Historical drama has long been one of the most consistently popular genres, growing in importance in both television and film. The 2000s was a particularly fertile time for historical drama, spawning a number of prominent films. Many of these were based on literary works and managed to immerse viewers in distant times, be it France in the age of Napoleon or England in the Second World War.
Internet Movie Database users have rated some of the best historical dramas released in the 2010s.
Le Vie En Rose (2007) – 7.6 – Not currently streaming
Edith Piaf is one of France’s most famous singers and there are still many who love her music today. The film Le Vie en Rose is not set up as a straight story, instead offering various vignettes from her life. Despite this, it manages to give the viewer a strong sense of her life, work and particular artistic genius.
What is most notable about the film, however, is the powerful performance of Marion Cotillard, who really seems to embody the character of Piaf himself, making this film one of the best musical biopics.
The Illusionist (2006) – 7.6 – Streaming on Peacock & IMDb TV
As with so many of the best historical dramas, The illusionist takes place in the 19th century and focuses in particular on the character of the Viennese magician Eisenheim. The film skillfully weaves together the various elements of its story, including mystery, romance and sumptuous period drama.
However, what really makes it successful is Edward Norton’s charismatic performance, as well as his chemistry with his love interest, Jessica Biel (who happens to be a woman well above his own rank).
The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) – 7.7 – Streaming on YouTube
There have been many great literary adaptations, however The Count of Monte Cristo is rightly considered one of the best. Starring Jim Caviezel, it’s a haunting and moving film about a man wrongly accused of a crime who escapes a dreaded prison and finally gets the revenge he so desperately seeks.
While it makes a number of notable changes to the original novel, it still manages to capture its essential spirit, and there’s no question that Caviezel’s searing performance remains in its most notable elements.
Road To Perdition (2002) – 7.7 – Streaming on Showtime
The Great Depression has been the setting for a number of great films, and one of the most powerful and compelling is 2002 way to perdition. Directed by Sam Mendes, it focuses on a father and son who seek revenge on those who murdered their family.
It’s a visually stunning film that tackles many important issues, most notably the aftermath of violence. However, as with many historical dramas, it’s the performances that make the film work, particularly Tom Hanks’, that earn it a place among his greatest films.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – 7.8 – Streaming on Paramount+
As with many of the strongest period dramas of the 2000s, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button based on a popular novel. In this case, it’s a story by famed author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it focuses on a man who ages backwards.
Beneath its strange conceit, however, it is a haunting and deeply resonant film about the nature of mortality and love. Additionally, the film offers strong performances from both Brad Pitt – it’s one of his best films – and Cate Blanchett.
Atonement (2007) – 7.8 – Streaming on HBO Max
Some of the best historical dramas are those that explore the aftermath of a single plot as it unfolds over several different time periods. That is the central idea of atonement, in which a false accusation ultimately has devastating effects on the lives of several people. It is based on a bestselling novel by Ian McEwan.
However, it’s the performances that help explain the film’s enduring appeal to IMDb users, and there’s no denying that James McAvoy and Keira Knightley have exceptional on-screen chemistry.
Pride and Prejudice (2005) – 7.8 – streaming on HBO Max
Pride and Prejudice is a novel that has been adapted numerous times for both the big and small screens. There are many things that make the 2005 iteration of the story notable, including the fact that it manages to combine both a more youth-oriented approach to the story with the more traditional heritage aesthetic that was common to other versions of the story.
In addition, Keira Knightley exerts a special magic as Elizabeth Bennett and lets the viewer feel the story from her perspective.
Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) – 8.1 – Streaming on Netflix
Although most of the best period dramas from the 2000s focused on Europeans, Lagan: Once upon a time in India is exceptional for the extent to which it focuses on the Native Americans suffering under English colonial rule.
In particular, it tells the story of an oppressed village that learns cricket in order to defeat its imperial overlords and avoid taxes. In addition, it is also a musical that offers audiences a story to engage in and characters to cheer on.
There Will Be Blood (2007) – 8.2 – Streaming on Netflix & Paramount+
It will be blood Often considered one of the best films of 2007, it features a powerful and disturbing performance from Daniel Day Lewis. He portrays the character of Daniel Plainview, a man-turned-oil baron. Unfortunately, he finds that wealth does not bring happiness and gradually turns into a domineering and ruthless tyrant.
It’s a powerful and moving film and Lewis’ performance is a brilliant illustration of his incredible talent and it’s impossible to take your eyes off his descent into darkness.
The Prestige (2006) – 8.5 – Streaming on Amazon Prime
The theme of magic and illusion comes up again and again in historical drama. However, only a few have dealt with it The prestigewhich tells the story of two stage musicians in late Victorian London.
It’s a suspenseful and exciting film, towards the end of the film there is a dark revelation that changes everything that came before. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are exceptional as the two magicians.
NEXT: 9 Epic (And Accurate) Historical Dramas You Can Stream Right Now