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15 Historical K-Dramas To Binge, Ranked (According To IMDb)

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Just like any other television show, K-dramas also come in an array of genres. Some fans might be more inclined to thrillers or crime series. Maybe even a steamy and blush-worthy romance. What about fans who want a K-drama set in a historical time period? No worries, there are a ton of historical dramas over the years that have gotten impeccable ratings.

There’s a certain intrigue and tension when it comes to period pieces. The storyline can involve conspiracies of the throne, political unrest, and maybe even some love and comedy. Not to mention the gorgeous and intricate traditional ensembles like that of a hanbok. Historical K-dramas are just as binge-worthy as any modern tale.

Updated on August 2nd, 2022 by Jom Elauria: Thanks to streaming websites like Netflix and Rakuten Viki, K-dramas can be easily viewed by audiences all over the world. From the worldwide hit Squid Game to the thrilling adaptation Money Heist: Korea – Joint Economic Area, K-dramas have provided viewers with a diverse kind of entertainment and allowed them to enjoy narratives not usually seen in popular shows from the US and the UK. These include historical K-dramas that feature rich Korean culture and traditions. On IMDb, some of these historical tales have received high scores. 

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15 Tale Of Arang (2012) – 7.3

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Tale Of Arang

Aside from featuring a historical plot, Tale of Arang also has fantastical elements. The show follows a nobleman named King Eun-Oh, who tries to look for his mother in a remote village. Eun-Oh has the ability to see ghosts, and during his quest, he encounters a ghost named Arang who will stop at nothing to find out how she died.

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Despite not having the best special effects and wardrobe, Tale of Arang has received positive reviews from viewers thanks to its moving narrative. The character development in the show is also notable, as the hardships and experiences of the characters actually mold them to become dynamic and three-dimensional.


14 Love In The Moonlight (2016) – 7.8

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Love In The Moonlight

In the show Love in the Moonlight, a scholar named Hong Ra-On gives men dating advice by posing as a eunuch. Eventually, she meets the crown prince who soon gets invested with her. The K-dama is based on a popular novel named Moonlight Drawn by Clouds, and features the popular K-drama actors Park Bo-Gu and Kim Yoo-Jung.

From its jealous K-drama characters to its enthralling and romantic storyline, Love in the Moonlight is an entertaining K-drama to watch for those who want to get acquainted with Korean history.


13 Gu Family Book (2013) – 8.0

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Gu Family Book

Viewers who are looking for K-dramas that fuse magic and history together should check out Gu Family Book. The show is an epic that tells the story of a half-human, half-fox creature named Choi Kang-Chi. The main character soon meets a master of martial arts and archery who he eventually falls in love with.

Gu Family Book is an excellent period drama from Korea that blends mythological creatures with a compelling love story. The performance of the lead actors in the show is also commendable, considering that they sang songs, did action scenes, and had incredible chemistry.


12 Moon Embracing The Sun (2012) – 8.0

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Moon Embracing The Sun

The K-Drama Moon Embracing the Sun takes place during the Joseon dynasty, which was the longest-living imperial dynasty in Korea. The show is about a love triangle between a legitimately born prince, his half-brother from a neglected concubine, and a female shaman.

Compared to other historical K-dramas, Moon Embracing the Sun does a stunning job at making sure that the costumes, set, and even cinematography truly reflects the time period it’s in. The story also flowed flawlessly and didn’t give viewers to get bored and tired of its narrative.


11 Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth (2016) – 8.0

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Actors Park Seo-joon, Go Ara and Park Hyung-sik in Hwarang: The Poet Warrior Youth

The 2016 K-drama is a coming-of-age romance centered around a group of elite young men. The drama takes place during the Silla Kingdom era between 57 BC and AD 935. The queen of the Kingdom of Silla sent her son away from the palace walls to stay safe from their enemies.

But he’s coming of age and waits along with other citizens for her to step down. But there’s trouble amidst. The queen worries about powerful nobles who once tried to take over the throne. She has a plan to form an elite group of warriors called, the Hwarang. They will surpass existing power factions and protect the throne. The young men are unaware that their future king is among them.


10 Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung (2019) – 8.1

Available to stream on Netflix.


Actor Cha Eun-woo as Yi Rim and Shin Se-kyung as Goo Hae-ryung

Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung premiered on Netflix in 2019 and stars K-Pop Idol, Cha Eun-woo as Prince Dowon Yi-rim. While the drama may be tagged as a romance and comedy, there are a lot of historical facts to unpack. Two storylines take place in the show.

One is set in “nowadays”  in the early 19th century of Joseon. The other twenty years beforehand. One is more lighthearted with caricatures and jokes. The other is a series of flashbacks detailing the unjust rank of citizens and suppression. Interweaved is also a story of love between a free-spirited woman hoping to become a female historian and a prince working in secret as a romance writer.


9 Rebel: Thief Who Stole The People (2017) – 8.2

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Actor Yoon Kyun-sang as Hong Gil-dong

The K-drama is set during the rule of the 10th king during the Joseon Dynasty. Many who watch the drama will find it closely related to another famous tale, Robin Hood. The son of a servant has no noble standing in society and little room to make something of himself.

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Hong Gil-dong (Yoon Kyun-sang) decides to become the leader of a group of thieves. They steal and give back to the poor as the tyrannical King Yeonsangun (Kim Ji-Seok) oppresses his people. This drama also has a love story as the King’s consort can’t seem to forget her first love who happens to be Gil-dong. It leads to a palpable romance.




