Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas

ThursdayMoviePicksHappy almost Friday! It’s TMP time! The Thursday Movie Picks blogathon was spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.

The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… Period Dramas.

Ahhhh! This is one of my all time favorite genres and those who read my blog regularly knows I have a soft spot for Jane Austen, specifically Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility. But beyond that, I watch a TON of period dramas and so in order to narrow things down to just FOUR, I’m only selecting TV MINISERIES based on books. I actually love the miniseries (or limited series) format as it allows more time for character development and unpack the story in a deeper level. I happen to own ALL of these miniseries, that’s how much I love them!

So here they are in the order of release:

North & South (2004)


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.

Call me old fashioned but I feel like a lot of romances these days are all about instant gratification. I think the pent-up passion, the waiting, the stolen glances, etc. are what makes period romances so irresistible to me. I’ve seen my North & South DVD countless times and it never gets old. The casting of Daniela Denby-Ashe (Margaret) and Richard Armitage (John) are superb and they have a palpable chemistry, especially towards the end. I’ve even dedicated a post for John Thornton character in this post.

Similar to Pride & Prejudice, Margaret and John didn’t get off on the right foot initially, there’s also a proposal that didn’t go over well, which of course adds to the drama! I love that this story is SO much more than just a love story (though it’s the best part about it), but it also shows the changing economic landscape of the north and south of England during the Industrial Revolution, hence the title.

Jane Eyre (2006)


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

There are a whole bunch of Jane Eyre adaptations both on films and TV. Up until 2006, my favorite miniseries is the 1983 version starring Timothy Dalton that I’ve talked about here. Now, there are parts I still prefer the 1983 version, but overall I think this is a more compelling adaptation with a much more superior production quality. I love the fact that it’s a female-driven series both in front and behind the camera–directed by Susanna White from a screenplay written by Sandy Welch, surely a first in a Charlotte Brontë adaptation.

I love Ruth Wilson as Jane and Toby Stephens as the brooding Rochester who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not as stiff and stoic as previous Rochesters (Dalton excluded) that I’ve seen previously, which makes for a more fun dynamic. The banters between the two are lovely to watch, and I can see how Jane falls for her much older boss despite her better judgment. Stephens often comes across as too playful in the role but somehow it works well here and the emotional scenes between them are really heart-wrenching. Jane says Rochester is the only one who’s ever treated her like an equal and the filmmakers did a good job showing that.

Persuasion (2007)


Anne was in love with Frederick, who was rejected by her snobby parents 8 years ago. They’ve now hit hard times and rent out their mansion to his brother-in-law. He returns a Royal Navy captain. Will he remember Anne?

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, which is her last novel she fully completed before her death. The main protagonist, Anne is considered ‘old’ at 27 and has lost her bloom, while the man she rejected eight years ago is now a war hero and a wealthy man. Now, I have to say that the 1995 version is a much superior adaptation, but this one has its charms. I like the way Sally Hawkins portray Anne and Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth, while Anthony Head is hilarious as her vain and stuck-up father obsessed with his status in society. The scenery is gorgeous as it was filmed on location in Bath. The direction by Adrian Shergold is a bit baffling in parts, I don’t know why Anne is the only character who breaks the fourth wall, and I wish he didn’t have Anne run all over town to see Wentworth in the end. Overall I enjoyed this adaptation though, and I love this scene when they meet in Bath by chance during a rainy afternoon.

Death Comes Pemberley (2013)


Elizabeth and Darcy, now six years married, are preparing for their annual ball when festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. An adaptation of PD James’s homage to Pride and Prejudice.

It’s Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie! Somehow Pride and Prejudice is one of those classics that’s quite extendable. Now, unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this one is pretty much a continuation of the story of Lizzie and Darcy, who somehow still can’t escape the shadow of the dastardly Wickham. I LOVE Matthew Rhys as Darcy, this Welshman is masterful in any role and here he portrays the more mature, conflicted Darcy brilliantly. I was a bit skeptical about Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth but I’ve grown to appreciate her portrayal and the fact that she’s actually more plain-looking as Lizzie is supposed to be in the book. As P&P fans, it’s always intriguing to imagine the life of our beloved couple past their blissful wedding. The way the script explores the Darcys relationship during this tumultuous time is quite fascinating.

