29 new British period drama movies to watch in 2019

2019 looks set to be another incredible year at the cinema for British period drama fans.

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

 

The Aeronauts

What’s it about?

Set in 1862 and based on real-life events, The Aeronauts reunites The Theory Of Everything stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne.

The pair play wealthy young widow Amelia Wren and ambitious scientist James Glaisher as they attempt to mount a balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history.

The movie also stars Tom Courtenay (Unforgotten), Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax), Rebecca Front (Poldark), Tim McInnery (Blackadder), Phoebe Fox (The Musketeers) and Himesh Patel (EastEnders).

When’s it out?

The Aeronauts will land in UK cinemas on 6th November.

 

The Aftermath

What’s it about?

Keira Knightley (Colette), Jason Clarke (First Man) and Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies) star in this adaptation of Rhidian Brook’s 2013 book, set in Germany in 1946.

The Aftermath sees Rachael Morgan arrive in the ruins of Hamburg in the bitter winter, to be reunited with her husband Lewis, a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that they’ll be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter.

What did the reviews say?

“The bones of the story have been played a million times, but a talented and committed cast make this swoonsome rather than samey.” ★★★ – Empire

“It’s a treat for anyone who fancies a discreet sob, and the lead performances are reliably solid … It’s a good-looking production, but it’s a bit of a fairytale.” ★★★ – The Arts Desk

The Aftermath is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

All is True

What’s it about?

Set in 1613 after the Globe theatre in London has burned down, director Kenneth Branagh’s new William Shakespeare movie finds the playwright back in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he is haunted by the death of his only son Hamnet and must confront his failings as a husband and father.

Written by Blackadder and Upstart Crow creator Ben Elton, All is True stars Branagh as Shakespeare, alongside Dame Judi Dench as his wife and Sir Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton.

What did the reviews say?

“A quiet and meditative portrait of the artist as a retiree, this lacks incident or high stakes but has an elegiac feeling of regret and reckoning that fits its subject’s twilight years.” ★★★ – Empire

“A boldly fanciful but nuanced portrait of Shakespeare’s final years. Kenneth Branagh and Ben Elton might have played fast and loose with the truth, but they have created something bold and contemporary.” ★★★★ – The Independent

All is True is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

 

The Aspern Papers

What’s it about?

Based on the Henry James novella, The Aspern Papers is set in Venice in 1885.

Morton Vint, an ambiguous young writer fascinated by iconic romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern (now deceased), strives to get his hands on the letters Aspern wrote to his beautiful mistress, Juliana Bordereau.

Now, decades later, Juliana lives in a Venetian palazzo with her niece, whom she dominates and Morton will come to seduce. But do these letters really exist and what scandalous information about Juliana and Aspern will they bring to the surface?

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (The Tudors) is joined by Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and her real-life mother Vanessa Redgrave.

What did the reviews say?

“…the best that can be said about the woeful movie version of the The Aspern Papers, based on the Henry James novella, is that it might send you running to the original.” – The New York Times

“…the film is smart, literary, nuanced, slightly stagy — and pedigreed to within an inch of its life. It practically reeks of dusty, yellowed pages and engraved leather bookbinding.” ★★ – The Washington Post

The Aspern Papers is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

 

Blinded by the Light

What’s it about?

Set in 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, Blinded by the Light sees a British-Pakistani teenager learn to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen.

The movie has been adapted from Sarfraz Manzoor’s acclaimed memoir Greetings from Bury Park by the director of Bend it Like Beckham – and Springsteen himself has given the project his blessing!

What did the reviews say?

“…it’s the sort of unguarded drama they used to make in the ‘80s — a coming-of-age tale of unabashed earnestness — but it’s also a delirious and romantic rock ‘n’ roll parable. I dare say it’s a more incandescent ode to the life force of pop music than any film ever adapted from the work of Nick Hornby.” – Variety

Blinded by the Light is steeped in meaning, and its social turbulence feels undeniably relevant. Though let it not go unsaid: it’s a wildly fun experience as well. It is filled to the brim with white-hot visual energy.” ★★★★ – Firstpost

Blinded by the Light is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Chaperone

What’s it about?

Julian Fellowes has adapted Laura Moriarty’s best-selling American novel, working Downton Abbey movie director with Michael Engler.

Joining the Downton reunion is American actress Elizabeth McGovern, best known as Lady Cora Grantham.

Set in the 1920’s, The Chaperone tells the story of Louise Brooks, the silver screen sensation who never met a rule she didn’t break and epitomsed the restless, reckless spirit of the Jazz Age.

