Let’s check in with Acorn TV, North America’s largest streaming service specializing in British and international television to see which period dramas are available in 2020.
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Below, you’ll find what’s coming to Acorn in the next month, followed by a big list of other historical, costume, and period dramas that are streaming on Acorn TV in 2020. We’ve sorted that list into various categories like literary adaptations, mysteries, foreign language dramas, and movies and series set in a specific time period.
You’ll want to bookmark this page, as it will be updated all year as new movies and series in the genre are added. If you watch Acorn TV as an Amazon add-on channel, click on “Add to your WATCHLIST” at the end of each description to save these shows for future viewing.
New Period Dramas in March 2020
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears
This highly anticipated and gorgeously-shot feature film continues the story of “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” which aired for three seasons (2012-2015) and is one of the most popular Australian series worldwide.
In this lighthearted feature film, Essie Davis returns in the role as the slinky, seductive and risk-taking Melbourne sleuth The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher embarking on an exhilarating new journey of mystery and mayhem through exotic 1920s British Palestine and the opulence of grand London manors. In 1929 Jerusalem, Phryne’s rescue of a young Bedouin girl leads her on a globe-trotting adventure to uncover priceless treasures, wartime secrets, and an ancient tomb bearing a terrible curse, with the help of handsome detective Jack Robinson.
Starring Essie Davis, Nathan Page, Ashleigh Cummings, Rupert Penry-Jones, Miriam Margolyes.
Read more about it here.
Available March 23, 2020.
Murdoch Mysteries (Season 13)
The award-winning Canadian series Murdoch Mysteries unrolls new episodes with more whodunnit intrigue and its trademark engaging stories.
In this beloved, award-winning Canadian series, Detective William Murdoch uses radical forensic techniques like fingerprinting and ultraviolet light to solve turn-of-the-century Toronto’s most intriguing mysteries, with the help of Constable Crabtree, Dr. Julia Ogden, and Inspector John Brackenreid.
Starring Yannick Bisso, Jonny Harris, Hélène Joy, Thomas Craig.
Add to your WATCHLIST
New episodes Mondays through April 13, 2020
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Mount Stewart – The Big House Reborn: This fascinating documentary series grants exclusive access to capture the trials and tribulations of the £8 million restoration of Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland. Filmed over 3 years, see this National Trust-owned 18th Century neo-classical manor house and its extensive gardens restored to their former glory. For more than 200 years, The Mount Stewart House was the luxurious summer home of one of the most influential political and land-owning dynasties in Ireland. Available March 9, 2020
Period Dramas on Acorn TV in 2020
The following list of historical, costume, period dramas currently streaming on Acorn TV is divided into categories: Adapted from the Novel, Set in New Territories, Set around The Great War & Second World War, Set in the 1950s and 1960s, Foreign Language Period Dramas, Period-set Comedy and Fantasy, For Fans of Sleuthing, and Related Documentaries and Docudramas. After that, we share any news about upcoming period dramas.
If you aren’t already a subscriber, you can still watch these shows: Acorn TV offers a 7-day free trial on their website, and for the Acorn TV Add-on Channel.
