Top 10 Historical Mini-Series to Feed Your Inner Outlander Fan
Outlander might be slowly heading towards finale, but there’s plenty other fish in the sea.
1. I, Claudius (1976)
Derived from Robert Graves' novels, I, Claudius presents the life of the Roman Emperor Claudius, depicting the dramatic and often scandalous history of the Roman Empire. The series was a veritable who's who of British acting royalty, with Derek Jacobi in the titular role, surrounded by the likes of John Hurt and Patrick Stewart.
The mini-series remains famous for its blend of history and soap opera, engrossing viewers with tales of power, betrayal, and desire. Despite its age, I, Claudius still maintains an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!
2. John Adams (2008)
This HBO mini-series, based on the biography by David McCullough, follows the life of the second President of the United States, John Adams (played by Paul Giamatti), his role in the American Revolution, and his turbulent presidency. It presents an intimate view of history, seen through the eyes of one of America's founding fathers and his wife, Abigail Adams (Laura Linney). John Adams holds the record for most Emmy Awards won by a mini-series, taking home 13 out of 23 nominations.
3. The Pillars of the Earth (2010)
Set in 12th-century England, The Pillars of the Earth takes us on a journey through a time of war and religious strife, centered around the construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. With a star-studded cast including Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, and Hayley Atwell, this mini-series brings Ken Follett's historical novel to life. The mini-series was so well received it spawned a sequel, World Without End, also based on a Follett novel.
4. North & South (2004)
This BBC mini-series, based on Elizabeth Gaskell's 1855 novel, chronicles the story of Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe), a middle-class southerner who is forced to move to the northern town of Milton. It's there she meets and clashes with mill-owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage), creating a complex love story against the backdrop of the industrial revolution. North & South brilliantly combines social commentary with romantic drama, reminiscent of Jane Austen with an industrial twist.
5. War and Remembrance (1988-1989)
This mini-series, based on Herman Wouk's novels, delves into the lives of the Henry and Jastrow families amidst the backdrop of World War II. It presents a meticulously detailed chronicle of the war's impact on these families, covering events from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima. The series boasts an ensemble cast, including Robert Mitchum, Jane Seymour, and Sir John Gielgud. The production was the most expensive ever for a television series at the time, reportedly costing ABC $110 million.
6. The White Queen (2013)
The White Queen is a riveting British historical drama based on Philippa Gregory's The Cousins' War series. The mini-series revolves around the powerful women of the Wars of the Roses. It primarily focuses on Elizabeth Woodville (Rebecca Ferguson), a Lancastrian commoner who becomes the queen consort of the Yorkist king, Edward IV (Max Irons).
As we watch their romance bloom amidst a bitter civil war, we also encounter other compelling figures such as Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) and Anne Neville (Faye Marsay), each forging their own paths to power in a society dominated by men. Interesting to note, the series is part of a trilogy, followed by The White Princess and The Spanish Princess.
7. Wolf Hall (2015)
This BBC mini-series is an adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Set in the court of Henry VIII, it offers a different perspective by focusing on the rise of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance), the son of a blacksmith who became the king's chief minister.
It brilliantly captures the politics and intrigue of the Tudor court, as well as the tumultuous events leading to the downfall of Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy). The show received high critical acclaim, scoring 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series in 2015.
8. When We Rise (2017)
Chronicling the personal and political struggles of a diverse group of LGBTQ+ rights activists, When We Rise is an enlightening journey through several decades of American history. Created by Dustin Lance Black, the series presents an unflinching portrayal of the hardships and triumphs of activists like Cleve Jones (Guy Pearce), Roma Guy (Mary-Louise Parker), and Ken Jones (Michael Kenneth Williams) from the 1970s through to the 21st century.
9. Hatfields & McCoys (2012)
One of the most famous feuds in American history is brought to life in the mini-series Hatfields & McCoys. Starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, the series dives into the bloody hostilities between these two rural families on the West Virginia-Kentucky border during the late 19th century.
The series delves deep into the spiraling reprisals and escalating violence that marked this legendary feud. Hatfields & McCoys was lauded for its performances, especially that of Costner, who won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.
10. Alias Grace (2017)
Adapted from Margaret Atwood's historical novel, Alias Grace follows the life of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), an Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Canada who was convicted of the brutal murders of her employer and his housekeeper in 1843. Dr. Simon Jordan (Edward Holcroft) is hired to delve into Grace's mind to seek answers about the murders.
This period drama is a gripping exploration of class, gender, and the nature of truth, as Grace's life unfolds through her conversations with Dr. Jordan. Sarah Polley, a long-time fan of the novel, spent 20 years trying to bring Atwood's book to the screen before Netflix finally gave her the green light.