TOP 30 Best period-piece movies ever made

TOP 30 Best period-piece movies ever made BLOG Monday 29th November 2021




Top 30 best period-piece movies ever made

Period dramas are known for their ability to capture a real moment in history, bring to life a beloved literary classic, or provide startling insight into how life both changes and stays the same. Mysterious, romantic, dramatic, and sometimes funny, here are some of the most memorable and critically acclaimed period films ever made.


The best period-piece movies ever made

Period dramas are known for their ability to capture a real moment in history, bring to life a beloved literary classic, or provide startling insight into how life both changes and stays the same. Mysterious, romantic, dramatic, and sometimes funny, here are some of the most memorable and critically acclaimed period films ever made.

  1. Sense and Sensibility

This 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s famous novel boasts Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant in its talented cast. Widowed and left with meagre funds, Mrs. Dashwood (Gemma Jones) is forced to move to a modest cottage with her three daughters, all of whom have very different personalities. Funny, romantic and endearing, the film was the first written by actress Emma Thompson, and the first entirely non-Chinese movie directed by Ang Lee.

  1. A Room with a View

Based on the novel by E.M. Forster, this 1985 film stars Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, a respectable lady who faces the difficult decision of marrying the safe but boring Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis) or the idealistic and charming George (Julian Sands). Set in Edwardian England, the film blends romance and comedy well, but as film critic Roger Ebert pointed out, also provides a searing critique of the British class system.

  1. The Young Victoria

Depictions of Queen Victoria are often of an older, severe monarch, but in this 2009 film Emily Blunt stars as Princess Victoria, navigating both romance and her ascendancy to power on the eve of her 18th birthday. Her blooming love for Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) is passionate and complicated, due to his relationship with his own uncle, the king of Belgium. Praised for its fresh approach to royal period dramas, and described as “visually delicious,” the film also won an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Costume Design.

  1. Girl with a Pearl Earring

Roger Ebert described this 2003 period drama starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson as a “quiet movie,” but one that works because of the strong emotional and intimate undercurrents. Based on the famous portrait of the same title by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (Firth), the film speculates about the relationship between Vermeer and Griet (Johansson), a 16-year-old housemaid who appears in the portrait.

  1. Dangerous Liaisons

This 1988 film adaptation of French author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses stars Glenn Close as the scheming Marquise de Merteuil and John Malkovich as her wicked ex-lover, Vicomte de Valmont. Together they come up with a wanton plan for Valmont to seduce a naïve virgin, Cécile (Uma Thurman), and a married woman, Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer). The seemingly restrained, yet nuanced chess match of dialogue and wit, combined with the Oscar-winning art direction and costume design, make this a period drama for the ages.

  1. The King’s Speech

This 2010 historical drama chronicles the struggles of King George VI (Colin Firth) who must adjust to his sudden ascendancy to the throne, as well as overcome his lifelong speech impediment, just as Britain enters into war with Germany. The film co-stars Helena Bonham Carter as his wife, Elizabeth, and Geoffrey Rush as his eccentric but dedicated speech therapist. It was nominated for 12 Oscars and earned four, including best actor for Firth, best director for Tom Hooper and best picture.

  1. Pride and Prejudice

It’s one of Jane Austen’s most popular and charming novels. The 2005 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy deftly captures the romance that makes the story so endearing. While the entire cast is solid, critic Roger Ebert pointed out that much of this particular version’s strength comes from Knightley’s performance, which he describes as “a girl glowing in the first light of perfection.”

  1. Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan stars as Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey in this 2015 Oscar-nominated drama about a young woman finding her path, and following her heart in 1950s Brooklyn. Based on a novel by Colm Tóibín, the movie offers an authentic and emotional look at what it’s like to be torn between two ideas of home, and the sacrifices young immigrants make in pursuit of a better life.

  1. Emma

Before the buzz about Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Jane Austen’s lovable heroine in the 2020 film version Emma., Gwyneth Paltrow was the most recognizable face of Emma. In the popular 1996 film, Paltrow’s Emma is a meddling yet charming matchmaker who is more interested in fixing her friend Harriet’s (Toni Collette) love life than noticing the romantic prospects right in front of her. The film won an Oscar for best musical score and was nominated for best costume design.

  1. The Piano

Both erotic and haunting, writer/director Jane Campion’s 1993 drama tells the story of a Scottish mother, Ada (Holly Hunter) who arrives in New Zealand with her young daughter (Anna Paquin) in order to marry a bachelor (Sam Neill). Ada, who is mute, has travelled with her beloved piano, which serves as her main tool of communication. After her new husband makes her abandon the piano on the beach, Ada sneaks back there to play it, capturing the attention and the heart of a neighbour (Harvey Keitel) who hears her music. The movie earned a best actress Oscar for Hunter, a best supporting actress Oscar for Paquin, and a best screenplay award for Campion.