What did the reviews say?

“Fortunately, the flowingly feminine period costumes by Candice Donnelly and Marcelo Zarvos’ jazzy score help maintain a sense of levity, even when the film apparently seems determined to tell its audience what to think and feel.” – Hollywood Reporter

“Ultimately though, The Chaperone is case of a not-so-good movie made by people who are unquestionably talented. It’s exceedingly difficult to make an authentic period piece without a sizable budget, which it appears they did not have.” – The Wrap

The Chaperone is available on DVD 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 2019.

 

Downton Abbey

What’s it about?

Arriving four years after the hit TV series ended, the long-awaited Downton Abbey movie sees all the main characters return for a brand new story set in 1927.

They’ll be joined by Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter), Geraldine James (Anne with an E), Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game) and David Haig (Killing Eve).

When’s it out?

The movie will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 13th September and in the USA on Friday 20th September.

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

 

The Favourite

What’s it about?

Set in the early 18th century, The Favourite stars Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) as Queen Anne, who was the Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1702 to 1707.

The Crown star is joined in this historical farce by Emma Stone (La La Land), Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Apocalypse) and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock).

What did the reviews say?

“As un­couth and un­leashed as Mer­chant Ivory is but­toned up, it’s part rib­ald romp, part pointed char­ac­ter study, part cat-and-mouse psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, part his­tor­i­cal-po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions. Yet buried in its black, rau­cous heart is a melan­cholic ode to foiled love and un­fath­omable loss.” ★★★★ – Empire

“Weisz and Stone are both brilliantly witty and nimble, but Colman’s performance is nothing short of sublime.” – The New York Times

The Favourite is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Horrible Histories: The Movie

What’s it about?

This big screen spin-off from the BBC’s hugely popular children’s historical comedy series focuses on Roman Britain.

An all-star cast includes Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead), Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City), singer Kate Nash, Rupert Graves (Lost in Space) and Derek Jacobi (Last Tango in Halifax).

What did the reviews say?

“In a TV comedy landscape that’s hardly flush with sketch shows, Horrible Histories has won the hearts of both its young target audience and older viewers, too … Rotten Romans provides more of the same historical chortles and it’s an absolute blast.” ★★★★ – Den of Geek

“This is a decent bit of school holiday entertainment, though I felt that some of the purely broad humour did seem to be pitched at a pretty young audience.” ★★★ – The Guardian

 

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 2019.

 

The Isle

What’s it about?

Set off the west coast of Scotland in 1846, this mysterious British thriller follows three sailors who make it to an Isle when their boat sinks in a heavy storm – an Isle they’ll wish they had never found.

The Isle stars Alex Hassell (The Miniaturist), Fisayo Akinade (A Very English Scandal) and Conleth Hill, best known as Lord Varys in Game of Thrones.

What did the reviews say?

The Isle isn’t especially scary. It’s more of an adventure/mystery … But the picture’s a pleasure to watch throughout, largely because of [the film’s location] Eilean Shona.” – Los Angeles Times

“What works so well in The Isle is its merging of old and new, ancient and modern: sirens originating from Greek mythology, sailors’ traditions, a Victorian ghost story written by 21st century writers.” ★★★★ – Caution Spoilers

 

Judy

What’s it about?

Renée Zellweger stars as American singer and actress Judy Garland in this movie biopic set in the winter of 1968, alongside Rufus Sewell (Victoria) and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter).

Adapted from the Olivier and Tony nominated 2012 Broadway play End of the Rainbow, the story sees Garland arrive in the British capital for a run of sell-out concerts.

When’s it out?

Judy will be released in the USA on 27th September and in the UK on 4th October.

 

The King

What’s it about?

Based on William Shakespeare’s classic plays Henry The IV (Parts 1 & 2) and Henry V, this Netflix Original movie stars Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Robert Pattinson (Twilight), Sean Harris (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) and Joel Edgerton (Avatar).

Set before, during and after England’s war with France at the famous Battle Of Agincourt in 1415, part of the ‘Hundred Years’ War’, the story sees the young disgraced prince Hal inherit the crown and learn how be a king, guided by his one true friend, Falstaff.

When’s it out?

The King will premiere exclusively on Netflix worldwide in 2019.

 

Lancaster Skies

What’s it about?

Inspired by true events, this World War II movie about the British bomber campaign was lovingly made for just £80,000.

