9 Period Drama Movies You Likely Haven't Seen Yet

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Fascinating melodramas of various countries.

Angelique and the Sultan (France, Italy, Germany, 1968)

A beautiful story about the clash of Eastern and Western cultures. The French Marquise Angélique de Peyrac is accidentally captured by Arab soldiers during a military conflict.

But as soon as the Sultan sees the blond beauty, he falls in love with her and takes her to his personal harem. The man does everything he can to win the heart of his captive. However, Angélique is not going to live in a gilded cage: the girl wants to escape the harem to find her missing husband, Geoffrey de Peyrac.

The Last Duel (UK, USA, 2021)

Set in the heart of medieval Europe, Ridley Scott's historical drama follows the story of a woman struggling for her rights in a patriarchal society.

The plot centers on the first woman in France to publicly accuse a rapist and get justice. Young and beautiful Marguerite is married to the valiant knight Jean de Carrouge. But during her husband's absence, another noble gentleman, Jacques Le Gris, intrudes into their house. Marguerite overcomes her shame and fear and stands up for her honor in court.

Padmavati (India, 2018)

This time, the events take place in early 14th-century India. Sultan Alauddin Khilji conquers all neighboring lands one by one. His army knows no defeat, and his vanity knows no limits.

But the ruler is puzzled by a prediction he received from a wise priest: the old man told him that he would only remain in power if he married the beautiful Padmavati. There is only one problem: the woman is already married to another sultan, Ratan Singh. Alauddin brings troops to Ratan's gates to kidnap Padmavati.

The Pirate (USA, 1978)

An intricate and fascinating saga following the fate of a very unusual prince.

In the desert, a Jewish and an Arab family are caught in a storm. As fate would have it, women of both families go into labor at the same time. The Arab woman gives birth to a stillborn daughter instead of the long-awaited male heir, and the Jew has a healthy son. However, his wife dies, and the man decides to give his child to the unfortunate Arabs.

So, the newborn Jew becomes part of one of the wealthiest and most powerful Arab clans, which sets him on a life journey that holds even more surprises.

Attila (USA, Lithuania, 2001)

A two-part adventure mini-series about the legendary leader of the Hun tribe.

Attila leads his nomadic people to the gates of the Roman Empire. The Roman general Aetius is afraid of the powerful enemy and doesn't want to engage in an open conflict. Instead, he offers Attila to unite against a third party and thus create the strongest military force in history. Soon, however, it becomes clear that the two leaders cannot get along and command one united army. Besides the conflict of two military men, the series also features plenty of passion, gossip, intrigues, and betrayals.

Pope Joan (Germany, UK, Italy, Spain, 2009)

This film often comes up in lists of the best historical motion pictures.

Pope Joan is a modern retelling of a medieval legend with a clear feminist undertone. Young Johanna grows up in a religious family living in a remote village. Her father is convinced that women's education is nothing more than tricks of the devil, but the girl yearns for knowledge and great achievements. Marriage and motherhood are not her lot.

Bandaging her breasts with a tourniquet and dressed in her brother's clothes, Johanna runs away from home and joins the order of the Benedictines.

Cleopatra (UK, USA, Switzerland, 1963)

The classic drama depicts the accession to the throne of Egypt's greatest and most well-known queen.

Cleopatra's jealous brother drives her from the palace that's rightfully hers. The woman decides to regain her throne by wisdom instead of direct conflict: she enlists the help of the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. The emperor returns the crown to his beloved Cleopatra, but soon, the Queen of Egypt becomes dissatisfied with her title: now, she wants to unite the two great empires and rule them.

The Golden Door (USA, UK, 2005)

Once again, the film tells a story of a great love withstanding the conflict of cultures. European John Smith is one of the first explorers to arrive at the vast and uncharted American continent. At first, he sees Indians as crude savages who should be exterminated or enslaved.

But after meeting the Indian princess Pocahontas, a girl of stunning beauty and wisdom, Smith's opinion of the savages changes. Now, the man has to decide if he wants to stay with his beloved in the free world of Native America or return to Fort Jamestown and become a governor among his own kind.

Harem Suare (Italy, France, Turkey, 1999)

Let's wrap up the list with another Oriental historical drama about life in a harem.

In the early 20th century, the great Ottoman Empire is in its last years. Young Safiye becomes one of the last concubines of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The girl is willing to accept her fate and sets out to seduce her master and give birth to his heir. As Safiye gains more influence over the sultan, she finds herself in love with another man — a black slave who's even more powerless than the concubine.