From the extended 16+ episode long stories to unforgettable characters, there really is nothing quite like a good Korean drama.
Among the good, the bad and the ugly are some Korean dramas that stand the test of time and can be regarded as some of the best ever created. Here, we’ll be showcasing and celebrating our favourite historical dramas!
Of course, do feel free to comment below if we’ve missed any noteworthy entries and we’ll be sure to review it and see if it makes the list!
So without further ado, TheReviewGeek team present our picks (in no particular order!) for the best historical Korean dramas of all time.
Mr Sunshine is an epic period piece that combines impressive visuals with a really well written story. Coupled with some brilliant casting, this is one Korean drama not to be missed.
Set during the Joseon period in 1871, Mr Sunshine begins with a brief glimpse of the past as a Korean boy boards an American warship and grows up in the US as an American.
When he returns to his hometown again, it’s as an American soldier causing plenty of inner turmoil and conflict. To spoil much more would be a disservice to this drama.
The story is brilliantly paced, even across the extended 24 episode run, and the show backs up its solid writing with some excellent production design and set pieces.
The Crowned Clown
The Crowned Clown is a dramatic, politically charged series awash with tension, twists and turns. With a satisfying conclusion and impressive cinematography throughout, this Korean drama delivers on all levels.
Set in Joseon, the Royal family are in a state of disorder following a number of uprisings among the unhappy populous. A power struggle for the throne soon ensues, with the maniacal Lee Hun ruling with an iron fist. The Queen Dowager, along with close advisor Sin Chi-Soo, plot to overthrow the King.
When an entertainer arrives in town bearing the same face as the King, Lee Hun switches places with the pretender. Unprepared and in over his head, with the help of both Eunuch Jo and the Royal Secretary Ha Sun takes the throne.
With teasing glimpses of romance and lots of dramatic plot twists, The Crowned Clown constantly outdoes itself, playing host to a number of shocking revelations along the way.
Mr Queen is a hilarious, well-written body swap comedy, set deep in the heart of the Joseon Era.
Despite a polarizing ending and a couple of misfires along the way, this historical drama is undoubtedly a really solid and enjoyable watch.
For those unaware, this drama is a remake of the popular Chinese costume drama Go Princess Go. However, this remake does have its own quirks and unique elements.
The story revolves around Bong-Hwan, an arrogant chef who finds himself suffering from a head injury which tumbles him back through time. When he awakens, he’s trapped inside the body of the new Queen, So-Yong. With political powers conspiring to thwart her at any moment, Bong-Hwan does his best to play up his role while desperately searching for a way back to the present.
Shin Hye-Sun and Kim Jung-Hyun absolutely carry this show, with some absolutely electric scenes when they share the spotlight. This one is certainly worth a watch.
My Country: New Age
Set during the end of the Goryeo period and entering the early Joseon dynasty, My Country: New Age backdrops a changing wave of Korean traditions with two friends caught in an epic conflict.
On the one hand you have Seo Hwi, a warrior whose father is a famous commander. By comparison, Seon-Ho is a smart and talented figure. Unfortunately a corruption scandal involving Seon-Ho’s Father destroys his dreams of passing the military service examination. As things progress, he and Seo-Hwi form an intense rivalry as they disagree over the direction of the country.
Armed with some excellent fight sequences (and some miraculous recoveries from stab wounds!), My Country: New Age is a decent series and one armed with a bittersweet ending.
The Empress Ki
Most Korean dramas take place over the course of 16 episodes. The Empress Ki? A whopping 51! Don’t let that put you off though, The Empress Ki is a really compelling historical epic that centers on (unsurprisingly) Empress Ki.
With all the usual courtroom shenanigans, double-crossings and lofty bites of drama you’d expect, the cast and crew really help elevate this story and make it an epic watch.
While there are a few historical inaccuracies, The Empress Ki makes it very easy to look past that with such a dramatic flurry of episodes.
Moon Embracing The Sun
The Moon Embracing The Sun is a historical drama centering on the timeless forbidden love angle. With good acting and some really cute child actors during the first half, this K-drama certainly boasts a lot of positives.
