A list of the best period dramas available to stream and on DVD that take place during the Georgian era (1714 to 1837) and the sub-period Regency era (1811 to 1820). Costume period dramas filmed in England, UK and other countries set in that time period. Television mini-series, PBS, BBC, Masterpiece Theatre productions, historical dramas, heritage films. Jane Austen adaptations. More to come!
For the lists of the top period dramas and recommended documentaries in additional eras, wander over to: What To Watch: The Period Films List
Please note that all of the lists have multiple pages.
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Adam Bede is the very definition of a brash young man. George Eliot's young English country hero is headstrong and arrogant, and sees the world in black and white--not unlike his 18th-century countrymen, living and (barely) breathing by the strict moral code of the day. In this excellent 1991 BBC adaptation, Adam is played by the appealing Iain Glen, who shows he's as comfortable in a sweeping period drama as he is in popcorn fare like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or the Resident Evil films. Adam is torn by love and commitment, and once he sets his sights on the fetching farmgirl Hetty (Patsy Kensit), he's convinced Hetty's love for his rich acquaintance Arthur is a sham, and uses force to get Arthur to break off their relationship. But what Adam has set in motion, the world will be reeling from for a very long time: in the wake of his impetuous act lie despair, heartbreak, a secret pregnancy, thoughts of suicide, a nd death. And still, the moral order must be upheld. Glen shows Adam slowly but truly growing up, realizing the consequences of his actions. (It doesn't hurt that he ends up with the lovely Dinah, played by the fabulous Susannah Harker of House of Cards and the 1995 Pride and Prejudice--why on earth has this talented young woman not become a huge star?) Viewing the characters' transgressions through 21st century eyes can make some of the plot lines feel remote--nearly unbelievable--but the all-too-human struggles of people trying to do the right thing will always ring true.
Shown on Masterpiece Theatre.
Based on true historical accounts AGAINST THE WIND covers 15 years of Australia's most brutal Colonial past. It tells the story of Mary Mulvane, an 18 year old unfairly charged and sentenced to serve seven years as a convict, transported from Ireland to NSW in 1798.
Destined to overcome the misery of a repressed life Mary's journey represents a grueling chapter of the Australian experience. Surviving the hardship and horror of transportation to Australia Mary faces an uncertain future in a savage land-establishing herself against the turbulent backdrop of Australia's Castle Hill Rebellion of 1804 and the 1808 Rum Rebellion.
Set in Australia's Colonial era (1798–1812).
"A jigsaw of facts was pieced together to reveal Mary's saga. For though her surname is fictitious her life is very real. It has come from painstaking research into official records, private papers, and
local traditions. The story finally came together after years of spare-time work and five months of intensive detective work among Australian, English and rish sources. Much of the detail was uncovered in Sydney's Mitchell Library, Melbourne's La Trobe Library and the National Library in Canberra." - The Canberra Times
The television series has 13 episodes.
Starring Bryan Brown, Chris Haywood, Frank Gallacher, Frank Thring, John Allen.
A London artist in search of inspiration takes a pretty young prostitute as his muse, only to find himself torn between virtue and vice as he forms a dangerous obsession with his disreputable subject. William Hogarth (Roby Jones) was drifting through London's seedy districts when he wandered into a Covent Garden brothel and met the beguiling Mary Collins (Zoe Tapper). It isn't long before Mary becomes William's muse, and his quest for integrity leads him down a darkened path. Basking in Mary's besmirched beauty, William creates a series of paintings known as "A Harlot's Progress" that brings him precisely the kind of fame, wealth, and respectability that he has always craved. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
Made for television, this is a Koch Vision and BBC release.
When compulsive gambler Sir Giles Staverley has lost his estate and all his money playing dice, he realises that he only has one thing left of value: his daughter Serena. In a final game, he stakes his daughter's hand in marriage, convinced that this time he will not lose. Unfortunately, however, he does lose; to the evil Lord Wrotham. Unable to return home and tell his daughter that he has lost her in a game of dice, Sir Giles kills himself there and then. Lord Vulcan, who has witnessed the events, takes pity on Serena Staverley, although they have never met. He challenges Lord Wrotham to a game of dice in which the winner takes both Staverley Court and Miss Serena. Lord Vulcan wins and simply pleased that he has saved someone from the nasty Wrotham, he thinks no more about the event. One evening, however, Vulcan's friend Lord Peter Gillingham insists upon them going to Staverley Court to take a look at Vulcan's "prize." When arriving there, Vulcan finds Serena Staverley more beautiful than he ever imagined.
Starring Diana Rigg, Edward Fox and Helena Bonham Carter.
Includes the film, Lady Hamilton: based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas pere, this picture has Michele Mercier portraying the title character, a country bumpkin who melts men with her very presence. She weds Mills and becomes a "Lady" with a capital "L." She then has an affair with naval hero Horatio Nelson (Johnson). When Mills dies she marries and has a child by Johnson. She is rudely awakened, however, when she is not allowed to attend her famous husband's funeral, making her realize how little society thinks of her.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) is a remarkably talented young Viennese composer who unwittingly finds a fierce rival in the disciplined and determined Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). Resenting Mozart for both his hedonistic lifestyle and his undeniable talent, the highly religious Salieri is gradually consumed by his jealousy and becomes obsessed with Mozart's downfall, leading to a devious scheme that has dire consequences for both men.
Starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce and Elizabeth Berridge.
Amazing Grace tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and his passion and perseverance to pass a law ending the slave trade in the late 18th century. Several friends, including Wilberforce's minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through. Family-friendly.
Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Romola Garai and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The era when slavery was legal and openly practiced in England is the backdrop for a story of greed, cruelty, and forbidden love, in A Respectable Trade.
Set in the English seaport of Bristol in 1788, A Respectable Trade illuminates a shameful period of British history, when the Empire's ships transported 35,000 captives yearly across the Atlantic to serve as slave laborers in the New World. At the time, some people condemned the practice as immoral and barbaric, but most considered it a "respectable trade," like any other.
Adapted by Philippa Gregory from her popular novel of the same name, A Respectable Trade stars Emma Fielding as Frances Scott, a well-bred English governess who marries an awkward, uneducated slave trader from Bristol because she has nowhere else to turn.
Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
Note: This much loved literary adaptation does not appear to be available on DVD at the time of this writing (9/2015) but is on VHS and perhaps will air again on Masterpiece.
Based on Stella Tillyard's bestseller that "made history sexy again" (London Sunday Times), this encore presentation of Aristocrats tells the true story of the bewitching Lennox sisters: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah. Great-granddaughters of King Charles II and his French mistress, they live up to their mixed heritage by tempting scandal with their unconventional ideas and daring affairs.
A sweeping saga of a noble family's disgrace and fall, spanning two generations, Aristocrats is a dazzling adaptation, an acclaimed family chronicle set against the spectacular backdrop of palaces, country estates and ballrooms of eighteenth-century England and Ireland.
What producer David Snodin (Great Expectations) finds most striking is that the story is absolutely true. "As far as characters and plot, Aristocrats could be a classic novel. But it isn't. It actually happened." Aristocrats is a BBC America and WGBH Boston coproduction.
Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
Starring Julian Fellowes, Alun Armstrong, Jodhi May, Anne-Marie Duff, Serena Gordon and Ben Daniels.
A young queen (Queen Caroline Mathilda), who is married to an insane king, falls secretly in love with her physician - and together they start a revolution that changes a nation forever. Based on a true story, it is gripping tale of brave idealists who risk everything in the pursuit of freedom for their people.
Starring Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard.
In Danish with English subtitles.
Adapted from Charles Dickens' novel. Two men, one an aristocrat and one a drunken lawyer, fall in love with the same woman during the early stages of the French Revolution.
'Remember always that there is a man who will give his life for you--or anyone you love.' This promise is made by the handsome but dissolute lawyer Sydney Carton to the beautiful Lucie Manette on the eve of her wedding. Lucie loves only her husband, who has renounced his hated family name of St. Evremonde--and with it, his connection with the corrupt French Aristocracy--to live quietly with his new wife as Charles Darnay. Exiled to London, away from the mounting horror of the French Revolution, Darnay and Lucie settle into a happy life caring for her father Dr. Manette. But when Paris erupts in flames and the mob overthrows the old order forever, there is a debt of honor that Charles must pay. To pay it, he must return to France--at the peril of his own life...
Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
Starring James Wilby, Xavier Deluc, Serena Gordon, John Mills, Anna Massey.
Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Bajirao Mastani is an Indian historical romance film produced and directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film is based on the epic tale of Bajirao, a noted general who served as the Maratha Peshwa (Prime Minister) to the fourth Chhatrapati (Emperor) Chhatrapati Shahu Raje Bhonsle of the Maratha Empire from 1720 - 1740, and his second wife Mastani, a multi talented beautiful princess with her mastery in horse riding, sword fighting, war affairs, religious studies, poetry, music and dance, making her Bajirao's favorite. Bajirao fought over 41 battles and is reputed to have never lost one.
In Hindi with English subtitles.
Starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra.
The film is scheduled to be released.
Set in the first penal colony founded by the British in New South Wales in the year 1788, in which the British convicts live alongside their Royal Navy marine guards and their officers. A thousand prisoners are guarded by one hundred men, and with five men for every woman, tensions are high when the women are shared among the men.
The seven-part serial aired in 2015 on BBC Two for one season but was cancelled for budgetary reasons despite a wide fan base.
Despite having the gritty feeling of a McGovern drama, Banished has the look of a lavish period piece thanks to his exotic locations. All of Banished’s exterior scenes were shot in the forests of Sydney which adds to the overall authenticity of the piece...director Daniel Percival perfectly captured this foreign land to which the British convicts had found themselves transported.- Unreality TV
Starring Russell Tovey, Orla Brady, Ewen Bremner, MyAnna Buring.
How does an Irish lad without prospects become part of 18th-century English nobility? For Barry Lyndon (Ryan O'Neal) the answer is: any way he can! His climb to wealth and privilege is the enthralling focus of this sumptuous Stanley Kubrick version of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel. For this ravishing, slyly satiric winner of 4 Academy Awards, Kubrick found inspiration in the works of the era's painters. Costumes and sets were crafted in the era's designs and pioneering lenses were developed to shoot interiors and exteriors in natural light. The result is a cutting-edge movie bringing a historical period to vivid screen life like no other film before or since.