Lancaster Skies follows Douglas, a solitary Spitfire ace pilot, who must overcome his past to lead a Lancaster bomber crew in the pivotal aerial war over Berlin in 1944.

What did the reviews say?

“Fear, desperation and excitement are all missing in action in this micro-budget tale of a band of second world war pilots.” ★★ – The Guardian

 

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 later in 2019.

 

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.

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).

When’s it out?

A release date for Mr Jones hasn’t yet been confirmed, but it’s expected later in 2019.

 

Mrs Lowry & Son

What’s it about?

Mr Turner star Timothy Spall plays L.S. Lowry, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, alongside Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement) as his mother Elizabeth in this biographical drama.

Lowry lived all of his life with his overbearing mother, a bed-ridden and depressed presence in her bachelor son’s life and a deterring voice as he pursued his artistic ambition.

What did the reviews say?

“A study of the painter LS Lowry that, with sly whimsy and darkness, finds a universality of the creative psyche via the toxic relationship with his mother, who tried (unsuccessfully) to crush him.” – FlickFilosopher

“Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spall steal the show in this low-key tale of the great artist finding success while caring for his curmudgeonly mother … An entertaining showcase for two first-class performers.” ★★★ – The Guardian

Mrs Lowry & Son is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Ophelia

What’s it about?

Based on the Shakespearean character of the same name and the novel by Lisa Klein, this movie reimagines Hamlet as told from Ophelia’s perspective.

A forbidden love blossom when Ophelia, the Queen’s most trusted lady-in-waiting capture the attention of Prince Hamlet. As war brews, lust and betrayal begin to tear Elsinore Castle apart from within in.

Taking a break from the Star Wars franchise, Daisy Ridley plays Ophelia. She’s joined by Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, Tom Felton and George MacKay.

What did the reviews say?

“Ridley looks the part … but she comes across a bit too passive for the script’s stronger, bolder feminist. Instead, at the very end, the script scraps its attempts to preserve the bones of Shakespeare’s story of machismo gone amok and bluntly rewrites the bloody climax.” – Variety

“…the film looks exquisite, from the costumes and props to the cinematography and camerawork. The level of craft in this film is absolutely off the charts.” – The Guardian

Ophelia is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Professor and the Madman

What’s it about?

Based on Simon Winchester’s book The Surgeon of Crowthorne, The Professor and the Madman tells the true story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.

A retired United States Army surgeon, Dr. W. C. Minor began compiling the Oxford English Dictionary in 1857 and submitted over 10,000 entries, all while imprisoned in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in Berkshire, England.

The cast includes Natalie Dormer (Picnic at Hanging Rock), Ioan Gruffudd (Hornblower), Jeremy Irvine (War Horse), Laurence Fox (Lewis), Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice) and comedian Steve Coogan.

What did the reviews say?

“What a superficial and tedious motion picture, never quite bad enough to be campy, never remotely good enough to justify watching it instead of reading the book’s Wikipedia page.” – The Wrap

“In fairness, the film isn’t outright bad, or even unwatchable, but it is plagued by multiple personalities of its own, and has no clear idea of what it wants to be; it feels like a film whose director was removed from the picture at some point.” – The Hollywood Reporter

The Professor and the Madman is available on DVD 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 will star 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 late 2019.

 

Red Joan

What’s it about?

Inspired by the life of the KGB’s longest-serving British spy, the movie stars Dame Judi Dench as a pensioner living in suburban retirement who is suddenly arrested by MI5, accused of providing intelligence to Communist Russia.

Sophie Cookson (Kingsman) plays the younger version of Dench’s character in the late 1930s, alongside Victoria star Tom Hughes as the young communist that she falls for as a Cambridge physics student.

What did the reviews say?

“As a portrait of misplaced love and pacifist ideals, Red Joan isn’t terrible … What should be breathless and urgent is instead polite and listless…” – NY Times

“Uneven it may be, Red Joan still emanates a memorable essence, one that’s refreshingly and believably feminine.” ★★★ – RogerEbert.com

Red Joan is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Robert the Bruce

What’s it about?

Angus Macfadyen will reprise his Braveheart role as warrior and king Robert the Bruce in this epic new Scottish historical drama.

Robert the Bruce explores the lost months during a long, harsh winter when Robert, injured and pursued across the Highlands by his enemies, takes shelter with the steely Morag and her fearless children.

The supporting cast includes Jared Harris (The Crown) and Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous).

What did the reviews say?

