Underrated historical/period pieces

by Mixalidis | created - 12 Feb 2018 | updated - 3 months ago | Public

Just a list of movies I find above average but they're not well known because they're either obscure or were not well-received by critics and audience...

Criteria: Under 20 000 votes and/or rated under 7 on imdb. Pre-WWII

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1. Jefferson in Paris (1995)

PG-13 | 139 min | Biography, Drama, History

45 Metascore

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old ... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory | Stars: Nick Nolte, Greta Scacchi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Estelle Eonnet

Votes: 2,661 | Gross: $2.47M

2. Mountains of the Moon (1990)

R | 136 min | Adventure, Drama, History

The legendary true-story of Capt. Richard Francis Burton and Lt. John Hanning Speke's tumultuous expedition to find the source of the Nile river.

Director: Bob Rafelson | Stars: Patrick Bergin, Iain Glen, Richard E. Grant, Fiona Shaw

Votes: 3,148 | Gross: $4.01M

3. Farewell, My Queen (2012)

R | 100 min | Drama, History, Romance

67 Metascore

A look at the platonic relationship between Marie Antoinette and one of her female readers during the first days of the French Revolution.

Director: Benoît Jacquot | Stars: Léa Seydoux, Diane Kruger, Virginie Ledoyen, Noémie Lvovsky

Votes: 7,533 | Gross: $0.07M

4. The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond (2008)

PG-13 | 102 min | Drama, Romance

51 Metascore

Tells the story of Fisher Willow, the disliked 1920s Memphis débutante daughter of a plantation owner with a distaste for narrow-minded people and a penchant for shocking and insulting ... See full summary »

Director: Jodie Markell | Stars: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Evans, Will Patton, Ann-Margret

Votes: 2,203 | Gross: $0.12M

5. The Throne (2015)

125 min | Drama, History

Set in 18th century Korea, long-ruling King Yeongjo's struggle with his son, Sado, sees the king take extreme measures in order to deal with his heir.

Director: Joon-ik Lee | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Ah-in Yoo, Geun-young Moon, Hae-sook Kim

Votes: 1,579

6. Marguerite (2015)

R | 129 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

76 Metascore

Paris, 1920s. Marguerite Dumont is a wealthy woman, lover of the music and the opera. She loves to sing for her friends, although she's not a good singer. Both her friends and her husband ... See full summary »

Director: Xavier Giannoli | Stars: Catherine Frot, André Marcon, Michel Fau, Christa Théret

Votes: 4,453 | Gross: $0.50M

The original Florence Foster Jenkins. The leading actress gives a marvellous tour-de-france performance.

7. Theeb (2014)

Not Rated | 100 min | Adventure, Drama, Thriller

80 Metascore

In the Ottoman province of Hijaz during World War I, a young Bedouin boy experiences a greatly hastened coming-of-age as he embarks on a perilous desert journey to guide a British officer to his secret destination.

Director: Naji Abu Nowar | Stars: Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat, Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen, Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh, Jack Fox

Votes: 8,888 | Gross: $0.28M

Set in a rarely depicted time and place, Theeb feels 100% authentic and successfully mixes few genres.

8. The Winslow Boy (1999)

G | 104 min | Drama, Romance

79 Metascore

Following the theft of a postal-order, a fourteen-year old cadet is expelled from Naval College. To save the honour of the boy and his family, the pre-eminent barrister of the day is engaged to take on the might the Admiralty.

Director: David Mamet | Stars: Rebecca Pidgeon, Jeremy Northam, Nigel Hawthorne, Matthew Pidgeon

Votes: 6,929 | Gross: $3.96M

Low key with great dialogues like most Mamet movies.

9. In Secret (2013)

R | 107 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

47 Metascore

Thérèse grows up with her aunt and cousin. Around 1860 the aunt decides they move to Paris and that her son and Thérèse get married. The joy- and loveless life changes when her husband brings a friend home. The affair turns ugly for all.

Director: Charlie Stratton | Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, Jessica Lange, Oscar Isaac

Votes: 7,028 | Gross: $0.42M

10. The House of Mirth (2000)

PG | 135 min | Romance, Drama

78 Metascore

A woman risks losing her chance of happiness with the only man she has ever loved.

Director: Terence Davies | Stars: Gillian Anderson, Dan Aykroyd, Eleanor Bron, Terry Kinney

Votes: 6,829 | Gross: $3.04M

Slow and low key, The House of Mirth (like many other Terence Davies' movies) is not for everyone.

