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Get Lost in a Period Drama Today!

Updated on October 12, 2012

A simpler time....

This lens is dedicated to period dramas --- classic films that take us back to the simpler times of another era. Period dramas give the viewer an opportunity to slip into a world that is much simpler, elegant, and more pleasing to the eye. This is especially refreshing in a time when modern technology provides us with so many distractions. I find period dramas to be a relaxing distraction from everyday life and stress...I hope you can too! The purpose of this lens is to promote these beautiful and often under-appreciated films.

What is a Period Drama? These are movies that are set in the past. The term "period drama" is interchangeable with period movie or costume drama. Period dramas are typically films that are adaptations of a literary work (such as those by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, or Elizabeth Gaskell). These are most often set in the 19th century or early 20th century. Costume dramas are usually movies which focus on extravagant and sumptuous costumes which reflect a previous era. Regardless of the labels, period films are characterized as being set in a specific historical era and seek to accurately portray the set era by employing the use of elaborate costumes, hairstyles, languages, and props against a backdrop of historical events. Period films and mini-series are also known for breathtaking scenery and beautiful filming locations.

To many, these are simply films that are set "back then" or "in olden times." Regardless of the terminology, they are always enjoyable and entertaining! Get lost in a period drama today. :)

Downton Abbey

2010

The Downton Abbey estate stands a splendid example of confidence and mettle, its family enduring for generations and its staff a well-oiled machine of propriety. But change is afoot at Downton - change far surpassing the new electric lights and telephone. A crisis of inheritance threatens to displace the resident Crawley family, in spite of the best efforts of the noble and compassionate Earl, Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville, Miss Austen Regrets); his American heiress wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern); his comically implacable, opinionated mother, Violet (Maggie Smith, David Copperfield); and his beautiful, eldest daughter, Mary, intent on charting her own course. Reluctantly, the family is forced to welcome its heir apparent, the self-made and proudly modern Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), himself none too happy about the new arrangements. As Matthew's bristly relationship with Mary begins to crackle with electricity, hope for the future of Downton's dynasty takes shape. But when petty jealousies and ambitions grow among the family and the staff, scheming and secrets - both delicious and dangerous - threaten to derail the scramble to preserve Downton Abbey. Created and written by Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), Downton Abbey offers a spot-on portrait of a vanishing way of life.

One of my all time favorites! <3 Cannot wait for the release of Season 2. :)

Downton Abbey "Every Breath You Take" Promo

The King's Speech

2010

Candidates for president and prime minister choose to run, but kings rarely have a choice. Such was the case for Prince Albert, known by family members as Bertie (Colin Firth), whose stutter made public speaking difficult. Upon the death of his father, George V (Michael Gambon, making the most of a small part), the crown went to Bertie's brother, Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), who abdicated to marry divorcée Wallis Simpson. All the while, Bertie and his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, excellent), try to find a solution to his stammer. Nothing works until they meet Australian émigré Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a failed actor operating out of a threadbare office. He believes Bertie's problem stems from emotional rather than physiological issues, leading to a clash of wills that allows the Oscar®-winning Rush (Shine) and the Oscar-nominated Firth (A Single Man) to do some of their best work (in a neat bit of casting, Firth's Pride and Prejudice costar, Jennifer Ehle, plays Logue's wife). All their efforts, from the tense to the comic--Bertie doesn't stutter when he swears--lead to the speech King George VI must make to the British public on the eve of World War II. At a time when his country needs him the most, he can't afford to fail. As Stephen Frears did in The Queen, Tom Hooper (HBO's Elizabeth I) lends vulnerability to a royal figure, showing how isolating that life can be--and how much difference a no-nonsense friend like Logue can make.

Emma

2009

"People --- their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations ---there I am the expert." Emma Woodhouse in "Emma"

Emma Woodhouse (Romola Garai, Atonement) was born with the sun shining down on her. The radiant, privileged girl grows into a remarkable talent for matchmaking, as observed by her loving but disapproving father (Michael Gambon, Cranford) and childhood friend Mr. Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller, Endgame). When the decidedly less privileged Harriet Smith arrives, Emma meddles with fate to find her a match, until her flawless intuition is called into question. Dissuaded from more matrimonial predictions, Emma nonetheless continues to cheerfully contemplate superior men - and meets one of her own in the handsome, gleaming Frank Churchill. But after being so busy managing everyone else's heart, does Emma know her own? A fiercely funny new version of the Jane Austen novel, Emma was adapted by Sandy Welch (Jane Eyre).

