A historical drama (also period drama, period piece or just period) is a dramatic work set in a past time period, usually used in the context of film and television, which presents historical events and characters with varying degrees of fictional elements such as creative dialogue or fictional scenes which aim to compress separate events or illustrate a broader factual narrative. The biographical film is a type of historical drama which generally focuses on a single individual or well-defined group. Historical dramas can include romances, adventure films, and swashbucklers.
Historical drama can be differentiated from historical fiction, which generally present fictional characters and events against a backdrop of historical events. 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. Historical dramas have also been described as a conservative genre, glorifying an imagined past that never existed.
Historical drama may include mostly fictionalized narratives based on actual people or historical events, such as the history plays of Shakespeare, Apollo 13, Braveheart, Chernobyl, Enemy at the Gates, Les Misérables, and Titanic. 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, Frida, House of Saddam, Lincoln, Lust for Life, Raging Bull, and Stalin.
- Historical fiction
- Jidaigeki, Japanese historical dramas
- Sageuk, Korean historical dramas
- List of films about the American Revolution
- List of films and television shows about the American Civil War
- List of films set in ancient Rome
- List of historical drama films and series set in Near Eastern and Western civilization
- Historical drama films set in Asia
- List of Vietnamese historical drama films
- Middle Ages in film
- War film
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