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The Period Drama You Should Watch If You're A Fan Of Peaky Blinders

Genre crossovers can be a real treat because they offer the best of two worlds. These days, one popular genre crossover is the period crime drama. TV shows like Boardwalk Empire, Ripper Street, and The Alienist offer all the same crime thrills as shows set in modern times, but with the added bonus of making viewers feel even smarter because they're learning history. Terrible people doing terrible things can be elevated to high art if everyone's wearing old-fashioned clothes and talking in accents.

Netflix's Peaky Blinders is one of those shows that scratches the itch for fans of both history and crime. The show wrapped up its fifth season back in August 2019, continuing the story of the Shelby crime family and their leader, Tommy (Cillian Murphy). Peaky Blinders is told from the Shelbys' perspective, so it's a classic anti-hero crime drama in the vein of The Sopranos. As a period piece, it takes viewers to the sordid world of 1919 Birmingham, and its "Peaky Blinders" street gang. Historical events are more than just a backdrop in this prestige drama. The characters have to navigate Britain's post-World War I roller coaster of an economy, and all the opportunities and hazards it brings.

If watching morally bankrupt people committing unspeakable deeds in cool vintage clothing is really your thing, a 2002 movie has many of those same elements. Even better, it's directed by one of the great filmmakers of all time. 

If you like old-timey crime, don't miss Gangs of New York

Peaky Blinders fans should definitely check out Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York if they haven't done so already. On the surface, Peaky Blinders and Gangs of New York are only loosely related to each other. Peaky Blinders takes place in 1920s Birmingham, England, just after World War I. Gangs of New York is set in 1862 New York City, at a time when newly arrived immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and other European nations had few opportunities.

The big similarity is that both titles deal with the origins of modern organized crime, and how its intersection with politics first formed. Both the Peaky Blinders gang and the Bowery Boys of Gangs of New York are based in the slums, and recruit people who have no better options in the legal economy, many of them teens or children. Both gangs' leaders, Tommy Shelby and Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis), realize that their influence over large groups of people can be turned to political ends, vesting them with nigh-mayoral authority.

It should be noted that both titles take plenty of liberties with the truth. Peaky Blinders is set in the 1920s, but the real Peaky Blinders gang operated in the 1890s. As for Gangs of New York, Bill the Butcher is based on real-life political organizer and gangster Bill Poole, whose real heyday was about 20 years before the events of the film. But both films make valid broader points about the histories of their respective countries, the opportunities — or lack thereof — available to the lower classes.

We're guessing you'll find both stories appealing, if you're into history and crime.