Set between the 1750s and 1789.
The events in "Barry Lyndon" could furnish a swashbuckling romance. He falls into a foolish adolescent love, has to leave his home suddenly after a duel, enlists almost accidentally in the British army, fights in Europe, deserts from not one but two armies, falls in with unscrupulous companions, marries a woman of wealth and beauty, and then destroys himself because he lacks the character to survive. But Kubrick examines Barry's life with microscopic clarity. This must be one of the most beautiful films ever made, and yet the beauty isn't in the service of emotion. - Roger Ebert
Alcott would win an Oscar for his amazing work, as would Ken Adam and Roy Walker for their scrupulously researched art direction, the often outlandish but totally convincing costumes of Milena Canonero, and Leonard Rosenman for his arrangements of Schubert and Handel, whose addictively funereal Sarabande in D Minor stomps ominously in the background of the various duels, like a march to the gallows. - Telegraph
Starring Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Krüger, Steven Berkoff.
James Purefoy (Rome, Vanity Fair) delivers a captivating performance as the dandy of Regency England who changed male fashion forever. In an age when men bedeck themselves in powders, perfumes, and all manner of finery, Brummell boldly advocates simplicity, elegance, and—good heavens!—washing. His friendship with the Prince Regent (Hugh Bonneville, Iris) rockets Brummell to social prominence, but his fascination with the magnetic bad-boy poet Lord Byron (Matthew Rhys, Brothers & Sisters) eventually proves his undoing.
Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe (The Other Boleyn Girl) and based on Ian Kelly’s critically acclaimed biography, Beau Brummell tells its story with a wit, flair, and irresistible stylishness that befit England’s ultimate man of fashion.
As seen on BBC America.
Set against the background of the Battle of Waterloo, Becky Sharp is the story of Vanity Fair by Thackeray. Becky and Amelia are girls at school together, but Becky is from a "show biz" family, or in other words, very low class. Becky manages to insinuate herself in Amelia's family and gets to know all their friends. From this possibly auspicious- beginning, she manages to ruin her own life, becoming sick, broke, and lonely, and also ruins the lives of many other "loved ones". In the movie we get to see the class distinctions in England at the time, and get a sense of what it was like for the English military at the time of the Napoleonic wars. - Written by Lisa Grable
Starring Miriam Hopkins, Frances Dee and Cedric Hardwicke.
Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs) gives a radiant performance as a young, love-struck Jane Austen in the witty and engaging romantic comedy Becoming Jane. It s the untold romance that inspired the novels of one of the world's most celebrated authors. When the dashing Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy, Atonement), a reckless and penniless lawyer-to-be, enters Jane's life, he offends the emerging writer's sense and sensibility. Soon their clashing egos set off sparks that ignite a passionate romance and fuel Jane's dream of doing the unthinkable--marrying for love. Becoming Jane, also starring the acclaimed Maggie Smith, James Cromwell and Julie Walters, is an enchanting and imaginative film you'll fall head over heels for.
Starring Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, James Cromwell, Julia Walters, Maggie Smith.
Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing.
Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.
Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson.
The aristocratic sisters Charlotte and Caroline both fall in love with the controversial young writer and hothead Friedrich Schiller. Defying the conventions of their time, the sisters decide to share their love with Schiller. What begins playfully, almost as a game among the three of them, soon turns serious as it leads to the end of a pact.
Graf’s film is, on one level, a familiar tale of star-crossed lovers held apart by time, tide and the pestilent social climate of the era. But at every step, the filmmaker, who has an exceptionally acute sense of the relationship between the personal and the political, uses the push and pull of the characters as a window onto the unraveling social fabric of bourgeois European society. As revolutionary blood begins to spill in the streets of France, Schiller finds himself forced to reconsider his belief that “humanity will evolve through knowledge and the sight of true beauty.” And in scene after scene, Graf seamlessly inserts vivid details about a society in transition, from the modernization of printing techniques to the increase in literacy levels among the lower classes. Beloved Sisters was shot primarily on real locations, carefully augmented by production designer Claus Jurgen Pfeiffer to achieve historical accuracy. Barbara Grupp’s striking but never unduly lavish costumes, and co-composers Sven Rossenbach and Florian Van Volxem’s vibrato string score, are other standouts of a topnotch tech package. - Variety
“Think of it as Graf’s The Age of Innocence, a sumptuous phasing through the textures that entrap those unfit for times defined by emotional repression. See it when you most need it and this film might change your life.” – Scout Tafoya, RogerEbert.com
Set in Weimar in the fall of 1787.
Starring Hannah Herzsprung, Florian Stetter, Henriette Confurius, Claudia Messner, Ronald Zehrfeld, Maja Maranow, Michael Wittenborn, Andreas Pietschmann, Anne Schäfer, Peter Schneider, Eli Wasserscheid, Christine Zart, Ulrich Blöcher, Bernhard Conrad, Heinrich Cuipers, Ella Gaiser, Eva-Maria Hofmann, Thomas Kornack, Klaus Lehmann, Bennet Meyer.
In German with English subtitles.
Rowan Atkinson is deliciously twisted as the comic villain, Edmund Blackadder, in the enormously popular comedy series. Follow Blackadder in hysterical send-ups of the Middle Ages, the Elizabethan age, the Regency period, and World War I.
