Is your soul in need of soothing? Try streaming one of these brilliant period dramas.
If you’re looking to spend your newfound restriction-reduced time snuggled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and a soul-soothing period drama, not in the pub, we don’t blame you.
There are plenty of movies to quench your thirst for vintage costumes, post-wartime singalongs, and clandestine romances. However, if you really want to ramp up those cosy vibes, we highly recommend streaming one of the brilliant period drama box sets available on Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, BritBox, Disney Plus, and Netflix.
To help you along, we’ve rounded up our pick of the best ever period dramas. All that’s left for you to do is select and stream at will.
Please note that this article was originally published in October 2020, but will be updated with new titles as and when they become available for streaming.
The Pursuit Of Love
Taking place between the two world wars, The Pursuit Of Love tells the story of two cousins as they navigate the tricky waters of love and romance as young women. Lily James plays fearless Linda Radlett and Emily Beecham plays Fanny Logan.
The latter character narrates the Nancy Mitford novel (of the same name as the show) that inspires this raunchy, uninhibited take on the interwar period. The best part? Andrew Scott has been said to steal the show as the Radlett’s neighbour, Lord Merlin.
The Lord is full of well-dressed hilarity, feeding whiskey to his dogs and dyeing his pigeons pink and green – needless to say, the Fleabag favourite has delivered the perfect amount of whimsy and charm that we need.
The Pursuit Of Love is streaming now on BBC iPlayer.
Call The Midwife
Easily one of the most heartwarming shows on TV, every single episode of Call The Midwife promises to be an emotional rollercoaster.
Set in impoverished 1950s East London, it follows the nurses, midwives and nuns of Nonnatus House as they forge lifelong friendships, fall in (and out of) love, and tend to the expectant mothers of Poplar.
Fair warning, though: it’s not all chubby-cheeked babies, as this critically-acclaimed series also makes a point of featuring dark and deeply upsetting storylines – including domestic violence, rape, illegal abortions, contraception and homophobia.
Call The Midwife is streaming now on Netflix.
ITV’s star-studded adaptation of Sanditon – Jane Austen’s unfinished seaside romance, which she famously abandoned four months before her death in 1817 – stars Rose Williams as a joyous and unconventional woman called Charlotte Heywood, who moves away from her countryside hometown to Sanditon, a fishing village trying to reinvent itself as a seaside resort.
There, she’s exposed to the towns intrigues and dalliances (and quite a bit of nude bathing) in a plot that takes us from sleepy coastal villages to the West Indies to London. Naturally, there are bonnets aplenty. And, just as naturally, Charlotte falls head-over-heels for the funny and disarming Sidney Parker (Theo James) – because it wouldn’t be an Austen novel without a healthy dash of romance now, would it?
Sanditon is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
To Walk Invisible
While bookworms are incredibly familiar with the Brontë sisters’ literary exploits, many of us are less aware of the hardships they faced in order to become published authors. This series, which originally aired on BBC One, is here to change this.
The story revolves around Charlottë (Finn Atkins), Anne (Charlie Murphy), and Emily (Chloe Pirrie)’s increasingly difficult and toxic relationship with their brother, who in the last three years of his life – following a tragically misguided love affair – sank into alcoholism, drug addiction and abhorrent behaviour.
With their father focusing all of his attention on their brother (who, as the male heir, was seen as “the big hope for the family”), the tenacious trio decided to throw themselves into their writing – and began publishing novels under pseudonyms.
In fact, the show’s title, To Walk Invisible, is a quote taken from a letter penned by the real-life Charlottë, following a meeting with a clergyman. Despite being a big fan of her work, he failed to recognise that she was the author, due to her pseudonym ‘Currer Bell’.
Writing to her publisher about the encounter, Charlottë said: “What author would be without the advantage of being able to walk invisible? One is thereby enabled to keep such a quiet mind.”
To Walk Invisible is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
Starring Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, this may be a Marvel series but, set in the 1940s, it’s also very much a period drama.
