Classic Historic Film and TV

I’ve been making this list for a while, and it is neither exaustive nor finished at the moment.  I feel that it is ready to begin to share and gather comments.  I should also point out that I have included ones that have a slight fantasy element to them also, if they mainly appear historical.

How about adding your favourite historic films and tv dramas to the list?


  • The Company of Wolves (1984) Fantasic Neil Jordan film, fantasy and fairytale.  Based on the short story from the collection ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter which should also be read, it’s brilliant.
  • Ladyhawke (1985) Great film, though the soundtrack has dated somewhat!  Matthew Broderick as the loveable thief and Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer as the starcrossed lovers.
  • Lady Jane (1986) I love this film, based on the short period of Lady Jane Grey’s life leading up to her coronation and ultimate execution.  Beautifully made and acted, starring Helena Bonham Carter.
  • Shadowlands (1993) Covering the period of time when C.S Lewis met and fell in love with Joy Gresham.  Beautiful and moving.
  • Sense and Sensibility (1995) It’s an engaging version of the story, and I’m always pleased to see Margaret Dashwood included.  I do not, and will never approve of Emma Thompson playing Elinor however.
  • Twelfth Night (1996) I love Shakespeare, and this is one of my favourites.  Has great moments of comedy and tragedy.  Plus I love Toby Stephens.
  • Elizabeth (1998) Oh, what a stunning and epic film!  Cate Blanchett blows everyone else out of the water as Elizabeth I.  The follow up isn’t bad either.
  • Gladiator (2000) If you haven’t seen this, are you dead?  Russell Crowe as Roman General turned gladiator, ’nuff said.
  • Moulin Rouge (2001) People have said to me, you either love it or hate it.  I love it, Nicole Kidman as the courtesan and Ewan Macgregor the writer, musical-tastic!
  • Possession (2002) A beautiful Victorian love story, with some unexpected twists.  Parallels with modern day London.  Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Ehle.  You should also read the fabulous book by A.S. Byatt.
  • The Abduction Club (2002) A funny and engaging romp set in 18th Century Ireland.  Great cast, feelgood story.
  • King Arthur (2004) I love this film, but many didn’t give it a chance.  A new take on the legend, bloody, sexy and enjoyable starring Clive Owen.

TV Dramas:

  • Sherlock Holmes Memoirs/Return (1984-1988) Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The House of Eliott (1991-1994) Two sisters, fashion and the roaring twenties.
  • Cadfael (1994-1998) Ellis Peters
  • The Glass Virgin (1995) An adaptation of a Catherine Cookson novel.  My fave one.
  • Pride and Prejudice (1995) Jane Austen
  • The Bucaneers (1995) Edith Wharton
  • Persuasion (1995) and (2007) Jane Austen
  • The Aristocrats (1999) From a biography by Stella Tillyard, read it, it’s fantastic.
  • Wives and Daughters (1999) Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Murder Rooms – The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes (2000) Inspired by the life of Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Lorna Doone (2000) R.D. Blackmore
  • Foyle’s War (2002-2008) A detective, in 1940s war-torn England.
  • North and South (2004) Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Bleak House (2005) Charles Dickens
  • Jane Eyre (2006) Charlotte Bronte
  • Northanger Abbey (2007) Jane Austen
  • Cranford (2007) Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Lark Rise to Candleford (2007-) Flora Thompson
  • Little Dorrit (2008) Charles Dickens

More to follow when I have time!

10 thoughts on “Classic Historic Film and TV

  1. More fantasy and 100 years war armour than history but I love Excalibur!

    Ah the Company of Wolves another great film (especially because it features a favourite musician of mone in a small role – Danielle Dax). Going off at a tangent the not-wife has just gotten hold of a (ahem) pirate dvd of the Magic Toyshop. Looking forward to seeing that!

    As for historical drama, my favourite must still be I Claudius

  2. This is a great list. I love the BBC dramas, and have seen most you mentioned. House of Eliot is a new one, so I’ll try to track it down. Let me recommend a couple:

    Middlemarch & Daniel Deronda-George Eliot
    Portrait of a Lady-the BBC production

    Absolutely fabulous!

    My wife and I watched the whole Cookson series and really enjoyed them a lot.

  3. The Man in the Iron Mask recent version(tripey, but great cast)
    Le Bossu (from a classic French novel)
    The Duellists (amazing film no-one ever seems to have seen)
    Dangerous Liasons (brilliant but very dark)
    Master and Commander (unexpectedly great film)
    The Other Boleyn Girl (yes, I think you hate this don’t you?)

    Elizabeth is, I think, one of the most amazing films of the last few years. Cate Blanchett is so brilliant.

  4. Oh, yes it has dated a little Jams, but I do like Excalibur. Never got into I Claudius though.

    Hated Middlemarch, loved Daniel Deronda! The House of Eliot is fab, you’ll enjoy that one.

    Oh no Elinor, I have my limits, and I really hate Leonardo Di Caprio in that film! 😮 Love Dumas though. I think Le Bossu is on one of my lists, adore Dangerous Liasons, it will be added to the list, want to see Master and Commander, and yes I hate The Other Boleyn Girl! I quite liked the BBC version though.

  5. Jim and I used to watch the House of Eliot religiously. I didn’t think he would like it, but it appealed to men too it seems. Didn’t one of the actresses end up on CSI for a while? Or was it some other detective series. I know I saw her. Can’t think of her name at present.

    • Yes, you’re right Carol. Louise Lombard I think?

      It’s such an underrated film Nicola, but I saw it at the cinema and have loved it ever since. I’ll have to try Miss Pettigrew, heard a bit about it lately.

      Will update my list again shortly with more…

  6. Thrilled to see you have The Abduction Club on your list! It’s one of my favourite films, so funny and romantic. I’ve recently added Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day to my list, plus North and South and Wives and Daughters to my TV drama favourites.

  7. Rather than tackling the history of the entire known universe, I have concentrated on films set in the early 20th century:

    Breaker Morant (1980)
    The Shooting Party (1985).. my all-time favourite
    Howard’s End (1992)
    Remains of the Day (1993)
    The Winslow Boy (1999)
    Gosford Park (2001)
    Dean Spanley (2008)

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