Last Updated on May 23, 2022

There are many terrific period romantic period dramas on this list, but… we’re not going to say that everything here is a quality film. Most times you need a well-told, thoughtful story with high-production values, but sometimes you are in the mood for a sappy, cheesy, over-the-top romance. Either way, prepare yourself: top-notch or otherwise, many of these movies fall into the “It’s Complicated” category.

(It is a truth universally acknowledged that dramatic love is rarely straightforward.)

Doctor Thorne, Courtesy of ITV

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We’re guessing you’ll want to watch the well-made, intelligent movies here with their historically accurate plot lines and their stunning costumes (there are some very good foreign / international films on the list). But why not also indulge in a guilty pleasure? We promise not to tell! All of the period films listed here are free to stream online with your Amazon Prime Video subscription or for free with ads on Amazon’s free streaming service Freevee (formerly IMDb TV).

When you are done here, you may want to head over to 30 Period Romances You Haven’t Seen

Those who are new here should know that Willow and Thatch also has a special section for period dramas that have been added recently to different streaming services, like Prime Video. See the “New to Streaming” drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Basil (1998)

Filled with passion, betrayal, and revenge! Basil is a sheltered young Englishman willing to risk his fortune and place in society for the friendship of a commoner and love of a strikingly beautiful — but darkly mysterious — woman. His newfound happiness is shattered, however, with the devastating discovery that all he holds dear is a cruel deception. The intrigue only deepens when Basil faces his family’s darkest secrets while coming to terms with his past!

Based on a Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins, Basil is a British-made costume drama that ended up on cable and home video. Jared Leto plays Basil, a well-to-do young aristocrat with an uptight Victorian father. He befriends the mysterious gentleman John Mannion and falls in love with the lower-class girl Julia Sherwin. His father is upset about his questionable choices and threatens to disown him, thereby renouncing his birthright to inherit Windemere Manor.

Courtesy of Multicom Entertainment

Set in turn-of-the-century England,

Starring Christian Slater, Jared Leto, Claire Forlani, Derek Jacobi, David Ross, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Stephanie Bagshaw.

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Rated R for a scene involving abortion

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The Book and the Rose (2001)

A timeless love story about divergent paths, choices, and a meeting of hearts and ideals. When John Barnes acquires an old book filled with intriguing handwritten notes, he begins a correspondence with its previous owner – and it promises to be more than just an exchange of letters.

“An unapologetically romantic short film wrapped around the wondrously infinite possibilities of love and timeless romance.” – The Independent Critic

Set in 1942.

Starring Chris Kennedy, Patrick Tuttle, Carey Lessard, Elaine Fabyianic, James Walker, Kimmin O’Donnell, Margo Kellison, Barry Richmond, Aaron Ousley.

Rated 7+

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Casanova (2006)

In this MASTERPIECE Classic, a legendary lover romances his way across eighteenth-century Europe in a rollicking retelling of the life of Casanova, with Peter O’Toole as the champion seducer in his golden years and David Tennant as Casanova in his frisky prime. With a ‘whizzy script that brims with pace and wit’ by writer-of-the-moment Russell T. Davies.

The abiding theme throughout is love for the opposite sex, and at least once for the same one. Casanova was noteworthy in his time for taking a sincere interest in his partners’ personal interests and pleasure, which perhaps explains his spectacular success as a lover. The production shifts back and forth between the aging Casanova, at work on his memoirs and reminiscing to a very curious parlor maid, Edith; and the young Casanova, whom we see enacting these astonishing adventures with gusto.

Also starring is Laura Fraser as the beautiful Henriette, a match for Casanova himself in charm, trickery, repartee, and romantic longing; Rupert Penry-Jones as Count Grimani, Casanova’s rival in love for Henriette; Shaun Parkes as Casanova’s cheeky servant, Rocco; and Nina Sosanya as Bellino, a castrato impersonator who complicates Casanova’s love life.

Set in the 1700s in Europe.

Starring James Holly, David Tennant, David Foxxe, Tamzin Griffin, Peter O’Toole, Clare Higgins, Rose Byrne, Andrew Vincent, Dervla Kirwan, John Sandilands, Rosanna Lavelle, Tim Scott-Walker, Zac Fox, Mark Heap.

