Like many avid readers of historical fiction, I also love historical films. A good story is a good story, no matter the medium! Every summer and Christmas I eagerly await the movie lineup, but usually there is only one, maybe two, movies I’ll actually pay $10 for in the theater, and usually those movies have a historical premise. Thankfully, this year there are quite a few period dramas coming out, most of them during the holiday season. Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law will be released in November, followed by Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby with Leonardo DiCaprio, and the musical version of Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman, Russell Crow, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter in December. And of course there’s The Hobbit, which isn’t exactly historical, but does have that medieval Anglo-Saxon feel. Looks like I may be heading to the theater a lot more than usual!

These upcoming releases got me thinking about my favorite historical movies overall. A “period film,” simply put, is any movie set in the past (usually WWII and earlier), where the historical setting comes alive and adds to the overall drama and appeal of the film. Think elaborate costumes, detailed props, a bit (or a lot!) of romance, sweeping soundtracks and landscapes! Many try to be historically accurate, but others may offer a unique twist or interpretation.

Here’s a list of my top 25 period films–we’ll start with the top 10 today, and an additional 15 in the near future.

10. Shakespeare in Love







9. Elizabeth









8. Legends of the Fall








7. The Mission







6.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button









5. Gladiator








4.  Les Miserables







3. Anne of Green Gables








2. Titanic







1. Braveheart

7 thoughts on “A Year of Peiod Dramas

  1. Great list Ashlee! Good to see The Mission there with its powerful story line yet obscure wedge of EuroSouth American history. I would add Gettysburg to the list of well done movies – took Jordan when he was way too young but way into the Civil War thanks to Grandpa Sowell. Would also add Last of the Mohicans, though to fanciful/fake with the musket shooting and story line, it helped us armchair historians start to sort out white/Native allegiances at that difficult time in history. And though Dances with Wolves should rarely go on anybody’s top 10 list because of its simple story line and predictable plot – its on mine simply because it was the first time on cinema that us western history buffs got to see a “rea,l” albeit staged, buffalo hunt.

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