Period films have always been popular in Hollywood, with the Renaissance being one of the most popular settings. The magic of the bygone era is enhanced thanks to famous historical figures like William Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton, Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth. Films set in the Renaissance period often celebrate the era by showcasing sumptuous costumes, beautiful settings and romantic storylines.
"Shakespeare In Love'
Stoppard shocked everyone by winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, over favorites "Saving Private Ryan" and "Life Is Beautiful." Joseph Fiennes stars as William Shakespeare, who is experiencing a bad case of writer's block and is searching for his muse. An all-star cast includes Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth, Geoffrey Rush, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck. As you can imagine, the acting is spot-on and the settings are perfectly period-accurate.
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
This 2007 sequel to "Elizabeth" continues Cate Blanchett's stunning performance as one of England's most famous and loved monarchs. Clive Owen co-stars as Sir Walter Raleigh, the explorer and soldier that wavered in an out of the queen's favor like a human metronome. Set during the monarch's middle years, the film celebrates some of the most famous names of the era. During the 80th Academy Awards, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" received an Oscar for its amazing costumes, and Blanchett was given a nomination for Best Actress-the second nomination she received for the same role (the first being for her portrayal in "Elizabeth").
"Prince of Foxes"
Unlike most films of the era that used painted backdrops on Hollywood sound stages, "Prince of Foxes" was shot entirely on location in Italy. This Renaissance story starred Orson Welles as a crafty and unscrupulous prince, and Tyrone Power as the noble Renaissance man that works for the prince until he realizes exactly what his duties entail. Full of swordplay, romance and intrigue, it is one of the few Renaissance films that celebrate the era without using England as a setting.
While "Pocahontas" was a box office success, as most Disney films of the era were, it was criticized by many for romanticizing the truth and glossing over the negative. "Pocahontas" has since went on spawn a video game and a direct-to-video sequel, and the film's star is the seventh Disney Princess and the only Native American to be celebrated as such. While history may not be accurately portrayed, this children's tale has set fire to the imagination of millions of young girls, spurring them to read about and research what really happened.
"Rosencranz and Guildernstern are Dead"
Where other films of the era celebrate the visual and historical import of the Renaissance, "Rosencranz and Guildernstern" are Dead celebrates the ingenuity of the day. Gary Oldman and Tim Roth star as the title characters, two minor players from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" that find themselves questioning everything about the world around them. Absurd, tragic and brilliant, this on-screen version of Tom Stoppard's award winning play may not be as great as the stage version but is a more-than-adequate substitution in a time when struggling local theaters aren't performing this kind of existential work.