8 Deep Rooted Tree (2011) – 8.2

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Actor Jang Hyuk as Kang Chae-yoon/Ddol-bok

Deep Rooted Tree was first known as a historical novel by the same name written by Lee Jung-Myung. For fans wanting a bit more thrill in their drama, this is a good choice. The story revolves around a royal guard who is investigating the serial murders of  Jiphyeonjeon scholars. The drama does have inclinations of romance but it’s not the main star.

Ddol-bok (Jang Hyuk) was once a young slave to the King. The King causes the death of his in-laws and his slaves to save them from his father. But the young slaves survive. Years later, now a royal guard, Ddol-bak wants revenge but gets tangled in the mysterious murders. As secrets get uncovered, the creation of the Korean alphabet can either give or take power.


7 Empress Ki (2013) – 8.4

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Actor Ha Ji-won as Empress Ki

Empress Ki was a domestic and overseas hit for its impressive performances and riveting story. The historical drama details the journey of a woman born in Korea as she becomes a powerful empress of China amidst love, war, and politics. Gi Seungnyang (or Ki Seung Nyang) rises to power despite the restrictions of the era’s class system.

She comes to marry the Emperor of the Mongol Empire to become empress. But underneath there’re still feeling for her first love. Audiences will get caught up in the display of deep-rooted love from the Emperor as well as the Empress’s drive and ambitions.


6 Jewel In The Palace (2003) – 8.5

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Jewel In The Palace

Those who think that K-dramas are overrated should expand their viewing palette and watch Jewel in the Palace, which is one of the earlier K-dramas that has earned prominence on the global stage. Set during the Chosun Dynasty, Jewel in the Palace is actually based on the true story of a woman named Jang-Geum, who manages to become the first royal physician in all of Korea.

The show focuses on Jang-Geum’s struggles as a woman in a male-dominated society. The historical K-drama’s relevant storyline, as well as its phenomenal actors, have helped it gain viewers all over the world.


5 Mr. Queen (2020) – 8.6

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki.


Actor Shin Hye-sun as Kim So-yong (Queen Cheorin) and Jang Bong-hwan

Mr. Queen is a historical comedy that will have anyone on the floor laughing at its comical displays and dialogue. The 2020 drama ties the present and the past all in one. An up-and-coming chef suffers an accident and wakes up in a different era. Not only does he wakes up in the Joseon era but also as a woman.

RELATED: The 10 Best Korean Horror Movies, According To IMDb

Not just any woman, but the queen. The current King is a gentle and easy-going person but in reality, has a dark and secret side the Queen is starting to uncover. While there’s corruption in the kingdom, the Queen’s modern life and that of the Joseon era are melding. It makes for comical and awkward encounters.


4 Queen Seondoek (2009) – 8.6

Available to stream on Kocowa.


Actor Lee Yo-won as Princess Deokman and later Queen Seondeok

Queen Seondoek still holds up as being one of the highest-ranking historical K-dramas and for good reason. The drama is full of political unrest and turmoil that had fans on the edge of their seats. Princess Deokman (Lee Yo-won) is sent away as a child for her safety against the royal concubine hungry for power and desire to become queen.

As she’s raised by a loyal servant, she comes to learn of her true identity. She not only seeks to reclaim her rightful place on the throne and take down the concubine but seeks justice for her twin sister. The drama takes viewers on her journey as queen and her struggles behind closed doors.


3 Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo (2016) – 8.7


Acotr Lee Ji-eun as Go Ha-jin and Hae Soo

This drama is for fans who want a bit of fantasy and time travel tied in with their historical romance. The show did averagely well but gained mass success overseas, due in part to audiences being familiar with it since it’s a remake of a Chinese show. In this body-swap K-drama, a 25-year-old woman gets transported to the year 941 and meets the prince of the Wang family.

The drama wouldn’t be without its love triangle, a good guy and a bad boy. The woman falls for one of the kindhearted princes but is also allured by another who hides his face with a mask. In between love, she finds herself amongst dangerous palace politics and a rivalry for the throne.


2 Mr. Sunshine (2018) – 8.7

Available to stream on Netflix.


Actor Lee Byung-hun as Eugene Choi and actor Kim Tae-ri as Go Ae-shin

Mr.Sunshine is a favorite amongst K-drama fans for its melodrama, swoon-worthy love triangle, and its riveting use of historical facts. Fans applauded the show’s accurate portrayal of historical events as well as its time period setting. Unlike other dramas, this takes place before the Japanese Annexation of Korea in the late 1800s.

Eugene Choi (Lee Byung-hun) was once a slave but escaped to the U.S. and became a Marine Corps officer. He returns to Joseon on a mission but soon falls for an aristocrat’s granddaughter. She’s no ordinary aristocrat as she hides her identity as part of the Righteous Army. Along the way, he uncovers a plot for the colonization of Korea and a fight for sovereignty.


1 Six Flying Dragons (2015) – 8.9


Actor Yoo Ah-in as prince Yi Bang-won

With the highest rating is the 2015 K-drama, Six Flying Dragons. It’s seen as a loose prequel to the 2011 drama, Deep Rooted Tree. This is due to the storyline focused on real fictional characters and their foundations in the rise of the Joseon Dynasty.

The drama focuses a bit more on the character Yi Bang-won (Yoo Ah-In), a prince and future king who helped his father establish the dynasty. The drama has everything from the rise and fall of characters, exciting action sequences, drama, and compelling political conflicts.

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