Though I have mixed feelings about Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” I’m beyond thrilled that it’s introducing a new generation to the magic and nostalgia of period pieces.
With that said, if you’re finished binging what’s essentially 19th century Gossip Girl where Dan Humphries is played by Julie Andrews, here are some amazing films to stream (right now!) to get that corset-wearing, walking-in-a-meadow fix you’ve been looking for.
The Ottoman Lieutenant
Love triangle? Driven, tortured young woman torn between propriety and her calling? Kind-hearted doctor? Smokin’ military man? Sign. Me. Up.
I found this hidden gem on Netflix, and it also re-introduced me to a new period of history I wasn’t super familiar with (the Armenian genocide within World War I, for instance). This film has a beautiful score, veteran actors (Ben Kingsley’s character's backstory will rip your heart out), and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s supremely well-done for such a lesser-known film.
Not sure why I’ve always been obsessed with Gwyneth Paltrow’s British accent films (Sliding Doors, anyone?), but in my humble opinion, it’s much more preferable than whatever nonsense she’s up to now.
Possession is one such film. It intertwines two plots, one from the 19th century (two poets caught in a forbidden affair) and one from the modern day (two academics researching said poets who are also drawn to each other), and is the perfect movie to just lose yourself in. (The novel of the same name is pretty great as well.) It simultaneously feels like a bodice ripper but with a bit more class. No spoilers, but the ending is such a tearjerker and the perfect excuse to get all up in your feels. Also, Jeremy Northam’s sideburns...whew. Is it hot in here?
Stream Possession on Netflix.
The costumes, the costumes, THE COSTUMES.
I remember hiding behind the couch while my parents watched this and said I was too young to, and ever since then it’s stuck with me. Also, Cate Blanchett is the finest actor of her generation, change my mind. There are plots of subterfuge, steamy affairs, political intrigue, unintended hilarity...what more could you need?
Stream Elizabeth on Prime.
It’s hard to rival a Broadway masterpiece, but this adaptation is certainly a contender. For another thing, it was director Tom Hooper’s saving grace for the nightmare that was (shudder) Cats.
The score, the costumes, the pacing…as a musical theater geek it always leaves me in tears. So does Amanda Seyfried’s unbelievably high register during “In My Life.” C’mon, Anne Hathaway didn’t starve herself for us to sleep on this one (which, for the record, we do not endorse).
Go find it on Netflix.
Veteran period film actors Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter take on E.M. Forster’s seminal classic in this 1992 adaptation.
Though this is simply the story of three different families facing three different conflicts, it’s more than that, with themes on society, class, and gender that are still appropriate and applicable even now. Forster was a genius of social commentary, and Howards End is one of the prime examples of that.
There’s also a 2017 remake on Starz which you can compare and contrast, though I personally dig the ‘92 version.
Find it on Netflix.
The Young Victoria
The period film to end allllllllll period films.
Not only is this a masterpiece in moviemaking, it’s also based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her courtship with Prince Albert. Like a blanket you can curl up with to watch it, this film is lush and cozy and is the perfect example of the genre as a whole.
The plot centers on Victoria as a young woman, from the heir to the British throne controlled by an overbearing, abusive guardian and passive mother, to the unprecedented, authoritative leader of the most powerful empire on earth. That, and it has Rupert Friend in a beard, tight pants, and German accent. Swoon.
Stream it on Netflix.
This movie is without a doubt my favorite one on the list.
Admittedly, the pacing is slow, but it's well worth it. Starring an impeccable Dakota Fanning, it’s the true story of Effie Gray and her loveless marriage to art critic and pre-Raphaelite artist John Ruskin, and the eventual dissolution of that marriage, the reasons for which, if you watch it, will become clear immediately. There are also some creepy, overbearing in-laws, a soulful passionate depiction of John Everett Millais, beautiful Scottish landscapes, etc.
Did I mention that it’s a true story!? Once you watch it, you’ll probably go down an internet rabbit hole like I did, and let me assure you, the story IRL is even more bizarre than what’s depicted.
Watch it, watch it, watch it, (on Netflix), get to that last scene, and find out why I cry like a baby every time.
Edwardian London, magic, science, betrayals, true love, loss.
Christopher Nolan, the genius behind the Batman franchise and Inception, is responsible for this masterpiece. Also, David Bowie plays Nikola Tesla. Come on.
Starring heartthrobs Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, I’ve never known anyone who disliked this film.
Stream it on Hulu.
So, as a diehard fan of ‘90s Winona Ryder as Jo March, I was highly sus of Greta Gerwig’s adaptation.
But like any good remake, it’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different. The color palette is really incredible and lets the audience know where they are in the plot (which is just accomplished storytelling), and so are the performances.
Florence Pugh’s empowered lady speech as Amy on the verge of accepting a loveless marriage always gets me, and so does the depiction of Meg’s domestic life, which we never really saw much of before. Gerwig’s artistic choices as director make this a really unique retelling of a story we all know and love, and it’s worth a watch, even if you’re hesitant (like I was).
Stream Little Women on Starz.
Can there ever be too many period films? I don't think so.
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