10 Costume Drama Series to Try While Waiting for the New 'Downton Abbey' Movie
The rumors are true – a new Downton Abbey movie is being made in time for a Christmas 2021 release. While we're waiting to catch up with the Crawley clan, here are 10 other costume drama series that will sate your appetite for back-in-the-day scandal, romance, and scheming.
The BBC's second adaptation of Winston Graham's historical saga built a loyal fan base during its five-season run, which came to an end in 2019. Being Human's Aidan Turner stars as Ross Poldark, a British Army captain who returns to Cornwall following the American War of Independence to find his family home in tatters and his childhood sweetheart engaged to his cousin. With passion-fueled plot twists and lots of dramatic Cornish scenery, it's infectious stuff.
The 2008 movie with Matthew Goode and Dame Emma Thompson is pretty decent, but the 1981 miniseries is true a classic. Unfolding over 11 lavish episodes, it follows middle-class Oxford student Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons) as he befriends the Flytes, an upper-crust family who own the stunning Brideshead Castle. Super-faithful to Evelyn Waugh's novel and boasting a stellar cast that includes Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud, Brideshead Revisited oozes class.
Pride and Prejudice
Everyone remembers the BBC's 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice for the iconic scene in which a brooding Colin Firth emerges from a lake. He and a BAFTA-winning Jennifer Ehle are perfectly cast as Jane Austen's stubborn love birds, Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, and the supporting cast includes Brit TV favorites Alison Steadman, Anna Chancellor, and Emilia Fox.
This fondly remembered 1976 miniseries tells the story of the Roman Empire through the eyes of the Emperor Claudius. Though British TV critics were dismissive when it first premiered, it proved super-popular with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, and later won three BAFTA TV Awards including one for Sir Derek Jacobi's turn as the title character. The makers of Dynasty said they envisaged their 1980s soap opera as a modern-day incarnation of I, Claudius.
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
This Australian costume drama series is so popular that, like Downton Abbey, it has spawned its own feature film: last year's Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears. The Babadook's Essie Davis stars as the title character, a glamorous, charming and very witty private detective solving crimes in 1920s Melbourne. The always entertaining Miriam Margolyes guest stars in 12 episodes as her rather stuffy aunt.
Based on Julia Quinn's historical novels set in Regency-era London, this series has been a huge hit for Netflix since premiering in December. Where some period dramas can be chaste and stuffy, Bridgerton is a lively and progressive delight performed by a diverse cast including breakout star Regé-Jean Page. Topped off by a silver-tongued narration from Dame Julie Andrews, it's the perfect escapist binge-watch.
Created by Happy Valley's Sally Wainwright, this HBO/BBC One series offers an enthralling portrait of a woman ahead of her time. Suranne Jones stars as industrialist and landowner Ann Lister, who ran a sizable family business in 1830s Yorkshire while conducting clandestine relationships with women. It's based on Lister's own diaries, which she wrote in a secret code to avoid "outing" herself in a profoundly homophobic era.
This AMC series set in New York City's high-powered advertising world is both supremely stylish – the '60s fashions are always on point – and beautifully understated. Led by brilliant performances from Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, and John Slattery, it's a sophisticated character piece that unfolds engrossingly over seven seasons. With this show, once you're hooked, you're really hooked.
Created by actors Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins, this British costume drama series was a clear precursor to Downton Abbey. For five seasons beginning in 1971, it followed the interlocking lives of the masters ("upstairs") and servants ("downstairs") at a grand house in early 20th century London. A follow-up series with new cast members Keeley Hawes and Claire Foy ran for two seasons in 2010-12.
This Charles Dickens adaptation may center on a complicated legal battle, but as ever with Dickens, there are multiple subplots to keep you equally intrigued. With sumptuous BBC production values and scripts by Pride and Prejudice’s Andrew Davies, it attracted an excellent ensemble cast including Gillian Anderson, Carey Mulligan, Charles Dance, and Dame Sheila Hancock.
Have we missed one of your favorite costume drama series?