Shattered after her boyfriend Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) goes missing, presumed dead, Peggy throws herself into making the world a better place via her new job with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Agent Carter is streaming on Disney Plus now.
Self-Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C. J. Walker
Self-Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C. J. Walker brings the inspiring true story of trailblazing African American entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker (Octavia Spencer) to our screens for the first time.
For those who don’t know the name, Walker is the very same woman who built the haircare empire that made her America’s first female self-made millionaire. So, yeah, you better believe that this Netflix series is going to deliver some seriously inspiring energy.
Self-Made: Inspired By The Life Of Madam C. J. Walker is streaming on Netflix now.
The Spanish Princess
An adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s book of the same name, this series sees teenage Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope), the strong-willed Princess of Spain, promised in marriage to the English Prince Arthur.
When he dies suddenly, the throne seems lost until she sets her sights on the new heir, the charismatic and headstrong Prince Harry.
Told uniquely from the perspective of its story’s women, this series also sheds light on the lives of people of colour who were living and working in 16th century London.
The Spanish Princess is included with STARZPLAY on Amazon Prime for £4.99/month after trial.
Set in 1832 West Yorkshire, England, Gentleman Jack is inspired by the true-story and coded journals of Anne Lister (Suranne Jones), who is determined to save her faded ancestral home, Shibden Hall, even if it means bucking society’s expectations.
Gentleman Jack is streaming on BritBox now.
A Suitable Boy
Based on the novel by Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy spirits us away to a newly independent India in 1951, where passionate literature student Lata Mehra is torn between family duty and the promise of romance as three very different men try to win her heart.
A Suitable Boy is streaming now on BBC iPlayer.
In this Korean period drama, Eugene Choi (Lee Byung-hun) – a young boy who ends up in the U.S. after the 1871 Shinmiyangyo incident – returns to Korea at a historical turning point, and falls for a young noblewoman named Ae-sin (Kim Tae-ri).
Mr Sunshine is streaming on Netflix now.
Following the death of his father, Yuri (Hans Matheson) is sent to live with his aunt, uncle and cousin Tonya (Alexandra Maria Lara) in Moscow. Growing up there, he soon finds himself captivated by a young woman named Lara (Keira Knightley), not realising that Tonya has fallen in love with him.
It’s worth noting that this story plays out against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war, so go in expecting tragedy from the get-go.
Dr Zhivago is available to rent on Amazon Prime.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel
Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a 50s Jewish American housewife who lives a seemingly perfect life in New York’s Upper East Side. But one evening, her husband – who she has two children with – says he is leaving her to start a new life with his secretary.
Midge reacts by uncharacteristically swigging a whole bottle of wine, jumping on the subway in her nightgown and heading to the Gaslight Club downtown, where she ends up performing one hell of a stand-up routine that changes her life forever…
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel is streaming on Amazon Prime now.
Stories by Rabindranath Tagore
Set in the early 1920s in Bengal, and based on (surprise!) Rabindranath Tagore’s writing, this series promises powerful female characters, forbidden romances, and gorgeous set pieces and production values.
Stories by Rabindranath Tagore is streaming on Netflix now.
The English Game
The English Game – written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes – charts the origins of football and how those involved reached across the class divide to establish the game as the world’s most popular sport.
It’s also a love story, though, and a beautifully nuanced one at that.
The English Game is streaming on Netflix now.
This sumptuous costume drama follows Victoria (Jenna Coleman) from her accession to the British throne at the age of eighteen, to her intense friendship and infatuation with her favourite advisor Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), to her courtship and early marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) of Germany, to her struggles to balance her queenly role as the youngest monarch with her duties to her husband and children.
Victoria is streaming on BritBox now.
After serving as a British Army nurse in World War II, Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) is enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with her husband when she is suddenly transported to 1743.
In order to survive this strange new timeline, she marries Scottish heartthrob Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), and falls headfirst into a passionate relationship. And…
Well, to say anymore would be a massive spoiler. Let’s just say this show isn’t one for the faint-hearted, but that it’s incredibly popular for a reason.
