32 new British period drama movies to watch in 2021

Movie-loving British period drama fans have a busy year coming up.

With cinemas kept closed for the majority of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, many exciting titles had their release dates postponed, resulting in a year that’s set to be jam-packed with new films to watch.

Here, in alphabetical order, are all the new British historical and period drama movies you need to see in 2021!

(While we’ll attempt to keep this list as up to date as possible, some release dates are still subject to last-minute changes and further delays.)

You can also take a look at out our epic preview of this year’s British period drama TV series too.

 

Against the Ice

What is about?

Based on Danish novel Two Against the Ice by Ejnar Mikkelsen, this true survival story of friendship, love and the awe-inspiring power of companionship is set in Greenland in the 1909.

Against the Ice stars Heida Reed (Poldark), Charles Dance (The Crown), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones), and Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders).

Battling extreme hunger, fatigue and a polar bear attack, Denmark’s Alabama Expedition find their ship crushed in the ice and the camp abandoned. Hoping to be rescued, they must fight to stay alive.

When’s it out?

Against the Ice will premiere exclusively on Netflix around the world later this year.

Ejnar Mikkelsen’s novel Two Against the Ice is available on Amazon.

 

The Amazing Mr Blunden

What’s it about?

Based on Antonia Barber’s novel The Ghosts, Sky’s TV movie has been adapted by Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss.

Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a  Funeral) leads the cast as Mr Blunden, alongside Gatiss and Tamsin Greig (Belgravia).

Writer and director Mark Gatiss promises “a costume drama with a time-travelling twist, sary villains, melancholy, laughter and joy.”

When’s it out?

The Amazing Mr Blunden will premiere on Sky in the UK this Christmas.

Antonia Barber’s novel The Ghosts is available on Amazon.

 

The Banishing

What’s it about?

Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Sean Harris (Jamaica Inn), John Lynch (The Fall), and John Heffernan (Dickensian) star in this haunted house movie set in rural England in the 1930s.

The Banishing tells the true story of a young reverend, his wife and daughter who move into a manor with a horrifying secret.

What did the reviews say?

“It all gets very silly, and there’s a naff go-nowhere storyline involving Nazis. But Brown Findlay holds it together with her performance of Marianne as the sort of woman who marches no-nonsense into the dark basement brandishing a torch to take on the ghosts of mad monks.” ★★★ – The Guardian

“Everyone seems to be having oodles of fun making a proper, old fashioned British period chiller. It’s The Turning of the Screw via The Woman In Black, The Haunting of Hill House and one of the creepier episodes of classic Doctor Who, and it’s enjoyable enough in a campfire ghost-story sort of way.” – Hey U Guys

 

Belfast

What’s it about?

Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), Judi Dench (Skyfall), and Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey) star in this poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood.

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh, Belfast is set amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s in Northern Ireland.

What did the reviews say?

“There is a terrific warmth and tenderness to Kenneth Branagh’s elegiac, autobiographical movie about the Belfast of his childhood: spryly written, beautifully acted and shot in a lustrous monochrome, with set pieces, madeleines and epiphanies that feel like a more emollient version of Terence Davies.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian

“It’s a film of formal beauty, letter-perfect performances, complex and textured writing (also from Branagh) and enough comedic one-liners and Van Morrison musical montages to make you forget that you’re watching a drama about seething sectarian hatreds. It will nab an easy best picture Oscar nomination next year.” ★★★★★ – The Times

 

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.

What did the reviews say?

“What makes the film tick, when it ticks, is a charmingly deranged lead performance from Dan Stevens…” – Empire

Blithe Spirit is a bit of forgettable fun…” – Mashable

 

Burial

What’s it about?

Set in the last days of World War II, this is the fictional story of a small band of Russian soldiers, led by intelligence officer Brana Vasilyeva ( Charlotte Vega), tasked with trafficking the remains of Hitler back to Stalin in Russia.

En route, the unit is attacked by German ‘Werwolf’ partisans and picked off one-by-one. Brana leads her surviving comrades in a last stand to ensure their ‘cargo’ doesn’t fall into the hands of those who would see it buried, in order to hide the truth forever.

Burial also stars Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Bill Milner (Dunkirk), and Harriet Walter (Downton Abbey).

