Are you an old soul? Do you love history and period dramas? Do you find yourself lost in the language, captivating setting, and intriguing atmosphere? If so, then you’re going to love our list of period dramas.
From classic period dramas like Pride and Prejudice to newer period dramas like The Crown, there’s something for everyone on this list. These thirty films and series will take you back in time and give you a glimpse into some of the most fascinating periods in history. So dim the lights, forget where you are, and get ready for a truly enriching and transformative experience!
1. Little Women (2019)
Few novels have been as enduringly popular as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. First published in 1868, the book tells the story of the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – as they come of age in Massachusetts during the American Civil War. The novel was an instant classic and has since been adapted numerous times for stage and screen.
The most recent adaptation of this timeless story was in 2019. This period drama film has quite an impressive cast ensemble with Saoirse Ronan as Jo March, Florence Pugh as Amy March, Eliza Scanlen as Beth March, Emma Watson as Meg March, Timothée Chalamet as Laurie Laurence, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March.
Little Women was directed by Greta Gerwig and written by Gerwig and Robin Swicord. The film obtained critical acclaim, with critics praising the acting, writing, direction, cinematography, production design, and costumes. Little Women also won several awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes and Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, Bob Odenkirk, and Meryl Streep.
2. Bridgerton (2020 – Present)
Bridgerton is a period drama set in Regency England that has captured the hearts of viewers around the world. The show follows the Bridgerton family as they navigate the complex social landscape of London high society.
While the Bridgertons are undeniably wealthy and privileged, they are also a diverse and fiercely independent family. Every member of the family has a unique personality, and they are all striving to find their place in the world.
The series has been praised for its strong female characters, its lavish production values, and its engaging storylines. With its mix of romance, drama, and comedy, Bridgerton is a must-watch for anyone who loves Period Dramas.
Starring: Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page, Jonathan Bailey, Nicola Coughlan, and Golda Rosheuvel
3. Anne With An E (2017 – 2019)
Anne With An E is a popular period drama that tells the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan who is sent to reside with relatives on Prince Edward Island. The show, which is an adaptation of the classic novel Anne of Green Gables, has been praised for its beautiful scenery, strong performances, and touching storytelling.
In addition to being a period drama, Anne With An E is also a coming-of-age story, as Anne learns to navigate her new life and find her place in the world. The show has been praised for its accurate portrayal of late 19th-century life, as well as its modern sensibility. Anne With An E is a must-see for fans of period dramas, coming-of-age stories, or simply good television.
Starring: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, Dalila Bela, and Lucas Jade Zumann.
4. Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Whether you are a period drama fan or not, odds are you have already seen Pride & Prejudice at least once. Pride & Prejudice is an iconic classic period drama that was released in 2005. The film is based on the 1813 Jane Austen novel of the same name.
The story follows the five daughters of Mr and Mrs Bennet, who are all trying to find suitable husbands. The eldest daughter, Jane, falls in love with Mr Bingley, a wealthy gentleman who has just moved into the neighbourhood. However, Mr Bingley’s friend, Mr Darcy, disapproves of the match and tries to undermine their relationship.
Meanwhile, the second eldest daughter, Elizabeth, meets Mr Darcy and immediately dislikes him. As the two families become more intertwined, they must grapple with their own pride and prejudices in order to find happiness.
Pride & Prejudice is widely considered to be one of Austen’s most beloved works, and the 2005 film adaptation received critical acclaim for its period-accurate setting and costumes, as well as its strong performances from Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Tom Hollander, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, and Judi Dench.
5. Enola Holmes (2020)
Enola Holmes is a period drama film directed by Harry Bradbeer and written by Jack Thorne, based on the Nancy Springer book series of the same name. It stars Millie Bobby Brown as the title character, with Helena Bonham Carter, Fiona Shaw, Sam Claflin, and Louis Partridge in supporting roles.
The plot follows Enola Holmes, the teenage sister of detective Sherlock Holmes, as she searches for her mother, who has mysteriously disappeared.
