14 Best British Dramas Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
You might call Francis Lee's spellbinding debut a Call me By Your Name without the privilege and pretentiousness, and we think it's a better movie because of it. God's Own Country tells the story of Johnny Saxby (Josh O'Connor), a farmer's son who is trapped working on the family farm, who dulls his frustration and misery with binging at the pub and aggressive sex with strange men—his true desire is not so much repressed by society's rampant homophobia here, but by his family's emotional callousness. When his strict and icy father suffers a stroke, things get worse for him still. Then, during lambing season, help arrives in the shape of watchful, radiant, and strikingly handsome Romanian seasonal worker, Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), whose warmth of character and professional competence feels threatening to Johnny at first. But when they withdraw to the hills to repair a stone wall, Johnny's aggression gives way to passion as Gheorghe helps him to feel, to love, and to see beauty in the country around him. God's own country. A beautiful, stirring, and passionate debut!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alec Secareanu, Alexander Suvandjiev, Gemma Jones, Harry Lister Smith, Ian Hart, John McCrea, Josh O'Connor, Josh O'Connor, Liam Thomas, Melanie Kilburn, Moey Hassan, Naveed Choudhry, Patsy Ferran, Sarah White, Stefan Dermendjiev

Director: Francis Lee

Rating: Not Rated

Ex Machina is the directorial debut of Alex Garland, the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later). It tells the story of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson from About Time), an IT developer who is invited by a billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment—administering a Turing test to a humanoid robot called Ava (Alicia Vikander). Meeting the robot with feelings of superiority at first, questions of trust and ethics soon collide with the protagonist's personal views. While this dazzling film does not rely on them, the visual effects and the overall look-feel of Ex Machina are absolutely stunning and were rightly picked for an Academy Award. They make Ex Machina feel just as casually futuristic as the equally stylish Her and, like Joaquin Phoenix, Gleeson aka Caleb must confront the feelings he develops towards a machine, despite his full awareness that 'she' is just that. This is possibly as close to Kubrick as anyone got in the 21st century. Ex Machina is clever, thrilling, and packed with engaging ideas.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alex Garland, Alicia Vikander, Chelsea Li, Claire Selby, Corey Johnson, Domhnall Gleeson, Elina Alminas, Gana Bayarsaikhan, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno, Symara A. Templeman, Symara Templeman, Tiffany Pisani

Director: Alex Garland

Rating: R

With Howards End, the magic trio of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala converted yet another turn-of-the-19th-century EM Forster novel into exquisite cinematic form. Ravishingly shot and performed to career-best heights by many of its cast, Howards End loses nothing of the elegance we expect from a period drama, and yet it also feels thoroughly modern. The film charts the tragic entwining of three families: the progressive and intellectual middle-class Schlegel sisters, the much more traditionally minded and wealthier Wilcox family, and the Basts, a down-on-their-luck working-class couple. It’s the liberally minded Schlegels who cross the class divide of 1910 London to bring these two distant social circles so close to each other, but it’s the old-world values of the Wilcoxes that make that meeting a tragic one. Simmering with rich emotion and crackling with class politics, Howards End is the crowning glory of the Merchant Ivory powerhouse and the rare perfect period drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Ross Magenty, Anne Lambton, Anthony Hopkins, Barbara Hicks, Crispin Bonham-Carter, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, James Ivory, James Wilby, Jemma Redgrave, Jo Kendall, Joseph Bennett, Margery Mason, Nicola Duffett, Peter Cellier, Prunella Scales, Samuel West, Simon Callow, Susie Lindeman, Vanessa Redgrave

Director: James Ivory

Rating: PG

Mike Leigh’s forthright and compassionate depiction of working-class life extends to his period pieces as well. Imelda Staunton is remarkable as Vera Drake, a housekeeper in 1950’s London who quietly performs abortions on the side.