Now Matthew Goode as Wickham is absolutely perfect casting, esp. in displaying his vulnerable side as he stand accused of murdering his own best friend. He also never looked more ravishing in his red uniform, yowza! Jenna Coleman is quite irritatingly hilarious as the over-the-top Lydia, and I love the pairing of Eleanor Tomlinson (as Darcy’s younger sister) and James Norton who are besotted with each other. The production values are incredible, gorgeous set pieces, costumes, and especially the legendary Chatsworth House as Pemberly estate. I can’t recommend this enough for anyone looking for a good mystery and intrigue in a costume drama.

Have you seen any of these? Which are YOUR favorite period dramas?

38 thoughts on “Thursday Movie Picks: Period Dramas

  1. I’ve seen Death Comes to Pemberley. I liked that the head couple wasn’t “pretty”. I liked it. Recently, the period drama I liked was Wuthering Heights starring Tom Brady. He was quite convincing as Heathcliff. Lots of good series now. I love Masterpiece! Have you seen “Ladies of Bletchley Park”? It stars Anna Maxwell Martin…

    1. Hey Cindy! Yes I agree about the leads of ‘Pemberley’ not being too pretty.

      You mean The Bletchley Circle? No I haven’t seen it yet but I’ve been meaning to! Anna Maxwell Martin is also in North & South, which is an absolute must-see for period drama fans!

  2. Don’t think i’ve seen any of these. I’ve gotten into some period stuff(I did see whichever was the latest Jane Eyre movie and i enjoyed the recent Emma flick) but i haven’t gotten into it enough to seek these out. But i’m glad you had fun picking these,and your enthusiasm for the genre comes through clearly

    1. Hi Julian! Haven’t heard from you in ages! Hope you are well. The latest JE with Michael Fassbender is good, very atmospheric. Ahah well you know I do love this genre 😁

      1. Yeah, my blog kind of fell by the wayside at a certain point due to personal stuff. Currently i’m doing ok, and am close to being fully vaccinated so ill be able to start seeing friends again soon.

  3. I’ve seen all four and ironically enough you’ve listed them in my order of preference. 🙂

    I also own the North & South mini. I watched it for Richard Armitage, after seeing him as the wicked Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood I wanted to see what else he could do. He was excellent in both.

    Jane Eyre isn’t one of my favored classics (it’s fine but there are so many I like better) and this isn’t my favorite version of the tale, that would be the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles 40’s film, but this was a decent adaptation thanks to Toby Stephens.

    Persuasion was fine. I enjoyed it when I watched it and haven’t given it another thought since. Good cast.

    I wanted to love Death Comes to Pemberley because of the cast, the setting and pretty much everything else connected to it but it just didn’t work that well for me unfortunately. It was great looking though.

    I also chose to do a theme within the theme selecting three that take place during the Revolutionary War.

    Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)- Attempting to forge a life and livelihood out of the central New York wilderness as the nation is born Lana and Gil Martin (Claudette Colbert & Henry Fonda) are besieged by Tory, Indian and British forces but they persevere. A depiction of the dangerous rigors faced by settlers on the frontier during the Revolutionary War.

    The Scarlet Coat (1955)-Benedict Arnold (Robert Douglas), Commander of the Continental Army at West Point conspires with Redcoat Major John Andre (Michael Wilding) to surrender defense of the fort to the British for a large sum of cash as the Revolutionary War rages. Sensing trouble American Major John Boulton (Cornel Wilde) undertakes a counter-intelligence operation to stop the deal from going through.

    1776 (1972)-The events and personages involved in the lead up to and signing of The Declaration of Independence all set to music. Though there is some artistic license taken this adaptation of the Broadway hit, which is scheduled for a revival later this year, captures the essence of the story.