When’s it out?

Burial will be released in cinemas later this year.

 

The Colour Room

What’s it about?

The Colour Room is based on the rise to fame of legendary Stoke-on-Trent ceramic artist Clarice Cliff, from her beginning as a vivacious young factory worker in the industrial British midlands of the 1920s.

The movie follows the journey of a determined, working class woman as she breaks the glass ceiling and revolutionises the workplace in the 20th century.

The cast includes Phoebe Dynevor (Bridgerton), Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Luke Norris (Poldark), David Morrissey (The Singapore Grip), and Kerry Fox (Shallow Grave).

When’s it out?

The Colour Room will premiere in the UK on Sky Cinema in November.

 

The Courier

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.

Previously titled Ironbark, The Courier 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.

What did the reviews say?

“Even though espionage buffs may find some of the genre tropes familiar, The Courier is an enjoyable old-fashioned thriller that does not need to exaggerate to impress.” – Times of India

“Cumberbatch is terrific, but the real attraction here is the great Georgian actor Ninidze … The Courier is a serviceable espionage drama and history lesson, but whenever these two actors are onscreen together, it approaches the sublime.” – Vulture

 

Cruella

What’s it about?

Emma Stone (La La Land) and Emma Thompson (Sense & Sensibility) star in Disney’s live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of Cruella de Vil, the iconic villain from 101 Dalmations.

Set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, Cruella features incredible costumes by Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan (A Room with a View).

What did the reviews say?

“With killer looks, propulsive filmmaking, and stellar turns from Emmas Stone and Thompson, Cruella is a Spring/Summer ’21 treat.” ★★★★ – Empire

“…it’s hands-down Disney’s best and punchiest prequel yet, one whose playful perils make for a deliciously rowdy ride.” ★★★★ – Total Film

 

The Dig

What’s it about?

Adapted from the 2007 novel by John Preston, this new Netflix movie stars Carey Mulligan (Suffragette), Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), and Lily James (Downton Abbey).

Set in England in 1939, as World War II approaches, The Dig tells the story of the most famous archaeological dig in modern British history – the discovery of the Anglo-Saxon burial ship at Sutton Hoo, known as “Britain’s Tutankhamun.”

What did the reviews say?

“Ralph Fiennes’s Sutton Hoo drama is a beautiful, heartfelt period tale … Fiennes, Carey Mulligan and a roguish Johnny Flynn bring this Thirties-set tale of intellectual and romantic passion to life.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

“…it is a thoroughly enjoyable film made with subtlety and sensitivity: a real tonic for these bleak winter days and nights. It lacks the emotional and intellectual heft and bite to make it an unmissable, classic movie, but I would happily watch it again, and again.” ★★★★ – BBC

 

Edge of the World

What’s it about?

Edge of the World tells the epic tale of Sir James Brooke, the British adventurer who became King of Sarawak in the 1840’s and embarked on a lifelong crusade to end piracy and head-hunting – only to face charges of murder and piracy himself.

The movie stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, Vikings) as Brooke, alongside Lord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan.

What did the reviews say?

“If the film can’t help but feel like a relic from a bygone era, that’s ultimately part of its appeal — the sun may have finally set on the British Empire, but at least it hasn’t yet set on this mode of storytelling.” – Variety

“This is a film that is striving to be a classic swashbuckler, a lyrical mediation on exploration and identity and a knowingly modern commentary on a deplorable but significant era in world history … While it might not knock it out of the park, Edge of the World is still a very solid watch if a little slow-going…” – The Mercury News

 

The Electrical Life of 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.

The Electrical Life of 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?

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain will be released in 2021.

 

The Furnace

What’s it about?

David Wenham (The Lord of The Rings) stars in this tense Western set in the 1890s gold rush of Western Australia.

To escape a harsh existence and return home, a young Afghan cameleer partners with a mysterious bushman on the run with two 400oz Crown-marked gold bars. Together the unlikely pair must outwit a zealous police sergeant and his troopers in a race to reach a secret furnace where they can safely reset the bars to remove the mark of the Crown.

What did the reviews say?

“Brutish western is tough as old leather and good as gold … Roderick MacKay’s drama about ‘cameleers’ in western Australia is as unadorned as cow hide – see it on a wide screen if you can.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“An enjoyably absorbing experience.” – Variety

 

The Green Knight

What’s it about?

