In an age where online dating is played like a sport and real relationships are hard to come by, period dramas bring us stunning visuals, attractive people in big fancy clothes, as well as stories of love that breaks our hearts and leaves us wanting more.
Here are some of the best period movies, spoiler-free:
1. “The Favourite” (2018, available on Apple TV)
“The Favourite” is a delightful take on the inner workings and influences of the British monarchy. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne, whose favorite lady at court is Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, played by Rachel Weisz. The Duchess puts her privileged place next to royalty in jeopardy when she tries to help her cousin Abigail Masham, played by Emma Stone.
Although not historically accurate in terms of fashion or language, the plot of the dark comedy is inspired by the real-life rivalry between the cousins for Queen Anne. Colman’s stunning performance won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
2. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” (2019, available on Hulu)
Period dramas are good, no doubt, but period dramas portraying queer people give me an endless sense of yearning for more representation in period films.
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a French film that tells the story of painter Marianne, played by Noémie Merlant, who has been commissioned to paint a wedding portrait for Héloïse fresh out of the convent, played by Adèle Haenel.
Simple enough? No, my dear readers, nothing ever is. Marianne must paint the bride-to-be without her knowledge, observing Héloïse day by day as she becomes her companion, or perhaps something more.
3. “Anna Karenina” (2012, available on Hulu)
Set in 19th-century St. Petersburg, “Anna Karenina” is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 novel, widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature ever written.
Directed by Joe Wright, the cast is made up of the talented Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Matthew Macfadyen. The film tells the story of the public love affair of Russian aristocrat Anna Karenina (Knightley) and Count Alexei Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson), which leaves dire consequences in the lives of those around them.
4. “Pride and Prejudice” (2005, available on Hulu)
Some might consider “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) to be another of many film adaptations of Jane Austen’s most famous title, first published in 1813. Although I may be biased as it is one of my favorite movies, I can’t stress enough how amazing this movie is.
Knightley stars as Elizabeth Bennet, one of five witty and intelligent girls who meets a wealthy and judgmental Mr. Darcy, played by Macfadyen. The film explores how two people who initially despise each other are forced to confront their deepest pride and prejudice (ba-dum-tss), coming to accomplishments that will change their lives forever. Put director Joe Wright and Knightley together and you’ll see the magic come to life.
It makes you laugh, cry and hope you’ll ever have the chance to love so deeply. If I’m wrong to like the 2005 version more than the 1995 version, then I wish I was never right.
5. “Emma” (2020, available on Amazon Prime Video)
Based on the 1815 novel also by Austen, “Emma”. tells the story of the wealthy and intelligent Emma Woodhouse, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, whose attempts at a match upend the lives of those close to her. Among these is her new friend Harriet Smith, played by Mia Goth, a young woman of dubious parentage whom Emma is determined to marry at any cost to a nice gentleman. Johnny Flynn plays the honest and kind Mr. Knightley, Emma’s valued friend whom she clashes with and disagrees with due to his questionable choices.
Overall, the film is a parody of the culture of marriage in Austen’s day and how the uncomfortable circumstances life presents to us can lead to a happy ending.
Cinema often allows us to travel to other places, escape reality, and pretend it’s possible to live 1,000 lives in one sitting. Otherworldly confessions of love that are swoon-worthy and high fashion are just some of the reasons you can’t miss these beautiful films.