While it’s always appropriate to celebrate with a special dinner, weekend getaway, and thoughtful gift, there’s nothing quite like having a man sit through a historical romantic drama on DVD to really prove his love.
Romantic Drama Period Pieces
Forget about an R-rated rom-com at the local cinema. True love is when a man sits through a historical romantic drama, risking the spillage of tears (hers and his) and welcoming the inevitable post-movie love story analysis. For women unwilling or unable to put their men to the full test of an unrelentingly emotional period piece, they can compromise with lighter historical romances featuring action (Ladyhawke, A Knight’s Tale), comedy (The Princess Bride, Ever After), and sexuality (Shakespeare in Love). The 10 best of these lighter historical romances are listed below.
Fairy Tales and Legends: Ladyhawke, The Princess Bride, A Knight’s Tale, Ever After
A young thief escapes from the Bishop’s dungeon and encounters a strange man and his hawk. He learns of a curse placed on the man and his lover by the same cruel Bishop. Together they combine forces to bring the lovers together again.
Starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leo McKern, John Wood
Director: Richard Donner
The Princess Bride (1987)
A lovely young woman is forced into marrying a vile prince whom she detests. Meanwhile, her true love, accompanied by a master swordsman and a giant, fights with every ounce of his strength to secure her freedom.
Starring Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Andre the Giant
Director: Rob Reiner
Ever After (1998)
This new version of the Cinderella story features a strong-willed maiden who works, plots, and fights to save herself from her abusive stepmother following the death of her father. Meeting and falling in love with the handsome prince is the result of her self-assertion, rather than a magical means of rescue.
Starring Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston, Dougray Scott, Patrick Godfrey, Jeroen Krabbe
Director: Andy Tennant
A Knight’s Tale (2001)
A peasant squire named William Thatcher pretends to be a knight after his master dies. He trains for jousting tournaments where he enters as Ulrich von Lichtenstein, soon winning prizes, respect, and love along the way.
Starring Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, Paul Bettany, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk
Director: Brian Helgeland
Reality-Based Historical Romances: Shakespeare in Love, Bright Star, The Young Victoria
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This clever romantic comedy mixes truth and fiction into a “What if” scenario about William Shakespeare. Here, the young playwright struggles to crank out another play despite his writer’s block. He becomes infatuated with a young woman who disguises herself as a boy in order to act upon the stage.
Starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, Rupert Everett
Director: John Madden
Rating: R (for nudity and sexuality)
Bright Star (2009)
Impoverished Romantic poet John Keats begins a tentative romance with a wealthy young neighbor whom he cannot marry because of his socio-economic status. Alternately hindered and helped by their family and friends, together they explore love, lust, and poetry during their tragically brief affair.
Starring Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Thomas Sangster, Kerry Fox
Director: Jane Campion
The Young Victoria (2009)
This historical drama explores Queen Victoria’s sheltered adolescence and eventual ascension to the throne. Her arranged marriage with Prince Albert becomes a full-blown passionate love as they grow up together and become distinguished leaders of England.
Starring Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent,
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
In an Academy Award-winning screenplay adapted by Emma Thompson, this romantic drama concerns two impoverished sisters seeking husbands. The ongoing question is whether to follow their hearts or their minds when pursuing good matches. Before he portrayed Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, Alan Rickman played the thankless role of Colonel Christopher Brandon in this film.
Starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Gemma Jones, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Hugh Laurie
Director: Ang Lee
Gwyneth Paltrow stars in this romantic comedy about a nosy matchmaker who makes terrible matches. She can’t recognize which men and women suit each other, and remains clueless about her own romantic prospects, as well. The film won an Academy Award for its delightful music (Rachel Portman).
Also starring Jeremy Northam, Alan Cumming, Greta Scacchi, Toni Collette, James Cosmo
Director: Douglas McGrath
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Five sisters – each with quite distinct personalities – become preoccupied with two bachelors who arrive in their neighborhood. These five husband-hunters scheme and dream about true love with these potential suitors, one of whom has issues with pride that must be overcome. This much beloved film was nominated for four Academy Awards.
Starring Keira Knightley, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, Rupert Friend
Director: Joe Wright