Garai are adorable together as Emma and Mr. Knightly. Plus, Michael Gambon as Emma’s father is simply wonderful!
#10: Empress Ki (2013)
Hulu Synopsis: This is the epic tale of Empress Ki, the Goryeo woman who was sent to the Yuan Empire as a tribute, as so many women were back in the days. She caught the eye of the Yuan emperor, first becoming his concubine and eventually ascending to the position of primary empress. As a reinterpretation of her life and loves, this drama weaves together history and fiction to create a fantastical narrative of a fascinating woman who defied all odds to rise above her social status and become a pivotal part of one of the greatest empires in history.
Why You Should Check it Out: With seemingly countless Asian Historical Romances to choose from, I decided to select a few that sounded the most compelling and most romantic. This is one of those titles. Anyone who has seen this one, be sure to chime in below!