A beautiful adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel. Jonny Lee Miller is the perfect Mr. Knightly, just as I imagined him when I read the book. :)

Emma (BBC) Promo / Trailer

Cranford

2007

Welcome to Cranford, circa 1840...a rural English town where etiquette rules, undergirded by a healthy amount of gossip. Modernity is making a move in town as construction of a railway comes harrowingly close. Cranford's eclectic residents, among them Matty Jenkyns (Dame Judi Dench) her sister Deborah (Dame Eileen Atkins), and Miss Pole (Imelda Staunton), stay immersed in the sweet pleasures and sometimes heartbreaking realities of simple village life. But when a handsome, young doctor arrives with cutting-edge new techniques, it rapidly becomes clear that as the world changes, so Cranford will change with it. Based on three Elizabeth Gaskell novels (Cranford, My Lady Ludlow and Mr. Harrison's Confessions), and boasting an all-star cast, Cranford breathes life into one town during one extraordinary year.

Anne of Green Gables

1985

This gorgeous adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic children's story is well worth watching with the whole family. Produced for Canadian television, it's one of those rare productions that actually sticks to the book and even enhances it through first-rate performances and an excellent script. Set on bucolic Prince Edward Island in the late 19th century, Anne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley, an imaginative and headstrong orphan. When brother and sister Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew work the farm, they are astonished when Anne arrives at the train station by mistake. "What use is she to us?" grumbles the gruff Marilla. "We might be of some use to her," answers Matthew, who has taken an instant liking to the talkative Anne. As Anne grows up, her adventures are both hilarious and moving. It's a delight to watch as she forms a friendship with the beautiful Diana and her admirer--the dashing Gilbert Blythe--then dyes her hair green, cracks a slate over Gilbert's head when he calls her "Carrots," and finds a sympathetic teacher who encourages her to attend college.

Richard Farnsworth is perfect as the shy and gentle bachelor Matthew, who confides to Anne that he never went courting because "I would have had to say something." Colleen Dewhurst delivers a nuanced and powerful performance as Marilla, a seemingly cold-hearted spinster whose no-nonsense exterior conceals a warm heart. And as Anne, Megan Follows strikes the perfect note, maturing from freckle-faced orphan to elegant and poised young woman.

This is such a classic! I grew up watching this series and I still love it. It's worth watching for the stunning scenery of Prince Edward Island and unforgettable characters.

Lucy and George &lt;3
Lucy and George <3

A Room with a View

1985

A brilliant adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel, A Room With a View tells the story of the coming of age of Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham-Carter). Longing to burst free from the repression of British upper class manners and mores, she must wrestle with her inner romantic longings to choose between the passionate George (Julian Sands) and the priggish but socially suitable Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis). Boasting a brilliant supporting cast, A Room With a View isone of the most romantic of romantic comedies ever filmed. Merchant-Ivory film adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel about Edwardian manners and the coming of age of a young woman during her travels in Florence, Italy. Set in the first decade of the 20th century, the film offers a lighthearted and somewhat comic perspective on Edwardian propriety and morals. This picture is a special feast for the senses, set in both the Italian and the English countryside.

Starring: Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis, Rupert Graves

Ironically enough the leading ladies in this film play Professor McGonagall and Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series!

Kitty and Walter &lt;3
Kitty and Walter <3

The Painted Veil

2006

A couple with a broken relationship learns some valuable lessons about love, life, and sacrifice in this romantic drama based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. It's 1925, and Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton) is a physician who has become smitten with Kitty (Naomi Watts), the beautiful daughter of a wealthy and socially prominent family. Kitty and Walter move to Shanghai, where he sets up a practice and she takes a lover, the British Vice Consul Charles Townsend (Liev Schreiber). When Walter learns of his wife's infidelity, he becomes furious, and impulsively volunteers to travel to China to work in a village stricken with a major cholera epidemic. While Walter's actions are meant to punish Kitty rather than reflect his own benevolence, the daily trials of living in a community in crisis have a striking impact on the couple, giving them a new and deeper perspective on their relationship.

Stunning scenery and beautifully done, the ending of this movie made me tear up. It is one of my favorites!

