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100+ Best Period Dramas on HBO Max to Watch

From HBO period drama originals like “The Gilded Age” to classic romances like “Pride and Prejudice,” HBO has over 100 fabulous period dramas.

HBO MAX has numerous period dramas and costume dramas (fantasy) available on their streaming service, making it challenging to know what to watch or even what’s available. I’ve narrowed that list down to the best or at least my top recommendations of HBO period dramas to watch.

period dramas on hbo max collage
Period Dramas on HBO Max. Photo Credit: The Gilded Age (HBO), Iron Jawed Angels (HBO Films), John Adams (HBO), Capturing Mary (BBC), and As You Like It (HBO Films/BBC Films/Picturehouse)

This list is for you if you’re a fan of romantic period dramas, historical period dramas, or romanticized period dramas (less gritty and gratuitous and more uplifting or idyllic).


  1. HBO Period Drama Originals – Movies and Television.
  2. Other Period Dramas – Films and Television.
  3. Costume Dramas: Historical Fantasy, Fantasy, & Sci-Fi
  4. Period Dramas Coming Soon.
  5. Period Dramas Leaving Soon.

In the first three sections, I’ll share my top picks!

Within the first three categories, at the end of each section, I also include bonus lists of even more period dramas and costume dramas to check out on HBO MAX. If you don’t mind the more explicit period dramas, you’ll probably find most of them in the bonus sections.


(Note: This list was first published in March 2022. It has been updated for February 2023. Availability may change at any time. If I update the list, I’ll let you know!)


the gilded age promo image
The Gilded Age. One of the best HBO series! Credit: HBO

HBO Period Drama Originals – Movies & TV: 

Here you’ll find original HBO dramas, movies, and shows exclusively distributed by HBO.


#1 AS YOU LIKE IT (2006)

as you like it screenshot
As You Like It. Photo Credit: HBO Films/BBC Films/Picturehouse

HBO Synopsis: “Kenneth Branagh’s exotic adaptation of Shakespeare’s delightful stage comedy in which a courtship plays out in the Forest of Arden.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

As You Like It is a delightful and diverse period drama adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous play. It’s light-hearted, romantic, and perfectly cast.

Romola Garai, Bryce Dallas Howard, David Oyelowo, Adrian Lester, and Kevin Kline star.

Content Note: PG for mild violence and suggestive references.


Ruth Wilson in Capturing Mary
Ruth Wilson in Capturing Mary. Photo Credit: BBC

HBO Synopsis: “The young concierge of a spooky London mansion entertains an elderly visitor in this follow-up film to ‘Joe’s Palace.'”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Maggie Smith and Ruth Wilson star in this gothic-like period drama about a young journalist whose world changes forever when she meets a mysterious stranger.

It’s atmospheric, exciting, and just a little bit scary.

Content Note: TV-14 for frightening situations.

#3 CHERNOBYL (2019)

Jessie Buckley in Chernobyl.
Jessie Buckley in Chernobyl. Photo Credit: Sky TV/HBO/Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “Plant workers and firefighters try to control a catastrophic 1986 explosion at a Soviet nuclear power plant.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Chernobyl deservedly won 10 Emmys and is one of the most harrowing historical dramas you’ll ever see. It’s a gripping miniseries based on actual events that will leave you horrified and deeply moved.

Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Jessie Buckley, and Emily Watson star in this HBO historical series.

Content Note: TV-MA for frightening images, strong language, and brief nudity.


einstein and eddington poster

HBO Synopsis: “The tale of the unlikely partnership between Albert Einstein and British scientist Arthur Eddington during World War I.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

David Tennant of Doctor Who fame and Andy Serkis from Lord of the Rings star in a period drama together! You can’t get much better than that.

The two actors play the titular scientists in this fascinating historical drama based on a true story. It’s an intelligent and beautifully made TV movie about two men who changed the world with their groundbreaking work in science.

Content Note: TV-PG for mild adultery and adult themes.


Elizabeth I 2005
Photo Credit: HBO Films/All3Media

HBO Synopsis: “HBO Films miniseries that explores the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth I.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This Emmy-winning miniseries stars the brilliant Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth I. It’s a sweeping and intimate portrait of one of the most fascinating women in history.

RELATED: Historical Women Who Deserve Their Own Miniseries

The production values are incredible, and Mirren gives one of her best performances.

Jeremy Irons, Hugh Dancy, Patrick Malahide, and Toby Jones also star.

Content Note: TV-MA for severe violence (be warned this one is graphic) and some sensuality.


the gathering storm poster

HBO Synopsis: “Albert Finney stars in this story of Winston Churchill’s struggles to resurrect his political career and save his marriage prior to WWII.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Gathering Storm is a brilliant and underrated Emmy-winning period drama. Finney is excellent as Winston Churchill, and the supporting cast is superb.

Content Note: TV-MA for brief strong language, some smoking, and brief mild nudity. Mild overall.


Gentleman Jack promo photo
Photo Credit: BBC/HBO

HBO Synopsis: “The epic story of 19th Century landowner Anne Lister who returns to her home to transform its fate–and with plans to marry a woman.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Gentleman Jack is a charming and unique romantic period drama. The show is based on the real-life of Anne Lister, a trailblazing 19th-century woman who was openly gay when it was dangerous to be so.

The series is wonderfully written by Sally Wainwright and impeccably acted, with Suranne Jones and Sophie Rundle in the leading roles.

Content Note: TV-MA for a moderate amount of explicit love scenes with nudity.

#8 THE GILDED AGE (2022)

Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski in The Gilded Age
A dramatization of the American Gilded Age. Cynthia Nixon and Christine Baranski in the series. Photo: HBO/Alison Cohen Rosa

HBO Synopsis: “From Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes comes this drama that follows a young woman living in New York City’s glittering Gilded Age.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Gilded Age brings Julian Fellowes’s cerebral and romantic period drama style to the United States! The new show is witty, glamorous, scandalous, and just plain gorgeous. 

So, if you’re looking for a good Downton Abbey filler, you can’t go wrong with this one! It’s already been renewed for a second season too!

Christine Baranski (The Good Fight), Cynthia Nixon, Louisa Jacobson, Carrie Coon, Denée Benton, Morgan Spector, Taissa Farmiga, Blake Ritson, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Audra McDonald, and more stars.

From my review of The Gilded Age:

“The show is set in 1882 and follows the story of Marian Brook, who moves from rural Pennsylvania after her father dies to New York City to live with her aunts. Marian then becomes embroiled in a social war between her aunt, part of the old-money set, and her wealthy “new money” neighbors, ruthless railroad tycoons – George Russell and his ambitious wife, Bertha Russell.”

Check out the full review for my complete thoughts on the new series.

Content Note: TV-MA for a brief scene of female nudity and some sensuality. Mild overall.

