It’s no surprise that period pieces just have something about them that makes you swoon. Perhaps what pulls viewers to these stories is the star-crossed romance and the anticipation to see if it works out or not. It’s the feather-light touches and secret meetings behind curtains. Other times, it’s the courtship customs that keep the characters slowly courting one another while keeping the viewers at the edge of their seats. The most memorable characters in historical romance films struggle to maintain their relationships against cultural and socioeconomic barriers, and while some find their happy endings, others end in tragedies. From Persuasion, the newest addition to this genre, to Pride and Prejudice and many more, these period films are eternal and a great escape from the humdrum of modern life.
In the most recent adaptation of Jane Austen‘s final 1818 book, Dakota Johnson plays Anne Elliot. The protagonist is a strong, independent lady who defies social expectations by remaining single at the ripe old age of 27. Enter Captain Frederick Wentworth, played by the dashing Cosmo Jarvis, and William Elliot, brought to life by the charming Henry Golding, the former of whom Anne was persuaded to reject because he lacked a fortune and a position of power in the society.
It’s hardly surprising that people have continued to recreate and reinterpret Jane Austen’s novels over time given how brilliant and masterful her writing is, and the richness and depth she invests in her female heroines is a treat to experience. When those characters are translated on screen, the result ranges from some flawless adaptations to some not-so-good ones, as recreating the work of a genius artist like Austen is no easy task. But Jane Austen isn’t the only source of some of the most significant period movies with the work of other reputable authors being adapted for the big screen. Here we have a remarkable list of period romances that you can watch if you’re still craving some swoon-worthy classics after watching Persuasion.
James Ivory and Ismail Merchant collaborated on the 1985 British period romantic movie A Room with a View, which is based on the novel by E. M. Forster. It centers on Lucy Honeychurch, played by the utterly gorgeous Helena Bonham Carter, a young woman amid the closing stages of Edwardian England’s constrictive and restricted culture, and her growing love for George Emerson (Julian Sands) a free-spirited young man with a strong yearning for truth. Daniel Day-Lewis plays the challenging role of Cecil Vyse, a wealthy snobbish individual who dislikes all the residents of Lucy’s town because, in contrast to the affluent London society he is used to, he finds them to be crude and uneducated.
The supporting star-studded cast included veteran actors like Maggie Smith, who had previously appeared in Quartet from Merchant Ivory film and plays Charlotte Bartlett, Lucy’s cousin and chaperone to Italy. Denholm Elliott,famous for his portrayal of Marcus Brody, a friend of Indiana Jones and a museum curator in Raiders of the Lost Ark, plays Mr. Emerson, a blatantly honest man who offends people with his abrupt manner of speaking, with the iconic Judi Denchplaying the supporting role of the novelist Eleanor Lavish.
A Room with a View was a big office hit and earned overwhelmingly positive reviews. It was up for eight Oscars including Best Picture at the 59th Academy Awards, and it took home three: Best Art Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Costume Design. Additionally, it received a Golden Globe and five British Academy Film Awards.
Based on Jane Austen’s 1811 novel of the same name, Sense and Sensibility is a 1995 period piece film that the Oscar-winning maestro Ang Lee directed. Elinor Dashwood is portrayed on-screen by the immensely talented Emma Thompson, who also penned the script, working her magic on paper too. Elinor’s younger sister Marianne is portrayed by the young Kate Winslet, who is radiant in her portrayal. The Dashwood sisters, belonging to a prosperous English landed gentry family, are portrayed as they struggle to cope with events that lead to unexpected poverty. They are compelled to marry in order to find financial stability, with their respective suitors being portrayed by the handsome Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman.
Emma Thompson being the scriptwriter was the work of producer Lindsay Doran, a longstanding fan of Austen’s book. Thompson worked on the script continuously for five years, making several alterations both during the actual film’s production and in between other projects. Studios were concerned because Thompson was a first-time screenwriter and wasn’t sure about risking it, but Columbia Pictures consented to release the movie despite their reservations. Thompson was convinced to take the role even though she had originally intended to cast another actress as Elinor. To make the Dashwood family’s later scenes of hardship more evident to contemporary audiences, Thompson’s screenplay overstated the family’s wealth. In order to appeal to modern viewers, it also changed the attributes of the male leads with the disparities between Marianne and Elinor highlighted through creative scenarios and symbolism.
Sense and Sensibility is a brilliant example of an expertly directed and perfectly cast film that manages to strike a fine balance between wit and melancholy. The movie is so skillfully written and played that the basic core of Austen’s novel comes through in every scene, despite the omissions, redactions, and modifications that undoubtedly must occur when transferring text to film. The movie continues to be remembered as one of the best Austen adaptations of all time.
Ever After (1998)
The 1998 American romantic drama film Ever After was based on the evergreen fairytale of Cinderella. Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, and Jeanne Moreau take the center stage with Andy Tennant directing one of the best retellings of the classic story. The screenplay was written by Tennant, Susannah Grant, and Rick Parks, which interprets the fairytale as historical fiction, taking place in Renaissance-era France, and does away with the traditional theatrical and comic components.
