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100+ of the Best British Period Dramas of All Time to Watch

Here is the ultimate guide to the best British Period dramas and where to watch them.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ENGLISH & BRITISH PERIOD DRAMAS

100+ of the Best British Period Dramas of All Time to Watch

The period drama genre has exploded in recent years due, in part, to popular English period dramas like Downton AbbeyPoldark, and The Crown. But it’s always been a comforting mainstay of television and beyond.

Jane Austen adaptations, for example, have been around for about as long as film has existed. And that’s not just in England.

THE STYLE OF A BRITISH PERIOD DRAMA

One of the most admired sub-types of period drama, arguably the most popular – is the British period drama.

The lavish costumes, authentic sets, the feeling of historical accuracy or perfectly romanticized interpretations of the past, adaptations of famous classic novels done proper, brilliant scripts, memorable love stories, and Shakespearean-trained actors make British period dramas an appealing choice.

Other aspects of a British period drama might include nostalgia, outstanding characters, complex stories, engaging themes, and more.

No one quite knows how to make a period drama as well as the British, after all. Just consider the numerous successful BBC period dramas out there or the excellent English period dramas that air on PBS MASTERPIECE.

Still, many new (and old) fans of the genre don’t know where to find some of these great British period dramas or even what they are. 

Thankfully, television, film, and now streaming are full of great period dramas, so we thought it would be fun to gather up some of the best British period dramas of all time – spanning numerous time periods and genres for people of varied interests.

Maybe you’re looking for something new to add to your queue, or perhaps you’re in the mood for a comforting classic. Whatever the case, we’ve got you covered with enough choices to last a long time!

WHAT IS A PERIOD DRAMA?

In simple terms, a period drama is any drama or film set in a different time period than the modern Post-Cold War Era. So, anywhere from the beginning of time (Ancient History) to around 1991 counts as a period drama.

While technically, even a film set a decade ago could be a “period drama,” evoking another time should have some distance from today.

Period dramas fall into different eras/periods. Here are a few examples of eras (not everything is here, and it varies by country):

Then within period dramas, there tend to be different kinds:

  • Historical Dramas – Based more on history (IE: historical figures, biographical dramas, focus on realism, etc.)
  • Romanticized Period Dramas – These dramas/films tend to have an idealized view of the past for entertainment’s sake. See This Is Why Period Dramas Don’t Need to Be Historically Accurate for more on this topic.
  • Historical Fantasies – Films and Dramas that include a fantasy element but take place in our world. For example, Agent Carter or A Discovery of Witches, season 2.
  • British, American, French, Spanish, Korean, etc.: Each country has its unique style of recreating the past.

And then, within the period drama genre (and types of period dramas), a drama/film usually combines with other movies/TV genres.

For example: 

  • Romance
  • Mystery: Cozy, Crime, etc.
  • Supernatural
  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Small-town
  • Thriller
  • Horror
  • Historical

Well, you get the idea!

WHAT IS NOT A PERIOD DRAMA? 

Sometimes people confuse a classic film with a period drama. Let’s use Casablanca as an example. The movie premiered in 1942 and took place during World War II. When it was released, the film was a contemporary drama set in its current time.

Therefore, it is not a period drama. The filmmakers did not need to recreate another time and place. They just told a good story.

It feels like the past to us as viewers, but it was a contemporary film when it originally premiered.

Whereas, if you were to look at another classic film example: Pride and Prejudice (1940), you would see the filmmakers recreated the past (the Victorian Era in this adaptation – even though it should be Georgian or Regency). It did not take place in what was a contemporary setting for 1940.

Costume fantasies are also not period dramas. These differ from period dramas and even historical fantasies because they do not occur in our world.

They tend to be high fantasies set in an entirely different universe than ours—for example, Legend of the Seeker.

Nevertheless, they can be very similar to a period drama with beautiful costumes, settings, memorable romances, adventures, etc.

Still, while we love a good fantasy, a period drama must take place in our universe to count as one.

WHAT COUNTS AS A BRITISH PERIOD DRAMA ON THIS LIST?

While numerous films take place in England and the rest of the United Kingdom, not every period drama set in England is an actual “British” period drama. For example, Bridgerton is an American-made period drama despite the settings and numerous British actors!

So, on this list, I wanted to be more authentic to what an English/British period drama is. It must at least be a co-production from the United Kingdom to be on the list.

I also opted to focus on dramas set in past historical eras and not costume fantasies set outside our world, like Game of Thrones. That said, I did still include a few well-liked historical fantasies.

Ultimately, the movie or series does not need to occur in the United Kingdom. It just needs to be a British production.

I also focused less on “explicit” period dramas as it’s the romanticized, comforting style the British period drama is typically known for by audiences. However, I still included a couple of the more popular explicit ones with content notes.

IS THIS LIST A RANKING?

Now, this list is not a ranking. Instead, below are more than 100 of the most enjoyable English and British period dramas to watch – counting various adaptations of the same title or work. Deciding on the “best” would be more subjective than fruitful for these many titles.

So, instead, we opted to provide a helpful list to dip your toes into the best of the genre.

From some of the great British films (BFI’s top 100 British films of all time) to classic and popular period dramas like Pride and Prejudice to lesser-known gems and even newer dramas, we’ve included a good variety of everything to give you a taste of some of the best of English (and throughout the United Kingdom) period drama offerings.

So, this list is not all-inclusive. Many more excellent British period dramas exist out there. This list is merely a taste of some of the best or most popular of all time. Plus, some new period dramas too.

Watching everything on this list should get you started on becoming a British period drama aficionado.

Enjoy!

If you have more recommendations, please share them in the comment section at the end of the article.

Note: Availability in the “Where to Watch” sections are for the United States and at the time of publication (October 2022) and are subject to change at any time. If I update the availability, I will let you know here.


BRITISH PERIOD DRAMAS TO WATCH

(In Alphabetical Order)


#1 ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1978 & 2000)

All Creatures Great and Small season 3 news; cast photo from season 2
Front Left to Right, Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) & Tristan Farnon (Callum Woodhouse). Backrow: Helen Alderson (Rachel Shenton) & Mrs. Hall (Anna Madeley). Credit: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

Story: 

Based on popular novels, the British series (both versions) follows the adventures of the young vet, James Herriot, in 1930s Yorkshire. The 1970s adaptation advances into the 1950s. 

Era: 1930s to the 1950s.

Why You Should Watch:

Two excellent adaptations exist of James Herriot’s semi-autobiographical books, which are equally worth watching. Check out these two series if you love stories with small-town charm, romance, quirky characters, cute animals, and good writing.

The new 2020 version of All Creatures Great and Small is fantastic if you prefer a modern look to a series. The series is renewed to at least season 4, with season 3 premiering in January 2023 on PBS Masterpiece.

Where to Watch (1978) adaptation: You can stream the entire series on Britbox or the Britbox Amazon channel. It is also available to buy on DVD. 

Where to Watch (2020) adaptation: You can stream the series on PBS Passport and PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG for both.

#2 AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (2015)

And then there were none 2015
Credit: Mammoth Screen/BBC

Story: 

And Then There Were None is a BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s mystery novel about ten strangers invited to a mysterious island only to start being offed one by one.

Era: 1930s.

Why You Should Watch: 

The critically-acclaimed miniseries from Sarah Phelps (Great Expectations, The Crimson Field) has an all-star cast including Aidan Turner, Sam Neill, Charles Dance, Toby Stephens, Anna Maxwell Martin, Miranda Richardson, Douglas Booth, and more. The writing and production qualities are also excellent.

The limited series has gorgeous photography of Cornwall as a bonus.

Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV, Acorn TV Amazon Channel, or Hoopla. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 to TV-MA (depending on the episode) for a couple of love scenes, some strong language, and violence. 

#3 Around the World in 80 Days (2021)

around the world in 80 days featured image with David Tennant
Around the World in 80 Days with David Tennant. Photo: Ibrahim Koma as Jean Passepartout, David Tennant as Phileas Fogg, and Leonie Benesch as Abigail “Fix” Fortescue. Credit: Courtesy of Federation Entertainment

Story: 

The British TV drama series combines the story of Jules Verne’s famous novel with Nelly Bly’s true adventures in this unique adaptation about Phileas Fogg and his friends traveling around the world in 80 days.

Era: Victorian Era (1870s)

Why You Should Watch: 

Now, this description may only make sense to Whovians (Doctor Who fans), but here goes:

If you were to turn the 10th Doctor (aka David Tennant) into a human without his Time Lord memories (IE: the “Human Nature” episode) and give him the memories and life of the gentleman, Phileas Fogg, who then goes on adventures around the world, you’d have Around the World in 80 Days.

It feels like historically themed episodes of Doctor Who with fun adventures, romance, and unlikely heroes.

Still, if Doctor Who means nothing to you, you should still love this entertaining new show. It’s full of escapism, Romanticism, great characters, good writing, and more.

For more about this new period drama, check out our review of Around the World in 80 Days.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport and PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy it on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG.

#4 Atonement (2007)

Atonement poster

Story: 

Tragic events occur when a young girl falsely accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime.

Era: 1930s and World War II

Why You Should Watch: 

Atonement is a heartbreaking but beautiful film everyone should see. The love story is memorable, the style of the film epic, the performances are all incredible (Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, and Benedict Cumberbatch), and the directing from Joe Wright is simply superb.

The Oscar-winning movie had seven nominations, including Best Picture, and is an artistic masterpiece. 

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max or rent/buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for some suggestive dialogue, a semi-explicit love scene, an assault, some violence, disturbing war images, and language. However, the film is more artistic than excessively explicit.

#5 Becoming Jane (2007)

Tom Lefroy and Jane Austen in Becoming Jane
Credit: Miramax/BBC Films/Buena Vista International

Story: Inspired by a true story, Becoming Jane follows the “possible” love story between Jane Austen and a young Irishman, Tom Lefroy. But circumstances may keep them apart.

Era: Georgian Era (1795)

Why You Should Watch: 

Becoming Jane is one of those movies you must watch if you love Jane Austen, good romance movies, and biographical dramas.

While you know going into the film Jane and Tom can’t have a happy ending; the bittersweet love story is full of swoony moments and sizzling chemistry between Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy. There are also some fun scenes with Dame Maggie Smith in it!

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG for innuendo.

#6 Belgravia (2020)

belgravia
Photo Credit: Epix

Story: 

When the Trenchard family tries to rise in London’s aristocratic society, past secrets threaten to emerge.