Adapted from the Novel
A Dance to the Music of Time: A brilliant adaptation of a literary masterpiece, “A Dance to the Music of Time” chronicles a half century of British upper-class life through the eyes of protagonist Nicholas Jenkins (James Purefoy, Rome). From the 1920s through the 1960s, friendship, adultery, ambition, and failure play out against the backdrop of London’s social, political, and artistic life. Based on Anthony Powell’s 12 novel cycle. Add to your WATCHLIST
An Accidental Soldier: This tender and unexpected love story set amid the tumult of WWI follows an army deserter who takes refuge with a grieving French woman. As she teaches him what courage truly is, he shows her the beauty in life that she thought was gone. Based on the novel Silent Parts by John Charalambous, and research into the stories of Australian soldiers in Normandy during WW1. Add to your WATCHLIST
Anna Karenina: One of the greatest books of all time comes alive in this romantic saga based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel. In 19th century Russia, aristocrat Anna Karenina (Helen McCrory, Peaky Blinders) has a passionate extramarital affair with the dashing Count Vronsky that could lead to both their ruin. Stephen Dillane and Mark Strong also star. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Camomile Lawn: It’s August 1939 and five cousins gather at their uncle’s big house on the Cornish coast. The imminence of war charges the air as they frolic on the fragrant lawn and tempt fate on the terrifying cliffs that one last sultry summer. Returning to the house nearly half a century later for a funeral, they recall how the war rearranged their lives and brought them suffering, sex, and love. Adapted from the novel by Mary Wesley. Add to your WATCHLIST
Cider with Rosie: This beautifully shot, elegiac drama is a coming-of-age story set in a remote English valley post-WWI. Raised by his kindly mother (Samantha Morton) among a pack of siblings, Laurie Lee experiences the wonders of love and friendship but also the brutality of loss and death. Based on the book by Laurie Lee. Add to your WATCHLIST
Doctor Finlay: Based on the classic stories by A.J. Cronin, this charming period drama follows Dr. Finlay (David Rintoul, Pride and Prejudice), who returns home after WWII to a rundown medical practice in a Scottish village. There, he confronts small-town politics as he advocates for change. Annette Crosbie and Oscar nominee Ian Bannen co-star. Add to your WATCHLIST
Echoes: Based on the book by beloved author Maeve Binchy, this miniseries follows Clare O’Brien, a smart but poor girl who dreams of a better life. Encouraged by her teacher (Geraldine James, Anne with an E), Clare studies to win a scholarship and escape her Irish village. But will the attentions of the town lothario and the posh doctor’s son block her way? Add to your WATCHLIST
Fanny Hill: Screenwriter Andrew Davies brings all of his sly wit to this adaptation of 18th-century Britain’s most notorious novel. With a mischievous glint in her eye and plenty of knowing winks, Fanny relates her journey from wholesome naif to worldly woman. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Far Pavilions: This epic tale of passion, treachery, and intrigue in colonial India is based on the international bestseller by M.M. Kaye. Ben Cross is a young army officer fighting local unrest and cultural prejudice, with Amy Irving as his forbidden love. Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, and John Gielgud also star. Add to your WATCHLIST
I, Claudius: Winner of an Emmy and numerous other awards, this BBC epic is a tale of ambition, debauchery, and intrigue based on the novels by Robert Graves. Rated one of the “100 Best TV Shows of All Time” by Time magazine, the series spans the history of the Roman Empire from Augustus through Claudius and stars Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, Sian Phillips, Lindsay Duncan, John Hurt, and Brian Blessed. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Irish RM: Classic series based on the on the turn-of-the-century stories by Somerville and Ross. Peter Bowles (To the Manor Born) stars as Major Sinclair Yeates, a retired English army officer who becomes a Resident Magistrate in pre-independence West Ireland. Add to your WATCHLIST
Jamaica Inn: Based on the beloved gothic novel by Daphne Du Maurier, Jamaica Inn follows Mary Yellan, an orphan sent to the rugged coast of Cornwall to live with her aunt. Mary is met by a brutish, menacing man-her uncle, Joss. She soon learns that no guests stay at the inn, and Joss is part of a savage gang of smugglers. Add to your WATCHLIST
Lorna Doone: John Ridd was just a boy when the villainous Carver Doone callously murdered his father. Now a young man, John has two driving passions: his thirst for revenge against the outlaw Doones, and his love for the beautiful Lorna, daughter of his sworn enemies. Clive Owen, Sean Bean, and a luminous Polly Walker star in this action-packed adventure set in lawless 17th-century England during the Monmouth rebellion. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Mayor of Casterbridge: Ciarán Hinds stars in this award-winning adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel of redemption and regret. In 19th-century England, a drunken farmworker auctions off his wife and baby girl. Horrified by his actions, he turns sober and prosperous, but his family’s return decades later precipitates his downfall. Also starring James Purefoy and Polly Walker. Add to your WATCHLIST
