Kate Winslet got her start in historical costume movies, and while she’s moved on in some ways, she still firmly has her toe in the historical. She’s one of the best actors of her generation, something that has been apparent from the start. Here is our exhaustive list of every single one of Kate Winslet’s appearances in historical costume movies:
Phase 1: Caterpillar
Baby Kate had to start somewhere! Surprisingly, many of her early roles have historical settings.
Anglo Saxon Attitudes (1992)
She Plays: At age 16, she played Caroline Jenington in this mini-series based on the 1956 book. The plot is very convoluted, and I’m unclear as to exactly what role Winslet plays, so I’m going to leave it at that.
The Costumes: Haven’t seen it, I got nothing!
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
She Plays: Juliet Hulme, one of two young teenager girls who develop an INTENSE friendship in 1950s New Zealand. They develop a shared fantasy world, and when their parents threaten to separate them, things get SUPER-BEYOND-INTENSE. It’s based on a true story. I saw it once, it blew me away, and I could never watch it again because I’d be too traumatized.
The Costumes: Nice 1950s wear, but nothing to jump up and down about. See it for the intense story and stunning acting by the two leads.
A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995)
She Plays: Princess Sarah, about whom I can find nothing! She’s not the love interest, which is Princess Katey (bleh).
The Costumes: I haven’t seen it, but the pics I’ve found online seem to show your standard faux-medieval dresses.
Special Bonus: Daniel Craig as “Master Crane”!
Phase 2: Costume Drama It Girl
Once Sense and Sensibility came out, she was IT.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
She Plays: Marianne Dashwood (she of the deep, romantic feelings), sister to Elinor Dashwood (the sensible one), in this adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. They are poor after the death of their father. She meets a dashing young Willoughby, who breaks her heart. Will Marianne find true love?
The Costumes: Minus a few quibbles here and there, this is one of the better Regency films. Beautiful gowns and hats and lots of hot boys in hot layered collars. Yum.
She Plays: Sue Bridehead, spunky cousin to Jude Fawley. The two get married (to others) but none-the-less fall in love, with tragic consequences.
The Costumes: Really lovely late 1880s natural form. Yes, they are lower class, but I still really enjoyed them.
Special Bonus: Christopher Eccleston as Jude!
She Plays: Ophelia, duh.
The Costumes: Reset into the late 19th century, the costumes are very well done. Lots of shirtwaists and skirts for the women, with the men in military uniforms.
Special Bonus: Rufus Sewell!
She Plays: Rose DeWitt Bukater, a fictional socialite who boards the ill-fated Titanic with her mother and fiance. She hates her life, but Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) shows her an alternate path. Although there’s some cheese to the romance part of the plot, these are outweighed by Winslet’s performance and the amazing sinking sequence.
The Costumes: Gorgeous early teens suits and gowns, even if they’re a little safe and staid when compared to The Wings of the Dove.
Special Bonus: James Cameron’s clunky script has some choice quotes like, “Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls…”
Phase 3: Post-Titanic Interregnum
After Titanic, Winslet withdrew some from the public eye. She made a couple of very small films, including:
She Plays: Madeleine “Maddie” (because that is SUCH a French nickname) LeCler, laundress in the asylum that holds the Marquis de Sade. She smuggles his manuscripts to a publisher.
The Costumes: MEH. Winslet spends the entire film in her stays, which, no.
Special Bonus: If you like Geoffrey Rush, that will be a bonus to you. If you don’t, you can grate your teeth along with me.
She Plays: Hester Wallace, World War II code-breaker at Bletchley Park. She also helps Tom (Dougray Scott) uncover a mystery surrounding his ex.
The Costumes: Nice 1940s wear. It’s mostly practical, with the few glamorous outfits on Claire (played by Saffron Burrows).
Special Bonus: Winslet was five-months pregnant at the time of filming.
Phase 4: Serious Bzns Actress
She Plays: Young Iris Murdoch, famous novelist. The story shows her meeting and falling in love with her partner, inter-cut with their later life (Judi Dench playing the same character at an older age).
The Costumes: I haven’t seen it. I haven’t read Murdoch’s work, and the costumes don’t look spangly, so there’s no hook for me! What I’ve seen in images look like nice-but-not-exciting 1950s wear.
Finding Neverland (2004)
She Plays: Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, real-life friend of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie. They, and most importantly her children, become friends with the writer, who is inspired to write Peter Pan.
The Costumes: Lovely Edwardian costumes, although they lean more towards 1909-1910 than 1904 (when this should have been set). Lots of tailored suits and a couple of nice evening gowns.
Special Bonus: Johnny Depp, who’s not entirely suited to the role, but is still pretty!
All the King’s Men (2006)
She Plays: Anne Stanton, childhood sweetheart of a fictional Louisiana governor in the 1920s-30s.
The Costumes: The film didn’t do well at all, and I admit, I’ve never seen it. What I’ve seen of Winslet’s costumes online look more 1950s than 1930s…
Special Bonus: Every screen-chewing actor possible?
The Reader (2008)
She Plays: Hanna Schmitz, a former Auschwitz guard who forms a friendship with a teenage boy centered on reading. Later, she is prosecuted for her crimes.
The Costumes: Relatively plain, “we’re being bombed,” World War II wear… as it should be!
Special Bonus: It’s a really thoughtful, affecting movie about the memory of the Holocaust, and I strongly recommend it.
Revolutionary Road (2008)
She Plays: April Wheeler, wife of Frank. They marry and give up on their dreams to become a suburban 1950s couple, causing angst and heartache.
The Costumes: Lovely upper-middle-class 1950s wear, but no standouts.
Special Bonus: Strong performances by Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Mildred Pierce (2011)
She Plays: The title character, long-suffering single mother who raises the BRATTIEST BRAT of a child in 1930s Los Angeles.
The Costumes: Surprisingly good! I was ready for the well-done average housewife looks, but surprised to find that Mildred also has a very glamorous wardrobe for special occasions!
Special Bonus: Really great locations — although it wasn’t filmed there, I was really entranced by how much it conjured early L.A. before the freeways and the sprawl.
2015 is a good year for Kate Winslet historical costume movies, as she goes from a lush corset flick to a more modern period.
A Little Chaos (2014)
She Plays: Sabine de Barra, landscape gardener to Louis XIV at late 17th-century Versailles.
The Costumes: A mixed bag — some things look good, others look cheap. Check out our detailed review of the trailer!
Special Bonus: Alan Rickman as Louis XIV!
The Dressmaker (2015)
She Plays: Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, a dressmaker who returns to her hometown in 1950s Australia to wreak revenge.
The Costumes: Looks surprisingly glam for rural Australia, but then I think that’s the point!
Special Bonus: How can you not want to see a movie described as “Unforgiven with sewing machines”??!!