Who's Ready to Time Travel? You Won't Want to Miss These Historical Netflix Films
The Professor and the Madman
Based on the book The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester, this movie tells the story of professor James Murray and his work on the Oxford dictionary.
Fiddler on the Roof
Following the plot of the Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof is about a Jewish peasant who consults a matchmaker to find good husbands for his daughters.
A Bridge Too Far
This wartime drama tells the story of a day in 1944 when an allied task force attempts to capture several bridges in the hopes of breaking German lines and winning World War II.
The Young Messiah
Get a glimpse into the childhood of Jesus Christ as he and his family depart Egypt to return home to Nazareth.
A young soldier in the Vietnam War faces a moral dilemma when he’s caught between two sergeants and their rivalry.
This wartime drama is set during the Civil War and follows the United States’ first all-Black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The group is a strong unit that fights with everything they have in them to win a war that’s ultimately against them.
During the American Revolution, a young man enlists to fight against the British, frustrating his pacifist father. When he’s captured, his father takes up arms to rescue him, forming a group of patriot fighters who prove invaluable to the overall colonial war effort.
Based on Homer’s Iliad, 2004’s epic Troy portrays the battle between the ancient kingdoms of Troy and Sparta. As 300 reminds us, when you get men in Roman sandals, good things happen.
This crime thriller is loosely based on the K. M. Nanavati v. State of Maharashtra court case in 1959. It tells the story of a naval officer who killed his wife’s lover, leading to a gripping court case and even more chilling secrets that they hid behind closed doors.
Based in the era of World War II, this drama digs into the roots of prejudices in the deep South and how two Mississippi families of different ethnic backgrounds make a living doing the same farm work.
After a deadly terrorist attack on a youth camp in Norway, one boy survives to tell the tale. He and the citizens of Norway rally together to understand the situation, as well as to heal.
The Theory of Everything
Future physicist Stephen Hawking discovers that he has ALS while studying at Cambridge University. In search of a cure, Stephen begins to study time, knowing that his own life expectancy is limited. Stephen breaks grounds in his studies and surpasses his life expectancy, but with all of this comes a higher dependency on his wife, Jane, causing stress on their relationship.
Saving Mr. Banks
Walt Disney loves his daughters, so it’s no surprise that when he makes them a promise, he’s going to keep it. In a fight to obtain the movie rights to Mary Poppins and fulfil his word, Walt runs into a roadblock by the book’s author who has no interest in turning it into a movie.
Based on a true story, Defiance is about a group of brothers who escape to a forest in Eastern Europe during World War II. In an attempt to save their loved ones, the brothers use their survival plan as a way to battle the Nazis.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Based on a true story, single mother Liz falls in love with a man named Ted Bundy who is later accused of numerous murders. Liz refuses to believe the truth and blames herself for Ted’s jail time.
This 2008 historical romance movie is set in 16th-century India and tells the dreamy love story of Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar, the Mughal Emperor of Hindustan, and Rajput princess Jodhaa. It’s a three-and-a-half-hour film, so be sure you have enough popcorn to tide you over!
Mission of Honor
Set in World War II, this adventure movie tells the story of a group of Polish pilots who, despite their prejudice, aid the Royal Air Force in protecting both Britain and Poland from Hitler’s Nazis who are threatening to take over British skies.
This 2015 drama revolves around successful screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who gets blacklisted for his political beliefs in the 1940s.
My Week With Marilyn
In the midst of filming a movie in England, Marilyn Monroe is exhausted by all of her obligations. When her husband leaves town, Marilyn has a weekend with the movie’s production assistant.
Set during World War II, this sexy espionage drama follows a secret agent who’s tasked with seducing – and then killing – an official who works for the Japanese puppet government in Shanghai. However, her mission becomes trickier when she engages in a wild love affair with him instead.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
In an attempt to save his village from famine, a 13-year-old boy sneaks into his school’s library and learns to build a wind turbine to create energy.
First They Killed My Father
Directed by Angelina Jolie, this thriller tells the story of a 5-year-old girl who survived the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, where a political party tried to create a master race that led to genocide. As a survivor, we follow Loung Ung’s experiences of hope and pain throughout the Khmer Rouge’s reign, and how she and her family fought for their lives.
This Western drama tells the story of an enslaved man named Django and his path to freedom. After he joins an unorthodox German bounty hunter to capture the infamous Brittle brothers and their mission is successful, he goes to save his wife from a vicious Mississippi plantation owner.
The 1980 US men’s hockey team wasn’t looking too promising. However, with new coach Herb Brooks, there was hope. After being humiliated in one of their first matches, Herb coached the team to a victory that no one expected.
The Gospel of John
Aramaic-speaking actors re-create the story of Jesus’s life from the fourth gospel as told by apostle John.
Follow the life of a teen boy who doesn’t play by the rules, and watch as he grows up to become one of the most well-known criminals of Milan.
Money, big houses, and repressed romance: this 1992 film has all the hallmarks of a period-piece classic. It looks at class relations in Edwardian England and features a big-name cast, including Dame Emma Thompson, who won a best actress Oscar for her part – one of three Academy Awards this film took home.
Nothing to Lose
Nothing to Lose tells the controversial story of Edir Macedo, who founded The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and owned RecordTV in Brazil.
Sisters Gail, Cynthia, and Julie, along with their cousin Kay, learn about the emotional triumphs of friendship and war when they’re sent to Vietnam to entertain the United States troops.
Paan Singh Tomar
Paan Singh Tomar was once known as a famous Indian athlete and a seven-time national steeplechase champion until he retired. After his retirement, Sign Tomar took on a new role as a feared rebel.
Dallas Buyers Club
Based in Texas in the mid ’80s, Ron Woodroof was told he only had 30 days left to live after a deadly AIDS diagnosis. In disbelief, Ron sets out to smuggle unapproved drugs into the United States for treatment. Ron eventually starts selling the drugs with another AIDS patient, with hopes the FDA will approve them.
There Will Be Blood
When a silver-miner-turned-oil-prospector moves to a town in California to get rich off the land of others, a local preacher can sense his bad intentions. A feud soon begins, and it ravages both of their lives and the town the live in.
During WW I, Albert’s dad decides to sell his horse, Joey, to the British cavalry. But the bond between Albert and Joey cannot be broken, as Albert searches the battlefields of France to get Joey back home.
The Danish Girl
This gorgeous biographical romance revolves around one the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, following Lili Elbe’s journey from Einar Wegener, as well as Lili’s changing relationship with her wife, Gerda, who supports Lili wholeheartedly (even though she grows jealous when Lili catches the eye of a sexy childhood friend).
This political drama centers on the women’s suffrage movement of the late 19th century. Carey Mulligan plays the main character, a young political activist. While her character isn’t based on anyone specifically, Meryl Streep plays Emmeline Pankhurst, who was a real leader in the movement. She founded a suffrage advocacy group, spent time in prison for getting physical with officers, and played a huge part in getting the Representation of the People Act passed. She passed away weeks before the government extended the right to vote to women over 21 years old.
These history-loaded Netflix movies bring all the drama, and their detailed storylines are worth a binge session. From Roman rivalry to royal romance, the past is packed with stories so good that moviemakers had to borrow them – and Netflix is currently rounding out its catalog with some of the best around. Whether it’s a reimagined look at Ted Bundy’s life in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile or the moving and ever-shocking stories of World War II that catch your imagination, some of the biggest films with an eye on the past can be found on Netflix.
Looking for even more Netflix recs? Check out the movies and TV shows available on Netflix in January here.
– Additional reporting by Haley Lyndes, Lauren Harano, and Corinne Sullivan