26 new British period drama movies you need to see in 2020

British period drama fans have another marvellous year at the cinema coming up.

Here, in alphabetical order, are the new British period drama films you need to see in 2020!

Note: Many of these release dates are now likely to be changed due to the ongoing coronavirus sitation.

 

Ammonite

What’s it about?

Kate Winslet (Titanic) plays fossil finder Mary Anning, who is today considered by many scholars as “the greatest fossilist the world has known,” despite her work being widely regarded as a hoax during her lifetime.

Set in 1800s England, Ammonite also stars Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots), Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve), Alec Secareanu (God’s Own Country) and Gemma Jones (Gentleman Jack).

When’s it out?

Ammonite is set to arrive in cinemas in 2020.

 

Blithe Spirit

What’s it about?

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) and Judi Dench (Skyfall) lead the cast of this riotous reimagining of Noël Coward’s classic 1941 comedy.

The plot of Blithe Spirit sees best-selling crime novelist Charles (Dan Stevens) gets more than he bargained for when a medium, recently exposed as a fraud, accidentally summons the spirit of his deceased first wife.

When’s it out?

Blithe Spirit will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 4th September.

 

Death on the Nile

What’s it about?

Kenneth Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot in the sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Based on Agatha Christie’s classic murder mystery novel, Death on the Nile sees Poirot investigate a murder while on a luxury cruise on the Nile River in Egypt.

The all-star cast includes Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name), Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey), Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Annette Bening (American Beauty), Ali Fazal (Victoria & Abdul), Sophie Okonedo (Christopher Robin), Tom Bateman (Vanity Fair), Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous), Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibley) and comedian Russell Brand.

When’s it out?

Death on the Nile sails in to cinemas on 9th October.

Agatha Christie’s novel Death on the Nile is available on Amazon.

 

A Christmas Carol

What’s it about?

Carey Mulligan (Suffragette), Daniel Kaluuya (Black Panther), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings) and Martin Freeman (Sherlock) lead the voice cast of this new animated adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic festive tale.

Co-director David Morris hopes to retell the story “in an innovative way, that faithfully expresses what Dickens was trying to say.”

When’s it out?

A Christmas Carol will be released for Christmas 2020.

 

Emma

What’s it about?

Based on Jane Austen’s classic 1815 novel, this new movie adaptation from the producers of Winston Churchill drama The Darkest Hour stars Peaky Blinders actress Anya Taylor-Joy as the iconic title character.

She’s joined by Bill Nighy (Love Actually), comedian Miranda Hart (Call the Midwife), Josh O’Connor (The Durrells) and Johnny Flynn (Vanity Fair).

What did the reviews say?

Emma reflects the true wit and flair of an Austen novel, elements that are sometimes overlooked or sacrificed for the simple romance of the story. This is an assured adaptation, a vibrant and fresh take on a classic – and an interpretation that could readily be extended to other Austen dramas.” ★★★★ – Flickering Myth

“Anya Taylor-Joy plays our titular heroine with a poise and self-confidence that befits her handsome, clever and rich reputation … This Jane Austen film perfectly encapsulates the power of female friendship.” ★★★★ – Stylist

Jane Austen’s novel Emma is available on Amazon.

 

Enemy Lines

What’s it about?

Set in November 1943, this World War II movie stars John Hannah (Sliding Doors) and Ed Westwick (Gossip Girl).

Enemy Lines follows a British commando squad who’s teamed with an American officer on a covert mission into Poland. Working with the resistance they cross the harsh wilderness intent on kidnapping and extracting a sought-after Polish scientist from the Germans.

When’s it out?

Enemy Lines arrives in cinemas on Friday 24th April.

 

Enola Holmes

What’s it about?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child writer Jack Thorne has adapted Nancy Springer’s book series about the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes.

Set in Victorian London, Enola Holmes stars Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) as the titular young detective, alongside Henry Cavill (Batman vs Superman) as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Claflin (Peaky Blinders) as Mycroft Holmes, and Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown) as their mother Eudoria.

When’s it out?

Enola Holmes will premiere exclusively on Netflix this September.

Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes novels are available on Amazon.

 

Instrumental

What’s it about?

The Theory of Everything director James Marsh adapts the bestselling memoir of English concert pianist James Rhodes, played by Andrew Garfield (Breathe).

Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music reveals how music saved the piano prodigy’s life after he was abused during his time at his all-boys junior school.

When’s it out?

Instrumental will be released in 2020.

James Rhodes’ book Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music is available on Amazon.

 

Ironbark

What’s it about?

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch plays a real-life Cold War spy in this new Cold War thriller movie set in the 1960s, from the director of On Chesil Beach and The Hollow Crown.

