So, those lucky Brits get to watch the Season 5 premiere of Downton Abbey in less than a week! Can you believe it? Those of us across the pond have to wait four more months to check back in with the beloved characters in our favorite period drama. But I have good news: today you have a chance to win the first four seasons of Downton Abbey AND I have a huge new list of other great period pieces you can watch while you’re waiting for season 5 to arrive.
This year I’ve compiled a MEGA list of 60 more period movies, miniseries, and TV shows you ought to watch if you love Downton Abbey – that’s right, 60! And be sure to scroll through to the end of this post if you want to win the first four seasons of Downton Abbey on DVD.
A few notes before we begin: I haven’t watched every single one of these, so I cannot vouch for content. Also, all links are affiliate links to Amazon so you can see more info on each title, but there’s no need to purchase most of these (although they’ll make great gifts if there’s a Downton lover in your life!). You’ll find many at your local library. I’ve also noted which titles are available to view free at Amazon with a Prime Membership, and which are available from Netflix Instant Viewing (be aware availability may change). Also, if you know of another legitimate site to view a non-pirated version of one of these shows online, please let us know in the comments!
Finally, if you (somehow) haven’t seen Downton Abbey yet, you can catch up with seasons 1-4 for free if you have Amazon Prime (just click that link to start on season 1) – or you can enter to win the whole set at the end of the post.
Here they are – 60 more shows to watch if you like Downton Abbey:
An Ideal Husband: A wonderfully fun comedy of errors, this adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play is witty and thoroughly enjoyable and has plenty of plot twists. Minnie Driver is fantastic here! Available on Netflix.
Belle: This recent Hollywood release tells the fascinating true story of a young black woman growing up in aristocratic England before slavery is outlawed. Great romance and great history combined. Available to rent on Amazon.
Birdsong: A young soldier fights in the trenches in France and is haunted by memories of his past. (Note: one of the few Masterpiece Theatre productions rated TV-MA.) Available to watch free with Amazon prime.
Bleak House: Adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. 2005 version available on both Amazon prime and Netflix.
Bomb Girls: Set in the 1940s and tells the story of local women who work in a munitions factory building bombs for the war effort. Multiple seasons. Available to view on Netflix.
Bramwell: A young woman in the late 1800’s is determined to work as a doctor in a man’s world. Quite a few seasons. Available on Netflix.
Call the Midwife: Nurses in the East End of London serve as midwives during the 1950’s. Episodes available to purchase on Amazon, first two seasons available on Netflix.
Cranford: Charming tale of life and love in a small English town in the 1800s. Available to view free on Amazon Prime. Second season is called “Return to Cranford.”
Daniel Deronda: Victorian melodrama based on George Eliot’s novel about a love triangle gone awry. Available on Netflix.
Death Comes to Pemberley: Set 6 years after Lizzy and Darcy marry, this P&P “sequel” centers around a mysterious death committed on the grounds of Pemberly. Coming soon on Masterpiece Theater! Not available to order or view in the US until 10.28.14.
Doc Martin: Set in the modern day, this TV series about a surgeon turned GP in a seaside town in Britain feels like a period piece due to the eccentric characters. Available on Netflix.
The Duchess of Duke Street: This 1976 miniseries tells the rags to riches story of a scullery maid turned finest cook in London in Edwardian England. Available on Amazon Prime.
Emma: A Jane Austen classic about a wealthy young woman you loves matchmaking. Both the 2009 Masterpiece miniseries and the 1996 movie are available on Amazon Prime, and both are worth watching. 1996 version also available on Netflix.
Father Brown: A kindly priest catches criminals in 1920s England. Not available to view online as far as I know.
Foyle’s War: A detective in the 1940’s works solving crimes on the home front instead of the battlefront. This successful series spans 8 seasons. First episode free on Amazon prime, 7 seasons available on Netflix.
Gosford Park: A critically acclaimed 1930’s whodunnit (by the screenwriter of Downton Abbey) set at a lavish English estate. Rated R. Available to rent from Amazon.
Great Expectations: An adaptation of Charles Dicken’s classic novel about Pip, Miss Havisham, and Estella. The PBS version is available on Amazon Prime, while the 2012 Hollywood version is available on Netflix.
