The term is usually used in the context of film and television. It is an informal crossover term that can apply to several genres but is most often heard in the context of historical dramas and romances, adventure films and swashbucklers. The implication is that the audience is attracted as much by the lavish costumes as by the content.
The most common type of costume drama is the historical costume drama, both on stage and in movies. This category includes Barry Lyndon, Amadeus, Braveheart, From Hell and Robin Hood. Films that are set in the 1930s and 1940s, such as Last Man Standing, may also be placed in this category. Other examples include Marie Antoinette, Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice.
There have been highly successful television series that have been known as costume dramas/period pieces. Notable examples include Upstairs Downstairs, The Tudors, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Deadwood, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Little House on the Prairie and Freaks and Geeks. There also exist shows that use the effects of a costume drama/period piece because they are set in a particular era of time, although their true focus is based around a different genre. Examples of these are Xena: Warrior Princess, Legend of the Seeker and That '70s Show.
Period drama in different countries
The Canadian Film Industry has produced a variety of historical and period dramas throughout the last century, such examples include the Road to Avonlea TV series (Based on the 1908 bestseller by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery) as well as the historical war drama Passchendaele. Canadian historical and period films are deeply entwined with the film industries of both their American and European counterparts, though in recent years has become much more globally situated.
In addition to film and television, Canada also has a thriving theatre culture, of which many plays/performances have historical context.
- Period Dramas.com – a costume-drama movie database based around a historical timeline.
- Costume Chronicles Costume Drama Webzine
- Recycled Movie Costumes Website dedicated to documenting costumes used in more than one film
- Enchanted Serenity of Period Films Website profiling costume dramas.
- Period Movies Fan page on Facebook
- Just Period Drama All Period and Costume Drama Information, trailers, games, music, survey, forums.