22 of the best new British period drama movies of 2018

2018 has been another wonderful year at the cinema for British period drama fans.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the British period drama movies you need to see!

 

The Aspern Papers

What’s it about?

Based on the Henry James novella, The Aspern Papers is set in Venice in 1885.

Morton Vint, an ambiguous young writer fascinated by iconic romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern (now deceased), strives to get his hands on the letters Aspern wrote to his beautiful mistress, Juliana Bordereau. Now, decades later, Juliana lives in a Venetian palazzo with her niece, whom she dominates and Morton will come to seduce. But do these letters really exist and what scandalous information about Juliana and Aspern will they bring to the surface?

Who’s in it?

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (The Tudors) is joined by Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and her real-life mother Vanessa Redgrave.

What did the reviews say?

The Aspern Papers will be released later this year.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody

What’s it about?

The movie chronicles British rock band Queen from 1970, when Mercury teamed with Brian May and Roger Taylor, until the band’s performance at Live Aid in 1985, six years before the singer died of complications from AIDS.

Who’s in it?

Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) stars as Freddie Mercury, alongside Ben Hardy (EastEnders) as drummer Roger Taylor, Gwilym Lee (Midsomer Murders) as lead guitarist Brian May, and Joe Mazzello (Jurassic Park) as bass guitarist John “Deacy” Deacon. Downton Abbey star Allen Leech plays Mercury’s personal manager, Paul Prenter.

What did the reviews say?

Bohemian Rhapsody is set for release on 25th December.

 

The Bookshop

What’s it about?

Based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, this is the story of a woman who decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop in a small town in 1959 England, a decision which becomes a political minefield.

Who’s in it?

Emily Mortimer (The Newsroom) is joined by Patricia Clarkson (Six Feet Under) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually).

What did the reviews say?

“Nighy and Mortimer … sink gratifyingly into the nuances of this incipient friendship, bond over books you actually believe they’ve read, and give the film its best hope of doing Fitzgerald justice. ” – The Telegraph

“Its subversive undercurrent, embodied in fine performances by Emily Mortimer and Bill Nighy, is what makes it really interesting.” – Hollywood Reporter

 

Christopher Robin

What’s it about?

Not to be confused with last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin, Disney’s fantasy comedy-drama film is inspired by A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books and is directed by Finding Neverland‘s Marc Forster.

The movie tells the story of an adult Christopher Robin, who is now all grown up and has lost all sense of imagination. Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood re-enter Christopher’s life to help him find it again.

Who’s in it?

Joining Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin are Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael and Mark Gatiss, with additional voicework by Jim Cummings, Chris O’Dowd, Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi and Sophie Okonedo.

What did the reviews say?

“Has a charming, low-key vibe that is, here and there, brushed with just a trace of adult melancholy. It’s good for kids, but maybe even better for adults who could use a little calming something.” – Time Magazine

“Disney’s new take on the Winnie the Pooh property is a gentle, melancholic reminder that we should all relax once in a while.” – The Atlantic

 

Colette

What’s it about?

Based upon the life of the famous French novelist, this biographical drama tells the story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a young woman from a country village who was pushed by her husband to write novels under his name.

When the books become a success in early 20th century Paris, Colette fights for creative ownership and defies gender roles as she overcome societal constraints.

Who’s in it?

Keira Knightley plays Colette, joined by Dominic West (The Hour) and Eleanor Tomlinson, best known as Demelza from the BBC’s Poldark.

What did the reviews say?

Colette will be released on 21st September.

 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

What’s it about?

Following on from 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Harry Potter fans will see more of J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World as the story moves from 1920s New York to London.

In an effort to thwart dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore enlists Newt Scamander, his former Hogwarts student, who agrees to help once again, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead.

Who’s in it?

Eddie Redmayne is back as Newt, alongside returning co-stars Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol and Ezra Miller. The film also introduces Jude Law as the young Dumbledore.

What did the reviews say?

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out on 16th November.

