It’s the swinging sixties and chess is the name of the game. The 2020 breakout hit, The Queen’s Gambit, stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an introverted orphan turned child-prodigy in this Netflix series based on the Walter Tevis novel from 1983. The Queen’s Gambit takes us to Beth’s early years at a Kentucky orphanage, where she’s sent after the death of her brilliantly smart but disturbed mother, and follows Beth’s mastery of chess as she’s taught the game by a kind janitor named Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), using the escape to the chessboard as a way to cope with the hardships of her young life.
Fast-forward a few years and we see Beth as a teenager thrust into the dramas of adoptive parents, an emerging celebrity feeding a growing addiction to pills and alcohol, and a young woman and jet-setter who’s struggling to keep it all together while facing the toughest male opponents on the world stage of chess—including a Soviet grandmaster named Borgov.
The Queen’s Gambit has been praised for many things (it’s just a great series all around) and is arguably made popular by its dark academia styling and 1960s setting, and audiences the world over are just smitten with Beth Harmon’s fierce wit and fascinating chess-playing, undoubtedly thanks to Anya Taylor Joy’s superb performance as the headstrong young woman.
So if you’ve become a fan of Beth Harmon over the last year (or you’re one of the many thousands who went out and bought a chessboard after watching the series), then you should check out this list of 15 other television series like The Queen’s Gambit. This list is composed of mostly time-period pieces—with a dash of historical accuracy—and the picks here include the superb acting skills, strong female presences, and atmospheric aesthetics that we loved so much in The Queen’s Gambit.
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Image via Netflix
This BBC-created series chronicles the rising and falling of street gangs in Industrial-era London, notably the Peaky Blinders, who attach razor blades to the bills of their hats for quick and easy maiming of their enemies. The series is loosely based on historical fact, as The Peaky Blinders were a real gang existing in early 1900s London, though perhaps not as violent as The Peaky Blinders we see on screen.
Cillian Murphy leads the cast as Thomas Shelby, the head of The Peaky Blinders gang. The last five seasons have followed Shelby’s rise to power on the city streets, his ventures within the corrupt world of London industry, and his loss of love, success, friends, and everything else that’s put on the line when you’re the leader of The Peaky Blinders. Fans of the series are patiently awaiting the premiere of season six, which will also see the addition of Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy to the Peaky Blinders cast. You can catch the new season of The Peaky Blinders this fall on Netflix.
Call the Midwife
Image via PBS
Call the Midwife takes audiences to post-WW2 London, and follows the trials and triumphs of working women of that era. The series is loosely historical, and mostly focuses on the lives of nurses and midwives in the East End. Call the Midwife speaks to many women’s issues relevant to the 1950s and 1960s, such as women’s reproductive rights, matters of marriage and raising a family, and the pursuit of goals and dreams of women in that time period. Like The Queen’s Gambit, we see the female characters take center stage in Call the Midwife—many of them as headstrong as Beth Harmon. The series debuted on BBC in 2012, and is currently on its 11th season. You can find Call the Midwife on Netflix and PBS.
Image via the BBC
Sherlock is a hit mystery series from the 2010s created for BBC and also airing on PBS, with it currently available to watch on PBS.org. The television show is a modern take on the classic Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the genius-level intelligent and self-described “high functioning sociopath,” Sherlock Holmes. Many of the recognizable characters, events, and investigations from the original stories are featured in the series, all with a modern-day twist.
Sherlock Holmes still operates from 221B Baker Street in London, though his methodologies in deductive reasoning may include the use of more current trends. Holmes is assisted by the lovable Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman), of course, though the naivete of this 21st century-Watson is likely more relatable to modern audiences. Holmes continues to outmatch his professional rival, Officer Lestrade, in matters of logic and reasoning, and what good would a Sherlock Holmes series be without Holmes’ arch-nemesis: Moriarty? You bet he’s here, too, interfering with Sherlock Holmes as always, and very much up-to-speed with the agendas and goals of any respectable villain in today’s age. If you dig the dark academia vibes of The Queen’s Gambit, then you’re sure to enjoy everything about Sherlock, from the witty dialogue to the all-blue color palette.
Image via Netflix
Another modernized story borne of the Sherlock Holmes mythos, The Irregulars mixes the classic details with new paranormal factors. Audiences are once again taken to the 221B Baker Street headquarters, where a group of teenage misfits have been conducting investigations alongside the famous Sherlock Holmes himself. Similar to Beth Harmon of The Queen’s Gambit, these young investigators appear to be socially outcast from their own peer groups. Compared to everyone else, this group is… irregular. Watch for the recognizable Sherlock Holmes details, stay for the new magical adventures. The first season of The Irregulars is currently streaming on Netflix.
