The Best Period Dramas To Watch Now

If you’re anything like us, you’ll have spent the start of this year falling for Bridgerton. Thankfully, the second series – this time focused on Anthony – is set to start filming in the summer. If the Netflix hit has got you craving more dramas filled with corsets, ruffs and regency wigs, here are some more of our favourite films and series to get stuck into…
The Best Period Dramas To Watch Now

Emma

Anya Taylor-Joy plays the lead in this stylised adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, directed by renowned photographer Autumn de Wilde. Emma Woodhouse, a young regency lady living in Highbury, gives ‘match-maker’ a whole new meaning when she begins interfering in the lives of her friends and family. But during the course of all her meddling, could she be missing an opportunity for herself to find love?

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Little Women

Writer-director Greta Gerwig helmed this latest adaptation of Little Women, a modern classic that draws on both the novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott. An unconventional timeline unfolds as Jo March reflects back and forth on her life and decisions. In Gerwig’s take, the story of the March sisters is given a new lease of life, with the help of a talented cast including Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet and Meryl Streep.

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Belgravia

Belgravia is a story of secrets and scandals amongst the upper echelons of London society in the 19th century. When the Trenchards accept an invitation to the now legendary ball hosted by the Duchess of Richmond on the fateful eve of the Battle of Waterloo, it sets in motion a series of events that will have consequences for decades to come as secrets unravel behind the porticoed doors of London’s grandest neighbourhood. This limited series reunited the award-winning creative team behind Downton Abbey, with Julian Fellowes at the helm. A stellar ensemble cast includes Tamsin Greig (Episodes), Philip Glenister (Mad Dogs), Harriet Walter (The Crown) Alice Eve (She’s Out Of My League), Tara Fitzgerald (Game of Thrones), Paul Ritter (Chernobyl) and Saskia Reeves (Luther).

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The Crown

As the 1970s draw to a close, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family find themselves preoccupied with safeguarding the line of succession by securing an appropriate bride for Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is still unmarried at 30. As the nation begins to feel the impact of divisive policies introduced by Britain's first female prime minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), tensions arise between her and the Queen which only grow worse as Thatcher leads the country into the Falklands War, generating conflict within the Commonwealth. While Charles’ romance with a young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) provides a much needed fairy-tale to unite the British people, behind closed doors, the royal family is becoming increasingly divided.

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Elizabeth: The Golden Age

The sequel to 1998’s Elizabeth, Elizabeth: The Golden Age takes the crown in the costume sweepstake for a scene where lead actor Cate Blanchett is swathed in armour, her long red hair flowing freely behind her. As Elizabeth steels herself against invasion, treason and betrayal, she pines for the love of adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). A fairly fictionalised portrayal of events during the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, this film is more about the costumes than being an accurate historical portrait of the times, but whether she’s gracing the battlefield or the splendour of the throne room, Blanchett’s bold looks always draw the eye.

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Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette was the highly anticipated follow up to Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation. The historical comedy-drama stars Kirsten Dunst and is based on the life of Queen Marie Antoinette in the years leading up to the French Revolution. At the 2007 Oscars, the film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design – and rightly so. As Marie's attempts to consummate with her husband fail and the marriage remains childless, Marie opts to spends most of her time gambling and buying extravagant clothes. Its these wigs, plunging bodices and colourful gowns – alongside the bold make-up – which make this film soar. A perfectly pitched modern take on a period drama.

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The Favourite

Surrealist Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos reunited The Lobster’s Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz for this witty Oscar winner. It’s the early 18th century, England are fighting the French and Queen Anne is fighting poor health. Away from the divisions in parliament, another war is taking place – between Lady Sarah and new servant Abigail, who both vie to become Queen Anne’s favourite employee. What follows is a riotous game of one-up-womanship, as the pair go to great lengths to curry favour with the queen – ranging from sexual favours to slipping poison into cups of tea. This is no buttoned-up corset drama: with sumptuous shots, swoon-worthy costumes and more inclusions of the C-bomb that we can remember in any other recent film, The Favourite adds a contemporary edge to this backstabbing drama.

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Pride & Prejudice

Starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, Joe Wright’s 2005 directorial debut won him a Bafta for most promising newcomer, and best British film at the Empire Awards. In this Jane Austen classic, Mrs Bennet insists that her daughters find rich husbands and settle down. So when Mr Bingley, a wealthy bachelor, starts living near them, Mrs Bennet's happiness knows no bounds: one of her five daughters, she feels, is sure to capture the heart of the young aristocrat. Meanwhile the wilful and opinionated Elizabeth matches wits with haughty Mr Darcy.

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The Handmaiden

Mega South Korean director Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy) released this beautifully shot crime drama in 2016. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. 

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Mary Queen of Scots

Two of our favourite actresses, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan, took on the royal roles of Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart in this 2019 hit. As Queen of France at 16 and a widow at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry, instead returning to Scotland to reclaim her throne. But as Scotland and England fall under the rule of Elizabeth I, the two sisters must decide what’s more important to them in their increasingly masculine world – marriage or independence.

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The Other Boleyn Girl

Based on the bestselling novel, The Other Boleyn Girl is a captivating tale of intrigue, romance and betrayal starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana. Two sisters, Anne (Portman) and Mary (Johansson), are driven by their ambitious family to seduce the king of England (Bana) in order to advance their position in court. But what starts as an opportunity for the girls to increase the family fortune becomes a deadly rivalry to capture the heart of a king and stay alive. 

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Harlots

In this drama set in 18th-century London, Samantha Morton stars as Margaret Wells, a brothel owner and mother to two daughters, Charlotte and Lucy. When Margaret's business is attacked by Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), a ruthless rival madam, a war breaks out over the city's most profitable commercial activity – sex. Margaret is determined to fight back and protect her business, even if it puts everything else at risk, including her family. Also stars Liv Tyler and Jessica Brown Findlay.

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The Great

From Oscar-nominated writer Tony McNamara (The Favourite), The Great is a satirical, comedic drama about the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest reigning female ruler in Russia's history. Along with Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, the series stars Phoebe Fox (Eye in the Sky), Adam Godley (Breaking Bad), Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody), Charity Wakefield (Wolf Hall) and Douglas Hodge (Joker).

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Parade’s End

Set during the dying days of the Edwardian era and the end of the first world war, Parade's End follows the conflicted relationship between conservative English aristocrat Christopher Tietjens, his beautiful but headstrong wife, Sylvia, and fearless young suffragette Valentine Wannop. The five-part drama was adapted by internationally acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) from a series of novels by Ford Madox Ford and stars a young Benedict Cumberbatch in the main role. 

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Atonement

Joe Wright’s next film was Atonement, also starring Keira Knightley in that green dress. This Oscar winner also starred James McAvoy and Saoirse Ronan and takes on Ian McEwan’s most famous novel. On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, 13-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister older Cecilia take off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her too is Robbie Turner. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone. 

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Vanity Fair

Olivia Cooke – star of Steven Spielberg’s film Ready Player One – plays William Makepeace Thackeray’s timeless heroine Becky Sharp. Gwyneth Hughes’ adaptation of the literary classic is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and follows Becky as she attempts to claw her way out of poverty and scale the heights of English society. Her story of “villainy, crime, merriment, lovemaking, jilting, laughing, cheating, fighting and dancing”, takes her all the way to the court of King George IV, via the Battle of Waterloo, breaking hearts and losing fortunes as she goes.

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