Era: One part is the Regency Era; most of the story is in the Victorian Era.

Why You Should Watch: 

Belgravia has a brilliant British cast, with Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes penning all six episodes of the limited series. If you’re a fan of romantic period dramas with intriguing characters, you’ll want to check this one out.

Where to Watch: Stream on Epix or Epix Amazon Channel. You can also buy it on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for an affair and violence. Nothing explicit.

#7 Belle (2013)

Belle 2013 publicity photo
Credit: Pinewood Pictures/BFI/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Story: 

Based on a true story, Belle follows Dido Elizabeth Belle, the biracial daughter of a Royal Navy Captain, raised in aristocratic 18th Century England, who falls in love and fights against slavery.

Era: Georgian (1780s)

Why You Should Watch: 

Fans of movies like Becoming Jane will love Belle, a biographical romance drama directed by Amma Asante. The costumes are beautiful, the romance terrific, and the story eloquent.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw also gives a memorable performance as Dido Elizabeth Belle. Don’t miss this underrated gem!

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max or rent/buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: PG

#8 Bleak House (2005)

Bleak house 2005
Credit: BBC Television

Story: 

Bleak House is a story about the injustices of the legal system during the Victorian Era. 

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

There is never a dull moment in this Charles Dickens adaptation with secrets, romance, and varying agendas.

The Emmy-winning series is an example of BBC period dramas at its best. Bleak House is a stunning period drama from the perfect cast (including Gillian Anderson) to the exquisite costumes, production design, and more.

Bleak House is also a model of how to adapt a classic novel the right way.

Where to Watch: Stream on Hulu, Britbox, or the Britbox Amazon Channel. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#9 Brideshead Revisited (1981)

brideshead revisited 1981 blu-ray poster

Story: 

Based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited follows the artist Charles Ryder and his friendship with Sebastian Flyte (a young man from a wealthy English family) over the years. Much of the story is told in flashbacks.

Era: 1920s to 1940s

Why You Should Watch: 

Brideshead Revisited is tenth on BFI’s top 100 Greatest British Television Programs list. The Emmy-winning series is British period drama at its artistic finest. Jeremy Irons stars.

If you want to watch another adaptation, you can also see the 2008 version.

Where to Watch: Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Roku, Vudu, Tubi, Crackle, Pluto TV, Plex, and FilmRise. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD. 

Content Note: TV-PG

#10 Bright Star (2009)

bright star poster

Story: 

Bright Star covers the tragic love story between the famous 19th-century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

Era: 1818-1821 (Regency/Late Georgian)

Why You Should Watch: 

Jane Campion directs this gorgeously shot period piece, with Ben Whishaw giving a magnificent performance as John Keats. While a tragic story, the romance will stay with you long after watching.

Where to Watch: Buy on DVD.

Content Note: PG

#11 Call the Midwife (2012)

call the midwife series 11
The picture Shows Nurse Phyllis Crane (LINDA BASSETT), Nurse Lucille Anderson(LEONIE ELLIOTT), Nurse Trixie Franklin (HELEN GEORGE), Nurse Nancy Corrigan (MEGAN CUSACK), Nurse Shelagh Turner (LAURA MAIN). Credit: Courtesy of BBC / Nealstreet Productions / Ray Burmiston

Story: 

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife follows a group of midwives (a few of them nuns) in East London during the 1950s and 1960s. Each season represents a new year.

Era: 1950s and 1960s

Why You Should Watch: 

Call the Midwife was just voted the best British show of the last 25 years on RadioTimes, and for a good reason! The excellent writing, brilliant characterization, authentic period romances, and heartwarming stories continue to win over new fans.

The historical drama is an example of good old-fashioned storytelling done well. Just expect to have some tissues on hand.

Where to Watch: The first 11 seasons are on Netflix, the first seven on Hoopla, and the first five on Pluto TV. New seasons air on PBS and stream on PBS Passport. You can buy all 11 seasons on Digital or DVD.

Content Note: Episodes range between TV-PG and TV-14 for intense birthing sequences.

#12 Chariots of Fire (1981)

chariots of fire photo
Credit: Allied Stars Ltd/Enigma Productions/20th Century Fox

Story: 

The British historical drama is based on the true story of two British athletes and their experiences during the 1924 Olympics.

Era: 1920s

Why You Should Watch:

If an inspirational period drama is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Chariots of Fire. The iconic British film (chosen for the BFI’s top 100 films) won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and has one of the best original music scores in film history.

Where to Watch: Stream on Showtime and Kanopy. You can also rent/buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: PG

#13 Cranford/Return to Cranford (2007)

Cranford 2007 picture
Credit: BBC

Story: 

Based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, love, friendship, and change thrive in this British town in the 1840s. 

Era: 1840s (Victorian)

Why You Should Watch: 

The Emmy-winning series has an all-star cast, including Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Tom Hiddleston (season 2), and many more.

Cranford has brilliant writing, stunning costumes, lovely pastoral scenery, sweet romances, and memorable characters.

It’s hard not to love Cranford and Return to Cranford (the second season)!

Where to Watch: Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#14 The Crown (2016)

The crown Claire foy picture
Credit: Sony Pictures Television/Netflix

Story: 

The Crown follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II during her reign.

Era: 1940s through the 1980s (so far).

Why You Should Watch: 

The Crown has won numerous Emmys and is overall a brilliant British series. While it sometimes runs loose with historical facts, the show, from a storytelling perspective, is stunning and addictive. Everyone on the Netflix series gives top-notch performances too.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix or buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-MA. While most episodes are mild, a few episodes throughout the entire series include a couple of explicit love scenes and some scattered strong language. 

#15 Daniel Deronda (2002)

daniel deronda publicity photo
Credit: WGBH Boston/BBC

Story: 

Daniel Deronda follows the complicated (and selfish) Gwendolen Harleth, who finds herself drawn to the heroic and selfless Daniel Deronda (a man of unknown parentage) while also becoming entangled in an abusive relationship.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Hugh Dancy and Romola Garai have sizzling chemistry onscreen in this British miniseries from the acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies.

Based on George Eliot’s novel, Daniel Deronda is a complex story with multiple interpretations of its intriguing premise and characters. The onscreen adaptation does a fine job of capturing the story’s essence and themes surrounding identity.

Where to Watch: Stream on Hulu, Britbox, or the Britbox Amazon Channel. You can also buy it on DVD or Digital.

Content Note: TV-PG

#16 Darkest Hour (2017)

darkest hour 2017 still
Credit: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

Story: 

Darkest Hour follows Winston Churchill in 1940 during the early days of World War II as he tries to save Britain.

Era: WWII

Why You Should Watch: 

Gary Oldman won the Oscar in this historical drama for his performance! Joe Wright also brings his signature artistic directing style to this beautiful film. Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James also star.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix or rent/buy on Digital or DVD.

Content Note: PG-13 for some language and thematic material.

#17 David Copperfield (1999, 2019)

David Copperfield adaptations 1999 and 2019
David Copperfield 1999 (BBC) and The Personal History of David Copperfield (Lionsgate/Searchlight Pictures)

Story: 

David Copperfield (based on a Charles Dickens novel) follows the story of an orphan in Victorian England as he grows into an adult.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

While there are more than a dozen excellent adaptations of David Copperfield, these two productions bring something unique to the story.

The 1999 adaptation stars a young Daniel Radcliffe and Maggie Smith and is my favorite version. It’s a classic BBC production with all the bells and whistles you might expect.

Whereas the 2019 adaptation, called The Personal History of David Copperfield, brings diversity to the storytelling in a fresh, witty way. 

Where to Watch the 1999 adaptation: Stream it on Hulu, Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, and Crackle. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2019 adaptation: Rent/buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: They are both PG.

#18 Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)

death comes to pemberley promo phot
Credit: Origin/Masterpiece co-production/BBC

Story: 

Six years after Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage, chaos ensues at their annual ball when Mr. Wickham becomes a suspect in a homicide.

Era: Georgian Era

Why You Should Watch: 

Matthew Rhys, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matthew Goode, and Jenna Coleman star in this entertaining adaptation of P.D. James’ mystery novel. If you love Agatha Christie and Jane Austen, this miniseries is a good combination.

Where to Watch: PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel or buy on DVD and digitally.

Content Note: TV-14 

#19 The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

the diary of anne frank 2009 poster

Story: 

During World War II, a teenage Anne Frank goes into hiding with her family and keeps a diary.

Era: World War II

Why You Should Watch: 

The 2009 BBC adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary is superb, with a brilliant cast and an emotional script. You won’t be able to watch this without feeling moved.

All in all, it’s a respectful tribute to Anne and her entire family.

The cast includes Ellie Kendrick, Felicity Jones, Iain Glen, Kate Ashfield, Nicholas Farrell, Tamsin Greig, and more.

Where to Watch: Stream on Amazon Prime Video (be aware that they cut an hour from the original length) or buy it on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG for mild nudity and thematic elements.

#20 Doctor Thorne (2016)

Doctor Thorne promo photo
Credit: Hat Trick Productions/ITV

Story: 

Anthony Trollope’s novel comes to life in this story of the impoverished Mary Thorne, who grows up with her kind Uncle, Dr. Thorne.

The story also covers her relationship with the family nearby at Greshamsbury Park estate. While she’s close to the son, Frank, his family wants him to marry for money.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Julian Fellowes (the creator of Downton Abbey) adapted this period gem. Doctor Thorne is a fantastic, uplifting choice if you’re looking for a romantic period drama with a happily ever after.

Where to Watch: Prime Video or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-G

#21 Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Doctor Zhivago promo art
Credit: MGM-British Studios/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Story: 

Doctor Zhivago follows the life of a Russian Doctor and his affair with a political activist’s wife amid the turbulence of war and a revolution.

Era: WWI and the Russian Revolution

Why You Should Watch: 

The talented English director, David Lean, brings the epic historical romance to life in this brilliant, award-winning masterpiece.

The movie won five Oscars and starred Omar Shariff, Julie Christie, Alec Guinness, Tom Courtenay, and more.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG-13 for mature themes, including an implied assault.

#22 Downton Abbey (2010)

The photo is of the Crawley sisters (played by Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, and Michelle Dockery).
The photo is of the Crawley sisters (played by Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, and Michelle Dockery). Credit: ITV/Carnival Films/WGBH-TV

Story: 

Downton Abbey follows the lives of the complex aristocratic Crawley family and their servants at the Downton estate.

Era: Edwardian through to the 1920s.