Drew Barrymore plays the orphaned Danielle, who is only willing to put up with so much mistreatment from her stepmother Rodmilla (Anjelica Huston). Danielle doesn’t long for a mythical godmother to fix all of her issues, rather she believes in solving her own problems. Despite the lack of fairy godmothers, she does receive wise counsel from none other than Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey) regarding how to deal with her stepsisters, played by Megan Dodds and Melanie Lynskey.
The classic glass slipper and masquerade ball are still present in abundance to satisfy purists. However, Ever After is mischievously entertaining because of its feminism. Cinderella is given a tough core of intelligence and humor by the magnificent Barrymore. Huston is a diabolical delight as well, drawing laughter and grudging pity from a character that is typically satirized as being wholly evil. Because of its brilliant execution from all those involved, it’s frequently viewed as a contemporary, post-feminist telling of the Cinderella tale.
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
It is a difficult task to pick a favorite from Jane Austen’s novels but Pride and Prejudice undoubtedly takes the crown for a lot of people, featuring a romance between two people who were made for each other and have no desire for money, pleasure, or anything else, for the matter. It is a story that proudly represents the enemies to lovers trope because when one person resists falling in love it is difficult enough but when both refuse to accept the infatuation with each other, the stakes are raised, and you won’t rest till you see them end up together.
Pride & Prejudice is a 2005-period romance film thatJoe Wright directed in his feature film debut. The movie revolves around the Bennet sisters belonging to a wealthy gentry family in England as they navigate romance, morality, and misunderstandings. Elizabeth Bennet is portrayed byKeira Knightley in the title role, and Mr. Darcy is brought to life byMatthew Macfadyen, immortalizing the already evergreen characters. Screenwriter Deborah Moggach tried to be as true to the book as she could in writing from Elizabeth’s perspective and keeping a lot of the original language but Wright, who was helming his first major motion picture, urged significant modifications from the text, such as altering the dynamics of the Bennet family.
Pride & Prejudice is one of the most captivating and heartwarming Jane Austen adaptations. Keira Knightley, who portrays Elizabeth as a young woman glowing in her imperfect perfections, is largely responsible for the unbridled delight, lifting the whole movie. She is not only attractive, but she has opinions, and she isn’t afraid to voice them out. Knightley’s acting is so light and yet powerful that she makes the story almost lifelike. At the end of it all, Pride and Prejudice is a movie where strong-willed young people toddle through life with their wits at battle with their hearts.
Jane Austen is a master at penning down romance, and if we are to go by the claims that Becoming Jane is a biopic on the author herself, we are presented with a reality that is quite frankly hard to stomach because, at the end of it all, even the most romantic souls don’t get their share of love because life happens. A directorial work from Julian Jarrold, Becoming Jane shows Jane Austen’s early years and her enduring love for Thomas Langlois Lefroy. Anne Hathaway portrays the young Jane with James McAvoy playing her charming love interest.
The screenplay, which was written by Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood, is filled with wit, smart analogies to Jane Austen’s own works, and a forbidden romance that is so enthralling and passionate that you might have to pause midway to deal with the fluttering butterflies in your stomach. The film is loosely based on the book Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence, a compelling and original examination of Jane Austen and Tom Lefroy’s potential romance—a relationship that even their own family members and acquaintances speculated about—served as the basis for the movie. But instead of closely following the book, the creators decided to utilize Spence’s study as inspiration to develop their own imaginative piece that adheres to Austen’s own narrative methods.
It is often debated if Becoming Jane’s ending can be classified as a happy one because it doesn’t fit the common narrative of two people in love ending up together, but it definitely is one that is very close to reality because not every love story has a happily ever after, some just fail because there is no other solution.
Joe Wright and Keira Knightley pair up again after Pride and Prejudice for Atonement, a romantic war drama film based on a novel by one of the greatest British writers, Ian McEwan. Atonement is a story of a thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis, played by Saoirse Ronan, who is an aspiring writer and misinterprets the relationship between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) at the family fountain. This triggers a cascade of misunderstandings and a childish rage that goes on to have long-lasting effects on all of them.
Atonement follows a crime and its repercussions across six decades, starting in the 1930s. A literary drama that explores the tremendous harm that lying can do and the ability of imagination to change reality. With its shifting chronology and deep ethical concerns, this broad and exquisitely constructed movie establishes the drama’s central conflict with such authority and clarity that the part dealing with Robbie’s wartime experiences actually lessens the story’s overall impact.
