The 50 best period piece films of all time, ranked by critics

Sony PicturesSaoirse Ronan starred as Jo March in the 2019 adaptation of ‘Little Women.’
  • Period piece films have the power to transport viewers to a different time – whether it be the American suburbs in the 1950s or the English countryside in the early 19th century.
  • “Little Women,” “Selma,” and “A Room With a View” were recognised as some of the most well-done period piece movies of all time.
  • Insider rounded up 50 of the best historical dramas based on critics’ scores found on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Creating a successful period piece film is no easy task, given that the movie must accurately portray a different era while still appealing to a modern-day audience.

But there are plenty of historical films – like “Little Women” and “A Room With a View” – that have been celebrated by critics and audiences alike.

Here are the best period pieces of all time, ranked according to critics’ scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Note: All scores were current on the date of publication and are subject to change. Films without critical scores were not included.


50. “Moulin Rouge!” invites viewers into the whimsical streets of 19th century Paris.

20th Century FoxBaz Luhrmann directed ‘Moulin Rouge!’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 76%

Set in Paris in the late 19th century, “Moulin Rouge!” tells the story of an English poet (Ewan McGregor) who falls in love with a cabaret actress named Satine (Nicole Kidman). Their relationship isn’t easy, as she’s already promised to a Duke.

Chicago Tribune’s Michael Wilmington called “Moulin Rouge!” a “landmark musical movie – controversial, mercurial, even cheeky. It’s the kind of film that wildly divides audiences and critics – people tend to either love or hate it. I loved it.”


49. “Gladiator” is an epic adventure set in ancient Rome.

DreamWorks PicturesRidley Scott directed ‘Gladiator.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 77%

Inspired by Daniel P. Mannix’s 1958 book “Those About to Die,” “Gladiator” takes place in ancient Rome. A victorious general (Russell Crowe) refuses to follow the new emperor who killed his father. He narrowly escapes but finds his family was murdered and is soon after discovered by slavers and trained as a gladiator.

“After an absence of 35 years, the Roman Empire makes a thrilling return to the big screen in ‘Gladiator,'” Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote.


48. “Mansfield Park” follows a man and woman as their relationship evolves from childhood best friends to romantic partners.

MiramaxJonny Lee Miller and Frances O’Connor appear in ‘Mansfield Park.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
77%

Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor), a young girl born into a poor family in the early 1800s, moves to live with her aunt at an estate called Mansfield Park.

As she grows up, she becomes very close with Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller), the son of her aunt’s husband, and eventually, they both must confront their feelings for each other. The film is adapted from Jane Austen’s 1814 novel.

“Intelligence and beauty – and teasting romance – shape ‘Mansfield Park’ into a gorgeous, enchanting experience,”Peter Stack wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle.


47. “Braveheart” is a three-hour film filled with war, gore, and expert storytelling.

‘Braveheart’/Paramount PicturesMel Gibson directed ‘Braveheart.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

A Scottish patriot William Wallace (Mel Gibson) seeks revenge after his bride is murdered, sparking a battle – and eventual war – against King Edward I of England in the 13th century.

The Washington Post’s Hal Hinson called the film “a completely adequate modern facsimile of the classic romantic epic.”


46. “Dreamgirls” chronicles The Dreamettes’ quest for fame in the 1960s.

Paramount PicturesBeyonce appears in ‘Dreamgirls.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Adapted from the 1981 Broadway musical and set in 1960s Detroit, “Dreamgirls” follows the female singing group “The Dreamettes.” The trio sets out on a journey to become stars but must overcome obstacles along the way.

“Fit with pitch-perfect costumes and sets and a sufficient sense of scope and grandiosity, ‘Dreamgirls’ is an enjoyable musical, even if it has to rely on the voices of its actors to carry certain scenes,” Cameron Johnson wrote for The Spread.


45. “A Very Long Engagement” follows one woman’s journey to learn the truth about her fiancé’s death during World War I.

Warner Independent Pictures‘A Very Long Engagement’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) refuses to believe reports that her fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) was killed in World War I and begins to investigate his disappearance. As she searches for answers about what happened to him, she uncovers a chilling secret.

“‘A Very Long Engagement’ is all that its title promises. At two and a quarter hours, it is the longest film yet by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet; happily, it is also the most engaging, a stylish and satisfying epic of love and war, hope and memory,” Christopher Orr wrote for The Atlantic.


