Like the rest of us, you are looking for a period romance you haven’t seen before, right? Here’s just the thing: 30 historical and costume period (and period inspired) dramas that you may have missed. 

The Night Watch, courtesy BBC


To help keep this site running: Willow and Thatch may receive a commission when you click on any of the links on our site and make a purchase after doing so. 

Some are older, or are lesser known, and may not be on your radar. Others are newer, and maybe you didn’t know they were available.





At the time of this writing, all the romantic period films listed here are included with your Prime subscription or can be watched for free with ads. Now if only every love story had a happy ending!

Last updated November, 2021. 

 

30 Period Romances You Haven’t Seen

The American (1998)

Matthew Modine and Diana Rigg star this adaptation of Henry James’ novel. Modine plays Christopher Newman, 19th-century “new man” who amasses a fortune in California and heads to Europe to learn its ways and find a wife. His overtures to a young French woman, a member of an aristocratic but impecunious family, meet with icy condescension in this classic collision between the old world and the new. This BBC period drama is set in Paris, in the 1870s. 

Starring Matthew Modine, Diana Rigg, Aisling O’Sullivan, Paul Hickey, Brenda Fricker.

Rated 16+

Watch free with Prime


Anna Karenina – Vronsky’s Story (2017)

During Russian-Japanese War, the head of the hospital Sergey Karenin learns that the wounded officer Count Vronsky is the person who ruined his mother Anna Karenina. This Russian period drama is a loose adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel of the same name which also combines “During the Japanese War” and the literary cycle “Stories about the Japanese War” by Vikenty Veresaev.

Starring Elizaveta Boyarskaya, Yelizaveta Boyarskaya, Maxim Matveyev, Kirill Grebenschikov.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated 16+

Watch free with Prime


The Best Intentions (1992)

Swedish master Ingmar Bergman penned this loving tribute to his parent’s epic romance. In 1909, poor theology student Henrik Bergman falls in love with Anna Åkerbloom, the intelligent daughter of a rich family in Uppsala. After marrying Henrik becomes a priest in northern Sweden. Urbane Anna hates living in the county, growing restless. She returns to Uppsala and the couple’s love and is tested.

The Best Intentions, courtesy Film Movement

Starring Samuel Fröler, Pernilla August, Max von Sydow, Lena Endre, Björn Kjellman.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated 13+ (includes some nudity)

Watch free with ads





Cafe Society (2016) 

In the 1930s, a Bronx native moves to Hollywood and falls in love with a young woman who is seeing a married man. Woody Allen’s Cafe Society follows Bobby from New York to Hollywood, and back to New York, where he is swept up in high society night life.

Cafe Society, Courtesy FilmNation Entertainment

“A very cheerful and hopeful film that has a phenomenal period recreation.” – Cinegarage

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated PG-13

Watch free with Prime 


Civil Love (2012) 

Rachel Taylor lost her Union soldier husband in the Civil War. As the battles rage on she discovers a wounded Confederate soldier, Daniel, in her barn. A battle begins in her heart as she does the Christian thing and nurses him back to health while trying to reconcile this man with the image she had of the southerners who took her husband from her.

Daniel is being hunted by a rogue marshal and must stay hidden. Rachel’s brother-in-law, Sheriff Jonathan Taylor, has always had feelings for her. He wants to marry her and take care of her family, but Rachel is resistant to his proposal. When her heart begins to soften toward Daniel, Jonathan doesn’t take too kindly to it. With trouble coming from all sides, Rachel must find the strength to do what’s right, protect her family and find the courage to open her heart again to love.

Starring Elise Groves, DeMoyne Hunt, Matthew Bellows.

Not rated but Dove Approved ages 12+

Watch free with ads


The Edge of Love (2008)

The life of poet Dylan Thomas is told through the stories of two free-spirited women who loved him in this fiery romantic drama set in wartime London.

When the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and his flirtatious wife Caitlin sweep into war-torn London, the last thing they expect is to bump into Dylan’s childhood sweetheart Vera. Despite her joy at seeing Dylan after so many years, Vera is swept off her feet by a dashing officer, William Killick, and finds herself torn between the open adoration of her new found beau and the wily charms of the exotic Welshman.

