8 user 12 critic

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010)

A look at the life of 19th century Yorkshire landowner Anne Lister (1791-1840), who lived openly as a lesbian and kept diaries chronicling the details of her daily life.


James Kent


Jane English
1 win. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Maxine Peake ... Anne Lister
Anna Madeley ... Mariana Belcombe
Susan Lynch ... Isabella 'Tib' Norcliffe
Christine Bottomley ... Ann Walker
Gemma Jones ... Aunt Lister
Alan David Alan David ... Uncle Lister
Richenda Carey ... Mrs Priestley
Michael Culkin ... Charles Lawton
Dean Lennox Kelly ... Christopher Rawson
Tina O'Brien Tina O'Brien ... Miss Browne
Tessa Peake-Jones ... Mrs Rawson
Jemima Foxtrot Jemima Foxtrot ... Lister Maid
Belinda Lazenby Belinda Lazenby ... Mrs Browne
Ted Holden Ted Holden ... Rough Man
Martin Oldfield Martin Oldfield ... Jeweller


In nineteenth century Yorkshire wealthy orphan Anne Lister lives with an aunt and uncle, anxious for her to marry well and blissfully - unaware that she is a lesbian. Anne is recording her thoughts and exploits in a coded diary. When her lover Mariana Belcombe makes a marriage of convenience to rich old Charles Lawton she feels betrayed and, although Mariana visits her,the relationship is going nowhere. Helped by old flame Tib she makes a play for innocent Miss Browne but sees she is barking up the wrong tree and diverts herself by renovating the family hall. A drunken Tib almost exposes her secret and scornful mine-owner Christopher Rawson, whose marriage proposal she rejects, tells her that her sexuality is a subject of local gossip.... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-14 | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Nine years later, Anne Lister's life story was adapted into the TV series Gentleman Jack (2019). Gemma Jones appears in both productions as Aunt Lister. See more »


[Mrs Priestley has introduced Anne to Charles Lawton, an elderly, obese widower. Anne and Mariana are not impressed with him]
Mariana Belcombe: [ironically] Such a fine figure of a gentleman, Mr Lawton.
Anne Lister: I wonder where Mrs Priestley dug him up?
Mariana Belcombe: He's an old friend of my father's. Apparently he has six thousand a year.
Anne Lister: Ah. So it's you and your sisters who are being paraded. And do we know *how* his wife died?
Mariana Belcombe: Perhaps he squashed her to death.
Mariana BelcombeAnne Lister: [giggle]
See more »


Remake of A Skirt Through History: A Marriage (1994) See more »


Rock of Ages
Music by Thomas Hastings
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady
See more »

User Reviews

"I love and only love the fairer sex . . ."
12 November 2010 | by Red-125See all my reviews

"I love and only love the fairer sex, and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs." - Anne Lister, Journals, Oct 29, 1820

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010) (TV) was written by Jane English and directed by James Kent. This film is a biography, because Anne Lister [1791 - 1840] was, indeed, a historical figure who managed to live her life as a happy and fulfilled lesbian.

Moreover, Ms. Lister did keep voluminous diaries. Only a small portion of the diaries were actual secret--i.e. written in code. Anne Lister was so intelligent that the code she devised wasn't deciphered for almost 100 years. The encoded part of the diary described Anne Lister's romantic and sexual experiences.

By a combination of enormous intelligence, class privilege, and unbreakable will, Anne Lister was able to maintain a lesbian life style in a society where such behavior was rarely tolerated.

This is an excellent film, with strong performances from all the actors, and an absolutely stellar performance from Maxine Peake as Anne. Because it's a BBC production, the production values are high and the costumes and location shots are entrancing.

Obviously, this movie was made for TV, so it will work well on the small screen. However, it is really glorious on the large screen, which is how we saw it. The film was shown at the Dryden Theatre, as the closing night offering of the terrific ImageOut: Rochester Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Don't miss this movie!

42 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 8 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

31 May 2010 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed