Period dramas offer a sense of comfort unparalleled when compared to other television show genres like comedies and rom-coms.

Giving viewers the chance to escape the humdrum of their day-to-day lives, period dramas invite us to explore and learn about the lavish lifestyles and homes of those living in 18th and 19th century England through Bridgerton and Downton Abbey, respectively, and become enthralled by dramatic and compelling stories relating to family obligation and forbidden love.

Inspiring us to swap our comforting athleisure for pearls and ball gowns, TV shows like The Crown have also seen us inject heritage tweed, silk headscarves and knitted jumpers into our wardrobes, while the aforementioned Bridgerton has seen a legion of fans frantically source corsets, empire waist dresses and elbow-length gloves from pre-loved sites across the board.

Fortunately, there are plenty of period dramas on streaming platforms, which can help us to escape to places where Regency-era bustles and ribbon headbands are far more the dress du jour than the bikinis and swimsuits of summer.

We’ve rounded up the best period dramas to watch, from The Crown and Pride and Prejudice to old-school Jane Austen adaptations, that’ll provide enough escapism and frivolity for all of your cosy Saturday nights in to come.

Bridgerton

As the most watched show in English on Netflix, it broke records upon its release in 2020 and has become a firm favourite in households across the globe. The series explores the love lives of the powerful Bridgerton siblings as each one embarks on Regency London’s ruthless marriage market. Offering viewers a fictional and highly entertaining look into high society, expectations of women, and some rather saucy sex scenes, the first season explores young Daphne’s debut and the hardships of navigating true love. The second season delves into the life of her older brother, Anthony, and the third, the first half of which was released in May 2024, explores Penelope Featherington’s blooming relationship with Colin Bridgerton.

Mary & George

Drawn from real life, Mary & George is based on the 2017 historical book The King’s Assassin: The Fatal Affair of George Villiers and James I by Benjamin Woolley.

On the brink of dissolute poverty, Mary Villiers and English courtiers hatch a plan for her son, George to seduce the James VI, the King of England. As young George gains power, the series follows the Villiers as they climb unprecedented influence and riches in the English court.

The Buccaneers

The Buccaneers is an eight-episode series from creator Katherine Jakeways, and is inspired by Edith Wharton’s unfinished final novel of the same name. The story loosely follows the daughters of America’s newly moneyed as they try to bag themselves an aristocrat in 1870s London. Expect all of the high-octane drama, costumes and romance you’ve come to expect from your favourite Regency romps.

Colette

After moving to Paris, author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, played by Keira Knightley, agrees to ghostwrite a novel for her husband, which becomes a huge success. Inspired by the success that the book has, her husband Willy, played by Dominic West, pressurises her to start writing novels to be published under his name. What ensues is a battle between Colette and Willy, which challenges Colette to fight for creative ownership and overcome the societal — and gender related — constraints of the early 20th century.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The Crown’s Emma Corrin and Skins’ Jack O’Connell dazzle in Netflix’s adaptation of the once-scandalous novel of the same name by D.H. Lawrence. The film depicts unhappily married aristocrat Lady Chatterley, who begins a torrid affair — and falls deeply in love — with the gamekeeper on her husband’s country estate. One to watch with a big box of tissues by your side.

Young Victoria

Co-directed by Martin Scorsese, the 2009 film Young Victoria depicts the former monarch’s early rise to power as she grapples with the machinations of her family. Victoria’s mother, played by Miranda Richardson, wants her to sign a regency order, while her Belgian uncle arranges a marriage between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, played by Rupert Friend, who eventually becomes the love of her life.

Poldark

The series that made a household name out of Aidan Turner, Poldark became an overnight hit for good reason. The show, which is based on the first two novels in the Poldark series by Winston Graham, is based on the story of young and principled Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner), a young man who’s only recently returned from the American Revolutionary War to find his father dead, his copper mine failing and his childhood sweetheart, the beautiful Elizabeth Chynoweth, played by Heida Reed, engaged to somebody out. It’s got tears, laughter and love — there’s a reason Poldark’s a firm fan favourite.

