50 of Trystan’s Favorite Frock Flicks


Today is my 50th birthday, so I’m indulging in some nostalgia by sharing a big, fat list of my very favorite historical costume movies and TV shows, in somewhat chronological order by historical period. Enjoy (and click the titles for our reviews) while I go eat cake!



History of the World, Part I (1981)

History of the World, Part I (1981)

It’s good to be the king! Especially if the king is Mel Brooks!


I, Claudius (1976)

I, Claudius (1976)

The original bitchy Romans. Try the grapes.


The Princess Bride (1987)

Princess Bride (1987)

Yeah, there’s some kissing parts, but it’s still a good adventure.


Camelot (1967)

Camelot (1967)

Making Trystan cry for nearly 40 years.


The Lion in Winter (1968)

The Lion in Winter (1968)

“Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians!”


The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

The Beeb gets so much right in this series.


Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)

Geneviève Bujold is the best Anne Boleyn on screen, no argument.


Wolf Hall (2015)

Wolf Hall (2015)

The most practically perfect Tudor story on screen. Don’t @ me.


Lady Jane (1986)

Lady Jane (1986)

This movie was my EVERYTHING in high school. I had a picture of Helena Bonham Carter in my locker.


Elizabeth R (1971)

"Elizabeth R" - Darnley portrait recreation

My gateway drug to history and especially the 16th century was watching this series on PBS. Thank you, Glenda Jackson!


Blackadder II (1986)

Elizabethan movies and TV series

Proof you can have a high level of historical accuracy and be balls-out hysterically silly and funny too.


Mary of Scotland (1936)

Mary of Scotland (1936)

Katharine Hepburn reportedly didn’t like this movie, but I still love her performance, plus the costumes are a fine ’30s-does-Renaissance effort.


Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

The perfect MQoS movie has yet to be made. This ain’t it, but I can still watch Vanessa Redgrave in some very pretty costumes.


Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Yes, I am a sap! Also costumes by Sandy Powell! Judi Dench as QEI! C’mon!


Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)

Witty AF.


Orlando (1992)

Orlando (1992)

I read and studied Virginia Woolf’s novel in grad school the same time the film came out in theaters.


Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Emma Thompson

Oh Emma and Ken, you two were so golden back then! *sigh*


Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

I was obsessed with this movie and book when it first came out, but strangely that didn’t extend to the costumes until much later.


Amadeus (1984)

OK, so the costumes & story don’t hold up wrt historical accuracy, but it’s still SO much fun and SO entertaining!


Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette (2006)

Kicking off a round of 18th-c. parties that still hasn’t stopped.


Jefferson in Paris (1995)

Simon Callow in Jefferson in Paris (1995)

Only makes the list for the overall hair and Simon Callow!


Interview With the Vampire (1994)

Lestat & Louis, 18th-c. style

I ignore Lestat and just focus on Louis and Armand (which is kind of what I did with the books too). I loves me some pretty mopey goth boys.


Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1992)

Wuthering Heights (1992)

This version with Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes has gorgeous costumes by James Acheson. It’s a surprisingly accurate telling of the story.


Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Hugh Grant historical movies

Emma Thompson won a screenwriting Oscar for this film, and it’s one of the few Austen adaptions I adore and can just watch endlessly.


Jane Eyre (1983)

Jane Eyre, 1983

The longest but most book-perfect adaption (tho’ set in the 1830s, which technically is not correct; read my review to find out more!).


Middlemarch (1994)

Middlemarch (1994)

Rufus Sewell does not have a glass eye (it’s a lazy eye). He’s just a fine actor and super cute. This miniseries is his excellent breakout frock flick.


Impromptu (1991)


Sarah’s obsessed with George Sand in this flick, but I’ve been saying “stupid, stupid rain!” like Emma Thompson’s ditzy duchess in Impromptu for decades.


The Return of the Native (1994)

The Return of the Native (1994)

The only filmed version of one of my favorite novels.


Tess (1979)

best costume oscar

Another Thomas Hardy adaption, beautifully made, if by a reprehensible director.


The Buccaneers (1995)

The Buccaneers (1995)

Bustle eye-candy with tragic-romantic storylines!


The Age of Innocence (1993)

Winona Ryder, The Age of Innocence

The darker, even more tragic side of bustle-y goodness.


Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Moar vampires please.


Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

Penny Dreadful

I own my cliches.


My Fair Lady (1964)

My Fair Lady (1964)

One of my favorite musicals! Really should write a proper blog review one day.