11. The Claim (2000)

R | 120 min | Drama, Romance, Western

62 Metascore

A prospector who sold his wife and infant daughter in exchange for a mining claim, tries desperately to win them back as he helps to build the Pacific Railroad with a group of pioneer friends.

Director: Michael Winterbottom | Stars: Wes Bentley, Peter Mullan, Ron Anderson, Marty Antonini

Votes: 5,727 | Gross: $0.67M

I'd never expect such a good movie with such mediocre cast.

12. Enigma (2001)

R | 119 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

64 Metascore

A young genius frantically races against time to crack an enemy code and solve the mystery surrounding the woman he loves.

Director: Michael Apted | Stars: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows, Jeremy Northam

Votes: 19,238 | Gross: $4.30M

Good entertainment.

13. Piccolo mondo antico (1941)

Not Rated | 106 min | Drama

Franco, a young man of noble descent, decides to marry Luisa, daughter of a humble clerk, against his grandmother's will. But a terrible tragedy upsets the life of the newly married couple:... See full summary »

Director: Mario Soldati | Stars: Alida Valli, Massimo Serato, Ada Dondini, Annibale Betrone

Votes: 112

A largely forgotten film was a success back in its time. If you somehow get a hold of it, don't miss it.

14. Cousin Bette (1998)

R | 108 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance

Cousin Bette is a poor and lonely seamstress, who, after the death of her prominent and wealthy sister, tries to ingratiate herself into lives of her brother-in-law, Baron Hulot, and her ... See full summary »

Director: Des McAnuff | Stars: Jessica Lange, Elisabeth Shue, Bob Hoskins, Geraldine Chaplin

Votes: 2,393 | Gross: $1.20M

15. The Duellists (1977)

PG | 100 min | Drama, War

A small feud between two Napoleonic officers evolves into a decades-long series of duels.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Keith Carradine, Harvey Keitel, Albert Finney, Edward Fox

Votes: 17,594

A Ridley Scott movie with less than 20k votes? Looks like it's possible. You shouldn't miss it.

16. On Guard (1997)

TV-14 | 128 min | Drama, Adventure

69 Metascore

The Comte de Gonzague schemes against his cousin, the Duc de Nevers, even though he is the Duke's heir and will inherit his estates. The Count has kept secret the existence of the Duke's ... See full summary »

Director: Philippe de Broca | Stars: Daniel Auteuil, Fabrice Luchini, Vincent Perez, Marie Gillain

Votes: 3,072 | Gross: $0.10M

17. The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

R | 124 min | Drama, Romance

64 Metascore

A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »

Director: Karel Reisz | Stars: Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae, Emily Morgan

Votes: 10,889 | Gross: $22.60M

18. Unconscious (2004)

R | 100 min | Comedy, Mystery, Romance

59 Metascore

A Freudian comedy set in Barcelona, 1913, that playfully questions sexual taboos through a Sherlock Holmes-style investigation.,

Director: Joaquín Oristrell | Stars: Leonor Watling, Luis Tosar, Alex Brendemühl, Mercedes Sampietro

Votes: 1,958 | Gross: $0.07M

A wickedly funny and original movie!

19. Tous les matins du monde (1991)

Not Rated | 115 min | Biography, Drama, History

It's late 17th century. The viola da gamba player Monsieur de Sainte Colombe comes home to find that his wife died while he was away. In his grief he builds a small house in his garden into... See full summary »

Director: Alain Corneau | Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Anne Brochet, Guillaume Depardieu

Votes: 5,928 | Gross: $3.09M

I found it better than Amadeus. Is that enough of a recommendation?

20. Centurion (2010)

R | 97 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

62 Metascore

A splinter group of Roman soldiers fight for their lives behind enemy lines after their legion is devastated in a guerrilla attack.

Director: Neil Marshall | Stars: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Andreas Wisniewski

Votes: 73,935 | Gross: $0.12M

It has far more than 20k votes and a solid 6.4 here, but I'm adding it on this list purely because I found it very, very entertaining despite the occasional silliness.

21. A Handful of Dust (1988)

PG | 118 min | Drama, Romance

The wife's affair and a death in the family hasten the demise of an upper-class English marriage.

