10 Best Romantic Period Dramas of the 2000s, Ranked


The Big Picture

  • Romantic period dramas can evoke deep emotions and captivate viewers with their timeless love stories.
  • The best romantic period films of the 2000s come from various countries, showcasing the universal theme of love.
  • These films portray enduring love, even in dire circumstances, and explore the complexities of relationships and societal expectations.

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Period dramas, especially romantic ones, can sweep viewers off their feet and glue them to their seats. They can transport us to another time, to a world where love is more important than life. The characters in romantic period films love so much more deeply and earnestly that it’s hard to comprehend. They make us laugh and cry but can inspire deep feelings in the pit of our stomachs. They can take our breath away quicker than expected, too.

Some of the best romantic period dramas came in the 2000s. When thinking about romantic period films, England and Jane Austen might spring to mind first. However, the best romantic period films of the 2000s include a full gamut of stories from all across the world. Love is universal, after all.

10 ‘A Very Long Engagement’ (2004)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

A Very Long Engagement is a story about love persisting through hellish circumstances. Mathilde (Audrey Tautou) stops at nothing to find her fiancée (Gaspard Ulliel), a French soldier who seemingly died after being left in no man’s land after being convicted of self-mutilation to escape fighting in World War I. She soon uncovers clues to what happened on the battlefield. Eventually, Mathilde discovers her fiancée is alive but suffers from amnesia. Still, Mathilde is just happy that he’s alive and cries happy tears.

Mathilde and Manech don’t have much screen time together, but their love for each other is felt throughout A Very Long Engagement. The ending is satisfying because Mathilde finally finds him, but it’s not exactly romantic as he doesn’t remember who she is. Still, the film teaches us that love can endure even the most dire situations.

A Very Long Engagement
Release Date
October 26, 2004

Director
Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Cast
Audrey Tautou , Gaspard Ulliel , Dominique Pinon , Chantal Neuwirth , André Dussollier , Ticky Holgado

Runtime
133

Main Genre
Drama

Watch On Amazon

9 ‘The Illusionist’ (2006)

Director: Neil Burger

Sophie, played by Jessica Biel, and Eisenheim, played by Edward Norton, on stage in The Illusionist.
Image via 20th Century Studios

The Illusionist is about the lengths a couple will go to be in love. Eisenheim (Edward Norton) falls in love with Sophie (Jessica Biel), a Duchess. They’re forced apart, but 15 years later, he returns to Vienna to perform magic. They reunite and rekindle their romance, but Sophie’s fiancée, the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), keeps them apart. What appears to be an elaborate magic trick where Eisenheim starts « summoning » the dead turns out to be the couple’s perfect escape plan.

While Sophie and Eisenheim’s love is endearing and enduring, it’s not as passionate as the other romances on this list. They fake their own deaths to be together, but they could’ve easily run away without Eisenheim putting on his shows and taunting Leopold with Sophie’s spirit. It seems a bit much and even egotistical of Eisenheim. If he wanted to be with Sophie, he should’ve found the easiest way, not continue his shows.

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8 ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007)

Director: Julian Jarrold

Tom, played by James McAvoy, Jane, played by Anne Hathaway, and Mr. Wisley, played by Laurence Fox, in Becoming Jane.
Image via Miramax

Becoming Jane is loosely based on Jane Austen’s life, so, of course, it’s romantic but doesn’t have a happy ending like her stories. Jane (Anne Hathaway) and Thomas Lefroy (James McAvoy) were enemies who became lovers but failed to receive the blessing from Thomas’ uncle and benefactor. Thomas must marry for money because he is his family’s sole earner. Despite this, the couple try to run away together, but Jane realizes Thomas’ family needs him.

Jane and Thomas’ relationship is romantic, of course. It’s hard not to get breathless when they are madly in love and try to run away together. The desperation to be together is painful to watch. When it all crashes down, in the end, the heartbreak is almost too real. It’s unbelievable that Jane and Thomas can’t find a way to be together, but love wasn’t as important as money and security back then.