Poldark: This epic saga created a sensation when it first aired on Masterpiece Theatre in 1975, drawing comparisons to “Gone with the Wind.” Set in 18th-century Cornwall after America’s War for Independence, Robin Ellis stars as Captain Ross Poldark, a young hero who returns home to find his estate in ruins, his inheritance gone, and his beloved Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) engaged to another man. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Scapegoat: Emmy winner® Matthew Rhys stars in this morally complex, darkly comic, and suspenseful film based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. When unemployed teacher John runs into his doppelgänger, he ends up switching places with the wealthy but wicked Johnny. Also starring Eileen Atkins. Set in the UK in 1952 as Britain prepares for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Scarlet Pimpernel: This Emmy-nominated adaptation of the classic swashbucking tale stars Jane Seymour (Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman) and Anthony Andrews (Brideshead Revisited). While enemies of the new French Republic are carried to off to the guillotine, more than a few of France’s hated aristocrats have escaped execution thanks to the actions of a dashing young Englishman known as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Based on the first novel in a series of historical fiction by Baroness Orczy. Add to your WATCHLIST
Sword Of Honour: Daniel Craig stars in this award-winning drama based on Evelyn Waugh’s semi-autobiographical WWII epic. Englishman Guy Crouchback is recovering from a failed marriage with WWII on the horizon. Determined to redeem himself, he returns home to fight the good fight but instead confronts the baffling realities of life in the British army. Add to your WATCHLIST
Under Capricorn: Based on the popular novel by Helen Simpson and filmed on location in Australia, this engrossing saga follows a young Irish immigrant who arrives in New South Wales to seek his fortune. He finds himself entangled with a local wealthy family, and uncovers more than a few secrets that won’t stay buried. Add to your WATCHLIST
War & Peace: This magnificent adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic was filmed in six European countries by Oscar-nominated director Robert Dornhelm. Malcolm McDowell, Brenda Blethyn, Clemence Poesy, and Ken Duken star in this sumptuous adaptation of one of the world’s greatest novels about four aristocratic families in Russia during the Napoleonic era. Add to your WATCHLIST
Wide Sargasso Sea: In this prequel to Jane Eyre, based on the novel by Jean Rhys, the infamous madwoman in the attic becomes a sympathetic character of her own. In 1830s Jamaica, Creole heiress Antoinette (Rebecca Hall, Parade’s End) marries Englishman Edward Rochester (Rafe Spall), but their love sinks into suspicion and betrayal. Add to your WATCHLIST
Also see Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill: In a luminous performance that won her the Golden Globe® for best actress, Lee Remick stars as the mother of Sir Winston Churchill in this acclaimed British miniseries. Following her through her whirlwind marriage, Winston’s youth, a feud with royalty, exile from England, and her eventual return, this is a captivating portrait of a spirited American woman, with an outstanding cast. Not based on a book, but it was written by playwright Julian Mitchell, who drew on private letters and papers from the Churchill family. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Sleuthing section below also has numerous Agatha Christie adaptations, alongside other period-set mysteries based on books, like “The Secret Agent.”
Set in New Territories
Dominion Creek: In 1897, the Connolly brothers-recent immigrants from Ireland-dream of striking it rich in the Wild West. When news reaches them of a fortune in the Yukon, youngest brother Samus heads north to the town of Dominion, leaving Tom and Pdraig no choice but to follow their wayward sibling. Add to your WATCHLIST
Jericho: In 1870s Yorkshire, recent widow Annie Quaintain (Jessica Raine, Call the Midwife, Wolf Hall) is forced to sell her house and possessions to pay off her late husband’s debts. Penniless and shunned by society, Annie sets up a lodging house in Jericho, a lawless shanty town full of rough and rowdy workers. Add to your WATCHLIST
New Worlds: Jamie Dornan stars in this lavish period drama set in England and the American colonies during the 1680s. A gripping tale of love, loss, and the human price paid in the struggle for liberty, New Worlds also stars Joe Dempsie, Jeremy Northam, Tom Payne, and Donald Sumpter. Add to your WATCHLIST
Set around The Great War & Second World War
And Then There Were None: On the brink of World War II, 10 troubled strangers are invited to an isolated island–and targeted for death, one by one. Based on the bestselling crime novel of all time by Agatha Christie, this period mystery boasts an all-star cast including Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Anna Maxwell Martin, Toby Stephens, Burn Gorman, Noah Taylor, and Aidan Turner. Add to your WATCHLIST