 

The Favourite

What’s it about?

Set in the early 18th century, the latest surreal film from The Killing of a Sacred Deer director Yorgos Lanthimos finds the frail Queen Anne on the throne while her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper.

When a new servant Abigail arrives, Sarah takes her under her wing, as Abigail forms a burgeoning friendship with the Queen.

Who’s in it?

The Favourite stars Olivia Colman (The Crown), Emma Stone (La La Land), Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock).

What did the reviews say?

The Favourite arrives in US cinemas on 23rd November and will be released in the UK on 1st January 2019.

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

What’s it about?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire director Mike Newell adapts Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s 2008 historical novel.

The story sees journalist Juliet Ashton become intrigued by a secret book society established during the German occupation of the Channel Islands during World War 2.

Who’s in it?

Four Downton Abbey stars are reunited here, with Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil), Lily James (Lady Rose), Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot) and Penelope Wilton (Isobel Crawley) all appearing.

The cast also includes Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), Katherine Parkinson (The IT Crowd) and Tom Courtenay (Little Dorrit).

What did the reviews say?

“Equal parts comedy, travelogue and whodunit, rigged around wartime flashbacks and an urban-rural love triangle. ” – The Telegraph

“Lily James dominates, juggling empathetic warmth and restless conflict with real poise, and the ensemble support is consistently good (not least from Kit Connor as Eben’s grandson Eli).” – Evening Standard

 

The Happy Prince

What’s it about?

Written and directed by Rupert Everett, The Happy Prince is a portrait of the dark side of a genius who lived and died for love in the last days of the nineteenth century.

In a cheap Parisian hotel room Oscar Wilde lies on his death bed and the past floods back, transporting him to other times and places. From Dieppe to Naples to Paris freedom is elusive and Oscar is a penniless vagabond, always moving on, shunned by his old acquaintance, but revered by a strange group of outlaws and urchins to whom he tells the old stories – his incomparable wit still sharp.

Who’s in it?

Rupert Everett plays Oscar Wilde, alongside Colin Firth (Pride & Prejudice), Colin Morgan (Merlin), Edwin Thomas (Endeavour) and Emily Watson (The Theory of Everything).

What did the reviews say?

“This poignant dramatisation of Wilde’s final years in exile is a powerful parable of passion and redemption” – The Guardian

The Happy Prince proves that a film can be both bleak and warm-spirited, as befits its mighty subject.” – Vulture

 

Hurricane

What’s it about?

This World War II movie is the true story of the Polish fliers who found themselves fighting for the freedom of their own country by flying Hurricanes for the RAF over Britain in the summer of 1940.

Told through the eyes of fighter ace and adventurer Jan Zumbach, Hurricane tells how the Poles made their heroic last stand.

Who’s in it?

The cast includes Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), Milo Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Stephanie Martini (Prime Suspect 1973) and Marcin Dorocinski (Anthropoid).

What did the reviews say?

“Perhaps partly inspired by the success of Dunkirk, this … contains the required guns blazing and handsome chaps being heroic, stoic and panic-stricken.” – The Guardian

“It’s not the highest-budget film and some of the effects work is somewhat limited, but what [the director] achieves with his budget and the emotion of the story transcends any limitations.” – WhatCulture

 

Journey’s End

What’s it about?

Set over 4 days in March 1918 in the trenches on the front line, a small group of soldiers wait to be bombarded by enemy artillery, anticipating certain death.

Journey’s End charts the tension and claustrophobia of the officers’ dug-out as new recruit, 18-year-old Lieutenant Raleigh joins the Company commanded by 20 year old Captain Stanhope, his former childhood friend and hero, who has changed almost beyond recognition.

Who’s in it?

The movie’s cast includes Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Paul Bettany, Tom Sturridge and Toby Jones.

What did the reviews say?