Becoming Jane
Release Date
March 2, 2007

Director
Julian Jarrold

Runtime
113

Main Genre
Biography

Watch On Pluto TV

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7 ‘Far From Heaven’ (2002)

Director: Todd Haynes

Cathy, played by Julianne Moore, and Raymond, played by Dennis Haysbert, in Far From Heaven.
Image via Focus Features

Far From Heaven follows the story of Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore), a 1950s housewife living in wealthy suburban Connecticut. Her seemingly perfect life falls apart when she discovers her husband, Frank (Dennis Quaid), is gay and cheating on her. While Frank’s world is spiraling, she becomes friends with Raymond (Dennis Haysbert), a Black man who is the son of her gardener.

Cathy’s relationship with Frank is minimally romantic, and she doesn’t quite get to have the relationship she wants with Raymond because their friendship turns into a scandal. Interracial relationships were deadly in the 1950s, but Cathy and Raymond weren’t even romantically involved. At the film’s end, Cathy and Raymond’s friendship seems pointless as they go their separate ways. He’s the one who got hurt in the scandal, and all Cathy wanted was someone, anyone, to love her as her husband should’ve.

Far From Heaven
Release Date
September 2, 2002

Runtime
107

Main Genre
Drama

Watch On Amazon

6 ‘Young Victoria’ (2009)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Prince Albert, played by Rupert Friend, and Queen Victoria, played by Emily Blunt, getting married in Young Victoria.
Image via Momentum Pictures

There’s no other love story like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s. Young Victoria chronicles Queen Victoria’s (Emily Blunt) early life, from being Princess to Queen. Once she takes the throne, she is pressured to marry, but she insists she’ll do it on her terms. Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) is thrown at her; initially, she doesn’t let him in. However, he’s sweeter and more relatable than her other suitors. Unsurprisingly, they fall in love long-distance and then marry, although there are some growing pains.

By the film’s end, it’s clear that Victoria and Albert will be the most powerful couple in the world because they fought for their love despite the public’s scrutiny. According to the New York Times, that was what drew Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, into their story. She was the one who conceived the idea for Young Victoria. She believed there were parallels between their marriage and her own with Prince Andrew.

The Young Victoria
Release Date
March 4, 2009

Director
Jean-Marc Vallee

Runtime
104

Main Genre
Biography

Watch On Amazon

5 ‘The Count Of Monte Cristo’ (2002)

Director: Kevin Reynolds

Edmond Dantes, played by Jim Caviezel, kissing the hand of Mercedes, played by Dagmara Dominczyk, in Count of Monte Cristo.
Image via Touchstone Pictures

The Count of Monte Cristo is a story about revenge, first and foremost. However, it’s also about a love between Edmond Dantès (Jim Caviezel) and Mercédès (Dagmara Dominczyk) that endures for nearly two decades. Edmond’s jealous friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce) frames him while Mercédès is secretly pregnant with his son. She later marries Fernand for security while Edmond is at Château d’If, but years later, the couple reunite after Edmond gets his revenge on Fernand.

Edmond and Mercédès are clearly dedicated to each other, even after all those years apart. Mercédès never forgot Edmond, whom she thought dead, and kept her word to love him forever. She even keeps the string engagement ring she made before he was arrested. His need for revenge almost completely clouds Edmond’s love, but she shows him that their rekindled romance is more important. Love endures, and revenge is forgotten by the end.

Watch On Amazon

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4 ‘Atonement’ (2007)

Director: Joe Wright

Robbie, played by James McAvoy, and Cecilia, played by Keira Knightley, in Atonement.
Image via Universal Pictures

Atonement chronicles what happens when love and jealousy cloud judgment. The consequences span over six decades. Young Briony (Saoirse Ronan) is infatuated with Robbie (James McAvoy), who is in love with her older sister, Cecilia (Keira Knightley). Jealousy consumes her, but then she starts misinterpreting Robbie and wrongly accuses him of a crime he didn’t commit. As a result, she rips Cecilia and Robbie apart, and they never reunite.