Wilde (1997)

Wilde (1997)

Stephen Fry in the role he was born to play.


Maurice (1987)

Maurice (1987)

Reading this E.M. Forster novel in high school deeply affected me, and I love this adaption.


A Room With a View (1985)

A Room With a View (1985)

Ahhh, the Merchant-Ivory mid-’80s frock flick years! What a time to be alive.


Howards End (1992)

I have so many feelings about this movie.


Jeeves and Wooster (1990-1993)

Jeeves & Wooster (1991)

Pals Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie deliver pure comedy gold with 1930s charm.


Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-75)

Upstairs, Downstairs (1971-1975)

Accept no substitutions!


Downton Abbey (2010-2016)

Highclere Castle

I don’t know why I resisted this show until the third season, when I was down during chemo. I caught up via DVDs and got hooked. We recapped the final season on the blog, and it’s something I can watch repeats of any old time.


Another Period (2013-2018)

Another Period on Comedy Central

This show became the source of SO MANY jokes between my friends!


Some Like It Hot (1959)

historical costume movies about cross-dressing

The cross-dressing costumes are historically accurate, and the story is hilarious!


Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Dignity, always dignity! Make ’em laugh! Gotta dance!


Victor / Victoria (1982)

Costumer Designers Who Haven't Won an Oscar

Le jazz hot.


Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

Rufus Sewel, Cold Comfort Farm

“I saw something nasty in the woodshed!”


Cabaret (1972)

Cabaret 1972

Life is a cabaret, old chum!


Richard III (1995)

Ian McKellen in Richard III (1995)

Ian McKellen‘s masterwork — he co-wrote the film adaption and co-produced the film, in addition to starring.


Brideshead Revisited (1981)

Castle Howard, Brideshead Revisited

A languidly excellent series to get wrapped up in.


Drunk History (2013-)

drunk history

Still going strong and, like, totally worth watching!



Are any of my faves your faves too? What would you get me for my birthday if you could?

48 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Happy Birthday.

    But where’s Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet?

    And Genevieve Bujold was a terrific Anne. Just the right bit of French accent and costumes. But I did like Natalie Dormer’s, too. She was the bright spot in the Tudors.

    And Wives and Daughters….

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I guess romance wasn’t on my mind, lol, & there’s only 50 ;)

      I actually haven’t seen Wives & Daughters (it was Kendra who did the whole week about the series).

      • Susan Pola Staples

        It’s worthwhile.

        And what about the ones to grow on? (old bd joke)

  2. Penny H

    Happy birthday!

    My list if I had one would overlap with yours with these, some not especially for costume reasons because I wasn’t so aware until I started reading your blog:

    I Claudius
    Elizabeth R (barely remember but was impressed at the time)
    Dangerous Liaisons
    Sense and Sensibility
    Age of Innocence
    Room with a View
    Howard’s End
    Jeeves and Wooster
    Some Like It Hot
    Cold Comfort Farm
    Brideshead Revisited

    Not saying some of the others weren’t worth watching or interesting, but they don’t own my heart in the same way.

    Ones I now have to watch or rewatch because of your post today and reviews in the past:
    History of the World
    Six Wives (saw most of this at the time, but it’s been so long, also black & white)
    Anne of the Thousand Days
    Blackadder II
    the two MQoS
    Much Ado about Nothing
    Jefferson in Paris (that screenshot!)
    Wuthering Heights
    Return of the Native

  3. Julie

    My gateway was what I lovingly refer to as “Hank and his six pack” and then Elizabeth R. Our lists would mirror each other’s list. There’s a couple on here that I’ve need to find as I’ve never seen them.

  4. Rhonda Stannard

    I’ve seen and loved most of these. Good choices! What are your thoughts on Immortal Beloved? Also, one of my favorites.

  5. Lynne Connolly

    Many happies!!
    I’d stick Peaky Blinders in there and I loved the aesthetic in Taboo. Do you recall the old Forsyte Saga? And Poldark?

  6. Beverly

    Appy Birthday! Fantastic list!! Someone mentioned Poldark and I second that!

  7. Boxermom

    Happy Birthday! I see that that I have a great many more movies to watch. :)

  8. Misty

    Dang! You have awesome taste! By the way: I hope the day of your birth is beautiful, peaceful & also awesome x

  9. M.E. Lawrence

    Somewhat O.T., but I just saw “Never Look Away” (WWII and post-war Germany; based on the early life and paintings of Gerhard Richter: art as a means of understanding history, one’s life, etc.). Very well-made and acted, with some good mid-century costuming.