“An outstanding cast savours performing a play that has stood the test of time. Avoiding sentimentality, this is a valuable rejoinder to those who would sugar-coat mass slaughter.” – Empire

“Written at a time when many hoped and believed there would — indeed must — never be another global conflagration like the one portrayed, Journey’s End retains its poignancy in illustrating how no war casualty is a mere statistic.” – Variety

 

The Little Stranger

What’s it about?

This Gothic supernatural drama from the director of Room is based on the 2009 novel of same name by Sarah Waters.

Set in the late 1940s, The Little Stranger tells the story of Dr Faraday, who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. When he is called to a patient at the crumbling Hundreds Hall, where his mother once worked as a housemaid, he finds its inhabitants – mother, son and daughter – haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life.

Who’s in it?

Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Ruth Wilson (Luther) lead the cast, alongside Will Poulter (The Revenant) and Charlotte Rampling (Broadchurch).

What did the reviews say?

“The performers, particularly Gleeson, keep The Little Stranger from feeling easy to figure out … the entire film has the sense of something being profoundly, and mercifully, upended; the result is engrossing, satisfying, and more than a little heartbreaking.” – The Atlantic

“As a comment on shifting post-war class dynamics, The Little Stranger is strong. But as a meditation on how class dynamics shape the emotions of the people who live with them, it’s stellar — especially because it’s cleverly couched in the machinations of a modern ghost story.” – Vox

 

Mary Poppins Returns

What’s it about?

54 years after the classic original Mary Poppins movie, Mary Poppins Returns is set in 1930s London, quarter of a century after the events of the first film.

Jane and Michael Banks are now adults, with Michael still living on Cherry Tree Lane. He lives there with his three children and housekeeper Ellen. When Michael suffers a personal loss, Mary Poppins comes back to the Banks family with street lamplighter Jack and eccentric cousin Topsy.

Who’s in it?

Joining Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins are Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and Angela Lansbury. Original Mary Poppins star Dick Van Dyke will also be back.

What did the reviews say?

Mary Poppins returns on Christmas Day 2018.

 

Mary Queen of Scots

What’s it about?

From the creator of Netflix’s House of Cards, this historical drama film is based on John Guy’s biography My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots.

The movie explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart. Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I.

Who’s in it?

Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) stars as the titular Mary, alongside Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Jack Lowden, Martin Compston, Joe Alwyn, Guy Pearce and Downton Abbey‘s Brendan Coyle.

What did the reviews say?

Mary Queen of Scots will be released on 2nd November.

 

Mary Shelley

What’s it about?

The true story of the passionate and tumultuous love affair between the brilliant Mary Wollstonecraft and the dangerously charismatic poet Percy Shelley, which inspired Mary, at age 18, to write the groundbreaking classic Frankenstein.

Who’s in it?

Elle Fanning stars as the eponymous author, alongside Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Douglas Booth (Great Expectations) and Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey).

What did the reviews say?

“Throughout there’s a debate over the efficacy of an open relationship and there’s a loose, freewheeling attitude towards sexuality. But … there’s an overwhelming politeness, an awareness that this will be aimed at an audience who still prefer their costume dramas to be family-friendly.” – The Guardian

 

The Mercy

What’s it about?

From the director of The Theory of Everything, this is the incredible true story of amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, who competed in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race in the hope of becoming the first person in history to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe without stopping.

With an unfinished boat and his business and house on the line, Donald embarks on a dangerous solo voyage while his wife Clare and their family await his return.

Who’s in it?

Colin Firth (Pride & Prejudice) and Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel) lead the cast as Donald and Clare Crowhurst, with a supporting cast that includes David Thewlis (Harry Potter), Ken Stott (The Missing), Jonathan Bailey (Broadchurch) and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock).

What did the reviews say?

“Colin Firth’s best performance in years.” – The Telegraph

“Despite the hint of a stiff-upper-lip kind of reserve, this is astonishingly brutal. And Firth’s performance makes this dark, dark story land.” – Empire

 

On Chesil Beach

What’s it about?

Author Ian McEwan has adapted his 2007 Booker Prize-nominated novella On Chesil Beach as a movie.