    1. Hey there Joel!

      Glad you’re a big fan of N&S and Richard Armitage! Yes he’s terrific as Guy of Gisborne, I guess he’s perfect as the tormented lovesick man, ahah,

      I still need to see the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles version, I like both actors.

      Bummer Death Comes to Pemberley didn’t work for you, I actually like it more w/ each viewing.

      Interesting picks w/ the Revolutionary War theme but unfortunately haven’t seen any of them. 1776 is a musical? Wow I should check that out perhaps around Independence Day!

      Btw, one of my fave part about doing this TMP series is to see you stop by w/ your lovely + insightful comment, Joel. Well, this is my last of the series, but hopefully I’d still see you stop by the blog. Or if you ever decide to start a blog yourself, please do let me know! 🙂

      1. That’s very nice of you to say Ruth. I do try and find more obscure picks, it’s a way for me to put to use all those years spent deep diving into various genres and performers filmographies.

        Yep 1776 is a musical, it was a big hit on Broadway three years before the film came out and much of the original cast made the jump from stage to screen. So you have John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and many of the other signers bursting into song as they draft the document. It works better than you would think and while there are no megastars among the cast there are many familiar faces. Probably now the most recognizable is a very young Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson.

        I’m sorry to read that you aren’t going to do Thursdays any more! I enjoyed swinging by to see what you chose. I seriously doubt that I’ll ever start my own blog, I’m just not organized enough electronically to pull it together and keep it going but I will stop by to see your postings! 🙂

        1. Hello again Joel! I think your picks are always awesome and insightful for people like me who aren’t so well-versed in classic or as you say, more ‘obscure’ cinema.

          I wonder if Hamilton was partly inspired by 1776? I mean obviously they made it more diverse with the cast, but the idea of a political story as a musical is rather unusual. Oh interesting, Blythe Danner as in Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom? I think she’s far more attractive than her daughter, ahah.

          Say, if you ever want to guest blog about classic films or other film/tv topics, please let me know! I used to have a guy with the nickname Jack Deth who sometimes do a lengthy and comprehensive post about certain classic movies. I’d LOVE to have someone like you contribute to this blog, but of course that is up to you 🙂 Hope to still see you around the blogosphere, Joel!

          1. Hi Ruth,

            Sorry for the late response, I just happened to swing by and saw your comment….I told you I’m not electronically gifted!

            Yes that Blythe Danner. It’s so strange, I LOVE her and always have. A fantastic, wonderfully idiosyncratic actress with that magnificent smoky voice who has decades of solid work to her credit and she’s never gotten near an Oscar nomination. Then there’s the daughter who inherited none of Blythe’s special qualities, certainly not her voice, who comes across as an entitled clueless prat of a person and has the emotional heft of a Kleenex winning for a very everyday piece of work. Hard to fathom.

            Your offer is so nice and I’m flattered. I’ll have to put on my thinking cap and you’ll have to let me know what kind of things you think would interest your readers. Thanks!! 🙂

            1. Hi again Joel, hope you had a great Memorial weekend! You and I share the exact same thoughts about Blythe Danner and her daughter, ahah. I remember seeing two of them in a photo together and I too couldn’t fathom how different they are!

              Hey I’d love for you to write about whatever that strikes your fancy. You have such a vast knowledge of films, so I’m sure there’s a bunch of things you can write about. I’ll email you shortly!

  4. I love North and South- I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it! I’ve just started reading the book so hoping it doesn’t disappoint (I’m sure it won’t!)

    Like you I adore period dramas. With the jane austen adaptations I mainly prefer the films to the tv series, but it’s interesting to see different approaches! And I do like how tv series have more time to develop the characters and stories etc

    1. Hey Rhiannon! Glad you’re a big fan of N&S too, it’s just SO good! I haven’t read the book yet so you’ve got to let me know what you think or perhaps you can blog about it?

      I’ll take whatever Austen I can get, but miniseries is a great format as you can delve deeper into the story than a 2-hour film. Which of Austen’s stories is your fave?

      1. I’m setting myself the challenge of reading some of the classics that I haven’t read yet and North and South was one of the first ones I thought of! I’ve seen adaptations of so many and I feel I need to read them too.