Dev Patel (The Personal History of David Copperfield), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), and Joel Edgerton (The King) star in this “fresh and bold spin on a classic tale from the knights of the round table.”

The Green Knight is based on the timeless Arthurian legend and tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men.

What did the reviews say?

“One of the best films ever adapted from Arthurian lore…” ★★★★ – Den of Geek

“David Lowery’s The Green Knight is a dreamy mood piece that retells the classic hero’s journey as a hypnotic tale steeped in dark magic and supernatural horror … his new film slows down the action of a typical Camelot tale to deliver something richer, more thoughtful, yet laced with chivalric exploits and bizarre encounters.” – Hollywood Reporter

 

High Ground

What’s it about?

The Mentalist actor Simon Baker stars in this frontier western set in 1930s Australia.

High Ground explores the nature of loyalty and the ability to distinguish freely between right and wrong, in opposition to the dogmas of the age in which you live.

What did the reviews say?

“Covering a violent chapter of colonial history, Stephen Maxwell Johnson’s Australian western excavates ugly truths beneath lush lensing.” – Variety

High Ground never comes close to matching the bittersweet majesty of Sweet Country or the painful polemic of The Nightingale – but it’s well made and directed gracefully, offsetting hard-hitting sequences with handsome production values.” ★★★ – The Guardian

 

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?

Following multiple release date changes, The King’s Man will finally arrive in cinemas in December.

The first Kingsman movie is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Last Duel

What’s it about?

Written by Good Will Hunting writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, this new historical movie from director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) sees King Charles VI declare that knight Jean de Carrouges must take part in single combat fight to the death against his squire Jacques LeGris in 14th century France.

The cast of The Last Duel includes Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer (Killing Eve), Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game), Harriet Walter (Downton Abbey), and Ben Affleck as King Charles VI.

What did the review say?

“Jodie Comer confirms she is a bona fide film star … the Killing Eve actress is the glue that holds Ridley Scott’s historical epic together.” ★★★★ – The Telegraph

The Last Duel showcases Scott’s range as a director and creates a rich and vivid character for Jean; even if it runs out of steam midway through, the film nonetheless marks a valiant effort from a filmmaker who appears ever willing to explore new terrain.” – The Wrap

 

Last Night in Soho

What’s it about?

Anya Taylor-Joy (Peaky Blinders), Matt Smith (The Crown), Diana Rigg (Victoria), and Terence Stamp (Superman II) star in Last Night in Soho, a psychological thriller from Shawn of the Dead director Edgar Wright.

Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer, Sandie. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.

What did the reviews say?

“Edgar Wright’s time-travel film plays like a 60s pop song building towards a big climax … a gaudy romp that’s stupidly enjoyable.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“Leave it to Edgar Wright to play with genre expectations and deliver yet another delightfully off-kilter thriller that also thrills with its undeniably trippy atmosphere and blast to the past of swinging 60’s London.” – Deadline

 

The Last Letter from Your Love

What’s it about?

Based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes, The Last Letter from Your Love is a passionate, dual-narrative love story set in the French Riviera and London during the 1960s and present day.

The romantic drama stars Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Shailene Woodley (Big Little Lies), Callum Turner (Emma), Nabhaan Rizwan (1917), and Joe Alwyn (The Favourite).

What did the reviews say?

“Though Woodley and Turner are suitably poised and sincere, there’s something refreshing about the giddy and bashful candidness of Jones’s performance … It’s not only adorable, it’s a reminder that swooning love stories don’t always need to be told through a rose-tinted lens.” ★★★ – The Independent

“There’s more style than sparks in this adaptation of Jojo Moyes’s novel poised between present-day London and 60s French Riviera.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

Jojo Moyes’ The Last Letter from Your Love novel is available on Amazon.

 

The Mezzotint

What’s it about?

Based on M.R. James’ 1904 story, The Mezzotint has been adapted by Mark Gatiss (Sherlock, Dracula).

The 30-minute short film‘s cast includes Rory Kinnear (Skyfall), Robert Bathurst (Downton Abbey), Frances Barber (Doctor Who), and Nikesh Patel (Indian Summers).