Little Dorrit

2008

"Seize your chance of Happiness." Arthur Clennam in "Little Dorrit"

Amy Dorrit's (Claire Foy) gentle spirit has never been dampened by the confining walls of the Marshalsea Prison she's lived in her whole life. Despite the dark shadow of debtor's prison, Amy lovingly cares for her father William Dorrit (Tom Courtenay), the longest serving inmate. A possibly redemptive light unexpectedly shines in the form of Arthur Clennam (Matthew Macfadyen), who has been left with the intriguing threads of a mystery after his father's death - threads that will intertwine his family and fate with the Dorrits. Clennam's exhaustive search for answers involves murder, fortunes gained and lost, the upper echelons and lowest dregs of society, and most surprising of all, a tender romance. Adapted by Andrew Davies (Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice), Little Dorrit, based on the book by Charles Dickens, is a sprawling story as timely as it is moving.

This film will touch your heart --- Amy Dorrit is such a quite young woman, but is a quiet strength and determination to her character. She is surrounded by people who are superfluous and superficial, yet she is down to earth. By the end you will be routing for her! Matthew Macfadyen, you are perfect. :)

North & South

2004

North & South is a splendid, four-hour adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's 19th century novel about an unlikely, and somewhat star-crossed, love between a middle-class young woman from England's cultivated south and an intemperate if misunderstood industrialist in a hardscrabble, northern city. Daniela Denby-Ashe plays Margaret Hale, forthright and strong-willed daughter of a former vicar (Tim Pigott-Smith) who relocates his family from a pastoral village outside London to unforgiving, largely illiterate Milton, a factory town where John Thornton (Richard Armitage) and his mother (Sinead Cusack), survivors of poverty, rule their cotton mill with an iron hand. Thornton befriends Margaret's father but incurs her wrath for his severity with his workers. What she doesn't notice is Thornton's core sense of responsibility for his employees' welfare. On the other hand, he misinterprets some of Margaret's own actions and intentions. Equally stubborn, the two drag out their obvious attraction over many painful months and events.

An excellent adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel...follows very closely. The on screen chemistry between Margaret and Mr. Thornton is palpable. Wonderful acting. :)

Pride and Prejudice

1995

Jane Austen's classic novel of 1813, Pride and Prejudice, still wins the hearts of countless schoolgirls with its romantic story of Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy. Now, the 1996 BBC miniseries is winning over adults, with its faithful adaptation, gorgeous scenery, and superb acting.

The essence of the story is the antagonism between Mr. Darcy, a wealthy single man who believes Elizabeth to be beneath him, and Elizabeth, who upon being insulted at a dance by the aloof Darcy refuses to associate with him in any manner. Austen evokes incredible tension with the wit and flirtation of the two characters, and director Simon Langton (who also directed Upstairs Downstairs) successfully translates the repartee and conflict in this six-hour miniseries. Dialogue, for the most part, is painstakingly replicated, except when fleshing out and smoothing for modern sensibilities was necessary. Darcy, for instance, is drawn out, giving his personality significantly more depth. The acting sweeps you away to Regency England: Jennifer Ehle (of Wilde) is convincing as the obstinate Elizabeth, who, despite her mother's attempts to marry her off, spurs the attentions of Darcy. And Colin Firth (of The English Patient) will have women everywhere longing for a Mr. Darcy of their own.

For those who have been on an Austen binge--enjoying such excellent adaptations as Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion--this miniseries will round out the ultimate Austen video library. For those new to these romantic period pieces, this version of Pride and Prejudice will have you hooked and longing for more. One caveat, however: plan to watch it in an entire day, because very few have the self-control to not watch all six hours in a single sitting.

This version is a CLASSIC, the Holy Grail of period dramas. You absolutely cannot go wrong with this movie!! :)

The Beautiful Music of Period Drama!

Here is a selection of beautiful music from period drama movies! Music can add so much to a film, even more so in the period drama genera.

2005 (Pride & Prejudice)

Literary adaptations just don't get any better than director Joe Wright's 2005 version of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. The key word here is adaptation, because Wright and gifted screenwriter Deborah Moggach have taken liberties with Austen's classic novel that purists may find objectionable, but in this exquisite film their artistic decisions are entirely justified and exceptionally well executed. It's a more rural England that we see here, circa 1790 (as opposed to Austen's early 19th century), in which Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) is one of several sisters primed for marriage, with an anxious mother (Brenda Blethyn) only too desperate to see her daughters paired off with the finest, richest husbands available. Elizabeth is strong-willed and opinionated, but her head (not to mention her pride and prejudice) lead her heart astray when she meets the wealthy Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen), whose own sense of decency and discretion (not to mention his pride and prejudice) prevent him from expressing his mutual affection. They're clearly meant for each other, and as Knightley's performance lights up the screen (still young enough to be girlishly impertinent, yet wise beyond her 20 years), Austen's timeless romance yields yet another timeless adaptation, easily on par with the beloved BBC miniseries that has been embraced by millions since originally broadcast in 1995. Individual tastes will vary as to which version should be considered "definitive," but with a stellar supporting cast including Judi Dench and Donald Sutherland, this impeccable production achieves its own kind of perfection.