Starring Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated R for some sexuality, language and disturbing war images

Watch free with ads


The Go Between (2015)

An Edwardian era romance from BBC. Adapted from LP Hartley’s novel, this beautifully filmed period drama tells the story of forbidden desire and betrayal as seen through the impressionable eyes of a 13-year-old boy at the start of the 20th century.

The Go Between, courtesy BBC

One of the most influential British novels of the 20th century, The Go-Between is a story of forbidden love, Edwardian strictures, betrayal and tragic naivety.

Starring Jack Hollington, Jim Broadbent, Samuel Joslin.

Not rated.

Watch free with Prime





Infinity (1996)

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman tries to save the woman he loves from a terrible disease. Based on a true story.

Richard Feynman is a talented young physics student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he meets Arline Greenbaum. They quickly fall in love and plan on getting married. But when Arline discovers she has tuberculosis, and Feynman is hired by the government to work on the creation of the atomic bomb, his faith in science is thrown into doubt.

Starring Patricia Arquette, Matthew Broderick, James Hong.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated PG

Watch free with ads


The Inheritance (1997)

Forbidden love between a beautiful orphan and an eligible upper-class bachelor are the subject of this period drama based on the manuscript by Louisa May Alcott. In the 19th century, an orphan of mysterious parentage is asked by her adoptive family to help find a husband for their niece, but when two suitors both fall for the orphan girl, the niece instigates a scheme to discredit her in the eyes of her guardians.

Starring Thomas Gibson, Meredith Baxter, Cari Shayne, Brigitta Dau, Brigid Brannagh.

Watch the TRAILER

Raed 13+

Watch free with ads


I.Q. (1994)

Here’s the just the thing if you want an undemanding and lighthearted rom-com set in the past. All the world knows about Einstein the scientific genius. But what about Einstein the matchmaker? I.Q. puts this notion to the test and comes up with winning results in this “fun, warmhearted romantic comedy.”

Catherine Boyd is a highly intelligent doctoral student at Princeton University and is engaged to stuffy Professor James Moreland. Ed Walters, a mechanic and all-around regular guy, falls for Catherine and searches for a way to impress her. Believing that the key to Catherine’s heart is his IQ, Ed passes himself off as a physicist with the help of Catherine’s uncle, who just happens to be Albert Einstein.

Starring Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan, Walter Matthau, Lou Jacobi, Gene Saks, Joseph Maher, Stephen Fry, Tony Shalhoub, Frank Whaley.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated 13+

Watch free with Prime


Jane Eyre (1997)

Did you miss this feature-length version of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel? After placing an ad for employment as a governess, Jane Eyre journeys to Thornfield Hall to inquire about a possible position. She is hired by the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, to care for young Adele, the daughter of the brooding Mr. Rochester, who lives at the estate. After much trepidation, Eyre and Rochester begin a romantic relationship, but dark secrets surrounding Rochester threaten to destroy the couple’s love. 

Starring Samantha Morton, Ciarán Hinds, Gemma Jones, Timia Berthome, Deborah Findlay, Joanna Scanlan, David Gant.

Rated PG

Watch free with ads


Life of a Mistress (2018)

An epic, sweeping slow-burn romance! She was raised in affluence, but became a servant. After the death of her benefactor, Duke Golovin, Polina learns that she is in fact a serf and will now be auctioned along with other property of the deceased nobleman. A neighbor and worst enemy of Duke Golovin, the cruel and vicious Count Andrei, becomes her new owner. But Polina’s spirit will not be crushed, and a forbidden chaste love could turn to happily ever after. 

Starring Tatyana Babenkova, Vadim Dzyuba, Lidiya Kopina, Anastasiya Lebedeva.

Rated 16+

Watch free with ads


The Lightkeepers (2010)

Set in 1912, a solitary lighthouse keeper and a mysterious young stranger vow to swear off women for good – until a pair of beautiful, spirited women send all four of them sailing into uncharted romantic waters!

Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Blythe Danner, Bruce Dern, Tom Wisdom, Mamie Gummer.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated PG

Watch free with ads


Love In Chains (2019)

In this Eastern European costume drama mini-series set in the second half of the 19th century, Katerina Verbitskaya is raised as a noblewoman by her godmother, Anna Chervinskaya, even though she is the property of wealthy landowner Peter Chervinsky; she falls in love with nobleman Alexey Kosach who knows nothing about her origin.