Director: Charles Sturridge | Stars: James Wilby, Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard Beale, Jackson Kyle

Votes: 1,621 | Gross: $1.56M

22. Beatrice (1987)

R | 130 min | Drama

Somewhere in France during the Middle Ages. Béatrice is impatient to see her father return from English captivity. She doesn't expect however that the father whom she loves from distance ... See full summary »

Director: Bertrand Tavernier | Stars: Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Julie Delpy, Nils Tavernier, Monique Chaumette

Votes: 566 | Gross: $0.21M

Rarely can you find a Medieval movie that feel this authentic. Cruel, dark and raw. I remember being confused by the characters' actions and behaviour, but that kind of added to the whole experience.

23. Séraphine (2008)

Unrated | 125 min | Biography, Drama

84 Metascore

Based on the life of French painter Séraphine de Senlis.

Director: Martin Provost | Stars: Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, Anne Bennent, Geneviève Mnich

Votes: 5,516 | Gross: $0.88M

24. An Unforgettable Summer (1994)

82 min | Drama, Romance, War

Romania in the 1920's. Marie-Thérèse Von Debretsy refuses the advances of her husband's commanding officer. As a result, the cosmopolitan family is reassigned to a dark and dangerous ... See full summary »

Director: Lucian Pintilie | Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Claudiu Bleont, Olga Tudorache, George Constantin

Votes: 809 | Gross: $0.07M

25. Virgina (1991)

Not Rated | 101 min | Drama

"Virgina" tells a tale from the end of the 19th century. It took place in a isolated village near the Adriatic Sea. Because of the extreme patriarchal culture there is a superstition that ... See full summary »

Director: Srdjan Karanovic | Stars: Miodrag Krivokapic, Marta Keler, Inka Gogálová, Igor Bjelan

Votes: 408

26. El Greco (2007)

119 min | Biography, Drama

The story of the uncompromising artist and fighter for freedom, Domenicos Theotokopoulos, known to the world as "El Greco".

Director: Yannis Smaragdis | Stars: Nick Clark Windo, Juan Diego Botto, Laia Marull, Lakis Lazopoulos

Votes: 4,114

27. The Barber of Siberia (1998)

180 min | Comedy, Drama, History

At the edge of the 19th and 20th centuries, the career of young Russian cadet is crashing because of his love to American adventuress. But she falls in love too, and her life changes forever as well.

Director: Nikita Mikhalkov | Stars: Julia Ormond, Oleg Menshikov, Aleksey Petrenko, Richard Harris

Votes: 10,700

28. The Emperor and the Assassin (1998)

R | 162 min | Drama, History, Romance

75 Metascore

In pre-unified China, the King of Qin sends his concubine to a rival kingdom to produce an assassin for a political plot, but as the king's cruelty mounts she finds her loyalty faltering.

Director: Kaige Chen | Stars: Li Gong, Fengyi Zhang, Zhou Sun, Xiaohe Lü

Votes: 5,652 | Gross: $1.33M

29. Shanghai Triad (1995)

R | 108 min | Crime, Drama, History

A provincial boy related to a Shanghai crime family is recruited by his uncle into cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s to be a servant to a ganglord's mistress.

Director: Yimou Zhang | Stars: Li Gong, Baotian Li, Xiaoxiao Wang, Xuejian Li

Votes: 4,791 | Gross: $2.30M

Back from the days when Zhang Yimou and Gong Li made magic.

30. Mad Love (2001)

R | 115 min | Biography, Drama, History

55 Metascore

The love story that transformed Juana, Queen of Spain, into Juana "the Mad". A story of passions, lies and jealousy with a political motive behind.

Director: Vicente Aranda | Stars: Pilar López de Ayala, Daniele Liotti, Rosana Pastor, Giuliano Gemma

Votes: 3,445 | Gross: $0.28M

31. Molière (2007)

PG-13 | 120 min | Biography, Comedy

59 Metascore

Imprisoned for debt, playwright Molière is rescued by an aristocrat who needs his help in order to seduce a young marquise.

Director: Laurent Tirard | Stars: Romain Duris, Fabrice Luchini, Laura Morante, Edouard Baer

Votes: 5,658 | Gross: $0.63M

Bittersweet with a perfect dose of comedy and drama.

32. The Children of the Century (1999)

135 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

59 Metascore

A story of doomed passion between two genius writers of 19th century - novelist George Sand and poet Alfred de Musset.

