25 Best Historical TV Shows to Watch Right Now

Historical events are perfect set-ups to display the heights of human emotion: from famine to war. Political events always pique public interest and the fictionalized accounts in grounded fiction help the audience to realize how art imitates life.

Here are our top picks for historical tv shows who have the most tumultuous events and characters from history.

25 Best Historical TV Shows to Watch Right Now

History is fascinating. It conveys stories that charm us while also delivering many timeless lessons.

Movies about historical happenings are abundant, some of which are truly exceptional. However, one cannot deny the fact that a TV series possesses the efficacy to portray an event with more detail. Movies simply don’t have enough run-time necessary to depict a historical event in its full glory, making TV series a better choice to understand history through.

In this article, we shall provide you with a list of the 15 best historical TV series that will transport you to different eras and fascinate you with the stories that they share.

1. Chernobyl

Chernobyl depicts the events that unfold during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster- one of the worst nuclear disasters in history in 1986 Soviet Union and a group of heroes who put their life at risk to save Europe.

Consisting of one season and 5 episodes, this miniseries was aired on HBO and Sky Atlantic from May 6 to June 3, 2019. It was directed by Johan Renck and was lauded for its historical accuracy, performances of the cast, and screenplay.

The series is rated amazingly with 9.4 on IMDb and 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

2. Band of Brothers

Adapted from the book sharing the same name by Stephen E. Ambrose, Band of Brothers portray the story of the Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division from 1942 to the end of World War II. The series includes numerous archived footage from the war.

It is a war miniseries consisting of 1 season and 10 episodes. The series has been highly praised and accoladed with the Emmy and Golden Globe awards for best miniseries. Rotten Tomatoes suggests Band of Brothers highly with 97%.

3. The Chosen

The Chosen is a biblical drama series illustrating the life of Jesus and his initial followers. Directed by Dallas Jenkins, the series is immensely praised. Jonathan Roumie features in the show as Jesus.

The Chosen consists of 2 seasons and a total of 16 episodes. It flaunts 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 9.4 on IMDb.

4. The Crown

Based on an award-winning play (“The Audience”) by showrunner Peter Morgan, The Crown chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the 1940s to modern times. This biographical series includes 5 seasons and 50 episodes in total.

It was released on 4 November 2016 and is available on Netflix. IMDb rates the show 8.7 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it 87%.

5. Vikings

Vikings trace the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, a legendary Norse hero, who is a mere farmer who rises to become a fearless warrior and commander of the Viking tribes. This epic historical show consists of 5 seasons and a total of 89 episodes. It also has a spin-off series Vikings: Valhalla.

Travis Fimmel stars in the show as Ragnar. Vikings are rated 8.5 on IMDb and 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

6. Spartacus

An immensely popular historical series, Spartacus is about the historical figure of Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator who from 73 to 71 BC led a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic.

It includes three seasons, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Spartacus: Vengeance, and Spartacus: War of the Damned along with a prequel series Spartacus: Gods of the Arena.

The show has been eulogized by fans and remains one of the best historical drama series. IMDb gives it an 8.5.

7. Deadwood

Deadwood is set in a mining town that was not part of any U.S. state or territory in the post-Civil War years. The show showcases the story of lawlessness in the town and how it attracted people looking to get rich after a vast gold strike.

It was aired from March 21, 2004, to August 27, 2006, and consists of 3 seasons and 36 episodes. Deadwood is rated 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.

8. John Adams

As the name suggests, this series revolves around the life of the second President of the United States of America, John Adams, and the first fifty years of the USA’s development.

Directed by Tom Hooper, it is a one-season mini-series consisting of 7 episodes. The series was adapted from the biography of John Adams by David McCullough.

Paul Giamatti portrays John Adams in the show.

9. The Great

The Great tells the story of young Catherine the Great who comes to Russia to get married to Peter III of Russia but finds herself embroiled in a world of dogmatic beliefs and customs, which she tries to alter. It stars Elle Fanning as Catherine and Nicholas Hoult as Peter III.

The show is a historical fiction and a satirical black comedy-drama. It consists of 2 seasons and 20 episodes. Rotten Tomatoes recommends The Great with 94%.

