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The 25 best period dramas of all time ranked for Bridgerton fans to binge next

The 25 best period dramas of all time ranked for Bridgerton fans to binge next

Bridgerton fans looking for more steamy scenes and sweeping historical romance need look no further

So, you’ve already binged through the second part of Bridgerton season three - impressive - and you’re looking for your next period drama hit.

Well, lucky for you, there’s literally tonnes of them, we’ve even recommended a few before.

But there’s no point doing things by halves, so we’ve ranked the 20 buzziest period dramas by Rotten Tomatoes critics’ score.

With shows that are raunchy as hell to ones you can safely watch with your parents, there truly is something for everyone here.

And, spoiler alert, number one is a show with 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes that you probably haven’t heard of.

So, if you don’t fancy scrolling through Netflix for hours, take a look below:

20. Versailles (2015-2018) - 57%

Versailles is famous for its raunchy scenes (BBC)
Versailles is famous for its raunchy scenes (BBC)

Set in 1667 in the French court of Versailles, the BBC show was notorious for its sexual content and set tongues wagging when it premiered. The Daily Mirror labelled it ‘a horny bonkbuster’, so make of that what you will.

Expect political intrigue in between your orgies and full frontal nudity, as George Blagden’s Louis XIV decides to build the glittering palace of Versailles to keep his rebellious nobles from overthrowing him.

Surprisingly, a lot of it is actually historically accurate - with some obvious dramatic license. When it aired there was even a companion show, Inside Versailles, where historians separated fact and fiction in each episode

You can watch all three seasons on BBC iPlayer.

19. The Tudors (2007-2010) - 69%

While critics were fairly cold on this one, some fans dubbed it ‘better’ than Bridgerton and praised its intense sex scenes.

Also, you might have forgotten, but a pre-fame Henry Cavill stars as Henry VIII's brother-in-law Charles Brandon, while Natalia Dormer is a memorable Anne Boleyn.

The Showtime series ran for four seasons, and you can watch them all on All4.

18. The Spanish Princess (2019-present) - 75%

The Spanish Princess is an underrated hit (Starz)
The Spanish Princess is an underrated hit (Starz)

We’re still dealing with the Tudors, but this time from the perspective of Catherine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII’s six wives.

Fans have praised its ‘steamy love scenes’, and some have even said it rivals Bridgerton, with one writing: “Yall hyped the s**t out of the most boring show Bridgerton yet NO one is talking about The Spanish Princess.

It’s also more diverse than many period dramas, and includes a romance between Catherine’s Black lady in waiting Lina (Stephanie Levi-John) and one of Henry VIII’s soldiers Oviedo (Aaron Cobham).

You can rent both seasons of the Starz show on Amazon Prime.

17. Belgravia (2020) - 75%

The ITV show has been described as a 'bodice ripper' (ITV)
The ITV show has been described as a 'bodice ripper' (ITV)

Belgravia is adapted from a novel by Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, and kicks off days before the Battle of Waterloo.

It explores tensions between the aristocracy and the newly rich, as decades-old secrets threaten to come out.

The Sydney Morning Herald called the series ‘a bodice-ripper’ with ‘great romance and thrilling revenge’.

You can rent the limited series on Amazon Prime.

16. The Buccaneers (2023-present) - 77%

Set in the 1870s, The Buccaneers follows a group of young American women on the hunt for husbands in the UK.

It’s been a massive hit with fans, who were ecstatic when Apple TV+ announced a second season had been greenlit.

One fan wrote: “Bridgerton needs to up their love confessions because The Buccaneers cleared... like get up!”

15. The Crown (2016-2023) - 81%

This one needs no introduction - who hasn’t been glued to the royal biopic which saw Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Stanton play Elizabeth II throughout her 70-year reign?

The general feeling was that the series lost some of its sparkle as it moved on to portray more recent events like the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the wedding of the then-Prince Charles and Camilla.

Nevertheless, it’ll undoubtedly be remembered as a classic period drama.

You can watch all six seasons on Netflix.

14. Sanditon (2019-2023) - 82%

Ever wondered what Jane Austen would be like with added incest? Well, this is the show for you.

