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August 26, 2005 10:43 PM   Subscribe

Historical movies. I love movies taking place in older times, and I have a particular fascination for the golden years of the British Empire, and the European civilization during this era. What might I like? Also: Bonus question about 1980s, possible 1970s series or movie set in this historical period.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Sharpe and Hornblower series, I've seen Master and Commander more times than I should probably admit in public, I adore Mountains of the Moon, Barry Lyndon, Lawrence of Arabia, Last of the Mohicans and (to cite a less overtly British example) Valmont; I even have a soft spot for Waterloo and Revolution; and as a kid I was glued to the screen by Against the Wind. Some of these movies are about war and imperialism, but this is not a reflection of my tastes; feel free to recommend anything historical related to Europe society between, oh, say, mid-1700s until the early 1900s. What else might I like?

Bonus question: Back in the 80s I watched a series, though I might be confusing it with a movie, set in the late 1700s or early 1800s and featuring an outlaw/ranger of sorts, who I'm pretty sure was named McClane. He wore a leather coat and a cowboy-like hat, and carried a musket or rifle, the muzzle-loaded kind that he loaded from a leather pouch; and he was famous for his marksmanship. It might have taken place in England, or Scotland, or even the America colonies. I particularly remember a scene where he eludes British redcoats by hiding one of many (wine, possibly) barrels stacked along a wall in the backroom of an inn.
posted by gentle to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's a list from a class I took called "Britain on Film":

Goodbye Mr Chips (1939)
King and Country (1964)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Khartoum (1966)
Zulu (1964)
Carry on Up The Khyber (1968)
The Go-Between (1970)
The 39 Steps (1935)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)

And I'd add Gallipoli, Gandhi, and Paths of Glory. If WWII counts, there's The Bridge on the River Kwai and Hope and Glory.
posted by Kevin1911 at 11:40 PM on August 26, 2005

Oh, yeah: The Man Who Would Be King
posted by Kevin1911 at 11:55 PM on August 26, 2005

Pride and Prejudice (the A & E version). I call it the ultimate chick flick.
posted by Soliloquy at 12:12 AM on August 27, 2005

Uhm, I missed the word "historical" on first read. Carry on.
posted by Soliloquy at 12:15 AM on August 27, 2005

What comes to my mind is The Jewel in the Crown, which is set a bit later than "early 1900s", and isn't actually "a movie", but I remember enjoying it quite a bit and your local library probably has a video set for free.
posted by flavor at 12:37 AM on August 27, 2005

The Madness of King George (one of my favorite historical films, with a terrific performance by Nigel Hawthorne)

The most recent Vanity Fair (utterly wrongheaded as an adaptation of the novel, but interesting on its own terms)

Disraeli (a 1920s black-and-white; contemporary viewers may find the acting too "stagey," but George Arliss' performance in the title role is a must-see)
posted by thomas j wise at 1:04 AM on August 27, 2005

Some of these may be a bit of a stretch, but here, for your consideration:
A Passage to India, The Four Feathers, Black Narcissus, Chariots of Fire, Gunga Din, A Town Like Alice, Brideshead Revisited, Lost Horizon (the Ronald Coleman version), White Mischief, Lives of a Bengal Lancer, and The Piano.
posted by rob511 at 1:39 AM on August 27, 2005

Pretty much everything by Merchant-Ivory...
posted by benzo8 at 2:14 AM on August 27, 2005

The Secret Garden is quite nice.
posted by iconomy at 6:42 AM on August 27, 2005

Ignore soliloquy's self-correction: the Pride and Prejudice miniseries with Colin (sigh) Firth and Jennifer Ehle is simply stunning. No overt battle scenes, but consistently gripping nonetheless and Elizabeth's jousting with Lady Catherine at the end is better than the climax of any war movie. Also, you get a terrific sense of place and culture from this most excellent of flicks.

Also, Branagh's Henry V. And seconding most of the recommendations above.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:16 AM on August 27, 2005

1900 house might take your fancy. It's not strictly historical as much as it shows from our perspective the day to day life one would have faced back then. (TV series, not a movie though)
posted by peacay at 7:56 AM on August 27, 2005

I second the Merchant-Ivory suggestion, and recommend in particular Heat & Dust.

Oh, and Topsy Turvy is a wonderful period film from Mike Liegh.
posted by soiled cowboy at 8:08 AM on August 27, 2005

My favorite favorite favorite TV show ever is "Upstairs Downstairs" (the link is to a fantastic website about it). It's about 70 episode. The series begins in Edwardian England and ends in 1929.
posted by grumblebee at 8:58 AM on August 27, 2005

Gosford Park, The Winslow Boy. Maybe The Remains of the Day.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 AM on August 27, 2005

Darn, peacay beat me to the 1900 House recommendation, but there's also Manor House (the best of the series in my opinion; an outstanding companion piece for "Upstairs Downstairs") and Regency House Party.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:10 AM on August 27, 2005

I'd second Zulu from Kevin1911's list. Also, while I think that Branagh's Henry V is an utterly perfect movie (from CunningLinguist's list), it takes place about 300 years before your preferred time period.

For my own recommedations:

Captain Blood (1935), starring Errol Flynn, is a great 19th century nautical yarn, a la Hornblower and Master and Commander, minus any hint of reality.
On the same subject, there is of course Pirates of the Caribbean.
Mutiny on the Bounty - the 1935 version with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable is the best. Brando's 1962 version is also good. Pass on Mel Gibson.

You might also like The Deceivers, which is based on a John Masters novel of the same name. It stars Pierce Brosnan, and takes place in British-occupied India in 1825. It's kind of already been recommended (it's a Merchant Ivory), but I thought I'd give it a specific shout-out.
posted by robhuddles at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2005

Thanks, good suggestions here.

robhuddles: The reviews of The Deceivers aren't good -- Ebert gives it two stars -- but I'll check it out anyway. Brosnan does a stiff upper lip as well as anyone.

As for the Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty, a local cinema is showing it tomorrow in its original 70mm glory. I hear it's a bad film, but I am looking forward to it anyway.

Already loved Gosford Park, Man Who Would Be King, Remains of the Day, Madness of King George. Great movies.
posted by gentle at 1:59 PM on August 27, 2005

The Onedin Line!
posted by Sonny Jim at 10:11 PM on August 27, 2005

Oscar and Lucinda, The Piano, Ghandi, Lagaan (which kicks ass), Renoir's The River.

There's also Ned Kelly but that movie sucked. Good cast, costumes, and locations though.

If you can stretch to Spanish colonialism, The Mission is a very moving film.

While period but not colonial, and a fucking great movie of the play, Mike Figgis' Miss Julie.
posted by scazza at 6:54 AM on August 28, 2005

Captain Blood has already been mentioned so sticking with Errol Flynn I'll suggest The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and Kim.
posted by geekyguy at 6:42 PM on August 28, 2005

"Elizabeth" with Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:01 AM on August 29, 2005

Ooh, The Onedin Line looks terrific. Spot on, thanks. Also, Poldark (which graciously recommended to me) looks great. There are apparently a lot of great BBC series I have never heard of.
posted by gentle at 1:59 PM on August 29, 2005

I liked Gibson's version of The Bounty. *shrug*

Also: Mrs. Brown, Sense and Sensibility, Emma. Elizabeth is from a bit earlier timeframe than you mentioned but a very good flick. You might also like Lady Jane. From a more recent timeframe is The English Patient and Out of Africa.
posted by deborah at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2005

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