The film, which was released in the United Kingdom on 23 September 2020, grossed $333 million worldwide. It received different and mixed reviews from critics, who praised Brown’s performance but criticized the script for its lack of depth. Nevertheless, it was a box office success and became one of Netflix’s most-watched films.
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Sam Claflin, Henry Cavill, and Helena Bonham Carter.
6. Outlander (2014-present)
Outlander is a period drama television series that premiered on 9 August 2014 on Starz Cable Network. The series is based on the Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon and follows the story of Claire Randall, a World War II nurse who travels back in time to 18th-century Scotland. There, she becomes involved in the Jacobite Rising, a rebellion against the British government.
The series has been very successful, winning multiple awards, including the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Cable TV Drama.
Starring: Caitríona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Sophie Skelton, and Richard Rankin.
7. The Spanish Princess (2019 – 2020)
The Spanish Princess is a period drama that aired on Starz in 2019. The show is based on the novels The Constant Princess and The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. The series tells the story of Catherine of Aragon, who was betrothed to Prince Arthur, the heir to the English throne. When Arthur died, Catherine was married to his younger brother Henry VIII.
The show chronicles Catherine’s efforts to secure her place as queen, as well as her battle against the powerful nobles who sought to undermine her.
The Spanish Princess is a sweeping saga that brings history to life, offering viewers a fascinating glimpse into the world of medieval royalty.
Starring: Sai Bennett, Alicia Borrachero, Andrew Buchan, Laura Carmichael, and Daniel Cerqueira.
8. The Great (2020 – present)
The Great is a period drama television series that premiered on Hulu in 2020. The series was created by Tony McNamara and stars Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great and Nicholas Hoult as Peter III of Russia. The series tells the story of the life of Queen Catherine the Great, one of the most renowned figures in history.
The show has been praised for its lavish period production, witty writing, and engaging performances. The first season received critical acclaim, with many reviewers calling it one of the best new TV shows of 2020.
Starring: Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, Phoebe Fox, Adam Godley, and Gwilym Lee.
9. EMMA (2020)
Emma is a period drama film released in 2020. The film is an adaptation of the 1815 classic novel of the same name by Jane Austen. Emma tells the story of a young woman who interferes in the love lives of her family and friends, with often disastrous results. Despite her well-meaning intentions, Emma regularly finds herself in situations that she is ill-equipped to handle.
The film was directed by Autumn de Wilde and starred Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse. Emma was warmly received by critics, with many praising its visually arresting style and witty screenplay. The film got nominated for several awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, and Bill Nighy.
10. Dickinson (2019 – 2021)
Dickinson is a period drama television series that premiered on Apple TV+ in 2019. The series follows the life of American poet Emily Dickinson during her formative years, from her early days as a student at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary to her later years as a published poet.
The show has been praised for its accurate portrayal of Dickinson’s life and work, as well as its interesting take on the 19th century. Additionally, the series has been praised for its strong female characters and its exploration of themes such as love, death, and religion.
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Toby Huss, Adrian Blake Enscoe, Anna Baryshnikov, Ella Hunt, and Jane Krakowski.
11. Les Misérables (2012)
Les Misérables is a period musical film that was released in 2012. The movie is based on the Victor Hugo book ‘Les Misérables’. The story takes place during the French Revolution and follows the lives of several characters, including Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette.
Les Misérables was directed by Tom Hooper and starred Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Sacha Baron Cohen. The movie was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $440 million at the box office. Les Misérables also won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, and Eddie Redmayne.
12. Becoming Jane (2007)
Becoming Jane is a 2007 period drama film directed by Julian Jarrold. The screenplay is by Kevin Hood and Sarah Williams, and it is based on the life of the 19th-century English writer Jane Austen. The film stars Anne Hathaway as the young Austen and James McAvoy as Tom Lefroy, the man she fell in love with. The film received quite a bit of mixed reviews, but the majority praised Hathaway’s performance as Austen.
Becoming Jane tells the story of how Austen came to write her famous novel Pride and Prejudice. The film begins with Austen as a young girl living with her family in the English countryside. She is shown to be a precocious child with a love of reading and writing. When she is older, she meets Tom Lefroy, a young lawyer from Dublin. The two quickly fall in love, but their relationship is opposed by Austen’s parents, who feel that Lefroy is not an appropriate match for their daughter.