ANZAC Girls: A series recounting the true-life stories of Australian and New Zealand army nurses during World War 1. This richly-detailed Australian series recounts the largely untold stories of five brave Australian and New Zealand army nurses who travelled halfway across the world to serve in World War 1. Full of romantic notions, they face the carnage of Gallipoli and the Western front, horrific living conditions, prejudice, and devastating personal loss. Rising to meet the challenge, they find love and lasting friendship. Based on Peter Rees’ book “The Other ANZACS,” drawing on the real nurses’ letters, journals, and historical records, this acclaimed miniseries tells the harrowing, life-affirming stories of these unsung heroines. Add to your WATCHLIST
Close to the Enemy: An all-star cast including Jim Sturgess, Alfred Molina, Angela Bassett, Alfie Allen, and Lindsay Duncan anchors this lavish British drama set in a bomb-damaged London hotel during the aftermath of WWII. Intelligence officer Callum Ferguson must complete his last task for the Army: convince captured German scientist Dieter Koehler to work with the British government. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Diary of Anne Frank: The poignant true story of a Jewish girl in WWII is brought to life by an all-star cast in this BBC production. Ellie Kendrick stars as Anne Frank, who hides from the Nazis for two years in an Amsterdam attic with her family, writing a diary that evokes the power of humanity, tolerance, and the will to live. Iain Glen and Felicity Jones co-star. Add to your WATCHLIST
Foyle’s War: Combining historical accuracy with compelling mysteries, this award winning British series is a must-watch. Michael Kitchen stars as Christopher Foyle, the upright, laconic detective tasked with investigating cases on the home front as WWII ravages the social fabric of his coastal community. Add to your WATCHLIST
Restless: This Emmy-nominated BBC drama is a tale of passion, duplicity, and betrayal. boasts a terrific cast. Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey) is stunned to learn that her mother (Charlotte Rampling, Broadchurch), has been living a double life. Her real name is Eva Delectorskaya, and she worked as a spy for the British in the 1940s. Read our review. Add to your WATCHLIST
Sisters of War: As WWII rages, a group of Australian nurses and Catholic nuns on a Pacific island become Japanese prisoners of war. Based on real events, this riveting film is a tale of strength, survival, and forgiveness in the most harrowing times. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Trench: Daniel Craig stars in this riveting drama about a group of young British soldiers stationed on the western front during World War I. Featuring an outstanding cast including James D’Arcy (Dunkirk), Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders), and Ben Whishaw (The Danish Girl), “The Trench” is set on the eve of the devastating Battle of the Somme. Add to your WATCHLIST
Also see “An Accidental Soldier,” “The Camomile Lawn,” “Cider with Rosie,” “Doctor Finlay,” and “Sword Of Honour,” listed in the Adapted from the Novel section above.
Set in the 1950s and 1960s
A Place to Call Home: This binge-worthy saga is brimming with secrets, passion, romance, and intrigue. Over six addictive seasons, “A Place to Call Home” explores the ties that hold families together and the betrayals that can tear them apart. Read our interview. Add to your WATCHLIST
Cilla: Priscilla White is a typist from working-class Liverpool who dreams of stardom; Bobby Willis is the chancer who pursues her; Brian Epstein is the young genius who will later guide The Beatles to superstardom. Cilla tells the true story of how these three lives intertwine to propel Cilla to the top of the charts–but at a cost. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Hour: Set in the 1950s, this Emmy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated BBC drama delves into the high-stakes world of TV news. Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, and Dominic West headline an all-star cast that includes Anna Chancellor and Peter Capaldi. Read our review. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Indian Doctor: This uplifting and charming period drama from the BBC follows an Indian doctor (Sanjeev Bhaskar) who moves to a small Welsh village in the early 1960s. As he and his upper class wife (Ayesha Dharker, Indian Summers) adjust to life in the mining town, they start to change the community–and the community changes them. Add to your WATCHLIST
Jericho of Scotland Yard: Robert Lindsay stars as Chief Inspector Michael Jericho of Scotland Yard, a respected, uncompromising, and forward-thinking detective investigating high-profile murders in 1950s London. Set during a fascinating period of Britain’s social history, the series is more than a whodunnit, offering a peek at the explosion of shifting attitudes after the Second World War. Add to your WATCHLIST
Mrs Biggs: In a role that won her a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress, Sheridan Smith stars as Mrs. Charmian Biggs, naive wife of one of the infamous criminals behind Britain’s Great Train Robbery, Ronnie Biggs (Daniel Mays). Add to your WATCHLIST
Also see “Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries” in the Sleuthing section below.