Outlander is streaming on Amazon Prime now.
Expect plenty of upstairs-downstairs intrigue in Fellowes’ lavish star-studded series about the aristocratic Crawley family and their household staff.
Downton Abbey is streaming now on BritBox, Amazon Prime, and NOW TV.
Anne With An E
Just like the classic 1908 book by Lucy Maud Montgomery, this Netflix series is set in 1890 and focuses on Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty), a 13-year-old orphan who has spent her entire childhood in abusive institutions and the homes of strangers.
However, thanks to a fortuitous mistake, she is sent to live with an elderly spinster and her ageing brother. Over time, the redheaded daydreamer comes to change the lives of all those around her for the better – and finds herself thriving in her new life on Prince Edward Island.
Anne With An E is streaming now on Netflix.
Death Comes To Pemberley
However, festivities are brought to an abrupt halt when the sound of gunshots rings out from the nearby forest.
Death Comes To Pemberley is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
Belgravia (yet another drama from Fellowes) takes us back to the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, where we see well-connected society girl Sophia Trenchard (Emily Reid) head to the ball with her family at the behest of her lover, Edmund Bellasis. There’s a little gossip, a dash of scandal and an overwhelming whiff of class divide, until all the uniformed men are forced to rush off to battle.
Bellasis passionately promises Sophia that he will return, which, naturally, means he’s doomed. Indeed, we learn shortly after the first ad break that he’s “dead” (RIP Bellasis, we barely knew you).
The next thing we know, it’s 26 years later. And you better believe the impact of the events from that night are still being felt now…
Belgravia is streaming now on BritBox.
It’s the lavish Netflix Original that needs no introduction. For those who have somehow missed The Crown up until now, though, know this: it chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Emmy winner Claire Foy/Olivia Colman) from the 1940s to modern times. And it is… well, it’s compelling, to say the least.
The Crown is available to stream on Netflix.
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice
As in, yes, the iconic Austen adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The one with the star-studded cast, the emotionally-charged performances, and that lake scene with the dripping wet shirt.
Ahem. What else is there to say, really?
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice is available to stream now on Netflix.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
Armchair detectives will no doubt want to check out this series, all about a seductive sleuth sashaying through the back lanes of the populous jazz clubs of the late 1920s.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is available to stream now on Netflix.
The Bletchley Circle
Once upon a time, they helped break the Germans’ infamous “enigma cypher” during World War II. Now, these four women are using their code-breaking skills to…
Well, to solve murders. Obviously.
The Bletchley Circle is available to rent on Amazon Prime.
In 1935, young widow Louisa Durrell (Keeley Hawes) uproots her four children to build a new life in the island of Corfu.
There, they find themselves relying on charismatic Anglophile Spiro Hakaiopulos (Alexis Georgoulis), who finds them a ramshackle house to live in, complete with home-help in the form of hypochondriac Lugaretzia (Anna Savva).
The Durrells is streaming on Netflix now.
Set against the backdrop of 18th century Georgian London, Harlots follows Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) and her daughters, as she struggles to reconcile her roles as mother and brothel owner.
But, when her business comes under attack from Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), a rival madam with a ruthless streak, Margaret must fight back… even if it means putting her family at risk.
Harlots is streaming on BBC iPlayer now.
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Set in the 1920s, this critically-acclaimed series (Cable Girls boasts a 100% ‘fresh’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes) is set in Spain’s first national telephone company, located in Madrid.
For the young women who get jobs there, though, it’s more than just work. Cue them ringing in revolution as they manage romance, friendship and the modern workplace.
Cable Girls is streaming on Netflix now.
Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1996 historical novel of the same name, Alias Grace recounts the true story of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), a poor Irish immigrant to Canada who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her employer and his housekeeper.
Alias Grace is streaming on Netflix now.
Based upon Anthony Trollope’s novel, this lavish drama follows Dr Thomas Thorne (Tom Hollander) and his niece Mary (Stefanie Martini) as she discovers a family secret that will change her life, and the course of her love, forever.
