AB's Top British Period Dramas & Romances:

by abcj-2 | created - 26 Mar 2011 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

This is a list of a variety of films and tv adaptations. I revisit many of them often and, like great books, consider them old friends.

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1. North & South (2004)

TV-PG | 235 min | Drama, Romance

North and South is a four part adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's love story of Margaret Hale, a middle class southerner who is forced to move to the northern town of Milton.

Stars: Daniela Denby-Ashe, Richard Armitage, Tim Pigott-Smith, Sinéad Cusack

Votes: 25,201

My favorite mini-series of all time. My second favorite movie of any kind. One of my very favorite heroes is Richard Armitage's character.

2. Pride & Prejudice (2005)

PG | 129 min | Drama, Romance

82 Metascore

Sparks fly when spirited Elizabeth Bennet meets single, rich, and proud Mr. Darcy. But Mr. Darcy reluctantly finds himself falling in love with a woman beneath his class. Can each overcome their own pride and prejudice?

Director: Joe Wright | Stars: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland

Votes: 217,261 | Gross: $38.41M

My favorite film of all films! I knew it the first time I experienced it. The acting, the directing, the cinematography, a first-class script, the attention to every detail, and my absolute favorite score are all superb.

3. Pride and Prejudice (1995)

TV-PG | 327 min | Drama, Romance

While the arrival of wealthy gentlemen sends her marriage-minded mother into a frenzy, willful and opinionated Elizabeth Bennet matches wits with haughty Mr. Darcy.

Stars: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, Susannah Harker, Julia Sawalha

Votes: 62,532

Delightful in every way (except for some of the hairstyles!), and I love it almost equal to the 2005 version. This is my tied for first place miniseries.

4. Jane Eyre (2006– )

TV-PG | 230 min | Drama, Romance

A young governess falls in love with her brooding and complex master. However, his dark past may destroy their relationship forever.

Stars: Ruth Wilson, Toby Stephens, Lorraine Ashbourne, Aidan McArdle

Votes: 16,937

My second favorite mini-series and one of my favorite romance movies of all time. I favor this over the 2011 version and any older version. I do think the 2011 version is worth seeing and definitely wins best ending. Otherwise, these two leads have palpable chemistry that's just rare and magnetic.

5. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

PG | 136 min | Drama, Romance

84 Metascore

Rich Mr. Dashwood dies, leaving his second wife and her three daughters poor by the rules of inheritance. The two eldest daughters are the titular opposites.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, James Fleet, Tom Wilkinson

Votes: 87,184 | Gross: $43.18M

I am torn having to rank these, but if I don't I'll never get to my absolute favorites list. That said, this just falls short of Pride and Prejudice. Emma Thompson's Oscar winning script, Ang Lee's direction, Kate Winslet's lovely voice, the always handsome Hugh Grant, and the biggest surprise of all...Alan Rickman is sexy! Genius casting on all levels.

6. Emma (2009– )

240 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Emma Woodhouse seems to be perfectly content, a loving father whom she cares for, friends, and a home. But Emma has a terrible habit - matchmaking. She cannot resist finding suitors for her... See full summary »

Stars: Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, Jonny Lee Miller, Jodhi May

Votes: 12,419

My tied for second favorite mini-series of all time and favorite adaptation of "Emma."

7. Under the Greenwood Tree (2005 TV Movie)

TV-PG | 93 min | Drama, Romance

In this lighthearted romance from Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy, the beautiful new village school teacher is pursued by three suitors: a working-class man, a landowner, and the vicar.

Director: Nicholas Laughland | Stars: Keeley Hawes, James Murray, Terry Mortimer, Richard Leaf

Votes: 2,112

This is a delightfully romantic treasure. Talk about chemistry. I can't even describe it. Just look for the hand washing scene, the pond scene, et. al.