Foreign Language Period Dramas
The Ladies’ Paradise: Based on the same Emile Zola novel that inspired the hit series “The Paradise,” this Italian-language import follows Teresa Iorio, a young woman who leaves her rural Sicilian hometown for Milan. Teresa finds work–and much more–at a newly opened department store: The Ladies’ Paradise. Please note: Currently on the second season is available, but it’s so good you may want to give it a try after reading our review so you have a sense of what is happening. Read our review. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Life of Verdi: Giuseppe Verdi was born in 1813 and lived until 1901, a life that spanned nearly a century of considerable political and personal turmoil. This 1982 biographical television miniseries, as seen on PBS’s Great Performances, dramatizes the life of this classic Italian composer known for operas including La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Aida. Italian with English subtitles. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Promised Life: This epic Italian-language saga follows a courageous mother’s quest to make a better life for her family in the face of tragedy and hardship. In the early 1920s, Carmela Carrizzo and her husband farm lands in Sicily belonging to the unscrupulous Spanò. After a series of misfortunes, Carmela resolves to leave Italy for an uncertain but hopeful future in New York. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Viceroys: Set in Sicily in the early 1800’s, this series follows the tribulations of Consalvo Uzeda from childhood to adulthood. With the Unification of Italy in 1861, and the rise to power of Giuseppe Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele II, the Consalvo’s family begins to lose their power, but his father, the tyrannical Prince Giacomo, will do anything to retain it. Italian with English subtitles. Add to your WATCHLIST
Vidago Palace: Nominated for numerous European TV awards, this Portuguese-language romantic saga is set in 1936 at the opulent Vidago Palace hotel, a haven for Europe’s elite from the Spanish Civil War erupting across the border. Young aristocrat Carlota is engaged to marry the wealthy César and save her family from bankruptcy, but when she falls for the son of the hotel’s concierge, she must decide her destiny. Add to your WATCHLIST
Also see “Les Petits Meurtres D’Agatha Christie” in the Sleuthing section below.
Period-set Comedy and Fantasy
Anglo Saxon Attitudes: This biting satire based on the acclaimed novel skewers British hypocrisy, Richard Johnson (The Camomile Lawn) plays a historian coming to terms with his life’s folly and the affair he had with his best friend’s fiancee (Tara Fitzgerald). Co-starring Daniel Craig in one of his first roles. Add to your WATCHLIST
Decline and Fall: This acclaimed BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s (Brideshead Revisited) novel follows Paul Pennyfeather (Jack Whitehall), an unassuming Oxford theology student whose expulsion finds him working under headmaster Fagan (David Suchet, Poirot) at a third-rate private school in Wales. Add to your WATCHLIST
Goodnight Sweetheart: Gary Sparrow is an ordinary bloke in 1990s Britain, married to the ambitious Yvonne and working as a TV repairman. Then his whole world changes when he stumbles upon a portal to WWII-era London and begins a dual life as an accidental time traveler in this cult favorite BBC sitcom. Add to your WATCHLIST
Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal: In this lavish made-for-TV adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s novel–part of the bestselling, delightfully surreal Discworld series–con man Moist von Lipwig (Richard Coyle) is caught by the law and given two choices: suffer a painful death or take over a derelict post office. Claire Foy (The Crown), David Suchet (Poirot), and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones) also star. Add to your WATCHLIST
For Fans of Sleuthing
Agatha Christie Hour: From renowned mystery writer Agatha Christie come these tales of intrigue and romance set in Art Deco-era England. These classic adaptations feature star-studded casts, including John Nettles, Amanda Redman, Stephanie Cole, and Rupert Everett. Add to your WATCHLIST
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Proper, demure, and sharp as a tack, Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth is brilliantly portrayed by Geraldine McEwan and Julia McKenzie in these charming period mysteries. Guest stars include Benedict Cumberbatch, Joanna Lumley, Laurence Fox, Matthew Goode, and others. Add to your WATCHLIST
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: Jessica Raine (Wolf Hall, Call the Midwife) and David Walliams (Little Britain) star in these delightful adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence mysteries. Set in Cold War Britain, the bickering, bantering couple find themselves embroiled in a series of mysteries and espionage plots. Add to your WATCHLIST
