The best romantic period movies of all time

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Are you a fan of romance films from eras gone by? Here are 22 movies that fit the bill and where to watch them — and no, they aren’t all Jane Austen adaptations.

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When it comes to period piece movies, there are a few patterns: Jane Austen, old time-y relationship problems, Emma Thompson, Merchant Ivory productions, Keira Knightley dramatically storming away from someone. As Helena Bonham Carter once said, “Period movies are my destiny. I should get a few ribs taken out, because I’ll be in a corset for the rest of my life.”

And the thing is, some combination of these common tropes is probably why you’re a fan of romantic period movies in the first place. But the genre exists outside of those themes (and England), too — whether it takes place in 1960s Wyoming or 19th century China.

So, yes, there’s plenty of Austen and some repeat regular actors on this list, but there’s some more history to explore, too. Check out EW’s picks for 22 of the best romantic period movies that are sure to make you swoon.

Titanic (1997)
Why not start with a movie that is huge in every way? Titanic is famous for James Cameron’s special effects that sent hundreds of passengers realistically hurling from the side of a giant ship, but it’s mainly remembered for the timeless love story between soulful vagabond Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and repressed socialite Rose (Kate Winslet). After all, it was their whirlwind romance that forever changed how we look at fogged up windows. And floating doors. And drawing.

Available on: Netflix, Paramount+

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Before any Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle stans get up in arms, remember: This is a movies-only list. So, 2005’s Pride & Prejudice is the clear favorite to represent Jane Austen’s classic 1813 novel. This adaptation from Joe Wright stars Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden as the ever-defiant Elizabeth Bennet and the moody Mr. Darcy. Period drama nerds will be interested to know that Wright set the movie in the late 18th century instead of the early 19th century in part because of his hatred of empire waist dresses.

Available on: Vudu or rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)
It wouldn’t be a period movies list without Emma Thompson, and this won’t be the last you see of her here. Thompson wrote and starred in Sense and Sensibility, which was directed by Ang Lee (it won’t be the last you see of him, either). The film tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Thompson) and Marianne (Kate Winslet), as they deal with 19th century-style relationship issues involving Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), and John Willoughby (Greg Wise). Many credit this essential dowry drama for launching Austen adaptations into the mainstream, and we’re all forever in debt.

Available on: Tubi, HBO Max

A Room With a View (1985)
Here’s another period piece theme: Merchant-Ivory movies. The first one on our list directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant is A Room With a View. The 1985 film stars Helena Bonham Carter as the young Lucy Honeychurch who visits Florence with her older cousin (Maggie Smith) and meets an array of fellow guests at their hotel. Of course, this includes an intriguing romantic interest played by Julian Sands, plus plenty of kissing in open fields.

Available on: HBO Max

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