Starring Katerina Kovalchyk, Mikhail Gavrilov, Anna Sagaydachnaya, Stanislav Boklan.

Rated 13+

Watch Season 1 free with ads





Loving (1996)

In this period drama for the BBC, as Hitler rampages across Europe, a new world order is emerging in the untouched claustrophobic haven of Ireland’s Kinalty Castle, a villa in the countryside owned by an upper class English family. When the man of the house leaves to fight in WW2, his mother, wife, dying butler, maid and other staff’s life turn upside down and some unexpected – and maybe unwise – love affairs start to bloom.

Starring Georgina Cates, Mark Rylance, Judy Parfitt, Lucy Cohu, Carol MacReady.

Rated 18+

Watch free with Prime


Max and Helene (2015)

Love, passion, and murder haunt a passionate romance in this drama. When the young soldier meets Helene, a torrid affair begins. 15 years after the war has ended, Max finds out that the love of his life was murdered in a concentration camp, setting off on a relentless manhunt for vengeance.

Starring Alessandro Averone, Carolina Crescentini, Ennio Fantastichini.

Rated 13+

Watch free with Prime


The Night Watch (2011)

Paula Milne’s ambitious BBC adaptation of The Night Watch written by Sarah Waters is a poignant tale of liberation and loss, following the lives of four young Londoners throughout different stages of the Second World War. It is directed by Richard Laxton and stars Anna Maxwell Martin as Kay, Claire Foy as Helen, Jodie Whittaker as Viv and Harry Treadaway as Duncan.

The drama opens in 1947 as the country is trying to rebuild itself after the war; we find Kay mysteriously roaming the streets, haunted by some traumatic personal loss. Meanwhile, Helen and Viv run a marriage bureau, helping people rebuild their shattered lives by finding love. But their own complicated love lives are less easy to solve. Helen obsessively clings to her tumultuous and volatile relationship with Julia, while Viv is continuing an affair with a married man whom she seems unable to break free from. Viv’s vulnerable young brother Duncan harbours a terrible secret, when a face from his past re-appears which threatens his fragile existence.

Moving back in time through the Forties into the maelstrom of the Blitz, the lives, loves and losses of these four central characters are unravelled. In order to build their future they must each make peace with their past.

Starring Anna Maxwell Martin, Claire Foy, Jodie Whittaker.

Rated TV-14

Watch free with Prime 


The Peacock Spring (1996)

Post-war India has provided fertile soil for films and TV dramas: witness the success of “The Jewel in the Crown” and all those Merchant/Ivory movies; one you may have missed from the BBC is an two-part adaptation of novelist Rumer Godden’s The Peacock Spring.

It’s set in 1959 in New Delhi, where diplomat Sir Edward Gwithian has engaged a new governess for his teenage daughters. When Una and her sister Hal arrive from England, they’re hostile to their arrogant new “mother” and drawn to romance with “unsuitable” young men. Naveen Andrews fits the bill as under-gardener Ravi.

Starring Peter Egan, Naveen Andrews, Jennifer Hall, Hattie Morahan, Madhur Jaffrey.

Rated 16+

Watch free with Prime





The Prisoner of Zenda (1984)

An oldie but fun! In this BBC period series, an Englishman on a Ruritarian holiday must impersonate the king when the rightful monarch, a distant cousin, is drugged and kidnapped. Anthony Hope’s fast-moving story of royal romance and political intrigue has been a much-loved bestseller from the day it was first published. Malcolm Sinclair is the Englishman posing as Ruritania’s new monarch when the real King is abducted. Victoria Wicks plays his unsuspecting Queen.

Starring Malcolm Sinclair, Nicholas Gecks, Pauline Moran, Jonathon Morris, Victoria Wicks.

Rated 13+

Watch free with Prime


Renoir (2012) 

Set on the French Riviera in the summer of 1915, Gilles Bourdos’ lushly atmospheric historical drama tells the story of celebrated Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, in declining health at age 74, and his middle son Jean, who returns home to convalesce after being wounded in World War I.