Atonement enthralls the audience at every turn, and in the closing seconds asks a probing question about everything that has come before, one that makes the viewer consider carefully what treachery and atonement may actually entail and their impact through the course of people’s life.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga and screenwriter Moira Buffini give Charlotte Bronte‘s timeless, classic novel Jane Eyre a modern urgency in a daring film adaptation. The romantic drama’s protagonist continues to motivate new generations of loyal readers and watchers, with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender playing their memorable lead roles. Jane Eyre is an orphaned child, who is first horribly mistreated by her aunt before being expelled and forcefully enrolled in a charity school. Although she continues to be mistreated, she acquires education and finally accepts a position as a governess at Edward Rochester’s house. Rochester and Jane start to get along, but she finds his gloomy mood swings troubling. Jane soon flees, after learning the dreadful secret Rochester has been keeping and temporarily seeks refuge at St. John Rivers’ house, all the while questioning her feelings for Rochester and fearing for her safety.
Wasikowska accurately portrays every aspect of Jane, from her posture and her expression to her voice tone. She is able to incite the ever-increasing appreciation for a woman who has learned the virtue of endurance but in the end, refuses to succumb to what she knows is wrong. In a larger sense, Jane is most remarkable for how she never descends to the levels of the constrained and simply awful individuals who so frequently enjoy the upper hand over her. Jane’s subtle feminist characteristic in a time when it wasn’t known has undoubtedly contributed to the book’s success over the years.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call Keira Knightley the face of the period film genre because the actor has built an impressive portfolio in the historical film niche and that’s probably why we see the successful director-actor duo, Joe Wright and Knightley, pair up yet again to deliver one of the greatest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel Anna Karenina. The movie is set in 19th-century St. Petersburg, where Anna Karenina is the wife of senior statesman, Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), and causes a shocking scandal in the conservative society by having an affair with Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a young, handsome cavalry lieutenant. Blinded by the power of love and the naivety of it all, she continues with her affair – for all of it to end in a tragic fate for Anna.
Anna Karenina is a popular choice when it comes to adaptations and the two dozen variations are solid proof of it. This includes silent and sound versions starring Greta Garbo in 1927 and 1935, as well as a 1948 version starring Vivien Leigh. If Knightley were to play the same kind of Anna against two of the most magnificent stars of Hollywood’s Golden Period, it would be a fierce competition. However, under Wright’s direction, Knightley portrays Anna as a young lady who has never experienced passionate love; and when she is swept up by it, she experiences pleasure not known before only to soon fall into the pits of humiliation when the relentless high society finds out. It’s a performance that’s precisely attuned to the eruptive changes a naive woman must experience and undergo as she takes her first leap into an unbridled passion.
Far From The Madding Crowd is a 2015 British film directed by Thomas Vinterberg. It is the fourth movie adaptation of the widely popular novel of the same name by one of the greatest English novelists and poets, Thomas Hardy. The independent and feisty Bathsheba Everdene draws the attention of three very different suitors: an affluent and accomplished bachelor named William Boldwood; a pretentious yet handsome Sergeant named Frank Troy; and a sheep farmer named Gabriel Oak.
Carey Mulligan, who plays the self-reliant Bathsheba Everdene, is luminous in her part, doing justice to a classic heroine who is still so relevant that author Suzanne Collins was inspired to give her main protagonist in the Hunger Games novels her last name. Mulligan portrays the character completely differently from Julie Christie, who portrayed Bathsheba in John Schlesinger‘s 1967 film adaptation of the book. Christie was equally radiant but considerably more flirtatious and playful. Bathsheba as played by Christie used her girlishness and alluring appearance to make a statement in male-dominated Victorian England. Mulligan’s version, on the other hand, doesn’t care what people think of her, which only makes her more entertaining to watch.
Far From the Maddening Crowd is the story of an independent, attractive, and headstrong woman who sees no compelling reason to settle down with a man she doesn’t genuinely love. This classic story focuses on Bathsheba’s decisions and ambitions and explores the complexity of love and relationships as well as people’s capacity for endurance and resilience in the face of adversity.
Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma, has long been a favorite with movie producers due to its complex blend of social commentary, romantic drama, and endlessly intelligible gender politics, and Autumn de Wilde did a phenomenal job directing the immensely popular version, starring the beautiful and talented Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma Woodhouse. Emma is an affluent and confident young woman who plays matchmaker and meddles in the romantic affairs of those closest to her while living with her father in Regency-era England. Anna Taylor-Joy is joined by some well-renowned names like Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, and Bill Nighy.
Emma is different from the rest of Austen’s heroines because she has her own fortune, which makes her an incompetent but definitely a self-assured matchmaker; only for others and never for herself. She has a deep-seated understanding that social status and marriage should never determine a woman’s independence, yet those are the only options she has available. Anna doesn’t attempt to make the audience like Emma or downplay her selfishness. Rather, she portrays a woman who plunges headfirst into chaos for reasons that even she isn’t aware of.
Autumn de Wilde takes an exquisite and humorous style to tell this story of intense and intricate social activities. One of the most difficult qualities when it comes to translating Austen’s work is to capture its charm, and Wilde does a brilliant job of it. Each performer gives their character complexity and depth, making for consistently superb performances. The ongoing quirks and jokes all make sense in the film’s climactic sequence. It takes a considerable amount of attention, and a delicate and focused arrangement of nuances to create as eccentric a world as the one in Emma.