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) Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Paramount

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) Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen
Credit: Alex Bailey/Focus

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, 1996
Credit: Clive Coote

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

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Merchant Ivory/Goldcrest/Kobal/Shutterstock (5881076n) Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands A Room With A View - 1986 Director: James Ivory Merchant Ivory/Goldcrest BRITAIN Scene Still E.M.Forster Drama Chambre avec vue
Credit: Merchant Ivory/Goldcrest/Kobal/Shutterstock

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

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Adéle Haenel and Noémie Merlant
Credit: Lilies Films

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

In Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Noémie Merlant plays an artist who is sent to paint a wedding portrait for a woman (Adèle Haenel) who does not want to enter an arranged marriage. The eerie, sensual French film was described by EW's Leah Greenblatt as "an 18th-century lesbian love story set almost entirely within the windswept parameters of a remote seaside villa, with reams of meditative dialogue and almost no male roles to speak of." Consider us sold.

Available on: Hulu

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock (1551790a) Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat Film and Television
Credit: Moviestore/Shutterstock

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Period pieces aren't all corsets and European history. Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a wuxia movie and a love story between skilled warriors Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat). Bai entrusts his machete-wielding lover to transport his treasured sword, Green Destiny. But when she's robbed of the precious artifact, their relationship is pushed to the limit in this action-packed adventure. As Lee put it himself, "Sense and Sensibility, but with kick-ass."

Available on: HBO Max

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Dj/Isle Of Man/Bfi/Pinewood/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885177ad) Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Reid Belle - 2013 Director: Amma Asante Dj Films/Isle Of Man Films/Bfi/Pinewood Pictures UK Scene Still Drama
Credit: Isle Of Man/Bfi/Pinewood/Kobal/Shutterstock

Belle (2013)

Amma Asante's Belle is based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a multiracial woman who was brought up in British aristocracy in the 1700s. While not much is known about the real Belle's life, the film (starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw) explores the prejudice she faces in high society, her romance with a law student, John Davinier (Sam Reid), and her ties to the abolitionist cause. "Belle is like a Jane Austen novel spiked with an extra shot of social conscience," EW's Chris Nashawaty writes. "...[It] subtly skewers the absurd rules and hypocrisies of class."

Available on: Amazon Prime Video (for rent)

The Notebook (2004) Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams
Credit: Melissa Moseley/Newline

The Notebook (2004)

Moving things forward a couple centuries, there's the romance to end all romances: The Notebook. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams (who, by the way, hated each other at first) star as couple Noah and Allie, who begin a tumultuous relationship in the 1940s before the two are separated by World War II, though that's far from the end of their love story. The older versions of their characters are played to a full-on sobbing effect by James Garner and Gena Rowlands.

Available on: Tubi

Kino. My Fair Lady, My Fair Lady, My Fair Lady, My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), Prof. Higgins (Rex Harrison), 1964. (Photo by FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images)
Credit: FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty

My Fair Lady (1964)

Based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison star in the classic musical My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins. You know the story: She's a poor woman selling flowers,. he's a wealthy professor who bets he can make her into a high society lady. Romance ensues, obviously. 

Available on: Netflix

ATONEMENT (2007) James McAvoy and Keira Knightley
Credit: Alex Bailey/Focus

Atonement (2007)

Another Keira Knightly-Joe Wright collab, Atonement stars Knightley as a wealthy woman, Cecilia, who falls in love with Robbie (James McAvoy), a worker on her family's property. But their romance is thwarted thanks to the accusations brought forth by her younger sister, Briony (a 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan). Beginning in the 1930s, the movie shows Briony's decades-long attempt to atone for her grievances, with older versions of her character played by Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave.

Available on: HBO Max

LITTLE WOMEN Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet
Credit: Wilson Webb/Sony

Little Women (1994 or 2019)

1994 or 2019 — your choice. Both adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women feature touching meditations on sisterhood, as well as the complicated 19th century romance between tomboy writer Jo March and boy-next-door Laurie. You just have to decide if you're more of a Winona Ryder and Christian Bale person or a Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet fan. 

Little Women (1994) Available on: Netflix

Little Women (2019) Available on: Fubo, Amazon Prime Video (for rent)

EMMA. Anya Taylor-Joy (left) as "Emma Woodhouse" and Johnny Flynn (right) as "'George Knightley"
Credit: Focus Features

Emma (1996 or 2020)

What goes around comes around... even if it first came around in 1815. Jane Austen's novel Emma was adapted in 1996 with Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role, and again in 2020 starring Anya Taylor-Joy. In both cases, the story is about a wealthy young woman who plays matchmaker for the people in her life while facing romantic woes of her own. The book also inspired Clueless, which is more of a time capsule of 1995 than a period piece.

