These history-loaded Netflix movies bring all the drama, and their detailed storylines may even be 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.
Here are the historical movies that will make the pool look dull in comparison.
The King: Prince Hal (Timothée Chalamet) is crowned King Henry V after his father passes away. As a new ruler, Hal has to face all the hostilities and politics that his father left behind as he battles for England. Watch The King now.
Wyatt Earp: This is a biography of Wyatt Earp, a western lawman who is very respected amongst his town and is constantly at odds with a gang of cowboys. Watch Wyatt Earp now.
Defiance: 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. Watch Defiance now.
La Bamba: The biographical film tells the story of Los Angeles musician Ritchie Valens who became a popular rock and roll artist overnight. Sadly, at the peak of his success and when he begins his national tour with Buddy Holly, the singer dies in a plane accident. Watch La Bamba now.
Lagaan: In this movie set in 1893, India is under British command and its leader, Captain Russell, has imposed a land tax. Outraged, Bhuvan, who is a local farmer, gathers his fellow citizens to dispute the tax. In an effort to settle the dispute, Captain Russell challenges the citizens to a high-stakes game of cricket. Watch Lagaan now.
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. Watch Nothing to Lose now.
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. Watch Paan Singh Tomar now.
Raging Bull: Boxer Jake Lamotta was a hit (pun intended) inside the ring. However, the violence and temper that made his career so successful was also crumbling his personal life. Watch Raging Bull now.
The Gospel of John: Aramaic-speaking actors recreate the story of Jesus's life from the fourth gospel as told by the apostle John. Watch The Gospel of John now.
The Great Raid: Starring Benjamin Bratt and James Franco, The Great Raid tells the story of a group of rangers in World War II who put their lives on the line to rescue 500 American soldiers who've been trapped in a camp for three years. Watch The Great Raid now.
Queen of the Desert: Adventurer Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman) is a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political ambassador for the British Empire who decides to head to the Middle East for her next adventure. Watch Queen of the Desert now.
22 July: 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. Watch 22 July now.
Mudbound: 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. Watch Mudbound now.
Lincoln: Taking place during the tumultuous years of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln works endlessly to do what was once thought to be the unthinkable: end war and abolish slavery. With his focus on humanity and immense political skill, Lincoln creates the 13th Amendment, a legacy that will stick with him forever. Watch Lincoln now.
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. Watch The Theory of Everything now.
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 fulfill his word, Walt runs into a roadblock by the book's author who has no interest in turning it into a movie. Watch Saving Mr. Banks now.
The King's Speech: As Prince Albert prepares to ascend the throne as king, there's just one thing that's in his way: his speech. Struggling with a speech impediment his whole life, Prince Albert's wife understands the importance of clear communication and hires Lionel Logue to help. A unique friendship begins to develop between the two men as Prince Albert learns the tips and tricks to clear speaking. Watch The King's Speech now.
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. Watch Mission of Honor now.
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. Watch My Week With Marilyn now.
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. Watch Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile now.
The Duchess: Based on the novel Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire comes the romantic story of an 18th-century duchess who is stuck in an unhappy marriage. Facing her own personal conflicts, the Duchess falls in love with a politician and gets involved in a scandalous affair. Watch The Duchess now.
Outlaw King: Outlaw King is a true story starring Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, otherwise known as the "outlaw king." The adventure film takes place in 14th-century Scotland, where Robert the Bruce fights to get his country's independence back from England. Watch Outlaw King now.
The Great Battle: In seventh-century Korea, commander Yang Man-chun defends his fortress from a large invasion with a battle that lasts 88 days. Watch The Great Battle now.
The Most Hated Woman in America: Get a peek into the life of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an outspoken activist for American atheists. She was known for her role in the Supreme Court ruling to ban Bible readings in schools, as well as her abduction and murder in the mid-1990s. Watch The Most Hated Woman in America now.
The Highwaymen: Former Texas rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault take on capturing the infamous Bonnie and Clyde in a drama that's based on a true story. Watch The Highwaymen now.
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. We follow Loung Ung's experiences of hope and pain throughout the Khmer Rouge's reign as a survivor, and how she and her family fought for their lives. Watch First They Killed My Father now.