Image via Syfy
If you enjoyed shows like The Irregulars and The Queen’s Gambit—or even The Umbrella Academy or Shadow and Bone—then you should check out the SYFY channel’s OG dark academia series: The Magicians. Based on the 2009 novel by Les Grossman, The Magicians follows the training of Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph) as he advances from hobbyist magician to full-blown wielder of the arts. Upon admittance to the prestigious school of magic that he thought only existed in his favorite books, Quentin is invited into a world of magic and paranormal activity that most people would deny as being real. But girlfriend drama, academic pressure, and new friends coupled with new temptations? Well, nobody can deny the existence of those things. For all of that and some magic too, look for The Magicians now on Netflix.
Big Little Lies
Image via HBO
Based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies centers on a group of modern women who could be described as friends, frenemies, and maybe even accomplices to murder… (I’m really fighting the urge to make a Sherlock/Moriarty crossover comment here).
Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Laura Dern, and Zoë Kravitz, make up the group of queens who are each trying to rule suburban California in their own way. And, while I couldn’t imagine Beth Harmon hanging out with any of these ladies (though, Beth’s adoptive mother might fit in), Beth would surely appreciate the scheming and plotting that keeps these women up at night. You can find seasons one and two of Big Little Lies on HBO.
Image via Netflix
While Beth Harmon shows us what it’s like to rule as Queen of the chessboard, The Crown shows audiences what it’s like to rule as the actual Queen of a nation. The Netflix series first debuted in 2016, and is currently on its fifth season. The Crown is a loosely historical glimpse into the personal life of Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning Queen of England, and has been praised for its mostly accurate depiction of well-known historical events that involve the royal family.
The Crown takes viewers back to Queen Elizabeth’s early days—before the titles, before the royalty, before the crown itself—and shows us the depth of experiences that shaped the woman into the Queen we see today. Claire Foy stars as the young ruler, a woman thrust onto a stage of politics and power dynamics in a male-dominated world. Matt Smith is Prince Phillip, husband to Elizabeth and, as he’ll learn to accept, loyal subject to the Queen. Not only does The Crown portray the intimate nature of Elizabeth and Phillip’s relationship, but it also touches on many historically and socially relevant topics of the Elizabethan era, and features a stunning performance by John Lithgow as Winston Churchill.
Image via Hulu
Another, lighter look at historical royalty, The Great chronicles the life and experiences of Catherine the Great, and is as hilariously clever as it is aesthetically pleasing. The Hulu series is (very) loosely based on the historical relationship between Empress Catherine II and her husband Emperor Peter III, including their marriage, home life, and battle over the Russian throne. Elle Fanning is Catherine, and is the sophisticated and intelligent counterpart to Peter (Nicholas Hoult), who is charmingly obtuse.
Set in 18th century Russia, the scenic backdrop, elaborate costuming, and overall immaculate styling of The Great make it a major feast for the eyes. Fanning and Hoult ooze onscreen chemistry as the competitive power-couple, and the two reprise their roles in a second season, returning to Hulu in November 2021. For another series with a witty and willful female lead akin to Beth Harmon, check out The Great.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Image via Amazon Prime
When her wannabe-comedian husband leaves her for his secretary, Miriam—Midge—Maisel, lets loose one night in a brash stand-up routine to a small audience just to blow off steam. But suddenly, Mrs. Maisel (unlike her husband), is a hit! The audiences coming to her shows can’t get enough of Mrs. Maisel’s raucous routine and take on marriage, careers, and life in general as a woman. The series cleverly deals with women’s issues of the time, and Mrs. Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) tells it like it is, which can prove to be very controversial coming from a nice looking Jewish housewife in 1950’s America.
For some fun retro-aesthetic setting, sharp wit delivered by Rachel Brosnahan and Alex Borstein, plus fabulous writing from the people behind the scenes, look for the Emmy-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime.
Image via Netflix
Cable Girls is a Spanish language series portraying the lives of young women working for a telecommunications company in 1920s Madrid, and is currently on its fifth and final season on Netflix. The series centers on a group of women who are four of many others, who all come for different reasons to work as switchboard operators at the new communications company. Some women come to work for an opportunity in a male-dominated society, while others are working mothers just trying to support their families. One woman may seek employment at the new company as a way to start a fresh phase of her life, while another may use the job as a way to complete secret missions under an assumed identity. What these women all have in common is this: seeking good money and a shot at independence. I think Beth Harmon would approve.
