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Shows Like Poldark That Historical Drama Fans Need To Watch

Running for five seasons, BBC's "Poldark" captured the hearts of fans with its unique perspective on the American Revolutionary War. Instead of looking at victorious American soldiers, the show focused on Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner), a British soldier who returned home to find his life in complete disarray. Based on the series of novels by Winston Graham, it has all the makings of an excellent historical drama.

Fans were hooked on the beautiful sights of Cornwall and the incredible drama; after all, what would you do if you came home after losing the war to find your father had died, your home was in shambles, and your childhood sweetheart was engaged to your cousin? Though the show was a great success, "Poldark" ended in 2019, leaving fans satisfied yet clamoring for a new historical drama to sink their teeth into.

For those who loved the wonderful adventures, the ravishing romance, the soapy intrigue, and Turner's charismatic performance, here are some other historical drama shows that "Poldark" fans need to watch.

The Great

Though "Poldark" sticks to a more serious dramatic tone, Hulu's "The Great" is a satirical dramedy about the rise of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning). Created by Tony McNamara (the Oscar-nominated co-writer of "The Favourite"), and based on his own play about Catherine the Great, the show is a delightfully anachronistic romp. It's never afraid to push the limits, and it revels in the raunchy murkiness of it all. Starring opposite Fanning is Nicholas Hoult, who plays her husband, Peter III. The two are positively sinister together, deftly balancing dramatic beats and dark comedy. Though the series' title sequence reminds viewers that it is actually an "occasionally true story," "The Great" is full of accurate historical details. Plus, it can be a heck of a lot of fun to play around with history.

The show boasts a star-studded cast, plus healthy dashes of sex, drama, murder, and all-around chaos. Adding to this excitement, "The Great" Season 2 will add the beloved Gillian Anderson to its cast. Anderson, who currently stars on Netflix's massively successful "Sex Education," will play the mother of Catherine the Great.


Similar to "The Great," "Harlots" veers into comedy more often than you would expect for a historical drama. That said, this delicious, hugely entertaining show has a very unique point of view for the genre. Set in 18th century London, "Harlots" is based on "Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies," an actual directory that showcased the ladies of the night working in London at the time (via British Library). That's right: "Harlots" is all about sex work, and, to be even more specific, the battle between two brothels for supremacy over the London streets. The houses are run by Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) and Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), and their attempts to get the one-up on each other are always a blast to watch.

"Harlots" was canceled after three seasons, leaving fans devastated, but there are still plenty of episodes to enjoy. The show strikes a great balance of drama and comedy, and provides a frank and honest look at sex work in a time period when it was extremely taboo. While the women in the show do suffer from desolate working conditions, it's also a show that intelligently highlights the women and their power and is a refreshing look at its subject. Plus, if you need any more temptation, Season 2 adds the brilliant Nicola Coughlan, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame with the role of Penelope Featherington on Netflix's "Bridgerton."

John Adams

While "Poldark" uses the American Revolutionary War as its starting point, "John Adams" features the same war. The HBO miniseries aired in 2008 and covered the life of John Adams (Paul Giamatti), America's second President, from 1770 to 1826, over seven episodes. Alongside Giamatti in the titular role, the series also stars Laura Linney as Abigail Adams, Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson, Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin, and David Morse as George Washington, all of whom were nominated for Emmy awards. Giamatti, Linney, and Wilkinson were all victorious, and "John Adams" went on to capture a remarkable 13 Primetime Emmy Awards.

While "John Adams" has considerable prestige in front of the camera, there is also plenty behind it. Tom Hooper, who would go on to win an Oscar for "The King's Speech" in 2011, directed the series. All the prestige pays off tremendously, as "John Adams" is chock-full of terrific acting, world-class production design, high-stakes drama, and endless political intrigue. There's a lot going on in these seven episodes, but they are balanced beautifully and never feel convoluted. In short, "John Adams" is one of the best political shows and best miniseries of all time.

The Underground Railroad

Barry Jenkins, director of Best Picture winner "Moonlight," delivered another passion project with the 10-part epic miniseries "The Underground Railroad." Jenkins directed the entire series and wrote four episodes. The show stars superstar in the making Thuso Mbedu as Cora Randall, a slave who escapes from a plantation in Georgia. The series features Chase W. Dillon, Aaron Pierre, and Joel Edgerton.

Though "The Underground Railroad" is based on an alternative history novel by Colson Whitehead, the series is certainly inspired by the real events of the Underground Railroad. Jenkins' series is unflinching in its representations of the brutality of the era, and can prove to be a difficult watch. But it is a richly rewarding one, as Jenkins is something of a master of displaying humanity, and that very humanity shines through in the most challenging moments. "The Underground Railroad" cleverly plays with genre — it can feel like a romance, a coming-of-age story, and a thriller, amongst others. It also features Jenkins' tremendous visual sense, and the series is truly a sight to behold. "The Underground Railroad" is more than worth wading through the tough subject matter.