One of the best comedy series ever to emerge from England, Black Adder traces the deeply cynical and self-serving lineage of various Edmund Blackadders from the muck of the Middle Ages to the frontline of World War I. In his pre-Bean triumph, British comic actor Rowan Atkinson played all five versions of Edmund, beginning with the villainous and cowardly Duke of Edinburgh, whose scheming mind and awful haircut seem to stand him in good stead to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury--a deadly occupation if ever there was one. Among tales of royal dethronings, Black Death, witch smellers (who root out spell makers with their noses), and ghosts, Edmund is a perennial survivor who never quite gets ahead in multiple episodes. Jump to the Elizabethan era and Atkinson picks up the saga as Lord Edmund, who is perpetually courting favor from mad Queen Bess (Miranda Richardson) and is always walking a tightrope from which he can either gain the world or lose his head. Subjected to bizarre services for her majesty (at one point, Edmund is asked to do for potatoes what Sir Walter Raleigh did for tobacco), Edmund--as with his ancestor--can never quite fulfill his larger ambitions. The next incarnation we encounter is in late-18th-century Regency England. This time, Blackadder is a mere butler to the idiotic Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie in a brilliantly buffoonish performance) and is caught in various misadventures with Samuel Johnson, Shakespearean actors, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and William Pitt the younger. With a brief stop in Victorian London for a Christmas special, the series concludes with several episodes set during the Great War. The new Edmund is a career Army officer, but a scoundrel all the same. Shirking his duties whenever possible and taking advantage of any opportunity for undeserved reward, this final, deeply sour, and very funny Blackadder negotiates survival among a cadre of fools and dimwits. No small mention can be made of Atkinson's supporting cast, easily among the finest comic performers of their generation: besides Laurie and Richardson, Stephen Fry, Tony Robinson, and Tim McInnerny. --Tom Keogh
Starring Rowan Atkinson, Brian Blessed, Elspet Gray, Tim McInnerny, Patrick Allen.
From Academy Award® winning writer/director Jane Campion (Best Original Screenplay, The Piano, 1993) comes an extraordinary film based on the true story of undying love between renowned poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw, The International) and his spirited muse Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish, Stop-Loss). In the wilds of 19th century England, a forbidden passion draws the two lovers ever closer—even as fate conspires to tear them apart. Bright Star takes you to a world where, though life may be fleeting, great art – and great love – last forever. Let this sparkling gem of romance illuminate your heart.
Bright Star is the rare period movie to convey--without being insistent--what it was like to be alive in another era, the nature of houses and rooms and how people occupied them, the way windows linked spaces and enlarged people's lives and experiences, how fires warmed as the milky English sunlight did not. And always there is an aliveness to place and weather, the creak of boardwalk underfoot and the wind rustling the reeds as lovers walk through a wetland. Poetry grows from such things; at least, Jane Campion's does. --Richard T. Jameson
Starring Abbie Cornish, Edie Martin, Claudie Blakley, Gerard Monaco, Samuel Roukin.
Following the success of his poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage", Byron (Jonny Lee Miller) becomes the toast of London.
The young poet Lord Byron had everything. He was beautiful, aristocratic, talented - and sexually irresistible. By his mid-twenties, he was the most famous man in England – the world’s first celebrity. Women flung themselves at him. Men wanted to be like him.
Starring Jonny Lee Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Little, Stephen Campbell Moore, Oliver Milburn and Michael Elwyn.
A man's life revolves around the physical pleasures of sexual intimacy. His reputation as a great lover with countless women leaves a single unfulfilled dream for his whole life-perfect happiness with one true love.
And now for something completely randy and ribald from Masterpiece Theatre. This re-telling of the Casanova legend is a thoroughly modern romp with rollicking escapades, a sly anachronistic tone, and wardrobe malfunctions. More, it is graced with a poignant performance by Peter O' Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, My Favorite Year) as the aged lothario. Toiling in obscurity as a count's librarian, he regales an appalled, yet intrigued, parlor maid (Rose Byrne) with the story of his eventful life. David Tennant (Doctor Who) stars as the opportunistic, charming, and indefatigable young Casanova, illegitimately born to a neglectful actress mother. He becomes a scholar and sets about reinventing himself (as lawyer, doctor, and astrologer) to gain entry into Venice's noble circles. Here, he meets the enchanting Henriette (Laura Fraser), his one true love, but who is determined to marry for money and security. The first of Casanova's two parts is the most fun. Our tireless heroes' prodigious sexual exploits are rendered more comic than carnal. From two sisters (simultaneously!), he learns the secret of seducing women: "Just listen." Nina Sosanya (Love, Actually) costars as Bellino, a castrato, who presents Casanova with a Victor/Victoria-like conundrum. Casanova cannot keep up the pace of the cheeky first half as the stakes get higher in his pursuit of the elusive Henriette. He runs afoul of her jealous and powerful fiancé, Count Grimani (Rupert Penry-Jones), setting the stage for an ultimately heartbreaking love story that will span a lifetime. Casanova is as smart, seductive, and sad as its hero. As one character tells Casanova before a Bellino performance, "You are in for a treat." --Donald Liebenson
Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
Starring David Tennant, Laura Fraser and Peter O'Toole.