Renoir, Courtesy Samuel Goldwyn Films

The elder Renoir is filled with a new, wholly unexpected energy when a young girl miraculously enters his world. Blazing with life, radiantly beautiful, Andrée will become his last model, and the wellspring of a remarkable rejuvenation. At the same time, Jean also falls under the spell of the free-spirited young Andrée. Their beautiful home and majestic countryside grounds reverberate with familial intrigue, as both Renoirs, père et fils, become smitten with the enchanting and headstrong young muse.

Starring Michel Bouquet, Christa Théret, Vincent Rottiers, Thomas Doret, Romane Bohringer.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated PG

Watch free with Prime 


The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003)

This haunting adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ 1950 novella stars Oscar winner Helen Mirren as recently widowed Broadway star Karen Stone, who gets a fresh lease on life in Rome from the Contessa and her handsome ward Paolo – but Paolo and his benefactor demand a steep price for love and pleasure.

Starring Helen Mirren, Anne Bancroft, Olivier Martinez, Brian Dennehy, Roger Allam.

Rated R for sexuality/nudity

Watch free with Prime 


Romeo and Juliet (1968)

There’s a chance you never seen this incredibly romantic period drama, simply because you thought it was too old or that it would be stuffy. Now is the time to watch this classic, and be swept away; it’s a must-see adaptation of one of the most tragically romantic tales ever told. Italian director Franco Zeffirelli stunned the screen world when he cast two young unknowns to portray the star-crossed lovers in “Romeo & Juliet,” but it was a gamble that resulted in one of the most popular motion pictures of all time.

Read our REVIEW

Starring Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting, Milo O’Shea, Michael York, John McEnery, Pat Heywood, Natasha Parry, Robert Stephens.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated PG

Watch free with Prime


The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010)

Do you like “Gentleman Jack’? Try this BBC movie. The story of Anne Lister, a 19th-century Yorkshire landowner, industrialist and lesbian. Anne kept a detailed account of her life in a fascinating and painfully honest 4,000,000-word journal. A sizeable portion was written in code, and the recent deciphering of the diaries provides an astonishing insight into the life of the woman who has been called Britain’s first modern lesbian.

Starring Maxine Peake, Anna Madeley, Christine Bottomley, Susan Lynch, Gemma Jones.

Rated 16+

Watch free with Prime





Solomon & Gaenor (1999)

As timeless as young love and as tragic as Romeo & Juliet, “Solomon & Gaenor” is a lush Oscar(r)-nominated romance featuring star-crossed lovers caught in a cultural crossfire. Wales in 1911 is a beautiful world, but fraught with racial and economic unrest.

Solomon is young, handsome and Jewish, selling linens door-to-door in a nearby mining village. There he falls for Gaenor, the daughter of a strict chapel-going family, and decides to conceal his heritage in order to win her heart. Passion blossoms, with hope and happiness achingly near, until Solomon’s secret is revealed. Now the lovers are forced to separate forever by their families, their faiths and a tragic twist of fate.

Starring Ioan Gruffudd, Nia Roberts, Sue Jones-Davies, William Thomas.

Rated R for sexuality and a scene of violence

Watch free with Prime


Sophie and the Rising Sun (2016)

Autumn of 1941 in Salty Creek, in a fishing village in South Carolina, interracial lovers are swept up in the tides of history.

Sophie, a girl from small-town South Carolina, falls in love with a Japanese gardener in 1941. A wave of misguided patriotism and xenophobia sweeps their community after Pearl Harbor, leaving Sophie with no choice but to risk her life for love.

Starring Julianne Nicholson, Takashi Yamaguchi.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated R for some sexuality and nudity

Watch free with Prime


Spring Awakening (1994)

In this Hallmark TV movie, a 1900s Nebraskan leaves his true love to work in Mississippi, where he’s trapped into marrying someone else. Star crossed lovers Martin and Margie brave separation, distance and even infidelity to find their way back to each other. From a story by Willa Cather.

Starring Sherilyn Fenn, Jamey Sheridan, Elizabeth Wilson, Sammi Davis, Philip Abbott.

Rated 13+

Watch free with ads


Sunstroke (2014)

Pictured on our home page. An epic romantic Russian period drama also known as “Solnechnyy udar,” loosely based on the story Sunstroke and the book Cursed Days by Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Ivan Bunin. The story is set in a prisoner-of-war camp in November 1920, in the Crimea, after the evacuation of the White Army, with several thousand White officers left behind on the peninsula. The officers are unaware of their impending doom, waiting for their fate to be decided by the Red Army officials. One of them — an unnamed poruchik — is haunted by the memories of a dramatic and brief love affair occurred in 1907, clinging to this memory of an opulent Russia during the glory days before its fall.