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Mysterious Affair at Styles: Watch the story that started it all with this delightful adaptation of Agatha Christie’s first Poirot novel. In the summer of 1917, Arthur Hastings (Hugh Fraser) convalesces from his war injuries at the home of the wealthy Cavendishes, but tensions simmer among the family. When the trouble at the estate turns criminal, Hastings calls upon his old friend Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) for help. Add to your WATCHLIST
Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution: An all-star cast including Kim Cattrall, Andrea Riseborough, Toby Jones, and David Haig feature in this acclaimed TV movie based on Agatha Christie’s timeless murder mystery. Set in 1920s London, this is a sumptuous adaptation. Add to your WATCHLIST
Foyle’s War: Combining historical accuracy with compelling mysteries, this award winning British series is a must-watch. Michael Kitchen stars as Christopher Foyle, the upright, laconic detective tasked with investigating cases on the home front as WWII ravages the social fabric of his coastal community. Add to your WATCHLIST
Les Petits Meurtres D’Agatha Christie: Agatha Christie’s masterful storytelling gets a dash of French flair in these sexy, witty mysteries. In 1930s France, Superintendent Larosière has a passion for beautiful women and solving cases, while hapless young inspector Lampion just tries to keep up. And in the mid-50s, ultra-suave Commissioner Laurence unravels the knottiest crimes. These French adaptations are a fresh, stylish twist on classic Christie tales. Add to your WATCHLIST
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: This stylish and sexy period mystery stars Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher, a thoroughly modern woman operating in a mostly male world. Set in 1920s Melbourne, the series follows the glamorous lady detective as she goes about her work with a pistol close at hand and, more often than not, a male admirer even closer. Add to your WATCHLIST
Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries: In this spin-off to the wildly popular Australian mystery series, Phryne Fisher’s long-lost niece, Peregrine, decides to follow in her stylish footsteps as a lady detective for a new era. With the help of the handsome, straitlaced Detective James Steed and a group of accomplished women, Peregrine investigates murders in 1960s Melbourne. Add to your WATCHLIST
Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie’s iconic mystery is brought to vivid life in this sumptuous adaptation featuring Jessica Chastain, Toby Jones, Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville, and more. David Suchet delivers another pitch-perfect performance as the iconic Belgian detective who solves a shocking murder on the luxurious train. Read our review. Add to your WATCHLIST
Murdoch Mysteries: In this beloved, award-winning Canadian series, Detective William Murdoch solves turn-of-the-century Toronto’s most intriguing mysteries with the help of Constable Crabtree, Dr. Julia Ogden, and Inspector Brackenreid. Add to your WATCHLIST
Reilly: Ace of Spies: Nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe, this epic miniseries tells the true story of Sidney Reilly, the legendary super-spy who inspired James Bond. Sam Neill (Peaky Blinders) stars as the suave Reilly, who spied for Britain against his native Russia in the early 1900s, even plotting to overthrow Lenin. Hugh Fraser (Poirot) and Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey) also star. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: From the pens of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s counterparts, these finely crafted mysteries showcase an impressive cast of investigators, often as colorful as the criminals they set out to catch. Stars in this classic anthology series include Peter Vaughan, John Neville, Donald Sinden, Donald Pleasence, and Jeremy Irons. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Secret Agent: In this thrilling BBC adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s timeless novel, Golden Globe nominee Toby Jones stars as Anton Verloc, an unassuming Soho shopkeeper. Unbeknownst to even his loyal wife, Winnie, Verloc also works for the Russian embassy as a spy. Add to your WATCHLIST
Seven Dials Mystery: Iconic actor John Gielgud (Arthur) and BAFTA Award winning actress Cheryl Campbell (Call the Midwife) star in this adaptation of Dame Agatha Christie’s mystery. Young aristocrat Lady Eileen “Bundle” Brent insinuates herself into a series of murders, stolen state secrets, and a mysterious secret society. Add to your WATCHLIST
Tommy and Tuppence: Partners in Crime: Packed with period atmosphere and playful banter, Partners in Crime follows Tommy and Tuppence Beresford as they mix marriage and mystery solving. Stars Francesca Annis and James Warwick. Add to your WATCHLIST
Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?: This tale of murder, suspense, intrigue, and false identities sees amateur sleuths Bobby and Frankie Derwent investigating a mysterious death. James Warwick and Francesca Annis (Tommy & Tuppence) play another witty crime-solving pair created by Agatha Christie. Also featuring John Gielgud and Eric Porter. Add to your WATCHLIST
Related Documentaries and Docudramas
The 1900 Island: A living history BBC series following four families who experience life as it was in a Victorian-era fishing village on the dramatic and wild tidal island of Llanddwyn off the coast of Anglesey in the start of the 20th century. It’s a time of hand to mouth existence as these families come face to face with the harsh realities of one of the toughest ways to make a living in 1900 Britain. They must adapt quickly to their new way of life, but bad weather, lack of experience and limited rations lead to hunger and frustrations. Add to your WATCHLIST
A Stitch in Time: Fashion is the mirror of history, said Louis XIV. Fusing biography, art, and history, this BBC documentary series explores the lives of historical figures through the clothes they wore. Fashion historian Amber Butchart looks for clues within the portraits, while costumer Ninya Mikhaila reconstructs a range of garments using only period techniques. Add to your WATCHLIST
Armistice: Cambridge historian Professor David Reynolds takes a fresh look at the extraordinary events and people who crafted the 1918 armistice that ended WWI. In a journey that takes him through command centers and battlefields, he uncovers a story of wounded egos, political scheming, and brinkmanship behind the scenes as soldiers continued to fight on the front lines. Add to your WATCHLIST
Being Poirot: After 25 years of playing one of television’s most beloved characters, David Suchet attempts to discover why fans have gravitated toward the great Hercule Poirot for all these years and shares his experience of portraying the iconic, enigmatic detective. Add to your WATCHLIST
Britain’s Bloody Crown: Presented by acclaimed historian Dan Jones, this four-part documentary reveals the true history of the Wars of the Roses like never before. Scripted reenactments combine with Jones’s unique storytelling to bring to life a tale of human frailties, rivalries, forced hands, and sheer luck that changed Britain and the monarchy forever. Add to your WATCHLIST
Elizabeth I & Her Enemies: Queen Elizabeth I was one of England’s greatest monarchs, but she spent her life surrounded by enemies. Presenters Dan Jones (Britain’s Bloody Crown) and Suzannah Lipscomb (Hidden Killers) tell this dramatic tale of jealousy, betrayal, and ambition, with Lily Cole (Snow White and the Huntsman) portraying Elizabeth in the key clashes that shaped her life. Add to your WATCHLIST
Empire: Hosted by veteran BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman (The Victorians), this five-part series examines the impact of the British empire and how it continues to influence the world in the present day. Add to your WATCHLIST
Henry IX: The Lost King: Henry Frederick Stuart was the best king Britain never had. The son of King James I of England and Queen Anne, he started the British Museum and the Royal Collection and was the first royal prince to back a permanent settlement on American soil in the early 1700s. This immersive documentary resurrects this forgotten prince from the shadows of history and reveals the tragedy of his lost potential. Add to your WATCHLIST
Keeping the Castle: Living in a castle seems like a fairytale come true, but for these Irish aristocrats, keeping the family home up to scratch can often feel more like a nightmare. From hosting weddings and location shoots for TV shows to the ever-increasing financial challenges of maintaining aging edifices, discover the unique joys and surprising woes of owning grand, historic estates in this BBC docuseries. Add to your WATCHLIST
Living in the Shadow of World War II: War has never been limited to the battlefield. It destroys cities and kills loved ones, casting a shadow over everything it touches–but life somehow finds a way to shine, even in the toughest of times. Covering topics from rationing ingenuity to evacuating children and boosting morale, this eye-opening docuseries explores the lives of civilians on the ground as WWII raged around them. Add to your WATCHLIST
Lords and Ladles: Three of Ireland’s top chefs take viewers on a historical journey through the weird and wondrous glories of food. In each episode, they arrive at a stately country home to recreate a grand dinner from its past, using old recipes, unusual ingredients, and traditional cooking methods. Add to your WATCHLIST
Medieval Lives: In this documentary, historian and author Dr. Helen Castor (She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens) examines how the people of the Middle Ages handled three of life’s great rites of passage–birth, marriage, and death. Add to your WATCHLIST