Award-winning Polish filmmaker Jerzy Antczak directed this historical drama which focuses on the meeting of two remarkable minds. Fryderyk Chopin (Piotr Adamczyk) was earning a reputation as both a music genius and an imperious, self-important man when he met Aurore Dupin (Danuta Stenka), a beautiful but strong-willed woman who wrote about issues of gender equality under the pen name of George Sand. Chopin and Dupin entered into a passionate but volatile love affair, and their affection for one another was tempered by Chopin's arrogance and Dupin's unwillingness to compromise. The soundtrack for Chopin: Desire for Love includes performances of Chopin's music from Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and other noted classical artists. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Starring Jadwiga Baranska, Piotr Adamczyk, Danuta Stenka.
A fictionalized account of the last year of Beethoven’s life, as viewed through the romantic prism of a young woman who works for him.
When young Anna Holz (Diane Kruger), a Viennese music student is asked to transcribe scoring notes for the great Ludwig van Beethoven (Harris), she eagerly accepts, despite warnings about his volatile behavior. Part maestro, part mentor and part madman, Beethoven reluctantly relies on Anna to help him realize the culmination of his art.
Set in Vienna in 1824.
The movie is completely beguiling, and it delivers joy, the beautiful spark of the gods. - Washington Post
A passionate, powerful drama based loosely on the final months of Ludwig van Beethoven's life, Copying Beethoven finds the maestro a haunted man, composing the most revolutionary yet unappreciated work of his lifetime; largely deaf; disappointed in his relationship with a wastrel nephew; and fascinated by a young, female composer, Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), who goes to work for him transcribing music. Staying as a guest at a convent and engaged to a stolid engineer, Anna is drawn to Beethoven’s tempestuous genius. Half the time he's enchanted by her and seems to see straight through to her soul. The other half, he's shouting at her for her timidity or flattery. Hardly a mouse, Anna fights back. The more she does, the more Beethoven recognizes in her a kindred survivor, someone with whom he can reveal his vulnerability and the burden of his artistry. Ed Harris' Beethoven is wracked by pain but not overwhelmed by it; he looks like a man who understands his responsibility to nature too well to merely disintegrate. ("God whispers in most men's ears," Beethoven says. "He shouts in mine.") Director Agnieszka Holland (Olivier, Olivier) oversees a handsome, alternately tender and brutal drama, with several thrilling moments, including the stunned look of audience members hearing the world premiere of the glorious 9th Symphony. --Tom Keogh
Starring Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Matthew Goode, Joe Anderson, Bill Stewart, Phyllida Law, Ralph Riach, Nicholas Jones.
Inspired by a true story, 'The Courage to Love' tells the story of a black woman who is part of a mixed-race affluent society in pre-civil war New Orleans. In 19th century New Orleans creole Henriette must choose between love and devotion to the church. Neither choice is going to be easy, as there is great opposition to her ideas of breaking traditions.
Starring Diahann Carroll, Vanessa Williams, Gil Bellows, Christopher Williams, Vanessa L. Williams.
Note: Based on the life of Henriette Delille (1813-1862), a daughter of one of the oldest families of free people of color in New Orleans, founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, the second oldest Catholic religious order for women of color. At an early age, she rejected what would likely have been a privileged life and chose to dedicate herself to the care of the free black and slave communities. In 1836, along with several other women, she established the Sisters of the Presentation, which later became the Sisters of the Holy Family. The Sisters worked among the poor, the sick, the elderly and also among slaves. The order founded a school for girls in 1850 and in 1860 opened a hospital for needy black Orleanians. Today, the Sisters of the Holy Family continue to contribute to the education of African American youths and to the care of the sick and elderly through their work in New Orleans and elsewhere.
Alec Guinness must battle a mutinous crew and Napoleon's fleet in the rousing, historical adventure Damn the Defiant! As commander of the British warship H.M.S. Defiant, the humane Crawford (Guinness) strives to maintain order throughout the ship against the ceaseless brutality of sadistic first mate Scott-Padget (Dirk Bogarde). After Crawford is injured in a fiery battle with a French treasure ship, angry seaman Vizard (Anthony Quayle) leads the crew to mutiny when Scott-Padget takes over. Nowwith Vizard in command, Crawford persuades him to join the British fleet to help fight against France's planned invasion of England in hopes for a mutiny pardon. But when a vengeful sailor murders Scott-Padget, the Defiant crew must decide between saving their country or their own lives.
Set in 1797 at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, Damn the Defiant! (also known as H.M.S. Defiant) is an enthralling British naval drama made to capitalize on MGM's epic remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, also released in 1962. It's based on Frank Tilsey's novel Mutiny and stars Alex Guinness as a fair-minded captain locked in psychological conflict with his manipulative, coldly malicious first officer (Dirk Bogarde), and the parallels with the famous true story are clear. However, there were many naval mutinies during this period, and this large-scale saga, which includes some spectacularly staged widescreen naval battles, offers a realistic depiction of life in the British navy at the time--from the press gangs and floggings to the appalling food and living conditions.
