37 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.)

 

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 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

 

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

 

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 later this year.

 

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.

When’s it out?

The Courier arrives in cinemas on 19th March.

 

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).

When’s it out?

Cruella is currently set for release on 28th May.

 

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

 

Downton Abbey 2

What’s it about?

Following the huge success of the first movie in 2019, the whole Downton Abbey cast will reunite for a sequel this Christmas.

Executive producer Gareth Neame commented: “After a very challenging year with so many of us separated from family and friends, it is a huge comfort to think that better times are ahead and that next Christmas we will be reunited with the much beloved characters of Downton Abbey.”

When’s it out?

Downton Abbey 2 will arrive in cinemas on 22nd December.

Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection box set is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

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.

When’s it out?

Edge of the World will be released digitally and on DVD on 21st June.

 

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.

When’s it out?

The Furnace will be available in the UK on DVD and on demand from Monday 25th January.

 

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.

When’s it out?

High Ground will be available to watch on demand in the US from 14th May.

 

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 is expected to be released in late 2021.

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

 

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.

 

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

What’s it about?

The Crown actress Emma Corrin stars as Lady Chatterley in this new adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s classic 1928 novel about an unhappily-married wealthy lady who engages in a torrid affair with a gamekeeper on their English estate.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover has been adapted by French director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (The Mustang) from a script by Life of Pi screenwriter David Magee.

When’s it out?

Lady Chatterley’s Lover will be released in late 2021 or early 2022.

D.H. Lawrence’s novel is available 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.

When’s it out?

The Last Duel will arrive in cinemas on 15th October.

 

Last Night in Soho

What’s it about?

Last Night in Soho is the first period piece from Shawn of the Dead director Edgar Wright.

Set in 1960s London, the psychological horror film stars Anya Taylor-Joy (Peaky Blinders), Matt Smith (The Crown), Diana Rigg (Victoria) and Terence Stamp (Superman II).

When’s it out?

Last Night in Soho will be released on 8th October.

 

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 2021.

 

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 2021.

 

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.

 

Mothering Sunday

What’s it about?

Based on Graham Swift’s acclaimed novel, this romantic drama movie stars Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Josh O’Connor (The Durrells), and 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 is expected to arrive in cinemas in 2021.

 

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 is set in 1980s Britain.

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.

 

Nell Gwynn

What’s it about?

Based on the Olivier-winning play by Jessica Swale, this film dramatises the life of Nell Gwynn, mistress of Charles II, and her part in the theatre of the 17th century.

Nell Gwynn comes from the makers of Darkest HourAtonement, and The Theory of Everything, with French-British actress Emma Mackey (Death on the Nile) playing the title character.

When’s it out?

Nell Gwynn is expected to arrive in cinemas later in 2021.

Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn book is available on Amazon.

 

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 2021.

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

 

Persuasion

What’s it about?

This new adaptation of Jane Austen’s final completed novel comes from the producers of Suffragette and the director of the BBC’s The Long Song.

Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot (Australian actress Sarah Snook) who, many years after refusing the proposal of young naval officer Frederick Wentworth, finds herself navigating the waters of English society when Wentworth returns from war a wealthy and decorated captain. As Anne ponders missed opportunities, she must consider her own regrets and unwavering, possibly unrequited love.

When’s it out?

Persuasion is expected to arrive in cinemas in late 2021.

Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion 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

 

Save the Cinema

What’s is about?

Set in a small Welsh town in the 1990s, Save the Cinema is a feel-good story based on the efforts of one woman bringing together a community to save the local cinema.

Samantha Morton (Harlots) leads the cast, alongside Tom Felton (Harry Potter), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes), Adeel Akhtar (Les Miserables), and Susan Wokoma (Enola Holmes).

When’s it out?

Save the Cinema will premiere in UK cinemas, and on Sky Cinema and NOW TV, towards the end of the year.

 

Shackleton

What’s it about?

From the makers of Taboo and the writer of 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy film, this new biopic about the life of Sir Ernest Shackleton stars English actor Tom Hardy.

The legendary polar explorer led British expeditions to the Antarctic in the early 20th Century. During one of his journeys, his ship, Endurance, was crushed in the pack ice and Shackleton led his crew on a months-long journey in sub-zero temperatures until they reached solid ground.

When’s it out?

Shackleton is expected to arrive in cinemas in 2021.

 

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.

When’s it out?

Six Minutes to Midnight is set to arrive in cinemas in March.

 

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 2021.

 

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.

 

War Magician

What’s it about?

Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) stars as Jasper Maskelyne, a real-life British illusionist who used magic to defeat Erwin Rommel during the Second World War.

War Magician is based on the book by David Fisher and is directed Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World).

When’s it out?

War Magician is expected to arrive in cinemas in late 2021 or 2022.

David Fisher’s book is available on Amazon.

 

White Bird: A Wonder Story

What’s it about?

White Bird: A Wonder Story charts the story of a young Jewish girl hidden away by a boy and his family in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.

Based on R.J. Palacio’s graphic novel, the movie stars Gillian Anderson (The Crown) as Vivienne, the woman who along with her family must make unimaginable choices.

When’s it out?

White Bird: A Wonder Story will be released later in 2021.

R.J. Palacio’s graphic novel White Bird: A Wonder Story is available on Amazon.

 

Women in the Castle

What’s it about?

Adapted from Jessica Shattuck’s hit 2017 book, Women in the Castle tells the story of three German women during and after the Second World War.

The trio of main characters – played by Kristin Scott Thomas (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express), and Nina Hoss (My Little Sister) – are widows of conspirators involved in the assassination attempt on Hitler, and each of them must deal with the fallout of her personal life differently.

When’s it out?

Women in the Castle is expected to arrive in cinemas in late 2021.

Jessica Shattuck’s novel is available on Amazon.

 

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