10 Best Period Dramas
Consisting of films ranging from nineteenth century westerns to 1940’s gangster epics, this list of the 10 best period dramas features award winning masterpieces by celebrated filmmakers like “The Godfather and “Amadeus,” as well as modern favorites like “An Education.” Distinguished by soaring cinematography and career-defining performances by actors lik Paul Giamatti and Carey Mulligan, these masterfully crafted pieces have set the standard for period films.
"Atonement" (2007) Set during World War II, this film based on the novel by British writer Ian McEwan features powerful performances by actors James McAvoy and Keira Knightley, as well as a breakout performance by actress Saoirse Ronan who received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of young Briony Tallis. The film was nominated for a slew of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Picture.
"An Education" (2009) This film set during the 1960’s is one of the ten best period dramas of the past decade and features stellar performances by actors Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan. Mulligan was subsequently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work as Jenny Mellor, a sixteen-year-old girl who falls in love with a shady, charming older man played by Sarsgaard.
"The Godfather" (1972) Considered one of the greatest movies ever made, this 1940’s gangster classic is one of the ten best period dramas of all time and won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1973. An unmatched performance by acclaimed actor Marlon Brando earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor.
"The Piano" (1993) Set during the mid-nineteenth century, “The Piano” tells the story of a mute woman who is sold into marriage and can only express herself through her piano. The film won actress Holly Hunter an Academy Award for Best Actress, as well as a Best Supporting Actress award for 11-year-old Anna Paquin, making her the second youngest Academy Award winner in history.
"Immortal Beloved" (1994) This impressive film set in 1800’s Vienna chronicles the life of famed composer Ludwig von Beethoven and his biographer’s search for a woman referred to in Beethoven’s letters as “Immortal Beloved.” Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the troubled pianist is one of the greatest performances of his career, while the film itself is masterfully accented by a soundtrack that highlights Beethoven’s works.
"Schindler’s List" (1993) One of the ten best period dramas of all time, this film is considered the finest film of director Steven Spielberg’s illustrious career. Set during World War II, the film tells the story of Oscar Schindler and his efforts to save almost 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. One of the most moving and heart-wrenching depictions of the Holocaust ever filmed, “Schindler’s List” won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1993, as well as a Best Director award for Spielberg.
"Amadeus" (1984) One of the ten best period dramas of the 1980’s, this film is set during the late eighteenth century and tells the story of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his contemporary, Antonio Salieri. The film earned eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for F. Murray Abraham as Salieri.
"John Adams" (2008) One of the ten best period dramas in recent years, this HBO miniseries about President John Adams and the first 50 years of the United States received a number of prestigious awards in 2008 including thirteen Emmy Awards, the most ever given to a miniseries. Paul Giamatti’s outstanding portrayal of Adams is arguably one of the best of his career and earned the actor an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
"The Painted Veil" (2006) A visually breathtaking film set in 1925 Shanghai, this film features standout performances by actors Edward Norton and a stunning Naomi Watts. Overlooked by critics and audiences, the film received a number of award nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards and the National Board of Review.
"3:10 to Yuma" (2007) A remake of the 1957 film of the same name, this western tells the story of a rancher’s struggle to deliver an outlaw for arrest. The film features amazing performances by Christian Bale and Russell Crowe, as well as a tour de force performance by actor Ben Foster as ruthless outlaw Charlie Prince.