The story here revolves around King Lee Hwon and a female shaman named Wol. Wol was born from a noble family but became a crown princess. Unfortunately she faced execution but managed to survive, going on to live as a shaman. It’s here where our story really takes off, as Lee Hwon and Wol start to grow closer.
There are a lot of melodramatic moments here, and a pretty good mystery woven throughout too.
Six Flying Dragons
Six Flying Dragons is another 50 episode epic and that’s probably the most apt word for this one.
This historical Korean drama centers on the success stories for six people living life right on the cusp of the Joseon Dynasty. In particular, the story centers on Lee Bang-Won who was the third King in the Joseon period. This man was instrumental in helping his father, King Taejo, establish the foundations for this dynasty.
Now, the series isn’t wholly accurate on the historical front but it does have a lot of compelling drama and some really memorable moments.
The Great Queen Seondeok
The Great Queen Seondeok is the longest drama on this list and for good reason too. Although it was originally scheduled to have 50 episodes, the unbelievably high ratings forced the producers’ hands and they expanded the drama to 62.
The story here centers on Queen Seondeok who was born a twin but abandoned as a baby. Later, she was brought back to the Silla palace, joining forces with her sister, Princess Chonmyong. Together, they oppose Mi-Shil who wants to seize power for herself.
This sets up the crux of drama to follow, as the show begins at the end of King Jinheung’s reign and progresses through until the end of Queen Seondeok’s reign.
While there are some historical inaccuracies, this Korean drama is well written and certainly one heck of a rollercoaster ride!
100 Days My Prince
100 Days My Prince is an intriguing Korean drama. While it doesn’t necessarily do anything outstanding, it does tick all the usual boxes one would expect from a period drama.
The story here begins with crown prince Lee Yool falling off a cliff and nearly dying in an attempted assassination. Amnesia-stricken, Lee Yool wanders around for 100 days under a new name and personality. During this period, he meets Hong Sim, head of the first detective agency in Joseon.
What ensues is a period drama that blends comedy, romance and history together into a bubbling pot of goodness. The mystery is engaging and the chemistry between actors helps to elevate this one.
Dong Yi is another long-running historical drama that released 11 years ago. However, it’s still as enjoyable and exciting now as it was back then.
The story is set during the reign of King Sukjong in the Joseon dynasty. The series itself is based on the real-life historical figure of Choi Suk-Bin.
Dong-Yi’s father and brother are members of the Sword Fraternity, which is wrongfully accused of murdering noblemen. Dong Yi then hides her identity and enters the palace as a servant for the Bureau of Music, determined to reveal her family’s innocence and find the true orchestrators of the noblemen’s deaths.
Based on a true story, Dong Yi depicts this extraordinary woman’s journey from humble servant to court lady inspector really well.
The Tale Of Nokdu
Based on the webcomic “Nokdujeon” by Hye Jin Yang, The Tale Of Nokdu is a bit of a love/hate affair for many drama watchers. If you fall on the love side however, there’s a lot to like.
The story centers on Jeon Nok-Du, a man who lives on an island with his father and older brother. When they’re attacked by a group of female assassins, Nok-Du chases them down.
The girl disappears into a widow village, prompting Nok-Du to disguise himself as a woman and enter. There, he meets Dong-Ju, a woman he earlier helped while adopting his male disguise. As it turns out, she’s actually an apprentice to become a gisaeng.
This romantic comedy certainly has some good laughs along the way, backed up by some compelling acting too.
My Sassy Girl
Not to be confused with the 2001 movie of the same name, the serialized version of My Sassy Girl is arguably better than its movie counterpart. There’s a lot more characterization here too, and the show delivers hearty laughs throughout.
The story centers on a romance between cold city scholar Gyeon Woo and sassy princess Hye-Myung. Taking place deep in the Joseon Dynasty, it’s fair to say she doesn’t have the best reputation among the people.
In fact, Hye-Myung often sneaks out the palace in search of her Mother, the dethroned Queen. One night she meets Gyeon Woo and while they initially start as enemies, that façade soon breaks and they fall in love.
Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung
Part historical drama, part romantic comedy, Rookie Historian Go0 Hae-Ryung is an interesting and enjoyable series.