Director Lewis Gilbert--who previously helmed Sink the Bismarck! (1960)--strikes a good balance between the personal drama and sweeping maritime adventure. Guinness successfully varies his firm-but-fair officer from The Bridge on the River Kwai, Bogarde is chillingly hateful, and Anthony Quayle gives strong support. --Gary S. Dalkin
A sumptuously mounted and photographed celebration of artful wickedness, betrayal, and sexual intrigue among depraved 18th-century French aristocrats, Dangerous Liaisons (based on Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses) is seductively decadent fun. The villainous heroes are the Marquise De Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte De Valmont (John Malkovich), who have cultivated their mutual cynicism into a highly developed and exquisitely mannered form of (in-)human expression. Former lovers, they now fancy themselves rather like demigods whose mutual desires have evolved beyond the crudeness of sex or emotion. They ritualistically act out their twisted affections by engaging in elaborate conspiracies to destroy the lives of their less calculating acquaintances, daring each other to ever-more-dastardly acts of manipulation and betrayal. Why? Just because they can; it's their perverted way of getting get their kicks in a dead-end, pre-Revolutionary culture. Among their voluptuous and virtuous prey are fair-haired angels played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman, who have never looked more ripe for ravishing. When the Vicomte finds himself beset by bewilderingly genuine emotions for one of his victims, the Marquise considers it the ultimate betrayal and plots her heartless revenge. Dangerous Liaisons is a high-mannered revel for the actors, who also include Swoosie Kurtz, Mildred Natwick, and Keanu Reeves. --Jim Emerson
Action opens in November of 1793, with Danton returning to Paris from his country retreat upon learning that the Committee for Public Safety, under Robespierre's incitement, has begun a series of massive executions, The Terror. Confident in the peoples' support, Danton clashes with his former ally, but calculating Robespierre soon rounds up Danton and his followers, tries them before a revolutionary tribunal and dipatches them to the guillotine.
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Wojciech Pszoniak and Anne Alvaro.
In French with English subtitles.
The classic David Copperfield was not just Charles Dickens' favorite work. It has been the most popular of his books since it was first published 150 years ago. Micawber, Peggotty, Betsey Trotwood, Uriah Heep, Mr. Creakle, Mrs. Crupp, and Mr. Dick... never were so many of Dickens' famous and vest-loved characters gathered together in just one of his works.
They are all brought to life by a world-class cast including Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), Oscar-winner Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Bob Hoskins (Hook), Nicholas Lyndhurst (Bullshot) and Pauline Quirke (The Elephant Man) in this sparkling adaptation.
The most autobiographical of Dickens' work, David Copperfield often echoes the writer's own life. It tells a moving story of David's journey from birth to maturity, a journey which inextricably links his life with some of Dickens' most colorful and extraordinary families.
Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
Note: David Copperfield covers a huge time span, from late Georgian and Regency to early Victorian years, from 1812 (Dickens's birth year) to 1846 (David Copperfield's marriage to Agnes and the birth of their first child).
Six years after Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have prevailed over pride, prejudice, the caddish Mr. Wickam and the frivolous Mrs. Bennet, a coach races up to Pemberley, Darcy's palatial estate, with an hysterical Lydia shrieking, "Murder!" So continues Jane Austen's timeless classic, Pride and Prejudice, in Death Comes to Pemberley, a star-studded adaptation of crime-writer P.D. James' bestselling whodunit.
On the eve of Pemberley's annual ball, new and beloved iconic characters of Pride and Prejudice assemble to bask in the warm glow of the Darcy's sumptuous estate. But following Lydia's frantic arrival and an investigation into Pemberley's woods, a nightmare ensues and a scandal mounts, threatening Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear.
With lavish locations, handsome parklands, and beloved, iconic characters, Death Comes to Pemberley marries the splendor and emotion of period drama with the intrigue of murder mystery.
Shown on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.
Starring Anna Maxwell Martin (Bleak House, South Riding) as quick-witted Elizabeth Darcy, Matthew Rhys (The Americans) as the principled Mr. Darcy, Matthew Goode (The Good Wife) as the roguish Wickham, and Jenna Coleman as coquettish minx Lydia (Doctor Who).
When Lady Caroline Faye (Allison Doody, Indiana Jones and the Last crusade) first meets the mysterious, handsome Lord Vane Brecon (Benedict Taylor, The Watcher in the Woods), he has been accused of murder -- an accusation she seeks to disprove. Taking a position as companion to Brecons mother (Virginia McKenna, Born Free), she soon discovers that the family is not only wealthy in land and fortune, but rich in secrets. What mystery lurks in the family tower? Why is the maid Dorcas (Billie Whitelaw, The Omen) so faithful to Brecons mother, but distrustful of the housekeeper Mrs. Miller (Geraldine Chaplin, White Mischief)? The answer could lie with Brecons evil cousin and rival for the family fortune, Gervase (Michael York, Logans Run). Only one thin gis certain in Fayes mind: that true love and honor will survive the Duel of Hearts. A classic Barbara Cartland romance thriller.
Why you may wish to watch it: Because you are a fan of Barbara Cartland and are okay with a made for television oozing with smoldering romance plus murder movie. Included here because many of her fans love the movies. On her books, reader Rachel Hyland wrote "I smile as I recall the many happy hours I spent as a youngster immersed in these cookie-cutter perfect tales of endangered virtue, missing jewelry, foreign travel and disillusioned Dukes won over by sundry simpletons to whom they’d been reluctantly wed. Who cares if all the books blend amorphously into one another over time, that the girls are all chaste, the men all alpha males, and that they actually sit around shamelessly calling each other things like “Soul of my Soul”?"