  1. Chicago

The glitz, glamour and intrigue of the jazz age is captured in this 2002 adaptation of the stage musical. Set in Chicago during the 1920s, the film follows the story of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), a small-time chorus dancer who dreams of fame and will do almost anything to get it. After she finds herself in prison with vaudeville star Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who’s learned to capitalize on her murder scandal, Roxie uses her own situation to nab headlines and become a star. Chicago won six Academy Awards, including best picture and best costume design.

  1. The Favourite

Variety writer Owen Gleiberman called this 2018 film from director Yorgos Lanthimos a “perfectly cut diamond of a movie.” Starring Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as her friend and political advisor, and Emma Stone as her new servant, the movie follows the scheming and posturing the two women go through in their quest to remain at Anne’s side and seize what power they can. The Favourite was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and Colman took home the statue for best leading actress.

  1. Shakespeare in Love

This 1998 best picture Oscar winner is a romantic comedy that tells the fictional, yet fun, story of William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) overcoming his writer’s block after meeting theatre lover Lady Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow). As Shakespeare works to write and stage his new comedy, “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter,” Viola lands a role in the play by dressing as a boy and wins Shakespeare’s heart in the process. Critic Roger Ebert noted that in addition to the stellar acting, “the wit, the energy, and a surprising sweetness” made this period film memorable, and a hit at the box office.

  1. Elizabeth

Set in London in 1554, this 1998 historical drama explores the early days of Queen Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) who makes the abrupt transition from imprisonment by her half-sister to the throne of England at the age of 23. The film delves into the challenges Elizabeth faced from those who conspired against her, as well as her romantic entanglements. Elizabeth received seven Oscar nominations and won the award for best makeup.

  1. Howards End

This Merchant-Ivory adaptation of E.M. Forster’s famed novel celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017, and as Guardian film critic Simran Hans noted, the “fierce and deeply romantic” film stands the test of time, despite being filmed on a modest budget. The 1992 drama stars Emma Thompson as Margaret Schlegel, a lower-class woman who inherits a portion of the estate of her upper-class friend (Vanessa Redgrave). When she forms a relationship with wealthy industrialist Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins), lessons are learned about class, gender and the importance of human connection. Thompson won an Oscar for her performance.



Despite its small-screen, Netflix debut, this 2017 historical drama about a black family and a white family struggling to find their place on the Mississippi Delta had a big impact. Set just after World War II, with themes about race, class and life in the American South that resonate today, the movie garnered critical buzz and earned four Academy Award nominations. Writer/director Dee Rees became the first African-American woman to be nominated for best adapted screenplay.

  1. The Madness of King George

This 1994 comedy-drama stars Nigel Hawthorne as King George III and Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte. Adapted from Alan Bennett’s play The Madness of George III, which also featured Hawthorne in the starring role, the film is set in 1788, almost three decades into the King’s reign, just as he begins to show signs of mental decline. While some see the onset of dementia as the perfect chance to overthrow the King, his wife and the prime minister (Julian Wadham) do what they can to protect the monarch. The visually stunning movie was nominated for four Oscars and won for best art direction.

  1. Remains of the Day

“Uniformly excellent” performances, as The Hollywood Reporter characterized them, make this 1993 Merchant-Ivory film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson a classic. Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, the film focuses on the life of Stevens (Hopkins), a butler dedicated to a hard and thankless British lord (James Fox) in 1930s England. When new housekeeper Miss Kenton (Thompson) arrives, she develops a fondness for Stevens, despite his detached demeanour. The movie was nominated for eight Oscars and five Golden Globe awards.

  1. Little Women

There have been several small- and big-screen adaptations of the semi-autobiographical novel by Louisa May Alcott, but Entertainment Weekly ranked the 2019 film from writer/director Greta Gerwig as No. 1. Proving that a classic can still be relevant and refreshing in modern times, the movie about intrepid writer Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) and her three spirited sisters, Amy (Florence Pugh), Meg (Emma Watson) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) coming of age in 19th-century New England was a hit with critics and audiences. It also nabbed an Oscar for best costume design.

  1. Gosford Park

Films with casts as expansive as this 2001 film from acclaimed director Robert Altman can sometimes suffer from a muddied story, but this mix of comedy, drama and mystery set in a posh 1932 country house is both intriguing and funny. When a guest is poisoned and stabbed during a shooting party hosted by Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and Lady Sylvia McCordle (Kristin Scott Thomas), the aristocrats in attendance and the servants who keep the house running all become suspects. Gosford Park was nominated for seven Oscars, and earned a best screenwriting statue for Julian Fellowes.