Doctor Thorne is available to rent now on Amazon Prime.
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The Ghost Bride
Set in 1890s colonial Malaysia, Li Lan (Peijia Huang) is offered the change to eradicate her family’s extensive debt.
All she has to do is marry the son of a rich family. Too bad it’s the already dead son of a rich family, eh?
As a ghost bride, Li Lan is expected to honour her husband’s memory, and be haunted by him for the rest of her life. But as she becomes closer to her husband’s spirit she realises his death isn’t as it seems, and embarks on a quest to find out what really happened to him.
The Ghost Bride is streaming on Netflix now.
When Calls The Heart
Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) is a young teacher accustomed to high society, so she experiences a massive culture shock when she gets her first classroom assignment in Coal Valley.
Why? Well, because life in the small mining town is filled with challenges – not least of all the fact that a recent explosion has killed more than a dozen of the town’s miners, compelling the widows of those men to work in the mines to earn money.
When Calls The Heart is streaming on Netflix now.
In this heartwarming story of friendship, Samantha Bond and Francesca Annis star as two powerful women struggling to put aside their differences in The Women’s Institute.
With the threat of World War II looming over them, though, they must learn to unite amidst the chaos and uncertainty of wartime.
Home Fires is available to rent on Amazon Prime.
A glamorous and pulpy Agatha Christie-style mystery, High Seas tells the tale of the Villenueva sisters Eva (Ivana Baquero) and Carolina (Alejandra Onieva), as they set off on a one-way voyage from Spain to Brazil in the late 1940s.
Once aboard the luxury ocean liner, though, they quickly become embroiled in investigating a series of onboard deaths, a secret microfilm, and hidden Nazi gold. As you do.
High Seas is streaming on Netflix now.
Do we really need another Little Women adaptation in our lives? Of course we do.
Boasting an all-star cast (think Maya Hawke, Willa Fitzgerald, and Emily Watson, to name just three), this miniseries dutifully brings the story of the March family to life, and it does so with charm, sweetness, and a plethora of beautiful shots.
Little Women is available to rent on Amazon Prime.
Penned by acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard (oh he of Shakespeare In Love fame), this little-known period drama is definitely one to check out if you haven’t already.
Set in the dying days of the Edwardian era, conservative English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) enters into a destructive marriage with cruel socialite Sylvia (Rebecca Hall).
It isn’t long, though, before he finds himself drawn to fearless young suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens). Can their blossoming love, though, ever hope to survive in a world that’s about to be plunged headfirst into war?
Parade’s End is streaming on Netflix now.
Based on Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Luminaries follows defiant young adventurer Anna Wetherell (Eve Hewson), who has sailed from Britain to New Zealand to begin a new life.
There she meets the radiant Emery Staines (Himesh Patel), an encounter that triggers a strange kind of magic that neither can explain.
As they fall in love, driven together and apart by fateful coincidence, these star-crossed lovers begin to wonder: do we make our fortunes, or do our fortunes make us?
The Luminaries is streaming now on BBC iPlayer.
Set in Berlin at the end of the 19th century, Ida (Alicia von Rittberg) works as an assistant nurse at the world-famous Charité Hospital in order to pay off her debts to the medical facility.
Her job begins as nothing more than a means to make ends meet. Over time, though, it slowly blossoms into a lifelong passion as Ida realises that she is in the midst of one of the most important medical revolutions in history.
Charité is streaming on Netflix now.
Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton follows Daphne, the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family, as she makes her debut on Regency London’s competitive marriage market.
While she aims to emulate her parents and find a match sparked by true love, her older brother begins to rule out potential suitors and the mysterious Lady Whistledown writes a high society ‘scandal sheet’, casting aspersions on Daphne and others.
Daphne and her siblings’ romantic entanglements are keenly watched by mothers who want to make sure their offspring are well matched. And, yeah, you better believe it’s basically the Gossip Girl of period dramas.
Bridgerton will be available to stream on Netflix from 25 December.
Images: Netflix, BBC One, Amazon Prime
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.