44. “The Theory of Everything” delves into physicist Stephen Hawking’s life, including his relationship with Jane Wilde.

Liam Daniel/Universal Pictures International‘The Theory of Everything’ was released in 2014.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
79%

A look at how one man’s diagnosis with ALS altered the course of his life, “The Theory of Everything” chronicles famed physicist Stephen Hawking’s (Eddie Redmayne) career and romance with wife Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). The 2014 film is based on Wilde’s memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.”

“There’s no doubt that Redmayne is working from 20/20 hindsight,”David Edelstein wrote for Vulture. “But the way he fuses past and future makes this a triumph of sympathetic imagination.”


43. “A River Runs Through It” takes an up-close look at a family in Missoula, Montana.

Columbia PicturesBrad Pitt appears in ‘A River Runs Through It.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

An adaptation of Norman Maclean’s 1976 semi-autobiography, “A River Runs Through It” introduces the Maclean brothers, who grew up fly fishing together in rural Montana. After one of them leaves for college, they eventually reunite and discuss the way their lives have changed.

The Washington Post’s Hal Hinson called the film “a loving work of embracing nostalgia for a brighter, cleaner, more upright America.”


42. “Jojo Rabbit” shows Nazi Germany through a child’s eyes.

Kimberley French/Twentieth Century Fox Film CorpTaika Waititi directed ‘Jojo Rabbit.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

Set in Germany toward the end of World War II, a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who idolizes Adolf Hitler learns that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a Jew (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home.

“‘Jojo Rabbit is gently comic for a while, and then surprisingly affecting at the end, so perhaps it’s not fair to wish that Waititi had opted to deal more directly with the horrors of the Third Reich,” Bob Mondello wrote for NPR.


41. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” takes place in 1946.

NetflixThe film was released in 2018.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
81%

A young English writer named Juliet Ashton (Lily James) becomes involved with a book club called “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” which is located in the German-occupied island in the 1940s. As she begins to learn more about the group and its members, Ashton finds it impossible to return to her normal life.

“‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ is an old-school, old-fashioned entertainment, a romantic drama bursting with scenic vistas and earnest charm that contains just enough mystery to keep us involved,” Kenneth Turan wrote for the Los Angeles Times.


40. “Atonement” examines the consequences one decision can have on people’s lives.

Focus FeaturesJoe Wright directed ‘Atonement.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

When Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) wrongly accuses her older sister Cecilia’s (Keira Knightley) lover (James McAvoy) of a crime in the early 20th century, she changes the directions of the couple’s lives.

“This screen version, directed by Joe Wright and adapted by Christopher Hampton from Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, stands on its own as a singular achievement – romantic, sensuous, intelligent and finally shattering in its sweep and thematic complexity,” Joe Morgenstern wrote for The Wall Street Journal.


39. “The Age of Innocence” is Martin Scorsese’s interpretation of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel.

Columbia PicturesMartin Scorsese directed ‘The Age of Innocence.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

“The Age of Innocence” takes place in 19th century New York. A wealthy lawyer (Daniel Day-Lewis) puts his seemingly perfect engagement at risk after he meets his fiancée’s elegant cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer).

“No screen couple has ever been this sexy with their clothes on,”Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone, continuing, “Scorsese stages their most touching scene in a horse-drawn carriage, huddled together against the forces that divide them.”


38. “Darkest Hour” is a biopic about Winston Churchill’s early days as prime minister.

Focus Features‘Darkest Hour’ was released in 2017.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
84%

Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in his early days as the prime minister of the United Kingdom in “Darkest Hour.” The film, which was directed by Joe Wright, takes a concentrated deep dive into Churchill’s term from appointment to the Battle of Dunkirk.

“Wright has found an ideal collaborator in Oldman, an actor who knows how to embrace his most dramatic side but who still excels in his quieter moments,” David Sims wrote in The Atlantic.


37. “Jane Eyre” brought Charlotte Bronte’s novel to life.

Focus Features/YouTubeMia Wasikowska stars in ‘Jane Eyre.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 84%

An orphaned girl named Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) finds stability as a governess at Edward Rochester’s (Michael Fassbender) estate in this adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel. As she begins to form a relationship with the head of the estate, she learns a troubling truth about him.

“This ‘Jane Eyre,’ energetically directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (‘Sin Nombre’) from a smart, trim script by Moira Buffini (‘Tamara Drewe’), is a splendid example of how to tackle the daunting duty of turning a beloved work of classic literature into a movie,” A.O. Scott wrote for The New York Times.


