Historical drama

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Salah Zulfikar and Nadia Lutfi in the 1963 historical drama Saladin the Victorious Nadialutfi&Salahzulfikar.jpg
Salah Zulfikar and Nadia Lutfi in the 1963 historical drama Saladin the Victorious

A historical drama (also period drama, costume drama, and period piece) is a dramatic work set in a past time period, usually used in the context of film and television.


Historical drama, a type of historical fiction, includes historical romances, adventure films, and swashbucklers. A period piece may be set in a vague or general era such as the Middle Ages, or a specific period such as the Roaring Twenties, or the recent past.


In different eras different subgenres have risen to popularity, such as the westerns and sword and sandal films that dominated North American cinema in the 1950s. The costume drama is often separated as a genre of historical dramas. Early critics defined them as films focusing on romance and relationships in sumptuous surroundings, contrasting them with other historical dramas believed to have more serious themes. Other critics have defended costume dramas, and argued that they are disparaged because they are a genre directed towards women. [1] Historical dramas have also been described as a conservative genre, glorifying an imagined past that never existed. [2]

Historical accuracy

2004 filming of a 19th-century film scene set in London LondonSmog.jpg
2004 filming of a 19th-century film scene set in London

Historical drama may include mostly-fictionalized narratives based on actual people or historical events, such as the history plays of Shakespeare, [3] Apollo 13 , Braveheart , Chernobyl , Enemy at the Gates , Les Misérables , and Titanic. [4] Works may include references to real-life people or events from the relevant time period or contain factually accurate representations of the time period.

Works that focus on accurately portraying specific historical events or persons are instead known as docudrama, such as The Report. Where a person's life is central to the story, such a work is known as biographical drama, with notable examples being films such as Alexander , [5] Cinderella Man , Frida , House of Saddam , Lincoln , Stalin , and W. .

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guzhuang (costume)</span> Fantasy-based Chinese costumes inspired by ancient Chinese clothing

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  1. Annette Kuhn; Guy Westwell (21 June 2012). A Dictionary of Film Studies. OUP Oxford. pp. 98–. ISBN   978-0-19-103465-7.
  2. Robé, Chris (2009). "Taking Hollywood Back: The Historical Costume Drama, the Biopic, and Popular Front U.S. Film Criticism". Cinema Journal. 48 (2): 70–87. doi:10.1353/cj.0.0082. JSTOR   20484449.
  3. Grant, Teresa; Ravelhofer, Barbara (2008-01-15). English Historical Drama, 1500-1660: Forms Outside the Canon. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN   978-1-4039-4849-6.
  4. Niemi, Robert (2013-10-17). Inspired by True Events: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films, 2nd Edition: An Illustrated Guide to More Than 500 History-Based Films. ABC-CLIO. ISBN   9781610691987.
  5. Carver, Terrell (Spring 2005). "Oliver Stone's Alexander". Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies . Center for the Study of Film & History. 35 (2): 83–84. doi:10.1353/flm.2005.0033. eISSN   1548-9922. ISSN   0360-3695. S2CID   191432461.