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The Courage to Love (2000)

In 19th century New Orleans creole Henriette must choose between love and devotion to the church. Neither choice is going to be easy, as there is great opposition to her ideas of breaking traditions. Inspired by a true story, ‘The Courage to Love’ tells the story of a black woman who is part of a mixed-race affluent society in pre-civil war New Orleans.

Set in the 1800s before the American Civil War.

Starring Vanessa Williams, Gil Bellows, Karen Williams, Lisa Bronwyn Moore, David La Haye, Cynda Williams, Diahann Carroll, Stacy Keach.

PG-13 with Dove “Family-Approved” Seal.

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Cyrano De Bergerac (1950)

Cyrano, the charismatic swordsman-poet with the absurd nose, hopelessly loves the beauteous Roxane; she, in turn, confesses to Cyrano her love for the handsome but tongue-tied Christian.

Poet, romantic and sword fighter Cyrano de Bergerac loves the beautiful Roxane, but although he is proud enough of his bulbous proboscis that he regularly duels those who dare mock it, he fears she could never love a man with such an enormous nose. When he learns that she loves the handsome guardsman Christian (William Prince), Cyrano provides the tongue-tied young man with the words of love and devotion he wishes he could say to Roxanne himself.

Courtesy of Stanley Kramer Productions

“There is beauty and magic in the things that Cyrano says. He is still a magnificent character. Thank goodness, he is on the screen.” – New York Times

Set in France in 1640 during the Stuart era.

Starring José Ferrer, Mala Powers, William Prince, Morris Carnovsky, Ralph Clanton, Lloyd Corrigan, Virginia Farmer, Edgar Barrier, Elena Verdug.

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Not rated

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Despite The Falling Snow (2016)

In 1950s Moscow, communist Katya secretly spies for the Americans in the Cold War arms race. When she lands her biggest assignment, stealing secrets from rising government star Alexander, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with him. Reconciling her passion for him with her beliefs about communism means making the greatest sacrifice of her life.

Starring Rebecca Ferguson, Charles Dance, Antje Traue, Anthony Head, Oliver Jackson-Cohen.

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Rated PG-13

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Disraeli: Portrait of a Romantic (1978)

Disraeli loved the ladies but ended up devoted to his wife, won the favor of Queen Victoria, and eventually the nation. Beautifully shot on location, this lavish Emmy-nominated political drama 4-episode TV series shown on Masterpiece Theatre is a penetrating look at one of British history’s most enigmatic and controversial figures, Benjamin Disraeli – a dandy, a womanizer and a Jew living in the 19th century. Taking his seat in Parliament at the age of 32, Disraeli (Ian McShane) is nearly laughed out of the House by his rival Gladstone, and thus begins an animosity spanning over 50 years.

Starring Ian McShane, Rosemary Leach, Mary Peach, Brett Usher, John Carlisle.

Rated 13+

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Doctor Thorne (2016)

*Currently available in limited locations. Dr. Thorne lives a quiet life with niece Mary in Greshambury, home of the wealthy Gresham family. Unbeknownst to others, the Greshams have lost their fortune and matriarch Lady Arabella has a scheme to regain it via an arranged marriage with her son and an American heiress. However, her son plans to elope with Mary, which complicates Lady Arabella’s plans. From Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey; adapted from the novel by Anthony Trollope.

Dr. Thomas Thorne lives in the village of Greshamsbury in Barsetshire with his young niece, Mary, a girl blessed with every gift except money. Mary Thorne has grown up alongside the Gresham family, whose house, Greshamsbury Park, and status dominate the county. With Francis Gresham Senior having frittered away the family fortune, however, his wife, Lady Arabella Gresham, played by Rebecca Front, their daughters Augusta and Beatrice, and their handsome brother Frank face losing their home. 

Courtesy of ITV

Set in 1855 in the Victorian Era.

Starring Tom Hollander, Ian McShane, Alison Brie, Richard McCabe, Phoebe Nicholls, Gwyneth Keyworth, Kate O’Flynn, Edward Franklin, Stefanie Martini, Harry Richardson.

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Rated 16+

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Emma. (2020)

Jane Austen’s beloved comedy about finding your equal and earning your happy ending, is reimagined in this delicious, romantic British period drama.