Leigh’s vigilant portrayal of class highlights the stark divide between abortion access for the poor and what is offered to the rich. The storytelling is simple and straightforward, he doesn’t over-sentimentalize or grandstand, but merely depicts conditions as they were. Meanwhile, Staunton’s Vera oozes so much fullness, warmth, and empathy, that the heartbreak that follows is mercilessly palpable. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Williams, Alex Kelly, Allan Corduner, Angela Curran, Anna Keaveney, Anthony O'Donnell, Billie Cook, Billy Seymour, Chris O'Dowd, Craig Conway, Daniel Mays, Eddie Marsan, Eileen Davies, Elizabeth Berrington, Emma Amos, Fenella Woolgar, Gerard Monaco, Heather Craney, Helen Coker, Imelda Staunton, Jake Wood, James Payton, Jane Wood, Jeffry Wickham, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Griffiths, John Warman, Leo Bill, Lesley Manville, Lesley Sharp, Liz White, Marion Bailey, Martin Savage, Nicholas Jones, Nicky Henson, Paul Jesson, Paul Raffield, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Richard Graham, Robert Putt, Rosie Cavaliero, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Sam Troughton, Sandra Voe, Sid Mitchell, Simon Chandler, Sinéad Matthews, Tilly Vosburgh, Tom Ellis, Vincent Franklin, Vinette Robinson, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

A sincere portrayal of the gritty British working class life through the coming-of-age story of a girl who loves rap music and dancing to it. It features a stunning and powerful performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis who had no acting experience whatsoever, and who was cast in the street after she was spotted fighting. She plays Mia, a 15 year old teenager whose world changes drastically when her mother's new boyfriend (played by Michael Fassbender) turns his eyes to her. Don't watch this movie if you are looking for a no-brainer, definitely do watch it if you are interested in films that realistically portray others' lives and let you into them.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anthony Geary, Carrie-Ann Savill, Charlotte Collins, Grant Wild, Harry Treadaway, Jack Gordon, Jason Maza, Joanna Horton, Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Griffiths, Sarah Bayes, Sydney Mary Nash, Toyin Ogidi

Director: Andrea Arnold

Rating: Not Rated

, 2022

Of the three Brontë sisters—all of whom are accomplished writers in their own right—it’s Emily who remains the most enigmatic to this day. She died early and left in her wake just one work: her first and only novel, Wuthering Heights. The book shook England back then; it was rugged and sexual and violent, and the film honors that by filling the gaps in our knowledge of Brontë’s life with the excitement of her work. Emily, the film, may be historically inaccurate, but it is wildly enjoyable, even if it is pure fantasy. The cinematography is sensual and the sound production screeching; the vibe is equal parts erotic and eerie as Emily loses herself in the mysticism of the moors. It seems apt that a film about Emily leans more toward arthouse than commercial, but it’s also impressive that director Frances O'Connor is able to achieve all this while maintaining a universally romantic appeal about it.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Alexandra Dowling, Emma Mackey, Fionn Whitehead, Gemma Jones, Gerald Lepkowski, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Paul Warriner, Sacha Parkinson, Veronica Roberts

Director: Frances O'Connor

Rating: R

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Camille Ucan, Charlotte Rampling, David Sibley, Dolly Wells, Geraldine James, Hannah Chalmers, Richard Cunningham, Rufus Wright, Sam Alexander, Tom Courtenay

