The 20 Best Medieval TV Shows, Ranked

Summary

  • The best medieval TV shows offer more than just knights and kings, bringing history to life with drama and action.
  • Viewers are drawn to both fantasy-based and historically accurate medieval shows for their gripping narratives.
  • There is a wide selection of medieval TV shows that cater to different preferences, whether it be tone, battle sequences, or compelling protagonists.

There’s been quite the upswing in shows centered around the Middle Ages — or are at least influenced by the culture and events during this significant era, and this has resulted in some of the best medieval TV shows on the small screen. There is more to these TV and streaming shows than just knights in shining armor on horseback or kings and queens battling rebellious commoners or Vikings. These shows bring a piece of history to the small screen with all the drama and action that a viewer could want to not only enjoy the era but learn more about the past.

It’s not surprising that viewers would be intrigued by such efforts, whether fantasy-based, historical fiction, or an accurate portrayal of real events. After all, this turbulent, dark, and often violent period of human history makes for some gripping settings and engrossing narratives. While Game of Thrones brought a true fantasy-level effort to the show, others have proven to be memorable because they were based on reality. The good news is that there is a wide selection of options for those looking for the best medieval TV shows, whether it be for their tone, their battle sequences, or compelling protagonists.

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20 Britannia (2018-2021)

The cast of Britannia standing together in a promo image

  • Available On Amazon Prime Video

Britannia is one of the best medieval TV shows on Amazon Prime Video and is a good companion show for more popular series like Rome and Vikings. The time frame of this series is 43 AD and the battle between the Romans and Celts. What makes this different from other shows in the genre is the fact that Britannia features warrior women, magical Druids, and Celtic Queens, and gives fans of medieval entertainment a show with a strong female slant. The series ran for three seasons on Amazon Prime Video and ended just shortly after the Roman invasion of Britain.

19 Vinland Saga (2019–2023)

Askeladd and Thorfinn in Vinland Saga

  • Available On Amazon Prime Video & Netflix

Vinland Saga brings the world of the best medieval TV shows into the anime format. There are several anime options when looking at medieval stories, but Vinland Saga sits at the top of the list as the best of the best. Based on the Makoto Yukimura manga series, this follows protagonist Thorfinn, a former warrior of a band of pirates led by Askeladd. He is also the son of one of the world’s greatest warriors, Thors. Vinland Saga, which just finished season 2, is set in the world of Vikings, this is a revenge story that sees Thorfinn going after the man who killed his father, and his rise into legend as his journey continues.

18 El Cid (2020–2021)

An image of Sancho and Ruy talking in El Cid

  • Available To Stream On Amazon Prime Video

The Legend of El Cid remains one of the best medieval TV shows on Amazon Prime Video. Set in the 11th century, the Spanish historical drama follows the life of Ruy, a young squire who uncovers a scandal that involves a conspiracy to murder and a plan to commit regicide. However, by bringing this to everyone’s attention, Ruy puts himself and his loved ones in danger. Partially inspired by the story of the real-life knight and nobleman, El Cid received praise for the way it manages to build suspense and gripping cliffhangers. The fact that the characters aren’t one-dimensional has compelled the viewers to stick with the show.

17 Knightfall (2017–2019)

Ulric looking sideways in Knightfall

  • Available To Buy On Apple TV & Amazon Prime Video

Although it only ran for two seasons, Knightfall stands as one of the best medieval TV shows ever made. Set in the 14th century, Knightfall was a series that explored the lives of several soldiers in the Knight Templar as they tried to keep their power and influence in the Holy Land. While there were a few who criticized the plot and uneven storytelling, many believed that the directors more than made up for it with the battle sequences and the fight choreography. There are also some dynamic characters as well as some compelling and complex villains (which viewers will love to hate).

16 Medici (2016–2019)

Lucrezia (Sarah Parish), Lorenzo (Daniel Sharman) and Giuliano (Bradley James) in Medici

  • Available To Stream On Netflix

With three seasons and a star-studded cast under its belt, Medici stands out as one of the best medieval TV shows. Chronicling the rise and fall of the infamous Italian family, Medici is a series that is full of corruption, rivalries, and political strife (which has viewers engaged from the get-go). It’s not all full of drama either, as the writers also managed to find a perfect balance between romance and action. While Medici wasn’t always historically accurate since they had to dramatize a few events for the sake of some storyline, it does provide an insight into how influential and powerful the Medicis were in 15th-century Florence.