Ironbark tells the incredible true story of Greville Wynne, a British businessman who worked with the CIA to penetrate the Soviet nuclear program during the Cold War, providing information that helped end the Cuban Missile Crisis.

When’s it out?

Ironbark will be released in early 2020.

 

The King’s Man

What’s it about?

Rocketman producer Matthew Vaughn returns to direct the third instalment of the (often absolutely insane) Kingsman spy-action movie franchise.

Exploring the espionage organisation’s origins in the early 1900s, The King’s Man stars Ralph Fiennes (Skyfall), Gemma Arterton (Their Finest), Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill), Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey) and Charles Dance (Game of Thrones).

When’s it out?

The King’s Man arrives in cinemas on 18th September.

The first Kingsman movie is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Last Vermeer

What’s it about?

Claes Bang (Dracula), Guy Pearce (A Christmas Carol), and Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread) star in this movie based on the book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez.

The Last Vermeer tells the true story of a painting discovered by a soldier in the aftermath of World War II while going through artifacts left by the Nazis.

When’s it out?

The Last Vermeer will be released in US cinemas from 22nd May.

 

Let Me Count The Ways

What’s it about?

From the makers of Belle, Let Me Count the Ways dramatises the love affair between the Elizabeth Barrett Browning and playwright Robert Browning in the mid-19th century.

The Victorian poet is played by English actress Emilia Clarke, best known as Daenerys in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

When’s it out?

Let Me Count the Ways is set for release in 2020.

 

Louis Wain

What’s it about?

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) plays painter Louis Wain, best known for his artworks featuring anthropomorphized large-eyed cats and kittens.

Louis Wain tells the extraordinary true story of a brilliant man inspired by both his love of the world and the love of his life Emily, played by The Crown star Claire Foy.

When’s it out?

Louis Wain will be released in 2020.

 

Medieval

What’s it about?

Historical action-drama Medieval tells the story of 14th century Czech national hero and revered military tactician Jan Zizka, who defeated armies of the Teutonic Order and the Holy Roman Empire.

Joining Ben Foster as Zizka are Sir Michael Caine and Narnia star William Moseley.

When’s it out?

Medieval will be released in 2020.

 

Misbehaviour

What’s it about?

Based on real events, Misbehaviour dramatises the story of the feminist activists who invaded the Miss World pageant in London in 1970.

Keira Knightley leads the cast, alongside Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle), Jessie Buckley (War & Peace), Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Lesley Manville (World on Fire), Keeley Hawes (The Durrells), Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) and Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey).

What did the reviews say?

“Far from upsetting, this is a feelgood film, in the end, that British speciality. Nevertheless, it’s a useful reminder of a defining early battle for the feminist movement.” ★★★★ – Evening Standard

“Putting all quibbling aside, it has to be acknowledged that the film delivers with quips, japes and deliciously ugly vintage prints throughout in the costuming, with lashings of girl-empowerment sisterly bonding to drive it all home.” – Variety

 

Mr Jones

What’s it about?

Based on the true life-or-death journey that inspired George Orwell to write Animal Farm, this dramatic thriller tells the story of a British investigative journalist who travels deep into the Soviet Union to uncover an international conspiracy in 1933.

The all-star cast of Mr Jones includes James Norton (Grantchester), Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), Peter Sarsgaard (The Killing) and Fenella Woolgar (Call the Midwife).

What did the reviews say?

“…a stirring, at times vividly inventive piece of film-making that strikes a note of warning about the risks of fake news … A subplot about George Orwell is perhaps surplus to requirements, but otherwise the film is a striking, efficient political thriller.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“[James] Norton is wonderful as diffident Welsh diplomat Gareth Jones … The film is stodgy in places, but its heart and its eyes are in the right place.” ★★★ – Evening Standard

 

1917

What’s it about?

Skyfall director Sam Mendes’ new World War I movie 1917 has been filmed as one continuous shot.

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay from The Secret of Marrowbone) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman from Game of Thrones) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers— Blake’s own brother among them.

The cast also includes Colin Firth (Pride & Prejudice), Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), with Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott.

What did the reviews say?

“Almost everything you’ve ever seen in a war film is here. But never quite like this. It is very much a stylistic exercise, but if you’re going to do that, you have to really go for it. And 1917 really, really goes for it … it’s an astonishing piece of filmmaking, portraying war with enormous panache.” ★★★★ – Empire

“Directed by Sam Mendes, a lot has been made of the technical choice to shoot the movie as though it’s one continuous two-hour shot. But all that actually matters is that 1917 is really, really good. Tense, powerful and breathtaking, 1917 is a visceral movie you won’t forget in a hurry.” ★★★★★ – Digital Spy

 

Operation Mincemeat

What’s it about?