Why You Should Watch: 

Downton Abbey is undoubtedly one of the greatest British period dramas ever made. Twelve years after its premiere, the series continues to be a worldwide pop culture phenomenon.

The fantastic writing, unforgettable characters, beautiful costumes, epic romances, and a memorable setting (Highclere Castle) make this drama must-see.

Once you watch the show, you’ll also want to check out the two movies: Downton Abbey Movie (2019) and Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022).

Where to WatchStream on Amazon Prime Video, Britbox, Peacock, The Roku Channel, and PBS Passport. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#23 The Durrells in Corfu (2016)

The durrells publicity cast photo
Credit: Sid Gentle Films/Masterpiece/ITV

Story: 

Inspired by the memoirs of the famous British naturalist Gerald Durrell, the series follows the quirky Durrell family and their adventures in Greece.

Era: 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

The Durrells is a strange show but absolutely delightful! Keeley Hawes shines as the mother, Louisa, as she deals with her three challenging but oddly lovable children.

If you enjoy quirky characters and witty comedic dialogue, you’ll probably love The Durrells! Expect beautiful Greek scenery, a memorable love story between Louisa and Spiros (a Corfu local), and all-around good writing and acting!

Where to Watch: Stream on Amazon Prime Video, PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, and PBS Passport. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG for some innuendo. It verges on TV-14 sometimes.

#24 Elizabeth (1998)

Elizabeth 1998 still
Credit: PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

Story: 

Elizabeth follows the early years of Elizabeth I’s reign and her romance with Robert Dudley.

Era: Elizabethan

Why You Should Watch: 

The makeup in the Elizabeth film is simply sensational – even winning the Oscar for Best Makeup. But besides that, the script is strong, Cate Blanchett excels in the role, and the love story fascinates.

Where to Watch: Stream on STARZ or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for a couple of explicit scenes and some severe violence.

#25 Elizabeth R (1971)

Elizabeth R poster

Story: 

Elizabeth I’s male advisers want her to marry when she rises to the throne, starting a long political game.

Era: Elizabethan

Why You Should Watch: 

The British production won 5 Emmys for its brilliant depiction of Elizabeth I. Glenda Jackson stars in the primary role, giving an outstanding performance amid political intrigue.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or Hoopla. You can also buy it on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for suggestive content, violence, and language.

#26 Emma Adaptations (1972, 1996, 1996, 2009, 2020)

Emma 2020 dance scene
Emma. (2020) with Anya Taylor-Joy. Credit: Focus Features/Universal Pictures

Story: 

A well-intentioned young woman meddles in the love lives of those around her, causing problems for everyone, including herself.

Era: Georgian/Regency

Why You Should Watch: 

Jane Austen’s famous story comes to life in these lovely adaptations! Each of these movies/miniseries brings its unique interpretation to the witty, romantic tale. 

My favorite is the 2009 miniseries with Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller, but they’re all good.

Where to Watch Emma (1972): Stream on Britbox/Britbox Amazon Channel or buy on DVD.

Where to Watch Jane Austen’s Emma (1996) with Kate BeckinsaleRent/buy on Digital (Redbox) or buy on DVD.

Where to Watch Emma (1996) with Gwyneth Paltrow: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch Emma (2009)Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, and Pluto TV. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Where to Watch Emma. (2020)Stream on Freevee or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG

#27 Endeavour (2012)

Roger Allam as Thursday and Shaun Evans as Morse in Endeavour season 8, episode 1.
Roger Allam as Thursday and Shaun Evans as Morse. Credit: Courtesy of Mammoth Screen and MASTERPIECE.

Story: 

The British crime series follows a young Endeavour Morse as he solves crimes in the Oxford area with his partner DI Fred Thursday.

Era: 1960s and 1970s.

Why You Should Watch: 

Endeavour (going on its ninth and final season) is an excellent addition to Masterpiece Mystery. It’s a British mystery with good writing, romance, and memorable characters and was even voted (currently) into the top 250 TV shows on IMDb.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video, PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, and PBS Passport. You can also buy the series on Digital and DVD. New episodes air on PBS and stream on PBS Passport.

Content Note: TV-14 for mild suggestive content and violence.

#28 The English Game (2020)

The English Game 2020 with Kevin Guthrie and Craig Parkinson.
Photo: Kevin Guthrie and Craig Parkinson. Credit: Netflix

Story: 

Based on a true story, The English Game is about two 19th-century footballers navigating professional football amid a class divide.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The English Game is another outstanding period piece from Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, with solid writing and a top-notch cast. If you love Downton Abbey and BBC’s North and South, you should love this limited series.

Where to Watch: You can stream the costume drama on Netflix.

Content Note: TV-14 but very mild.

#29 Far from the Madding Crowd Adaptations (1967 and 2015)

Far from the madding crowd 2015 dance scene
Far From the Madding Crowd (2015). Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures/BBC Films

Story: 

In the 19th century, the impulsive and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three different suitors while also trying to run a farm. The story’s based on Thomas Hardy’s famous novel.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Both adaptations are worthy British period dramas to watch. If you love epic romances with lots of emotion and conflict, you can’t go wrong with Far from The Madding Crowd.

The 1967 version stars Julie Christie and Alan Bates, while the 2015 one stars Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, and Tom Sturridge.

Both films have gorgeous photography!

My favorite is the 2015 version (despite being condensed) due to the performances of Mulligan and Schoenaerts.

Note: There is also another good adaptation from 1998.

Where to Watch: Both are available to rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: The 1967 version is not rated, but it would be PG. The 2015 adaptation is PG-13 for suggestive references and thematic elements.

#30 The Forsyte Saga (2002)

The Forsyte Saga poster

Story: 

The Forsyte Saga is an epic family drama following the upper-middle-class family, The Forsytes, through three generations.

Era: Victorian through to the 1920s.

Why You Should Watch: 

Damian Lewis (among other brilliant British actors) stars in this superb adaptation of John Galsworthy’s novel. Watch this one for the performances. 

I also recommend watching the 1967 version if you can (listed on BFI’s top 100 TV programs).

Where to Watch: Stream on the PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel and Hoopla. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for lovemaking scenes.

#31 Foyle’s War (2002)

Foyle's war DVD poster

Story: 

DCS Foyle solves crimes in England during WWII on the Home Front and into the Cold War.

Era: WWII/The Cold War

Why You Should Watch: 

The BAFTA-winning mystery series is another top-rated TV drama on IMDb. It’s exceptionally good with Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks (Sam Stewart) starring.

Every episode is high-quality entertainment with strong mysteries and excellent characterization. Expect to see some familiar guest stars too!

Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV and Hoopla. You can also buy it on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for some violence (not overly graphic).

#32 The Go-Between (1971)

Julie Christie in the go-between
Credit: MGM/EMI

Story: 

The story (based on the novel by L.P. Hartley), seen from the perspective of a young boy, tells the story of a forbidden romance between a wealthy young woman and a poor farmer in the Norfolk countryside.

Era: Late Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The British period romantic drama movie is in BFI’s top 100 films of all time and received numerous nominations and awards, including one Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

The artistic movie starred Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Margaret Leighton, Dominic Guard, and Edward Fox and was gorgeously shot in Technicolor.

All in all, it’s a Joseph Losey (director) and Harold Pinter (screenwriter) masterpiece.

Where to Watch: Stream on Tubi and Vudu or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG for a love scene.

#33 Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Goodbye Mr. Chips still
Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Loew’s Inc

Story: A teacher recalls his life and experiences teaching at a boarding school.

Era: Victorian through to 1930s.

Why You Should Watch: 

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is another tremendous British classic from BFI’s top 100 films list. It won one Oscar for Robert Donat’s performance as Mr. Chips and is truly a beautiful and emotional movie.

Other notable cast members include Greer Garson, John Mills, and Paul Henreid.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: NR but nothing to come after.

#34 Grantchester (2014)

Tom Brittney as Rev. Will Davenport and Robson Green as DI Geordie Keating in Grantchester season 6.
Tom Brittney as Rev. Will Davenport and Robson Green as DI Geordie Keating. Credit: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE and Kudos

Story: A clergyman and a detective solve mysteries in a small town.

Era: 1950s

Why You Should Watch: 

Grantchester is all about the exceptional characters and the superb actors playing the parts. It’s a delightful period piece full of mystery, romance, friendship, and flawed characters you can’t help but love.

See more in our review of Grantchester.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video, PBS masterpiece Amazon Channel, and PBS Passport. New episodes air on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS.

Content Note: TV-14 for adult thematic elements and mild language, violence, lots of drinking, and innuendo.

#35 Great Expectations Adaptations (1946, 1999, 2011)

Great Expectations 2011
Great Expectations (2011). Credit: BBC Productions/Masterpiece

Story: The orphan, Pip, receives the opportunity to become a gentleman from a mysterious benefactor.

Era: Victorian Era

Why You Should Watch: 

Charles Dickens’ classic story has been adapted for the big and small screen numerous times because the story has timeless themes with iconic characters, including the wealthy, embittered (and eccentric) Miss Havisham.

While many excellent adaptations exist, the three best (that I’ve seen so far) are the award-winning 1946 adaptation, the 1999 version, and the 2011 miniseries.

The 1946 adaptation comes from the gifted director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia) and is now considered one of the greatest British films of all time. From an artistic perspective, it’s of the highest quality.

The 1999 version starring Ioan Gruffudd as Pip is my favorite, perhaps because it’s the first adaptation I saw. But it’s lovely, and the Emmys nominated it for Outstanding Miniseries. It has that classic ’90s period feel like other BBC classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch.

Then there is the more recent 2011 version with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham. It won four Primetime Emmys and is a gorgeous costume drama with excellent performances.

Other notable adaptations include the 1989 miniseries with Anthony Hopkins and the 2012 version with Helena Bonham Carter that Harry Potter fans should love.

Where to Watch the 1946 adaptation: Stream on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel. You can also rent/buy it on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 1999 adaptation: Buy on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2011 adaptation: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy it on DVD.

Content Note: PG-like.

#36 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Guernsey promo art
Credit: StudioCanal

Story: Soon after World War II, an author begins writing a book about Guernsey residents who belonged to a book club during the War. She soon develops a deep bond with the book club members and falls in love with a local farmer.

Era: WWII and Post WWII

Why You Should Watch: 

The romantic war drama has an all-star cast including Lily James and is adapted from the bestselling novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The heartwarming (and heartbreaking) drama is excellent from start to finish and is ideal for book lovers and romantics.

