More gorgeous period costumes and murder
May 20, 2020 3:12 PM   Subscribe

I loved watching tv shows Medici and Versailles, and just binged The Great (excellent). What else should I watch?

Excellent period costumes and Drama with a capital D are a must. Does not need to be totally fact based and in fact, the sillier the better. I prefer a TV show I can binge but I'm open to movies too. I enjoyed the soundtracks for all three shows, but a good soundtrack is a bonus, not a necessity.

What other period dramas should I watch? Assume that I have access to all streaming sites and/or can purchase the show/movie. I've seen Downton Abbey and Poldark. Enjoyable, but not enough ostentatious displays of wealth.
posted by pumpkinlatte to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I loved Rome, on HBO. It's a bit older (2005) but it was Drama, and Costumes, and Sets, and ugh lovely.
posted by larthegreat at 3:33 PM on May 20 [13 favorites]

Have you ever seen The Draughtsman’s Contract? It was shot on film in 1982, so the photography can’t hold up to contemporary HD standards, but the drama (with murder and mystery!), the costumes, the acting and the soundtrack are all exceptional. It’s unlike anything else.
posted by newmoistness at 3:36 PM on May 20 [7 favorites]

The Tudors!
posted by jessamyn at 3:47 PM on May 20 [11 favorites]

I recently rewatched The Way We Live Now on Prime, and it has HELD. UP. It's all about the nouveau riche and their 1870s-era Ponzi schemes. A+++ would rewatch again. (Caution that several of the less sympathetic characters are casually anti-Semitic.)

Also, the Borgias is on Netflix. That family is basically the trope namer for decadent intrigue.

You might also want to take a gander at the archives of Frock Flicks. Lots of sumptuous schemers in period dramas!
posted by basalganglia at 3:48 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]

Have you seen Kingdom? The story behind it is that the writer was doing research and learned that one year during the Joseon era there were 100,000 deaths, but there are no details in the historical record. "Well, nobody said it wasn't due to zombies," she thought, "so what if it was?"

A lot of attention was paid to production design and the costumes, especially the hats, are amazing.
posted by Lexica at 4:06 PM on May 20 [6 favorites]

Victoria; seconding Rome, with typical caveats for HBO raunchiness.
posted by jmfitch at 4:23 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Harlots on Hulu. Beautiful costumes + pulp.
posted by momus_window at 4:30 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Have you seen Marie Antoinette? Pretty light on storyline but so heavy on the costumes and decadence.
posted by vanitas at 4:31 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick.

Considered by many to be one of the most beautifully filmed movies ever.
posted by Fukiyama at 4:39 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

Came here to say Harlots on Hulu. Great costumes, great soundtrack, Drama with a capital D.

The White Queen, The White Princess and The Spanish Princess are all based on Phillipa Gregory novels and should tick your boxes. All available on Amazon I think.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Outlander. The costumes in the first season are not ostentatious given that it's mostly in early 1700s Scottish Highlands. But the second season takes place at the French court, with all the costuming decadence that implies.
posted by rednikki at 4:42 PM on May 20 [8 favorites]

Well, for Regency dress, apparently, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
posted by bz at 5:13 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries are set in the 1920s and have AMAZING wardrobe.
posted by bq at 5:18 PM on May 20 [14 favorites]

If time travel from modern to the past is acceptable, I loved the Spanish show El Ministerio del Tiempo, on Netflix. It’s about time agents going back in time to many different eras to correct problems that might affect Spain’s history. There’s some great costumes and settings.

If you can handle supernatural horror, the French movie Brotherhood of the Wolf is sumptuous and gorgeous, but it’s also pretty violent and gory along with being wonderfully batshit crazy.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 5:30 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]

Timeless is terrific fun, where the protagonists bounce around American history chasing a villain out to rewrite the past. I'm pretty sure that half the time, the show runners picked specific historical events simply as an excuse to dress the fabulous Abigail Spencer up in randomly fabulous era-specific outfits.
posted by mochapickle at 5:38 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

The Favorite A film so stunning I had to immediately rewatch.
posted by effluvia at 5:40 PM on May 20 [6 favorites]

Came to say The Favourite as well! If by some terrible lapse you missed this movie, it is a must-watch. Unngnghgg it's just so good.
posted by phunniemee at 5:43 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Would Gentleman Jack scratch the itch?
posted by freethefeet at 5:51 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

2nding Gentleman Jack

Outlander is a great series with a few seasons too...although it's a bit graphic at points.

You probably need to watch Downton Abbey, very little murder but the drama is lovely! and it has a new spiritual successor called Belgravia that I haven't had a chance to watch yet, but it's on my list.
posted by AnneShirley at 6:02 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

The recent adaptation of Vanity Fair that I think is on Amazon Prime was excellent.
posted by TwoStride at 6:04 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

House of Eliott
posted by dancing leaves at 7:05 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Ekaterina, on Prime, if you can do subtitles (or speak Russian). 3 seasons, 10ish 1 hour episodes per.
ETA this is the story of the rise and rule of Catherine the Great in 18th c St Petersburg. Opulent enough for her house to become a museum!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 7:32 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

If you’re willing to suspend historical accuracy in particular and disbelief in general, I found Reign to be the absolute best kind of bad. What if Mary, Queen of Scots shopped at Free People? Sign me the fuck up.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

The Favourite A film so stunning I had to immediately rewatch.