He Knew He Was Right: An idyllic romance turns sour due to all-encompassing jealousy in this adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s novel. Set in Victorian England. Available on Netflix.
Her Majesty, Mrs Brown: A true life story about Queen Victoria and the servant with whom she develops a passionate friendship.
Jane Eyre: This classic gothic novel has been adapted for screen more than a few times, but my very favorite version is the 2011 theatrical release – if you’ve watched an earlier version and didn’t fall in love, give this one a try! Available on Netflix (along with 3 other earlier versions).
Land Girls: Set in England during WWII, this series chronicles the stories of 4 young women who leave their homes and go to work on a farm as part of the Women’s Land Army. Available on Netflix.
Lark Rise to Candleford: Wonderful character-driven series set in rural England in the late 1800s. Available on Amazon Prime.
Little Dorrit: Another Dickens adaptation, this miniseries centers around Amy Dorrit, a 21 year old seamstress who has spent most of her live in debtor’s prison with her father. Available on Amazon Prime.
London Hospital: Set in 1906 London at a charity hospital, this multi-season mini series follows the ups and downs of the nurses as they care for a variety of patients. Available on Amazon Prime.
Lorna Doone: An action packed adventure set in Old England, this is the tale of the banished Doone clan and John, the man who has sworn revenge on them, but is in love with with the daughter of the family.
Lost in Austen: In this lighthearted take on Pride and Prejudice, a modern girls accidentally ends up switching places with Lizzy Bennet.
Mansfield Park: One of Jane Austen’s lesser known novels is very loosely adapted in this Hollywood release. Available on Amazon Prime and on Netfix (along with the older BBC version).
Merlin: This 5 season television series chronicles the adventures of a young Merlin who has to hide his magical powers from his master, Prince Arthur. The first season is a bit slow to start, but things go up from there, with dragons, knights, witches, romance, adventures, and more. Available on Netflix.
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries: Set in Australia in the roarin’ 20s, a glamorous and independent woman becomes a leading detective. Available on Netflix.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: This is the absolutely charming tale of an unemployed governess who is swept into the glamorous world of high society by mistake. Set in London in the 1930s. Available on Netflix.
Monarch of the Glen: A young London restauranteur is summer back to high ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands, where he must assume control of his eccentric family. Set in modern times. Available on Netflix.
Mr. Selfridge: Fantastic 2-season miniseries chronicling the real-life Harry Selfridge, an American who opened one of Britain’s first department stores. Season 2 is even better than season 1. Available on Amazon Prime.
Nicholas Nickleby: Nicholas Nickleby’s father has died and his family has fallen on hard times. It’s up to him to find a way to save them in this tale of intrigue, passion, and revenge by Dickens. Available to rent online from Amazon.
North & South: My favorite! At the beginning of the industrial revolution, Margaret Hale and her family move from idyllic Southern England to a mill town in the north. Available on Amazon prime and Netflix.
Northanger Abbey: An adaptation of Jane Austen’s least known novel, Northanger Abbey is Jane’s gentle parody of gothic fiction, complete with a heroine who’s imagine runs away from her regularly. Look for the Masterpiece Theatre version released in 2007.
Our Mutual Friend: Another adaptation of Dickens. This book is considered his darkest and most romantic, and tells the tale of two sweeping love affairs. Available to rent from Amazon.
Persuasion: Another personal favorite. While less well-known than Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion is generally considered to be Jane Austen’s most accomplished work. I prefer the 1995 Hollywood version, but the 2008 Masterpiece miniseries is also very well done.
Pride & Prejudice: The gold standard of period pieces, nothing other than Downton Abbey has come close to P&P in popularity. Wonderful adaptation of Jane Austen’s most famous novel. P&P purists recommend the 1995 miniseries featuring Jennifer Ehle, which is available on Amazon prime, but the 2005 Keira Knightly version is also worth watching.