Why you may wish to skip it: Because you are not already a big fan of Barbara Cartland. Let's say the same for A Ghost in Monte Carlo and The Lady and the Highwayman,two films adapted from Cartland romances, though the latter one has a bit of a young Hugh Grant in it. If you want to venture into a Barbara Cartland adaptation, you may consider A Hazard of Hearts, for no real reason other than that it stars Helena Bonham Carter and is set in the Regency era.
Starring Alison Doody, Michael York, Geraldine Chaplin.
The key to any Jane Austen adaptation is finding the perfect balance of romantic yearning and savage, satirical wit. Austen's Emma has these two qualities at their most exquisite and tantalizing, and this BBC adaptation from 1972 serves the novel with complete satisfaction. Delightful Doran Godwin captures not only the title character's good nature and resilient will, but also her exasperating self-satisfaction and ungovernable manipulative impulses. Believing herself to be acting in everyone's best interests, Emma takes the lower-class Harriet Smith (Debbie Bowen) under her wing and sets out to find the girl a suitable husband, disregarding what havoc she wreaks along the way. Her foolish father (Donald Eccles) cannot temper Emma's fancies; only the stern Mr. Knightly (John Carson) offers any reason or restraint. This sprightly adaptation is far superior to the mediocre 1996 film (starring Gwyneth Paltrow) and on par with the ingenious Clueless, which cunningly translates the story to a Beverly Hills high school. The luxurious span of a six-part miniseries gives this version the opportunity to revel in Emma's every deliciously misguided moment. --Bret Fetzer
The costumes in the film were designed by Joan Ellacot. Her goal was to make the actors, and indeed the whole production “look as genuine and real as possible.” Towards that end, she chose to replicate the looks of 1815. “It’s easy for today’s audiences to dismiss the old BBC costumes as “polyester specials” because of the dating and dulling effects of the videotape and harsh fluorescence used in taping. However, most of the designs used in this production were well-researched and carefully selected. Many of the costumes were reused in later BBC productions during the 1970’s, notably the 1979 version of Pride & Prejudice starring Elizabeth Garvie. As with the other Emmas, the design team chose styles, colors, and accessories to indicate class, age, and personality. Harriet wears youthful, patterned frocks in soft colors and bright bonnets. Emma wears regal styles in sophisticated colors, including an ermine-lined cape and a maroon spencer with appliqued designs. Mrs. Weston wears somber colors in modest styles.” - Laura Boyle
Starring Doran Godwin, Mollie Sugden, Fiona Walker.
This delightfully fun and lighthearted comedy is based on Jane Austen's classic novel. Dazzling Gweneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love, Iron Man) shines as Emma- a mischievous young beauty who sets up her single friends. Funny thing is…she's not very good at it! So when Emma tries to find a man for Harriet, she makes a hilariously tangled mess of everyone's lives. You'll enjoy all the comin confusion...until Emma herself falls in love, finally freeing everyone from her outrageously misguided attempts at matchmaking.
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow, James Cosmo, Greta Scacchi, Alan Cumming, Denys Hawthorne.
In this made-for-TV adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel, Emma Woodhouse (Kate Beckinsale) is a clever young woman from a wealthy family who fancies herself a matchmaker and tries to find a husband for her shy friend Harriet Samantha Morton. However, Emma's skills in bringing romances together are not all she imagines them to be, which causes no small annoyance for Harriet. This adaptation of Emma was first shown in the U.S. on the A&E cable network.
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Bernard Hepton, Mark Strong, Samantha Bond, James Hazeldine.
Although Jane Austen's Emma has been adapted for the screen many times before, including for an American version starring Gwyneth Paltrow, this four-part miniseries is the version to begin with. The story of Miss Woodhouse, a matchmaker and meddler whose wit and misdirection need to be carefully acted to match the novel's complex character, is perfectly expressed through Romola Garai's portrayal. Throughout the retelling of this comedic romantic drama, Garai not only conveys Emma's strong-willed sensibility but also manages to update Emma for modern audiences without relinquishing the traditional manners and tastes that Austen fans love in her 1815 historical tale. Each episode, here, opens with a seasonal shot of Hartfield, the estate Emma rules while caring for her loyal and kind but protective father (Michael Gambon). Having lost her mother early, Emma feels a bond with two other unfortunate children in Highbury, Frank Churchill (Rupert Evans) and Jane Fairfax (Laura Pyper), whom Emma befriends as they return home from boarding schools abroad.
Romola Garai (“Atonement”) is irresistible as the willful, wrongheaded matchmaker Emma Woodhouse, all but eclipsing her many predecessors in the role. And Michael Gambon (“Harry Potter,” “Cranford”) is just as distinctive as Emma’s fretful, draft-fearing father. The casting of the lead is critical, but some of the most memorable Emmas owe much of their success to secondary characters. Mr. Gambon does not disappoint. - NYT
Starring Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Tamsin Greig, Rupert Evans.