I think Keira Knightley has such a classical beauty that it makes her perfect for this role. She is a beautiful and believable Elizabeth Bennett.

By the way: the soundtrack for this movie is available. The score is both beautiful and haunting.

Wives & Daughters

1999

Misguided stepmothers, romantic betrayals, secret marriages--these are not just the makings of modern soap operas; this is what makes the BBC's delightful four-episode miniseries Wives and Daughters come to life. Sweet Molly Gibson (played artfully by Justine Waddell, who communicates more with a squint of her eyes than most actresses can with pages of dialogue) was living life pleasantly when her widowed father (Bill Paterson) decides that, for the good of his daughter, he must remarry. In comes Claire, played to screeching perfection by Francesca Annis. Molly's life is turned upside down by the usually well meaning but off-the-mark Claire, who insists on things being done the proper way. Added to the stew is Claire's beautiful, educated daughter, Cynthia (Keeley Hawes), and the Hamleys, a well-to-do family headed by a squire (Michael Gambon) who is not happy about the romantic interests of his sons.

As is typical with BBC miniseries, the quality writing and lush sets add to the overall appeal. Andrew Davies, who adapted Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones's Diary, penned the marvelous screenplay (based on Elizabeth Gaskell's unfinished novel). It's impossible not to compare this to the ever-popular Pride, and Wives and Daughters measures up.

This is a beautifully adapted film, the acting is right on and the script was well done! Highly entertaining.

Sense and Sensibility

2008

Sisters Elinor (Hattie Morahan, The Golden Compass) and Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield, Jane Eyre) have opposite approaches when it comes to the pursuit of love. One is tempered and rational, the other impulsive and full of youthful passion. The sisters attract a trio of suitors -- handsome Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens, The Line of Beauty), heroic Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey, State of Play), and effusive John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper, The History Boys). But are the men as genuine as they seem? A romantic odyssey full of seduction and abandonment unfolds in Andrew Davies's bold adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel.

My favorite adaptation of this book!

1995 (Sense and Sensibility)

When Mr. Dashwood dies, he must leave the bulk of his estate to the son by his first marriage, which leaves his second wife and three daughters (Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret) in straitened circumstances. They are taken in by a kindly cousin, but their lack of fortune affects the marriageability of both practical Elinor and romantic Marianne. When Elinor forms an attachment for the wealthy Edward Ferrars, his family disapproves and separates them. And though Mrs. Jennings tries to match the worthy (and rich) Colonel Brandon to her, Marianne finds the dashing and fiery Willoughby more to her taste. Both relationships are sorely tried. But this is a romance, and through the hardships and heartbreak, true love and a happy ending will find their way for both the sister who is all sense and the one who is all sensibility.

Nicely done for a major motion picture, but if you want more, see the BBC version. :)

The Young Victoria

2008

Dominated by her possessive mother and her bullying consort,Conroy, since childhood, teen-aged Victoria refuses to allow them the power of acting as her regent in the last days of her uncle, William IV's rule. Her German cousin Albert is encouraged to court her for solely political motives but, following her accession at age eighteen, finds he is falling for her and is dismayed at her reliance on trusty premier Melbourne. Victoria is impressed by Albert's philanthropy which is akin to her own desire to help her subjects. However her loyalty to Melbourne, perceived as a self-seeker, almost causes a constitutional crisis and it is Albert who helps restore her self-confidence.She proposes and they marry, Albert proving himself not only a devoted spouse,prepared to take an assassin's bullet for her, but an agent of much-needed reform, finally endorsed by an admiring Melbourne.

