The 10 Best TV Shows For History Buffs To Stream

History is fascinating, which is why these shows based on real historical events are so bingeable to watch.

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated

peaky blinders

History is a fascinating subject, which is why historical dramas based on the events of our past are so addicting to watch. These historical TV shows do a fantastic job of capturing the drama of yesteryear and retelling the story in a binge-worthy way for audiences today to enjoy. Here are the best TV shows for history buffs, all of which are available on a streaming platform for easy binging access.

10. The Tudors

The Tudors is a gripping work of historical fiction that is one of the best TV shows for medieval England history buffs to stream. Set in 16th-century England, it was created and written by Michael Hirst and stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry Cavill, and Anthony Brophy. The show was a collaborative effort between American, British, and Canadian producers, and the majority of filming took place in Ireland, despite being about the English ruling family. 

Although it is named after the Tudor dynasty, the series focuses specifically on the reign of King Henry VIII. The Tudors premiered on April 1, 2007, and quickly became the highest-rated Showtime series in three years.

9. Narcos

Created and produced by Chris Brancato, Carlo Bernard, and Doug Miro, Narcos is a crime drama TV show set and filmed in Colombia between the 70s and 90s. The first two seasons revolve around the real life of Pablo Escobar, a Colombian narcoterrorist and drug kingpin who led the Medellin Cartel to become a billionaire by producing and distributing cocaine. The series also delves into Escobar’s relationships with drug lords, DEA agents, and other opposition forces.

Narcos stars the internet’s current favorite actor, Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, The Last of Us), as well as Wagner Moura, Boyd Holbrook, and Alberto Ammann.

8. Peaky Blinders

peaky blinders

Steven Knight’s Peaky Blinders is a British crime drama series set in post-World War I Birmingham. The show focuses on the Peaky Blinders gang and their illicit activities. This fictional group is loosely based on a real gang of the same name that operated in the city from the 1880s to the 1910s. 

The cast is led by Cillian Murphy in the role of Tommy Shelby, with Helen McCrory, Paul Anderson, Sophie Rundle, and Joe Cole portraying other key members of the gang. A talented ensemble of actors, including Sam Neill, Annabelle Wallis, Iddo Goldberg, Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Finn Cole, Natasha O’Keeffe, Paddy Considine, Adrien Brody, Aidan Gillen, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sam Claflin, Amber Anderson, James Frecheville, and Stephen Graham also feature in the series.

7. Deadwood

Deadwood is an American Western TV series that originally aired on HBO (now Max) from 2004 to 2006 for three seasons and 36 episodes. The show is set in the 1870s, depicting Deadwood, South Dakota, before and after its annexation by the Dakota Territory, and documents the area’s transformation from a camp to a town. 

The series was created, produced, and mainly written by David Milch. Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane lead a talented ensemble cast playing Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, real-life residents of Deadwood. The show also features other historical figures like Wyatt Earp, George Hearst, and Calamity Jane, alongside fictional elements. Determined to remain historically accurate, Milch researched the series using authentic diaries and newspapers from 1870s Deadwood residents. 

The show garnered critical acclaim and won eight Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Deadwood: The Movie, set ten years after the end of season three, began filming in 2018 after years of pre-production and premiered on HBO in May 2019.

6. Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire is a period crime drama TV series set in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition era of the 1920s. The series was produced by HBO and created by Terence Winter and stars Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson. Inspired by Nelson Johnson’s book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City, the show chronicles the life of the historical criminal boss Enoch L. Johnson. 

The pilot episode was directed by film legend Martin Scorsese and cost the studio $18 million, which is way higher than the $3 to $15 million (on average) an hour-long TV drama episode takes to produce. It was evidently worth the price though, because HBO extended the series for a total of 56 episodes across five seasons. 

Boardwalk Empire was well-received by critics, who lauded its visual style and its focus on historical figures, especially Steve Buscemi’s performance as Nucky. The series received 57 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won 20 awards, including two for Outstanding Drama Series.

5. Rome

The perfect show for ancient history buffs, Rome takes place in the 1st century BC and depicts the events that happened as Rome transitioned from a Republic to an Empire. Although the series boasts an extensive cast of characters, including several based on historical figures, the primary focus is on two soldiers, Lucius Vorenus (Kevin McKidd) and Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson), whose lives become entangled with significant historical events.

Rome garnered widespread praise and amassed a large following during its initial run. Earning high critical acclaim from both HBO and the BBC, Rome was recognized with multiple awards, including four Emmy Awards, seven Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Visual Effects Society Award.

4. Vikings

Loosely based on historical events, Vikings is an excellent series for those who want a historical show that doesn’t mind taking substantial liberties to amp up the drama. Filmed in Ireland, the show drew inspiration from the sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok, a Viking who is famous for his raids on Anglo-Saxon England and West Francia. The series portrays Ragnar as a farmer from Kattegat who rises to prominence by attacking England and eventually becomes a Scandinavian king with the help of his family and fellow warriors.

Michael Hirst created and wrote Vikings, while Jeb Stuart created the sequel series Vikings: Valhalla, which premiered on Netflix last year. Vikings stars Katheryn Winnick, Gustaf Skarsgard, Alexander Ludwig, and Georgia Hirst.

3. The Americans

The Americans is a critically acclaimed period spy drama that takes place during the Cold War. The series was created by Joe Weisberg and revolves around Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip Jennings (Matthew Rhys), two Soviet KGB intelligence officers who pose as a married American couple and reside in Falls Church, a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. The story also delves into the conflict between the FBI office in Washington and the KGB Rezidentura, exploring the perspectives of agents on both sides, including their neighbor Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), who is an FBI agent working in counterintelligence. 

Critics have praised The Americans, with many considering it to be among the best TV shows of the modern age. The writing, characters, and acting have all received accolades, with the final season earning Rhys the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Weisberg and Fields winning Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.

2. Band of Brothers

band of brothers

Based on historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1992 non-fiction book, Band of Brothers is a 2001 American war drama miniseries created and executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan. Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, from jump training in the United States through its participation in major actions in Europe during World War II, until Japan’s capitulation. Although the events are based on Ambrose’s research and recorded interviews with Easy Company veterans, the series took some literary license, adapting history for dramatic effect and series structure. 

1. The Crown

The Crown is a historical drama series about Queen Elizabeth II’s reign and is the perfect historical drama for viewers who are interested in learning more about the fascinating life of the Windsor family. Peter Morgan created the series and structured each two-season increment to cover a specific period in the Queen’s reign, with new actors portraying the characters to reflect their aging process. 

The Crown has received praise from critics for its acting, directing, writing, cinematography, and production values, though its historical inaccuracies have been criticized. The series has received numerous accolades, including Primetime Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards. The estimated production budget for the series is $260 million, making it one of the most expensive television series ever.