Historical period dramas are monuments of cinematic journey. They weave intricate narratives that are set against the backdrop of eras gone by. From the majestic courts of ancient empires to the tumultuous upheavals of modern revolutions, these films beckon viewers time and again. Keeping that in mind, we bring you the list of period movies available on Hulu.
16. Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998)
Charles Perrault’s legendary, timeless fairy tale love story comes to life in Renaissance-era France. We have Drew Barrymore, who plays the role of Danielle, the servant to her stepmother Baroness Rodmilla de Ghent, played by Anjelica Huston, and her daughters Marguerite and Jacqueline. While she is mistreated on a daily basis by her stepmom, she finds in the most unlikely of places, or to speak more properly, most likely of princes, i.e., Prince Henry of France, played by Dougray Scott. A beautiful reimagining of a classic tale, ‘Ever After: A Cinderella Story’ has been directed by Andy Tennant. You can watch the film here.
15. The Nightingale (2018)
Directed by Jennifer Kent, ‘The Nightingale’ is an Australian historical revenge thriller set in early 19th century Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land; colonial name given by the English). It follows Irish convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi), who teams up with Aboriginal Tasmanian tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) to find the Englishmen who raped her and then killed her husband and baby. Billy, too, has his reason for a grudge against the English, as they killed many of his people in the Black War. Whether and if yes, how they are able to extract their revenge is what we find out in the film. You can watch it here.
14. Centurion (2010)
This film addresses the disappearances of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army that mysteriously disappeared from any and all historical accounts starting in 120 A.D. Last known to be stationed in Britain in 43 AD, their disappearance has led to the birth of numerous theories and speculations as to how it happened, one of which we see in ‘Centurion.’ Directed by Neil Marshall, it follows the legion that, led by General Virilus (Dominic West) and under orders from Gnaeus Julius Agricola (Paul Freeman), rescues Roman officer Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) from the savage Picts warriors. However, the legion is soon ambushed, and Virilus is captured. Now, it is up to Dias to keep his small platoon of legions alive if they want to rescue their general and return to their home territory. You can watch the film here.
13. The Last Duel (2021)
Directed by Ridley Scott, this film brings together three great actors of Hollywood, Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Ben Affleck, all of whom play medieval characters in this adaptation of Eric Jager’s 2004 book “The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France.” The film is set in France in the first half of the 14th century and deals with a duel after Jean de Carrouges (Damon), a knight, challenges squire Jacques Le Gris (Driver) for the same after Jean’s wife, Marguerite, played by Jodie Comer, accuses Le Gris of raping her. Affleck plays the role of Count Pierre d’Alençon, to whom Carrouges and Le Gris have sworn allegiance. To find out the truth behind the accusation and who wins the duel, you can watch the film here.
12. Corsage (2022)
Set in the 19th century, this Marie Kreutzer directorial gives a fictionalized account of half of Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s (Vicky Krieps) life. The film begins with the celebration of her 40th birthday, an age that, as per her, is when a person begins to fade. She has already been restricted to an image of royalty (the film title being a metaphor for the constrictions that a corsage/corset brings), but her rightful vanity gets the better of her as she escapes to find her better self, one that isn’t bound, and tries to flirt with men and even goes back to her native place, among other stuff. Whether she is able to find peace is something you can find out by watching the film here.
11. The Good Traitor (2020)
Directed by Christina Rosendahl, this is a Danish film that follows the measures taken by Henrik Kauffmann, the Danish Ambassador to the United States during World War II, to ensure that America signed the Greenland Treat. This would make Greenland a part of the Allied Forces, with America helping it to fight the Nazi forces after Nazis Germany occupied Denmark in April 1940. Ulrich Thomsen plays the role of Henrik Kauffmann in the film. You can watch it here.
10. Benediction (2021)
Directed by Terence Davies, this film showcases the life of World War I veteran/poet Siegfried Sassoon. We get to see the different aspects of Sassoon’s life, like his time in the war, his homosexuality wherein he was involved with multiple men in the 1920s, his marriage, and his search for peace in Catholicism, all throughout which he wrote his poems. The conflicts, the anti-war stance, the vulnerability, the struggle with self, all of these issues Sassoon carried within him as he searched for answers. ‘Benediction’ stars Jack Lowden as young Siegfried Sassoon and Peter Capaldi as aged Siegfried Sassoon, along with Kate Phillips, Calam Lynch, and Ben Daniels. You can stream the film here.
9. The World to Come (2020)
‘The World to Come’ is set in 1850s New York and follows the sexual affair of Abigail, a depressed wife, and her new neighbor Tallie (both women are childless), which is gravely underscored by the patriarchy of the time. Things get more complicated and intense as the two come closer and finally begin the affair. Will they run away? Will they get separated? Or will they remain the way they are and continue loving each other in secret? Directed by Mona Fastvold, ‘The World to Come’ stars Katherine Waterston as Abigail and Vanessa Kirby as Tallie. You can watch the film here.