  1. Amadeus

The fact that this 1984 story about famed composer Mozart makes a concerted effort to be more modern, rebellious and comedic than the usual period biography is exactly what makes it such a classic. Starring Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and F. Murray Abraham as his frenemy and fellow composer, Antonio Salieri, the movie explores an urban legend about the circumstances surrounding Mozart’s life and death, and Salieri’s role in it. As visually appealing as it is engaging, the film took home eight Oscars, including best picture, best director and best actor for Abraham.

  1. A Royal Affair

Eighteenth-century Denmark is the setting for this historically-based, but sexy 2012 drama about a love triangle between Queen Caroline Mathilde (Alicia Vikander), the mentally unstable King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) and the alluring royal physician, Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen). Plot-heavy, but saved by engaging characters and skilled acting, A Royal Affair was nominated for best foreign language film at the 2013 Academy Awards.

  1. Jane Eyre

Mia Wasikowska plays the title character in this 2011 drama, one of several screen adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel. At the age of 18, Jane begins working in the manor home of Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender), as a governess for his ward, Adèle Varens (Romy Settbon Moore). But just as Jane begins warming to her new surroundings, and her hosts become increasingly enamoured with her, a shameful secret comes to light. The movie was nominated for a best costume design Academy Award.

24           Carol

Adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, this 2015 drama explores the forbidden love between store clerk Therese (Rooney Mara) and an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett). After Carol finds the resolve to leave her husband (Kyle Chandler), he discovers the truth about her relationships with women, and threatens to deny her custody rights to their daughter. The film was nominated for six Oscars, including best actress for Blanchett and best supporting actress for Mara.

  1. The King

Reluctant royalty makes great fodder for period dramas, if not for history itself. In this 2019 drama, Timothée Chalamet stars as Hal, a prince who would rather live amongst commoners than claim his royal title. But after his father’s death, he’s crowned King Henry and finds himself embroiled in politics. Joel Edgerton, who stars as the King’s confidant, Falstaff, also co-wrote the script.                     

  1. The House of Mirth

Described by film critic Roger Ebert as “one of the saddest stories ever told about the traps that society sets for women,” this 2000 drama stars Gillian Anderson as Lily Bart, a successful New York socialite who learns how precarious her power is when she’s both revered and judged for her beauty rather than her wits. Based on the 1905 novel by Edith Wharton, the film remains a relevant critique of societal expectations of women regarding sexuality and marriage.

  1. Murder on the Orient Express

Called both a “classical whodunit” and “a splendidly entertaining movie” by film critic Roger Ebert, this 1974 drama is based on the work of mystery master Agatha Christie, and retains the charm and intrigue that made it a hit so many years ago. Albert Finney leads a large and talented cast as legendary detective Hercule Poirot, working to solve the murder of a rich financier aboard a train. Hollywood icons Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and Vanessa Redgrave also star. Ingrid Bergman won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in the film.

  1. Gangs of New York

Gang warfare and political corruption in 1860s New York City are explored in director Martin Scorsese’s “enormously ambitious picture.” This 2002 epic features Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher, a ruthless gang leader whose target of hatred is newly arrived Irish immigrants. Leonardo DiCaprio also stars as Amsterdam Vallon, as a spy inside The Butcher’s circle who seeks vengeance for his own father’s murder. Gangs of New York was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

  1. Bright Star

Writer/director Jane Campion’s 2009 drama examines the seemingly unlikely romance between 19th-century English poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and the fashionable Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) during the years leading up to his death. As Fanny begins to warm to Keats’s poetry, their passion grows, despite so many obstacles working against them. Bright Star received a 2010 Oscar nomination for best costume design.

  1. Quills

Geoffrey Rush portrays the perverse 18th-century writer and French nobleman Marquis de Sade in this 2000 drama adapted by Doug Wright from his own 1995 play. Historically, de Sade’s name is best known as providing the origin of the word “sadism,” but Rush attempts to bring more nuance to the fictionalized relationship between de Sade and Madeleine (Kate Winslet), the laundry girl who works at the asylum where he’s imprisoned. The film was nominated for three Oscars, including best costume design, best art direction and best actor for Rush.

By Kim Mannix


REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort


“No pressure, no diamonds.” – Thomas Carlyle.


Happiness is…a period-piece movie.


  1. “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow just as well.”

—Mark Twain

  1. “Woke up today. It was terrible.” —Grumpy Cat


Love is…sharing a long twilight together.


A time for Sense and Sensibility…A time for Jane Eyre.


29th November

1934 In Britain, the first live radio broadcast of a royal wedding – the marriage of the Duke of Kent to Princess Marina at Westminster Abbey in London.

1963 The Beatles record I Want To Hold Your Hand was released, with advance orders of one million in the UK alone.

1975 British racing driver Graham Hill was killed in an aircraft crash at Arkley, Hertfordshire.







©2021 Phil M Robinson