Period Dramas are so often dismissed as boring, dull and bland, the sort of thing that only your grandparents would watch, but in reality, period dramas are just as addictive as anything else on Netflix. So cosy up on the sofa, grab that chocolate, and get watching these binge-worthy wonders- it turns out that grandmas actually have pretty good taste.
1. Brideshead Revisited- 1981
Beautiful, romantic, and heart-wrenchingly tragic, there’s a reason why this 11-parter is an enduring classic. Based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh, and starring Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews and Diana Quick, Brideshead Revisited tells the story of Charles Ryder (Irons) , an aspiring painter and student at Oxford during the 1920s, where he is befriended my the charismatic and enigmatic Lord Sebastian Flyte (Andrews). Much to Sebastian’s disquiet, Charles quickly becomes embroiled in the tumultuous lives of the Flytes, setting both men on a path to destruction from which they cannot escape.
2. Birdsong- 2012
Based on the novel by Sebastian Faulks, and starring both Eddie Redmayne and the beautiful Clémence Poésy, this two-part drama is another one you should get your box of tissues ready for. Set against the backdrop of the First World War, Birdsong follows the experiences of young lieutenant Stephen Wraysford (Redmayne) as he experiences the horrors of the Somme, and reflects on his passionate love affair with the angelic Isabelle Azaire. With fantastic camera work and a stunning score by Nicholas Hooper (Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince), this heart-breaking tale of love and loss is well worth a watch.
Here’s where we get to cheer things up a bit. There are so many great binge-worthy Jane Austen adaptations, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, and the version of Sense and Sensibility from the same year, starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winsley. Our all-time favourite though, has to be the BBC’s 2009 adaptation of Emma, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. There is something infectious about the true-to-life flawed character of Emma Woodhouse, as Austen herself said, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like”, because Emma isn’t perfect like some of her other heroines, she’s human. Garai’s portrayal of Emma’s character, and indeed, character development, coupled with Lee Miller’s endearing representation of Mr. Knightley, makes this show a period drama bucket list must-have.
4. North and South
North and South is another adaptation which is based on a 19th-century novel, this time, a canon classic by Elizabeth Gaskell. Set in the fictional northern town of Milton, (loosely based on Manchester) North and South documents the escapades of southern, middle-class Margaret Hale, (Daniela Denby-Ashe) as she clashes with brooding mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage).
Set in the heart of Cornwall, you’ll probably have heard of Poldark, even if you haven’t seen it, due to the feverish obsession with that shirtless scything scene. This BBC drama follows the adventures of swashbuckling Captain Ross (Aidan Turner), who returns from the US War of Independence to find that his childhood sweetheart Elizabeth (Heida Reid) has married his cousin, nemesis George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) is slowly but surely taking over the county, and his home is in rack and ruin. With the help of friend Doctor Enys (Luke Norris) and new love interest Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson), Ross sets about putting the world to rights. But Cornwall in the 1700s is a dangerous place, and this task will not be without its difficulties…
6. Medici: The Magnificent
Set in 15th century Florence, and starring Sean Bean, Daniel Sharman, and Bradley James, this Netflix Original Series is filled with drama, romance and intrigue. Medici: The Magnificent relates the story of Lorenzo de Medici (Sharman), grandson of Cosimo de Medici, who is played in the prequel series by Game of Thrones‘ Richard Madden. Fighting against the evil machinations of Jacopo Pazzi (Sean Bean) to maintain the Medici’s position as the most powerful family in Florence, Lorenzo must prove his worth and uphold his family’s legacy.
7. Downton Abbey
Although the last episode of Downton aired on our screens almost five years ago, this will always be a family favourite. Following the life of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants from 1912 to the mid- 1920s, this show is in many ways a classy soap: addictive, amusing, and frequently heart-wrenching; just set 100 years ago and with an all-star cast. Plus, there’s a movie on its way so you may as well get caught up!