If you like your historical dramas with a hearty dose of romance and fantasy, this one is for you. One of the most popular historical dramas of recent memory, "Outlander" has been a fan favorite since its debut in 2014. The time-traveling fantasy is based on the novel series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon.

The show tells the story of Claire Randall (Caitríona Balfe), who served as a nurse in World War II. After the war, Claire and her husband vacation in Scotland, where Claire is transported back to 1743 thanks to a mystical stone circle (yes, you read that right). She becomes a part of a rebel Highlander group and, for her survival, marries Jamie Frazer (Sam Heughan). Frazer and his men are on the run from the evil Captain Randall, who is played by Tobias Menzies, who also plays Claire's husband from her original timeline. 

As you can tell, "Outlander" is full of juicy drama, torrid romance, and beautiful costuming. Not just a streamy, sultry romance, the show stands out for its feminist perspective, which is particularly evident in its sex scenes. 

The White Queen

While "Poldark" and other shows like it feature the American Revolutionary War as a backdrop, "The White Queen" goes back a few centuries earlier, to the War of the Roses. Covering the years 1464 to 1485, this show is full of political scheming as England is embroiled in a bitter fight over who is the rightful king, while two sides of the same family fight for recognition: the House of York and the House of Lancaster. Cleverly honing in on the perspectives of three women — Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), Anne Neville (Faye Marsay), and Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) — "The White Queen" provides a unique viewpoint of a male-dominated battle.

Based on the novel by beloved author Philippa Gregory (who also wrote "The Other Boleyn Girl"), this series has many of the same elements that made "Poldark" so great: high stakes, sumptuous visuals, and more than enough drama stuffed into eight episodes. If you enjoy watching "The White Queen," there's plenty more where that came from. There are two sequel series, "The White Princess" (starring Emmy-winning actress Jodie Comer) and "The Spanish Princess," both on Starz.

The Crown

If shows with high levels of prestige are your thing, you could not get any more prestigious than "The Crown." Created by Peter Morgan ("The Queen") and based on his own play "The Audience," the show charts the journey of Queen Elizabeth II over many decades. It boasts one of the most remarkable casts of all time, changing every two seasons. To put it simply, if a performer is British and alive, there is an excellent chance you can see them on "The Crown." Some of the revolving cast through the first four seasons includes Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, Matt Smith, John Lithgow, Helena Bonham Carter, and Vanessa Kirby. The show provides unprecedented insight into the inner workings of Royal life, making it rather tantalizing for viewers around the globe.

"The Crown" has proven to be dominant at award shows (via IMDb), winning 14 Primetime Emmys over its first four seasons. While some shows on this list liberally bend historical facts at will, "The Crown" prides itself on accuracy, and despite pressure from the real-life royal family, refuses to add a fiction disclaimer. If you've drawn the ire of the people you're showcasing, you may just be revealing some long-kept secrets. With the indomitable Imelda Staunton taking the reign as Elizabeth II for the final two seasons, there's no better time to get binging.

Alias Grace

While "The Handmaid's Tale" has proven an enormous hit among critics and fans, another enthralling series based on a Margaret Atwood novel has flown under the radar. The internationally renowned Canadian author has written a plethora of other titles, and "Alias Grace” has had an adaptation that is every bit as worthy as its more popular sibling. Besides, the show is no stranger to praise in its own right. The miniseries is based on a true story of an Irish immigrant to Canada, Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), who is accused of murder. As the story unfolds, it keeps viewers guessing over its six episodes.

For fans of "The Handmaid's Tale," the two series share a couple of key similarities. They both boast compelling narration and in many ways are cautionary tales about the toxic nature of misogyny. Alongside the exceptional Gadon, the cast of "Alias Grace" is tremendous — Anna Paquin, Zachary Levi, Edward Holcroft, Paul Gross, and David Cronenberg all excel in supporting roles. For those who love their historical dramas with a blend of psychological thriller and mystery, this one's for you.

Peaky Blinders

For those yearning for a historical drama blended with a dark crime thriller tone, look no further than "Peaky Blinders." The beloved British series is based on the (former) real-life gang of Birmingham's Peaky Blinders and stars Cillian Murphy as their leader. Though period dramas are often perceived as stuffy and uptight, "Peaky Blinders" simply exudes cool. The show never shies away from violence, and is equally happy to get political — after all, the time it evokes was a hotbed of social uprising.

While Murphy positively dazzles in the lead role of Thomas Shelby, the rest of the cast is outstanding too: Paul Anderson, Helen McCrory, Sophie Rundle, and Finn Cole all shine bright. With the show coming to an end after six seasons, there's no better time to start watching. Come for the violence, but stay for the performances, legendary haircuts, and period-faithful costuming — the hats and coats alone are simply to die for.