Set in 1943, this World War II movie from the makers of The King’s Speech stars Colin Firth (Pride & Prejudice), Matthew Macfadyen (Ripper Street) and Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey).

The story follows two brilliant intelligence officers who conceived a plan to trick the Nazis that was dubbed Operation Mincemeat.

When’s it out?

Operation Mincemeat is expected to arrive in cinemas in late 2020.

Ben McIntyre’s book Operation Mincemeat is available on Amazon.

 

The Personal History of David Copperfield

What’s it about?

Dev Patel (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) stars as David Copperfield in this “fresh and distinctive take” on Charles Dickens’ masterpiece from The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci.

Set in 1840s London, The Personal History of David Copperfield also features Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw and Gwendoline Christie.

What did the reviews say?

“Armando Iannucci’s rollicking farce keeps the spirit of Dickens intact.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

“It really is a wonderfully entertaining film, managing to both respect and reinvent the novel from which it takes its lead, creating something new and exciting in the process … Armando Iannucci both respects and reinvents the novel in a wonderfully entertaining adaptation full to bursting with fantastic comic performances.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian

Charles Dickens’ novel David Copperfield is available on Amazon.

 

Rebecca

What’s it about?

Adapted by Jane Goldman (The Woman in Black), this new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic romantic Gothic thriller stars Lily James (Downton Abbey), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) and Keeley Hawes (The Durrells).

Rebecca tells the story of a newly-married young woman who, on arriving at her husband’s imposing family estate on a bleak English coast, finds herself battling the shadow of his dead first wife, the mysterious Rebecca, whose legacy continues to haunt the house.

When’s it out?

Rebecca is expected to premiere on Netflix in early 2020.

Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca is available on Amazon.

 

Resistance

What’s it about?

Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) stars in this compelling drama about a group of unsung heroes who put themselves in harm’s way to rise above hatred and oppression during World War II.

Based on the inspiring true story, Resistance tells the story of aspiring Jewish actor Marcel Mangel, before he became the world-famous mime Marcel Marceau.

When’s it out?

Resistance is out in US cinemas and on demand on 27th March.

 

The Secret Garden

What’s it about?

Colin Firth (Pride & Prejudice) and Julie Walters (Mamma Mia) star in this new family movie from the producer of Harry Potter, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic 1910 novel.

The Secret Garden tells the story of an unloved 10-year-old girl who is sent back to England to live with her uncle in his remote manor house, where she discovers a wondrous secret garden with her cousin.

When’s it out?

The Secret Garden will be released in cinemas on Friday 23rd August in the UK and is available to watch on in the US on Premium Video on Demand from Friday 7th August.

 

A Special Relationship

What’s it about?

Rachel Weisz (The Favourite) plays Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor in this biopic about the Oscar-winning star’s journey from actress to activist.

A Special Relationship comes from the makers of The King’s Speech, with a screenplay by Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy.

The movie is described as “a celebration of how friendships can change people’s lives, and how Elizabeth helped change the world.”

When’s it out?

A Special Relationship will be released in late 2020.

 

Stardust

What’s it about?

In 1971, a 24 year old David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) embarks on his first road trip to America with struggling publicist Ron Oberman (Marc Maron), only to be met with a world not yet ready for him.

Stardust offers a glimpse behind the curtain of the moments that inspired the creation of Bowie’s first and most memorable alter ego Ziggy Stardust, capturing the turning point that cemented his career as one of the world’s greatest cultural icons.

When’s it out?

Stardust is expected to arrive in cinemas in early 2020.

 

The True History of the Kelly Gang

What’s it about?

Adapted from Peter Carey’s novel, True History of the Kelly Gang stars George McKay (1917) as Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.

The cast also includes Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Essie Davies (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien) and Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword).

What did the reviews say?

“It is a very gruelling spectacle, often brilliant, sometimes slightly redundant and perhaps not able to maintain the storytelling rush of its first act. But it is always weirdly plausible in its pure strangeness … To watch it, you have to brace for impact.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“After multiple failed attempts to capture the legend of Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly on film, Justin Kurzel’s enthralling, unruly vision finally gets it right.” – Variety

 

An Unquiet Life

What’s it about?

Based on Stephen Michael Shearer’s An Unquiet Life, this movie stars Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as Roald Dahl in the early 1960s as the British children’s author struggles to write some of his most famous works.

The story focuses on Dahl’s marriage to American actress Patricia Neal, played by The Durrells star Keeley Hawes.

When’s it out?

An Unquiet Life will be released later in 2020.

 

Take a look at our list of 2019’s best British period drama movies here.