        With Austen, Pride and Prejudice always has a special place as it was the first book of her’s I read and my mum loves the film and tv series so I saw them a lot when I was growing up. Emma is another favourite and I also love Sense and Sensibility- the film is fantatic!

        Did you see the recent series of Sanditon? I really enjoyed that and so glad it’s been renewed for another series!

        1. I think reading N&S sounds like a great choice!

          I love the Ang Lee’s version of Sense and Sensibility and with Emma Thompson’s script I feel like it’s hard to top. I like EMMA but I don’t love the story, I feel like it’s a bit shallow in comparison to Persuasion, S&S and especially N&S where both characters struggle financially and personally.

          Yeah I’m so surprised SANDITION has been renewed as it ends in such a cliffhanger! Boy it took forever for them to finally get renewed but I think because of the success in the US, it helps secure the 2nd season. I don’t think it did too well in the UK for whatever reason. I’m thrilled Leo Suter will be back, I love Young Stringer!

    1. If you love Matthew Goode, then Death Comes to Pemberley is a must-see! And if you like romances, you can’t go wrong w/ any of these.

    1. There are only two Austen adaptations here, the others are by Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte. I really think you’d appreciate N&S, it’s a four-part series set during England’s Industrial Revolution. The latest adaptation of EMMA is fun, but story-wise it’s not my fave of Austen’s.

        1. Oh no worries! For some I think these period dramas tend to blend together, ahah. I highly recommend all of these though, esp. N&S and Death Comes to Pemberley.

    1. I realize that it’s not the last Thursday of the Month, but I don’t see the TV Edition about Period Dramas in the schedule and I wanted to highlight these that I highly recommend. I didn’t know the rules are so strict 😉

      In any case, it’s been fun doing these series, but I think this one will be my last.

  5. Ted Saydalavong

    The only one I know about is Jane Eyre but I’ve never seen any of the film or TV series adaptations. As you know, this is not the genre I’m into. I’m only into certain period dramas but mostly I prefer it’s about war or fantasy/action.

    1. Hey Ted, the Death Comes to Pemberley is actually more of a murder mystery, it just happens to be set in the world of Pride & Prejudice. But yeah, I realize this genre isn’t your thing and that’s ok!

    1. I love the Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre though I remember when I saw it that it felt like a cliff-note version of the story, but it is a well-crafted film.

  6. I have not seen any of those and I should be watching more TV miniseries because I am sure there are some absolute gems to be found in that category. For some insane reason, I tend to be so critical of period dramas in general. Perhaps because most of them are based on classic books, including those by Bronte and Austen. I have not seen any of the recent ones, and the ones I remember I enjoyed were Pride & Prejudice (2005), Jane Eyre (2011), A Royal Affair (2012), Love & Friendship (2016) and Lady Macbeth (2017). For years, I also wanted to see My Cousin Rachel (2017) with Rachel Weisz, but never got the chance.

    1. Hey Diana, pardon the tardy response. Hey if you have the time, I really think you’d enjoy these miniseries. Out of these 4 I highly recommend North & South. Have you read Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel? I actually haven’t but the miniseries is AMAZING!

      I also love Love & Friendship, Pride & Prejudice and the latest Jane Eyre movie. Haven’t seen My Cousin Rachel either, but I’ve been meaning to.

      1. I haven’t read Gaskell’s North and South, which may be a good thing as this means I won’t be overly critical and won’t be comparing it to the novel when I see it! I did read Gaskell’s novel Ruth, but had mixed feelings on it. I am sure I will enjoy book North & South much more since it appears to be a favourite of many and I know people who rank it even higher than Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

  7. I have not seen any of these but I would love to because they look so good. I was only able to play 2 videos but they are so good. You just want them to kiss!

    1. Oh you should absolutely watch North & South, Birgit! The story is so wonderful, as it’s more than just romance, but yes, that kiss in the end would make you melt. You’ve been invested in the characters for so long that it’s so well earned!

  8. Pingback: The Alliance Lately: Issue No. 29 – The Minnesota Film Critics Alliance

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