Austen and Lefroy are forced to part ways, but their love for each other continues to grow. Eventually, Austen decides to write a novel about a young woman who falls in love with a man who is not considered suitable for her. In doing so, she draws on her own experiences with Lefroy to create one of the most beloved novels in English literature.
Becoming Jane offers a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most celebrated and iconic authors. It is sure to please fans of classic literature and period dramas, as well as anyone who appreciates a good romance.
Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, and Maggie Smith.
13. Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
Downton Abbey is a period drama that follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants in early 20th-century England. The show became wildly popular when it aired on television from 2010 to 2015, and its popularity has only grown ever since. The story follows the lives of both the upstairs family and downstairs staff and covers a wide range of topics, from love and relationships to war and social change.
While the show is set in a specific period of history, its themes are timeless, making it a show that continues to enthral viewers long after it has ended.
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Jessica Brown Findlay, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Siobhan Finneran, Joanne Froggatt, Phyllis Logan, Thomas Howes, Rob James-Collier, Rose Leslie, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Lesley Nicol, and Maggie Smith.
14. Jane Eyre (2011)
Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre has been adapted for the screen multiple times, but the 2011 version starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender is popularly considered to be one of the most faithful and successful adaptations.
Directed by Cary Fukunaga, the film is a period drama that stays true to the Victorian setting of the original book. The costumes and production design are lavish and intricate, and the cinematography makes excellent use of light and shadow to create an atmospheric visual style.
Wasikowska is superb in the title role, conveying both Jane’s strength and vulnerability, while Fassbender brings a brooding intensity to his portrayal of Mr Rochester. Overall, the film is a stunningly beautiful and emotionally powerful work that does justice to Bronte’s beloved novel.
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Judi Dench.
15. Anna Karenina (2012)
Anna Karenina is a 2012 period drama film directed by Joe Wright. The film is based on the 1878 novel of the same name by Leo Tolstoy. The story follows the life of Anna Karenina, a married noblewoman who has an affair with the wealthy Count Vronsky.
The film stars Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina, Jude Law as Alexei Karenin, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky. The film was released in 2012 to mixed reviews from critics. However, many praised the film’s visuals and performances, particularly Knightley’s and Taylor-Johnson’s. In addition, the film earned four Academy Awards nominations, including Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.
Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, and Alicia Vikander.
16. The Favourite (2018)
The Favourite is a period black comedy film set in early 18th-century England. The story follows three main characters: Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough; Anne, Queen of Great Britain; and Abigail Hill, a poor relation of Sarah’s. The film portrays the power struggle between Sarah and Abigail for Anne’s favour, as well as the love triangle between the three women.
The Favourite received critical acclaim for its acting, costumes, and production design. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning Best Actress for Olivia Colman and Best Production Design.
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.
17. Stage Beauty (2004)
Set in the 1660s, Stage Beauty is a romantic period drama that tells the story of Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup), a renowned actor who specializes in female roles. His world is turned upside down when King Charles II ( Rupert Everett) declares that women should be allowed to perform on stage.
This edict throws the theatrical community into chaos, and Ned suddenly finds himself out of work. He takes refuge in the home of Margaret Hughes ( Claire Danes), the first woman to perform on an English stage. As they grapple with the new reality of their profession, Ned and Margaret develop a deep bond that could change their lives forever.
Stage Beauty is a fascinating look at gender and sexuality during a time of great change, and its two lead performances are simply mesmerizing.
Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, and Ben Chaplin.
18. Belle (2013)
Belle is a 2013 period drama based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and a Black slave.
The film follows Belle as she is taken in by her great-uncle, Lord Mansfield, and raised in his household alongside her cousin, Elizabeth. As Belle comes of age, she becomes an important figure in a landmark court case that challenges the role of women and minorities in British society at the time.
Despite its period setting, Belle is a timeless story that speaks to the importance of equality and opportunity for all. The film was praised for its accurate portrayal of history and its powerful message, and it remains a relevant and insightful contribution to the ongoing conversation about race, gender, and justice.