10. The Last Kingdom

The Last Kingdom presents the story of Uhtred, a young successor of the Saxon earldom who was captured and raised by the Danes during the invasion of England. Released in 2015, it includes 5 seasons and an aggregate of 46 episodes.

The Last Kingdom is very popular among historical series admirers. Rotten Tomatoes recommends the movie 91%.

11. Poldark

Poldark traces the tale of Ross Poldark who to Cornwall from the American Revolutionary War and gradually rebuilds his life. It was adapted from the 12-novel-long book series by Winston Graham. However, the series portrays the first seven.

Aiden Turner plays the titular character. The series is 5 seasons long and includes a total of 43 episodes. Poldark was aired from 8 March 2015 to 26 August 2019. The series is rated a whopping 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.

12. Thieves of the Wood

Thieves of the Wood is a 10-episode mini-series that portrays outlaw leader Jan de Lichte, who leads the oppressed and downtrodden in a revolt against the corrupt aristocracy in 18th-century Belgium.

The series was released in 2019 and stars Matteo Simoni in the lead. It is based on the 1957 novel ’De Bende van Jan de Lichte’ by Louis Paul Boon.

13. The Terror

Adapted from the novel of the same title by Dan Simmons, The Terror is an anthology series that revolves around a Japanese American community during World War II.

This psychological thriller consists of 2 seasons and an aggregate of 20 episodes. Broadcast from March 25, 2018, to October 14, 2019, the show was nominated for various awards. IMDb gives the show 7.9 and Rotten Tomatoes gives it 87%

14. Knightfall

A historical fiction drama, Knightfall recounts the success, fall, persecution, and suppression of the Knights Templar, as orchestrated by King Philip IV of France on October 13, 1307. The two-season-long epic was aired from December 6, 2017, to May 13, 2019.

The show presents Tom Cullen in the lead as Landry du Lauzon, a brave Templar leader. The show was broadcast on the History network and was nominated for Best Fantasy Television Series at the 44th Saturn Awards.

15. Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire can be easily named one of the best crime serials. It depicts the story of Enoch Thompson, the treasurer of Atlantic City, who is friends with gangsters and politicians alike, and this results in the federal government taking special interest in him.

Rated at a commendable 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.6 on IMDb, the show has been highly praised for its storytelling. The show is 5 seasons long and consists of a total of 56 episodes.

16. Vikings

  • Cast: Travis Fimmel, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen, Jessalyn Gilsig
  • IMDb Rating: 8.5/10

This Michael Hirst TV show is modeled upon the life of Ragnar Lodbrok, a Viking legend of Norse Mythology and Anglo-Saxon chronicles. 

The show is premised upon Ragnar rising through the ranks from a farmer to a Scandanavian king. The show opens with Ragnar having visions of Odin while returning from a raid. He takes these periodic visions as a sign and proceeds to explore his prospects in the West. The show recounts historical events like the Lindisfarne raid of 793. 

17. Narcos

  • Cast: Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, Pedro Pascal, Joanna Christie
  • IMDb Rating: 8.8/10

Pablo Escobar was the global cocaine kingpin of his time. The narcoterrorist who ran the Medellin Cartel was notorious and the richest criminal in history. This show documents the controversial legacy of Pablo Escobar as he was known for his charitability towards the people of Colombia. 

This series also is filled with the tensile pursuit of Pablo Escobar by the American government. At one point, Pablo becomes so rich that he could have paid off the national debt of Colombia. The government’s relationship with him and his very tumultuous personal life is traced in the show. The monstrosity of the narcoterrorist is brilliantly portrayed by Wagner Moura. It is a truly sympathetic portrait of the narcoterrorist. 

18. Crown

  • Cast: Claire Foy, Olivia Colman, Matt Smith, Helena Bonham Carter
  • IMDb Rating:8.7/10

Peter Morgan’s “The Crown” is a visual delight with all its historical lavishness. It is a fictionalization of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. This series is strikingly historically true.

The show meticulously covers the lives of the English Royal Family: it opens with the wedding of Philip and Elizabeth. It spans events like the Suez Crisis. The fourth season chronicles the life of Princess Diana, and also Margaret Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister. Thatcher was also the first British Prime Minister. The crown and its thorns of it are beautifully represented in the show. 