#9 GREY GARDENS (2009) 

grey gardens 2009 promo image
Photo Credit: HBO Films

HBO Synopsis: “The lives of two eccentric, mutually dependent women play out in a decaying house known as Grey Gardens.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange star in this Emmy-winning biopic about the famous Grey Gardens house. The movie is a strange but fascinating look at the lives of two women essentially abandoned by their families.

Barrymore and Lange are excellent in their roles, and the supporting cast is terrific.

Grey Gardens is a weird but unforgettable movie experience. I also recommend checking out the original documentary on which the film’s based.

Content Note: TV-PG for mild language and implied sensuality.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks promo poster

HBO Synopsis: “Oprah Winfrey stars in the true story of a woman’s search for enlightenment about her mother–whose cancer cells would save millions.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a captivating and heartbreaking true story based on the best-selling book of the same name.

In the film, Winfrey gives a memorable performance as Henrietta Lacks’ daughter Deborah. The film also stars Rose Byrne and Renée Elise Goldsberry.

Content Note: TV-MA for a brief but disturbing scene of an assault and some profanity.

#11 INTO THE STORM (2008)

into the storm promo photo
Into the Storm. Photo Credit: HBO/BBC

HBO Synopsis: “This follow-up to ‘The Gathering Storm’ follows Winston Churchill from 1940 to 1945 as he led his beleaguered nation through World War II.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Into the Storm is the second part of a brilliant two-part series about Winston Churchill, except Brendan Gleeson stars in the leading role this time. The entire cast is excellent, and the production values are top-notch.

All in all, this is worth checking out if you’re a fan of historical dramas or war movies.

Content Note: TV-PG (should be TV-14) for brief strong language.


Hilary Swank in Iron Jawed Angels
Hilary Swank in Iron Jawed Angels. Photo Credit: HBO Films

HBO Synopsis: “Hilary Swank and Frances O’Connor star in this true story of two young activists who fought to give women the right to vote.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Emmy-nominated TV movie has an exceptional cast, including Hilary Swank, Frances O’Connor, Anjelica Huston, Patrick Dempsey, and Julia Ormond. It’s a fascinating look at the early women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

Iron Jawed Angels is an inspiring film that will make you appreciate how far we’ve come–and it has some romance too.

Content Note: TV-14 for a scene of sensuality and mild language, and frightening situations.

#13 JOHN ADAMS (2008)

Sarah Polley in John Adams
Yes, yes, that is Sarah Polley from Road to Avonlea in John Adams. Photo Credit: HBO

HBO Synopsis: “Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney star in this Emmy(R)-winning, seven-part HBO miniseries about American Founding Father John Adams.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

John Adams is one of the best American period dramas. It’s well-written, well-acted, and enthralling. If you’re interested in American history, this is a must-watch.

Content Note: TV-14 for violence, mildly strong language, suggestive references, and a couple of love scenes.


Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce
Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce. Photo Credit: HBO/Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “Kate Winslet stars in this riveting five-part HBO miniseries about a divorcee struggling to survive amidst the Depression.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Kate Winslet is a master of her craft (as always) in this adaptation of the 1941 novel. Evan Rachel Wood and Guy Pearce also star.

Content Note: TV-MA for brief nudity, implied sensuality, and adult themes.

#15 MISS EVERS’ BOYS (1997)

miss evers' boys poster

HBO Synopsis: “Emmy(R)-winning story of a 1930s experiment in which the U.S. government withheld treatment from African American syphilis patients.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This compelling TV movie is based on a true story and stars Alfre Woodard, Laurence Fishburne, and Joe Morton.

If you’re looking for an enlightening and powerful historical drama, Miss Evers’ Boys is worth checking out.

Content Note: PG for thematic elements.


My Brilliant Friend (2018): A Brutally Tender Modern-Day Classic
Photo Credit: RAI/HBO

HBO Synopsis: “HBO series about two young friends whose stormy relationship evolves amidst the backdrop of post-WWII Italy.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Based on the novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend is a beautifully written and well-acted drama series.

This three-season show (eight episodes per season) is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a coming-of-age story or an Italian period drama.

Content Note: TV-MA for a disturbing attempted molestation scene, a few explicit scenes – including brief nudity, and frightening/intense situations.

#17 PARADE’S END (2012)

parade's end poster

HBO Synopsis: “A British gentleman becomes caught up in an era of social upheaval and the onset of World War I in this five-part HBO miniseries.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall star in this miniseries based on the novels by Ford Madox Ford. If you’re a fan of World War I historical dramas, you won’t want to miss this one.

Content Note: TV-MA for a moderate amount of explicit love scenes with nudity and some profanity.

#18 STARTER FOR 10 (2006)

starter for 10 poster

HBO Synopsis: “A brilliant young man heads to college bent on leading his school on a TV quiz show, only to get caught up in personal entanglements.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Starter for 10 is an underrated rom-com gem set in the 1980s with an all-star cast. James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Catherine Tate, Simon Woods, Dominic Cooper, and more star in this sweet, nostalgic romance movie.

Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive references, drug use, and language.


temple grandin poster

HBO Synopsis: “An autistic woman becomes an unlikely hero to America’s cattle industry–and to autistic people everywhere–in this fact-based story.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you’re looking for a heartwarming and inspiring biopic, look no further than Temple Grandin. Claire Danes delivers a fantastic performance as the title character.

Content Note: TV-PG for thematic elements.

#20 WARM SPRINGS (2005)

warm springs poster

HBO Synopsis: “The stirring true story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s battle with polio in 1921.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Kenneth Branagh stars in this Emmy-winning TV movie as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. If you’re a fan of historical dramas, this is one emotional story you won’t want to miss.

Content Note: TV-PG for an implied affair and some language.

#21 JULIA (2022)

Julia 2022 TV poster

HBO Synopsis: “In 1962, intrepid chef and cookbook author Julia Child brings her signature panache into American living rooms with The French Chef – her groundbreaking series that pioneered the modern cooking show.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Sarah Lancashire as Julia Child is simply delightful in the role. The series is witty, entertaining, gorgeous-looking, and has a standout cast. 

Content Note: TV-MA for some profanity and occasional love scenes. It’s a mild TV-MA. 


Band of Brothers TV still
Credit: HBO Entertainment/BBC/Warner Bros. Television Distribution

HBO Synopsis: “This landmark ten-part HBO miniseries recounts the remarkable achievements of an elite team of U.S. paratroopers in World War II.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced this Emmy-winning series. Everything from the acting to the cinematography and editing is outstanding.

But it’s not an easy series to watch due to the graphic depictions of war. 

Content Note: TV-MA for graphic war violence, some profanity, nudity, and a moderate amount of explicit sensuality. 