Adapting the beloved author’s final unfinished novel, viewers of this soapy, scandal-ridden drama lapped it up while Austen purists seethed.

It includes a steamy turn from Theo James, and many fans were shocked how raunchy it was, with one writing: "I did not expect the first 2 episodes of Sanditon to have more sex and innuendo than the first 5+ episodes of Bridgerton season 2."

You can watch all three seasons on ITVX.

13. Bridgerton (2020-present) - 83%

I know what you’re thinking - Bridgerton is only 13th?

The steamy show, based on Julia Quinn’s novels, currently has viewers gripped with Penelope and Colin’s swooning friends to lovers romance.

There are actually eight Bridgerton novels, so don’t expect the show to end any time soon.

You can watch all seasons on Netflix.

12. The Empress (2022-present) - 83%

The Empress is an underseen Netflix gem (Netflix)
The Empress is an underseen Netflix gem (Netflix)

You might not have heard of this one, but if the reviews are anything to go by, it’s definitely worth checking out.

The German Netflix series is centred on the romance between Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Philip Froissant as Emperor Franz Joseph, who married in 1854.

It was certainly a turbulent period of history, with Elisabeth getting assassinated in 1898 by an Italian anarchist.

Many think the series has been overlooked, with one fan writing on Reddit: “The Empress on Netflix is fantastic and nobody I've talked to has heard of it.”

While some criticised its historical accuracy, others have praised the performances, costumes, sets and music.

A second season is on the way later this year.

11. The Borgias (2011-2013) - 85%

Continuing with an international theme, The Borgias explores a very murky period of Italian history in the 15th century.

Expect murder, intrigue and incest as the power-hungry Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons) bribes his way into becoming Pope, becoming the head of what some have described as ‘Italy’s first crime family’.

You can watch all three seasons on Paramount+.

10. The Gilded Age (2022-present) - 86%

The Gilded Age comes from the creator of Downton Abbey (HBO)
The Gilded Age comes from the creator of Downton Abbey (HBO)

It’s old money vs new money in Julian Fellowes follow-up to Downton, set in 1880s New York.

Fans loved the show so much that it ended up influencing baby names, with the name of Carrie Coon’s social climber, Bertha, rising 700 places this year, setting the stage for widespread playground bullying in years to come.

Most agree the stakes are low here compared with other period dramas, but critics have praised the acting and costumes.

Plus, unlike many shows on this list, this one is strictly PG, so you can watch it with your parents.

You can watch all seasons on Sky and Now TV.

9. Reign (2013-2017) - 86%

Reign follows Mary Queen of Scots (The CW)
Reign follows Mary Queen of Scots (The CW)

Reign, which follows Mary Queen of Scots from her early, intrigue-filled days in the French court, to her death at the hands of Elizabeth I, and stars Sandition’s Rose Williams and Adelaide Kane.

The show is light on actual sex but absolutely brimming with sexual tension - and fans are obsessed.

One wrote: “Reign was the first period drama I watched. This completely altered my brain chemistry forever.”

Another simply wrote: “Reign is the best period drama ever.”

Can’t argue with that.

You can stream all seasons on Apple TV+.

8. Pride and Prejudice (1995) - 88%

Colin Firth in the infamous lake scene (BBC)
Colin Firth in the infamous lake scene (BBC)

Also known as literally everyone’s comfort show, almost 30 years ago Colin Firth emerged from a lake in a wet shirt and the world was never the same again.

Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet were the OG costume drama enemies to lovers - and the series is a touchstone for all the historical romance dramas that came after.

The limited series is available on BBC iPlayer.

7. Poldark (2015-2019) - 89%

This steamy 18th century set show turned Aidan Turner into a certified heartthrob. It follows Ross Poldark when he returns home to Cornwall from the American Revolutionary War, and finds things much changed since he was last there.

Turner’s shirt remains off for much of the five season run, as things heat up between him and Eleanor Tomlinson’s Demelza.

Fans are still desperate for more five years after the final episode aired.