36. “Far From the Madding Crowd” is the fourth film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1847 novel.

Alex Bailey/Fox Searchlight‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ was released in 2015.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
85%

Set in a rural English farming community in the 19th century, “Far From the Madding Crowd” follows Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) as she manages a farm she inherited from her uncle.

Playing on themes like love, passion, betrayal, and family, the 2015 film is centered around a vibrant, independent protagonist that must navigate a variety of marriage offerings and relationships.

“Cheers to Danish director Thomas Vinterberg for blowing the antiquated dust off Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel about a willful heroine who’d rather muck about in sheep dip on a farm she inherited than marry guys who treat her like property,” Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone.


35. “A Single Man” is one of Colin Firth’s most impressive performances to date.

A Single Man/IM GlobalColin Firth stars in ‘A Single Man.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

Set in 1960s Los Angeles, George (Colin Firth), a lonely English professor, struggles while mourning his partner’s death. Convinced that he’ll never recover, he begins to plan his own suicide.

“Firth’s measured performance, delivered in a clipped British accent, has just the right restraint, and the intelligent dialogue is a pleasure,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young wrote.


34. “Gandhi” is a thorough biopic of one of the world’s most famous activists.

Columbia Pictures‘Gandhi’ was released in 1982.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
85%

Director Richard Attenborough captures Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley)’s life on-screen – from his earliest days as an activist in South Africa to his assassination in 1948. Following the film’s release in 1982, “Gandhi” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won eight categories.

“Once in a long while a motion picture so eloquently expressive and technically exquisite comes along that one is tempted to hail it as being near perfect. Such a film is ‘Gandhi,'” the Variety staff wrote.


33. “The English Patient” tells a love story set in World War II.

Miramax FilmsAnthony Minghella directed ‘The English Patient.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 85%

As a nurse (Juliette Binoche) works to heal an injured man (Ralph Fiennes) in Italy during World War II, he remembers his life. Throughout the course of the film, he reveals a passionate love affair with a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his true identity.”The English Patient” is based on the 1992 novel by Michael Ondaatje.

“Set against the stunning backdrops of pre-war North Africa and the end of hostilities in Italy, this detailed, time-jumping study of the intertwined fates of several of battle’s victims carries the prestige to be a strong attraction for upscale audiences, and Miramax can be counted upon to try to push it as far into the mainstream as possible,” Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote.


32. “Pride & Prejudice” is a deep-dive into themes like class, romance, and family.

Pride and Prejudice/Focus FeaturesJoe Wright directed ‘Pride & Prejudice.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, “Pride & Prejudice” is set in England in the early 1800s. When a very wealthy man named Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) begins to fall for a woman in a lower class named Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley), their relationship is put to the test.

“‘Pride & Prejudice’ gathers you up on its white horse and gallops off into the sunset,” The New York Times critic Stephen Holden wrote, adding, “Along the way, it serves a continuing banquet of high-end comfort food perfectly cooked and seasoned to Anglophilic tastes.”


31. “Ben-Hur” won 11 Academy Awards following its release.

Warner Bros.Stephen Boyd, Haya Harareet, and Sam Jaffe appear in ‘Ben-Hur.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
86%

In AD 26, an aristocratic Jew (Charlton Heston) faces off with a Roman friend after a disagreement and is sent to slavery. Once he is set free, he seeks vengeance against those who have wronged him and his family.

“The big difference between ‘Ben-Hur’ and other spectacles, biblical or otherwise, is its sincere concern for human beings. They’re not just pawns reciting flowery dialog to fill gaps between the action and spectacle scenes. They arouse genuine emotional feeling in the audience,” Variety’s Ronald Holloway said.


30. “Colette” centres around a feminist protagonist living in France at the turn of the century.

Robert Viglasky/Bleecker StreetKeira Knightley stars in ‘Colette.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

Colette (Knightley) is the ghostwriter behind her wealthy husband’s novel in Paris during the early 20th century. Smart, fierce, and independent, she decides to fight for ownership over her work.

“As merely a biopic of her life, British director Wash Westmoreland’s ‘Colette,’ with Keira Knightley in the title role, is the best and most lavishly appointed, gorgeously photographed period movie in years,” Observer’s Rex Reed wrote.