#23 LEGACY (2022)

legacy chinese drama poster

HBO Synopsis: “In 1920s China, the siblings of the wealthy Yi family vie for their inheritance as the threat of war looms large.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you enjoy Chinese dramas, you’ll probably enjoy this series about three sisters dealing with war, family, and romantic relationships. It’s not a continuous show – and it does have an ending.

Content Note: TV-MA

#24 MISS S (2020)

Miss S poster

HBO Synopsis: “In 1930s Shanghai, socialist Su Wenli returns home from Paris to solve murder cases with reluctant and righteous police inspector, Luo Quiheng.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Miss S is a little-known glamorous Chinese remake of the Australian hit series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. If you loved that show (or enjoy romantic mystery shows), then you should definitely check this one out.

Content Note: TV-14

#25 C.B. STRIKE (2017-)

C.B. Strike publicity still
Photo: Brontë Film and Television/BBC

HBO Synopsis: “A weathered war veteran turned London private eye turns his keen instinct on a trio of complex cases that have baffled the police.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Besides the brilliant writing and captivating mysteries that keep you guessing, the slow-build romance between Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott is perfect. 

Plus, the actors have sizzling chemistry. 

Now, while C.B. Strike is not “period,” the latest season includes numerous period flashbacks long enough to give the show a “historical” feel as they solve a cold case. 

Content Note: TV-MA for strong language, a mild amount of violence, and scattered explicit scenes and nudity – some including assault. Nothing is excessive in its depiction, and it is always part of the story.

Even More HBO MAX PERIOD DRAMAs to Watch: 

  • 61*(TV-MA)
  • Bessie (TV-MA)
  • Boardwalk Empire (TV-MA)
  • Carnivale (TV-MA)
  • Cast a Deadly Spell (R)
  • Catherine the Great (TV-MA)
  • Confirmation (TV-14)
  • Conspiracy (Rated R)
  • Gia (Rated R)
  • Grisse (TV-MA)
  • Gunpowder (TV-MA)
  • Hemingway & Gellhorn (TV-MA)
  • In Pursuit of Honor (PG-13)
  • Indictment: The McMartin Trial (Rated R)
  • Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (Rated R)
  • It’s a Sin (TV-MA)
  • Knick (TV-MA)
  • The Last Outlaw (Rated R)
  • Our Flag Means Death (TV-MA)
  • The Pacific (TV-MA)
  • Perry Mason (TV-MA)
  • RKO 281 (Rated R)
  • Rome (TV-MA)


You’ll find all the other period dramas on HBO MAX to watch in this section, from British period dramas to award-winning historical movies and more.

My Top 60 Recommendations (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER): 

#1 THE ALIENIST (2018)

The Alienist publicity photo
Photo: Warner Bros. Television

HBO Synopsis: “Set in 1896 amidst a backdrop of wealth, poverty and technological innovation, this psychological thriller stars Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning and Brian Geraghty. Viewers will see the darkest corners of NYC during the Gilded Age.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Alienist is a dark and suspenseful period drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The brilliant cast, expert direction, and gorgeous cinematography create a truly captivating show.

There is some romance too. However, only watch this one if the darker content doesn’t bother you.

Content Note: TV-MA for disturbing graphic violence, nudity, and some explicit molestation content.


au revoir les enfants poster

HBO Synopsis: “A French boarding school harbors Jewish children during the Nazi occupation.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Oscar-nominated French film is a powerful heart-wrenching story based on true events. It’s an important movie that everyone should see.

Content Note: PG for some language.

#3 AUSTRALIA (2008)

Australia promotional photo
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

HBO Synopsis: “Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star in this sweeping epic about an English woman who finds tragedy, danger and passion in Australia.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Australia is a grand and sweeping epic romance set against the eve of World War II.

The film has gorgeous cinematography, an excellent cast (including Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and David Wenham), and a lovely musical score.

Content Note: PG-13 for brief sensuality, strong language, and some violence.


Babette's feast poster

HBO Synopsis: “A French refugee in Denmark transforms the lives of the elderly women for whom she works.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This foreign film is a must-see for anyone who loves food, cooking, or exploring other cultures. It’s a beautiful and heartwarming story with gorgeous visuals.

Babette’s Feast also won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s an extraordinary film and food for the soul.

Content Note: G

#5 BEAU BRUMMELL (1954) 

beau brummell still
Photo Credit: MGM/Loew’s, INC

HBO Synopsis: “An English Don Juan courts the Prince of Wales’ favor while romancing his way through society.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

While not historically accurate, it’s an entertaining period romp set in the Regency Era starring Stewart Granger as the dashing Beau Brummell.

Elizabeth Taylor co-stars as a love interest, and the film features opulent costumes and sets.

Content Note: TV-PG.

#6 BEN HUR (1959)

Ben Hur promo shot
Charlton Heston in Ben Hur. Photo Credit: MGM

HBO Synopsis: “While seeking revenge, a rebellious Israelite prince crosses paths with Jesus Christ.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Ben Hur is a classic epic film with a sprawling, dramatic story with high-stakes action, romance, and tragedy. It’s one of the most iconic and beloved movies ever made.

Charlton Heston stars in this Oscar-winning film.

Content Note: G


Bonnie and Clyde still 1967
Bonnie and Clyde. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “In the early 1930s, a car thief and the daughter of his intended victim team up to become America’s most feared and ruthless bank robbers.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Bonnie and Clyde is a landmark crime movie that ushered in a new gritty, realistic cinema era. It’s a violent and stylish movie with standout performances from Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.

This movie is essential for anyone interested in American history or film history.

Content Note: Rated R for violence and brief nudity.

#8 CABARET (1972)

Liza Minnelli in Cabaret.
Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. Photo Credit: Allied Artists.

HBO Synopsis: “A starry-eyed singer and the club’s master of ceremonies try to bring happiness and decadence to the lives of Berliners as Nazism threatens to destroy their lives.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Cabaret is one of the most iconic and revered musicals of all time. It’s set in a dark and dangerous time in history and tells a heartbreaking story with beautiful music.

It won eight Oscars, including Best Actress, and features memorable performances from Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey.

Content Note: PG for suggestive content, some language, and adult themes.


earrings of madame de poster

HBO Synopsis: “When a woman sells her earrings to pay a gambling debt, it leads to a string of betrayals.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Earrings of Madame De… is a classic French romance that’s both heartbreaking and elegantly directed. The best part about this movie is the costumes – it even was nominated for the Oscar for Best Costume Design.

It stars Charles Boyer, Danielle Darrieux, and Vittorio De Sica. 

Content Note: NR, but it is a mild film with only some adulterous flirtations.


the french lieutenants woman still
Photo Credit: United Artists

HBO Synopsis: “A scandalous Victorian-era romance plays out in the past and the present in this haunting tale starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a complex and compelling romance. It stars Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons as star-crossed lovers in Victorian England.

