It’s truthful to say the name Jane Austen and phrase period drama are synonymous at my house. Hers is a name universally acknowledged as the author who inspired many of our favorite British period dramas. Charles Dickens is another classic author whose novels are commonly adapted (by companies like the BBC) into beautiful period dramas. Or perhaps your guilty pleasure is more in the realms of the recent premiere of ITV’s Poldark. While re-watching all of our favorites time and again never goes out of style, there is something to be said for discovering new gems.
I find discoveries most often after a lengthy on-line browsing session that started out as a quick search and leads to some sort of epic “window shopping” session. This is an act I engage in on occasion. Seeking out new period dramas that look of interest is, after all, a vital and healthy antidote of keeping ones’ fan girl propensities under control. Or that’s what I tell myself. This is an example of how just one such session would go.
Oh, that cover looks beautiful. *clicks link*
Wait, does that one star… *clicks link*
I remember watching that years ago… but I need to see it again. *clicks link*
Lydia Wilson and Linus Roache in The Making of a Lady │ Photo: PBS
Today I’ve put together a list that spotlights a mere few of the period dramas lost in obscurity or if you’re anything like me, they are simply forgotten. Some of them I’ve seen, others I have not. Cataloged below is a wide and varying list of dramas. There are comedies and romances, dark atmospheric dramas and tragedies. All of which take place in a variety of time periods. Perhaps you’ll find a new discovery that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for or maybe you’ll rediscover a classic you had long forgotten.
20 Underrated & Obscure Period Dramas
(Listed alphabetically from A-Z)
1. The 39 Steps
A remake of an oldie, this one stars British actor Rupert Penry-Jones. It’s, surprisingly, more of a comic “cozy mystery” than anything and because of this, overplays its ending a bit. Still, the promise of what might come is sweet (and I do adore the romance).
Availability: The 39 Steps is available on DVD, Hulu, and on Amazon Instant Video or Netflix for rent.
2. Ballet Shoes
This is one that often seems underrated. At least that’s in my opinion. Ballet Shoes is a coming-of-age story about three orphans being raised by their benefactor (played by Emilia Fox). Based on the classic children’s novel of the same name, the story weaves in a sweet romantic subplot and ends on a surprisingly bittersweet feeling. The film also stars Harry Potter’s Emma Watson.
Availability: Ballet Shoes is available on DVD and to rent on Netflix.
3. Berkeley Square
Short-lived though it was, this miniseries looks scrumptious. It’s a look at the 1800s through the life of the women who took care of the gentry’s children. Given its cancelation, I understand that the ending leaves some loose ends.
Availability: Berkeley Square is available on DVD and to rent on Netflix.
4. Bertie and Elizabeth
Sweet and romantic, this ITV film tells the story of King George I, the shy royal with a stutter who ascended to the throne following his brother’s abdication. Though The King’s Speech takes a more serious approach to the same material, this film looks more closely at Bertie and his wife, Elizabeth’s relationship in a more whimsical, romantic nature, which is lovely.
Availability: Bertie and Elizabeth is available on DVD and to rent on Netflix.
Part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection, this one is set in Ireland. It involves a cattle drive and a kind of forbidden romance plot. As a girl, it was one of my favorite films. It’s been years since I saw it, but if memory serves, it’s quite a charming little unknown.
Availability: Durango is available to stream on the streaming service Feeln.
6. Falling for a Dancer
Starring Collin Farrell, this Irish film tells the story of a young woman who finds herself unwed and pregnant. Shunned by the people in her village, she’s married off to a man many years her senior. I’ve not personally seen this though it looks like an interesting drama that deals in some harsh truths, yet promises a happy ending (unusual since Collin Farrell stars – his films are notorious for tragic ends). What I have skipped through looked gorgeous. The film has a European rating of “15.”
Availability: Falling for a Dancer is available on DVD and to rent on Netflix.
7. A Good Woman
One of Oscar Wilde’s more obscure stories, this one is also known as Lady Windemere’s Fan. The most recent adaptation stars Scarlett Johansson and Helen Hunt, and it is really, quite an amusing story about secrets and of course, plenty of romance!
Availability: A Good Woman is available on DVD and to rent on Amazon’s Instant Video service or to rent through Netflix.
8. The Inheritance
Based on a novel by Louisa May Alcott, this is lost to her most popular work, Little Women. Though it’s a little dated, the television film inspired by the book is a unique entity on its own. It steps away from the book and really isn’t a strict adaptation at all. The story is about a young orphan raised by a wealthy family to be their only daughter’s companion.
Availability: The Inheritance is available on DVD (extremely inexpensive) and to rent on DVD through Netflix.
9. In Love and War (Hallmark)
Another Hallmark Hall of Fame title, not to be confused with the Sandra Bullock film of the same name, this one is based on a true story. Essentially, it’s the love story of two people who came from opposing sides in the war; him British, her Italian. Their fight to be together and find one another again comes alive quite beautifully in this poignant made-for-TV production.
Availability: In Love and War is available on DVD and to stream on Feeln.
10. The Lady Vanishes
A woman on a train entangles herself in a murder plot and follows her hunches, investigating it throughout a train journey she’s on while aided by a fellow passenger. With its stellar cast, anyone wanting a cozy kind of mystery that might throw in a twist or two will find a charmer in The Lady Vanishes.
Availability: The Lady Vanishes is available on DVD and available to stream Amazon’s Instant video or to rent on Netflix.