Find out more about Guernsey in our review.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix or buy on DVD.

Content Note: PG-13 for mild suggestive content, mild violence, and adult themes.

#37 Hamlet (1948)

Hamlet 1948 still with Laurence Olivier
Credit: Universal-International

Story: 

Hamlet contemplates avenging the alleged slaying of his father, the King of Denmark.

Era: Late Middle Ages

Why You Should Watch: 

Laurence Olivier mastered Shakespeare, and you won’t want to miss his Oscar-winning performance as Prince Hamlet. The adaptation won four Oscars in total, including Best Picture.

Other adaptations to check out include the 1990 and 1996 adaptations.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max or the Criterion Channel app. You can also rent or buy it on DVD.

Content Note: NR but nothing of note other than thematic elements.

#38 He Knew He Was Right (2004)

He Knew He Was Right 2004
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

The story follows the marriage between the happy newlyweds Louis and Emily Trevelyan. But Louis becomes jealous when a flirtatious Colonel becomes interested in his wife.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

He Knew He Was Right is a period drama adaptation of an Anthony Trollope novel that often falls under the radar. It has a brilliant cast (including Bill Nighy and David Tennant), authentic characters, and memorable romances.

Find out more in our review.

Where to Watch: Buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG.

#39 Henry V (1944, 1989)

Henry V 1989
Credit: BBC/Curzon Film Distributors

Story: 

In the 1400s, during the Hundred Years’ War, King Henry V of England sets out to conquer France.

Era: Middle Ages/Medieval

Why You Should Watch: 

In these two famous adaptations, Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh bring something unique to Shakespeare’s Henry V. Both versions also received high critical and widespread acclaim and are two of the finest Shakespearean adaptations on film.

Where to Watch the 1944 adaptation: Stream on HBO Max or the Criterion Channel. You can also rent/buy it on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 1989 adaptation: Stream on Freevee, Hoopla, Tubi, Kanopy, and Pluto TV; rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: The 1989 film is PG-13 for battle scenes, while the 1944 one is not rated but includes mild violence.

#40 Home Fires (2015)

home fires dvd poster

Story: 

The uplifting series follows a group of Women’s Institute members during WWII in a small Cheshire community.

Era: World War II

Why You Should Watch: 

While the inspiring show only lasted two seasons (and ends on an insane cliffhanger), the female-driven series is still worth watching, especially for the fantastic cast.

If you love historical fiction set during World War II and Women’s Fiction, you should love this British drama series.

And no worries if you hate cliffhangers from canceled shows, the writers released an official continuation of the story in novel form! So, all lingering questions are answered.

See our reviews of season one and season two.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport or PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy the series on DVD to watch.

Content Note: TV-PG for suggestive content and language.

#41 Hope and Glory (1987)

Hope and Glory 1987
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Story: 

The movie follows the Rowan family as they live through the Blitz in World War II. The story is told from the perspective of the young son, Billy.

Era: WWII

Why You Should Watch: 

The award-winning film follows the real-life experiences of the writer and director, John Boorman.

It’s a hopeful, uplifting historical drama and received five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Hope and Glory is also included in the top BFI films of all time.

Where to Watch: Stream on Tubi or buy on DVD.

Content Note: PG-13, but it does have some strong language (including a few “F” words) and suggestive content.

#42 Horatio Hornblower (1998-2003)

horatio hornblower poster

Story: 

The Horatio Hornblower films are about a Royal Navy Officer and his adventures during the French Revolutionary War and Napoleonic Wars.

Era: Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

Ioan Gruffudd stars in eight high-quality British TV movies as Horatio Hornblower, the famous character from the series of books by C.S. Forester.

Watch these Emmy-winning films if you enjoy stories with adventure on the high seas, high production values, fantastic actors, and memorable stories.

Find out more about Horatio Hornblower in our review.

Where to Watch: You can stream some of the films on The Roku Channel or buy them as a Collector’s Edition (with all eight movies) on DVD.

Content Note: The television movies are TV-14-like for violence.

#43 The Hour (2011)

THe Hour BBC promo photo
Credit: BBC

Story: 

The romantic drama/thriller follows the lives and stories of characters within an investigative news program during the 1950s in England.

Era: 1950s.

Why You Should Watch: 

The Emmy and Golden Globes-nominated British series is often compared to Mad Men, but it’s much more romantic. One of the central aspects of the show is the slow-build love story between the leads Bel (Romola Garai) and Freddie (Ben Whishaw).

Besides the pitch-perfect love story, there is a fantastic cast (also including Dominic West, Anna Chancellor, Oona Chaplin, Peter Capaldi, and Tom Burke), brilliant scripts from Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady), and it’s visually gorgeous to look at too.

Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV, Acorn TV Amazon Channel, Roku, Pluto TV, and Tubi. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14/TV-MA for some sensual, semi-explicit scenes, violence, and language. It’s not a vulgar show but does include mature content and themes. Nothing is excessive.

#44 Howards End (1992; 2017)

Howards End 1992 photo
Howards End (1992). Credit: Merchant Ivory Productions/Sony Pictures Classics

Story: 

Howards End is a story about social classes seen through the intersection of three families: the wealthy Wilcoxes, the middle-class and idealistic Schlegels, and the working-class Basts.

Era: Edwardian

Why You Should Watch: 

Both adaptations of E.M. Forster’s novel are brilliant. The 1992 version with Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter is an artistic masterpiece by James Ivory winning three Oscars.

Yet the 2017 version with Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen holds its own, taking more time to explore the novel’s themes in its longer TV format. See our review for more.

Where to Watch the 1992 movie: Stream on Tubi and Kanopy or rent/buy digitally and on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2017 miniseries: Stream on Prime Video, STARZ, STARZ Amazon Channel or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: The 1992 film is PG, while the 2017 miniseries is TV-14. Both are mild in content.

#45 I Capture the Castle (2003)

I capture the castle promo art
Credit: BBC Films/Trademark Films/Momentum Pictures

Story: 

The romantic drama takes place in 1930s England, following the teenage Cassandra Mortmain, her older sister Rose, and her unusual family as they struggle while living inside a deteriorating castle.

Era: 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

I Capture the Castle is a beautiful coming-of-age period drama based on the underrated novel from Dodie Smith.

It’s funny, charming, heartbreaking, romantic, and inspiring! Plus, it has an exceptional cast, including Romola Garai, Rose Byrne, Bill Nighy, Tara Fitzgerald, Henry Cavill, Henry Thomas, and Marc Blucas.

Plus, Heidi Thomas of Call the Midwife fame penned the delightful screenplay.

Where to Watch: Stream on Peacock, Prime Video, Roku, Hoopla, Vudu, Tubi, Pluto TV, Kanopy, and Plex. You can also rent or buy it on Digital or DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for a scene of nudity. It should be PG-13.

#46 I, Claudius (1976)

I Claudius 1976 poster

Story: 

I, Claudius, follows the experiences of the Roman Emperor, Claudius, during the early Roman Empire.

Era: The Iron Age/Roman Empire

Why You Should Watch: 

The groundbreaking series is considered one of the best shows in television history, is featured on numerous “best” lists, and even won an Emmy for Outstanding Art Direction.

Sure, the production quality of the ’70s may damper the enjoyment for some viewers wanting more modern fare, but the high-quality scripts and memorable performances make this series must-watch entertainment. It’s a part of British television history, after all.

It was even one of the earlier British costume dramas that aired on PBS’ Masterpiece series.

Derek Jacobi stars as Claudius. Other notable actors include John Hurt and Patrick Stewart.

Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV, Acorn TV Amazon Channel, and Hoopla. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: NR but is TV-14-like for nudity and violence.

#47 The Indian Doctor (2010)

the indian doctor dvd poster

Story: 

An Indian Doctor, Dr. Prem Sharma, moves with his upper-class wife from India to a small Welsh mining town to be the town’s new Doctor, to everyone’s surprise. 

Era: 1960s

Why You Should Watch: 

If uplifting, heartwarming small-town period dramas are your thing, you won’t want to miss this underrated British dramedy series, The Indian Doctor.

While it often falls under the radar, it’s full of lovable characters, excellent storylines, and great actors! It’s one of the best.

Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV or Acorn TV Amazon Channel. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: 13+ but mild.

#48 Indian Summers (2015)

indian summers dvd poster

Story: 

Indian Summers follows a group of British and Indian characters during the final years of Colonial rule in India.

Era: 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

Indian Summers is an intelligent, exquisite period drama that aired on PBS’ Masterpiece. With the Oscar-nominated Julie Waters in the lead role, it’s hard to go wrong with this gorgeous-looking series.

It received positive reviews from critics and audience members, and they filmed it in Malaysia. 

Where to Watch: PBS Passport, PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, and Freevee. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for some sensual content and adult themes.

#49 Jamaica Inn (1983; 2014)

Jamaica Inn 2014
Jamaica Inn (2014). Credit: BBC

Story: 

When a young woman moves to live with her aunt, she discovers her uncle is a criminal. 

Era: Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

If you love gothic romances, atmospheric dramas, or suspenseful stories from Daphne Du Maurier, you’ll want to check out the 1983 and 2014 adaptations of Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn.

Each production is equally good in different ways. However, make sure to watch the 2014 version with subtitles.

The 1983 miniseries stars Jane Seymour, while the 2014 one stars Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay and Matthew McNulty.

See our review of Jamaica Inn (1983) and Jamaica Inn (2014).

You can also check out the other British adaptation from 1939 (a poorly reviewed Hitchcock film).

Where to Watch Jamaica Inn (1983): Buy on DVD.

Where to Watch Jamaica Inn (2014): Stream on PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel or buy on DVD.

Content Note: Both are TV-14-like for some violence, sensuality, and darker themes.

#50 Jane Eyre Adaptations (1983, 2006, 2011)

Jane Eyre 2006 promo photo with Rochester and Jane
Jane Eyre (2006). Credit: BBC

Story: 

A young woman/governess falls in love with her employer only to discover he has some dark secrets.

Era: While the book was published during the Victorian Era, the story could take place in the Georgian Era.

Why You Should Watch: 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is one of the greatest novels ever written, and these three adaptations are the best versions of the gothic romance, Bildungsroman story.

If you’re looking for a version that focuses on the gothic elements the most, see the 2011 adaptation with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Read our review of the 2011 movie with more on why you should check it out.

Want a deeper exploration and more details from the novel – see the 1983 one with Zelah Clarke and Timothy Dalton. Dalton also plays the best Byronic version of Mr. Rochester. For more, read the 10 Reasons to Watch Jane Eyre (1983).