29. “The Longest Day” attempts to capture D-Day from both the German and Allied armies’ perspectives.

20th Century Fox‘The Longest Day’ was released in 1962.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
87%

In one of the most influential battles of World War II, the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. “The Longest Day” examines the fateful day from both the German and Allied sides, channeling both leaders and soldiers’ experiences (using a star-studded, massive cast) into the narrative.

“It emerges as a sort of grand scale semi-fictionalized documentary concerning the overall logistics needed for this incredible invasion. It carries its three hour length by the sheer tingle of the masses of manpower in action, peppered with little ironic, sad, silly actions that all add up to war,” the Variety staff wrote.


28. “Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)” is filled with magical realism.

Miramax FilmsAlfonso Arau directed ‘Como Agua Para Chocolate.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 87%

Set in Mexico in the 1900s, “Como Agua Para Chocolate” follows Tita (Lumi Cavazos), whose duty is to care for her elderly mother.

She realises that she can’t marry her true love Pedro (Marco Leonardi). Instead, he marries her sister but remains infatuated with Tita, who finds a way to channel her emotions into cooking.

“Food and passion create a sublime alchemy in ‘Like Water for Chocolate,’ a Mexican film whose characters experience life so intensely that they sometimes literally smolder,” Janet Maslin wrote for The New York Times.

She continued, “The kitchen becomes a source of such witchcraft that a fervently prepared meal can fill diners with lust or grief or nausea, depending upon the cook’s prevailing mood.”


27. “Emma” is an updated portrayal of Austen’s famously meddling protagonist.

Focus FeaturesMia Goth and Anya Taylor-Joy in ‘Emma.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
87%

An adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, “Emma,” the film follows a clever young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) in her day-to-day life in early 19th century England as she involves herself in the love lives of those around her.

“Of course, there is never really any doubt that all who are seeking love – or at least marriage – will find it, in this slight but satisfying romantic roundelay,” Michael O’Sullivan wrote in The Washington Post.


26.”The Ten Commandments” brings Moses’ story to the screen.

Paramount PicturesCecil B. DeMille directed ‘The Ten Commandments.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

“The Ten Commandments” tells the biblical story of Moses (Charlton Heston), an Egyptian prince who finds out his true heritage – altering the course of his life.

“‘The Ten Commandments’ takes all the great technical advances, VistaVision, Technicolor, high fidelity recording, etc., and without allowing these physical elements to dominate, tells one of the greatest stories of all time,” The Hollywood Reporter staff wrote.


25. Two British messengers set out on an arduous journey during World War I in “1917”

Universal‘1917’ was released in 2019.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
89%

When British command realises that their upcoming attack on the Germans is likely a trap, they send two men to relay the message to the frontlines in time to save their soldiers’ lives. “1917,” which won three Academy Awards, is an action-packed film that brings viewers along on a high-stakes, seemingly impossible mission.

“It’s the usual action-movie setup – a mission, extraordinary odds, ready-made heroes – but with trenches, barbed wire and a largely faceless threat,” Manohla Dargis wrote in the New York Times.


24. “Lincoln” humanizes the 16th U.S. president.

20th Century FoxSteven Spielberg directed ‘Lincoln.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

“Lincoln” shows US President Abraham Lincoln’s (Day-Lewis) fight for the Union during the American Civil War. He faces challenges beyond the battlefield, however, as he also works to emancipate slaves.

“This Lincoln isn’t an abstracted, infallible ideal, but rather a deeply conflicted, often lonely leader simply trying to do the right thing – even if that means a few wrong things along the way,” NPR’s Ian Buckwalter wrote.


23. “Titanic” follows an impassioned romance amid the backdrop of the ship’s doomed maiden voyage.

Paramount PicturesKate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio costar in ‘Titanic.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 89%

“Titanic” takes a human approach to the ship’s ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912 by allowing the romance between an aristocrat (Kate Winslet) and a poor artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) to take the forefront of the narrative.

“[James] Cameron, who wrote and directed the film, has put a face on that horrific happening; he has taken us beyond the forensics of the sinking and put us inside the skin and psyches of those who perished and those who survived,” Duane Bygre wrote in The Hollywood Reporter.

He continued, “In both, we see facets of ourselves: In philosophical microcosm, Cameron shows that in the end – both the good and the bad endings – we’re all in the same boat.”


22. “The Imitation Game” takes a look at the behind-the-scenes heroes of World War II.