It also uses a unique narrative structure – making it all the more interesting to watch!

Content Note: Rated R for some mildly strong language and love scenes.


Gone With the Wind promo image with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.
Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

HBO Synopsis: “Scarlett O’Hara’s battle to save her beloved Tara and find love during the Civil War.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Gone with the Wind is a classic American epic romance and one of the bestselling movies of all time. It stars Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, and Leslie Howard.

The movie is set during the Civil War and Reconstruction era and follows Scarlett O’Hara (Leigh) as she tries to save her family’s plantation.

While the movie has come under criticism in recent years for the racism in the film, it’s still an important part of cinema history.

Content Note: NR but includes suggestive references and racism. Nothing explicit.


Great Expectations 1946
Photo Credit: Cineguild/General Film Distributors Ltd.

HBO Synopsis: “A mysterious benefactor finances a young boy’s education.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Great Expectations is a classic Dickens adaptation starring John Mills, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson, Martita Hunt, and Bernard Miles.

The movie is set in Victorian England and follows the coming-of-age story of Pip (Mills). It’s a great film for fans of period dramas and classic literature. This movie won two Oscars – one for Cinematography and the other for Best Art/Set Direction.

Content Note: NR – but completely wholesome.


Leonardo Dicaprio and Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby.
Leonardo Dicaprio and Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “Leonardo DiCaprio brings ‘Gatsby’ to new life in this stylish, colorful adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Baz Luhrmann brings his signature style to The Great Gatsby in this unique adaptation of the famous novel. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, and Isla Fisher.

The movie is a visual feast and captures the excess and opulence of the 1920s, and is a must-see for fans of classic literature or romantic period dramas.

Content Note: PG-13 for some language, sensuality, and violence.

#14 HAMLET (1948)

hamlet 1948
Hamlet. Photo: Universal-International

HBO Synopsis: “The melancholy Dane flirts with insanity while trying to prove his uncle murdered his father.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Laurence Olivier is a master of Shakespeare, and his Hamlet is considered one of the best adaptations ever made – winning four Oscars.

It’s a classic Shakespearean tragedy set in Denmark and is a perfect film for those who want to study the play or are interested in classic period dramas.

Content Note: TV-14 for violence and thematic elements. Very mild.

 #15 JEZEBEL (1938)

Jezebel 1938 still
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “A tempestuous Southern belle’s willfulness threatens to destroy all who care for her.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Jezebel is a classic period drama starring the consistently brilliant Bette Davis as the Scarlett O’Hara-esque Southern belle, Julie Marsden. Davis even won the Best Actress Oscar for this film. Henry Fonda also stars and does an excellent job.

RELATED: 12 Special Collaborations Between Costume Designers And Actresses

Overall, it’s an excellent movie for those who love classic dramas with strong female leads. And honestly, any film starring Bette Davis is worth watching.

Content Note: TV-PG. Nothing of note.


little old new york poster

HBO Synopsis: “An Irish girl comes to America disguised as a boy to claim a fortune left to her brother who has died.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Little Old New York is a classic silent film starring Marion Davies as the young Irish woman, Molly Malone. Sidney Olcott, a famous silent movie filmmaker, directed this must-see film.

The classic movie is also a love letter to New York City and its history.

Content Note: TV-PG but nothing here.

#17 MALCOLM X (1992)

Malcolm X publicity still with Denzel Washington
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “Biographical drama on the life of the late Malcolm X, who was assassinated on February 21, 1965.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Denzel Washington stars in this insightful look into the life of iconic leader Malcolm X. Spike Lee directed this powerful biopic that is essential viewing for anyone interested in American history or the Civil Rights Movement.

Content Note: PG-13 for some language and violence.


master and commander promo art with Russell Crowe
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

HBO Synopsis: “Russell Crowe is a 19th-century British warship captain who leads a motley crew as they prepare to attack a superior French vessel.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This action-packed period drama is set during the Napoleonic Wars and stars Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey. Peter Weir directed the film based on the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian.

It’s a great choice for those who want to watch an exciting period film.

Content Note: PG-13 for battle scenes and brief strong language.

#19 MONA LISA SMILE (2003)

Julia Roberts and Julia Stiles in Mona Lisa Smile.
Julia Roberts and Julia Stiles in Mona Lisa Smile. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

HBO Synopsis: “This funny, uplifting film stars Julia Roberts as an art history professor with a lot to teach about life–and much to learn about love.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Mona Lisa Smile is a must-see movie with a brilliant female cast and an uplifting message. Julia Roberts stars as Katherine Watson, an art history professor at a prestigious all-female college in the 1950s.

The film also stars Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dominic West, Ginnifer Goodwin, Topher Grace, Juliet Stevenson, John Slattery, and Marcia Gay Harden. It’s directed by Mike Newell and is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a female-driven period drama.

Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content and thematic material.


My Brilliant Career Movie Poster

HBO Synopsis: “A proud young woman in early 20th century Australia must choose between marriage and independence.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Gillian Armstrong (Little Women) directed this beautiful romantic period drama starring Judy Davis and Sam Neill.

My Brilliant Career tells the story of Sybylla Melvyn, a young woman, and aspiring writer in early 20th century Australia who must choose between marriage and a writing career.

It’s an excellent choice for those interested in period dramas about female writers.

Content Note: G

#21 A ROOM WITH A VIEW (1985)

A Room with a View promo photo
Photo Credit: Merchant Ivory Productions/MGM

HBO Synopsis: “An Englishwoman visiting Florence is torn between her straitlaced fiance and a young Bohemian.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

A Room With a View is one of the greatest British period films of all time. Period.

It’s gorgeously filmed, and Maggie Smith gives an Oscar-worthy performance (she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress!).

The film also stars Helena Bonham Carter in one of her first-ever roles as Lucy Honeychurch, the young Englishwoman visiting Florence. The movie’s romantic, gorgeous, and a must-see!

Content Note: NR but would be TV-MA/R for a male nude swimming scene. It’s PG otherwise.


the scarlet pimpernel 1934 still
Photo: United Artists

HBO Synopsis: A British aristocrat’s effete facade masks a swashbuckling hero rescuing victims of the French revolution.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic British adventure story about an aristocrat who rescues victims of the French Revolution.

The film stars Leslie Howard as the main character and Merle Oberon as his love interest.

The sequel, Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel, is also available on HBO Max, albeit with a different cast.

Content Note: G


Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Hudson in The Secret Life of Bees
Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Hudson. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “A 14-year-old girl and her best friend are taken in by a kind-hearted beekeeper and her sisters in this adaptation of the bestseller.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Secret Life of Bees is another lovely adaptation based on a best-selling novel, this time by Sue Monk Kidd.

