12 family-friendly British period drama movies to watch with kids

Looking for a British period drama movie to watch with your children or grandchildren?

Here’s a selection of some of our favourites, listed in alphabetical order.

We’ve also included the British Board of Film Classification ratings to help you decide if the movie is suitable for the age group that will be watching.

U means ‘Universal – Suitable for all’. The BBFC says: “A U film should be suitable for audiences aged four years and over, although it is impossible to predict what might upset any particular child. U films should be set within a positive framework and should offer reassuring counterbalances to any violence, threat or horror.”

PG means ‘Parental Guidance’. The BBFC says: “General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children. A PG film should not unsettle a child aged around eight or older. Unaccompanied children of any age may watch, but parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children.”

 

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (rated PG)

Disney’s British musical fantasy film from 1971 stars Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote) and David Tomlinson (Mary Poppins).

The story follows an apprentice witch and three evacuees during World War II as they search for a missing spell book that might defeat the Nazis.

 

Black Beauty (rated U)

This 1994 movie stars Andrew Knott (The Secret Garden), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Sean Bean (Sharpe) and David Thewlis (Harry Potter).

Adapted from Anna Sewell’s beloved 1877 novel, Black Beauty tells the story of a horse’s life in the English countryside.

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (rated U)

Children’s author Roald Dahl adapted James Bond writer Ian Fleming’s 1964 novel for this 1968 British musical adventure fantasy film, starring Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins), Sally Ann Howes (Brigadoon) and Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger).

Brother and sister Jeremy and Jemima meet the lovely Truly Scrumptious, who falls in love with their widowed inventor father. One day at the beach, he tells Truly and the kids a story involving the family car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

 

Five Children and It (rated U)

Based on English author E. Nesbit’s 1902 novel, this 2004 movie stars Tara FitzGerald (Game of Thrones), Alex Jennings (The Lady in the Van), Zoë Wanamaker (Mr Selfridge) and Kenneth Branagh (Murder on the Orient Express, alongside a young Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) and the voice of British comedian Eddie Izzard.

A group of children are sent to stay at their uncle’s house when their father goes off to fight in World War I, where they discover a sand fairy called “It” who can grant wishes.

 

Goodnight Mr Tom (rated PG)

Inspector Morse actor John Thaw starred in this TV movie adaptation of English author Michelle Magorian’s novel in 1998.

Set in 1939, the story sees a timid World War II evacuee from London form a heart-warming bond with the grumpy old man he is reluctantly housed by in the countryside.

 

Hugo (rated U)

Directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, this 2011 historical adventure drama film is based on Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret and features a host of British stars, including Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen,  Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee and Jude Law.

Lonely orphan Hugo Cabret lives hidden away in a 1930s train station, where he teams up with the goddaughter of a sour old toy seller to solve the mystery of a broken automaton left to him by his late father.

 

Mary Poppins (rated U)

Disney’s timeless musical classic was originally released in 1964, but still remains the ultimate British family movie.

In Edwardian London in 1910, the Banks family welcome the magical Mary Poppins, into their lives and the two children embark on a series of fun adventures with their new nanny and her Cockney friend Bert.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (rated PG)

Based on the first published novel in C. S. Lewis’s series of epic fantasy novels, this 2005 movie features Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin), James McAvoy (X-Men), Jim Broadbent (Bridget Jones) and Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) amongst its adult cast.

Four English siblings are evacuated to a country house for their safety from the bombing of London in World War II, where they discover a magical world called Narnia through the back of a wardrobe.

The film was followed by two sequels, Prince Caspian (2008) and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

 

Oliver! (rated PG)

This big screen adaptation of Lionel Bart’s much-loved Broadway musical, based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, was nominated for an incredible eleven Academy Awards at the 1968 Oscars, winning six.

9-year-old orphan Oliver Twist is taken in by a gang of pickpockets on the streets of London in the early 19th Century, where he meets the cheeky Artful Dodger, crime leader Fagin and the villainous henchman Bill Sikes.

 

The Railway Children (rated U)

Launching the career of Call the Midwife star Jenny Agutter, this 1970 movie is based on E. Nesbit’s novel, originally published in 1905.

When their father falsely imprisoned in Edwardian London, the three Waterbury children and their mother go to live in small house by a railway station.

 

Swallows and Amazons (rated U)

Arthur Ransome’s 1930 children’s novel was brought to the screen in 2016 with this family adventure movie, starring Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Rafe Spall (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Kelly Macdonald (Gosford Park), Jessica Hynes (Up the Women) and comedian Harry Enfield.

Four children on summer holiday in the Lake District in the 1930s go camping and realise that two other children have also set up camp on the same island.

 

Tom’s Midnight Garden (rated PG)

Based on the novel Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, this 1999 movie stars Joan Plowright (Jane Eyre), Liz Smith (The Vicar of Dibley), David Bradley (Harry Potter) and Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey).

While his brother recovers from measles at home, teenager Tom Long goes to live with an uncle and aunt, where he discovers a mysterious garden paradise when the clock strikes thirteen at midnight.