Pride and Prejudice
It's a daring endeavor to take on a classic, especially one that's been subject to a number of adaptations—including a beloved six-hour television miniseries—but the 2005 Jane Austen remake starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy got it just right. After just a few scenes, moviegoers will be wishing they could attend turn-of-the-century balls and visit the stunning English countryside. It's a live-action version of the romance we've always envisioned—complete with an extra final scene depicting Elizabeth and Darcy as we hoped they'd turn out: in love, married, blissful.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Ever wonder what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression? Look no further than 6-year-old Scout Finch, an innocent girl who grows wise beyond her years in the three years covered in this movie. Harper Lee's classic novel is one of Oprah's favorites
, and the 1962 film certainly rises to the occasion. Named one of the American Film Institute's 100 greatest movies of all time, it brings characters like Scout, Boo Radley and Tom Robinson to life in the way we've always pictured them—and Gregory Peck's Oscar®-winning performance as defense attorney Atticus Finch still brings us to our feet.
Photo: Dreamworks LLC & Universal Pictures
We'll gladly sit through an Ancient Roman history lesson when it stars Russell Crowe and is directed by Ridley Scott. Bloody as he is, we love Russell as Maximus Decimus Meridius, the sexy and powerful Roman general who's imprisoned and condemned to gladiator games after the death of emperor Marcus Aurelius. The Best Picture Oscar winner gave American moviegoers a renewed interested in classical history—dubbed the "Gladiator Effect" by The New York Times—and kicked off a revival of historical epics like Troy, Alexander and 300.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Shakespeare in Love
As if Shakespeare's written words weren't sexy enough, imagine if the man himself were as pleasing to look at as Joseph Fiennes. This romantic comedy tells the story of the fictional 1593 love affair between The Bard and Gwyneth Paltrow's Viola De Lesseps, which becomes the basis for Romeo & Juliet. It's thrilling to see a version of William Shakespeare come to life, spewing snippets of dialogue that could easily be lifted from one of his productions, and especially exciting for the true fans, who will pick up on inside jokes and sly references to the playwright's many works. But this film's not all talk and literary nods, the Will-Viola love scene—when he unwraps the bandage tightly wound around her chest—is one of the hottest of all time.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Back to the Future Trilogy
Does an '80s film count as a period piece? Probably not (though those outfits certainly date it), but Doc Brown and Marty McFly span the decades in their time-travel flicks. We're big fans of their trip to the 1880s' wild west in Back to the Future Part III
, where Marty takes a trip in the DeLorean to save Doc from death at the hands of nemesis Biff Tannen
's ancestor. We're suckers for a film that delivers love in unlikely places and hammers home the truth that your future is what you make it.
What young girl hasn't wished she was a March sister? Louisa May Alcott's masterful 1868 novel is timeless, and the 1994 movie remake—starring Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes and a young Kirsten Dunst—is the kind of film that transports moviegoers young and old. Set in Civil War–era New England, you can't help but feel the cold and the hunger that afflicts the four daughters of a Union Army chaplain. Young viewers will be in awe of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, while the adult set will watch Susan's Marmee with awe and admiration.
Photo: Polygram Films Entertainment
It seems certain actresses were born to play the Queen. Cate Blanchett leads that pack (with Helen Mirren and Judi Dench as close runners-up). In her Oscar-nominated performance, Cate plays Queen Elizabeth I of England during the early years of her reign, and we witness her transformation from a kind-hearted girl to an assertive—sometimes even ruthless—queen. As any successful period film does, Elizabeth reminds us that though modern-day existence is a far cry from 1550s England, certain human emotions—lust, jealousy, rage—transcend time.
Director James Cameron transports viewers aboard 1912's RMS Titanic and instills a palpable sense of wonder and possibility in the first half of this film that's the same as the passengers climbing aboard must have felt in those early days of voyage. Though we knew the ending before it started, that didn't stop us from rooting for the romance of Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack and Kate Winslet's Rose. We cried as we saw the iceberg approaching. We remembered the King of the World, and then went back to see him again. And again. Which made this three-hour movie the highest-grossing film of all time...until director James Cameron decided to take on the future
Photo: Hollywood Pictures
If turn-of-the-century New York City was really inhabited by a group of song-and-dance newsboys, can we please hop into the DeLorean and take a look-see? Before he catapulted to High School Musical
and This Is It
levels of fame, choreographer Kenny Ortega made his directorial debut with this Disney film about the real-life newsboys strike of 1899. Starring a young Christian Bale, Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall and Ann-Margret, the 1992 flick was a box-office flop but grew a cult following upon its VHS release. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but we see a rereleased sing-along in its future.