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

British period drama fans have had another marvellous year of movies to enjoy.

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

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(Find out what’s coming up in 2021 here.)



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).

What did the reviews say?

“A romance between a pioneering female paleontologist and a high-society woman fuels one passionate A-list period piece.” ★★★ – Rolling Stone

Ammonite is an absorbing drama that sensationally brings together two superlative performers: Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

Ammonite is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


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 aims to retell the story “in an innovative way, that faithfully expresses what Dickens was trying to say.”

What did the reviews say?

“The combination of media in this Christmas Carol – dance, theatre, silent cinema, radio play, even collage – allows it to be both unusually faithful to Dickens original text … It’s a classic for a reason: there is no one better than Dickens for evoking the mingled sensations of a Victorian Christmas, and there is no more Christmassy Christmas, either.” ★★★★ – The Guardian

“For all its high-caliber talent, A Christmas Carol ultimately feels like peering into a dusty Victorian music box: beautifully crafted but a mostly mechanical, lifeless experience.” – Hollywood Reporter


Come Away

What’s it about?

Described as a prequel to Peter Pan and Alice In Wonderland, this family movie stars Angelina Jolie (Changeling) and David Oyelowo (Selma) as parents to Peter and Alice, to whom they tell fanciful stories in an effort to escape from their worries and troubles.

The cast of Come Away also includes Michael Caine (The Italian Job), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle), and Derek Jacobi (Last Tango in Halifax).

What did the reviews say?

“It never quite tumbles into Wonderland, but the ambition at play — and a top cast of supporting players — is just enough to let Come Away off the Hook.” – Empire

“Good luck finding the magic in this inexplicably serious and mostly depressing mashup between the worlds of J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll.” – Variety

Come Away is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.



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

Emma is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


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.

What did the reviews say?

“The story has the makings of a gripping adventure, but something is lacking.” ★★ – The Guardian

“There’s nothing particularly original about this obviously low budget World War II adventure thriller, but a solid cast helps keep this rescue against the odds engaging.” ★★★ – Shadows on the Wall

Enemy Lines is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


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.

What did the reviews say?

Sherlock meets Fleabag in a zippy Conan Doyle pastiche … Millie Bobby Brown leads this buoyant film with the maturity of an older star – who cares if it’s little more than gentle fun?” ★★★ – The Telegraph

“In its brightest moments, Enola Holmes is charming, unexpected, and all-around inspiring. At its worst, it’s still a pretty good detective story. You really can’t go wrong with this one, and it feels like Netflix may finally have the film franchise it’s been trying so desperately to find.” ★★★★ – Comic Book

Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes novels are available 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.

What did the reviews say?

“The film moves from detective story to courtroom drama with nicely sketched character studies as a bonus … While Vicky Krieps does stealthily affecting work as Piller’s assistant, the movie ultimately belongs to Pearce’s van Meegeren…” – NY Times

“The performances are quirky, not unwatchable, but whether either of the lead performers is right for his role is a question.” – The Wall Street Journal



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

Misbehaviour is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


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

Mr Jones is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.



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

1917 is available on DVD 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

The Personal History of David Copperfield is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.



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.

What did the reviews say?

“…Kristin Scott Thomas’ delicious performance as the vicious housekeeper is the one element of the modern Rebecca that truly surpasses Hitchcock’s take … There’s much to like — but the shadow of Alfred Hitchcock looms large.” ★★★ – Empire

“Juggling genres is a hallmark of Wheatley’s filmography, and while Rebecca doesn’t feel as original as his other films… the British director’s update is a well-crafted affair that feels different enough for modern eyes from Hitchcock’s 1940 take with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine.” – USA Today

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



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.

What did the reviews say?

Resistance fails to commit to anything: too confused to honour its hero, too generic to shine a new light on a crucial moment in history. Somehow, such a remarkable story is here made forgettable.” ★★ – Empire

“There is no doubt that Marceau’s wartime exploits — he was also a gifted forger who would go on to work with U.S. intelligence services — deserve a biopic. This one, though, is too uncomfortably torn between his comic talents and the horrors against which they were deployed.” – The New York Times

Resistance is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


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.

What did the reviews say?

“This is a pleasingly patient film that honestly tackles grief, death and rejuvenation without sentimentality.” – Associated Press

“In its top-heavy image-driven way, The Secret Garden is trying for some of the atmospheric poetry that was missing from Agnieszka Holland’s 1993 version. Yet if anything, that just makes it fall further away from the novel’s essence.” – Variety

The Secret Garden is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.



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.

What did the reviews say?

“The film works far better as a revelatory road-trip movie rather than a biopic … there’s an (albeit fictionalised) illumination to be had from Stardust, for both casual fan and hardcore Bowiephiliac.” ★★★★ – NME

Stardust inevitably builds to a few expected twists, from Bowie and Ron’s evolving relationship to some wrenching revelations about Bowie’s family life, not quite paint-by-numbers but far too close to it for such a vibrant subject … a biopic that’s too buttoned-up — and never as out-there as its inspiration.” – IndieWire



What’s it about?

Starring Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Courtenay, and Penelope Wilton, Summerland follows the story of a fiercely independent folklore investigator who secludes herself in her clifftop study, debunking myths using science to disprove the existence of magic.

Consumed by her work, but also profoundly lonely, she is haunted by a love affair from her past.

What did the reviews say?

“Its chocolate-box imagery may make this World War II drama look like a familiar soft-centred brand of British heritage film, but there’s more substance, and subversion, here than meets the eye … The film is both gorgeous to look and immaculately played.” ★★★★ – Empire

“A sweet, soft-centered pastoral drama that’s never as tough-minded as you want it to be … In these pandemic times, you could do worse than indulging in the cinematic equivalent of comfort food.” – Rolling Stone

Summerland is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


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

The True History of the Kelly Gang is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.


Take a look at our list of 2021’s new British period drama movies here.