Jack English courtesy of Black Bear PicturesKeira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch costar in ‘The Imitation Game.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
90%

A team of mathematicians convenes to crack Nazi’s war codes – including the notoriously impossible Enigma code – during World War II.

“It’s an undeniable pleasure to dig into a crackling spy thriller dished out by experts,” Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone. He added, “‘The Imitation Game’ is an immersive true story that laces dizzying tension with raw emotion.”


21. “Shakespeare in Love” won seven Academy Awards.

Laurie Sparham/Miramax/UniversalGwyneth Paltrow stars in ‘Shakespeare in Love.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 92%

“Shakespeare in Love” depicts the fictional romance between William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) and aristocrat Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow), which inspires his famous play “Romeo and Juliet” in the film.

“Exquisitely acted, tightly directed and impressively assembled, this lively period piece is the kind of arty gem with potentially broad appeal that Miramax certainly knows how to sell,” Variety’s Lael Loewenstein wrote.


20.”The Favourite” is a dramatic comedy about two women vying for the queen’s affection.

Fox SearchlightOlivia Colman and Emma Stone costar in ‘The Favourite.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
93%

Abigail (Emma Stone) and Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) dual over Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) affection in “The Favourite,” which is set in 18th century England.

“Yorgos Lanthimos’s new film, starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, turns 18th-century royal intrigue into sublime and ridiculous comedy,” A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times.


19. “Hidden Figures” tells the story of three Black mathematicians that worked at NASA in the 1960s.

20th Century Fox‘Hidden Figures’ was released in 2016.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
93%

Loosely based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s nonfiction book of the same name, “Hidden Figures” places the spotlight on three Black women – and the obstacles they must overcome – while working at NASA in the 1960s.

Largely overlooked despite their contributions to the agency’s work, the 2016 film gives credit to the unsung heroes of the Space Race.

“‘Hidden Figures’ pays tribute to its subjects by doing the opposite of what many biopics have done in the past – it looks closely at the remarkable person in the context of a community,”Lenika Cruz wrote for The Atlantic.


18. “Dunkirk” takes place during the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II.

Warner Bros. Pictures‘Dunkirk’ was released in 2017.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
93%

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” follows thousands of British and Allied troops as they become encompassed by their enemies during the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. The film relies heavily on music and cinematography rather than dialogue to tell the fictional characters’ story.

“Its visual and sound effects are elaborate and impressive. This is a grand spectacle, not an empty one, a rare example of the Hollywood blockbuster dollar well spent,” Stephanie Zacharek wrote for Time.


17. “Glory” is a film about the Union Army’s first Black regiment during the Civil War.

TriStar Pictures‘Glory’ was released in 1989.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
93%

Following the first Black volunteer regiment in the Civil War, “Glory” zeroes in on the heroic men of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick).

The Academy Award-winning film follows the Black soldiers, who were often mistreated by their fellow Union Army soldiers, as they bravely risked their lives to fight against slavery and the Confederacy.

“What makes it as rousing as it is is our awareness that the Civil War was far from a decisive victory for blacks; it was more like the first round in a struggle for freedom and equality that continues more than a century later,” The Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Thomas wrote.


16. “Carol” is a gorgeous story exploring forbidden love in 1950s Manhattan.

The Weinstein CompanyRooney Mara and Cate Blanchett costar in ‘Carol.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
94%

“Carol” takes place in New York City in the 1950s. When Therese (Rooney Mara) spots Carol (Cate Blanchett), she’s immediately transfixed by her. The two women form a close bond, which eventually leads to romance.

The Atlantic’s David Sims called “Carol” a film “where feelings run very deep-and its power comes from watching them emerge on the surface, if only for an instant.”


15. “An Education” details a young girl’s loss of innocence in 1960s London.

Sony Pictures ClassicsCarey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard star in ‘An Education.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
94%

A budding school girl named Jenny (Carey Mulligan) gets swept off her feet by a much older man named David (Peter Sarsgaard).

Set in 1960s London, Jenny goes from wearing her school uniform to prancing around Paris with David. When she learns a shocking secret about her love interest, she’s forced to deal with the consequences of her decisions.

“The movie arranges an unsentimental education for both mismatched lovers, and there’s no denying the collateral damage,”Peter Travers wrote for Rolling Stone, adding, “You won’t forget Mulligan’s haunted eyes.”