Beginning as a quirky comedy, the story follows hopeful female Goo Hae-Ryung during the early 19th century. She’s recruited to work as the first ever female historian inside the Royal palace.
With a strict hierarchy and traditions to adhere to, the series explores a growing romance between Goo and Prince Lee. Shunned by his Father and hidden away from political affairs, Lee spends his days writing and longing to be rid of his title.
As the episodes progress, Lee finds himself thrust back into royal affairs. In doing so, he and Goo Hae-Ryung become entwined together and start to fall in love.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a classic time travel story but it’s much less a fantasy and more a historical drama. It’s also another remake, this time the 2011 Chinese drama Scarlet Heart
The story begins with a total solar eclipse, which sends a 25-year-old 21st century woman called Ha-Jin back through time. She ends up in the Goryeo Dynasty and inside the body of Hae Soo, one of the many royal princes of the ruling Wang family. King Taejo is on the throne, but Ha-Jin falls in love with a gentle and warm-hearted Prince Wang Wook.
As the story progresses, Ha-Jin finds herself caught up in palace politics as a rivalry ensues among the princes over the successor for the royal throne.
The ending is suitably bittersweet and the show does an excellent job throughout blending drama and romance together.
And there we have it, our list of best historical Korean dramas of all time! We’ll periodically update this page as we watch more Korean dramas.
What do you think of our list? Have we included your favourites? Or have we missed any must-watch dramas? We love to hear from you so do feel free to let us know in the comments below.
34 thoughts on “Best Historical Korean Dramas Of All Time”
Empress Ki is the best for me, the acting, the conspiracies formed against her and how she came out victorious in the end was just epic for me
1. The King’s Affection
2. Mr. Sunshine
4. Mr. Queen
5. Tale of Nokdu
6. Scarlet Heart
Korean drama, wow best dramas ever because they don’t over expose. I only watch drama and historicals. it’s like living in another world. Good job done.
2. The Kingdom of the winds
4. Gu Family Book
5. Arthdal Chronicles
6. The King Eternal Monarch
The King’s Daughter maybe?
My top favorite is Moon Lovers! Such as good drama and the ending makes me cry every time.
My Top List
1. Mr. Sunshine
2. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
4. Empress Ki
My top 3
Jumong is far far far and far the best ever. It changed me a lot in so many good ways. For someone like me that is not a fan of Kdrama, I still rank it as my Number 1 for all series.
Followed not closely at all by Jewel in the palace which would rank as my Number 2.
Please – can anyone tell me how I can watch Jumong in the USA? I haven’t been able to find it anywhere; and the dvd set costs a LOT!
my 5 tops :
2.the tale of nokdu
3.The Emperor: Owner of the Mask
4.Secret Royal Inspector & Joy
My top 3
1 Rookie historian goo hae-ryung
2 6th flying dragon
Please?!!! can anyone tell me the title of that historical krdama where there are two sisters and the older sister was expecting to be married to the prince that is to become a king , but their father choses the younger sister instead. Now because of that, the sister’s bond was broken. I’ve been looking for that drama for so long… I couldn’t remember the title…
Thanks for the recommendations. Mr. Sunshine was the first K-drama I watched, just a few months ago. I was absolutely captivated by the story, cinematography and music. I sobbed like a baby at the ending. I was completely hooked on K- dramas from that point. I’ve enjoyed 100 Days My Prince and Rookie Historian also.
No mention of The Immortal Admiral Yi Soon-Shin (Sun-Shin)? It was an epic KBS program depicting the life of a major historical character. I am surprised as this one was truly an interesting production and the story quite engaging for those of us unfamiliar with Korean History (whether accurate or not).
Warrior Baek dong so
Tale of nokdu
Shine or go crazy
Honorable mention: jumong, empress ki dong yi
As an ardent Fan of these Dramas. This would be how I rank them.
1. Jewel in the Palace
4 . Hwarang
5. Mr. Queen
6. Saimdang’s Light Dairy
7. Merchant of the Sea/SeaGod
8. Empress Ki
9. Sungkyunkwan scandal
10. Tale of Nokdu
12. Moon that embraces the Sun
13. Dong yi
From here The others I loved were Iljimae, Lee San, Painter of the Wind My Sassy Girl and Rookie Historian.
