24 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.)

 

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 finally arrives in the UK and Ireland in cinemas and on demand via Sky Cinema on 15th January, then in US cinemas on 19th February.

 

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 is set for release in the US on 19th February.

 

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 will sail in to cinemas in September.

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

 

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.”

When’s it out?

The Dig will be released in select cinemas on Friday 15th January, before premiering exclusively on Netflix around the world on Friday 29th January.

 

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?

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

 

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 on 12th March.

The first Kingsman movie is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

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 23rd April.

 

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.

 

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 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.

 

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.

 

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?

Lily James (Rebecca) 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 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).

When’s it out?

The Reckoning will be released in the US on demand and in cinemas where they’re open on Friday 5th February.

The complete Game of Thrones box set is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Reckoning

What’s is about?

From the award winning team behind The Moorside and Appropriate Adult, this new true crime drama from the BBC will trace the life of Jimmy Savile.

The Reckoning (unrelated to the above movie of the same name) will trace Savile through his early years in the dance halls of northern England, his career with the BBC, to his twilight years when, in failing health and with his fame in decline, he sought to dispel the growing rumours about his life and the legacy he would leave behind.

When’s it out?

The Reckoning will air on BBC One in the UK in 2021.

 

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 2021.

 

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.

When’s it out?

To Olivia will be released in the UK in cinemas and on demand via Sky Cinema in February.

Stephen Michael Shearer’s book Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life 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.