14. “Little Women” has a star-studded cast that breathes new life into Louisa May Alcott’s classic story.

Columbia PicturesGreta Gerwig directed ‘Little Women.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel, “Little Women” follows the four March sisters in the years after the Civil War. The film centres on Jo March (Ronan), a writer who shares her sisters’ stories in a time when women’s day-to-day lives were scarcely at the forefront of readers’ minds.

“The adaptation is faithful to its historical roots, yet it runs on contemporary energy,” The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern wrote.


13. “The King’s Speech” is a powerful look at King George VI’s work to overcome a speech impediment.

Momentum PicturesColin Firth stars in ‘The King’s Speech.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 95%

As Prince Albert (Firth) prepares to ascend the throne as the King of England in 1936, he works to overcome his speech impediment with the help of his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush).

“Who knows how close any of this comes to historical fact; the filmmakers’ main source appears to be the Logue family. It doesn’t really matter, though, because something about all this feels right, as do the characters,” Kirk Honeycutt wrote for The Hollywood Reporter.


12. “12 Years a Slave” is based on an 1853 memoir written by a free man that was kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Fox Searchlight Pictures’12 Years a Slave’ was released in 2013.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
95%

Director Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” is the story of a free man, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), that was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South. Based on Northup’s 1853 memoir, the 2013 film won three Academy Awards following its release.

“Intense, unflinching, bold in its simplicity and radical in its use of image, sound and staging, ’12 Years a Slave’ in many ways is the defining epic so many have longed for to examine – if not cauterize – America’s primal wound,” The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday wrote.


11. A Jewish musician struggles to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland in “The Pianist.”

Focus Features‘The Pianist’ was released in 2002.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
95%

Władysław Szpilman, a Jewish musician, published an autobiographical book titled “The Pianist” about his experience in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1946.

In 2002, Roman Polansky brought the book to life on-screen with Adrien Brody starring as the piano player who narrowly survived the Holocaust.

“Szpilman’s recollections, published shortly after the war, offer, like other such books, a deeply paradoxical impression of the Holocaust. Accounts of survival, that is, are both representative and anomalous; they at once record this all but unimaginable historical catastrophe and, without intentional mendacity or inaccuracy, distort it,” A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times.


10. “Argo” is a dramedy about the 1979 U.S. hostage crisis in Tehran.

Warner Brothers‘Argo’ was released in 2012.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
96%

“Argo” follows CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) as he pretends to be a Hollywood filmmaker scouting for a movie in Iran in order to sneak trapped American diplomats back to safety in 1979. The 2012 film, which was also directed by Affleck, is closely based on the real-life CIA rescue mission.

“Ultimately, the thrill of ‘Argo’ is in watching how the illusion-making of movies found such an unlikely application on the world political stage, where the stakes were literally life and death,” Peter Debruge wrote in Variety.


9. “Raise the Red Lantern” highlights the harsh realities women faced in 20th century China.

Orion Classics‘Raise the Red Lantern’ was directed by Zhang Yimou.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
96%

Set in early 20th century China, an educated woman named Songlian (Gong Li) is forced to marry into a wealthy family as the fourth wife after her father dies. On her own, she begins to detect the house’s dynamics and the strict rules that are part of her new reality.

“‘Raise the Red Lantern,’ based on a novel called ‘Wives and Concubines’ by Su Tong, is as visually striking as it is dramatically effective,” Janet Maslin wrote for The New York Times.

Maslin continued, “Mr. Zhang makes evocative use of clear, simple colours, from the lanterns themselves to the blue of the house’s rooftops at twilight.”


8. “The Irishman” is a three-and-a-half-hour crime film directed by Martin Scorsese.

NetflixMartin Scorsese directed ‘The Irishman.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
96%

A World War II veteran named Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) recalls his memories as part of a mob and as a hitman in the 1950s through the 1970s.

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday called the film “a feast for the ages, a groaning board of exquisitely photographed scenes, iconic performances and tender nods toward old age that leave viewers in a mood more wistful than keyed-up.”


7. “Apollo 13” takes viewers along America’s third mission to land on the moon.

Universal/Apollo 13 via MovieClips‘Apollo 13’ was released in 1995.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
96%

Ron Howard’s 1995 film powerfully captures both the excitement and suspense leading up to the Apollo 13 mission in 1970.

When the three astronauts realise there was an onboard explosion once they’re already in space, they’re forced to forgo their dreams of walking on the moon and devise a plan to return home.