8. 'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945)

Not Rated | 91 min | Drama, Romance

A young Englishwoman goes to the Hebrides to marry her older, wealthier fiancé. When the weather keeps them separated on different islands, she begins to have second thoughts.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger | Stars: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, George Carney, Walter Hudd

Votes: 6,694

9. Random Harvest (1942)

Passed | 126 min | Drama, Romance

An amnesiac World War I veteran falls in love with a music hall star, only to suffer an accident which restores his original memories but erases his post-war life.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Ronald Colman, Greer Garson, Philip Dorn, Susan Peters

Votes: 5,917 | Gross: $10.14M

A tug at your heart romance set just after WWI. Ronald Colman is so handsome and I love his speaking voice and commanding presence onscreen.

10. Kate & Leopold (2001)

PG-13 | 118 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

44 Metascore

An English Duke from 1876 is inadvertedly dragged to modern day New York where he falls for a plucky advertising executive.

Director: James Mangold | Stars: Meg Ryan, Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Breckin Meyer

Votes: 71,051 | Gross: $47.12M

Hugh Jackman is so great as the Duke of Albany. So charming and funny while being so serious. This is one of my very, very, favorites, but it's so quirky it needs to be on this list, too.

11. Separate Tables (1958)

Unrated | 100 min | Drama, Romance

The stories of several people are told as they stay at a seaside hotel in Bournemouth which features dining at "Separate Tables."

Director: Delbert Mann | Stars: Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Burt Lancaster

Votes: 5,520 | Gross: $7.40M

This little film totally captivated me and is one of my very few 10's. Niven is perfect. I'm so glad he won the Oscar. Great cast and acting.

12. Notting Hill (1999)

PG-13 | 124 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

66 Metascore

The life of a simple bookshop owner changes when he meets the most famous film star in the world.

Director: Roger Michell | Stars: Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Richard McCabe, Rhys Ifans

Votes: 229,195 | Gross: $116.09M

My only favorite Julia Roberts film. She and Hugh are adorable. Tops on my best ending list, too:)

13. Braveheart (1995)

R | 178 min | Biography, Drama, History

68 Metascore

When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, Sir William Wallace begins a revolt against King Edward I of England.

Director: Mel Gibson | Stars: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Angus Macfadyen

Votes: 844,943 | Gross: $75.60M

This is another one of my very favorite films. The entire story hinges on the love William Wallace has for Muron. This may be a bit violent, but it's one of the best movies ever...period.

14. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

PG-13 | 138 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

81 Metascore

During the Napoleonic Wars, a brash British captain pushes his ship and crew to their limits in pursuit of a formidable French war vessel around South America.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy

Votes: 183,252 | Gross: $93.93M

This is a wonderful film about British history and true friendship. Oh how I yearn for a sequel.

15. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

Not Rated | 104 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

In 1900, a young widow finds her seaside cottage is haunted...and forms a unique relationship with the ghost.

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz | Stars: Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Edna Best

Votes: 13,325

I love this movie! It is one of the dearest romances of all time.

16. The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

Approved | 94 min | Comedy, Romance

A teenage American girl while visiting her father, is thrown into London society during the "Debutante Season".

Director: Vincente Minnelli | Stars: Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall, John Saxon, Sandra Dee

Votes: 1,080

Kay Kendall is enchanting. I love the whole cast and the really cool London flat.

17. Please Believe Me (1950)

Approved | 87 min | Comedy, Romance

Alison Kirbe of London, receives a telegram from Texas, that she has inherited a livestock ranch. It is plastered throughout the London newspapers that Alison has become a rich heiress, and... See full summary »

Director: Norman Taurog | Stars: Deborah Kerr, Robert Walker, Mark Stevens, Peter Lawford

Votes: 365

As a huge Deborah Kerr fan, this is a cute film that I recommend to fans of light romantic comedy.

18. Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)

PG | 168 min | Drama, History, Romance

55 Metascore

Bathsheba Everdene, a willful, flirtatious, young woman, unexpectedly inherits a large farm and is romantically pursued by three very different men.

Director: John Schlesinger | Stars: Julie Christie, Peter Finch, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp

Votes: 4,507

The late sixties influence mars the beauty of this production, but if you can accept that, then this is pure gold.

19. Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

PG | 145 min | Biography, Drama, History

Henry VIII of England discards one wife, Katharine of Aragon, who has failed to produce a male heir, in favor of the young and beautiful Anne Boleyn.

Director: Charles Jarrott | Stars: Richard Burton, Geneviève Bujold, Irene Papas, Anthony Quayle

Votes: 5,863

Absolutely incredible jaw-dropping acting! Burton and Bujold are amazing!

20. The King's Speech (2010)

R | 118 min | Biography, Drama, History

88 Metascore

The story of King George VI of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch become worthy of it.

Director: Tom Hooper | Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi

Votes: 563,662 | Gross: $138.80M

I've neglected this list and should have added this film ages ago. Oscar worthy in every way. It's not a spectacle but rather a film that tells a story beautifully.

21. The Secret Garden (1949)

Approved | 92 min | Drama, Family

A girl is sent to live with her uncle on his estate when her parents die. There she discovers much intrigue, family history and secrets and personal baggage. In particular, a screaming child and...a secret garden.

Director: Fred M. Wilcox | Stars: Margaret O'Brien, Herbert Marshall, Dean Stockwell, Gladys Cooper

Votes: 2,129

Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell were amazing child actors. Herbert Marshall is wonderful as the brooding father. This is one of my very favorite classics.

22. National Velvet (1944)

G | 123 min | Drama, Family, Sport

A jaded former jockey helps a young girl prepare a wild but gifted horse for England's Grand National Sweepstakes.

Director: Clarence Brown | Stars: Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Donald Crisp, Anne Revere

Votes: 5,628

This is Elizabeth Taylor at her very best. She was so beautiful and sweet. It's one of my favorite classics and has a terrific supporting cast.

23. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

R | 112 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

76 Metascore

Three trappers protect a British Colonel's daughters in the midst of the French and Indian War.

Director: Michael Mann | Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig

Votes: 128,674 | Gross: $75.51M

The girls are British as is the army although this is set in young America during the French & Indian war. This is Daniel Day-Lewis at his absolute screen best. A true hero of the kind that is awesomely tough but powerfully romantic.

24. Cranford (2007– )

TV-PG | 469 min | Drama

In the 1840s, Cranford is ruled by the ladies. They adore good gossip; and romance and change is in the air, as the unwelcome grasp of the Industrial Revolution rapidly approaches their beloved rural market-town.

Stars: Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie, Imelda Staunton, Lisa Dillon

Votes: 7,424

I'd say this tops most any miniseries. Terrific cast and a delightful experience.

25. Emma (1996)

PG | 120 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

66 Metascore

While matchmaking for friends and neighbours, a young 19th Century Englishwoman nearly misses her own chance at love.

Director: Douglas McGrath | Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, James Cosmo, Greta Scacchi, Alan Cumming

Votes: 31,047 | Gross: $22.20M

Don't know how I neglected to add this one. I like the 2009 just a bit more, but this is still very much one of my favorites.

26. Gandhi (1982)

PG | 191 min | Biography, Drama, History

79 Metascore

Gandhi's character is fully explained as a man of nonviolence. Through his patience, he is able to drive the British out of the subcontinent. And the stubborn nature of Jinnah and his commitment towards Pakistan is portrayed.

Director: Richard Attenborough | Stars: Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox

Votes: 197,898 | Gross: $52.77M

An English gentleman who returns to India to become a beacon of pacifism and hope.

27. Captain Blood (1935)

Not Rated | 119 min | Action, Adventure

After being wrongly convicted as a traitor, Peter Blood, an English physician, is sent to exile in the British colonies of the Caribbean, where he becomes a pirate.

Director: Michael Curtiz | Stars: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone

Votes: 11,090

An English doctor and an English girl have an exciting romance set among the pirates and English aristocracy in Jamaica. Much better than The Sea Hawk.

28. Adam and Evalyn (1949)

Passed | 70 min | Comedy, Romance

When a friend dies, a gambler adopts his daughter. Complications ensue.

