Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ten on Tuesday: My 10 Favorite Victorian Films and TV Shows

Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but it seems to me that Victorian-set films and TV shows have flourished in recent years. There are several that I consider modern classics and have watched more times than I'm willing to admit, and yet I'm thrilled to find and hear about more popping up all the time.

Do you have a favorite Victorian era-set film or TV show?

When I want to get in a Victorian mood, these are my ten favorite go-to movies and shows:

Penny Dreadful - Ask my friends and family. I talk about this series way too much. The sets and costumes have an authentic late Victorian era feel, but the extraordinary writing by John Logan and unforgettable performances by Eva Green, Billie Piper, and the rest of the cast are what keep me watching, again and again. Bringing fictional characters like Victor Frankenstein and Dorian Gray to life in Victorian London? Oh yes, it's a concept brilliant enough to make me a perma-fan.

North and South - I'm not referring to the epic Civil War miniseries I watched as a kid, though that was awfully good too. This North and South refers to the adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel that pits a mid-Victorian northern industrialist against a gently bred young lady from southern England. The multi-part British TV series features Richard Armitage looking breathtaking in period costume and contains one of THE best "look back at me" moments on film.

Ripper Street - This series is gritty, set in post-Jack the Ripper late 19th century London, and features one of my favorite actors, Matthew MacFadyen, in the leading role as Scotland Yard detective Edmund Reid. I love this series so much that it fed my imagination and played a big part in inspiring my Whitechapel Wagers series, set in 1880's London.

Oliver! - This may just be the film that started it all for me. I was forced to watch it as a kid in school, and then found that I wanted to watch again. Based on Charles Dicken's Oliver Twist, this colorful, raucous Carol Reed musical wound its way into my heart and probably still influences my notions of Victorian era London.

Little Dorrit - Another Dickens adaptation, though much more recent, by the BBC, and without much singing. This one features Matthew MacFadyen as the oblivious but charming Mr. Clennam, and a perfect performance by Claire Foy as Amy Dorrit, who's raised by her father during his imprisonment in Marshalsea debtor's prison.

Jane Eyre - This book by the incomparable Charlotte Bronte is one I'll re-read for the rest of my life, and I'm always excited when a new film or TV movie adaptation pops up. The most recent, featuring Michael Fassbender as the secret-keeping, mid-Victorian era hero, Edward Rochester, may be one of my favorites.

Wuthering Heights - Those Bronte sisters were awfully talented. Based on Emily Bronte's classic
tale, this adaptation features Tom Hardy as the tormented Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Cathy. Despite the tragic love story featured in the book and film, it's fun to watch this particular adaptation and know that Hardy and Riley became a couple after meeting during filming and are now happily married.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - I must admit this isn't my favorite Thomas Hardy novel, but this is definitely my favorite adaptation of the book about a young woman who retains strength and identity despite being misjudged and mistreated by virtually every man she meets. Gemma Arterton glows as Tess in this particular BBC film version of the book.

Far from the Madding Crowd - Bathsheba Everdene is one of my favorite Thomas Hardy protagonists, just as Gabriel Oak is one of his best male characters. This recent film adaptation featuring Carey Mulligan as the feisty female landowner and the MANY men who woo her is a compulsively re-watchable gem.

The Knick - I might be cheating a little bit with this one. It's set in early 1900's New York, and Queen Victoria passed away in 1901, so it's not quite the Victorian era. Yet the show is so fabulous I have to mention it. Focusing on the Knickerbocker Hospital, it's patients, staff, and those running the facility, the TV series features characters tackling every turn of the century social issue and perennial personal issues like addiction, racism, infidelity, religion, and, of course, early 20th century advances in medical science. Clive Owen dominates the show as the charismatic, tempestuous, and troubled physician John Thackery.


  1. I love North and South (and many of your other picks). Other favorites of mine are Young Victoria, Lark Rise to Candleford, Sherlock Holmes, and Cranford. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Reina! :) You're so right. I loved all of those. I like the stylishness of the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr., but I have to admit to truly loving the long-running TV series with Jeremy Brett more. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!