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Felton, Sarah Gadon, and Matthew Goode.
19. The Crown (2016 – present)
The Crown is a period drama television series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II. The show follows Elizabeth from her early days as queen through to her last days, and it gives viewers a captivating look at the British monarchy.
The Crown is hugely popular, and it has won numerous awards, including an Emmy for Best Drama Series. If you’re looking for a show that is both fascinating and informative, then The Crown is definitely worth watching.
Starring: Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies, Claire Foy, John Lithgow, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Gillian Anderson, Josh O’Connor, and Emma Corrin.
20. Sanditon (2019 – present)
Sanditon is a period drama based on the final and incomplete novel of Jane Austin. The show is set in the early 19th century and follows Charlotte Heywood, played by Rose Williams, as she moves to the fictional town of Sanditon.
The town is in the process of being developed into a fashionable seaside resort, and Charlotte quickly becomes caught up in the excitement. However, she soon discovers that not everything is as it seems and that there are secrets lurking beneath the surface.
Sanditon is a well-crafted show that managed to capture the essence of a bygone era. The costumes and sets are beautiful, and the story is intriguing. If you’re looking for a period drama that will transport you to another time, then Sanditon is definitely worth checking out.
Starring: Rose Williams, Theo James, and Kris Marshall.
21. Victoria (2016-2019)
Victoria is a period drama television series that chronicles the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign. The show debuted in 2016 and quickly became one of the most popular period dramas on television. The series stars Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria and explores her relationships with her family, her court, and her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne.
Victoria is an engaging and well-written show that provides a fascinating look at life in 19th-century Britain. If you’re looking for a period drama that is both intriguing and informative, then Victoria is definitely worth checking out.
Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, and Rufus Sewell.
22. The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)
The Personal History of David Copperfield is a period comedy-drama film directed by Armando Iannucci and written by Simon Blackwell, Iannucci, and Tony Roche, based on the 1850 Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield. The film stars Dev Patel as the title character, with an ensemble cast including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Paul Whitehouse, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Aneurin Barnard, Nyasha Hatendi, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Rosalind Eleazar, and more.
The film’s title was announced in February 2019. Principal photography began that same month in the United Kingdom. It was theatrically released in the UK on 24 January 2020 and in the USA on 28 August 2020. The film grossed around $8 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics.
At the 92nd Academy Awards, it received two nominations: Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Costume Design. It also received three BAFTA nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design.
Starring: Dev Patel, Peter Capaldi, Morfydd Clark, Daisy May Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Aneurin Barnard, Rosalind Eleazar, Hugh Laurie, and Paul Whitehouse.
23. Call the Midwife (2012 – present)
Call the Midwife is a period drama that follows the lives of a group of midwives in the East End of London in the 1950s and 1960s. The show is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, who had a job as a midwife in the East End for many years.
The show has been praised for its realistic portrayal of midwifery and for its accurate period setting. It has also been praised for its strong female characters and its positive portrayal of working-class women. Call the Midwife is an excellent example of a period drama that is both accurate and entertaining.
Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, Jenny Agutter, Laura Main, Helen George, Judy Parfitt, and Jessica Raine.
24. Poldark (2015-2019)
The Poldark TV series is a period drama that follows the life of Ross Poldark, a British soldier who returns home from the American Revolutionary War to find that his father has died and his childhood sweetheart is about to marry someone else.
The first season focuses on Ross trying to restore his family’s tin mine and adapting to married life with his new wife, Demelza. The second season sees Ross embroiled in a smuggling scheme and facing the fallout from an affair with another woman. The third season explores Ross’s role in the French Revolution and Demelza’s fight to save her brother from execution. The fourth season focuses on Ross and Demelza’s relationship as they try to deal with differences in their social status.
The fifth season sees Ross become caught up in the conflict between England and France, and Demelza is torn between her loyalty to both her husband and her brother. The sixth and final season explores Ross’s efforts to stop a potential war between England and France and Demelza’s choice between her husband and her son. So, in short, it is quite a rollercoaster.
Starring: Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Elise Chappell.