Minding our Manors: Go inside the walls of royalty in “Minding Our Manors”. Viscount John Crichton travels to meet his cousins Lord and Lady Dunleath, who own Ballywalter Park. They provide candid insight into what goes on behind the closed doors of their home, the pressures they face, and their hands-on approach to the royal life. Add to your WATCHLIST
Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages: Dame Penelope Keith travels through Britain’s charming villages to uncover what makes these places so unique and special. Armed with her beloved vintage ‘Batsford’ travel books, Penelope explores the rich artistic, literary and royal histories of each region, discovers how time has changed village communities, and seeks out quirky local traditions which continue to this day. Add to your WATCHLIST
Poirot: Super Sleuths: Go behind the scenes of the beloved series starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s most famous detective. In this delightful documentary, the cast, crew, and a variety of experts discuss adapting Christie’s works and explore Poirot’s widespread appeal. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Real Doctor Zhivago: This documentary traces Boris Pasternak’s personal journey as he wrote Doctor Zhivago over 20 tumultuous years, risking his life to be truthful about the Soviet regime. Add to your WATCHLIST
She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens: Hosted by Dr. Helen Castor and filmed on location in England and France, this captivating BBC series explores the lives of seven English queens who challenged male power, the fierce and fiery reactions they provoked, and whether, in fact, much has changed. Add to your WATCHLIST
Station X: During WWII, the fate of the world depended on the code breakers at Bletchley Park, Britain’s super-secret headquarters for cracking the “unbreakable” Enigma machine. Against the odds, these schoolboys, academics, and crossword fanatics turned Germany’s greatest weapon into its greatest liability. This fascinating documentary offers first-hand accounts of “Station X” and how they cracked the code. Add to your WATCHLIST
The Story of Women and Power: In this sweeping series, historian Amanda Vickery (The Story of Women and Art) tells the saga of British women’s battles in the centuries-old war of the sexes. From a 1649 march for women’s rights, to the Duchess of Queensberry crashing the House of Lords in 1738, to the militant activities of the Edwardian era and beyond, suffragettes endured many challenges in their fight for women’s equality. Read more about it. Add to your WATCHLIST
Victoria Wood’s A Nice Cup of Tea: An exploration of Britain’s love affair with tea. From the back streets of Kolkata to the mega city of Shanghai, Victoria reveals how the cozy “cuppa” united east and west, triggered wars, and helped win them. Meeting fascinating people-and grumpy elephants-along the way, she asks how this little leaf became such an important part of British life. Add to your WATCHLIST
Victorian House of Arts & Crafts: In this illuminating living history series, a group of 21st-century crafters move into a commune in the Welsh hills that recreates life during the late 1800s Arts & Crafts movement. Over their month-long stay, they renovate four rooms in the house using original Victorian tools and techniques and no present-day technology. Add to your WATCHLIST
Vintage Roads: Great and Small: Christopher Timothy and Peter Davison, stars of “All Creatures Great & Small,” host this journey into the golden age of motoring. Getting behind the wheels of a classic car, they set out on a series of road trips along beautiful vintage roads to experience the thrills of the era when people first fell in love with the motor car and when the open road was a gateway to adventure and exploration. Add to your WATCHLIST
Upcoming in 2020
Dead Still: A six-episode Victorian era crime drama. Set in 1880s Ireland, this darkly comic murder mystery follows renowned memorial photographer Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley), who makes a living out of taking photos of the dead in the Victorian era of “postmortem photography.” Blennerhasset becomes targeted as a possible suspect in a series of murders and with his family put in harm’s way, tenacious detective Frederick Regan (Aidan O’Hare) drags him into an investigation of Dublin’s criminal underbelly to track down the real serial killer before he strikes again. Inspired by a true-life Irish tradition in the 1800s, this series also stars Kerr Logan (Alias Grace) and Eileen O’Higgins (Brooklyn, Mary Queen of Scots). An Acorn TV Original coming in May, 2020. Read more about it here.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to see The Period Films List, with British, historical and costume dramas sorted by era.