22 Movies & TV Shows To Cheer You Up After Watching 'Chernobyl'

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Any drama that focuses on a dark time in history is bound to be bleak. But HBO's miniseries Chernobyl is taking bleakness to a whole new level. When the finale airs on June 3, you will be desperately in need of lighter movies and TV shows to watch after Chernobyl. Because after watching five episodes of people's bodies getting ravaged by the effects of radiation poisoning and dogs getting executed, something to lighten the mood is pretty much a requirement. And these historic-ish movies and TV shows available to stream just might be able to put you in a less devastated headspace.

The accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union occurred more than 30 years ago in 1986. And while there are plenty of atrocities occurring all over the world today, Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin was able to give the full scope of the terror thanks to a ton of historical research and the help of hindsight. A lot of dramas set in the past make modern audiences reexamine the outdated attitudes and values of the time, which inevitably is a bummer (to say the least). But in this list of period pieces, the goal is to keep it as light as possible. Because after Chernobyl, everyone deserves to be distracted by something happy to help lessen your all-too-real thoughts of political coverups and potential nuclear holocausts.


'Gentleman Jack'

HBO debuted another new historical series this year that is far more likely to bring a smile to your face — Gentleman Jack. Sure, you'll be frustrated by the sexism that Miss Anne Lister faces in England's Georgian era, but you'll cheer whenever she bests people's small-mindedness.

Where to watch: HBO


'Call The Midwife'

There's a lot of death in this PBS series about delivering babies in the East End of London in the 1950s and 1960s. But nearly every episode will have you crying happy tears about the circle of life and sisterhood, so it might be the cathartic release you need after Chernobyl.

Where to watch: Netflix


'Julie & Julia'

This Meryl Streep and Amy Adams movie straddles the present day with Julia Child's early cooking career that will serve as a reminder that you can have pleasant connections to the past.

Where to watch: Netflix


'Drunk History'

Looking for even more lighter fare? Well, Drunk History still gives you accurate history lessons without them being so (ahem) sobering.

Where to watch: Hulu


'Horrible Histories'

This U.K. series is like Drunk History in that it includes amusing reenactments of real-life history. It's just a bit more kid-friendly while still focusing on the truly horrible things that have gone down in humanity's past. But seriously, it's fun! And you can spot Yara Greyjoy actress Gemma Whelan in a few eps.

Where to watch: Hulu


'The King's Speech'

Some of the most moving historical dramas come from someone successfully overcoming a challenge, like King George VI working to fix his speech disorder of stuttering.

Where to watch: Netflix



Jackie Robinson faced extreme racism as the first-ever black major league baseball player. This ugly truth of our nation's past and present is on display (although with a slightly softer touch) in the film, but Robinson's story is one of the most inspiring out there and you'll be proud of all he accomplished.

Where to watch: Netflix


'Far & Away'

This Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman movie about Irish immigrants in 1890s America features none other than Valery Legasov actor Jared Harris in one of his first-ever roles. Aw, 'twas happier times for Harris in this Ron Howard picture.

Where to watch: STARZ (and Amazon Prime and Hulu with STARZ add-on)


'The Man In The Iron Mask'

Like your history with a heavy helping of fiction? Then, Leonardo DiCaprio's baby-faced Louis XIV of France interpretation (complete with the Three Musketeers as sidekicks) is for you.

Where to watch: Netflix, Showtime, and YouTube


'The Tudors'

Sex is probably the furthest thing from your mind while watching Chernobyl. But Jonathan Rhys Meyers makes history sultry again with Henry VIII's many wives (including Natalie Dormer of Game of Thrones) in this Showtime series.

Where to watch: Netflix and Showtime


'Becoming Jane'

Literary hero Jane Austen gets to live her own love story in this charming (if not totally historically accurate) biopic.

Where to watch: Netflix


'The Wedding Singer'

Looking for something that's set close to the time period of Chernobyl but is far more lighthearted and music-filled? Look no further than Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore's first rom-com collaboration.

Where to watch: STARZ (and Amazon Prime and Hulu with STARZ add-on)


'Good Girls Revolt'

This Amazon Prime series sadly only got one season, but think of it like a feminist version of Mad Men with female journalists.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime



Get swept away to a 1959 French chocolaterie with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

Where to watch: Hulu


'Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery'

Austin Powers may be alive in the present (or, the present for when this Mike Meyers film was made), but he's really from 1967. And the clash of his swinging '60s lifestyle with 1997 is fodder for fun.

Where to watch: Netflix



This short-lived NBC series about time travelers was a cult favorite that got resurrected a couple of times. And even though it was canceled, you can relive famous moments in history with the trio of Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus.

Where to watch: Hulu


'The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience'

You want more '80s? Get '80s-cized with the Lonely Island's Lemonade spoof about the men who ruled supreme in '80s baseball — Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

Where to watch: Netflix


'Good Omens'

Chernobyl feels like the end of the world, so why not watch a brand new miniseries that's actually about end times? Follow angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) throughout history in this surprisingly cheerful take on the apocalypse.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime


'Wet Hot American Summer'

The original movie and its first sequel series 14 years later are both miraculously set in 1981. And this absurd comedy franchise showing a simpler side to the 1980s that will provide you with all the laughs you need.

Where to watch: Netflix


'A Young Doctor's Notebook'

Unfortunately, most Russian-set movies and TV shows aren't the most uplifting. But this dark comedy series about a Russian doctor in the early 20th century manages to make the gloomy funny. And you get both Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe playing the doctor at different ages.

Where to watch: Netflix


'Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again'

Stellan Skarsgård is quite stressed as Boris Shcherbina in Chernobyl, but you can watch him soak up the Greek sun and sing along to ABBA in Mamma Mia 2. The musical sequel is kind of/sort of historical thanks to the 1970s flashbacks and will certainly make you forget all your troubles whether you love it or love to hate it.

Where to watch: HBO and HBO Now (and Amazon Prime and Hulu with HBO add-on)


'Downton Abbey'

Ahead of the Downton Abbey movie, make sure you have kept up the Crawleys. Yes, they have to deal with things like the Titanic sinking and WWI, but their aristocratic problems seem like cake compared to Chernobyl — plus, there's always actual cake to eat. (And for a bonus watch, check out Julian Fellowes previous work Gosford Park on Netflix with Ulana Khomyuk actress Emily Watson.)

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

If Chernobyl has rightfully scared or enraged you, you might be more inclined toward advocacy than sitting on your butt watching something else. But no matter what you choose to do after you watch the miniseries, know these movies and TV shows are here for you when you're ready to smile again.

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