Director: Harold French | Stars: Stewart Granger, Jean Simmons, Edwin Styles, Raymond Young

Votes: 371

I'm a huge fan of Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons. This is a cute film.

29. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

PG | 161 min | Adventure, Drama, War

87 Metascore

After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.

Director: David Lean | Stars: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa

Votes: 175,732 | Gross: $44.91M

I realized recently that I left this film great off the list. It is one of the greatest films ever made.

30. The Holiday (2006)

PG-13 | 138 min | Comedy, Romance

52 Metascore

Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other's countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love.

Director: Nancy Meyers | Stars: Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black

Votes: 206,784 | Gross: $63.22M

Half in America and half in the charming English countryside. A modern delight for any romantic.

31. Wives and Daughters (1999– )

TV-PG | 301 min | Drama

The daughter of a country doctor copes with an unwanted stepmother, an impetuous stepsister, burdensome secrets, the town gossips, and the tug on her own heartstrings for a man who thinks of her only as a friend.

Stars: Francesca Annis, Justine Waddell, Bill Paterson, Keeley Hawes

Votes: 5,973

Top notch miniseries with a great cast. This is a must see for lovers of romantic period dramas.

32. Being Julia (2004)

R | 104 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

65 Metascore

Set in '30s London, the film involves stage actors and their experiences with love and revenge.

Director: István Szabó | Stars: Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Maury Chaykin, Jeremy Irons

Votes: 11,247 | Gross: $7.74M

Annette Bening's missed chance at a well-deserved Oscar. If you're over forty, you'll especially appreciate her delimma.

33. Pygmalion (1938)

Not Rated | 89 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

A Victorian dialect expert makes a bet that he can teach a cockney flower girl to speak proper English and pass as a lady in high society.

Directors: Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard | Stars: Leslie Howard, Wendy Hiller, Wilfrid Lawson, Marie Lohr

Votes: 6,610

George Bernard Shaw's play as it originally came to the screen and from which My Fair Lady was also adapted. Excellent in every way.

34. Young Bess (1953)

Approved | 112 min | Biography, Drama, History

The early life of Elizabeth I, from her childhood until her accession to the throne of England in 1558.

Director: George Sidney | Stars: Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Charles Laughton

Votes: 1,223

This is my favorite depiction of the life of Queen Elizabeth I. Jean Simmons is amazing!

35. Waterloo Bridge (1940)

Passed | 108 min | Drama, Romance, War

During World War I, believing her fiance to be dead, a young ballerina loses her job and is forced to turn to prostitution. From there, things only get worse for her in this tragic, heart-wrenching, love story.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy | Stars: Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor, Lucile Watson, Virginia Field

Votes: 7,701

A weepy romance that I enjoy purely because this was Vivien Leigh's favorite of her films (as well as Robert Taylor's). Her acting is so subtle compared to that of Scarlett O'Hara from the previous year, yet just as remarkable and unforgettable.

36. Great Expectations (1946)

Not Rated | 118 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

A humble orphan suddenly becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.

Director: David Lean | Stars: John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Tony Wager, Jean Simmons

Votes: 19,434

This is one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the book. David Lean's vision jumps to life and is a true classic just as Dickens' novel is as well.

37. Brief Encounter (1945)

Not Rated | 86 min | Drama, Romance

Meeting a stranger in a railway station, a woman is tempted to cheat on her husband.

Director: David Lean | Stars: Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey

Votes: 29,848

I saw this again recently and really fell hard for it. It's such an emotionally charged film. Can't say much more due to spoilers. Just see it!

38. Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951)

Not Rated | 117 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

During the Napoleonic wars, a British naval captain has adventures in Central American waters.

Director: Raoul Walsh | Stars: Gregory Peck, Virginia Mayo, Robert Beatty, Moultrie Kelsall

Votes: 5,306

Gregory Peck at the peak of handsomeness. This also has a wonderful love story.

39. Downton Abbey (2010–2015)

TV-PG | 58 min | Drama, Romance

A chronicle of the lives of the British aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the early 20th Century.

Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Brendan Coyle

Votes: 132,342

Season 1 got better and better each week. Since I'm an American, I patiently awaited for all of Season 2 to record from Masterpiece Classic. Then, I had the best time watching each episode back to back without all the suspense of waiting week to week. Loved Season 2 even more:)

40. A Tale of Two Cities (1935)

Not Rated | 128 min | Drama, History, Romance

A pair of lookalikes, one a former French aristocrat and the other an alcoholic English lawyer, fall in love with the same woman amongst the turmoil of the French Revolution.

Directors: Jack Conway, Robert Z. Leonard | Stars: Ronald Colman, Elizabeth Allan, Edna May Oliver, Reginald Owen

Votes: 4,381

Oh my goodness! I finally saw this recently and was blown away by it and Ronald Colman's brilliant performance.

41. Shadowlands (1993)

PG | 131 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

C.S. Lewis, a world-renowned Christian theologian, writer, and professor, leads a passionless life until he meets a spirited poet from the U.S.

Director: Richard Attenborough | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, Julian Fellowes, Roddy Maude-Roxby

Votes: 14,710 | Gross: $25.84M

Another weepy melodrama but a beautiful love story based on C.S. Lewis's life.

42. The Dawn Patrol (1938)

Not Rated | 103 min | War, Drama

British flying aces in World War I contend with the harsh realities of war.

Director: Edmund Goulding | Stars: Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp

Votes: 2,292

This is a war film, a buddy movie, an exciting adventure, totally serious one minute and hilarious the next. The acting is superb. This is one of the greatest films I've ever seen!

43. Finding Neverland (2004)

PG | 106 min | Biography, Drama, Family

67 Metascore

The story of J.M. Barrie's friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Director: Marc Forster | Stars: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell

Votes: 185,795 | Gross: $51.68M

This is one of the sweetest films ever made.

44. Screen Two (1985–2002)
Episode: Persuasion (1995)

PG | 107 min | Drama

Eight years earlier, Anne Elliot, the daughter of a financially troubled aristocratic family, was persuaded to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a young seaman, who, though ... See full summary »

Director: Roger Michell | Stars: Amanda Root, Ciarán Hinds, Susan Fleetwood, Corin Redgrave

Votes: 9,283 | Gross: $5.46M

This is the best version of the Persuasion adaptations. It's not perfect, so I also like the 2007 version.

45. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

PG-13 | 143 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

51 Metascore

When Robin and his Moorish companion come to England and the tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham, he decides to fight back as an outlaw.

Director: Kevin Reynolds | Stars: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Christian Slater

Votes: 158,685 | Gross: $165.50M

Gets funnier to me each time:)

46. My Fair Lady (1964)

G | 170 min | Drama, Family, Musical

A snobbish phonetics professor agrees to a wager that he can take a flower girl and make her presentable in high society.

Director: George Cukor | Stars: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White

Votes: 75,473 | Gross: $72.00M

One of the best ever made. I watch it every time it comes on TCM, which is frequently.

47. The White Cliffs of Dover (1944)

Passed | 126 min | Drama, Romance, War

London based American nurse, Susan, Lady Ashwood, is at the hospital awaiting the imminent arrival of injured soldiers. She is hoping that her enlisted son, Sir John Ashwood, who resembles ... See full summary »

Director: Clarence Brown | Stars: Irene Dunne, Alan Marshal, Roddy McDowall, Frank Morgan

Votes: 1,225

A wartime melodrama set in England where most of the focus is on the romance and the mother's love for her son. I'm a huge Irene Dunne fan and love to hear her beautiful speaking voice as the narrator.

48. The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

PG | 115 min | Comedy, Romance

An American showgirl becomes entangled in political intrigue when the prince regent of a foreign country attempts to seduce her.

Director: Laurence Olivier | Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Laurence Olivier, Richard Wattis, David Horne

Votes: 6,555

This is the "troubled production" on which My Week with Marilyn is based. Troubled or not, I love thusly film.