Briony weaves an intricate web of lies in Atonement. She paints a scene where Cecilia and Robbie are living together and tries to apologize to them, but it’s fictitious. The reality is that she could never atone for her mistake but wanted to give the two the happiness they never got to have together. Cecilia and Robbie’s romance is steamy but also intriguingly unorthodox. A lady and the hired help fall in love. Tragically, their love wasn’t allowed to endure.

Atonement
Release Date
September 7, 2007

Director
joe wright

Runtime
123

Main Genre
Drama

Watch On Amazon

3 ‘Marie Antoinette’ (2006)

Director: Sofia Coppola

Marie Antoinette, played by Kirsten Dunst, and Louis XVI, played by Jason Schwartzman, dancing in Marie Antoinette.
Image via Columbia Pictures

Love doesn’t exactly arrive between Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) and Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) in Sofia Coppola‘s visually stunning period drama epic Marie Antoinette. It takes a while for the pair to even talk to each other, much less sleep together. Shortly after becoming King and Queen of France, the couple finally produced a daughter. The birth also produces a bit of understanding between them. Regardless, Marie embarks on a passionate affair with Count Fersen (Jamie Dornan).

The pair’s affair might have happened in real life, but Marie and Fersen make it seem undeniable in Coppola’s film. They rendezvous at the Petit Trianon; Louis XVI is none the wiser. This fictional Marie is a passionate lover and is free to love Fersen the way she should love her husband. Even as the public’s opinion of her worsens by the day, Marie daydreams of her Count and fears for his life once he returns to the battlefield.

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2 ‘The Duchess’ (2008)

Director: Saul Dibb

Charles, played by Dominic Cooper, and Georgiana, played by Keira Knightley, in The Duchess.
Image via BBC Films

The Duchess is a tragic love story, but there is passion in nearly every character. Based on the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish (Keira Knightley), Duchess of Devonshire, a distant relative of Princess Diana, Georgiana has just as much spunk and rebelliousness as her great-great-great-great niece. She is forced to marry William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes), who, in the film, puts her through some unspeakable things.

He allows his illegitimate child to live with them, cheats on her with her friend Bess (Hayley Atwell), and assaults her, so it’s really no wonder that Georgiana begins a passionate affair with Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper). However, unsurprisingly, their relationship almost ruins her. Still, after everything that Georgiana has been through, it’s hard not to root for the couple, even if the affair is a bit unrealistic. Georgiana deserves to be with Charles and find happiness because her husband hasn’t given it to her. Even though her romance is ripped from her, the lead-up makes one breathless and hopeful.

Watch On Hulu

1 ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (2005)

Director: Joe Wright

Elizabeth Bennet, played by Keira Knightley, and Mr. Darcy, played by Matthew Macfadyen, embracing in Pride and Prejudice.
Image via Universal Pictures

Pride and Prejudice is the epitome of romantic period films, but that’s because it’s based on the famous Jane Austen novel of the same name. Austen, the Queen of Romance, created the epic love story of Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen). It’s not the typical Cinderella tale where a middle-class country girl unintentionally inspires love in the rich older bachelor of the country.

The 2005 adaptation is richer than all the previous versions. It encompasses the right tone and vibe while breathing new life into it. Keira Knightley is the most passionate Elizabeth Bennet. When her beloved character is angry, the audience feels it in the pit of their stomachs. Viewers can feel the tingle in their spines when she’s sublimely happy; it’s so real. Matthew Macfadyen nailed Darcy’s brooding arrogance perfectly. Yet, behind that mask of indifference, there’s a softness lurking. Both actors gave much more emotion to their characters than ever before.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Release Date
September 11, 2005

Director
joe wright

Runtime
127 Minutes

Main Genre
Drama

Production Company
Universal Pictures, StudioCanal

Watch On Peacock

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