The film stars Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifah, Sophie Okonedo, Alicia Keys, Paul Bettany, and Jennifer Hudson in one of her first major movie roles.

It’s a heartwarming story about family, love, and sisterhood.

Content Note: PG-13 for thematic material and violence.


The shawshank redemption promo art
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “Two life sentences for a 1947 double murder land an innocent man in a corrupt Maine penitentiary.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the most popular films ever for a good reason. It’s currently even ranked #1 on IMDB’s Top Rated films.

It’s a beautifully written, directed, and acted film about hope and friendship.

The film stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in two of their most iconic roles.

Content Note: Rated R for language and violence.

#25 SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)

singin in the rain promo art
Photo Credit: MGM/Loew’s Inc.

HBO Synopsis: “A silent-screen swashbuckler finds love while trying to adjust to the coming of sound.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Singin’ in the Rain is one of the most beloved romantic musicals.

It’s an upbeat and fun film about Hollywood in the late 1920s as it transitions from silent films to talkies.

The cast is absolutely stellar, with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds in some of their best roles.

Content Note: G


that hamilton woman poster

HBO Synopsis: “Naval hero Lord Nelson defies convention to court a married woman of common birth.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

See Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier onscreen together in this fantastic historical romance film.

The film is set during the Napoleonic Wars and tells the story of Lord Nelson and his famous mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton.

It’s a sweeping epic with amazing costumes and cinematography.

Content Note: G

#27 WEST SIDE STORY (2021)

west side story promo art 2021
Photo Credit: Amblin Entertainment/20th Century Studios

HBO Synopsis: “Steven Spielberg’s dazzling take on the classic musical about a forbidden love affair and rivalry between street gangs in 1957 New York.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The brand-new adaptation of West Side Story is an absolute masterpiece of cinema. Spielberg brings his best to this new, updated version of the famous musical.

Rita Moreno even returns to play a new, memorable role. Other cast members include Ansel Elgort, newcomer Rachel Zegler, and Ariana DeBose. Everyone gives outstanding performances. However, Mike Faist as Riff is a particular standout.

The film is visually stunning, with beautiful costumes, music, and set design. It’s a must-see for any fan of musicals, epic romances, or cinema.

Content Note: PG-13 for language, violence, racism, and sensuality.


Pride and Prejudice 1940 publicity still
Credit: MGM/Loew’s Inc.

HBO Synopsis: The arrival of wealthy bachelors in town causes an uproar when families with single daughters aggressively seek engagements, including the Bennet family, with five eligible daughters.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson have sparking chemistry in this early Pride and Prejudice adaptation. While not wholly accurate to the novel, it’s a pure delight to watch. 

Content Note: TV-PG

#29 OLIVER! (1968)

Oliver! 1968 still
Credit: Romulus Films/Columbia Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “Lionel Bart’s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The high-quality British production earned 5 Oscars! If you love Dickens and musicals, this one’s for you.

Content Note: G

#30 THE ARTIST (2011)

The Artist 2011 still
Credit: Warner Bros. France

HBO Synopsis: “The 2011 Oscar®-winning Best Picture with Jean Dujardin as a silent film star who crosses paths with a rising young ingenue.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Artist won 5 Oscars and is a gorgeous tribute to film history. Expect brilliant performances, a unique story, and beautiful cinematography.

Content Note: PG-13 for a brief disturbing scene.

#31 BELLE (2013)

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

HBO Synopsis: “A young bi-racial woman plays a role in the abolition of slavery in 18th-century Britain in this inspiring period drama.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Fans of romantic period dramas like Becoming Jane will absolutely love this swoony romance starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw. See our review of Belle for more on this delightful film.

Content Note: PG

#32 BRAVEHEART (1995)

Braveheart promo photo
Credit: Paramount Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “Mel Gibson directed and stars in this rousing 1995 Best Picture Oscar®-winner about 13th century Scottish patriot William Wallace.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

While not historically accurate, the award-winning epic is a Hollywood spectacle to remember. The musical score is also impressive.

Content Note: Rated R for graphic war violence, some sensuality, language, attempted assaults, and nudity.


Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid promo photo
Credit: 20th Century Fox

HBO Synopsis: “Paul Newman and Robert Redford are wisecracking outlaws on the run in this classic Western, a breezy blend of action, comedy and romance.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The classic movie is an example of filmmaking at its finest. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid went on to win four Oscars – including Best Adapted Screenplay.

Content Note: PG for some violence, sensuality, and language.

#34 CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in Catch Me if You can promo photo
Credit: Amblin Entertainment/DreamWorks Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “Teenage con man Leonardo DiCaprio forges jobs, checks and identities while eluding the FBI in this Steven Spielberg hit.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Steven Spielberg directs this highly entertaining crime drama (based on a true story) starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks. 

Content Note: PG-13 for some suggestive content and language.

#35 CHICAGO (2001)

Chicago 2002 promo image
Credit: Miramax Films

HBO Synopsis: “Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger light up the screen as spotlight-starved murderesses in this Oscar®-winning musical.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The all-star cast brings the lively and entertaining musical to life in this award-winning adaptation. Chicago won six Oscars – including Best Picture.

Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content and dialogue, some violence, and language.

#36 CLEOPATRA (1963)

Cleopatra 1963 still with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor
Credit: 20th Century Fox

HBO Synopsis: “Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton steam up the screen as Cleopatra and Mark Antony in this opulent, Oscar®-winning epic.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The art direction and costumes are gorgeous in this biographical epic. 

Content Note: G


Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple
Credit: Amblin Entertainment/Warner Bros. Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “From 1909 to 1949, Celie, a Southern Black woman, gradually gains self-respect as she strives to educate herself and to find love – despite an abusive spouse and a society biased against her race and her sex.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

While Spielberg was an odd choice to direct this adaptation of Alice Walker’s acclaimed novel, it’s still an excellent movie with heartbreaking scenes and memorable performances. It received 11 Oscar nominations.

Content Note: PG-13 for implied incestual assault, some violence, racism, sensuality, and mild profanity.


Dances with Wolves romantic still
Credit: Orion Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “Kevin Costner’s Oscar®-winning Best Picture about a Civil War soldier who finds himself as a member of the Lakota Sioux Indian tribe.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This epic Western won seven Academy Awards – including Best Picture. It has some romance too. 

Content Note: PG-13 for some explicit sensuality, violence, and language.

#39 DEATH ON THE NILE (2022)

death on the nile cast promo photo
Credit: 20th Century Studios

HBO Synopsis: “Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Kenneth Branagh directs this Agatha Christie adaptation with an all-star cast. While imperfect, it’s still a fun watch. 

Content Note: PG-13 for violence and suggestive material.