Director: Diane Kurys | Stars: Juliette Binoche, Benoît Magimel, Stefano Dionisi, Robin Renucci

Votes: 1,545 | Gross: $0.05M

33. Titus (1999)

R | 162 min | Drama, History, Thriller

57 Metascore

Titus (Sir Anthony Hopkins) returns victorious from war, only to plant the seeds of future turmoil for himself and his family.

Director: Julie Taymor | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Osheen Jones, Dario D'Ambrosi

Votes: 18,848 | Gross: $1.92M

34. An Ideal Husband (I) (1999)

PG-13 | 97 min | Comedy, Romance

67 Metascore

London 1895: Cabinet minister, Sir Chiltern, and bachelor, Lord Goring, are victims of scheming women.

Director: Oliver Parker | Stars: Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Peter Vaughan, Minnie Driver

Votes: 14,393 | Gross: $18.54M

Oscar Wilde. A comedy. A dozen of great actors. What are you waiting for?

35. The Promise (2005)

PG-13 | 121 min | Action, Drama, Fantasy

53 Metascore

Empowered by the love of a slave (Jang), a royal concubine (Cheung) is given the chance to make an extraordinary decision.

Director: Kaige Chen | Stars: Cecilia Cheung, Dong-Gun Jang, Hiroyuki Sanada, Nicholas Tse

Votes: 8,704 | Gross: $8.19M

Silly, superficial, yet somehow I liked the special effects and the story. And I think it has a happy ending, which is a rarity with Asian epic movies.

36. Iron Jawed Angels (2004 TV Movie)

123 min | Biography, Drama, History

Defiant young activists take the women's suffrage movement by storm, putting their lives at risk to help American women win the right to vote.

Director: Katja von Garnier | Stars: Hilary Swank, Margo Martindale, Anjelica Huston, Frances O'Connor

Votes: 5,349

37. De-Lovely (2004)

PG-13 | 125 min | Biography, Drama, Music

53 Metascore

Inspecting a magical biographical stage musical, composer Cole Porter reviews his life and career with his wife, Linda.

Director: Irwin Winkler | Stars: Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin McNally

Votes: 10,405 | Gross: $13.34M

38. Surviving Picasso (1996)

R | 125 min | Biography, Drama, Romance

55 Metascore

The passionate Merchant Ivory drama tells the story of Françoise Gilot (Natascha McElhone), the only lover of Pablo Picasso (Sir Anthony Hopkins) who was strong enough to withstand his ferocious cruelty, and move on with her life.

Director: James Ivory | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Natascha McElhone, Julianne Moore, Joss Ackland

Votes: 6,501 | Gross: $2.00M

39. The Warrior (2001)

R | 158 min | Action, Drama, History

1375. Nine Koryo warriors, envoys exiled by Imperial China, battle to protect a Chinese Ming Princess from Mongolian troops.

Director: Sung-su Kim | Stars: Woo-sung Jung, Sung-Ki Ahn, Jin-mo Ju, Ziyi Zhang

Votes: 10,416

40. Ride with the Devil (I) (1999)

R | 138 min | Drama, Romance, War

69 Metascore

During the American Civil War, two friends join the Bushwhackers, a militant group loyal to the Confederacy.

Director: Ang Lee | Stars: Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel Kilcher, Jeremy W. Auman

Votes: 12,213 | Gross: $0.63M

This Ang Lee movie deserves more attention.

41. Jude (1996)

R | 123 min | Drama, Romance

68 Metascore

A stonemason steadfastly pursues a cousin he loves. However their love is troubled as he is married to a woman who tricked him into marriage and she is married to a man she does not love.

Director: Michael Winterbottom | Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet, Liam Cunningham, Rachel Griffiths

Votes: 9,464 | Gross: $0.41M

42. Return of the Hero (2018)

90 min | Comedy, History

1809, France. Captain Neuville is called to the front, leaving his future bride heartbroken. Her sister decides to write letters on his behalf to cheer her up. But it all goes south when Neuville reappears.

Director: Laurent Tirard | Stars: Jean Dujardin, Mélanie Laurent, Noémie Merlant, Christophe Montenez

Votes: 2,155 | Gross: $0.04M

43. Serena (I) (2014)

R | 109 min | Drama, History, Romance

36 Metascore

In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton's timber empire becomes complicated when he marries Serena.

Director: Susanne Bier | Stars: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Rhys Ifans, Toby Jones

Votes: 24,205 | Gross: $0.18M



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