Since it debuted in 2010, Downton Abbey has become something of a cultural phenomenon, gripping the world with its soapy drama about the residents of a fictional Yorkshire country estate set in the early 20th century. Lasting six seasons, it earned universal critical acclaim and became of the most-watched series ever—in the UK where the series was produced, it was a ratings juggernaut, consistently breaking viewing records throughout its run.
When the series ended in 2016, ardent fans who couldn't bear to part with it kept clamouring for more—and their cries were rewarded with a movie spin-off in 2019.
The entire series is now available on Netflix, and here are five reasons why you should free up this weekend to binge-watch it. Warning: If you haven't watched the series before, there may be spoilers ahead.
It's classic period drama meets soap opera—in a good way
If you're fond of Merchant & Ivory films like A Room with a View, Howards End and The Remains of the Day with its period setting in Edwardian England, great writing, sumptuous sets and Oscar-worthy performances from a solid British cast (think Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Thompson), Downton Abbey is all that—and more.
Created by Julian Fellowes, the English novelist who won best original screenplay Oscar for Gosford Park, it's classic upper class vs lower class narrative but upends your expectations by making you care in equal measure for the characters regardless of whether they live downstairs or upstairs. The almost too casual mingling between the two classes may be a tad unrealistic but on many, many occasions, make for incredibly juicy drama.
Just as interesting is watching Mary, Edith and Sybil, the daughters of Downton Abbey's owner Lord Grantham, evolve over the series from women needing to be rescued by men (often through marriage) into strong, independent people with their own ideals and ambitions; in Edith's case, she even took up a profession in publishing.