It’s 1922 and in the heart of an old English college, Edward Williams receives an engraving of an unknown country house. An imposing facade. A sweeping lawn. And, just perhaps, something else…?

When’s it out?

The Mezzotint will premiere on BBC Two in the UK this Christmas.

 

The Most Reluctant Convert

What’s it about?

C.S. Lewis looks back on his remarkable journey from hard-boiled atheist to the most renowned Christian writer of the past century.

All Creatures Great and Small star Nicholas Ralph plays the young Narnia author in this biopic from Shadowlands director Norman Stone.

When’s it out?

The Most Reluctant Convert: The Untold Story of C.S. Lewis will have a limited release in cinemas on 3rd November.

 

Mothering Sunday

What’s it about?

Based on Graham Swift’s acclaimed novel, this romantic drama stars Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Josh O’Connor (The Durrells), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), and newcomer Odessa Young.

Mothering Sunday begins on an unseasonably warm spring day in 1924 when twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild, a maid at an English country house, meets with her secret lover, the young heir of a neighboring estate.

He is about to be married to a woman more befitting his social status, and the time has come to end the affair—but events unfold in ways Jane could never have predicted.

When’s it out?

Mothering Sunday arrives in cinemas in November.

 

Munich

What’s it about?

Set in the autumn of 1938 as Europe stands on the brink of the Second World War, Munich is based on Robert Harris’s bestselling 2017 novel.

Jeremy Irons leads the cast of Netflix’s historical thriller as British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, alongside George McKay (1917), Robert Bathurst (Downton Abbey), and Erin Doherty (The Crown).

When’s it out?

Munich is expected to premiere exclusively on Netflix later this year.

Robert Harris’s book is available on Amazon.

 

My Name is Leon

What’s it about?

Based on Kit de Waal’s novel, the BBC’s one-off TV movie set in 1980s Britain stars Malachi Kirby (Small Axe), Monica Dolan (A Very English Scandal), Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense), Christopher Eccleston (The A Word), and Sir Lenny Henry (Doctor Who).

My Name is Leon tells the uplifting and incredibly moving story of nine year old Leon, a mixed-race boy whose desire is to keep his family together, as his single-parent mother suffers a devastating breakdown.

When will it air?

My Name is Leon will air on BBC One in the UK in 2021.

Kit de Waal’s novel is available on Amazon.

 

My Policeman

What’s it about?

Emma Corrin (The Crown) stars alongside One Direction singer Harry Styles in this romantic movie set in 1950s Brighton, based on Bethan Roberts’ novel My Policeman.

Inspired by the life of E.M. Forster and his relationship with his long-time companion Bob Buckingham and his wife, Roberts’ 2014 book is being adapted by Oscar-nominated writer Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia).

When’s it out?

My Policeman is expected to arrive in cinemas later in 2021.

Bethan Roberts’ novel My Policeman is available on Amazon.

 

The Nest

What’s it about?

Set in England in 1986, this psychological thriller movie stars Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes), Carrie Coon (Gone Girl), Adeel Akhtar (Victoria & Abdul), and Anne Reid (Sanditon).

An ambitious entrepreneur persuades his American wife to leave the comforts of suburban America and return to his native England. Soon the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage.

What did the reviews say?

“Filled with both passive aggression and aggressive aggression, The Nest has the trappings of a haunted-house movie but delivers something much scarier — the slow death of a marriage, performed to perfection by Jude Law and Carrie Coon.” ★★★★ – Empire

“Jude Law is terrific as a devious City trader who moves his family from New York to a spooky Surrey mansion in this richly atmospheric drama.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

The Nest is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.

 

The Phantom of the Open

What’s it about?

The Phantom of the Open tells the remarkable true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a crane operator who, with the support of his family and friends, managed to gain entry to the 1976 British Open qualifying, despite never playing a round of golf before!

From the writer of Paddington 2, the uplifting comedy-drama stars Mark Rylance (The BFG), Sally Hawkins (Paddington), Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill).

When’s it out?

The Phantom of the Open is released in UK cinemas on Friday 5th November.

Simon Farnaby’s book The Phantom of the Open is available on Amazon.

 

The Power

What’s it about?

Sanditon star Rose Williams leads the cast of this horror movie set in London, 1974.