Finally, if romantic chemistry is what you’re after, see the popular 2006 adaptation with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. Their chemistry sizzles onscreen in their portrayal of true love. Plus, Wilson plays the best, most authentic version of Jane. See our review for more information.

For more on these romantic period drama adaptations (and other versions not listed above), see our detailed list of all the best Jane Eyre adaptations with more specifics on each production.

Where to Watch the 1983 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or Plex. You can also buy it on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2006 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Hulu, Crackle, and Pluto TV. You can also buy it on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 2011 feature film: Rent/buy it on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: Both TV miniseries are TV-PG. The 2006 one has a few scenes of sensuality. The 2011 film is PG-13 for moments of horror and sensuality.

#51 The Jewel in the Crown (1984) 

The Jewel in the crown DVD poster

Story: 

Based on the novel by Paul Scott, The Jewel in the Crown follows the tail end of the British Colonial Rule over India during and after World War II. The story follows both British and Indian characters.

Era: WWII/Post WWII Eras

Why You Should Watch: 

It’s a British classic chosen by the BFI to be #22 in the list of the 100 Best British TV programs ever. It also won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.

The Jewel in the Crown is a thought-provoking British period drama with an all-star cast of actors giving extraordinary performances.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel or buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for a graphic assault scene, some nudity, explicit content, and strong language.

#52 The King’s Speech (2010)

The King's Speech still
Yes, that is Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice reuniting in this brilliant film. Credit: Momentum Pictures/Paramount Pictures

Story: 

King George VI gets help from an unusual speech therapist to help him overcome his stutter.

Era: 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

The British historical drama film won four Oscars – including Best Picture and Best Performance from an Actor (Colin Firth).

The movie is an absolute delight with a great script and fabulous performances from the entire cast. And it’s one of the best movies about Royals ever made.

Where to Watch: Stream on Roku, Amazon’s Freevee, Plex, and Pluto TV. You can also rent/buy the film digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for brief strong language.

#53 Lark Rise to Candleford (2008)

lark rise dvd poster

Story: 

An aspiring teenage writer moves from her poor village to the nearby wealthier town, Candleford, to apprentice as a postmistress.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Trust me, Lark Rise to Candleford will become your one weakness! Based loosely on the semi-autobiographical novels of Flora Thompson, the costume drama perfectly captures the English countryside during the end of an era.

You can’t go wrong with this one with beautiful love stories, unforgettable characters, award-worthy performances, strong scripts, and gorgeous scenery.

The uplifting series will make you laugh, cry, and so much more.

Check out our review of Lark Rise with more reasons to watch!

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG.

#54 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

lawrence of arabia still
Credit: Horizon Pictures/Columbia Pictures

Story: 

Lawrence of Arabia follows the story of T.E. Lawrence, an English officer who helped the Arab tribes fight the Turks during WWI.

Era: WWI

Why You Should Watch: 

The British historical epic, Lawrence of Arabia, won seven Oscars – including Best Picture and Best Director (David Lean) and is considered a cinematic masterpiece.

While the film’s not entirely historically accurate, from an artistic perspective, Lawrence of Arabia is one of the greatest films ever made.

Peter O’Toole stars.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital or DVD.

Content Note: NR – has some violence and mild profanity.

#55 Les Misérables (2018)

Les Miserables 2018
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

The former thief, Jean Valjean, escapes from the obsessive inspector, Javert. Valjean turns his life around and helps the daughter of a prostitute. Romance and revolution follow.

Era: Mostly post-Napoleonic France

Why You Should Watch: 

Numerous brilliant adaptations of Les Misérables exist, but the newer 2018 miniseries is a fantastic example of the story told in a romantic British period drama style.

The diverse cast, the period drama trappings, and of course, Andrew Davies (a master of writing the period drama) penning the scripts.

Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins, Adeel Akhtar, Olivia Colman, Josh O’Connor, Ellie Bamber, Erin Kellyman, Johnny Flynn, Derek Jacobi, and more stars.

I also recommend checking out the excellent 1935, 1998, and 2012 films.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport or PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for brief nudity, implied sensuality, violence, and some language.

#56 Little Dorrit (2008)

Little Dorrit 2008 still
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

The young Amy Dorrit works hard to earn money for her struggling family – including her father in debtors’ prison. When she crosses paths with Arthur Clennam, her boss’s son, they soon discover there is a connection between them.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

From the brilliant cast, gorgeous costumes, art direction, and stellar screenplay, Little Dorrit is an example of the BBC period drama at its best. It even won 7 Primetime Emmys.

The chemistry between Claire Foy and Matthew Macfadyen is fantastic. Plus, every cast memorable brings their “A” game to their part.

This adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel is one to remember and watch time and time again.

If you want to see another version, I also recommend watching the 1987 miniseries.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Plex, and Pluto TV. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#57 The Madness of King George (1994)

the madness of king george 1994
Credit: Channel Four Films/The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Story: 

Great Britain faces a dilemma when King George III starts to go mad.

Era: Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, and Ian Holm star in this Oscar-winning historical dramedy about King George III. It’s a beautiful film to look at with stunning costumes, art direction, lavish period details, and cinematography.

It’s also a hilarious movie – although it has elements of tragedy to it as well. And each cast member shines in their role – particularly Mirren and Hawthorne.

The Madness of King George received numerous nominations and awards and ranks #42 on the BFI’s greatest British films.

Where to Watch: Stream on Kanopy, Roku, Hoopla, Tubi, and Pluto TV, or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG-13 for thematic elements.

#58 A Man for All Seasons (1966)

a man for all seasons 1966 still
Credit: Highland Films/Columbia Pictures

Story: 

The film follows Sir Thomas More when he stands up against King Henry VIII for leaving the Catholic Church.

Era: Renaissance

Why You Should Watch: 

The British historical film won six Oscars – including Best Picture. The British Film Institute also included it on the list of the best British movies.

A Man for All Seasons is a thought-provoking movie with an intelligent script and top-notch performances. It’s an inspirational film about standing up for what you believe in.

Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Wendy Hiller, Orson Welles, and more stars.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: G

#59 Mansfield Park (1999)

mansfield park 1999
Credit: BBC Films/Miramax/Buena Vista International

Story: 

Fanny lives with her wealthy relations, only to be treated as an inferior – other than by her cousin Edmund – who she falls in love with.

Era: Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

Director Patricia Rozema brings a unique interpretation to Jane Austen’s famous novel by combining elements of the book with Austen’s life.

It’s a polarizing adaptation for Jane Austen purists, but I think it’s a genius interpretation of her novel – successfully capturing the irony and wit she’s famous for in her books.

The romance is epic, the performances superb (especially from Frances O’Connor as Fanny), and the script impressive.

For more, read our review of Mansfield Park (1999).

We also recommend checking out the 1983 and 2007 adaptations.

Where to Watch: Stream on Hoopla and Pluto TV or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG-13 for disturbing images and a scene of sensuality/nudity.

#60 Marple (2004)

Miss Marple DVD cover
Credit: ITV

Story: 

The elderly spinster, Miss Jane Marple from the town of St. Mary Mead, helps solve mysteries.

Era: 1950s

Why You Should Watch: 

Geraldine McEwan and Julia Mckenzie both star as Miss Marple in this delightful series adapted from the Agatha Christie novels. If cozy British mysteries are your cup of tea, you’ll love this show!

It’s always fun seeing who will guest star in each episode too. Expect to see lots of familiar faces in this entertaining British mystery.

See the Top Ten Favorite Episodes Of Agatha Christie’s Marple.

If you want more of Miss Marple, I’ve heard good things about the 1984 series!

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or Hoopla. You can also buy it digitally on Amazon or DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for mild violence, intense scenes, and suggestive content.

#61 Martin Chuzzlewit (1994)

martin chuzzlewit poster BBC

Story: 

The Chuzzlewit family fight over the dying Martin Chuzzlewit’s inheritance.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Martin Chuzzlewit is based on a lesser-known Dickens novel and is a captivating story about greed. And while it’s light on the romance, the fascinating characters and terrific performances more than compensate for it in this Emmy-nominated miniseries.

See our review of Martin Chuzzlewit for more information.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG-like for thematic elements.

#62 Middlemarch (1994)

Middlemarch 1994 poster

Story: 

The series follows several interweaving stories of the villagers from the town of Middlemarch. A kind young woman marries an older man believing it to be a smart match, but he’s different than she imagined. Soon, she meets a young man she falls in love with, complicating matters.

Era: Late Georgian/Pre-Victorian/Industrial Revolution

Why You Should Watch: 

Middlemarch is a fine example of the English period drama genre! Based on George Eliot’s classic novel, this adaptation penned by the talented Andrew Davies is magnificent.

With an outstanding cast and strong script, Middlemarch is a beautiful period piece.

Juliet Aubrey and Rufus Sewell star.

See our review for more details on the production.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#63 Miss Austen Regrets (2007)

Miss Austen Regrets 2007 still with Jane Austen sitting on a bench
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

Miss Austen Regrets follows the later years of Jane Austen as she tries to help her niece find a suitable match while also considering her own past choices.

Era: Regency/Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

Miss Austen Regrets is a brilliant biographical drama about the famous author. The script is moving and intelligent, and Olivia Williams gives a fine performance as Ms. Austen.

Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hiddleston, Jack Huston, Imogen Poots, and Greta Scacchi also star.

Check out our review for more details on this English period drama.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Crackle, Plex, or buy on DVD.

Content Note: G

#64 Miss Scarlet and the Duke (2020)

Season 2 first look of Miss Scarlet and the Duke.
Eliza Scarlet (Kate Phillips) and The Duke (Stuart Martin). Credit: Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

Story: 

Miss Eliza Scarlet takes over her father’s private detective business in Victorian London after he dies, only no one takes her seriously at first – including ‘The Duke’ – an Inspector at Scotland Yard who she may have feelings for.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Miss Scarlet and the Duke is the perfect romantic mystery series with just the right amount of chemistry between the leads, intriguing storylines, and lovable characters.

If you enjoy shows like Miss Fisher and British crime shows, this series is one you can’t miss.

Check out our review of season one for even more gushing!

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport and PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy it on Digital and DVD. New episodes air on PBS and stream on PBS Passport. Seasons 2 and 3 will premiere on PBS later in 2022 and beginning of 2023.

Content Note: TV-14 for violence, suspense, sensuality, and language.