The Favourite is a great film with fantastic costumes, but be aware that they are highly stylized. In general the silhouettes are accurate, but the costume designer very consciously chose to use modern or very stylized fabrics and textures. For example, one of Lady Sarah's mantuas uses laser-cut vinyl in place of lace and the kitchen staff are wearing patched-together denim.

Somewhat tangential to costume, but there was also a conscious decision to use minimal makeup for the three leads, which is not really appropriate to the period, particularly the upper classes, but it was done intentionally in order to help the audience connect with the main characters.

Of course, this may or may not matter to the asker; it all depends on what they mean by "period costumes"!
posted by jedicus at 8:02 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]

Try Dangerous Liaisons (the 1988 movie) and maybe also give the movie The Duellists a try. Also, The Three Musketeers & The Four Musketeers (1974).
posted by gudrun at 8:22 PM on May 20 [4 favorites]

If you're willing to go in a completely different direction, you can try the historical category of Cdramas. Cdramas are Chinese dramas that are made for the web or TV, ranging in length from 20 to 80 episodes. There are hundreds available online through Netflix, Viki, and Prime. The historical ones are further subdivided into straight historical, xanxia (fantasy), and wuxia (martial arts). I only watch straight historical, but I've become complete addicted. The production values on some of these shows are amazing, although the quality overall does vary, and you'll have to try some turkeys before you find your groove. There is a sub-sub-category of historical cdrama that is right up your alley - e.g., The Sleuth of the Ming Dynasty. But honestly if you want over the top settings and costuming, then you should check out another subcategory of historical cdrama, which is the palace or harem drama. These are set in imperial harems and feature 50 to 70 episodes of epic backbiting, plotting, poisoning, and all around bitchiness accompanied by amazing costumes and lots of tea drinking. The length of these shows allows for a completely immersive experience. You can't watch 70 episodes of something set in the Forbidden City and not feel like you've been there.

It's all subtitled, of course.

I warn you that cdrama is a rabbithole. And I haven't even mentioned kdrama.

Edited to add: If you would like specific recommendations, I'm happy to make them. Right now I'm proselytizing The Story of Ming Lan.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:25 AM on May 21 [4 favorites]

Alongside East Asian historical dramas you might also enjoy historical movies from India. I haven't watched all that many and nothing recently so my memories aren't the most accurate, but for what you describe you could do worse than starting with Devdas or Bajirao Mastani. Hopefully someone will be along with more knowledgeable recommendations.

Also I haven't watched this Korean movie yet but it looks like it might have an interesting focus on clothes specifically: The Royal Tailor.
posted by trig at 3:00 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Been enjoying the (very unusual) Dead Still on Acorn.TV. Lots of good mysteries from various English-speaking countries around the globe.
posted by terrapin at 5:28 AM on May 21

I thought that Dickinson (on Apple's streaming service) had some similarities with The Great.
posted by mosst at 6:02 AM on May 21

Empress of China! Gorgeous costumes and Drama are basically what the show is - like half the budget went to sumptuous Tang Dynasty costumes and dear gods it shows. (And then a sizeable chunk went to CGI covering up historically accurate cleavage.) It's not streaming anywhere right now, probably not until Fan Bingbing's career picks back up after her tax evasion thing, but it's available in box set and absolutely gorgeous.

Also, Nirvana in Fire is not strictly historical, more wuxia-in-the-palace, but it's Count of Monte Christo in Ancient China and marvellously entertaining.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 6:06 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

I am also recommending a cdrama: The Untamed. It's streaming on Netflix. The settings and costumes (and actors) are *gorgeous*; it's just such a beautiful show. It does have a lot of tragedy in the middle third of the show, though, but it is *worth* it for the emotional payoffs. I am a *little* obsessed with it right now, as my Tumblr will testify, but so is everyone else because it's just. so. good! It's based on a danmei ("boys' love", more or less = gay male) novel which is evident in every single interaction between the two main characters (despite censorship rules which mean no explicit kissing but everything else is still there basically) YAY, but it's also a story about siblings and found families, and redemption, and reputations and rumors, and oh, it's SO GOOD.
posted by lysimache at 7:17 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Every time I watch Amadeus, I see something new in it. Be sure to go for the Director's Cut.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:36 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

(Adding on to lysimache's comment - The Untamed also seems to be on Youtube in its entirety)
posted by trig at 11:09 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

Babylon Berlin is amazing, and appears to be under-watched. It's set during the Weimar republic and the production is incredible, especially the accuracy of the costumes and sets. Check out the clip at the end of the Vox article linked above. It's on Netflix with subtitles.
posted by EllaEm at 12:03 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

A few years ago, but The Borgias with Jeremy Irons is perfect!
posted by MountainDaisy at 5:58 PM on May 22

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