Moon Embracing the Sun
The Crowned Clown
Royal Secret Agent & Joy
The Emperor: Owner of the Mask
The Red Sky
Love in the Moonlight
Hwarang: Poet Warrior Youth
Flower Crew : Joseon Marriage Agentcy
My favorites are
I want to watch more kdrama (ancient or historical) but I want a kdrama with so many handsome cast involves like in hwarang and scarlet ryeo
Faith is missing from your list – it is based on real history with a mix of time travel, the characters are evolving and growing, there cast is perfect and express chemistry adapted to the period. A story of loyalty, love, friendship . You don’t see actors looking like teenagers playing warriors and ladies, the actors fit the story perfectly. Take your time, and patiently watch this amazing story with Lee Min Ho at his best and Kim Hee Sun.
1. Jewel in the Palace(Dae Jan Geum)
3. Painter of the wind
4. Empress Myeongseon
5. Love in the Moonlight
I haven’t watched that many K-dramas, so I don’t know which ones are the best, but I was absolutely taken by “The King’s Affection”. I also liked “Mr Sunshine” and “Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung”.
all of your list going to trash against Jumong
King dreams and jumung
Guys I know you also like Korean dramas like me so you came to right the place If you want to watch some historical Korean dramas whether it be a romance between king & maid, political drama, revenge of a man or exchange of bodies, here are some good historical dramas you can watch.
These Kdramas are set in history period like Joseon period & the clothes are attractive. Though this list is made by looking through the storyline, ratings & reviews by the audience, don’t fear to try other dramas.
Where is Jewel in the Palace? The best-est historical drama of all time in my opinion.
Here are my highly recommended lists:
1. Jewel in the Palace (long story but very worth it to watch) no comedy. My number one and NO DRAMA UNTIL NOW TAKE PLACE THE RANK!!
2. The Moon that Embrace the Sun (watched it over and over again) no comedy
3. Dong Yi (Smoother version of Jewel in the Palace, I may say) a very tiny bit of comedy
4. Arang and the Magistrate (nice to watch. Love the horror surrounding)
5. Sungkyunkwan Scandal (comedy and romance)
6. Queen Seondeok (long story. No comedy. Serious though)
7. Mr. Queen (super duper comedy. I laugh most of the time. Really)
Any list without jumong doesn’t count…
I don’t believe any list that doesn’t include Jumong
My favorite: Empress Ki – Ha Ji Won is simply magical. Her character evolves and takes the viewer on an epic adventure. My emotions were tied into the beautiful portrayal of this character loosely based on a historical Korean woman who indeed becomes Empress. The characters, sets, music, costumes are all amazing not to mention the action and suspense.
i wonder why tis excellent historical drama not mentioned, SHINE OR GO CRAZY 👍👍👍👍👍
you said scarlet heart ryeo does not gain more viewers in SK, but internationally Scarlet Heart Moon Lovers is a BIG HIT, as many international fans still aiming for a season 2.
Hey RoyalCandy, thank you for commenting and bringing this to our attention!
I was aware of the link o Go Princess Go which was mentioned within the recaps for that show. You’re absolutely right though, they should be credited and as such, I’ve gone in and corrected that now.
Thank you so much for commenting and taking the time to read the article!
You forget to mention that Mr. Queen is a remake of a Chinese costume drama named Go Princess Go and Scarlet Heart Ryeo is a remake of Chinese Costume drama called Scarlet Heart. Please give credits to those who truly deserve.
That’s a great suggestion, thank you for reminding us! We’ll wait for the whole season to drop fist to make sure the ending is up to scratch and be sure to add it to the list if it doesn’t disappoint!
Many thanks for taking the time to comment, it’s very much appreciated!
Currently airing on VIKI is MBN’s 10th anniversary drama “Bossam: Steal the Fate”. Although there is still ample time for this sageuk to crash and burn it has achieved a loyal following. Bossam combines mystery, comedy, lost nobility, romance, politics and a wonderful found family. The writing is suburb, as is the acting, under the sure hand of a great PD and cinematographer. Thinking you might enjoy it.