#65 Mr. Malcolm’s List (2022)

Mr. Malcolm's List Review featured image with Selina and Mr. Malcolm dancing
(L to R) Freida Pinto stars as Selina Dalton, and Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù stars as Mr. Malcolm in director Emma Holly Jones’ Mr. Malcolm’s List. Credit: Ross Ferguson/Bleecker Street.

Story: 

Julia Thistlewaite convinces her best friend, Selina Dalton, to help her get revenge against the mysterious Mr. Malcolm – the man who humiliated her. But soon, Selina and Mr. Malcolm start to fall in love.

Era: Regency-Era England

Why You Should Watch: 

Mr. Malcolm’s List is a new period rom-com with a diverse cast and a lot of heart. It’s a co-production between the UK and the US but feels like a quintessential British romantic period drama.

The Jane Austen-influenced film is hilarious, romantic, gorgeous, and fun to watch. I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a fan of old-fashioned romance and witty scripts.

Read my review to find out more.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG but entirely wholesome.

#66 Mr. Selfridge (2013)

mr. selfridge still with Mr. Selfridge hugging his family
Credit: ITV/Masterpiece

Story: 

Mr. Selfridge takes place over 20 years, following the visionary Harry Selfridge, his family, friends, and employees from the start of his famous department store in 1908 to 1929.

Era: Edwardian through the 1920s

Why You Should Watch: 

Mr. Selfridge initially had a polarizing reaction when it premiered, keeping this excellent series under the radar. I re-watched the show, and it’s even better the second time.

The costumes are spectacular, the scripts excellent, the characters authentic, flawed, and memorable, the actors terrific, and the love stories romantic.

It was a sad day when I had no more episodes to watch. It really is an inspiring, uplifting show. Just expect some tissues – particularly when watching the final season.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport, PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, and Freevee. You can also buy the series on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for implied affairs and suggestive content (very mild).

#67 Mrs. Brown (1997)

Mrs. Brown 1997 still
Credit: Miramax/BBC

Story: 

Queen Victoria develops a friendship and relationship with her servant, Mr. John Brown, causing some scandal and upset.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Judi Dench (who received an Oscar nomination for her performance) is an absolute delight as Queen Victoria. The romantic British drama film is a touching film with masterful performances. 

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Hoopla, and Pluto TV, or rent/buy on Digital and DVD. 

Content Note: PG

#68 Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris poster

Story: 

A widow and cleaning lady falls in love with a couture Dior dress and saves her money to buy one of her own in Paris.

Era: 1950s

Why You Should Watch: 

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is an uplifting, charming, romantic, and fun period drama. It’s one of the best feel-good films in years.

You can’t go wrong with this inspirational dramedy with a strong script, beautiful costumes, and marvelous performances (especially from Lesley Manville).

It will make you believe in your dreams!

Where to Watch: Buy on Digital and DVD. It should be available to rent soon.

Content Note: PG

#69 Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

much ado about nothing 1993
Credit: BBC Films/The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Story: 

Friends and family conspire to get Benedick and Beatrice (who are at a war of words with each other) together.

Era: Elizabethan

Why You Should Watch: 

Kenneth Branagh makes Shakespeare more accessible to the masses with this hilarious romantic comedy adaptation. Emma Thompson and Branagh are brilliant onscreen together.

The rest of the cast is fantastic too! It is an early example of color-blind casting that’s become more prevalent in recent years.

If you’re in the mood for a good laugh and enjoy a lot of witty dialogue, this is the movie for you.

See our review for more about the film.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max or rent/buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: PG-13 for sensuality.

#70 Nicholas Nickleby (2002)/The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982)

Nicholas Nickleby 2002
Nicholas Nickleby (2002). Credit: MGM Distribution Co.

Story: 

A young man fights to save his friends and family from his abusive uncle.

Era: Pre-Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The excellent 1982 miniseries has a 9-hour running time – providing ample time to explore Charles Dickens’ story. It won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries and was nominated for numerous other awards.

The 2002 adaptation is perfect for viewers looking for a shorter production with high production values, romance, and a contemporary cast.

Both are compelling interpretations of the novel and are sure to be British classics for years to come.

Where to Watch the 1982 miniseries: Stream on Broadway HD or buy digitally on Amazon or DVD.

Where to Watch the 2002 film: Stream on Freevee and Tubi; rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: Both are PG-like.

#71 North & South (2004)

north and south 2004 publicity photo with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage
Credit: BBC

Story: 

North and South is a love story between Margaret Hale, a young Englishwoman from the South, and John Thornton, a hard-working cotton mill owner from the North.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

North and South may be the best romantic British period drama of all time. It’s a visually artistic period drama that helped revolutionize the style of period dramas on television – influencing future shows like Downton Abbey.

Besides that, it’s a drama everyone can enjoy. The love story is swoony (with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe showcasing fantastic chemistry), the themes profound, and the performances top-notch.

While the screenwriter made a few changes from Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic book, the script captures the novel’s essence.

It has the romance of a Jane Austen story (much like Pride and Prejudice), with the passion of Jane Eyre and the social conscience of a Dickens story.

North and South (currently a Top-Rated show on IMDb) is one of the best period dramas of all time.

For more on the four-part series, check out my article Why The BBC Period Drama ‘North & South’ Matters.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#72 Northanger Abbey (2007)

Northanger Abbey 2007
Credit: ITV/Masterpiece

Story: 

A young woman travels to Bath for the season and finds love and friendship but creates misunderstandings due to her love of Gothic novels and her wild imagination.

Era: Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

The only downside to this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel is that it is too short! It’s a lively, romantic, and fun version of the book with sparkling chemistry between Felicity Jones and JJ Feild. You can also see a young Carey Mulligan in the film.

Overall, if you’re looking for a fun period dramedy with Gothic romance on the side, Northanger Abbey is an excellent choice. Check out our review for more on this adaptation.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, Hoopla, or Kanopy; rent/buy digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: PG for some mild sensuality.

#73 Oliver Twist Adaptations (1948, 1968, 1985, 1999, 2007)

Oliver Twist 1948
Oliver Twist (1948). Credit: Cineguild/General Film Distributors

Story: 

Based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens, the story follows the adventures of the orphan Oliver Twist in London.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

There have been numerous Oliver Twist adaptations over the years. But I selected the five best ones to recommend. From there, it just comes down to personal taste.

The award-winning director, David Lean, directed this 1948 British film listed on the list of BFI’s top British films. This one is a superb choice if you love classic movies and gorgeous cinematography.

Oliver! is the award-winning 1968 British musical adaptation of the novel. It won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, is featured in the BFI’s greatest British films, and is a joy to watch.

RELATED: Fairy Tales in Classics – Oliver Twist

If longer adaptations are more your style, check out the two miniseries versions from 1985 and 1999. The ample screen time offers time to explore the parts of the book often left out in other adaptations. The underrated 1999 version has a fun cast of actors, including a young Keira Knightley.

The most recent version is the 2007 BBC production. While it makes some changes from the novel, it’s a very entertaining production made in the style of the BBC period drama that’s become so popular. It has a fantastic cast too.

Other notable adaptations include the 1922 movie, the 1933 film, the 1997 TV movie (an American production), and the 2005 film.

Where to Watch the 1948 film: Stream on HBO Max, The Criterion Channel, The Roku Channel, IndieFlix, Plex, or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 1968 musical: Stream on HBO Max or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 1985 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on DVD.

Where to Watch the 1999 miniseries: Buy on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2007 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Hulu, or buy on DVD.

Content Note: All these productions range from G to PG.

#74 Our Mutual Friend (1998)

Our Mutual Friend 1998
Credit: BBC

Story: 

Love, secrets, jealousy, and greed flourish in this tale with interweaving stories. 

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The romantic period drama miniseries (based on the Dickens novel) won 4 BAFTAS. And while it’s less talked about today, it is one of the best romantic period pieces the BBC has ever made.

The intricate story filled with complex characters makes it difficult to adapt, but the six-hour screen time mixed with the superb screenplay, direction, and outstanding cast helped pull it off marvelously.

Fan favorites Keeley Hawes, Paul McGann, Anna Friel, Steven Mackintosh, David Morrissey, Pam Ferris, and Timothy Spall star.

See our five-star review here.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: PG-like for mild violence.

#75 Outlander (2014)

Outlander 2014
Credit: Sony Pictures Television/STARZ

Story: 

A 1940s nurse travels back in time to 18th century Scotland and falls in love.

Era: 18th Century Jacobite period

Why You Should Watch: 

The love story is epic, and the series’ quality is top-notch. It’s been nominated for four Primetime Emmys (honestly, the low number is surprising), the acting is incredible, the production quality fantastic, the costumes beautiful, and the writing excellent.

RELATED: The Folklore Of Outlander: Witches, Stone Circles, And More

But really, the main reason to watch Outlander is for the romance. Claire and Jamie are one of TV’s most incredible couples.

However, I only recommend watching this one if you don’t mind explicit content and severe violence.

Where to Watch: Stream on STARZ, STARZ Amazon Channel, or Netflix. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-MA. This show is very explicit with nudity, violence, lovemaking, graphic assaults, and language.

#76 The Paradise (2012)

the paradise 2012 promo image
Credit: BBC/Masterpiece

Story: 

A young woman of ambition gets a job at a department store and falls in love with the owner in this series based loosely on the novel by Emile Zola.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The Paradise is an exceptional example of a romantic period drama series done well. While the love story between Denise and Moray is central to the plot, the writer does not ignore the other characters in the show. Every character has an intriguing background, a few with secrets.

Besides the accomplished scripts, the acting is good, the costumes stunning, the set design beautiful, and so much more.

It also has an addictive quality – making you want to keep watching. It’s often compared to Mr. Selfridge since they both take place at a store, but they’re entirely different – albeit equally entertaining.

Find out more about the TV show in our review of The Paradise.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, and Hoopla, or buy digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG for mild suggestive content.

#77 Persuasion (1995, 2007)

persuasion 2007 poster

Story: 

Anne Elliot was persuaded to end her engagement with Frederick Wentworth due to a lack of money and poor connections. Eight years later, they cross paths again.

Era: Regency

Why You Should Watch: 

Persuasion is a beautiful, moving story based on Jane Austen’s classic novel. These two adaptations are the best yet full of authentic emotions, intelligent scripts, and swoony love stories.

Each version brings something lovely to the table.

See our two reviews: One for the 1995 film and the other for the 2007 one.

Other adaptations include the 1971 version and the new 2022 Netflix film.