Downton Abbey 2019 movie still
Downton Abbey 2019 movie. Credit: Focus Features/Carnival Films/Universal Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “The Crawley family and their staff prepare Downton Abbey for a Royal visit in this cinematic follow-up to the beloved TV series.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Downton Abbey is the ultimate romantic period drama with witty dialogue, swoony love stories, likable characters, gorgeous costumes, music, and much more. The film continuation is an unmissable treat for period drama fans.

Content Note: PG


Driving Miss Daisy movie still
Credit: The Zanuck Company/Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “The 1989 Best Picture Oscar® winner with Jessica Tandy as a spunky Southern lady and Morgan Freeman as her faithful chauffeur.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The award-winning period drama is an uplifting movie with fantastic performances. Jessica Tandy won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her memorable performance.

Content Note: PG


Girl With a Pearl Earring promo photo
Credit: UK Film Council/Lions Gate Films

HBO Synopsis: “Scarlett Johansson stars as the inspiration for renowned painter Johannes Vermeer’s most memorable work.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Colin Firth also stars in this visually stunning period drama. It received Oscar nominations for Best Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design. 

Content Note: PG-13 for some semi-explicit sensuality and nudity.

#43 HARRIET (2019)

Harriet 2019 promo photo
Credit: Focus Features

HBO Synopsis: “The extraordinary story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman is chronicles in this “powerful” (New York Times) drama starring Cynthia Erivo.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The biopic pays an emotional tribute to Harriet Tubman and received two Oscar nominations. The best part, however, is Erivo’s remarkable performance. 

Content Note: PG-13 for violence, language, and racism.

#44 HUGO (2011)

Hugo 2011 movie poster
Credit: GK Films/Paramount Pictures

HBO Synopsis: 

“An orphaned young boy becomes wrapped up in a mystery involving an automaton that he and his late father were trying to restore.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Martin Scorsese directed this exceptional Oscar-winning family film. It pays tribute to the magic of cinema – and is a film everyone should see.

Content Note: PG


The Importance of Being Earnest 2002 cast promo photo
Credit: Miramax Films

HBO Synopsis: “Two friends assume the same identity while pursuing romance in 1890s London in this adaptation of the venerated Oscar Wilde comedy.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This delightful period rom-com has an all-star cast including Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Frances O’Connor, Rupert Everett, and Judi Dench. The Importance of Being Earnest is good, romantic fun with a lot of cleverness. 

Content Note: PG

#46 THE IRON LADY (2011)

Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady publicity still
Credit: UK Film Council/BBC Films/The Weinstein Company

HBO Synopsis: “Meryl Streep dazzles as Margaret Thatcher in this biopic chronicling the life of Britain’s first female Prime Minister.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This historical drama is all about Meryl Streep’s performance. The makeup in this film is also incredible.

Content Note: PG-13 for brief nudity, some violence, and mild strong language.


lawrence of arabia still
Credit: Horizon Pictures/Columbia Pictures

HBO Synopsis: 

“Sweeping epic about the real life adventures of T.E. Lawrence, a British major who unified Arab tribes and led them in the fight for independence from the Ottoman Turks in the 1920s.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Lawrence of Arabia is an epic masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made. The period adventure film won seven Oscars and starred Peter O’Toole.  

Content Note: G


Les Miserables poster
Credit: Columbia Pictures/Mandalay Entertainment/Sony Pictures Releasing

HBO Synopsis: “A sweeping epic of love, honor and obsession played out against the tumultuous backdrop of early 19th century France.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

While much of the novel is condensed into this short feature film, the romantic period drama is still quite compelling and emotional – primarily due to solid performances from the cast, such as Liam Neeson, Uma Thurman, Geoffrey Rush, and Claire Danes.

Content Note: PG-13 for sensuality, thematic elements, and violence.

#49 LITTLE WOMEN (1949)

Little Women 1949 still of the March sisters
Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Loew’s Inc.

HBO Synopsis: “The four daughters of a New England family fight for happiness during and after the Civil War.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

There have been many Little Women adaptations over time – and this one is a worthy version starring June Allyson, Janet Leigh, Margaret O’Brien, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Content Note: G

#50 THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. cast promo photo
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “An American spy reluctantly teams up with a KGB agent to take down a mysterious international crime organization.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a fun, enjoyable period spy comedy with a charismatic cast and an entertaining romance. 

Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content, violence, and partial nudity.


The Miracle Worker 1962 still
Credit: Playfilm Productions/United Artists

HBO Synopsis: “Oscar®-winning 1962 drama about Annie Sullivan’s amazing effort to reach a deaf and blind Helen Keller. Anne Bancroft & Patty Duke star.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Watch for the Oscar-winning performances from Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in this moving biographical drama. 

Content Note: PG

#52 THE MUSIC MAN (1962)

The Music Man 1962 movie still
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

HBO Synopsis: “A con man, masquerading as a music professor, convinces a small town to form a brass band as a way for him to pocket some money.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Robert Preston and Shirley Jones star in this magnificent musical set in the early 19th century. With wonderful music (and very catchy tunes), dancing, and sparkling performances, it’s hard to go wrong with this period classic.

Content Note: G


Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
Credit: BBC Films/The Weinstein Company

HBO Synopsis: “A young Brit befriends Marilyn Monroe while working on a film in 1956 England in this intriguing drama based on a true story.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh received Oscar nominations for their remarkable performances in this entertaining biopic about Marilyn Monroe. 

Content Note: Rated R for some language and mild suggestive content. Mild overall.

#54 THE NOTEBOOK (2004)

the notebook's Allie and Noah by the ocean
Credit: New Line Cinema

HBO Synopsis: “In the 1940s, teenaged debutante Allie Hamilton and local boy Noah Calhoun spend one passionate, carefree summer together and fall deeply in love. But when the summer ends, war and duty separate the young couple.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams have intense romantic chemistry in this swoony, iconic period romance film. See our review of The Notebook.

Content Note: PG-13 for semi-explicit sensuality.

#55 THE PROMISE (2016)

The Promise 2016 movie still
Credit: Survival Pictures/Open Road Films

HBO Synopsis: “A love triangle emerges between a photojournalist, a dance instructor, and a medical student during the final days of the Ottoman Empire.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you love epic romances, you’ll want to check out this lesser-known one starring Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, and Christian Bale. For more information, see our review of The Promise.

Content Note: PG-13 for disturbing images, war violence, and sensuality. 

#56 WALK THE LINE (2005)

Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line
Credit: 20th Century Fox

HBO Synopsis: “The life of music legend Johnny Cash and his volatile relationship with June Carter take center stage in this musical bio.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Reese Witherspoon won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her outstanding performance as June Carter. But Joaquin Phoenix is just as good at playing Johnny Cash. This is a must-see if you enjoy period biopics.

Content Note: PG-13 for thematic elements, language, and drug use.