A bawdy romp based on the 18th-century erotic classic. Screenwriter Andrew Davies (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bleak House) brings all of his sly, stylish wit to this adaptation of 18th-century Britain’s most notorious novel. With a mischievous glint in her eye and plenty of knowing winks, Fanny relates her journey from wholesome naïf to worldly woman. After losing her parents to smallpox, the poor country girl travels to London, where she falls into prostitution under the guidance of an infamous madam. Forced to take a series of lovers to survive, Fanny learns to relish sensual delights -- but reserves her heart for her one true love. Showing a playfulness that matches her beauty, newcomer Rebecca Night sparkles in the title role. Samantha Bond (The World Is Not Enough), Alison Steadman (Pride and Prejudice), Philip Jackson (Agatha Christie’s Poirot), and Hugo Speer (The Full Monty) join her in this unabashedly sexy tale of one woman’s appetite for independence and pleasure.
The bodice-ripper that begat all bodice-rippers, John Clelland's 18th century book, Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, has finally been given the screen adaptation it deserves. This 2007 British TV presentation is cheeky and very erotic, yet subtly emotional and painstakingly costumed and set. Fanny herself, played by young, appealing newcomer TK Night, narrates the film, which goes a long way toward defusing what is essentially a tale of a woman forced into prostitution to live. The way this Fanny tells it, she has a rollicking good time learning about her own, and others', erotic lives--whilst fitting in rather splendidly in 18th century London. The narration, with true relish in Night's voice, helps overcome the distaste one might have of the human slavery angle (much like Pretty Woman's neo-feminist Julia Roberts did in that film). So the viewer is allowed to sit back and savor the sensuality, and the film's real romantic thread, without guilt.
"Virtue is always preferable to vice," says the pragmatic Fanny, "but we can't always choose, can we?" Andrew Davies, the prolific screenwriter who produced Bridget Jones and many Jane Austen productions, among many others, adapted the book and has managed to preserve the sensuality alongside the true longings of our heroine. The production may shock some fans of BBC period dramas, as the nudity and sexual content are far more explicit, and regularly occurring, than in most. But it works here, as the point is that Fanny enjoys her sensual side and that learning and growing helps her form what it is she truly wants. The sets and costumes are lush, and the cast is spot-on, including Night, as well as supporting actors Hugo Speer, Emma Stansfield, and Alex Robertson. Near the end, Fanny muses, "As to the moral of my story… Must one always have morals?" Apparently not--at least not to have a splendid time, which this Fanny Hill more than delivers. --A.T. Hurley
The costume drama brilliantly captures the passions, debauchery, occasional glimpses of nobility and ultimately the chaos that engulfed the court of Marie Antoinette in the final days before the full-scale outbreak of the Revolution.
Based on the best-selling novel by Chantal Thomas, Léa Seydoux stars as one of Marie Antoinette's ladies-in-waiting, seemingly an innocent but quietly working her way into her mistress s special favors, until history tosses her fate onto a decidedly different path. With the action moving effortlessly from the gilded drawing rooms of the nobles to the back quarters of those who serve them, this is a period film at once accurate and sumptuous in its visual details and modern in its emotions.
Starring Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen.
In French with English subtitles.
In the 18th century, no man was more famous, more beloved, or more celebrated than the man called Farinelli. The amazing true story of the world famous castrato comes brilliantly to life in a sumptuous and sexy drama of high notes and even higher passions. With all the charisma, talent, drive and success of a modern-day rock star, Farinelli had everything: money, talent, fame, women... and the voice of an angel.
This lavishly produced European costume melodrama chronicles the life of Farinelli the 18th century's most renowned castrati singer whose remarkable voice covered 3 1/2 octaves. An Oscar nominee in the Foreign Film category.
Set between 1722 and 1740.
Starring Elsa Zylberstein, Marianne Basler, Jacques Boudet, Caroline Cellier, Stefano Dionisi.
In French and Italian with English subtitles.
From acclaimed director Alexander Sokurov (RUSSIAN ARK, THE SUN), FAUST is an hallucinatory period piece set in the early 19th century and inspired by Goethe's famous play. Employing elaborate camera movements, a layered soundscape, intricate production design and spectacular locations, FAUST conjures a unique and phantasmagoric vision of the Faustian legend. The title character, played by Johannes Zeiler, is a man in search of the ideals of the Enlightenment but he becomes obsessed with the lovely Magarete (Isolda Dychauk) and sells his soul to the Devil (aka the Moneylender, played by Anton Adasinsky) so that he may possess her. Comic, cosmic, painterly and stunningly beautiful scenes unfold as the Devil takes Faust on a strange, unforgettable journey.
Starring Hanna Schygulla, Johannes Zeiler, Anton Adasinsky, Isolda Dychauk, Georg Friedrich.
In German with English subtitles.
This short historical drama features the first winter spent in Canada, by a family of Irish immigrants deep in the Ottawa Valley. The year is 1830. Because the father is working in a logging camp, the mother has sole charge of the family. Sickness overtakes her, and she dies. The children are left on their own to survive. A beautiful, moving and unflinching film.
This 26 minute short drama is a production of the National Film Board of Canada.
Though it's rated 7+, the content may be too serious for sensitive young viewers, and deals with the death of a parent.