The Tudors

The Tudors is a series based on the reign and marriages of King Henry VIII. The four-season series stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the young King Henry VIII in all of his lustful glory, while Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer stars as Anne Boleyn and Henry Cavill assumes the role of King Henry’s confidante Charles Brandon. Expect all of the drama of your favourite soap opera but make it historical reality, and there you have The Tudors. A seriously binge-worthy serialisation.

Outlander

Based on the series of historical novels written by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander has become a firm fan favourite thanks to its heart-wrenching storylines and achingly lovable characters.

Now in its seventh season, Outlander is about British nurse Claire Randall who time travels from the 20th-century to 17th-century Scotland. There she finds love and adventure with the dashing Jamie Fraser, a Highland warrior, but we quickly learn that all is not as it might seem. If you’re into rom-coms, period dramas and series full of nostalgia, Outlander’s one to bookmark and binge now.

Downtown Abbey

The holy grail of period dramas, Downton Abbey is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, becoming the most successful British costume drama series since the 1981 television series, Brideshead Revisited. First released in 2010, the award-winning series, written by Julian Fellowes, takes us head first into the commotion of the 20th century. The series follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family, from 1912 and 1926, and their servants in their extravagant estate, based in the heart of Yorkshire.

The Crown

The Emmy and Golden Globe award winner has five drama-packed seasons that delve into the British royal family. The series, which applies artistic license to the lives of the Windsor family, explores the life of Queen Elizabeth II from when she ascended to the throne in 1952, to the political and private moments that defined her reign. In season one, we see her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947, while the most recent – and final – fifth season charted the love story of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Pride and Prejudice

Widely regarded as the most exceptional on-screen portrayal of Jane Austin’s classic novel, the award-winning series from 1995 remains one of our most beloved adaptations. The drama delves into the arrival of Mr. Darcy, a high-class, wealthy gentleman, and how it sends the marriage-obsessed mother of Elizabeth Bennett into overdrive. A beautiful love story emerges between head-strong Bennett and Darcy, played by the one and only Colin Firth, after the pair meet at a ball, but it’s not without its challenges. Let’s not forget one of the most memorable scenes in television history – a dripping wet Darcy emerging from a lake. Say no more.

Little Women

Starring British actors Emma Watson and Florence Pugh, the Greta Gerwig-directed adaptation of the bestselling novel follows four young and independent sisters as they attempt to break the limits imposed on women of their time. Based on the novel written by Louisa May Alcott, the film portrays the daily struggles women were forced to face growing up in the 19th century.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Director Armando Lannucci provides a fresh take on Charles Dickens’ infamous character David Copperfield, bringing a sense of hope and hilarity to the bestselling novel with this punchy adaptation. The drama explores the tale of a young orphan who seeks to overcome numerous challenges as he tries to acquire fame and fortune.

Atonement

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, this film is based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name. What unfolds is tragic love story that begins with a terrible mistake and meets a heartbreaking end. Starring James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, the drama is set during World War II, and sees a young girl falsely accuse her sister’s partner of a crime. If you’re a crier like us, you’ll want to get the tissues ready for this one.

Lady Macbeth

Set in the early 19th century, Florence Pugh portrays a teenager who is married off to an older man enclosed in their estate in this drama. As he travels for business, she enjoys her first taste of freedom when she falls for the love of her life. The drama becomes somewhat of a thriller thanks to the actor’s haunting performance as her character comes to terms with the little control women once had over their lives.

Becoming Jane

More James McAvoy (lucky us). Becoming Jane recounts the early life of British heavyweight Jane Austen. While Austen (played by Anne Hathaway) has aspirations to become a writer, her parents are on a mission to help her marry wealthy. That is until she falls for an Irishman with no offerings of financial security. The period drama portrays Austen’s journey to becoming a literary great fuelled with passion.

Emma

Another Jane Austen adaptation? Yes, please. Emma is a light-hearted and hilarious period drama, providing some much-needed relief when compared to contemporaries like Atonement. The film reimagines how one finds a happy ending, and sees Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) experience the pain of growing up and finding love in high society.