Where to Watch the 1995 film: Stream on Tubi or rent/buy digitally or on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2007 adaptation: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on DVD.

Content Note: PG

#78 Poirot (1989)

Poirot publicity still
Credit: ITV

Story: 

The TV series follows the cases of the eccentric but intelligent Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.

Era: 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

This top-rated TV show is one of the best British drama mystery series. The Agatha Christie adaptation includes numerous brilliant episodes, with David Suchet capturing the iconic character perfectly.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for some suggestive content (including a few explicit scenes), violence, and profanity.

#79 Poldark (2015)

Poldark Filming Locations featured image with Ross and Demelza
Photo: BBC/PBS Masterpiece/Mammoth Screen

Story: 

Ross Poldark returns home to Cornwall soon after the American Revolutionary War – only to discover everything has changed. Poldark recreates a new life for himself and falls in love.

Era: Georgian (Late 18th century)

Why You Should Watch: 

If epic, sweeping love stories with gorgeous scenery (and men) are what you’re after, look no further than Poldark. Based on the bestselling novels by Winston Graham, this adaptation is pure magic.

RELATED: The Top 35 Period Dramas Like Poldark

From the excellent casting choices (Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing, etc.) to the memorable love stories (Ross and DemelzaDwight and Caroline), epic musical score, stunning cinematography, beautiful filming locations, and first-rate scripts, it is one of the best romantic English period dramas ever made.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video, PBS Passport, and PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy it digitally or on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for mild violence and sensuality. 

#80 Pride and Prejudice Adaptations (1995, 2005)

Pride and Prejudice 1995 promo image
Pride and Prejudice (1995). Credit: BBC

Story: The rich and proud Mr. Darcy falls in love with the witty Elizabeth Bennet – only she comes from a different class. Between misunderstandings, pride, and prejudices, can the two overcome their issues to be together?

Era: Georgian/Regency

Why You Should Watch: 

A British period drama list wouldn’t be complete without the best Pride and Prejudice adaptations. And while there are many fantastic ones to watch (including the hilarious 1940 American version and the 1980 miniseries), the best versions come down to two productions. And yes, you can enjoy both!

The 1995 BBC miniseries starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle is iconic and absolute perfection. The series helped catapult Austenmania into the mainstream. Pride and Prejudice (1995) is one of the most influential period dramas on this list, with award-worthy and loved performances, sparkling wit, and synergistic chemistry.

Pride and prejudice 2005
Pride & Prejudice (2005). Credit: StudioCanal/Focus Features

Then there is the gorgeous-looking feature film production from 2005 starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. The Romantic interpretation of Jane Austen’s novel showcased artistic cinematography, art direction, stunning costumes, and stylish direction from Joe Wright. It also received four Oscar nominations.

While the 1995 version follows the book more closely, the 2005 one is visually more pleasing. Both are equally excellent and dependent upon personal preference and mood.

Where to Watch the 1995 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Hulu, and BYU TV. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2005 film: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, and Freevee. You can also buy it on DVD or digitally.

Content Note: PG

#81 The Pursuit of Love (2021)

The Pursuit of Love promotional image
Photo Credit: BBC/Amazon Studios

Story: 

Two very different cousins and best friends (Linda and Fanny) seek out love and friendship in different ways.

Era: 1920s through the beginning of WWII

Why You Should Watch: 

The Pursuit of Love miniseries is based on the 1945 novel by Nancy Mitford (loosely based on real people). This British costume drama is for you if you enjoy eccentric, witty productions with good acting.

Lily James, Emily Beecham, Dominic West, Emily Mortimer (who also wrote and directed), Andrew Scott, and more stars.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video or buy on DVD.

Content Note: 13+ for brief nudity, some language, and sensuality. 

#82 The Railway Children (1970)

The Railway Children 1970
Credit: MGM-EMI

Story: Three middle-class children move to the country to a small cottage near a railway after their father is falsely imprisoned, changing the course of their lives.

Era: Edwardian

Why You Should Watch: 

The 1970 adaptation of The Railway Children is a British treasure for the entire family! It’s included on BFI’s Top 100 British films of all time and received 3 BAFTA nominations (one for the late and great Bernard Cribbins as Best Supporting Actor).

The beloved family is such a nostalgic favorite that a sequel set about forty years later was just released in Britain with Jenny Agutter (Call the Midwife) from the original returning.

Where to Watch: Stream on Kanopy or buy on DVD.

Content Note: G

#83 The Remains of the Day (1993)

The Remains of the Day promo art
Credit: Merchant Ivory Productions/Columbia Pictures

Story: 

A butler devotes his entire life to service and refuses to admit his feelings for the housekeeper he quietly loved.

Era: 1930s to the 1950s

Why You Should Watch: 

Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, and Christopher Reeve star in this heartbreaking, flawless movie from James Ivory. It received eight Oscar nominations, was chosen by the BFI as one of the greatest British films of all time, and is truly marvelous to watch.

The movie is based on the award-winning 1989 historical novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

See our review for more on this film masterpiece.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG for thematic elements.

#84 A Room with a View (1985)

a room with a view 1985
Credit: Merchant Ivory Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Story: 

During her trip to Florence, Lucy meets the free-spirit George, and they romantically connect. But she returns to England and becomes engaged to the wealthy and snobbish Cecil. When George appears in her life again, she must choose between following her heart or duty.

Era: Edwardian

Why You Should Watch: 

We say it best in our review:

“Merchant-Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View is one of those rare and beautiful gems that capture the essence of a classic novel effortlessly and is most assuredly a brilliant work of art.”

The romance, the acting, the visual aesthetic, the directing, the costumes, and so much more is absolute perfection in this adaptation. It’s simply stunning. 

Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, and more stars. 

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max, Showtime, and the Criterion Channel. You can also buy the film on DVD and Digital. 

Content Note: NR, but there is one explicit scene of nudity (men skinny-dipping for fun). 

#85 Sanditon (2019)

Sanditon PBS Masterpiece image with Charlotte and Sidney
Shown from left to right: Rose Williams as Charlotte Heywood and Theo James as Sidney Parker. Credit: Courtesy of Photographer: Simon Ridgway/© Red Planet Pictures / ITV 2019

Story: 

The young and spirited Charlotte Heywood visits Sanditon, a seaside resort village, and finds love, heartbreak, and friendship.

Era: Regency

Why You Should Watch: 

Andrew Davies continues Jane Austen’s unfinished novel with wit, flair, some steaminess, brilliant characters, memorable love stories, diversity, and a fun setting.

RELATED: 35 Romantic Movies And TV Shows Like Sanditon To Watch

While the second season (coming back after the controversial initial cancelation) isn’t as good with the new showrunner, it’s still an entertaining period drama series worth watching.

Romantic period drama fans should find at least one couple to root for!

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport and PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel. You can also buy both seasons digitally and on DVD. New episodes (season 3 coming soon) air on PBS and PBS Passport. 

Content Note: TV-14 for a few steamy scenes. Season 2 is much milder. 

#86 Sense and Sensibility (1995, 2008)

sense and sensibility 1995 elinor and marianne
Sense and Sensibility (1995). Credit: Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Releasing

Story: 

When the wealthy Mr. Dashwood dies, his three daughters and wife are left with only a small inheritance due to unfair laws. So, they adapt to living in poorer conditions while the two eldest sisters (who are total opposites) experience love and heartbreak.

Era: Georgian

Why You Should Watch: 

Sense and Sensibility is another brilliant story from Jane Austen that has been adapted for the small and big screen many times. The two best adaptations are the 1995 masterpiece from Ang Lee (with a script from Emma Thompson – who also stars) and the 2008 BBC miniseries from Andrew Davies.

Each brings something unique to their versions. The 1995 film is one of the greatest period dramas of all time. Like the 95 Pride and Prejudice miniseries, it helped stir up the Austenmania of the 90s and 00s.

It received seven Oscar nominations (including for Best Picture) and won Best Adapted Screenplay. Director Ang Lee gorgeously shot the film with an amazing cast. Besides Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Gemma Jones, Greg Wise, Hugh Laurie, and more stars.

The 2008 miniseries, on the other hand, takes more time to explore the novel’s story and received two Primetime Emmy nominations. It’s intensely romantic with an excellent script and fine performances from Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, Dan Stevens, Dominic Cooper, David Morrissey, Janet McTeer, Lucy Boynton, Mark Williams, and more.

Where to Watch the 1995 film: Rent/buy digitally and on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2008 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Hulu, Crackle, Plex, and Pluto TV. You can also buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: The 1995 film is PG, while the miniseries is TV-14 for some sensuality.

#87 Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in love 1998 still
Credit: Miramax Films/Universal Pictures

Story: 

A young Shakespeare falls in love and becomes inspired to write one of his most famous plays.

Era: Elizabethan

Why You Should Watch: 

Shakespeare in Love is a witty period rom-com that won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture. It’s an enchanting film with a fantastic cast and is all-around delightful.

The all-star cast includes Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Simon Callow, Martin Clunes, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, and Ben Affleck.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO Max or rent/buy it digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for a few explicit love scenes (most include nudity). 

#88 The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996)

the tenant of wildfell hall 1996 promo art
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

A private, mysterious woman moves with her young son to Yorkshire, keeping herself at a distance from everyone – including a handsome and interested farmer living nearby. She eventually reveals she’s hiding from her abusive husband.

Era: Late Georgian through to the Victorian Era.

Why You Should Watch: 

The BAFTA-winning miniseries stars Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald, and Rupert Graves. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall miniseries also finally gives Anne Brontë’s overlooked early feminist novel (in comparison to her sisters’ books: Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights) some much-deserved attention.

It’s a lovely, romantic adaptation that is thought-provoking and deep. Check it out.

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: NR is TV-14-like for a few violent scenes as this is a story about abuse. 

#89 Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1998, 2008)

Tess of the d'Urbervilles 2008
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (2008). Credit: BBC

Story: 

An innocent young country girl becomes torn between two men – leading to tragic results.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The 1998 and 2008 adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s tragic novel are hauntingly beautiful. The performances are stunning, the scripts strong, and the visual atmosphere just right.

Bring tissue and prepare to get enraged at the men in the story, but Hardy’s masterpiece is brought to life in both versions in memorable ways.

The 1998 film stars Justine Waddell, Oliver Milburn, and Jason Flemyng, while the 2008 miniseries stars Gemma Arterton, Eddie Redmayne, and Hans Matheson.