8. Spencer (2021)
Based on one of the most popular personalities in world history, Princess Diana, who also ended up being one of the most controversial figures ever, ‘Spencer’ explores the mental state of Diana as she tries to wrap her head around her husband, King Charles III’s affair with Queen Camilla while coping with the two lives that she has to live, the real one and the one that the people with the cameras want to see. She tries to get closer to her kids, Prince William and Prince Harry, but it seems not to be enough to bring her out of the darkness she feels to be pulled deeper and deeper into. Starring Kristen Stewart as Diana and Jack Farthing as Charles, ‘Spencer’ is a must-watch. You can do so right here.
7. Ammonite (2020)
Directed by Francis Lee, this film stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in the lead roles. Set in 1840s England, it follows fossil hunter Mary Anning (Winslet), who has a chance encounter with Charlotte Murchison (Ronan), whom her geologist husband has brought along from London to have Mary look after while he is away for work. Charlotte’s melancholia seems to have no bounds, something that Mary seems to be familiar with. As the two ladies spend time together, they fall more and more for each other. Loosely adapted from the life of paleontologist Mary Anning, ‘Ammonite’ can be streamed here.
6. The Death of Stalin (2017)
As the title suggests, this Armando Iannucci-directed historical black comedy drama shows the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1953 and the confusion and chaos that took place within the Council of Ministers, with each Minister proving himself better than the rest to take Stalin’s place. They include Nikita Khrushchev, 1st Secretary Moscow Committee (played by Steve Buscemi), Lavrenti Beria, who was the Head of NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) Security Forces (played by Simon Russell Beale), Georgy Malenkov, Deputy to Stalin (played by Jeffrey Tambor) and Lazar Kaganovich, Minister for Labour (played by Dermot Crowley). Stalin is played by Adrian McLoughlin. You can watch the film here.
5. Boston Strangler (2023)
Directed by Matt Ruskin, this film explores the case of the Boston Strangler, a phrase used to address the murderer or murderers of 13 women between 1962 and 1964 in Greater Boston. The truth behind the series of murders is looked into via the eyes of Boston Record American reporter Loretta McLaughlin, who was the first journalist to point a finger at the case and force the Boston police to investigate the deaths. Keira Knightley plays the role of Loretta McLaughlin. The rest of the cast includes Carrie Coon, David Dastmalchian, Morgan Spector and Alessandro Nivola. You can watch it here.
4. Red Cliff (2008)
Directed by the legendary John Woo, who is known for his action films, this Chinese war epic showcases the Battle of Red Cliffs (208–209 AD), a naval battle between the allied forces of Sun Quan and Liu Bei (both were southern warlords), and warlord Cao Cao, the last head of the Han dynasty. In fact, this war, which Cao Cao lost, was the first nail in the coffin of his dynasty that ultimately met its demise in 220 AD, after which began the Three Kingdoms period in China. The cast of the film includes Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, and Vicki Zhao. You can watch ‘Red Cliff’ here.
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
Set in 18th century France, ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ explores the affair between two women, the gentry Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), who is about to be married off, and painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who has to make Héloïse’s portrait that will then be sent to her suitor who, if he likes her portrait, shall marry her. Since Héloïse doesn’t want to get married, she is not interested in getting a portrait made. So, it is up to Marianne to spend time with her as her companion so that she can paint her in secret. All the time the two women spend together leads to their affair, one that is beautiful and rare, just like the painting. But how does it end? To find that out, you can watch this Céline Sciamma directorial here.
2. The Imitation Game (2014)
This film is adapted from the 1983 biography “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges, which is based on the life of British mathematician Alan Turing, who majorly contributed to the deciphering of the Enigma code used by Germans to communicate during World War II and whose work would eventually lead to the development of modern computers. ‘The Imitation Game’ is directed by Morten Tyldum and features Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. We get to see not just Turing’s immense genius while he makes his own machine to break the Enigma but also his personal life, wherein he develops feelings for his friend Christopher while at boarding school. His love for Christopher would lead him to name his machine Christopher as well. How things came to be and who helped Turing achieve success and cope with his loss are what we find out in this well-executive film. Other than Cumberbatch, the cast includes Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard, Mark Strong, and Charles Dance. You can watch the ‘The Imitation Game’ here.
1. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Directed by Steve McQueen, this biographical period drama is based on an 1853 memoir of the same name written by Solomon Northup, an African-American who was kidnapped from New York and sold into slavery in 1841. He spent 12 years as a slave in Louisiana, working on plantations owned by slaveholder Edwin Epps before managing to reunite with his family. His horrific and painful physical and emotional experiences during the 12 years and the way they have been depicted in the film brought it numerous nominations and awards, the latter of which include the Best Picture Oscar and the BAFTA for Best Film. ‘12 Years a Slave’ stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, along with Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, and Lupita Nyong’o. You can stream it here.
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