“The film’s real-life story is as gripping as many fictional thrillers. It is a nostalgic return to the New Frontier for some, and a history lesson for those too young to have been glued to the TV set when the 1970 Apollo lunar mission began to spin out of control,” Rita Kempley wrote in the Washington Post.


6. “Schindler’s List” is a heartbreaking tale of a German member of the Nazi party that saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust.

Universal PicturesLiam Neeson stars in ‘Schindler’s List.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

In “Schindler’s List,” Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a member of the Nazi party that employs Jews in his factory during World War II. As the war worsens, he becomes morally invested in saving over a thousand Jews from being sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust.

“Marked by a brilliant screenplay, exceptionally supple technique, three staggeringly good lead performances and an attitude toward the traumatic subject matter that is both passionately felt and impressively restrained, this is the film to win over Spielberg sceptics,” Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote.


5. “Brooklyn” touches on the complex reality immigrants have historically faced upon arrival to America.

Fox Searchlight Pictures‘Brooklyn’ was directed by John Crowley.

Rotten Tomatoes score: 97%

The 2015 film follows a young Irish immigrant named Eilis Lacey (Ronan) on her solo journey from Ireland to New York City in the 1950s.

She begins to find her footing in Brooklyn and even sparks a romance with an Italian man (Emory Cohen). Eventually, Eilis is caught between her new life in the United States and her family in Ireland.

“‘Brooklyn’ is easily the year’s best and most beguiling love story,” Peter Travers wrote for Rolling Stone, adding, “The surprise is that it also goes deeper, sadder and truer.”


4. “Sense and Sensibility” examines gender roles in the setting of 18th century England.

Columbia PicturesAlan Rickman and Emma Thompson appeared in 1995’s ‘Sense and Sensibility.’

Rotten Tomatoes score: 98%

Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, “Sense and Sensibility” follows the Dashwood sisters after their wealthy father (Tom Wilkinson) dies. His fortune goes to his eldest son, and the women are left with no options but to seek their own security through marriages.

“‘Sense and Sensibility’ used updated versions of early 19th-century heroes to sell emerging ideals of manhood to the late-20th century, at a time when the pro-feminist men’s movement was challenging gender norms in the realm of politics and pop culture,” Devoney Looser wrote in The Atlantic’s review of the film.


3. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a stunningly shot film providing a glimpse into two women’s relationship in 18th century France.

NeonAdèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant star in ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
98%

Set in the 1700s, a painter named Marianne (Noémie Merlant) arrives at an island in Brittany after being commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a young aristocrat who refuses to pose for a portrait.

Marianne pretends she is merely an acquaintance to accompany Héloïse on walks, studying her subject’s features and painting her in secret.

“‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ – the fire is figurative, but also real – goes beyond painterly beauty,” The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern wrote, adding, “It sees into souls.”


2. “Selma” follows the 1965 marches from Selma to Montgomery during the civil rights movement.

Paramount PicturesDavid Oyelowo portrays Martin Luther King, Jr. in ‘Selma.’

Rotten Tomatoes score:
99%

Centered around the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, “Selma” tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s (David Oyelowo) campaign for voting rights.

Director Ava DuVernay‘s 2014 historical drama highlights people’s sacrifice and pain in pursuit of equality, making “Selma” a timely, essential watch 55 years after the Voting Rights Act passed.

“While entirely satisfying on its own, ‘Selma’ seems to contain the seeds of at least a dozen other movies – a reminder of how fertile the civil rights era is and how poorly it has been explored by popular culture,” The New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote.


1. “A Room With a View” transports its audience to the romantic hillsides of Florence.

Curzon Film Distributors‘A Room With a View’ was directed by James Ivory.

Rotten Tomatoes score:
100%

“A Room With A View” is based on the novel by E.M. Forster and follows a young English woman named Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) on her trip to Italy with her cousin in the early 1900s.

While at her hotel in Florence, Lucy meets George Emerson (Julian Sands) and forms a romantic connection with him. She eventually returns to England and gets engaged to a wealthy suitor (Day-Lewis), forcing her to decide between him and George.

New York Times reporter Vincent Canby called the film “a holiday out of time. It’s a journey into another dimension as it travels from the dangerously seductive settings of Florence, with its foul smells and Renaissance glories, to the more serene landscapes of England, where undeclared wars are fought over tea cups.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.