10 Best Period Pieces, Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes (& Where To Stream Them)


The success of Netflix’s Bridgerton has resulted in an increased interest in period pieces. While Netflix has a great selection of films and shows in the genre, there are other streaming services that currently boast excellent stories that take place at least a hundred years in the past.

Many of these feature romance of some kind, and most center on female protagonists making their way in the given circumstances they find themselves in, often defined by the customs of their time. Here are some of the best currently available to stream for free with a subscription, as well as where to find them.

10 Jane Eyre – 84%  (HBO Max)

Jane Eyre is adapted from one of the most famous novels of all time, at once a character study and a romance. Director Cary Fukunaga managed to capture the gothic elements of the book in his film, something many previous adaptations have failed to do.

Reviews of the film are mostly positive, with both critics and fans agreeing that Mia Wasikowska brings the titular heroine to life better than any of her predecessors. Due to the length of the novel, certain things needed to be trimmed, resulting in a film that captures the spirit of the story, if not every detail.

9 Pride And Prejudice – 86% (Peacock)

Even moreso than Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice is one of the most famous romances of all time. Based on the novel of the same name by Jane Austen, it follows sisters as they navigate the marriage market in a time when a woman’s prospects were almost entirely decided by who they married.

The leads in this adaptation sell the central romance with their electric chemistry, doing more with a few glances than words could. There are minor changes to the novel, something that ruffled the feathers of a few die-hard fans, but the essence of the story and its romantic spirit are portrayed beautifully.

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8 Downton Abbey – 86% (Peacock)

Downton Abbey is the most recent period piece on this list in terms of setting, yet it still takes place over a century ago. It was a smash hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States, receiving consistent praise from critics and audiences alike.

It follows a wealthy English family as they navigate various family dramas. It’s a good bit of escapist fun, with a great cast and production values.

7 Colette – 87% (Starz)

Colette is both a period piece and a biopic, telling the story of the famous author who wrote a series of well-known books. It received positive reviews, many of which commented on Kiera Knightley’s wonderful turn as the titular character.

It’s an important film, as it details the personal details of the life of a queer woman who wished to live her life authentically when it was particularly difficult to do so. Though the film does wander into stereotyped tropes fans of biopics will be familiar with, the performances and strength of the story being told make it a worthwhile and unique watch.

6 Emma – 87% (HBO Max)

Here’s another great Jane Austen adaptation. Anya Taylor-Joy gives a brilliant performance as Emma Woodhouse, managing to make the character than Austen herself found least likable quite endearing. The supporting cast is stellar as well, full of scene-stealing performances from Josh O’Connor, Mia Goth, and Bill Nighty. This film manages to actually improve on the source material, making the central romance more compelling and Emma’s other relationships feel more authentic and sweet.

5 The Great – 88% (Hulu)

The Great is a dramedy very loosely based on the life of Catherine the Great, one of Russia’s most prominent rulers. Only the first season is currently out, but it’s made a splash due to its sharp writing and great performances.

Stylistically, it pops off of the screen in a way that makes the period piece genre feel much more modern. This series may not be for those who are fans of the genre purely in its most traditional sense, but it is nonetheless a great series with a lot of potential moving forward.

4 Outlander – 89% (Netflix)

Outlander is based on the series of novels by the same name. It follows Claire Randall, a nurse who accidentally travels through time from 1943 to 1743, finding herself among strange customs and a budding war.

There’s also a central romance that is a draw for many fans of the series, as the eternal love between Claire and Jamie has compelled readers and viewers alike. It’s got a large fan following and approval from critics, as well, with an 89% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

3 Enola Holmes – 91% (Netflix)

Here’s a period piece for families, something that all can watch and enjoy. Enola Holmes is yet another period piece successfully adapted from a book, with the YA series by Nancy Springer serving as inspiration here.

Millie Bobby Brown plays Enola, the younger sister of the famous Sherlock Holmes, played here by Henry Cavill, who shares his talent for solving mysteries. The mystery she must solve here is where her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) has disappeared to, and her quest to uncover the truth leads her into all sorts of perilous predicaments. It’s a fun flick once again featuring an excellent cast, and it may feature an eventual sequel.

2 Bridgerton – 92% (Netflix)

Bridgerton is Netlix’s latest smash hit, infusing Regency-era romance with a fair amount of sex and scandal. It features yet another great cast, opulent wardrobes and sets, and music that many will recognize as string covers of modern hits.

It’s a period piece unpretentious about historical accuracy or anything else. It simply honors the romantic escapism the Julia Quinn series is based on is all about while offering great performances and a truly fun viewing experience by managing to tap into the fairytale-like aspect of the romance genre.

1 Little Women – 95% (Philo)

Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Little Women is not only one of the best period pieces to come out in recent years—or ever, really—but it’s certainly one of the best pictures of the last few years, regardless of genre. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is a much-beloved classic, and Gerwig’s adaptation does the book justice while managing to be a nearly perfect film that is perhaps even better than the novel.

Featuring an absolutely stacked cast and beautiful visuals that capture the feelings of comfort Alcott imparts to her readers through her words, the picture definitely deserved the Best Picture nomination it received at the last Academy Awards.

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About The Author

Madilyn Ivey (125 Articles Published)

Madilyn Ivey is a reader, writer, and film-lover based in Seattle, Washington. She has been a hostess, barista, and a shelver of books. She now works as a freelance writer for Screen Rant. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound.

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