• Meryl Streep in 'Suffragette'. (Pathé)Source: Pathé
History buffs will be spoilt for choice with two weeks of programming covering some of the world’s biggest events.
Gavin Scott

26 Mar 2018 - 10:06 AM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2018 - 4:34 PM

There is always something to be learnt from history. Whether it’s the lesson of (hopefully) not repeating our mistakes, inspiration gained from triumphs over adversity or insight into the life of a prominent figure, events of the past can shape and influence the present.

Over the next two weeks, SBS has curated a selection of documentaries and films that cover a wide diversity of the human experience – from ancient times to more recent eras. Each program or movie highlights a significant moment or person in history, and all of them will make you think about how the world has been changed as a result.



‘Pompeii: Life Before Death’

You’d think by now that there wouldn’t be much left to discover about Pompeii. But as this documentary proves, the ancient Roman site, 30 percent of which is still buried under ash and lava from nearby Mount Vesuvius, has more secrets to reveal. Watch as cutting edge technology is used in a major excavation project to bring to light more information about the city that was wiped out in 79 AD.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘The Search for the Last Supper’

It’s one of the most famous artworks in the world, but only a fraction of Leonardo da Vinci’s original The Last Supper remains. As restoration attempts continue on the mural, this thrilling documentary looks into the possibility of there being a second version of the painting in existence. Go on the trail in The Search for the Last Supper as the rumoured duplicate painted for King Louis XII of France is hunted down.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘The Tsar and Empress: Secret Letters’

There’s no better source material than correspondence between historical figures, especially private letters, which have a truth to them you don’t always find in more public documents. This two-part series examines a collection of intimate letters between Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife, the Empress Alexandra, in the lead-up to the game-changing Russian Revolution of 1917. Historian Dr Suzannah Lipscomb delves into the relationship between the controversial pair and their role in the events that ultimately led to their overthrow and execution.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:

‘George III: The Genius of the Mad King’


At the time, he was the longest-reigning British monarch ever – he’s now third behind Victoria and Elizabeth II – and during his almost 60 years on the throne, King George III was a prolific writer. Now, two centuries after his rule, the personal papers of the king who presided over the colonisation of Australia by the British and whose final days were marred by mental health issues have been made available to the public. This documentary presented by Robert Hardman explores what they reveal.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Egypt’s Sun King: The Mystery Tombs’

In 2011, nearly 90 years had passed since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb without archaeologists finding any further bodies in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Then, not only did they find mummified remains in a previously unexplored tomb, but 50 more bodies were discovered in the adjoining tomb. Find out their identities in this premiere documentary.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Hunting the Nazi Gold Train’

Secret tunnels beneath the Third Reich, a missing train laden with gold, a decades-long cover-up… it sounds like the premise for an Indiana Jones movie. But in this BBC documentary presented by historian Dan Snow, it could be fact rather than fiction. Amid a worldwide media frenzy about the possible existence of the Nazi gold train, Snow follows the hunt and does his own research into Hitler’s underground hideout in remote South West Poland.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Adolf and Eva: Love and War’

A Hitler double bill continues with this look at his relationship with Eva Braun – the woman who became the Führer’s wife less than two days before the pair committed suicide together rather than be taken by Allied forces. Featuring re-enactments of pivotal moments in the couple’s relationship, this documentary shines a light on what was a very private affair, with Braun playing her part in Hitler’s life very much outside the public realm.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Leonardo: The Man Who Saved Science’

Besides his renown as a painter, Leonardo da Vinci is also credited as a scientific genius, who poured his ideas into notebooks full of sketches. Taking inspiration from ideas and designs dating back centuries, as well as his own inventions and experiments, da Vinci’s work heralded a new era of scientific curiosity and advancement that transformed Europe after the Middle Ages.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Martin Luther King: His Legacy’

Fifty years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, Trinidad-born, British-based journalist Trevor McDonald travels to America to revisit the extraordinary life of the human rights leader. Featuring interviews with key allies from Dr King’s time as the country’s most prominent activist, this special comes at a time when issues of race and polarisation have flared up in the US once again.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:



‘Queen of the Desert’

Stifled by her life in turn-of-the-century England, explorer Gertrude Bell defied all expectations of what a woman could or should do when she embarked on a series of travels throughout the Arab world. Influential and respected throughout the region, Bell’s unique story is brought to vivid life in this Werner Herzog-directed biopic starring Nicole Kidman. Damian Lewis, James Franco and Robert Pattinson also appear, playing some of the prominent male figures in the life of a remarkable woman.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Son of Saul’

An Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, this Hungarian drama depicts two days in the life of an Auschwitz prisoner, Saul (Géza Röhrig), who is forced to work alongside the SS to assist with the extermination of his fellow Jews. When he comes across the body of a boy he believes is his son, he becomes intent on giving him a proper burial in the midst of a planned uprising. An intense viewing experience, Son of Saul approaches its subject matter in a distinctly original, but deeply disturbing and unsettling manner.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:



Like many things in history, it’s hard to imagine a time when women were denied the right to vote. Suffragette brings to life the fight for female suffrage in early 20th century Britain, with all the violence and brutality it involved. Featuring a cast of acclaimed actresses, including Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep, it’s a snapshot of history that continues to inspire and empower today.

Watch now at SBS On Demand:


‘Testament of Youth’

Based on the memoir of the same name by Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth tells the story of a group of young friends whose plans for the future are turned upside down by the onset of World War I. Alicia Vikander stars as Brittain, who worked as a nurse during the conflict, and experienced the pain and loss of war first-hand, being forever altered by seeing loved ones and complete strangers die in front of her. The all-star cast also includes Kit Harrington, Dominic West, Taron Egerton and Emily Watson.

Watch Testament of Youth on Friday 13 April at 9:30pm on SBS.


‘Sherpa: Trouble on Everest’

Filmed during the 2014 Mount Everest climbing season, this AACTA- and BAFTA-nominated documentary by Australian director Jennifer Peedom had been intended to highlight the role of Sherpas in the expeditions. The film ended up taking on a whole new dimension when 16 of the local guides were tragically killed during a horrific avalanche, exposing the risks involved in their work and the conditions they face.

Watch Sherpa: Trouble on Everest on Sunday 15 April at 8:30pm on SBS. Read our review here.

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