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: R

A sleek revision of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel, the 2011 version of Jane Eyre features Mia Wasikowska as the titular governess and Michael Fassbender as her employer-and-lover-with-a-secret, Rochester — both lending stunningly aggrieved performances to the tale of their burgeoning love affair. The film is somber yet wonderfully polished as it plays out their individual complexities and growing passions. This film is also notable as the sophomore directorial effort of Cary Fukunaga, who would go on to great acclaim for his work on the first season of True Detective as well as Beasts of No Nation. Fans of Fukunaga’s work are just a likely to enjoy this one as are devotees of well-crated adaptations of classic literature.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Amelia Clarkson, Angela Curran, Ben Roberts, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Craig Roberts, Edwina Elek, Eglantine Rembauville-Nicolle, Emily Haigh, Ewart James Walters, Freya Parks, Freya Wilson, Georgia Bourke, Harry Lloyd, Holliday Grainger, Imogen Poots, Jamie Bell, Jayne Wisener, Joe Van Moyland, Joseph Kloska, Judi Dench, Lizzie Hopley, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Ned Dennehy, Romy Settbon Moore, Rosie Cavaliero, Sally Hawkins, Sally Reeve, Sandy McDade, Simon McBurney, Sophie Ward, Su Eliott, Su Elliot, Su Elliott, Tamzin Merchant, Valentina Cervi

Director: Cary Fukunaga, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating: PG-13

, 2019

It’s rare now to hear the phrase “girl power” without being immediately suspicious of its intentions, reduced as it were to cheesy adspeak and empty platitudes. But in the case of Rocks—a movie helmed by a predominantly female crew and co-written by the teenage cast themselves—the slogan fits. There is power in this type of girlhood: open, collaborative, and supportive, and that’s just what happens off-screen. 

On-screen, what unfolds is even more complex and beautiful. As Rocks struggles to take care of her younger brother all on her own, as she’s forced to grow up and face ethical dilemmas normally reserved for adults, she is backed unwaveringly by her friends Sumaya, Agnes, Yawa, Khadijah, and Sabina. It's their specific bond, unsentimental but deeply considerate and loyal, that keeps the film as solid and grounded as the title suggests.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Afi Okaidja, Anastasia Dymitrow, Bukky Bakray, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, D'angelou Osei Kissiedu, Kaine Zajaz, Kate Isitt, Kosar Ali, Layo-Christina Akinlude, Mohammad Amiri, Ruby Stokes, Sarah Niles, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Sharon D. Clarke, Shola Adewusi, Tawheda Begum, Umit Ulgen

Director: Sarah Gavron

Rating: TV-MA

Kilo Two Bravo (Originally named Kajaki) is a must-watch for anyone who likes war dramas. It tells the true story of British soldiers in the Afghanistan war who find themselves trapped in a minefield during a mission, with their rescue team coming in a helicopter that might set off mines if it lands. It's a slow, dialogue driven film that is interested in taking you to the war zone more than it cares about entertaining you. Ultimately, it becomes an essay on the horrors of war, and an anti-war war film. Because of this and given the blood and gore, this movie is definitely not for those who would feel nauseated at sight of blood. Great setting, good cinematography, realistic acting and script all do justice to the true story. It's a film that will grip your senses and keep you at the edge of the seat throughout.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ali Cook, Andy Gibbins, Benjamin O'Mahony, Bryan Parry, David Elliot, Grant Kilburn, Joe Corrigall, John Doughty, Jon-Paul Bell, Liam Ainsworth, Malachi Kirby, Mark Stanley, Paul Katis, Paul Luebke, Robert Mitchell, Scott Kyle, Thomas Davison

Director: Paul Katis

Rating: R

Bank of Dave is a simple but well-told film that feels utterly satisfying from start to end. Dave is the little guy who only wants to give back to his community, but stopping him from achieving his noble goals are the big guys in suits with vested interests and too narrow a focus to appreciate the good that Dave is after. The film is David versus Goliath, countryside versus cityside, socialist versus capitalist (or, if you like, ethical capitalism versus unethical capitalism). You know who will triumph in the end, but that doesn’t detract from the film’s overall enjoyability. The dialogue is smart and stirring, and you can’t help but root for the film’s small heroes to win big. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adrian Lukis, Angus Wright, Cathy Tyson, Florence Hall, Harry Michell, Hopi Grace, Hugh Bonneville, Jo Hartley, Joel Fry, Naomi Battrick, Paul Kaye, Phoebe Dynevor, Rick Allen, Roger Morlidge, Rory Kinnear