15 Merlin (2008–2012)

Colin Morgan as Merlin

  • Available To Stream On Amazon Prime Video & Peacock

Whether it’s the cool battle sequences, the interesting storylines (that are inspired by the Legend), or because it has some of the best characters, Merlin has managed to captivate the audience for years as one of the best medieval TV shows. Although Merlin isn’t historically accurate (especially in terms of costumes and doesn’t exactly follow the classic tales), some viewers might not care since the show does focus a lot on fantasy and include a lot of mythological creatures. There’s not a lot of blood or gore either, so it’s great for those who want something light-hearted and fun.

14 Marco Polo (2014–2016)

Benedict Wong and Lorenzo Richelmy in Marco Polo.

  • Available To Stream On Netflix

Honing in on Polo’s years in the court of Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire, Marco Polo mostly diverges from Western themes, focusing instead on China circa the Yuan Dynasty. Although this Netflix series only lasted 2 seasons, it’s rich with character drama containing twists and turns, along with lavish set pieces loosely based on Eastern history. Its robust budget of $200 million can be seen in its rich cinematography and sleek production value, making it one of the best looking of the best medieval TV shows on Netflix.

13 The Pillars Of The Earth (2010)

Eddie Redmayne in Pillars of the Earth

  • Not Available To Stream At This Time

Being based on a historical novel, this miniseries crams a wealth of interesting backstories and authenticity into each of its eight episodes. As viewers would imagine from a show based on an English civil war called “The Anarchy,” there are plenty of gripping, dramatic moments to be had in one of the best medieval TV shows. The show keeps a narrow focus on the one hand – revolving around the construction of a cathedral while granting a deep and vast narrative involving several unique characters. Lavish backdrops, along with standout performances by Ian McShane and Hayley Atwell, give The Pillars of the Earth an enriching sense of authenticity.

12 Cadfael (1994–1998)

An image of Cadfael inspecting a weapon in the tv series

  • Available To Stream On Roku

The cutthroat era of Europe 1,000 years ago seems rife with potential when it comes to compelling murder mysteries. This British series from the mid-90s takes advantage of this, crafting engaging crime plots dressed in 12th-century English settings. One of the best medieval TV shows, it takes the premise of Columbo and fuses it with Game of Thrones motifs, making for a distinctly entertaining show. Even with the fun potential of the protagonist’s background as a Crusader-turned-Monk, Cadfael focuses on dynamic writing and interesting plots to keep its viewers enticed rather than action.

11 The Tudors (2007–2010)

Jonathan Rhys Meyers in The Tudors

  • Available To Stream On Amazon Prime Video

While Michael Hirst is perhaps most known for his work on Vikings, a similarly dense, compelling historical drama of his found its way on BBC years before. The Tudors takes place several centuries after that show, honing in on England in the period between the Dark Ages and Modernity; the Renaissance. This transitional era sets the stage for a wealth of major events, and Hirst takes advantage of this. While The Tudors runs with some creative liberties, the show uses both fiction and history to round out one of the best medieval TV shows about King Henry VIII.

10 Redwall (1999–2002)

Luke the Warrior in Redwall

  • Available To Stream On Tubi

It’s true that a cartoon centered around talking mice isn’t exactly authentic to history. Yet, this whimsical fantasy uses medieval themes to paint this majestic scene while also appealing to kids. This Canadian animation draws from the popular fantasy novels by Brian Jacques, with each of its three seasons comprising a different book. Focusing on a once-poor mouse named Matthias, the show captures the often gritty nature of medieval living, while balancing it with lighthearted humor. A number of colorful characters and fun fantasy themes round out this charming cartoon.

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9 Rise Of Empires: Ottoman (2020)

A scene from Rise of the Empires Ottoman

  • Available To Stream On Netflix

Anyone who loved Game of Thrones, but wanted to see something that was a bit more on the mark historically should seek out the docudrama Rise of Empires: Ottoman, one of the best medieval TV shows on Netflix. Forget about the fantastical demons and monsters from Game of Thrones. The real-life historical events this series focuses on are just as dramatic and exciting as any supernatural attack. Rise of Empires: Ottoman deals with the fall of the Holy Roman Empire and looks at the successors in Constantinople and the creation of Istanbul after the conquest by Mehmed II.

8 Isabel (2011–2014)

An image of Queen Isabel getting crowned in the tv series

  • Not Available To Stream At This Time

Based largely upon the reign of Queen Isabella of Castile, Isabel has proven to be quite an underrated addition to the best medieval TV shows. Like GoT, this series shows the rise to power of various major figures of royal families, along with the inevitable drama, struggles, and clashes that come with them. This short-lived Spanish show features terrific performances by Michelle Jenner as Isabel, Rodolfo Sancho as Ferdinand of Aragon, and Pablo Derqui as Henry of Castile. This is enhanced by some authentic Spanish settings and complex societal/political happenings, including the voyage of Christopher Columbus and the Spanish Inquisition.