25. Cable Girls (2017-2020)
Set in Spain in the 1920s, Cable Girls is a period drama that is centred around the lives of four young women who work for a Madrid telecommunications company. Though they come from different backgrounds, the four women soon form a close bond as they navigate the challenges of their burgeoning careers.
With its complex characters and nuanced exploration of issues like feminism and classism, Cable Girls is a refreshing addition to the period drama genre. Though it may have been set in the past, the series has a surprisingly modern sensibility, making it essential viewing for anyone who loves a good period drama.
Starring: Blanca Suárez, Yon González, Ana Fernández, and Nadia de Santiago.
26. North and South (2004)
North and South is a period romantic drama that follows the lives of two families in the North and South of England during the period of industrialization. The story focuses on the conflict between the two families as they each strive to maintain their way of life in a rapidly changing world. As the struggle between the two families intensifies, the series explores issues of class, poverty, and social justice.
North and South is an engaging and thought-provoking drama that provides a detailed glimpse into a critical period in British history.
Starring: Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage, and Sinead Crusack.
27. Elizabeth (1998)
Elizabeth is a 1998 period drama film based on the early years of Elizabeth I’s reign, starring Cate Blanchett in the titular role. The film covers a significant portion of Elizabeth’s life, from her ascension to the throne after the death of her half-sister Mary I to the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Along the way, Elizabeth must contend with court intrigues, political machinations, and her own changing feelings towards her advisors and suitors.
Despite its focus on dramatic events, Elizabeth also includes several lighthearted moments, such as when Elizabeth playfully banters with her cousin Dudley. Ultimately, the film provides a detailed and nuanced portrait of one of England’s most iconic monarchs.
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, and Richard Attenborough.
28. The Age of Innocence (1993)
The Age of Innocence is a period drama released in 1993 and based on the Edith Wharton novel of the same name. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder.
The story is set in New York City in the 1870s and follows Newland Archer, a young lawyer from a wealthy family, as he becomes engaged to May Welland, a debutante from a similar background. However, Archer’s world is turned upside down when he meets May’s cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska, a woman who has left her abusive husband and is living in self-imposed exile. Archer falls in love with Ellen and must choose between his duty to May and his desire for Ellen.
The Age of Innocence was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Costume Design. It is considered one of Scorsese’s best films.
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, and Joanne Woodward.
29. The Knick (2014-2015)
The Knick is a period drama that centres on the staff of the fictional Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City in the early 20th century. The show was created by Michael Begler and Jack Amiel, and it stars Clive Owen as Dr John Thackery, a surgeon who is addicted to cocaine.
The Knick was lauded for its accurate depiction of medical procedures and its gritty portrayal of life in the city at the time. The show was also praised for its strong cast, which includes André Holland, Jeremy Bobb, Juliet Rylance, Eve Hewson, and Michael Angarano. The first season of The Knick aired on Cinemax in 2014, and the second season aired in 2015. The series was cancelled after two seasons, but it remains a cult favourite among fans of period dramas.
Starring: Clive Owen, Andre Holland, and Jeremy Bobb.
30. Vanity Fair (2018)
Vanity Fair is a period drama based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. The film follows the lives of Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, two young women who meet at a finishing school in England during the early 19th century. As they begin their journey into adulthood, they quickly learn that the world is not as fair as they had hoped it would be.
Despite their different backgrounds, the two friends become inseparable, and their adventure takes them from London to Paris and beyond. Needless to say, Vanity Fair is a sweeping saga that is full of romance, drama, and intrigue.
Starring: Olivia Cooke, Claudia Jessie, Tom Bateman, Johnny Flynn, and Charlie Rowe.
There’s something about a well-done period drama that just hits differently. Perhaps it’s the lavish sets and costumes or the old-fashioned romance (or heartbreak). Whatever it is, if you’re an old soul who loves nothing more than escaping into a good story, then these are the 30 period dramas you need to see and experience.
From Little Women to Bridgerton, Anne With An E to Pride & Prejudice, Enola Holmes to The Crown – there’s something for everyone on this list. So relax with a cup of tea and biscuits and dive right into the historical goodness!