Emma. (2020), courtesy Working Title Films

Handsome, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse is a restless queen bee without rivals in her sleepy little town. In this glittering satire of social class and the pain of growing up, Emma must adventure through misguided matches and romantic missteps to find the love that has been there all along. Read about the Oscar-nominated costumes here.

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor, Mia Goth, Callum Turner.

Read our REVIEW

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Rated PG

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Empresses in the Palace (2011)

This sweeping period drama is an epic tale of love, betrayal and scandal told from inside the Imperial Harem – the story of one emperor and his countless women. In a world filled with treachery and corruption, who will truly win the Emperor’s heart and reign supreme?  Also known as “The Legend of Zhen Huan,” this Chinese television series is based on the internet novel of the same name. It was shortened considerably for US audiences.

Set in 1722 during the Qing Dynasty.

In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Starring Li Sun, Jianbin Chen, Dong-xue Li.

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Frantz (2017)

A haunting tale of love and reconciliation begins in a small town in Germany in the aftermath of World War I when a young woman mourning the death of her fiancé encounters a mysterious Frenchman laying flowers on her beloved’s grave.

Starring Paula Beer, Pierre Niney, Ernst Stötzner.

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Rated PG-13

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Impromtu (1991)

“Impromptu” is the comic and tender tale of how novelist George Sand and composer Frederic Chopin met; of how Sand recklessly pursued Chopin; how Chopin resisted Sand’s advances; of how, despite the best and most mischievous efforts of many of those around them, they eventually fell in love.

Starring Judy Davis, Hugh Grant, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Julian Sands, Ralph Brown.

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Rated PG-13

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Jane Eyre (1970)

Jane Eyre is an orphan, sent to the cruel school institution of Lowood. Upon maturing, she is positioned as governess to a girl named Adele at Thornfield Hall. Fully aware of her low-rank and plain countenance; she makes the best of her situation. But Thornfield holds many secrets and despite mysterious occurrences that Jane cannot comprehend, she and Edward Rochester, owner of Thornfield and Adele’s guardian, fall in love. Suddenly, when Jane is about to win the happiness she deserves, a dark secret comes to light, and it will take all of her courage, love and maturity to triumph. Based on the 1847 novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

“This version of “Jane Eyre” is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Bertha’s discovery was carried out very well and served as a very good climax. Blanche Ingram is actually a brunette the way she’s supposed to be. The love story was a good one will make a few tears come to your eyes. All in all, it was a commendable adaption. Just don’t expect it to be your definitive version, because it’s not the type of adaption geared towards important details.” – Lit Lovers

Set in between 1760 and 1820, in the Georgian era.

Starring George C. Scott, Susannah York, Ian Bannen, Jack Hawkins, Nyree Dawn Porter.

Not rated

Read Ranking 5 Jane Eyre Adaptations

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The Last September (1999)

*Currently available in limited locations. Based on Elizabeth Bowen’s acclaimed novel, “The Last September” is an unforgettable portrait of a young woman’s coming of age, a sexual awakening in a brutalized time and place, where the ordinariness of life floats like music over the impending doom of history.

Set in 1920, at the beginning of the Irish Rebellion.

Courtesy of Lionsgate

“The movie is elegantly mounted, and the house is represented in loving detail, although the opening scenes allow so much of the red-gold sunset to pour into the drawing room that we fear the conservatory is on fire. The tone is one of languid hedonism; life is pleasant for these people, who speak of themselves as Irish, even though to the native Irish, they are merely trespassers for the British empire.” – Roger Ebert

Starring Michael Gambon, Tom Hickey, Keeley Hawes, David Tennant, Richard Roxburgh, Gary Lydon, Maggie Smith, Maeve Kearney, Lambert Wilson, Jane Birkin.

Rated R for some violence and sexuality

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Love & Friendship (2016)

Set in 1790s London, Love & Friendship centers on the recently widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who seeks refuge with her in-laws to escape the scandalous rumors surrounding her private life.

While at their estate the scheming Lady Susan decides it’s time to secure a husband for herself and for her somewhat reluctant and awkward daughter. Based on the early novella Lady Susan, by Jane Austen.

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, James Fleet, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry.