Director: Chris Foggin

Rating: PG-13

Atonement is a tribute to cinematography, an epic film that might just remind you why you fell in love with movies to begin with. A young girl and aspiring writer has a crush on the man her older sister loves, so the young sister indulges her imagination to accuse the man of a crime he didn't commit. The two are separated and the latter is then sent away to prison and after joins the army.  As the young girl grows up and realizes the true consequences of her actions, what can she do, what can anyone do, to remedy such a wrong? Winner of two Golden Globes and nominated to 6 Academy Awards.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ailidh Mackay, Alfie Allen, Alice Orr-Ewing, Anthony Minghella, Benedict Cumberbatch, Billy Seymour, Brenda Blethyn, Bronson Webb, Charlie von Simson, Daniel Mays, Elliott Francis, Felix von Simson, Gina McKee, Harriet Walter, Ian Bonar, James McAvoy, Jamie Beamish, Jérémie Renier, John Normington, Johnny Harris, Julia West, Juno Temple, Keira Knightley, Leander Deeny, Lionel Abelanski, Mark Holgate, Michel Vuillermoz, Michelle Duncan, Neil Maskell, Nick Bagnall, Nonso Anozie, Olivia Grant, Patrick Kennedy, Paul Stocker, Peter McNeil O'Connor, Peter O'Connor, Peter Wight, Roger Evans, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Tilly Vosburgh, Tobias Menzies, Vanessa Redgrave, Vivienne Gibbs, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Joe Wright

Rating: R

Directed by the award-winning Swedish filmmaker Bjorn Runge and adapted by Jane Anderson from Meg Wolitzer's 2003 novel, The Wife has enjoyed great acclaim since premiering at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The film follows the growing tension between acclaimed author Joseph Castleman and his wife Joan, who works as his secret ghostwriter, as Joseph is set to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. The direction is clean and careful with Glenn Close giving possibly one of the finest performances of her career as the supportive then increasingly resentful Joan. Emotional and funny at times, The Wife is a profound character exploration, celebrating womanhood and liberation.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alix Wilton Regan, Anna Azcárate, Annie Starke, Björn Runge, Björn Runge, Carolin Stoltz, Christian Slater, Elizabeth McGovern, Glenn Close, Grainne Keenan, Harry Lloyd, Jan Mybrand, Johan Widerberg, Jonathan Pryce, Karin Franz Körlof, Mattias Nordkvist, Max Irons, Michael Benz, Morgane Polanski, Nick Fletcher, Ossian Skarsgård, Peter Forbes, Richard Cordery, Suzanne Bertish

Director: Björn Runge

Rating: R

Slow West is a modern western about a young Scotsman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trekking across America in search of Rose, the young woman he loves, while accompanied by a wayward outlaw named Silas (Michael Fassbender). Jay soon realizes that he is unwittingly leading a pack of nefarious bounty hunters toward Rose and her father as well, as a sizable reward rests on their heads for the accidental killing of a nobleman. It’s a melancholy yet clever and enjoyable film with a distinct Coen Brothers-esque sense of dark humor and quirky violence. In his debut feature, John Maclean gives the western a fresh spin and a nice creative twist, marking his territory as a promising new name in the film world.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Western

Actor: Aaron McGregor, Alex MacQueen, Andrew Robertt, Andy McPhee, Aorere Paki, Ben Mendelsohn, Brian Sergent, Brooke Williams, Caren Pistorius, David T. Lim, Eddie Campbell, Edwin Wright, Hayden Frost, Jeffrey Thomas, Kalani Queypo, Karl Willetts, Ken Blackburn, Kieran Charnock, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Madeleine Sami, Michael Fassbender, Michael Whalley, Rory McCann, Stuart Bowman, Stuart Martin, Tawanda Manyimo

Director: John Maclean

Rating: R