In a day and age where online dating is done as a sport and genuine connections are hard to come by, period dramas bring us stunning visuals, attractive people in big fancy clothing, as well as love stories that break our hearts and leave us yearning for more.
Here are some of the best period films, 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 beside royalty at risk when she attempts to help out her cousin Abigail Masham, played by Emma Stone.
Though not historically accurate in terms of fashion or language, the dark comedy’s plot is inspired by the real-life rivalry between the cousins for Queen Anne’s attention. 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 infinite sense of longing for more representation in period films.
“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a French movie that tells the story of painter Marianne, played by Noémie Merlant, who has been commissioned to paint a wedding portrait for fresh-out-of-the-convent Héloïse, played by Adèle Haenel.
Simple enough? No, my dear gentle readers, nothing ever is. Marianne must paint the soon-to-be bride without her knowing, 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 Saint Petersburg, “Anna Karenina” is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 novel, widely considered to be 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 Russian aristocrat Anna Karenina (Knightley) and Count Alexei Vronsky’s (Taylor-Johnson) public love affair, which leaves damaging consequences in the lives of those around them.
4. “Pride and Prejudice” (2005, Available on Hulu)
Some might regard “Pride and Prejudice” (2005) as another one of many film adaptations of Jane Austen’s most celebrated title, first published in 1813. Though I might be biased as it is one of my favorite films ever, I cannot stress enough how astonishing this film is.
Knightley stars as Elizabeth Bennet, the witty and smart one of five daughters who comes across a wealthy and judgmental Mr. Darcy, played by Macfadyen. The film explores how two people that despise each other at first are forced to face their pride and deepest prejudices (ba-dum-tss), coming to realizations that will change their lives forever. Put director Joe Wright and Knightley together and you will see magic come to life.
It makes you laugh, cry and hope you ever get a chance to love so deeply. If I am wrong for loving the 2005 version more than the 1995 one, then I wish to never be right.
5. “Emma” (2020, Available on Amazon Prime Video)
Based on the 1815 novel also by Austen, “Emma.” tells the story of the rich and clever Emma Woodhouse, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, whose attempts at matchmaking turn the lives of her loved ones upside down. Amongst those is her new friend Harriet Smith, played by Mia Goth, a young lady of dubious parentage who Emma is set on marrying with a nice gentleman at any cost. Johnny Flynn plays the honest and kind Mr. Knightley, Emma’s treasured friend who she clashes and disagrees with as a result of her questionable choices.
Overall, the film is a parody of marriage culture during Austen’s time and how uncomfortable circumstances life presents us with can lead to a happy ending.
Cinema often allows us to travel to other places, escape reality and make-believe that it is possible to live 1,000 lives in one sitting. The other-worldly love confessions that are swoon-worthy and high fashion are some of the reasons you cannot miss these beautiful films.