7 The Hollow Crown (2012–2016)

Andrew Scott in The Hollow Crown

  • Available To Stream On Roku

While there are a number of the best medieval TV shows loosely based on English history of the Middle Ages, BBC Two’s The Hollow Crown portrays this period from a more accurate and authentic angle, honing in on major events like the Wars of the Roses. The show draws from the captivating works of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy, which includes plays such as The Life and Death of King Richard II. The authentic set pieces, tremendous acting by Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, and others, and the rich source material offer a solid foundation for this action-tinged drama.

6 The Last Kingdom (2015–2022)

Ragnar Ragnarsson in The Last Kingdom.

  • Available To Stream On Netflix

While there are plenty of the best medieval TV shows that focus on the late Middle Ages, The Last Kingdom revolves around the even more violent and cutthroat era of 9th-century England. As it dates back to a time of instability, where Britain is fractured into various (often warring) kingdoms – drama, strife, and outright conflict are guaranteed. It also shows the further destabilizing factor of the Northmen raiders becoming emboldened and mounting assaults on the island. The Last Kingdom sets the stage for some intense and epic battle scenes rarely seen on television. A plethora of enticing narratives and rich characters help flesh out this epic historical show.

5 Robin Of Sherwood (1984–1986)

Robin of Locksley finding a sword in the forest

  • Available To Stream On Pluto TV & Shout TV

It’s tough to find a more iconic blend of history and mythology than the legendary Robin Hood; a figure who’s seen no shortage of adaptations over the years and decades. One of the lesser-known, but nonetheless stronger examples of this folklore hero come in the form of the British TV series, Robin of Sherwood, by Richard Carpenter. While it now seems like a mere distant blip on the radar, running from 1984 to 1986, this drama quietly developed a cult following thanks to its gripping portrayal which blends realism with imaginative mythology, enhanced by an engrossing atmosphere.

4 Vikings (2013–2022)

An image of the main characters of Vikings walking through the sea

  • Available To Stream On Amazon Prime Video

Some areas of history don’t even need to be decorated with many fictional or fantastical elements to be entertaining. Such is the case with Vikings, the epic Michael Hirst portrayal of 9th-century Scandinavian society. That’s not to say creative liberties aren’t taken, yet the grandiosity and fun plots of this action-drama do largely draw from real Viking events and cultural traits. One of the best medieval TV shows, it distills this tale down to a rather simple premise of raiders and explorers seeking a more prosperous new life with new lands. The popularity of Vikings even spawned a spinoff series.

3 Six Flying Dragons (2015–2016)

An image of Yi Bang-won holding a sword in Six Dragons

  • Not Available To Stream At This Time

While there are quite a few glimpses into the wondrous and often dark events of the Middle Ages in Europe, this South Korean epic from 2015 demonstrates that the East is similarly rife with thrilling tales of heroism and political strife. The Korean period drama Six Flying Dragons merges real and fictional characters along with settings and premises loosely based on real events. Specifically, it portrays the founding of the Joseon Dynasty in the 14th century, where Neo-Confucianism began to reside over Buddhism, and a cascade of change elsewhere resided over this society, shown through the eyes of Prince Lee Bang Won.

2 Quentin Durward (1971)

An image of Quentin Durward and Isabelle de Croye in the tv series

  • Available To Rent On Amazon Prime Video & Apple TV

Despite its brief seven-episode run and the cinematic limitations as a result of the dated ’70s production, this French-German swashbuckling tale is nonetheless a rich and entertaining watch. The show follows a Scottish adventurer by the name of Quentin, who finds himself in the midst of a feud that wipes out his entire clan. The series, part of an unofficial trilogy that included King Arthur movie Knights of the Round Table, sees the downtrodden protagonist must find his way in this hostile environment while he heads to France to rendezvous with his only living relative and reach the French court of Louis XI.

1 Vikings: Valhalla (2022- )

Vikings: Valhalla Leo Suter as Harald Sigurdsson

  • Available To Stream On Netflix

Vikings: Valhalla is the spinoff of the original Vikings series and remains one of the best medieval TV shows on TV as it released its second season in 2023. The series takes place 100 years after the previous series ended and details the Norse quest to conquer England after the St. Brice’s Day massacre in 1002 A.D. The three Vikings the show focuses on are Harald Sigurdsson, Leif Erikson, and Freydis Eirsdottir. Like the original series, there are a lot of historical characters and events in the series, mixed judiciously with fictional events and characters to create high drama and a very exciting follow-up to the original series as well as the best medieval TV show.