Though we'd never actually give up the comforts of modern living, we can't help but daydream about living out a fairy tale from a few decades or even a few centuries ago. We're not sure why historical romance movies make us swoon so much—perhaps we just love a good corset—but either way, it's one of our favorite genres.
Below are 10 of the best historical romance movies, from Jane Austen adaptations to medieval romances.
Punctuated with a period (because it's a period piece—get it?), this 2020 adaptation of the classic Jane Austen novel is so, so much fun to watch. For those unfamiliar with the story, Emma (as portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy) is "handsome, clever and rich," and she's set on playing matchmaker for her friend, Harriet.
As a comedy-of-errors, it's not much of a spoiler to say that Emma's plans go poorly. And soon, she also begins to realize that perhaps she's been so involved with her friend's love life because she's been avoiding her own feelings.
The Age of Innocence
While we don't usually associate Martin Scorsese with romance, trust us, this film works. An adaptation of the 1920 novel by Edith Wharton, the story takes place in 1870s New York. Lawyer Newland Archer is planning to marry May Welland. But when May's cousin comes to visit, Archer can't stop himself from falling for her.
Pride and Prejudice
We couldn't have just one Jane Austen movie on this list. The 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice remains one of our favorites, bewitching us body and soul. Though Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth have a rather rocky start (and some extra meddling families to overcome), they're one of our favorite classic novel couples.
Despite the frustrating door issue, this is still one of the most romantic historical movies we've ever seen, especially about a shipwreck. Rose is a society girl engaged to Cal, whose money will save her family from financial ruin. She almost chooses to jump overboard until she's stopped by Jack, a poor artist who won passage on the ship in a poker game.
Jack and Rose quickly fall in love, but as everyone knows, the Titanic hits an iceberg, bringing their time together to a tragic end.
Set in the American West during the 1960s and 1980s, this film about two cowboys who must hide their love for one another is widely considered to be a turning point for queer cinema.
Ennis and Jack have one passionate night together, but as they are unable to openly love one another without fear of persecution, both wind up marrying women. And though they often come back together over the years, they never get their happy ending.
Part coming of age story, part psychological thriller, part romance, the 2011 adaptation of Jane Eyre confirms something readers knew all along in our hearts: despite how Charlotte Brontë described him, Mr. Rochester is hot.
The story follows Jane Eyre, who leaves behind her grim childhood to become a governess for Mr. Rochester and his ward, Adèle. Jane falls for the gruff Mr. Rochester, and he for her. But on her wedding day, Jane receives the shock of a lifetime when a secret Mr. Rochester has been keeping is revealed.
A Knight's Tale
Unlike most of the historical romance movies on this list, A Knight's Tale eschews period accuracy, often using modern references and music. The result is an incredibly fun and lighthearted take on medieval life—who doesn't want to hear Freddie Mercury sing "We Will Rock You" at a jousting tournament?
The story follows William, a destitute squire who poses as a nobleman in ordert to compete in said jousting tournaments. William quickly becomes infatuated with Jocelyn, a noblewoman—and though she falls for him too, he'll have to compete with another man in and out of the jousting ring in order to secure her hand in marriage.
This take on the classic Cinderella story loses the magic and adds a good dose of feminism, and we think it's all the more romantic for it.
Framed as the true story that inspired the Brothers Grimm to write their fairy tale, this tale set in 16th century France follows Danielle de Barbarac. As usual in Cinderella tales, Danielle is treated as a servant by her cruel stepmother. But unlike versions where she doesn't meet her prince until the ball, Danielle first makes an impression on Prince Henry when he attempts to steal her father's horse, and then once more when she poses as a noblewoman to buy back a servant who her stepmother has sold into slavery. The two quickly become enamored with one another, but Danielle believes she can never reveal her true self to the prince.
Starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant to Brooklyn in 1951, this romantic coming of age tale examines the difficulties of finding yourself in a world and choosing your path. Initially, Eilis leaves Ireland for Brooklyn because she is unhappy with her life and prospects there. At first Brooklyn isn't much better, until she meets Tony, an Italian plumber.
All is well until Eilis's sister unexpectedly dies, forcing her to return to Ireland to help her mother. Before she leaves, Eilis and Tony marry. But once she's back in Ireland, Eilis realizes she had more options there than she did before.
A Room with a View
Starring a very young Helena Bonham Carter (she was just 19!) and Julian Sands, this British romance is based on the classic E.M. Forster novel of the same name. The year is 1907, and Lucy is a young woman on holiday in Florence with her spinster cousin and chaperone, Charlotte (Maggie Smith). While there she meets George, who is much more free spirited than any man she has ever known.