Set in the early 1960s, the drama follows young spouses Florence and Edward, who destroy their marriage because of fear of intimate relations.

Who’s in it?

Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle play the lead couple, with a supporting cast that includes Emily Watson, Anne-Marie Duff, Samuel West and Adrian Scarborough.

What did the reviews say?

“What On Chesil Beach gets right is the sheer silly, tragic pointlessness of the virgin-wedding-night business and how disturbing sex was for a generation whose hypocritical elders had withheld information about it. The movie is a muted elegy to emotional waste.” – The Guardian

“A romantic drama that gets so far into the mystique of its era that it takes you somewhere you’ve never been.” – Variety

 

Ophelia

What’s it about?

Based on the Shakespearean character of the same name and the novel by Lisa Klein, the movie reimagines Hamlet as told from Ophelia’s perspective.

A forbidden love blossom when Ophelia, the Queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting capture the attention of Prince Hamlet. As war brews, lust and betrayal begin to tear Elsinore Castle apart from within in.

Who’s in it?

Taking a break from the Star Wars franchise, Daisy Ridley plays Ophelia. She’s joined by Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, Tom Felton and George MacKay.

What did the reviews say?

“Ridley looks the part … but she comes across a bit too passive for the script’s stronger, bolder feminist. Instead, at the very end, the script scraps its attempts to preserve the bones of Shakespeare’s story of machismo gone amok and bluntly rewrites the bloody climax.” – Variety

“…the film looks exquisite, from the costumes and props to the cinematography and camerawork. The level of craft in this film is absolutely off the charts.” – The Guardian

 

Outlaw King

What’s it about?

This historical action drama tells the epic story of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, as he wages a war of liberation against the English occupation of Scotland. Outlaw King focuses on the lead-up to the Battle of Loudoun Hill in 1307.

Director David Mackenzie said: “I’ve always thought of Robert The Bruce’s story as being heroic, although he’s a flawed hero … he gave up everything to set his country free.”

Who’s in it?

Chris Pine (Star Trek) stars as Robert the Bruce, alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Albert Nobbs), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth), Billy Howle (Dunkirk).

What did the reviews say?

Outlaw King will be available to watch on Netflix around the world on 9th November.

 

Peterloo

What’s it about?

Mr. Turner director Mike Leigh returns with a movie based on the Peterloo Massacre of August 1819, in which Manchester cotton industry workers put on a peaceful demonstration protesting for political reform and workers’ voting rights.

When armed soldiers arrived to end the protest, the day turned into a bloodbath as they killed and injured people in the crowd.

Who’s in it?

Rory Kinnear (Skyfall) plays Henry Hunt, a campaigner for equal voting rights between men and women. The cast also includes Maxine Peake (The Village), David Bamber (Rome) and Nico Mirallegro (The Village).

What did the reviews say?

Peterloo will be released in cinemas in November.

 

Robin Hood

What’s it about?

Peaky Blinders director Otto Bathurst’s action-adventure film is a gritty reimagining of the legendary tale of Robin Hood.

Who’s in it?

Taron Egerton leads the cast as Robin Hood, with Jamie Foxx playing Little John, Eve Hewson as Maid Marian, Jamie Dornan as Will Scarlet, Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck.

What did the reviews say?

Robin Hood will be released on 21st November.

 

The Secret of Marrowbone

What’s it about?

From the makers of Spanish horror movie The Orphanage, this spooky thriller is set in 1969.

Four British siblings seek refuge in an old home after the death of their mother, only to discover that the house has another, more sinister, inhabitant.

Who’s in it?

The cast includes George MacKay (Pride), Anya Taylor-Joy (Split), Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) and Kyle Soller (Poldark).

What did the reviews say?

“A solid rather than spectacular creepshow thriller…” – Empire

“Mackay plays the lead with the same mix of ingenuous vulnerability and creepiness he brought to his role as the tormented young fisherman in his breakthrough film, For Those In Peril.” – The Independent

 

Take a look at our list of 2017’s best British period drama movies here.