  10. Susan Pola Staples

    Hey, Trystan, are you going to do anything special for today?
    And any word on the release of Happy Prince? I haven’t seen anything yet.

    BTW, have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody?

    • Trystan L. Bass

      I just found Happy Prince available on digital rental! Adding into our Frock Flicks budget for next month :) I missed Bohemian Rhapsody in the theaters so I’ll have to catch it on streaming soon.

  11. mmcquown

    I would get you the complete set of Norris’s costume books. As for faves, I haven’t seen even half of the films on your list.

  12. J Lou

    Happy birthday, ElderGoth! What a marvelous idea to list your favorites! It would be interesting to do this regularly, say, every five years, to see how one’s taste changes over time.

    But I must correct the name of one of your choices. It is “I, Clavdivs”, pronounced with the “v”s! That’s the way that my friends and I have referred to it by since the original showing on PBS.

  13. Lee Jones

    Happy birthday! I really like some of the selections on your list. I would need a day or two to select my top 50 favorites.

  14. Lady Hermina De Pagan

    No love for the Gothy WTF?! that is Salem? Bad goth! No cloves for you! Seriously, happy birthday. May you live long enough to turn into Maggie Smith.

    • Amanda

      Lady Hermina, that is the most perfect birthday wish ever. I have alerted my friends that they must deploy it when I turn 50 later this year. Trystan, I echo Hermina’s wish for you! And I was glad to see many of my faves on your list. I would add the Ioan Gruffudd Forsyte Saga and the glorious Mystery series Partners in Crime, which ignited my passion for 1920s fashions. Ooh, and the Jane Seymour Scarlet Pimpernel… and Somewhere in Time… I guess I really should make my own list.

  15. Rebecca

    Happy Birthday! This is a terrific list, and I would get you that definitive MAry, Queen of Scots movie you so deserve.,

  16. Jay

    Happy Birthday, Trystan! Thanks for all the fun and snark. May your day have chemises and no stretch velvet!

  17. LadySlippers

    Happy Belated Birthday! I hope you had a spectacular day. 💖✨💖

  18. Laura

    Happy Belated Birthday!! I hope your day was fabulous! I turned 50 last month and it’s been surprisingly freeing. :) Love your list, please give Wives and Daughters a watch – good story with great costuming and hair!

  19. Angel Lynn Piper

    Belated Happy 50th!
    I feel like this is an appropriate time to let you know that I used to keep up with your alt.gothic.fashion stuff WAYYY back in the late 90’s. I remember following your website as you gathered your wedding attire. Then decades later I followed some unrelated link or google search here, and after reading a post, I scrolled down to the “About the Author” section and I was like “Oh, it’s Trystan!”

    So thank you for 20+ years of keeping me entertained on the internet!

  20. Victoria A Jones

    Cheri, persuasion. Start the revolution without me.

  21. Lily Lotus Rose

    Wow, Trystan. Happy belated birthday!! It looks like I discovered this website about a month after your b-day and this post over a year later. So, here’s a belated happy 51st!!!!! What would I give for your birthday? Easy! I would give you tickets to an awesome, kick-ass costume exhibit!

    I tallied up my overlaps with yours and found 14 films that we both love. I won’t list them all here but I will say this: 1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the most BEAUTIFUL movie ever made. 2. The Juliette Binoche/Ralph Fiennes version of Wuthering Heights is WONDERFUL and does not get the attention that it deserves. 3. Much Ado About Nothing, Dangerous Liaisons, and Interview with a Vampire are EVERYTHING. 4. You are so right: Stephen Fry was BORN to play Oscar Wilde! 5. Daniel Day Lewis looked his absolute BEST as Newland Archer in The Age of Innocence, and this movie hits all the right notes.

    Your post caused me to think back on the costume dramas that imprinted my young, impressionable heart–not only for their costumes (of which I’m not an expert) but for their story, and more probably my teenage hormones and love of melodrama. I LOVED The Three Musketeers (1993); First Knight (I know it’s not a beloved film here); Othello (1995); Emma (1996); The Untouchables TV series (1993); Last of the Mohicans (for DDL!); and House of Eliott (does anyone else remember this British TV show?)

    Once again, thanks Trystan for taking down memory lane and for letting us peak into your costume-loving heart! Happy belated birthday!!!!