19. Chernobyl

  • Cast: Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley
  • IMDb Rating: 9.4/10

This historical tv show dramatizes the Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich book Voices from Chernobyl. The show is premised upon the Ukranian nuclear accident of 1986. It killed around 4000 people and the radioactive shockwaves have repercussions even today. 

The show is extremely historically accurate and the colors perfectly represent the tragedy caused by the disaster. It recounts the lesser-known stories of the disaster. The show opens with Reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploding and causing an accident, and the Soviet chemist commits suicide. The officials underestimate the danger of the situation and the show picks up from there. 

20. The Chosen

  • Cast: Shahar Isaac, Jonathan Roumie, Elizabeth Tabish, Paras Patel
  • IMDb Rating: 9.4/10

This is one of the most revered historical retellings of Jesus of Nazareth. Dallas Jenkins created and directed this show with the intention of making a show about Jesus that was binge-worthy.

This is the first multi-season episode-based story of Jesus. 

This show places special emphasis on not just Jesus and his suffering; but how he is perceived by his followers and people around him. The show opens with Simon bringing a defective lamb for sacrifice which is rejected by the priest. On his way back Simon comes across a couple from Nazareth and the episode ends with the birth of Jesus. 

21. Broadwalk Empire

  • Cast: Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon
  • IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

The show is set during the 1920’s American Prohibition era and the pilot is directed by the esteemed Martin Scorsese. From the creators of The Sopranos, Buscemi’s Nucky with his ambivalent demeanor and deadpan face is surely worth a watch. 

Broadwalk Empire is based on multiple real-life characters that gained political power during the prohibition era when alcohol was banned. Nucky comes across many historical, politicians, criminals and leaders in this show. Enoch (Nucky’s character is based on Enoch L. Johnson), was involved in bootlegging and mobs. 

22. Downton Abbey

  • Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter
  • IMDb Rating: 8.7/ 10

This Julian Fellowes series is one of those essential historical dramas that every history buff would love. The laws, events, changing governments and the disintegration of the British Imperialists provide a beautiful historical backdrop. 

This series revolves around the residents of the fictional country estate of Yorkshire. The show commences with the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants when British social hierarchy is going through some radical changes. The events of the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War and the outbreak of Spanish influenza are also depicted. And the charismatic character of Violet is to die for! 

23. Call The Midwife

  • Cast: Jenny Agutter, Linda Bassett, Judy Parfitt, Helen George
  • IMDb Rating: 8.6/10

This Heidi Thomas show follows the story of a group of Midwives in 1950s London. This show is concerned with grave issues like abortions, miscarriages and stillborns. It is a story about life and death at birth. 

The poverty in the wake of the world war has left very little healthcare for pregnant women; Jenny Lee and her religious order are severely understaffed as they attempt to provide care for the mothers and their newborns. The second season is about the availability of anesthesia and the tuberculosis epidemic. The portrayal of the endless courage of the women at Nonnatus House is truly commendable. 

24. Band of Brothers

  • Cast: Kirk Acevedo, Eion Bailey, Michael Cudlitz, Dale Dye
  • IMDb Rating: 9.4/10

This show created by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks is adapted from the historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s book. The show bagged multiple awards including Emmy and Golden Globe. 

The show documents the experiences of the United States Army’s Airborne division. The series opens with their training and follows them through the end of the Second World War. Historical events from wartime are shown; like the Siege of Bastogne and the destruction of the Nazi concentration camps. This show also depicts the moral and mental dilemmas of the veterans and is inspired heavily by the surviving veteran’s experiences. 

25. Dickinson

  • Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Toby Huss, Adrian Blake Enscoe, Anna Baryshnikov
  • IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

This comedy show is based on the life of the great American poetess Emily Dickison. She was known for her simplistic genius poems and was agoraphobic. 

It is a show about the misunderstood genius of Dickinson, as she received little to no acclaim during her lifetime. The homosexuality of Dickinson, (traces of which can be found in her letters) has special importance in this series. Dickinson was in love with her sister-in-law. This show is about Dickinson finding her voice, her identity as a lover, a poet, and most importantly a woman. And that during her time is a bold exploration.