Film & Television | 01.23.2022

Our Favorite 14 British Movies & Series You Need to Stream

By Christina Lyon

Let’s be honest: we all need an escape during this pandemic. But if you’re like us, that doesn’t involve Marvel, sci-fi, or Disney, but intoxicating British period-dramas. 

Handsome men in giant manors, passionate love scenes, decadent wardrobes, and forbidden love? Sign us up.

We’ve rounded up our top picks of best British movies to watch in 2021, plus the best series, across all streaming services.

If the words BBC Masterpiece and Drama rev you up, then pour a steamy cup of tea and get ready to swoon.

1. The Crown

We wouldn’t dare top our list with anything but The Crown, the spellbinding Netflix original series that peels the curtain back on some of the juiciest events from recent British royalty. 

The Crown is a biopic chronicling real-life English monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana. While some debate it isn’t a true story but an interpretation of famous events, it’s still fascinating to watch.

Step inside the lavish Buckingham Palace as the British royal family’s lives (and love affairs) unfold in the epic divide of two manors and one ultimate crown.

Starring Gillian Anderson, Emma Corrin, Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies, Olivia Colman, and Vanessa Kirby. 

Where to watch: Stream it on Netflix.

2. Bridgerton

Dropping on a December 25th release date last year — and essentially rectifying the travesty that was 2020 — Bridgerton was the perfect Christmas gift. 

All period-drama lovers flocked to watch the lives of eight English siblings find love in Regency-era England. It’s the first time we’ve seen real diversity in period dramas, which is a breath of fresh air (and long overdue).

An American production set in 19th century Britain, Bridgerton has it all: fairytale romance, “cottagecore” aesthetic, lavish wardrobe, flirtatious banter, steamy love scenes, and romantic scandals. Yes, please.

Where to watch: Stream it on Netflix.

3. Outlander

If you need a break from Netflix movies, we have five words for you: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Trust us; he’ll send your heart racing. 

Outlander is a historical romance time-traveling Scottish saga brimming with epic battle scenes and graphic medical surgeries that leave you nearly as lightheaded as the erotic love scenes.

Yes, only a novelist (Diana Gabaldon) could spin a tale so intoxicating, so sexy, so bold that it demanded a slot on television.

If you crave adventure, escape, and an unbreakable love story that spans centuries and countries and seems to defy death on every front — Outlander is your ticket. 

Where to watch: Stream all five seasons on Starz or the first four seasons on Netflix.

Forever a classic, one of the best British movies to watch in 2021 is still Pride & Prejudice.

4. Pride & Prejudice

There have been several film adaptations of Jane Austen’s timeless novel, and all of them migrate well to the big screen. 

Perhaps some of the best movies in British cinema history, each version has a starlit cast bringing to life two of the most interesting English literature characters: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

She’s an independent Englishwoman unwilling to be married off to a suitor. He’s a grumpy bachelor, seemingly uninterested in anything to do with her. Naturally, sparks fly despite their opposing viewpoints.

It’s a classic. Whether you watch the old or new movies, Jane Austen’s characters live on stunningly across various filmmakers or various Hollywood actors like Kiera Knightley and Colin Firth.

Where to watch: Catch the 2005 blockbuster on Amazon Prime.

5. Howards End

Buckle up and get ready for 20th century Edwardian English social and class tension across three families in Howards End. The British drama displays the blatant gaps between the wealthy, noble, and lower-middle class.

The cast follows women’s roles in English society, but when the dapper men come on the scene? Savor the moments of romance and levity amidst heavy plot points that guide the story.

Where to watch: Stream both versions on Amazon Prime.

6. The Remains of the Day

Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson lead this 20th-century post-war British epic, which is by far one of the best movies to tangle you into a dramatic web of obligation and desire.

This is one of the best films, following a butler (Hopkins) through his world of high-society politeness alongside the housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Thompson).

Naturally, a love story unfolds, challenging the butler’s loyalty between his radical master and his heart’s yearning. What — and who — will he choose?

Where to watch: Stream it on Pluto TV, or rent it on Amazon Prime.​​

7. Downton Abbey

Follow the lives of the high-society Crawley family (and their staff of servants) as they navigate British aristocracy in the early 20th century — not to mention the halls of that lavish estate.

Family members clash, Lords and Ladies conspire, and the servants’ plotlines are equally as magnetic as the abbey’s inhabitants.

During its run, Downton Abbey was the highest-rated PBS TV series drama to date. The period-drama had a five-season run, (collecting three Oscar’s, mind you) leaving fans craving more from the Crawleys.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video.

8. Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë’s haunting tale about an orphan girl’s evolution through charity school, abusive parents, and the harrowing estate of Edward Rochester will both haunt and romance you.

The story is so hypnotic that there have been several movie adaptations of the classic romantic drama. Most recently is the 2011 film starring broodingly handsome Michael Fassbender and modest Mia Wasikowska. 

The lead, Jane Eyre, takes up a governess position at the estate (with some eerie haunted house vibes), where she witnesses Rochester’s troubled mood swings.

From the first scene, you’re hooked to the story like a mouse to a cheese-wedge until the shocking climax. How will it end?

Watch it on Hulu or Amazon Prime to find out. 

9. Gosford Park

Do you like a dash of horror film in your period drama? Then look no further than Gosford Park, a 1930s British mystery drama.

A typical gathering of high-society English characters amasses to celebrate a weekend of hunting (it doesn’t get more English than this) in a massive British manor (of course).

Murder, suspicion, distrust, and a display of forbidden secrets unfold amidst witty dialogue and who-done-it suspense seen in classic English horror movies.

Where to watch: Rent it on Amazon Prime.

10. Sense and Sensibility

Another Emma Thompson-led cast alongside Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman, Sense and Sensibility follows the life of Elinor Dashwood, whose family status deteriorates after the death of her father.

The two sisters (and best friends who couldn’t be more opposite) attempt to find love with good sense and emotional sensibility. 

It’s witty, endearing, and stars Hugh Grant being his usual charming English self. 

Where to watch: Stream it on Amazon Prime.

11. Mansfield Park

Another classic Jane Austen novel adapted into a film; screenwriter Patricia Rozema beautifully honors the author’s story of Fanny, a poor young woman sent off to live with her rich uncle in a sprawling estate in Mansfield Park for a proper upbringing.

Fanny’s blend of wit and charm catches the eye of the handsome neighbor, Henry Crawford. But true to most Jane Austen heroines, Fanny doesn’t make it easy for the suitor, no matter how good-looking he is.

Where to watch:  Rent it on Amazon Prime.

12. Poldark

One of the most underrated English TV shows from Britain is Poldark, a Masterpiece production adapted from Winston Graham’s novel series.

The story follows Ross Poldark’s business misadventures in Cornwall mining. A captivating love triangle emerges between his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, and a scullery maid he marries, Demelza. 

But perhaps the most riveting plotline is the stop-at-nothing cutthroat rivalry between Ross and his archnemesis, George Warleggan. Somehow, this ongoing feud is more captivating than even the romantic plotlines.

Our favorite character? Ross’s good-spirited, loyal, charming best friend, Dr. Dwight Enys. 

Where to watch: Stream it on Amazon Prime.

Honorable Mentions

Craving more British period dramas? After you’ve gone down this list, check out these honorable mentions:

  • The Dig, a new Netflix original movie and archaeology drama starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James
  • Parade’s End starring Benedict Cumberbatch in a post-WW1 English drama

Now, settle in and let the English drama unfold!

If you’re looking for a movie to watch with your partner specifically, we’ve rounded up 15 options.

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