#57 YENTL (1983)

Yentl movie still
Credit: United Artists/MGM/UA Entertainment Company

HBO Synopsis: “Barbra Streisand stars as a girl with a dream who disguises herself as a man in order to study at an all-male Yeshiva school.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Barbra Streisand directed this Oscar-winning period musical in a compelling, unique film with a fantastic soundtrack. 

Content Note: PG for suggestive references and nudity.


The Last Emperor lobby card
Credit: Columbia Pictures

HBO Synopsis: The story of the last imperial ruler of China.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Best Picture Oscar winner is a visual spectacle with an unforgettable story.

Content Note: PG-13 for brief profanity, implied sensuality, and some violence.

#59 OLIVER TWIST (1948)

Oliver Twist 1948 still
Credit: Cineguild/General Film Distributors

HBO Synopsis: “The famed orphan gets caught up in Fagin’s criminal band while searching for familial love.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

This Oliver Twist adaptation (from the award-winning director David Lean) is on the BFI list of the top 100 British films ever made. 

Content Note: G


Two English Girls poster

HBO Synopsis: A young writer carries on love affairs with two sisters.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The acclaimed director, François Truffaut, directed this romantic period drama. Truffaut also pays homage to the Bronte sisters in this film. 

Content Note: TV-14 


  • 47 Ronin: Part 1 & Part 2
  • American Hustle (Rated R)
  • Amsterdam (Rated R)
  • Angel at my Table (Rated R)
  • Around the World in 80 Days (Classic)
  • Breaking the Waves (Rated R)
  • Cries and Whispers (Rated R)
  • Deadwood: The Movie (Rated R)
  • Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood
  • Don’t Worry Darling (Rated R)
  • Empire of Light (Rated R)
  • Explota Explota
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye
  • Fanny and Alexander (Rated R)
  • The Four Feathers – Classic
  • Frida (Rated R)
  • From Hell (Rated R)
  • Geronimo: An American Legend
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (Rated R)
  • Henry V – Classic
  • Just Mercy
  • King Richard
  • King of Kings (1927)
  • The King’s Man (Rated R)
  • The Last Duel (Rated R)
  • Last Metro
  • Last Night in Soho (Rated R)
  • The Man Who Would Be King
  • Marriage of Maria Braun (Rated R)
  • Nightmare Alley (Rated R)
  • No Country for Old Men (Rated R)
  • Outlaw Josey Wales
  • Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Pennyworth (TV-MA)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Rashomon
  • Rembrandt
  • Richard III
  • Rise of Catherine the Great
  • Sarah’s Key
  • Seven Samurai
  • Shanghai (Rated R)
  • The Shooting
  • Shop on Main Street
  • Stagecoach
  • Throne of Blood
  • Tom Jones
  • Trial of Joan of Arc
  • Trumbo (Rated R)
  • The Two Faces of January
  • War and Peace (many parts)
  • When Trumpets Fade (Rated R)
  • Woman Walks Ahead (Rated R)


Here you’ll find historical fantasy films and shows – meaning that they may take place in the real world (in the past), but it also has fantasy or sci-fi elements.

You’ll also find pure fantasy and sci-fi dramas on this list. The characters typically wear costumes and are influenced by historical dramas.

Finally, I also included contemporary fantasies with period flashbacks.



La Belle et La Bete promo image of Belle sitting with the Beast behind her.
Photo Credit: DisCina

HBO Synopsis: “A mysterious monster forces a young innocent to share his life in an enchanted castle.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The French adaptation of Beauty and the Beast remains one of the most artistic and beautiful films ever made. It’s arguably also the best adaptation of the fairy tale to date.

The cast is perfect, with Jean Marais and Josette Day giving stunning performances as the Beast and Belle. The set design and costumes are equally gorgeous, transporting you into a magical world you’ll never want to leave.

But what makes this movie so memorable are the groundbreaking special effects!

This film is a must-see for anyone who loves fairy tales, romantic fantasies, or beautiful cinema. It’s a masterpiece.

Content Note: G

#2 DOCTOR WHO (2005)

Rose Tyler and the 10th Doctor.
Rose Tyler and the 10th Doctor. Photo Credit: BBC

HBO Synopsis of Episode 1: “When Rose Tyler meets a mysterious stranger called the Doctor, her life will never be the same.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Is there anything better than Doctor Who? This long-running BBC series is sci-fi/fantasy perfection.

It follows the adventures of the Doctor, a Time Lord who travels through time and space in his TARDIS. So, expect to see many historically-set episodes.

The 2005 reboot is excellent, with Christopher Eccleston in the title role (other actors like David Tennant take over the part afterward).

RELATED: Doctor Who Theory – Was “The Moment” in Day of the Doctor Actually Bad Wolf?

The writing and directing are top-notch, and it’s full of romance, humor, adventure, and wonder. It’s truly a show that can go on forever! And it’s fun to come up with theories while you’re watching, too, guessing what will happen next.

I also recommend the two spinoff series, Torchwood (TV-MA) and The Sarah Jane Chronicles. Both include period flashbacks from time to time and are overall excellent shows.

Content Note: TV-PG for fantasy violence and mild language and innuendo.

#3 DUNE (2021)

Dune promo art
Dune promotional art. Photo Credit: Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “The son of a noble family travels to a dangerous planet to ensure the future of his people in this visually stunning sci-fi epic.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Dune received 10 Oscar nominations – a rare feat for a genre film. Timothée Chalamet stars in this epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel.

Set in the future (but looks a lot like the past), it tells the story of a young man who must journey to a hostile planet to save his family and lead a revolution. The visuals are stunning, the acting is excellent, and the plot is full of twists and turns.

Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and many more fabulous actors also star.

Content Note: PG-13 for violence and suggestive content.


fantastic beasts and where to find them promo image
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “Magizoologist Newt Scamander, two sisters and a No-Maj battle dark forces while tracking down magical creatures set free in the wizarding world of 1926 New York.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you love Harry Potter, you’ll want to check out the prequels. The first movie takes place in the wizarding world of 1926, New York.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a magizoologist who studies magical creatures. When some of his beasts are accidentally let loose in the city, it’s up to Newt and his friends to find them before they cause too much trouble.

The Fantastic Beasts movies are fun and exciting, with plenty of magic, romance, and adventure. They’re also full of exquisite period detail.

Content Note: All three movies are PG-13 for fantasy violence.


his dark materials promo art
Photo Credit: Bad Wolf/BBC/HBO

HBO Synopsis: “From Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy comes this compelling HBO series that follows a young girl’s adventure in a parallel world.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you’re a fantasy fan, then His Dark Materials is definitely worth watching. The show is based on the trilogy of books by Philip Pullman.

And while it’s technically set in the modern-day, the parallel world is very period-influenced and not modern.

The story follows Lyra Belacqua, a young girl who travels to a parallel world and faces adventure, magic, and intrigue. The series has stellar actors (including Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and top-notch production values.