Starring Martinsh Kalita, Viktoriya Solovyova, Aleksandr Ustyugov, Anastasiya Imamova, Vitaliy Kishchenko.

Watch the TRAILER

Rated 16+

Watch free with Prime


Sylvie’s Love (2020)

When a young woman meets an aspiring saxophonist in her father’s record shop in 1950s Harlem, their love ignites a sweeping romance that transcends changing times, geography, and professional success. When they reconnect years later, they discover that their feelings for each other have not faded with the years.

Starring Tessa Thompson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ryan Michelle Bathe, Regé-Jean Page, Aja Naomi King, Eva Longoria.

Rated 13+

Watch free with Prime


The Vineyard (2021)

Ready for a new soapy period drama that weaves in a whole lot of slow burn romance? Set in 1860 against the backdrop of different historic world cities, this Spanish romantic period drama is based on the novel by María Dueñas, The New York Times bestselling author of “The Time in Between.”

This series tells the story of Mauro Larrea and Soledad Montalvo, two strangers whose destinies cross in the second half of the 19th century and change their lives forever. A story of glory and defeat, of silver mines, family intrigues, vineyards, wineries, and fascinating cities whose splendor has faded with time.

Starring Rafael Novoa, Leonor Watling, Nathaniel Parker, David Caro Levy, Cesar Ramos, Juana Acosta.

Rated 16+

Watch free with Prime


The War Bride (2002)

What happens after the blossom of wartime love is gone? In London, Lily marries a Canadian soldier who goes off to war. She and her newborn daughter are invited to come and live with his family in Canada, where conditions are not as splendid as he had described. And nobody knows if and when he will return. Anna Friel heads a distinguished cast in this award-winning World War II drama about a high-spirited English war bride who struggles to adjust to her new life on her soldier husband Charlie’s remote family farm in Canada. Charlie’s mother and polio-stricken sister are hostile to the “big city” newcomer, but Lily is determined not to let them break her spirit. Their tentative bond is threatened when Charlie returns from the war, haunted by the horrors he experienced.

Starring Anna Friel, Brenda Fricker, Aden Young, Molly Parker.

Rated 13+

Watch free with Prime


The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (1995)

A totally different kind of period drama focused on love and romance, and the lack of it, starring Colin Firth. “The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd” is a slice of Lawrentian life brought vividly to the screen for BBC by Zoe Wanamaker as Lizzie Holroyd and Colin Firth as her boorish husband Charles. The Holroyds scream their lives away until Lizzie falls in love with another man and wishes her husband dead – a wish that comes horribly true. Mourning her loss, Lizzie rediscovers her love for Charles and is forced to reconsider his character.

Starring Zoe Wannamaker, Colin Firth, Stephen Dillane, Lauren Richardson, Brenda Bruce.

Rated 18+

Watch free with Prime


Z: The Beginning of Everything (2017) 

Christina Ricci plays the role of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, a brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern belle, the original flapper and an icon of the Jazz Age in the flamboyant 1920s. Zelda is a free spirit, who longs for a bigger and better life. When Zelda meets an unpublished writer named F. Scott Fitzgerald, a passionate, turbulent and notorious love affair emerges. This fictionalized biography pulls back the curtain on the wild parties and the music, as well the struggles, adultery, dark secrets and dashed dreams.

Z The Beginning of Everything, Courtesy Amazon Studios

“Zelda and F. Scott’s relationship is less about devoted romance, more about dizzy co-dependency. So the show finds a nice groove about halfway through, after husband and wife settle in Roaring ’20s Manhattan and proceed to tear the town apart.” – Hollywood Reporter

Starring Christina Ricci, David Hoflin, Kristine Nielsen. 

Watch the TRAILER

Rated TV-14

Watch free with Prime


If you enjoyed this post, you’ll want to wander over to the Best Period Films List for more suggestions of what costume and historical dramas to watch. You may especially like 5 Reasons to Watch Desperate Romantics and 50 Period Romances: Amazon Prime

newsletter-hands-with-pens

SaveSave

SaveSave