This week, one of my favorite modern period pieces was released — “Love and Happiness”. Starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, it’s the first that was actually funny to me. It blends humor with the beauty and drama of lifestyles of the rich. Because of that, and my disturbing love of the language and spectacle, I compiled a list of the best “period movies”.
For this though, “period movies” are meant to denote late 17th century to early 19th century affairs. You know, like with the big dresses, powdered wigs and a stifled social castration. My fav.
“Sense and Sensibility” by Ang Lee
One of the most popular Jane Austen novels to adapt, this is one of the best versions of it (I’ve only seen one other). It has an all-star, all-British cast and everything is filmed beautifully. Emma Thompson wrote and stars in this adaption which helped kick-start the obsession with contemporary adaptations of Jane Austen books.
“Age of Innocence” by Martin Scorsese
My personal favorite, (I know, cliche fanboy) it concerns a love triangle set in the mid-1800s. Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible and the ending will make you sad for the rest of your day. The book it’s based on is great too, so it’s even more shocking that it’s as good as it is.
“Mansfield Park” by Patricia Rozema
Another Jane Austen novel put to film. Definitely more bizarre than the others on this list. It is decidedly different than the book in every way imaginable. Main character is different. The author’s life is incorporated into the movie. The main moral argument is shifted away from a social commentary on the virtues of being passive and focused instead on the topic of slavery. Better because it focuses less on women and their role as subservient underlings and more on how systematic oppression works.
“Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Vinterberg
Another classic story ripe for film adaption, this is one of the best period movies there is. Carey Mulligan is incredible as Bathsheba, an independent and headstrong woman in a time when being so was dangerous. All the suitors are cute and she ends up with the right one — except by her own rules.
“Amadeus” by Milos Forman
This is the guy who directed “Silence of the Lambs” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It’s about the Mozart and Salieri rivalry, and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri is incredible. Way too long but you have to eventually watch it.
“Barry Lyndon” by Stanley Kubrick
Obviously, Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors of all time. That being said, he took technical innovation to a new level by filming the whole thing with natural lighting. In a time when there was no natural lighting except the sun and candles. Also really, really long but it doesn’t feel very long, you know?
“Pride and Prejudice” by Joe Wright
What list of period movies would be complete without either this book or this actress? Keira Knightley is so well-ingrained in period movie lore that many roles are given to her or her look-alikes (Natalie Portman, Kate Beckinsale). More overtly concerned with social class and the patriarchy of the time.