Content Note: TV-14 for some violence and thematic elements. Mild overall.


Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Photo: New Line Cinema

HBO Synopsis (The Hobbit): “Bilbo Baggins journeys to face an evil dragon in this first tale in Peter Jackson’s trilogy prequel to ‘The Lord of the Rings.’

HBO Synopsis (Fellowship of the Ring): “A chosen hobbit and his loyal friends join a wizard, humans, a dwarf and an elf on a quest to destroy a powerful ring and defeat an evil lord.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you love epic fantasy, you can’t go wrong with the Lord of the Rings movies. These movies are based on the beloved books by J.R.R. Tolkien, and they’re gorgeous adaptations of the source material.

The movies are filled with magic, adventure, romance, and suspense. They’re simply movie magic.

While The Hobbit movies are not as good as Lord of the Rings, they are still excellent, romantic, and nicely tie into the original trilogy.

Content Note: PG-13 for fantasy violence.


the seventh seal still
Photo Credit: AB Svensk Filmindustri

HBO Synopsis: “In medieval Sweden a knight returns from war only to find a ravaged homeland. He meets up with a group of travelling players and eventually confronts the embodiment of death with whom he engages in a game of chess.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Ingmar Bergman directed this masterpiece about life, death, and faith. It stars Max von Sydow as a Knight who returns from the Crusades to find his country ravaged by the Black Death.

He then challenges Death to a chess game to buy more time for himself and his people.

The movie is visually stunning and thought-provoking and is considered one of the greatest films ever made. The Seventh Seal is a must-see historical fantasy movie if film history interests you.

Content Note: TV-PG (as rated by HBO MAX) for dark themes and some language.


the water horse publicity still
Photo Credit: Walden Media/Sony Pictures Releasing

HBO Synopsis: “A lonely boy who discovers a giant egg that hatches the fabled Loch Ness monster tries to keep his new friend a secret.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The Water Horse is a family-friendly period film set in Scotland during World War II. It stars Alex Etel as a boy who discovers a Loch Ness monster egg and tries to keep the creature hidden.

This is a heartwarming movie about friendship, loyalty, and family. It’s perfect for a rainy day or if you’re looking for something different to watch with your family.

Content Note: PG for mild action and language.

#9 Wonder Woman/Wonder Woman 1984 (2017/2020)

wonder woman movie still
Photo Credit: DC Films/Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: “After leaving her all-female island for the first time, Wonder Woman discovers her full powers and true destiny while fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Wonder Woman is a superhero movie based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Gal Gadot stars as Diana, Princess of the Amazons, who leaves her home to fight in World War I.

The movie is exciting, inspiring, and well-made. It’s perfect for fans of superhero movies or anyone looking for a romantic historical fantasy to watch.

While not as good, the sequel is still a fun adventure film with a good message.

Content Note: PG-13 for action, violence, and suggestive content.

#10 CAMELOT (1967)

camelot 1967 movie still
Credit: Warner Bros.-Seven Arts

HBO Synopsis: A majestic romance set in the days of the yore starring Richard Harris as King Arthur with Vanessa Redgrave as the Queen and Franco Nero as Lancelot, the classic knight in shining armor.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you love lavish musicals and Arthurian epics, this romantic adventure film is worth checking out. It’s also fun seeing the real-life couple, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero, in the iconic roles.

Content Note: G

#11 HOOK (1991)

Hook 1991 promo photo of Hook and Peter Pan
Credit: Amblin Entertainment/TriStar Pictures

HBO Synopsis: To rescue his children, an adult Peter Pan must return to Neverland and battle an old enemy and rediscover the child in himself.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The cult classic starred Robin Williams and was directed by Steven Spielberg. While it’s more of a contemporary fantasy, there are period flashbacks, and Neverland is outside of time. All in all, it’s a fun film – despite negative reviews from critics.

Content Note: PG for mild violence and language.


Interview with the Vampire 1994 still with Kirsten Dunst Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise
Credit: Warner Bros.

HBO Synopsis: The immortal Louis tells of his life as a vampire recruited by Lestat in 1791 Louisiana.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

Anne Rice’s classic vampire novel comes to life in this epic movie with an all-star cast.

Content Note: Rated R for violence, gore, nudity/assault, and explicit sensuality.

#13 SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999)

Sleepy Hollow promo shot with Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp
Credit: Tim Burton Productions/Paramount Pictures/Summit Entertainment

HBO Synopsis: “Johnny Depp is Ichabod Crane, doing battle with the Headless Horseman, in this adaptation of the classic horror tale.”

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you love gothic romances and Tim Burton, you should love Sleepy Hollow – which stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci.

Content Note: Rated R for graphic horror violence and a scene of explicit sensuality.

#14 STARDUST (2007)

Stardust promo art with the cast 2007
Credit: Paramount Pictures

HBO Synopsis: A young man discovers that a fallen star in a magical land is actually a woman with powers sought after by sinister forces in the kingdom.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

The whimsical historical fantasy based on Neil Gaiman’s novel is full of romance, adventure, wit, and a lot of fun! Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Robert DeNiro, Ian McKellen, Henry Cavill, Michelle Pfeiffer, and more, star.

Content Note: PG-13 for fantasy violence and suggestive humor.

#15 GHOSTS – UK (2019)

Ghosts UK promo photo
Credit: BBC

HBO Synopsis: Button House is home to restless spirits whose lives, or rather, afterlives, are thrown into turmoil when a young couple unexpectedly inherit the peaceful derelict house and plan to turn it into a bustling hotel.

Why You Should Check It Out: 

If you love the new American remake of the show on CBS, then you’ll love the original. It’s just as funny and quirky, with a fantastic cast and intriguing characters from various time periods.

Content Note: TV-14 for suggestive humor, mild violence, and language. It’s pretty mild overall.


  • Game of Thrones (TV-MA)
  • Garcia (TV-MA)
  • House of the Dragon (TV-MA)
  • Lovecraft Country (TV-MA)
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  • True Blood (TV-MA) – flashbacks


  • The Gilded Age, Season 2
  • Perry Mason, Season 2


  • 42
  • Atonement
  • Amistad
  • Blast from the Past
  • Captain Blood
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • Gigi
  • Ivanhoe
  • Love & Mercy
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, 1991
  • Roots (Mini-Series)
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1954
  • Show Boat, 1936
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936
  • The Great Ziegfeld, 1936
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1946
  • The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1981
  • The Secret Garden, 1993 (HBO)
  • Warrior, 2011 (HBO)

What HBO period dramas or romantic dramas do you plan to check out? Do you have a personal favorite? Share your recommendations below!

100+ Best Period Dramas On HBO Max To Watch (2023) pinterest image


By on February 23rd, 2023

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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