“Pandering to Scottish sentimentality over this period in history, it should find its audience locally but is unlikely to reproduce Braveheart’s international success.” ★★★ – The Guardian

“This camp dash of quasi-historical propaganda is a Braveheart sequel, in spirit, that was filmed in Montana, features some of the worst Scottish accents committed to celluloid…” ★★ – The Times

 

Rocketman

What’s it about?

Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this fantasy musical biopic follows Elton John’s emergence as a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music to becoming a music superstar.

Kingsman actor Taron Egerton plays the singer, alongside Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World).

What did the reviews say?

“Taking the old-fashioned highs of an MGM musical and pairing them with the deep lows of an addiction drama, Rocketman is a turbo-charged rock fantasia that pushes hard against the boundaries of the medium as it zips through the first four decades of Elton John’s life.” ★★★★ – Time Out

“…Rocketman is irresistible: a foot-stomping, big-hearted comic epic that should push [director Dexter Fletcher] on to the directors’ A-list, and push Elton John’s albums back into the charts.” ★★★★ – BBC

Rocketman is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

The Souvenir

What’s it about?

Produced by Martin Scorsese, this film stars Tilda Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne together for the first time.

The Souvenir follows a young film student in the early 80s as she struggles to find a firm direction in life and becomes romantically involved with a complicated and untrustworthy man (Tom Burke from The Musketeers).

What did the reviews say?

“[Director] Joanna Hogg back on form with sly, disconcerting drama.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“The result is the best kind of fine art: heartbreaking, sophisticated and deeply cinematic all at once.” – The Wrap

 

Stan & Ollie

What’s it about?

Starring John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan, Stan & Ollie follows the world’s favorite comedy double act, Laurel & Hardy, as they embark on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953.

Diminished by age and with their golden era as the kings of Hollywood comedy now behind them, the pair face an uncertain future as they re-connect with legions of adoring fans, old and new.

What did the reviews say?

“Coogan and Reilly’s performances are among the best either has ever given. This film, which pays wonderfully funny tribute to two comic legends, richly deserves them.” ★★★★ – Empire

“Like the comedy greats to whom this winningly warm film pays tribute, Jon S Baird’s affectionate drama balances humour and pathos, laughter and tears.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

Stan & Ollie is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Tolkien

What’s it about?

X-Men star Nicholas Hoult plays a young J. R. R. Tolkien in this biopic about the Lord Of The Rings author.

Tolkien explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

The cast also includes Lily Collins (Les Miserables), Colm Meaney (Star Trek), Pam Ferris (Call the Midwife) and Derek Jacobi (Last Tango in Halifax).

What did the reviews say?

“Karukoski’s entertaining film boasts flair and narrative ambition, but ultimately fails to completely break free of its traditional biopic frame.” ★★★ – Empire

“This biopic is better than any of the Hobbit movies.” ★★★ – The Irish Times

Tolkien is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Vita and Virginia

What’s it about?

Adapted by Eileen Atkins from her 1992 play and set in the 1920s, this tells the fascinating true story about the love affair between socialite and popular author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf.

Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki lead the cast as Vita and Virginia respectively. They’re joined by Italian star Isabella Rossellini as Baroness Sackville and Rupert Penry-Jones (Whitechapel) as Sir Harold Nicolson.

What did the reviews say?

“The most compelling evidence yet that [Elizabeth Debicki] can not only rise to the occasion but rise well beyond it, may be her performance as Woolf in Vita & Virginia.” – Variety

“The lack of depth is a shame because the film is attempting to do something new with the period film, and on a surface level nearly manages to achieves it.” – BFI

 

The White Crow

What’s it about?

Directed by and starring Harry Potter actor Ralph Fiennes, The White Crow tells the story of Rudolf Nureyev, widely regarded as the greatest male ballet dancer of his generation.

The movie focuses on the legendary dancer’s defection from the Soviet Union in 1961 and the KGB’s attempts to stop him.

What did the reviews say?

“An interesting, challenging mess. The White Crow offers lots that’s impressive — Ivenko as Nureyev, the dance sequences, a knuckle-whitening last 20 minutes — but can’t render it in a dramatically engaging way.” ★★★ – Empire

“Despite his clear preference for understatement, Fiennes delivers the big moments with undeniable skill. Nureyev’s first standing ovation in Paris is real hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff, while the climactic stand-off at Orly airport … is worthy of the best Cold War thriller. Highly recommended.” ★★★★ – Daily Mail

The White Crow is available on DVD on Amazon.

 

Take a look at our list of 2018’s best British period drama movies here.