Cover Photo: Downton Abbey/Facebook

All six seasons of the hit British drama, which has already spawned a movie, arrive on Netflix, and here are the reasons why it's binge-worthy

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. 

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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. 

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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.

 

Dowager Countess of Grantham's biting quips

We all know that the great Maggie Smith is an incredible actress and her immense talent is on full display here, imbuing the stern traditionalist Dowager Countess with such charm and wit, she steals every scene she's in. Plus, she delivers—often deadpan, always golden—the best one-liners and comebacks on the show.

Her verbal sparring partner on the show is Isobel Crawley (Penelope Wilton) and their lively back-and-forth are stuff that make for great TV.

It's one of the most critically acclaimed British shows ever

The list of accolades is long. Over the course of the series, it was nominated 69 times for the Emmys and won 15, including Outstanding Mini Series or Movie in 2011. The series was subsequently nominated for Outstanding Drama Series for all remaining five seasons. Maggie Smith won Outstanding Supporting Actress three times (2011, 2012 and 2016) for the series.

It also won Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series at the Screen Actors Guild Awards three times (2012, 2014 and 2015). It received a special BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award in 2015 in recognition of its outstanding global success.

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It introduced the world to Lily James

Lily James starred in season 4 and 5 as the rebellious but kind Lady Rose, a friend of the Crawleys. She immediately became a fan favourite but her character eventually moved to New York. James herself transplanted her incandescent appeal to Hollywood, becoming a major movie star with hits like Cinderella, Baby Driver, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

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A second movie is on the way

Filming has already begun for the sequel, which will see the return of the series cast as well as the addition of Hugh Dancy and Dominic West, who is also playing Prince Charles in the upcoming season of The Crown. Fellowes returns to write while Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) directs. 

Downton Abbey 2 was originally going to be released in time for the Christmas season this year, but has since been delayed to March next year. 

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