Emma (1996) Available on: HBO Max

Emma (2020) Available on: Amazon Prime Video

Leonard Whiting plays Romeo Montague and Olivia Hussey plays Juliet Capulet in the 1968 production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet directed by Franco Zeffirelli.
Credit: Bettmann Archive

Romeo and Juliet (1968)

It would simply feel wrong not to include the most famous romantic tale of all time. The Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet is a classic — maybe you watched it in school at some point? — and stars Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey in the title roles. (Honorable mention to 1996's Romeo + Juliet, which doesn't quite qualify as a period piece despite its Shakespearean dialogue.)

Available on: Amazon Prime Video (for rent)

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock (1569101a) Howards End, Samuel West, Helena Bonham Carter Film and Television
Credit: Moviestore/Shutterstock

Howards End (1992)

It all comes together with this one as period piece regulars Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter star in Howards End from Merchant/Ivory. The actresses play sisters Margaret and Helen Schlegel, who become involved in the lives of the wealthy Wilcox family as they navigate relationships and the new ownership of a country estate called — you guessed it — Howards End.

Available on: Tubi

CAROL (2015) (L-R) ROONEY MARA and CATE BLANCHETT
Credit: WILSON WEBB/TWC

Carol (2015)

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett star in Carol, which follows Therese, a young department store worker who begins seeing the titular older woman in the early 1950s. Their affair is complicated by their other relationships with men, Carol's custody battle for her daughter, and the intolerance of their time period. 

Available on: Tubi, the Roku Channel

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tiger Moth/Miramax/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885464b) Kristin Scott Thomas, Ralph Fiennes The English Patient - 1996 Director: Anthony Minghella Tiger Moth/Miramax Scene Still Drama Le Patient anglais
Credit: Tiger Moth/Miramax/Kobal/Shutterstock

The English Patient (1996)

Though Seinfeld's Elaine Benes didn't like it, WWII epic The English Patient was a huge hit when it came out in 1996. The film from Anthony Minghella tells the story of a man (Ralph Fiennes) who has been badly burned and cannot remember his identity. As his memories trickle in, he recounts details of a past love affair to his nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), through a series of tender flashbacks.

Available on: HBO Max

Loving (2016) Joel Edgerton as Richard and Ruth Negga as Mildred
Credit: Ben Rothstein/Focus

Loving (2016)

Loving tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving who, following two arrests, won the 1967 landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. While the film does focus on the lawsuit, their defiant love is at the center of the narrative, thanks in part to the stellar performances by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton

Available on: Netflix

Editorial use only. No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Laurie Sparham/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock (5885068z) Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow Shakespeare In Love - 1998 Director: John Madden Miramax Films/Universal Pictures Scene Still Comedy
Credit: Laurie Sparham/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Sure, there is some controversy surrounding Shakespeare in Love's enthusiastic Oscars campaign, but that doesn't mean it's not an acclaimed romantic period movie. (It just maybe wouldn't have won quite so many awards...) Either way, the film stars Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare in a (fictional) affair with a merchant's daughter, Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow). It's set during the time he wrote Romeo and Juliet, and indulges in more than a few literary parallels.

Available on: Hulu (with Showtime add-on), the Roku Channel

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005) Heath Ledger (L) and Jake Gyllenhaal
Credit: Kimberly French/Focus

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Set between 1963 and 1983, Brokeback Mountain is the most modern period romance listed here, but it certainly still counts. The film stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as two Wyoming cowboys who fall in love on a ranching trip before going their separate ways and marrying women (Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway). But their love affair is far from over.

Available on: Peacock (with Premium subscription)

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are flanked on all sides by their children, all members of the singing Von Trapp family, in this publicity handout from the 1965 adaption of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music.
Credit: Bettmann Archive

The Sound of Music (1965)

There's so much going on in The Sound of Music — catchy songs, rambunctious children, day-saving nuns, a World War — that the romantic aspect moves down the list of things that come to mind. But the love between a strict naval officer (Christopher Plummer) and his carefree governess (Julie Andrews) is at the center of the story. What more is there to say? It's only been regularly airing on TV for the past several decades...

Available on: Disney+

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