Top 10 Most Historically Accurate TV Biopic Series

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Top 10 Most Historically Accurate TV Biopic Series

VOICE OVER: Sophia Franklin WRITTEN BY: Taryn Crankshaw
You can learn a lot from these historically accurate TV biopics. For this list, we'll be looking at shows about historical figures or events that got a lot of things right about their subjects. Our countdown includes "The Crown," "Band of Brothers," "Victoria," and more!
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Top 10 Most Historically Accurate TV Biopic Series


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 most historically accurate TV biopic series.

For this list, we’ll be looking at shows about historical figures or events that got a lot of things right about their subjects.

Which historical event would you like to see adapted for the small screen? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: “The Tudors” (2007-10)


This late 2000s historical drama follows King Henry VIII’s infamous reign and his six ill fated marriages in the 1500s. The series does not hide away from delving into Henry’s many scandals and transgressions. His unfaithfulness, cruelty and decisions to take the lives of his wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard are all covered. Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the titular royal, the series survived for four seasons. Ironically, that’s longer than many of the tyrannical monarch's marriages. Although the series isn’t a completely perfect depiction, it definitely captures the tone and tension of those involved in the tumultuous period.

#9: “Victoria” (2016-19)


At only 18 years of age, Queen Victoria assumed the throne. She remained there for 64 years until her death in 1901. "Victoria" series creator Daisy Goodman used the real life events of the royal’s life to create a dramatic show. Character traits like the Queen’s disdain for pregnancy were translated from real life. And the accuracy in the costumes and scenery made watching the show feel like you’re viewing a documentary. And thanks to a great performance from Jenna Coleman, the series gives us a fleshed out and honest look at the young monarch's life. “Victoria” truly does feel like an up close and personal experience that you just can’t get from a textbook.

#8: “The White Queen” (2013)


Set in the 1400s, “The White Queen” takes viewers behind the scenes of the “War of the Roses”. The show takes inspiration from a series of novels by author Phillip Gregory to bring us something like “Game of Thrones”...minus the dragons and with a little less gratuitous violence. Its story follows historical figures Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville as they battle over whose head will carry the crown. This series received praise for capturing the true personalities and essence of its leading characters. Woodville received particular praise from critics. The series makes sure to flesh out the full timeline of the war. While it takes occasional historical liberties, the show consistently gives its leading ladies the right to tell this true tale.

#7: “Hell on Wheels” (2011-16)


Although it's a blend of fact and fiction, “Hell on Wheels” does a great job of capturing this bygone era. The series takes place post-Civil War following the construction of America’s Transcontinental Railroad. Its lead character is a one time Confederate soldier named Cullen Bohannon that has a thirst for revenge. While the character is not directly based on anyone real, he’s written as a combination of a few actual figures of that time. This writing technique makes him feel authentic. The cinematography also captures the gritty and bleak nature of the time period thanks to the heavy research the creative team did. Whenever you tune into “Hell on Wheels”, you’ll feel like you’re following a historical figure into another time period.

#6: “Mr. Selfridge” (2013-16)


Department stores may have looked very different without Harry Selfridge Sr. The unique methods he used to make shopping more inviting for customers are now universal. When Selfridge’s story was brought to television, the producers made sure to capture every detail. The outrageous actions of Princess Marie Wiasemsky de Bolotoff are based on real events. The costume pieces, sets and timeline also strove to be as correct to the actual story as possible. Admittedly, a few new faces were added to the show to make it more well rounded. However, that doesn’t take away from how closely this series reflected Selfridge’s life.

#5: “Peaky Blinders” (2014-)


The fan favorite “Peaky Blinders” series is one of the most popular historical dramas in recent memory. Set against the backdrop of post-World War I England, the series follows the Shelby family. Although the actual Shelbys are fictionalized, the group they are based on are real. The Peaky Blinders were composed of young people of lower and middle class backgrounds born into economic inequality. This group used violence, robbery and other forms of crime to rule the streets. The show makes it clear how brutal their reign of terror was. And it makes sure to get the small details like the types of hats the members wore down perfectly. This chilling examination of the time period is not for the faint of heart.

#4: “Band of Brothers” (2001)


One of the strongest portrayals of World War II on television came with HBO’s “Band of Brothers”. Inspired by a book by Stephen E. Ambrose, the story follows the ongoing trials of a parachute infantry named “Easy Company” To respect the stories they were telling, the show reached out for consultation and even required their cast to attempt bootcamp. Star studded cast members like David Schwimmer and Colin Hanks also conducted research of their own. They even went the extra mile by reaching out to the veterans they were portraying. Thanks to research and great cinematography, audiences got a war story that felt like it got everything right.

#3: “Hatfields & McCoys” (2012)


A well-known American feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys was memorialized in 2012 with its own miniseries. The three parter transports audiences to the Kentucky/West Virginia border in the late 1800s. Thanks to great sets, costumes and award-winning makeup, the show completely engrossed viewers into this heated battle. The series takes on a deep dive into the violence and conflicts that lead to the feud going all the way to the Supreme Court. While this disagreement started over a pig, it spiraled into a decade long war that cost people their lives. This unflinching and critically praised series definitely satisfied historians and critics alike.

#2: “The Crown” (2016-)


Netflix’s most expensive series to date spares no expense at making everything from the set to the costumes look authentic. For instance, the original designer of Princess Diana’s wedding dress allowed production to use the original patterns to create a near perfect replica of the famed gown. The series chronicled the life, times and struggles Queen Elizabeth II faced. Throughout the run, it never shies away from digging into the harsh and ugly sides of living under the watchful eye of the public. Although the show added a few extra scenes into its narrative, it often succeeds at replicating the true events it's based on. It seems like accuracy is just more likely when a single episode costs around an estimated $13 million to make.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Borgias” (2011-13)
A High Budget & Great Casting Brought Pope Alexander VI’s Story to Life

“Little Gloria...Happy At Last” (1982)
It Closely Followed the True Story of the Custody Battle Gloria Vanderbilt Was Caught up In

#1: “John Adams” (2008)


Long before Alexander Hamilton became pop culture’s favourite founding father, HBO’s miniseries “John Adams” was earning some clout of its own. The show starred Paul Giamatti as the second ever President of the United States. This historical series drew praise from historians for its near perfect depiction of the time period. The story captures the brutal realities of living through the 1800s. Instead of trying to romanticize the era, the production went as far as to highlight fine details such as certain character’s lack of dental hygiene. The series swept up both Emmys and Golden Globes during its run. This biopic series can proudly say it's one of the most well received and accurate historical portraits of a single time.
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