Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.

These Are the Best Period Pieces on Netflix

Oh Mr. Darcy!

Nobody needs to build a time machine to indulge in the aesthetics found in the past. Period pieces offer a variety of unique stories pertinent to their time period, and they often serve visual feasts that evoke the nostalgia of a bygone era. There is something romantic and intense about period films, regardless of whether they’re telling a classic love story or reenacting revolutions that changed the course of a nation.

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There are many good period dramas and historical fiction movies on Netflix, but these ones should be on everybody’s priority watchlist.

Mona Lisa Smile

God forbid women go to school and use the knowledge they acquired to liberate themselves! Set in the 1950s, Mona Lisa Smile follows UCLA fresh graduate Katherine Wilson. She was hired to teach art at the exclusive Wellesley College full of elite women. Katherine teaches art history, and her first brush with her students proves that they’re extremely bright women. From how they conduct themselves, these women talk like they’ll rule the world one day if they allow themselves to dream beyond what is acceptable for a woman in 1950s Massachusetts.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is all about the opulence of the Roaring 20s. You’ll see dapper gentlemen and flapper-style dressed ladies partying the night away while drowning in champagne glasses. Mr. Gatsby is a self-made man whose origins are largely unknown, and even his story is told through the eyes of one of his friends. He does everything in his power to impress Daisy Buchanan, a girl who grew up with generational wealth.

Little Women

Little Women (2019) has a star-studded cast that revitalized this classic from Louisa May Alcott. The story is set in the 19th century, and it’s about The March Sisters who’ve all grown up and are striving toward their own paths. They’re oozing with money, but they’ve grown gracefully and are trying to forge their own paths and follow their dreams.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Bridgerton was fine, but Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is much better. It’s about Queen Charlotte’s journey to the throne as Queen of England. Though originally German, she was chosen to be the bride of King George. It wasn’t all about glitz and glamor, and some moments were painful to watch. This was a series about the girl Charlotte was and the Queen she would soon become.

Memoirs of a Geisha

The life of a Geisha is shrouded in mystique even as performers, but that’s what the bulk of Memoirs of A Geisha is about. Set in 1929 Kyoto during the Showa Era, Sakamoto Chiyo and her sister Sakamoto Satsu were sold by their father. Chiyo was subsequently taken in as a geisha in training because of her beauty. This is a girl’s journey to womanhood while being under the spotlight as an illustrious geisha. It’s not historically accurate, but it’s still good to watch with a critical eye.

Ip Man

Based on a real historical figure, Ip Man is a renowned Wing Chun master. He was from Foshan, which was conquered by Japan during the Second Japanese-Sino War. It’s safe to say a lot of punches are thrown, but the movie focuses on the consequences of colonization, and how one man fights and inspires others through his martial arts prowess and his unwavering integrity.

Heneral Luna

General Antonio Luna was a general who fought for the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. This man crafted a good defense strategy against the Americans prior to their occupation of the Philippines and even went up against General Douglas MacArthur. Despite Heneral Luna being set during the pre-American colonial era, its criticism wasn’t centered around American colonization alone. The movie was a commentary on corruption and greed, and how the worst enemies are found among countrymen who pursue selfish interests regardless of the costs.

The Queen’s Gambit

Everybody needs something to be passionate about to keep living. The Queen’s Gambit is seen through the eyes of Beth Harmon, who was an orphaned girl with protege-level intelligence. She picked up on chess and learned from a janitor in the orphanage basement. This is the story of a girl’s journey to becoming a chess grandmaster, despite her tragic and humble beginnings.

The Crown

The Crown is a great watch that followed the Queen throughout the eras of her reign. Everything started during the 1950s, and prime ministers came and went to meet with Her Majesty. Queen Elizabeth perfectly embodied the neutrality of the Crown. The series explores the lives of various members of the British Royal Family, with Queen Elizabeth being at the center of it all. She had many roles in life, but the title Queen was the title that consumed her most.

Pride and Prejudice

It is a universally acknowledged truth that anybody in search of a good period romance movie would have watched Pride and Prejudice at least once. Many come to rewatch this Jane Austen classic because of its great cinematography, its exquisite acting, and all the flurry of emotions people feel over the frustrating couple at the center. Elizabeth Bennet is the second eldest daughter out of five, and she’s known to be quick-witted. During a ball, her sister Jane caught the eye of the most eligible bachelor, Mr. Bingley. Jane feels the same, and they’re evidently smitten with each other. Mr. Bingley has a brooding friend named Mr. Darcy, who is also a man of great fortune and wealth. Despite Elizabeth’s attempts to speak to him, his responses were few and rather cold which made her think that he wasn’t fond of her.

This movie is a classic take on the enemies-to-lovers genre, with a dash of slow-burn. It’s the subtlety of the gestures and the way the film conveys longing that makes Pride and Prejudice a great story. It makes almost anybody who watches it want their own 17th-century romance.

(featured image: Focus Features)

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Vanessa Esguerra
Vanessa Esguerra (She/They) has been a Contributing Writer for The Mary Sue since 2023. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy, she (happily) rejected law school in 2021 and has been a full-time content writer since. Vanessa is currently taking her Master's degree in Japanese Studies in hopes of deepening her understanding of the country's media culture in relation to pop culture, women, and queer people like herself. She speaks three languages but still manages to get lost in the subways of Tokyo with her clunky Japanese. Fueled by iced coffee brewed from local cafés in Metro Manila, she also regularly covers anime and video games while queuing for her next match in League of Legends.