Suite Francaise: This partial adaptation of Irène Némirovsky's novel, set in occupied France during World War II, won plenty of critical acclaim upon its release in 2015. Michelle Williams is the French woman who falls in love with a German soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) while she waits for news of her husband. Watch Suite Francaise now.
The Ruthless: 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. Watch The Ruthless now.
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. Watch The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind now.
The Sapphires: 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. Watch The Sapphires now.
Walk. Ride. Rodeo: After a terrible car accident, Amberley Snyder is worried about whether she'll ever walk again, let alone race. Determined to continue the sport she loves, Amberley works tirelessly to get back in the saddle. Watch Walk. Ride. Rodeoo now.
Miracle: The 1980 U.S. 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 games, Herb coached the team to a victory that no one expected. Watch Miracle now.
Howard's End: 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. Watch Howard's End now.
War Horse: During World War 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. Watch War Horse now.
Dallas Buyers Club: Based in Texas in the mid-1980s, 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. Watch Dallas Buyers Club now.
Devil's Bride: A young maid starts an affair that leads to life-threatening accusations of witchcraft in 17th-century Finland. Abandoned wives, desperate lovers, and a tragic turn of events are all featured in this examination of witch hunt mania. Watch Devil's Bride now.
Becoming Jane: Before Jane Austen was a famous novelist, she was an ordinary person whose parents wanted her to marry someone she wasn't in love with. Despite her family's opinion, Jane followed her heart and married Tom Lefroy, who gave her the courage to write. Watch Becoming Jane now.
The Physician: When a young boy is orphaned in medieval England, he decides to study medicine. His journey takes him to Persia, where he ends up breaking down barriers in his quest for knowledge. Tom Payne and Ben Kingsley star in this critics' favorite. Watch The Physician now.
Gangs of New York: In 1860s New York, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young Irish immigrant just released from prison and on a mission to find his father's murderer. Watch Gangs of New York now.
The Water Diviner: Australian father Joshua Connor sets off to Turkey to find his sons who went missing in the Battle of Gallipoli. Although presumed dead, Joshua believes there's a chance his sons are still alive. Watch The Water Diviner now.
Gun City: This crime drama, set in 1920s Barcelona, follows a double agent who is assigned to work his way into the local mafia to find out the source of the weapons being sold to anarchist groups. It's sure to give you major The Departed vibes, and with the threat of civil war looming, this one might be even more thrilling. Watch Gun City on Netflix.
The Witch: The "witch" paranoia of early America has been covered plenty in pop culture. Here, a town becomes convinced that a witch has cursed them, and their efforts to root out the "witch" turns everyone against each other. Watch The Witch now.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Ang Lee's Oscar-winning movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is a martial arts film with plenty of amazing action scenes. It's so mesmerizing, it should be in a film category all its own. Watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon now.
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). Watch The Danish Girl now.
Like Water For Chocolate: A story of forbidden love, this 1992 award winner is about a girl named Tita who is in love with Pedro. Her mother doesn't approve of their relationship, so he marries her oldest sister in order to stay close to her. Watch Like Water For Chocolate now.
Catch Me If You Can: Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo Dicaprio) was an incredibly talented forger. So talented, that by the age of 17, Frank became the most successful bank robber in U.S. history. Destined to put a stop to Frank's ways, FBI agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) made capturing Frank his mission. Watch Catch Me If You Can now.
City of God: You've probably heard the hype about Brazilian film City of God, and it is spot on. It focuses on a poverty-stricken neighborhood on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Two boys have to navigate life in the corrupt city as they try to survive. As they grow older, one pursues a career as a photographer, and the other one becomes a drug dealer. Watch City of God now.
Suffragette: 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. Watch Suffragette now.
Elisa & Marcela: Elisa & Marcela is a Spanish biographical romantic film based on the story of Elisa Sánchez Loriga and Marcela Gracia Ibeas, the first two women to have a same-sex marriage in Spain. They were able to do so only because Elisa had assumed a male identity. Watch Elisa & Marcela now.