• Girl With A Pearl Earring, If Beale Street Could Talk, Bajirao Mastani, On Chesil Beach (SBS On Demand)Source: SBS On Demand
SBS On Demand takes us back in time with the Prized Period Pieces collection.
Stephen A. Russell

12 May 2022 - 1:09 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2022 - 1:09 PM

Film lovers have a seemingly insatiable appetite for meticulously detailed period dramas, which is why we’ve pulled together the magnificently attired Prized Period Pieces movie collection for your viewing pleasure at SBS On Demand. Here's a sample of what's in the collection:


Girl With A Pearl Earring

Colin Firth, the King of costume drama himself, plays beloved Dutch painter of the Golden Age Johannes Vermeer in this lush movie named for his famous 1665, gloriously baroque work. Scarlett Johansson joins him as a maid, Griet, who sits for the portrait wearing a golden gown, her hair tied with a blue scarf that accentuates the gleaming oyster’s prize she wears. Working from a screenplay adapting the Tracy Chevalier novel, director Peter Webber, who began his career with period short The Zebra Man, excels in the minutiae detailing the true nature of their unfurling relationship.  

Girl With A Pearl Earring is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


If Beale St Could Talk

Barry Jenkins delivered stardust with his intimately drawn queer triptych Moonlight, then stepped back in time from contemporary Florida to recreate New York City neighbourhood Harlem in the ‘70s for this follow-up based on the heart-rending James Baldwin novel. Swoonsomely lyrical, thanks to Baldwin’s swooping, sensuous use of language, it casts KiKi Layne and Stephan James as lovers torn apart by cruel circumstance, with racially-charged police brutality never far from their door. If you’re a big fan of natty cardis, boxy flannel jackets, printed blouses and bright skirts, then Caroline Eselin’s costume design is dreamy.

If Beale St Could Talk is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Reign of Assassins

Everything Everywhere All at Once star Michelle Yeoh also kicks ass in this slice and dice of martial arts mayhem from co-directors Su Chao-Pin and Face/Off maestro John Woo. Set during the Ming Dynasty in China, it actually shares a bit in common with the Nic Cage vs John Travolta movie in that Yeoh plays Drizzle, an assassin hunted down by her ex-colleagues who opts for an extreme old-timey facelift care of hungry insects (surreally ick) to hide in plain sight (Kelly Lin plays Drizzle pre-munch). Working the wild wirework and swordplay you’d expect from this type of fight club, costume designer Emi Wada also delivers divine silken gowns.

Reign of Assassins is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


On Chesil Beach

Atonement author Ian McEwan adapted his novella On Chesil Beach for the big screen as directed by Dominic Cooke, who already had form in period dramas, having previously handled Shakespeare’s history plays in miniseries The Hollow Crown. In a not so swinging take on the ‘60s, Brooklyn star Saoirse Ronan (who also popped up in Atonement) plays Florence, a newlywed who can’t quite face going to bed with husband Edward (Billy Howle, who played a petty officer in Dunkirk). A rare look at asexuality on the big screen, it also beautifully captures the heyday of British seaside holidaying.

On Chesil Beach is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Blade of the Immortal

One thing you will never get in a Takashi Miike movie is bored. The ridiculously prolific Japanese director always delivers a wild ride that’s sure to look sumptuous even as the blood starts pumping (which it always does, a lot). This chaotic masterpiece hurls us headlong (and many, many lost heads) into a ferociously stylish supernatural samurai showdown adapted from the manga series by Hiroaki Samura. Takuya Kimura plays the cursed undead warrior who has to kill 1,000 men to breathe again. You might have trouble making out the fabulous mid-Tokugawa Shogunate period detail because of piled up dismembered bodies.

Blade of the Immortal is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


An Ideal Husband

Writer/director Oliver Parker has a bit of a thing for Oscar Wilde’s mischievous social commentary, immediately following this delightfully wicked Victorian era rom-com with The Importance of Being Earnest. Both star the inimitable Rupert Everett, an actor who excels at period dramas and really should have gotten more of these gigs. Here he plays Lord Goring, a dashingly dressed Wildean stand-in playboy bachelor who frustrates his father no end. A politically-charged tale of backstabbing and blackmail, it’s an absolute hoot that looks the part and also features Julianne Moore and our Cate Blanchett in magnificent gowns.

An Ideal Husband is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


Bajirao Mastani

India has a proud history of delivering epic romantic period dramas on a grand scale, and Bollywood master Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Devdas) does not disappoint with this jaw-dropping adaptation of Nagnath S. Inamdar’s Marathi language novel Rau. Set in the court of Maratha Emperor Chhatrapati Shahu (Mahesh Manjrekar) in the early 18th century, it again teams his dishy Ram-Leela megastar leads Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone. He plays a cheating warlord who cheats on his wife (Priyanka Chopra) for Padukone’s warrior princess and soon learns a lesson when he thinks he can get away with ghosting her. It’s gloriously OTT, spun in much the same way as old Hollywood gold, and the very epitome of glamour.

Bajirao Mastani is now streaming at SBS On Demand.



Sally Hawkins is no stranger to a costume drama, having racked up the likes of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, plus saucy lesbian period pieces Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. Irish director Aisling Walsh stewards her through an emotionally deft take on the isolated life of Canadian painter Maud Lewis set in the 1930s. Maudie pushed through lifelong arthritis in her fingers to deliver her bright folk art visions. Ethan Hawke plays against type as real meanie Everett Lewis, who took advantage of her poverty to hire her as a cleaner, and also went on to marry her. It’s a harsh, but also incredibly tender portrait of a remarkable woman that, set in the Nova Scotia wilderness, seems almost timeless.

Maudie is now streaming at SBS On Demand.


For more prized period pieces, browse the full collection at SBS On Demand.

Follow the author @SARussellwords


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