Where to Watch the 1998 film: Stream on Amazon’s Freevee, Tubi, and Pluto TV or buy on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 2008 miniseries: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy Digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: Both are TV-14 for adult themes and frightening situations. The 2008 one includes a brief explicit scene.

#90 Upstairs Downstairs (1971-1975; 2010-2012)

Upstairs Downstairs 1971 series
Credit: ITV

Story: 

The stories of a British aristocratic family and their staff.

Era: Edwardian – 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

The original 1970s series and the continuation more than 35 years later are quality entertainment. The original won 7 Primetime Emmys, while the latter received numerous Emmy nominations.

If you loved Downton Abbey (which was inspired by this show), you should also love this iconic British drama series. It’s classic television at its best. With compelling characters, fantastic writing, and soapy plot lines, Upstairs Downstairs has it all.

And a fun fact to know: the famous actress Eileen Atkins co-created the original 1971 series. 

Where to Watch the original 1971 series: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, or buy digitally and on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2010 continuation: Stream on Britbox, Britbox Amazon Channel, Hulu, or buy digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#91 Vanity Fair (2018)

Vanity Fair 2018
Credit: Amazon Studios/ITV Studios

Story: 

Based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel, Vanity Fair follows the struggling but clever Becky Sharp as she attempts to rise in English society.

Era: Regency/Napoleonic

Why You Should Watch: 

Olivia Cooke delivers a brilliant portrayal of the scheming Becky Sharp. The miniseries is also vividly colorful and gorgeous to watch, with beautiful costumes, art direction, and cinematography. Find out more in our review of Vanity Fair (2018).

Other notable adaptations include the 2004 one with Reese Witherspoon, the 1987 miniseries, and the 1998 BBC miniseries.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime Video or buy on DVD. 

Content Note: TV-14 for mild war violence, language, and implied sensuality.

#92 Victoria (2016)

victoria tv show
Credit: ITV Studios

Story: 

Victoria follows the early years of Queen Victoria and her romantic relationship with her husband, Prince Albert.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Victoria takes a different approach to royal history than Netflix’s The Crown. This series is much more like Downton Abbey with a romanticized view of history, many romances, and dramatic plot lines and stories for the royal characters and their staff.

RELATED: 30 Amazing Movies And Shows Like Victoria To Watch

It’s entertaining with good performances, gorgeous costumes, and strong writing.

Ultimately, this is the royal show to watch if you love romance.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport, PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, and Prime Video, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG for some sensuality and thematic elements.

#93 War and Peace (2016)

War and Peace 2016
Credit: BBC

Story: 

Aristocratic families deal with the Napoleonic invasion of Russia.

Era: Napoleonic

Why You Should Watch: 

Andrew Davies wrote this English adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Russian novel. With a dynamic cast (including Lily James and Gillian Anderson), beautiful costumes, memorable characters, and deep themes, it’s hard not to enjoy this epic production.

Find out more in our review of War and Peace (2016).

Where to Watch: Stream on Amazon Freevee, Roku, or buy digitally and on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for war scenes, sensuality, and innuendo.

#94 The Way We Live Now (2001)

the way we live now 2001
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

When Augustus Melmotte (a foreign and wealthy financier) arrives in London to start a new company, everyone wants to be a part of it – including numerous schemers.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

David Yates, the director of numerous Harry Potter films, directed this overlooked but triumphant period drama adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s classic novel.

The story has a lot of depth, it’s very romantic, has numerous unlikable but fascinating characters (Matthew Macfadyen plays Sir Felix Carbury, a genuinely awful fictional character), and the adaptation includes many excellent performances.

Cast members include (besides Macfadyen) David Suchet, Cillian Murphy, Miranda Otto (from LOTR), Shirley Henderson, and Paloma Baeza.

The miniseries won 3 BAFTA awards.

Where to Watch: Buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for adult themes and an explicit scene.

#95 Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2022)

Lucy Boynton and Will Poulter in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?
Lucy Boynton and Will Poulter in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Credit: Britbox

Story: 

Two literary sleuths set out to solve the mystery behind the mysterious final words of a dying man while also falling in love.

Era: 1930s

Why You Should Watch: 

The new original Agatha Christie adaptation from Hugh Laurie (who wrote and directed) is delightful, romantic, witty, and fun to watch. If you were to take Agatha Christie and mix in a touch of Jane Austen and the style of 1930s screwball rom-coms, you’d have this miniseries.

Everyone is cast perfectly down to the cameos from Emma Thompson and Jim Broadbent. Other stars include Will Poulter, Lucy Boynton, Hugh Laurie, and many more.

See more in our review of Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2022)

Where to Watch: Stream on Britbox or Britbox Amazon Channel.

Content Note: TV-MA for brief strong language and brief violence. A TV-14 rating is more fitting, however.

#96 Wives & Daughters (1999)

Wives and Daughters 1999 picture
Credit: BBC/WGBH

Story: 

A country doctor’s daughter deals with an awful new stepmother, a stepsister, new friendships, and unrequited feelings for a friend and aspiring scientist.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

Wives and Daughters is a brilliant adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 19th-century novel and includes an excellent cast with award-worthy performances.

There aren’t enough praiseworthy words to describe this underrated period drama gem. The miniseries contains authentic emotions that will lift your heart or break it into two. You won’t be able to stop watching with rich, layered characters, a swoony love story, memorable female friendships, and tragedies.

Justine Waddell, Francesca Annis, Bill Patterson, Michael Gambon, Keeley Hawes, Iain Glenn, Tom Hollander, Anthony Howell, Rosamund Pike, Penelope Wilton, and more stars.

Wives and Daughters won four BAFTAS.

Where to Watch: Buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG

#97 Wolf Hall (2015)

Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn
Wolf Hall. Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn. BBC.

Story: 

Wolf Hall chronicles the rise of Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s close advisor.

Era: Tudor Period

Why You Should Watch: 

If historical dramas based on real people interest you, Wolf Hall is one of the best. It’s based on Hilary Mantel’s award-winning novels, and the six-part miniseries earned numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

The cast, production quality, writing, costumes, everything is top-notch. Plus, Mark Rylance gives an outstanding performance as Thomas Cromwell everyone should see.

Other cast members include Claire Foy, Damian Lewis, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Tom Holland, Jessica Raine, Bernard Hill, and Kate Phillips.

Find out more about the miniseries in our review of Wolf Hall.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, Hoopla, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-14 for brief violence and profanity.

#98 The Woman in White (2018)

the woman in white 2018 poster

Story: 

The Woman in White follows two sisters, Marian and Laura, the latter of whom falls in love with Walter, an artist teaching them how to paint. Even though Laura wants to be with Walter, she can’t because she’s forced into an arranged marriage with a man with sinister intentions.

Era: Victorian

Why You Should Watch: 

The 2018 miniseries is an excellent adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ gothic sensation novel (a book considered one of the earliest examples of detective fiction).

The gothic Romanticism, feminist tones, impressive performances, haunting atmosphere, fascinating characters, and more draw you into the mystery, romance, and story.

Jessie Buckley, Olivia Vinall, Dougray Scott, Ben Hardy, and Charles Dance star.

Find out more about the production in our review.

I also recommend checking out the 1982 and 1997 adaptations.

Where to Watch: Stream on PBS Passport, PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel, or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-PG for mild violence, thematic elements, and frightening situations.

#99 Wuthering Heights Adaptations (1970, 1992, 1998, 2009)

Wuthering Heights 2009
Wuthering Heights (2009). Credit: Mammoth Screen/WGBH

Story: 

Era: Georgian/Romantic (The novel was published during the Victorian Era but took place earlier.)

Why You Should Watch: 

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights has been adapted numerous times, but no definitive adaptation exists. The complex gothic novel about Cathy and Heathcliff and their fierce love is difficult to adapt. However, there have still been some wonderful movie and TV versions – each bringing something unique to the famous British story. I selected four of them.

While the best adaptation (artistically) is the 1939 film starring Laurence Olivier, it is an American film, so I did not include it on this list.

The best ones (that I’ve seen) that are also British productions include the 1970 adaptation starring Timothy Dalton (he’s the best Byronic Heathcliff); the 1992 film starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche (while the actors are miscast in the roles, this is one of the only adaptations that portrays the second half of the novel).

The most accurate adaptation belongs to the 1998 miniseries, however. And while I don’t love Heathcliff in it, the secondary cast (including Matthew Macfadyen) are all excellent.

Then there is the 2009 TV miniseries with Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy. While imperfect (and sometimes too explicit), it is one of the most popular versions and is well put together.

Altogether, each gives a taste of one of the greatest British novels ever.

For more adaptations, see 1967, 1978, and 2011 versions of the story.

Where to Watch the 1970 film: Stream on Prime Video, Hoopla, Plex, Roku, or Tubi. You can also buy it digitally on VUDU or buy it on DVD.

Where to Watch the 1992 movie: Stream on Hoopla, Kanopy, or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Where to Watch the 1998 miniseries: Stream on Peacock, Pluto TV, or buy digitally or on DVD.

Where to Watch the 2009 miniseries: Stream on Hoopla or PBS Masterpiece Amazon Channel or buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: Productions range between PG and TV-14. The 2009 miniseries, for example, includes a couple of explicit love scenes and nudity in the uncut version. All adaptations include some violence, abuse, and frightening situations.

#100 The Young Victoria (2009)

The young victoria 2009 promo art with Victoria and Albert posing together.
Credit: Momentum Pictures

Story: The biopic follows the early years of Queen Victoria and her romance with Prince Albert.

Era: 

Why You Should Watch: 

Besides being an entertaining period film, the costumes are stunning – even winning Best Oscar for Best Costume Design, not to mention the gorgeous cinematography, set decorations, and filming locations.

So, if you’re in the mood for a visually beautiful film, The Young Victoria is a fantastic choice.

The love story between Victoria and Albert takes center stage with the natural chemistry between Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.

Other cast members include Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Mark Strong, Michiel Huisman, Genevieve O’Reilly, and more.

All in all, it’s a superb romance about British royals.

Where to Watch: Stream on Paramount+ or rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG

And that rounds out our list of British period dramas to watch! Again, this list is not all-inclusive but provides a good variety of period pieces to check out. Do you have a favorite British period drama? Or other recommendations not on this list? Let us know in the comments below! 


Featured image credit: North and South (BBC), Call the Midwife (BBC), Downton Abbey (ITV), The Crown (Sony Pictures Television/Netflix), and Pride and Prejudice (BBC).


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By on October 3rd, 2022

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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