All seasons are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

6. Gentleman Jack (2019-2022) - 92%

Suranne Jones stars in Gentleman Jack (BBC)
Suranne Jones stars in Gentleman Jack (BBC)

The ever-brilliant Suranne Jones dominates the screen as the queer, gender norm-busting Anne Lister, as she seduces Sophie Rundle’s Ann Walker against the will of her family.

Lister was a real-life 19th century landowner, sometimes dubbed ‘the first modern lesbian’ due to the revelations in her diaries of multiple sexual affairs with English gentlewomen.

Fans admitted they were ‘hooked after the first five minutes’, with many begging for more after HBO axed the series back in 2022.

All episodes are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

5. Downton Abbey (2010-2015) - 93%

Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey (ITV)
Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey (ITV)

The soapy ITV upstairs-downstairs drama has spawned two box office hit movies, proof if you need it of how much it is loved.

Whether it’s Maggie Smith’s savage putdowns, Robert James-Collier’s evil footman or the swooning romance between Dan Stevens’ Matthew Crawley and Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary, there was always plenty going on - including some absurd plot twists.

You can watch all six seasons on ITVX and Amazon Prime.

4. Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story (2023) - 95%

Yep, critics think this Bridgerton spin-off is better than the main show.

It follows the real-life love story between King George III (Corey Mylchreest) and Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (India Amarteifio), who actually did seem to have a picture-perfect marriage until the King’s mental health took a sharp turn for the worse, and his son was forced to rule on his behalf.

There are plenty of steamy scenes - including one where King George and Charlotte get to it on the dining room table in front of the servants - along with the Bridgerton universe’s first proper gay romance.

It’s got plenty of emotional wallop too, as one fan wrote: “I just finished Queen Charlotte and my heart has been shattered and mended in ways I didn’t know it could.”

You can watch all episodes on Netflix.

3. Mary and George (2024) - 96%

Mary and George is a queer love story (Sky Atlantic)
Mary and George is a queer love story (Sky Atlantic)

Premiering back in March, this gripping queer love story follows a scheming mother (Julianna Moore), who essentially decides the best route to power is by pimping out her extremely hot son (Red, White and Royal Blue’s Nicholas Galitzine) to King James I.

Galitzine’s George Villiers was a real-life figure, who many historians agree was having a sexual relationship with the King.

Christopher James from The Film Experience describes the show as ‘a sensational tale of sex and deception woven by the most nefarious queer mother-son pairing this side of the English Channel’.

You can watch it on NOW TV and Sky Atlantic.

2. The Great (2023-2023) - 96%

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult star in The Great (Channel 4)
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult star in The Great (Channel 4)

Can we get a ‘Huzzah!’ in here? This incredibly arch, very horny show follows the volatile marriage between Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) and Emperor Peter III of Russia (Nicholas Hoult in the role he was born to play) in the 18th century.

There’s violence, intrigue and lots of nudity, with Kevin Fallon from the Daily Beast writing: “The thing about The Great is that it's so delicious. It's so decadent. It's so naughty.”

You can watch the first two seasons on All4, and all three on Lionsgate+.

1. The Serpent Queen (2022-present) - 100%

And here you have it - a show you probably haven’t heard of with a perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, crowned as probably the best period drama of all time.

The Starz show is set in the 16th century, and reimagines the life of Catherine de Medici (Samantha Morton), and her rise from an Italian orphan to one of the longest serving and most powerful rulers in French history.

Catherine is a controversial and perhaps misunderstood figure - historians are undecided over how involved she was in the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre, in which thousands died.

The Hindu’s Mini Anthikad-Chhibber says the show is filled with ‘conflicted characters, intrigue, poisonings, torture, throat-slitting, religion and rock music’, which sure sounds good to me.

Fans also love the anarchic Starz series, with one writing: “It is agonizing waiting for upcoming episodes. This is one of the best series I've ever watched. I adore Samantha Morton. A true star.”

Another said: “I don't even like historical shows, but wow! Great characters, great casting, great plot, real life thoughts and feelings, raw and open. Yes, yes, yes.”

You can rent season one on Amazon Prime, while season two premieres in the US next month.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix/Starz

Topics: Period Drama, Bridgerton, TV And Film