Atonement

2008

Director Joe Wright (Pride and Prejudice) gives Ian McEwan's bestselling novel a sumptuous treatment for the screen that should come to be regarded as one of the defining films of the epic romantic drama. Indeed, everything about this film stems from those three words: there is little here that is not epic, romantic, and dramatic, and Atonement is a film that masterfully expresses the overarching sense of adventure and emotion that such stories are meant to convey. In this instance, the story centers around the love story of highborn Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) and housekeeper's son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy, in a star-making turn), in England shortly before World War II. Despite their class differences, they are powerfully attracted to each other, and just as their relationship begins Robbie is tragically forced away due to false accusations from Cecilia's younger sister Briony (Saoirse Ronan). She has a crush on Robbie, too, and after reading a private letter he sent to Cecilia, and then witnessing the first expression of their mutual love but mistaking it for mistreatment, her resentment grows until it leads to her telling the lie that will send Robbie away. Soon World War II breaks out; Robbie enlists and is posted to France, Cecilia is a nurse in London, and Briony, now age 18 and aware of what she has done, tries to atone for her actions--but none of them will be able to get back what they have lost. Knightley and McAvoy are perfectly cast as the young star crossed lovers, and the young Ronan is particularly impressive, but it's clear that the real star of this film is the director. Wright allows Atonement to revel in every moment of its story and each scene is compelling in its own way, but that now famous extended shot with Robbie on the beach at Dunkirk--filmed in one take and sure to be considered one of the great long tracking shots in film history--is the most memorable moment in this remarkable film. Atonement is an excellent example of what can happen when a great book meets great filmmaking. This is one that is not to be missed.

I have read the book and this film is a good adaptation. As always, Keira Knightley shines, and McAvoy nails his role as the tormented, love sick Robbie Turner.

Jane Eyre

2006

A governess goes to work for a moody employer, captures his heart, a dark secret intrudes. Charlotte Brontë's 1847 love story comes to life in a two-part adaptation, a stirring romance realized in all its heartrending beauty and mythic power.

Newcomer Ruth Wilson stars in the title role as the spirited but plain young woman who escapes a cruel charity home to find improbable true love. Toby Stephens is Edward Rochester, the enigmatic master of Thornfield Hall, who hires Jane as a governess for his young ward Adele. Or is it his daughter? All that is certain is that he is a man with a passionate past.

Directed by Susanna White (Bleak House) and adapted by Sandy Welch (Our Mutual Friend), the cast also includes Francesca Annis as Lady Ingram, confident that she is Rochester's future mother-in-law, and Christina Cole as her fair but fatuous daughter, Blanche.

Tara Fitzgerald plays Mrs. Reed, Jane's cruel aunt, and Pam Ferris is the sinister Grace Poole, the laundry woman who may or may not be responsible for the nighttime shrieks, pyromania and other strange incidents that seem to originate in Thornfield Hall's North Tower.

The story also has its edifying angle: Jane keeps her virtue despite some morally terrifying plot twists, and she eventually finds refuge in the pious home of aspiring missionary (and eligible bachelor) St. John Rivers (Andrew Buchan) and his kind sisters. Even so, the book's original audience was astonished by Jane's soulful relationship with the obviously licentious Rochester, and perhaps even more by her strong-willed, independent and forthright personality.

Can you pick a favorite? - It's so hard to choose, which period drama do you like the most?

What is your favorite period drama?

See results

.....And so many more!

I have selected some of my favorite period films for this lens, but there are many, many more to choose from! Here is just a selection of more lovely period dramas for you to explore.

Enchanting Period Drama - Did I leave your favorite out? Search for it here!

Are you a fan of period drama? - Calling all romantics!

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    • gypsyman27 lm profile image

      gypsyman27 lm 5 years ago

      I am a fan, I'm a fan of this lens as well! I really enjoyed this. See you around the galaxy...

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

      I am. There are a lot of good movies on this page.

    • profile image

      resabi 6 years ago

      Yes, absolutely. And your page is a delightful reminder of my favorites and a definite incentive to watch the ones I've missed. Thank you. Blessed.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Oh yes, I really do enjoy a period drama and I absolutely love Cranford

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Oh yes! I love them. Fabulous lens! My all time favorite period drama is Wuthering Heights, and Return of the Native. I did really love Atonement, too.Can't wait for season 2 of Downton Abbey. And I guess Gone With the Wind would be a period drama, and how about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by the lesser known Bronte sister. Well, I think it's obvious that I'm crazy about period drama! Thanks for a great lens!

    • MrDarcy LM profile image

      MrDarcy LM 6 years ago

      Sure I am! :)

    • LadyFlashman profile image

      LadyFlashman 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I love a period drama! The romance, the costumes - it is pure escapism! Great lens, there are lots I haven't seen here so you have given so I will have to get them to watch!

    • pheonix76 profile image
      Author

      pheonix76 6 years ago from WNY

      @LabKittyDesign: Sure does! :D

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 6 years ago

      Does Greenaway's Draughtsman's Contract count? Period drama + weirdness = win!

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 6 years ago

      I think I've seen every movie you have listed! Pride and Prejudice is my daughter's favorite.