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Rated PG

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The Moonstone (2016)

*Currently available in limited locations. This 5-episode British period series from the BBC is a fresh adaption of English literature’s first great detective novel. “The Moonstone” centers on the theft of a cursed but priceless diamond. The charismatic Franklin Blake must solve the disappearance of the Moonstone in order to win back the woman he loves, the beautiful, principled and independent Rachel Verinder.

Starring John Thomson, Sarah Hadland, Terenia Edwards, Joshua Silver, Sophie Ward, Stewart Clarke, Leo Wringer.

Rated TV-PG

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Officers (1971)

An epic Soviet era masterpiece depicting the unshakable bonds of love, friendship & duty amid the horror of war. Two friends -both officers – are in love with the same woman. From the Russian Civil War to the Spanish Civil War, from the second Sino-Japanese War to World War II, they fight and love and die. Won Best Picture.

Set in the 1920s to the end of 1960s.

Courtesy of Gorky Film Studios

In Russian with English subtitles.

Starring Georgiy Yumatov, Alina Pokrovskaya, Vasili Lanovoy, Andrei Anisimov.

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Rated all

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The Paradise (Seasons 1 & 2)

Made homeless by the death of her father and with nothing to live on but her wits, Denise comes from the country to work in the spectacularly glamorous Ladies Paradise, England’s first department store. So begins our 1870s rags-to-riches story of a young girl who falls in love with the intoxicating and dangerous charms of the modern world, meanwhile catching the eye of the shop’s dashing and reckless owner, John Moray, a grieving widower with a secret. This BBC British period series shown on PBS MASTERPIECE is an adaptation of the classic French novel by Emile Zola.

Starring Joanna Vanderham, Emun Elliott, Elaine Cassidy, Sarah Lancashire.

Rated TV-PG

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The Proud Rebel (1958)

In this warm-hearted drama that is set after the end of the Civil War, a tough former soldier (Alan Ladd) embarks upon a desperate search for a doctor capable of teaching his silent son (Ladd’s 11-year-old son David) to speak.

Civil War veteran Alan Ladd roams the frontier with his young son, who has not spoken a word after a traumatic shock during the war, searching for a doctor who can cure him. Along the way, Ladd accidentally runs afoul of sheep baron Dean Jagger and is forced into indentured servitude to farm woman Olivia De Havilland. Ladd falls in love with her, and vows to protect her land from the schemes of Jagger and his men. During the climatic final battle, Ladd’s young son is finally able to find his voice again.

“Although it is reminiscent of “Shane,” “To the Victor” and far lesser films, “The Proud Rebel” appears to be able to stand on its own modest merits. “The Proud Rebel” was filmed… in Utah with enough sweep, breathtaking vistas of rolling farmland and forests and streams to make one head for the hills instantly. It is a fitting background for the honestly heartwarming drama of “The Proud Rebel.”” – New York Times

Courtesy of Reel Enterprises

Set in the Victorian era.

Starring Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, Dean Jagger, David Ladd, Cecil Kellaway, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Pittman, Henry Hull, Eli Mintz, John Carradine.


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Sweet Land (2005)

*Currently available in limited locations. This gentle, slow-burn romantic period drama opens in present day, and then slips into the past. When Lars’ grandmother Inge dies in 2004, he is faced with a decision — sell the family farm on which she lived since 1920, or cling to the legacy of the land. Seeking advice, he turns to the memory of Inge and the stories she had passed on to him.

Starring Elizabeth Reaser, Tim Guinee, Lois Smith, Patrick Heusinger, Alan Cumming, Stephen Pelinski.

Read our REVIEW

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Rated PG

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Under the Greenwood Tree (2005)

A warm-hearted Thomas Hardy romance. Amidst the surrounding farms and woodlands of the idyllic village of Mellstock, southern England, a love story grows between local boy Dick Dewey and beautiful schoolteacher Fancy Day. But in seeking her hand in marriage penniless Dick finds himself in competition with other more likely suitors, including wealthy landowner Farmer Shiner and local vicar Reverend Maybold. Will true love win out or will the social traditions of Victorian England determine Fancy’s future?

Starring Keeley Hawes, James Murray, Ben Miles, Steve Pemberton.

Rated 13+

Watch with Prime Video

For more romantic period dramas on Amazon Prime, head on over to the 30 Period Romances You Haven’t Seen post. 

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to wander over to The Period Films List – with all the historical costume dramas broken down by era and theme.