Epic historical dramas transport you back to medieval days of warriors, royalty, and invasions for thrilling adventure & gritty tales. (Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash)

For folks itching to get lost in the drama and grit of the medieval past, these movies and TV shows should suck you right in. I mean, who doesn’t love tales of warriors, royals, invasions – the whole works? This lineup’s got everything from Vikings to knights to a sneak peek at the early years of one Marco Polo. Yeah, THAT Marco Polo.

These aren’t your dry history lectures, my friends. We’re talking adventure, political schemes, battles for power – with some poetic license to spice it all up, of course. But they put in the effort to capture the feel of these chaos-ridden eras when kings and warlords duked it out. Stream along as Alfred the Great scrambles to hold off Viking warbands or Sir Landry duels with betrayal amongst the Knight’s Templar round table.

Even if you’re just in it for the clash of swords and sprinkling of legends, you might learn a thing or two about how they rolled in medieval days gone by. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t resist a glimpse into the bold, bloody, muck-and-mire worlds that laid the groundwork for modern life as we know it. Ready to time travel? Dive in.

The Last Kingdom (2015​ Series Release)

The Last Kingdom Series 1 Trailer
  • Set in the 9th Century

England wasn’t always like one country back in the 800s. It was more a mix of smaller kingdoms ruled by Anglo-Saxons. Then the Vikings showed up wanting to invade and take over!

These kingdoms had to try to stop them. One young nobleman named Uhtred got stuck between the two sides. When Uhtred was just a kid, Vikings captured him. They raised Uhtred themselves – so now he’s not sure who to support. Should Uhtred stay loyal to the Anglo-Saxons he came from? Or should he side with the Vikings who took him in?

Uhtred does want to reclaim the land in Northern England he’s meant to rule one day. But with all these kingdoms battling the Vikings, it’s crazy complicated. We watch Uhtred journey around England dealing with all sorts of adventures and tough choices!

At first, the BBC made the show in Britain. Later on, Netflix took over, bringing Uhtred and England’s wild past to watchers everywhere! Now more people can enjoy the excitement in this series set so long ago.

Knightfall (2017 Series Release)

Knightfall Series Trailer (History Channel YT)
  • Set in the 13th Century

The TV show Knightfall started airing on the History Channel in December 2017. It’s about the Knights Templar, the famous warrior monks from the Middle Ages. The show looks at the Templars in the years leading up to Friday, October 13, 1307. That’s the day King Philip IV of France turned on them and most of the knights got arrested and burned alive. So the show is covering the time right before their brutal end, which is why October 13 became linked with bad luck.

Knightfall follows a fictional Templar knight named Landry. He gets discouraged when the Templars can’t hold onto Jerusalem anymore. But then Landry hears the Holy Grail might have shown up again, and chasing after it gives him a new purpose. The show looks at all the politics, fighting, and backstabbing that was going on with the king, the church, and the Templars towards the end. It shows the tough choices some knights had to make about who they were loyal to and what their vows as Templars meant when everything started falling apart.

The show aims to give a gritty, true-to-life view of the legendary knights. It mixes fact with drama about their final days, because in real history they went from famous heroes to being labeled heretics and killed off. The show explores why things ended so badly for an order of warrior monks that people used to deeply respect.

Marco Polo (2014 Series Release)

Marco Polo Series 1 Trailer (Netflix Channel YT)
  • Set in the 13th Century

The Netflix show “Marco Polo” dramatizes the young years of the famous explorer Marco Polo and his time at the court of 13th-century Mongol ruler Kublai Khan. Debuting in 2014, the ambitious series wanted to capture Marco’s arrival in China and his dealings with Kublai Khan, who had founded the Yuan Empire. With fancy costumes and scenic backdrops, it focused on power politics, backstabbing, and colliding cultures.

Even with epic cinematics and scale, reviews were mixed and viewers were uncertain. After two seasons of lavish spending, it got the axe for costing too much dough. But for fans who dig a stirring yarn about Marco Polo’s early days bridging East and West, and can handle some flaws, it mostly delivers the goods.

Vikings (2013 to 2020 Series)

Vikings Series 1 Trailer (Netflix Channel YT)
  • Set in the late 800s to the early 1100s

The TV show “Vikings” has made medieval Viking culture exciting for regular viewers. Originally aired on the History channel before also becoming available on Netflix, the drama pulls fans into the world of legendary warrior Ragnar Lothbrok.

“Vikings” captures the daring voyages and raids that gave Vikings their fierce reputation across Europe. Ragnar embodies the adventuresome Viking spirit as he rises from humble farmer to Scandinavian king. His thirst for glory drives the narrative as he commands raids pillaging England and France.

While dramatized, “Vikings” attempts to realistically portray Viking home life, fighting tactics and customs. After following Ragnar’s family saga over six seasons, the continued interest sparked a sequel on Netflix – “Vikings: Valhalla” – to keep the rugged Viking action going.

With everyday dialogue and battle scenes focused on realism over glitz, “Vikings” makes early medieval Scandinavia engaging. The complex characters like Ragnar and his ambitious sons keep viewers locked in as their power struggles shape history. No dusty textbook, this gripping show makes the Vikings come alive.

Popular Films Based on the Medieval Period You Might Like

Outlaw King – Set in 14th century Scotland, focuses on Robert the Bruce and his guerrilla war against the invading English army. This gripping period piece centers around Bruce’s quest to free Scotland from English rule after being crowned king.

Redbad – The 2018 release Redbad takes place in 754 AD and depicts Frisian warrior Redbad as he fights back against the encroachment of Christianity in his lands. This film captures the religious conflicts that defined Dark Ages Europe.

Mongol – set against the backdrop of late 12th and early 13th century Central Asia., Mongol dramatizes the early life of Temüjin, who would become the great conqueror Genghis Khan. Viewers follow the future Mongol warlord from childhood slavery to his emergence as one of history’s most fearsome commanders.

Ironclad – Set in 13th-century England, A group of Knights Templar takes a desperate last stand to defend Rochester Castle from the army of King John. This brutal medieval action film brings to life the bloody violence of siege warfare.

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