As Britain prepares for electrical blackouts to sweep across the country, trainee nurse Val (Rose Williams) arrives for her first day at the crumbling East London Royal Infirmary. With most of the patients and staff evacuated to another hospital, Val is forced to work the night shift, finding herself in a dark, near empty building. Within these walls lies a deadly secret, forcing Val to face both her own traumatic past and deepest fears in order to confront the malevolent force that’s intent on destroying everything around her.

What did the reviews say?

“It’s most likely that The Power was made for a low budget, under significant constraints – not helped by finishing post-production during the first UK lockdown, but to [the director]’s credit, her film never looks anything less than a class act.” – Screen Daily

“The film certainly has all the ingredients for an unnerving ghost story and makes some elegant choices with the visual and special effects to form the ominous threat.” – Empire

 

The Reckoning

What’s is about?

This new horror movie set in 1600s England comes from Game of Thrones director Neil Marshall.

After losing her husband during the Great Plague, Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) is unjustly accused of being a witch and placed in the custody of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter, Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee).

What did the review say?

The Reckoning has some powerful moments but relies too heavily on fantasy sequences to deliver scares … Though written and filmed before COVID-19, there are strong parallels with recent events… Dedicated horror hounds will be the main takers when this well-produced item hits theaters.” – Variety

“Shot last year, and written earlier still, it’s hard not to watch The Reckoning and see our own current society reflected back at us. There’s the obvious plague setting, but the witch hunt element is especially relevant … we live in a mob mentality society where some people will get behind an idea even if there is no shred of genuine proof. When you think about it, we’ve really not progressed as a society all that far since the dark ages.” – The Hollywood News

 

Six Minutes to Midnight

What’s it about?

Based on actual events, World War II drama Six Minutes to Midnight stars Judi Dench (Casino Royale), James D’Arcy (Broadchurch), Jim Broadbent (War and Peace), and Eddie Izzard (Victoria & Abdul).

In the summer of 1939, influential families in Nazi Germany have sent their daughters to a finishing school in an English seaside town to learn the language and be ambassadors for a future looking National Socialist. A teacher there sees what is coming and is trying to raise the alarm. But the authorities believe he is the problem.

What did the reviews say?

“There’s a fascinating film — a mix of The Beguiled and Picnic at Hanging Rock — trying to escape from this creaky passion project of Eddie Izzard’s.” ★★ – The Times

“Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent co-star in a peculiar blend of spy thriller and Ealing comedy that wobbles tonally but will keep you smiling.” ★★★ – The Telegraph

 

Spencer

What’s it about?

From director Pablo Larraín (Jackie) and Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight, Spencer stars Kristen Stewart as the late Princess Diana, alongside Poldark actor Jack Farthing as Prince Charles.

December, 1991: The Prince and Princess of Wales’ marriage has long since grown cold. Though rumours of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at Sandringham Estate. This year, things will be a whole lot different.

What did the reviews say?

“Kristen Stewart’s entirely compelling Di has no escape from the dress-up game of monarchy in Pablo Larraín’s unreverential movie … Larraín’s approach to the material is rich and intoxicating and altogether magnificent.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian

“The core of Spencer is Kristen Stewart’s powerhouse performance. When it comes to portraying a human being who is so well known, there is a pressure in visualizing them, a pressure in which Stewart does not crack under. Between her execution of Diana’s mannerisms, accent, and overall personality, this is without a doubt her most dazzling and intricate performance to date.” – Discussing Film

 

To Olivia

What’s it about?

Based on Stephen Michael Shearer’s An Unquiet Life, this movie – originally titled An Unquiet Life – 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.

What did the reviews say?

“Hugh Bonneville steps effortlessly into the role of the author, portraying a slightly eccentric yet ultimately grief-stricken man on the brink of a creative jackpot. Due praise must also be awarded to Keeley Hawes whose portrayal of Patricia Neal is equally enthralling.” ★★★★ – The Upcoming

“A well-intentioned biopic about a little-discussed but pivotal moment for both artists. If it’s never transcendent, it at least offers charming child performances, and Hawes is a particularly good fit as Neal. ” ★★★ – Empire

Stephen Michael Shearer’s book Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life is available on Amazon.

 

Take a look at our list of 2020’s best British period drama movies here.