Marco Polo

Netflix truly went all out with "Marco Polo," one of the most expensive shows ever made; the first season cost over $90 million. The historical epic tells the story of Marco Polo (Lorenzo Richelmy), who ends up as a prisoner to the ruthless Kublai Khan (the beloved MCU stalwart Benedict Wong). There is a lot to admire about "Marco Polo." It's overloaded with visual splendor, and you can really feel that massive budget being put to work. Though its first season wasn't all that warmly received, the second season really took off and is simply a sight to behold. Paired with some fantastic action, it's well worth your time.

Despite the enormous investment on Netflix's part, Marco Polo was canceled after two seasons and was critically derided. However, one look at the difference between its Rotten Tomatoes scores will show that fans loved it anyway. Though it might not be the best historical drama around, "Marco Polo" is certainly a fascinating case study, and it deserves better than being known as the show that lost Netflix around $200 million.

Call the Midwife

If you're looking for a historical drama bursting with British charm, look no further than "Call the Midwife." This adored series has been going strong for over a decade, with no end in sight. Join the nurses, nuns, and midwives of nursing convent Nonnatus House, who take pride in offering their services to East London's poorest and most vulnerable. "Call the Midwife" is not afraid to tackle difficult issues around women's healthcare with aplomb and is all the more rewarding for it.

The show has featured a bevy of great British talent, including the writer-director of "Promising Young Woman," Emerald Fennell, who starred on the show from Seasons 3 to 6. It also includes Pam Ferris, who played the iconic villain Agatha Trunchbull from the childhood classic "Matilda," looking positively unrecognizable in her role across the first five seasons.

"Call the Midwife" represents so much of what makes a good historical drama such a delight to watch. This show is unafraid of difficult conversations, but you cannot help but feel warm and comforted. "Call the Midwife" is further proof that the British are responsible for many of the great period dramas.

The Luminaries

Adapted from Eleanor Catton's fantastic novel of the same name, "The Luminaries" brings viewers into the heart of New Zealand's gold rush period of the 1860s. It's chock-full of murder, revenge, magic, and love. The series stars Eva Green ("Penny Dreadful") as a traveler looking to exploit the gold rush, and Eve Hewson ("Behind Her Eyes") as an American fortune teller. Catton adapted her own novel, telling a similar story but departing a good deal from the source material, so fans of the book have a whole new world to explore in the television series. Alongside Green and Hewson, the cast features Martin Csokas ("The Equalizer"), Himesh Patel ("Tenet"), and Ewen Leslie ("Peter Rabbit").

Over its six episodes, "The Luminaries" also makes the most of its breathtaking New Zealand setting and features plenty of lush backdrops, paired with beautiful, ornate costuming. If you enjoy watching "The Luminaries," Catton also wrote the screenplay for the recent Jane Austen adaptation "Emma," starring Anya-Taylor Joy ("The Queen's Gambit").


The CW series "Reign" has proven to be a big success on Netflix. Set in the 16th century, it follows Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) as she rises to power. "Reign" is definitely a must-watch for those viewers who love the soapier elements of "Poldark." A show that almost feels like it was designed to be binged, you will fall in love with the glamorous costuming and nonstop plot twists, not to mention the dramatic political intrigue that courses through the show's veins.

Though its historical accuracy is certainly up for debate, there are enough details that it doesn't feel completely farfetched. You can feel the inspiration of these historic women, and the representations of women in "Reign" are certainly commendable and refreshing; they definitely take their fate into their own hands. This series is a heck of a lot of fun, and before you know it you'll have made your way through all four seasons and be wishing there was more.

The Americans

"The Americans" is considerably more modern than the other shows on this list, but it certainly fits the bill as a historical drama. To get straight to the point, "The Americans" is a stone-cold masterpiece. Despite being criminally underseen, it is simply one of the greatest shows of all time and has received immense critical acclaim. It tells the story of the Jennings clan, a seemingly normal family hiding a shocking secret in 1980s Cold War America. As undercover KGB agents still working for Russia, Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) are characters with unbelievable depth, and it doesn't take long for you to become deeply invested in their story.

This FX show has some of the finest performances ever committed to screen. While Rhys finally landed an Emmy win for the sixth and final season, the fact that Russell never won herself stands as an egregious snub. The cast also features sensational performances from Margo Martindale, Noah Emmerich, Alison Wright, and Holly Taylor. While this may sound like a lot of hyperbole, "The Americans" deserves all the love (and then some). It's an intense thriller and a remarkable portrait of a family in crisis, loaded with incredible attention to detail. It also has a bulletproof finale and is the very definition of must-watch television.