Image via AMC
Mad Men is an AMC series that came out in 2007 that was super popular, super retro, and made martinis look super cool again. Mad Men, which sounds a lot like ad men, features the lives of men and women of advertising and marketing agencies of 1960s America, in all their smoking-glory.
Jon Hamm stars as Don Draper, retro ad man incarnate, who is hungry for success in the game of advertising. Audiences of Mad Men witness Don Draper’s ascent within the industry and the spiraling descent of his homelife, with additional storylines and characters featuring the likes of Elizabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, and January Jones—household names now thanks in part to the wildly popular Mad Men. The series ended in 2015 and the story concluded with a plot-twisting end, but you can still watch Mad Men on Amazon Prime.
Image via Netflix
If you were moved by the grittier, more personal aspects of The Queen’s Gambit, then you might like the atmospheric “Western”-styled series, Godless, set in 1884 and starring Jeff Daniels as the rugged and ruthless Jeff Griffin. Griffin is on a mission to find fellow outlaw and son he never had—the young Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell)—and he’ll terrorize all of small-town New Mexico until he finds the boy who ran out on him. But, as Griffin will find out, he’s got to get through a lot of strong women first, if he’s ever going to get to Goode. You can find all three seasons of Godless on Netflix.
Image via FX
Cate Blanchett is Phyllis Schafly, staunch conservative and fierce opponent of the feminist movement of the 1970s, in this Emmy-nominated FX on Hulu series based on true events. The aesthetically vintage series is led by a talented cast of women including Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Sarah Paulson, Tracey Ullman, and more, and has been met with widespread praise by both critical and general audiences alike.
The miniseries chronicles the events surrounding the sociopolitical movement to pass the historical Equal Rights Amendment and the backlash from conservatives faced by second-wave feminists such as Gloria Steinem and others. Mrs. America sheds light on the women from the other side of this historically feminist movement, and shares the voices and viewpoints of women such as Schafly, who, regardless of her cultural or political viewpoint, has the tenacity and willpower comparable to all the Beth Harmons or Gloria Steinems of the world.
Image via Hulu
November 22, 1963 was the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and, as the story goes, Lee Harvey Oswald was the man who pulled the trigger. But what if that story could be rewritten? Based on one of the most beloved novels by Stephen King, 11.22.63 takes audiences back in time, and then back again, over and over, as Jake Epping (James Franco) tries to prevent Presedent Kennedy’s assassination, traveling to the past however many times are required to get it right. But the thing is, history doesn’t want to be rewritten. In fact, it might even fight back.
After his local grocer (Chris Cooper) shares a discovery with Jake—a portal to 1960 in the back closet of the grocery store—Jake promises to take up the cause where his friend left off, and save the President’s life. His mission will require total immersion with 1960s life, and to keep up appearances as a quiet school teacher in a small town outside Dallas, Texas, while he tracks down Lee Harvey Oswald. But, each time that Jake is forced to return to the present, the past resets to the same day in 1960, erasing all progress. Add to that a beautiful blonde love interest (Sarah Gadon) that proves to be quite a distraction, arising questions over Lee Harvey Oswald’s actual role in the assassination, and a metaphysical timeline that doesn’t want Jake interfering in parts of history where he doesn’t belong, and suddenly nothing about reality seems to make sense anymore. For a fun sixties setting coupled with masterful storytelling, look for 11.22.63 on Hulu.
Image via Apple TV+
Dickinson is the loosely-based coming-of-age biography of the celebrated American poet, Emily Dickinson, starring Oscar-nominated Hailee Steinfeld as the trail-blazing young woman. Dickinson presents a very clever modern take on all things mid-1800s, and audiences will enjoy the recognizable trends from our 21st century era that are sprinkled throughout the 19th-century series.
In addition to Steinfeld, the talented cast of Dickinson also includes notable stars such as Jane Krakowski and Whiz Khalifa, to name a few. Wait, Whiz Khalifa, the rapper, in a television show about a Victorian-era poet? Well, yes… Poetry and rap music go hand in hand—just like we see Steinfeld and Khalifa as the deep-feeling poet, Dickinson, and her poetic muse, Death. To discover why the eccentric young Emily Dickinson remains a fascinating figure in American culture, check out Dickinson on Apple TV+.
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About The Author
Kacie Cooper Stotler
(9 Articles Published)
Kacie Cooper Stotler is a Features Writer for Collider who loves all things pop culture, books, and film. Kacie’s usually nerding out on vintage sci-fi, obsessing over Frank Herbert’s Dune, or rambling about things on her blog.
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