Robin Hood: BBC’s three season series is a fun, (mostly) family friendly take on the classic story, with plenty of adventure and some bad guys you’ll love to hate (hello Guy of Gisborne). The first few episodes are a little slow, but things pick up quickly throughout the rest of season 1 and 2. Available on both Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Sense And Sensibility: Jane Austen’s second most well-known novel about two sisters and their romantic trials has two great adaptions. The 1995 version with Emma Thompson is most well known, and is available on Netflix. The 2008 Masterpiece version is also wonderful.
Sherlock: Perhaps not technically a “period piece,” this modern day retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story from the BBC is pretty fantastic. Occasional adult content (specifically in “The Woman” in season 2). Available on Netflix.
Tess of the D’urbervilles: Thomas Hardy’s tragic Victorian novel is brought to life nicely in the 2008 BBC version, which is available on Amazon Prime.
Aristocrats: This is based on the true story of the Lennox sisters, four women in upper class 18th century England and Ireland. They lived in splendor and held significant political influence through the men in their lives, but that doesn’t mean life was easy…
The Bletchley Circle: Four British women who worked together breaking enemy codes during WWII reunite a few years after the war and begin solving crimes together. Great story, but there are some brief yet very disturbing scenes related to the crime in season 1 (haven’t seen season 2 as a result). Available on Netflix.
The Buccaneers: Four American heiresses take London by storm in this adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel. They each make brilliant matches and seem set for a lifetime of happiness…until they realize a “good” marriage isn’t the end of the story. Available on Netflix.
The Forsyte Saga: Follows the wealthy Forsyte family through it’s ups and downs, intrigues and romances, at the turn of the century (early 1900s). A bit of a soap opera, but enjoyable nonetheless (some PG-13 content). Available on Netflix.
The Grand: In the most opulent hotel in Manchester England in the 1920’s, there is plenty of luxury, elegance, greed, suspense, and scandal. Available on Netflix (first episode also available free on Amazon).
The House of Eliott: Two sisters born into privilege in 1920’s London must make their own way in the world after their father dies and leaves them penniless. They struggle to the top of the fashion world, opening their own house of haute couture.
Murdoch Mysteries: Sophisticated detective William Murdoch investigates murders in the 1890s. Kind of like an old-fashioned CSI. First episode available to watch free on Amazon, others available to rent.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood: An adaptation of Charles Dickens’ unfinished novel, this novel follows Jasper, who has met the woman of his dreams. Unfortunately, she is engaged to his nephew. What follows is a tale of suspense, intrigue, and mystery. Available on Amazon Prime.
The Paradise: Lovely tale of a poor young shopgirl who travels to London to seek her fortune. She ends up working in the opulent department store – The Paradise – and meets a delightful cast of characters, including the mysterious store owner. Available on Netflix.
The Scarlet Pimpernel: Set during the French Revolution, this is the story of a dashing English gentleman who swoops into France to rescue doomed nobles, and a beautiful young Frenchwoman who tries to determine his identity. Great show! My personal favorite is the 1988 Hollywood version with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour, but the more recent BBC version is wonderful as well! See my full review here. BBC version available on Netflix.
The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton: This show tells the story of the real life Mrs. Beeton, author of an 1861 guide to running a household (i.e. the very first lifestyle magazine).
The Way We Live Now: This satire of Victorian society follows the rise and fall of an Austrian jewish financier who tries to become an English gentleman, and his daughter, who is courted for her fortune. Available on Netflix.
Under the Greenwood Tree: A young woman from a wealthy family comes to a small village as the new school teacher and is pursued by three very different men. Charming story of rural English life.
Upstairs Downstairs: This remake of the BBC classic is set just in swanky London just before the second world war. Available on Amazon Prime. The original TV series is available on Netflix.
When Calls the Heart: Based on the book series by Janette Oke, this movie tells the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, as teacher who receives her first post in the Western Canadian frontier. Plenty of sequels!
Wives and Daughters: Another Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation, this miniseries follows Molly Gibson, the only daughter of a country doctor, who decides to marry again, bringing both a step other and a step sister into Molly’s home. Available on both Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Wuthering Heights: Emily Bronte’s haunting novel has been made into movies perhaps a dozen times, but my favorite version is the 2009 Masterpiece Theater edition, which does a fantastic job bringing the tragic love triangle to life. Available on Amazon Prime.
Did I miss any you love? Let us all know about them in the comments!