The best period drama adaptations to cuddle up with this Christmas

If you’re planning to spend Christmas on the sofa this year, we’ve curated a list of the best period dramas adapted from classic novels to snuggle up in front of. From romance to sci-fi, there’s something for everyone.

Period dramas make perfect comfort viewing, and we certainly need plenty of that this Christmas. Immersing us in a different time and place, many period dramas are based on treasured classic novels. With star-studded casts and highly acclaimed reviews, here’s everything you need to know about the best period drama series and films adapted from classic books that you can watch this Christmas. 

Read more about the best films based on books here..

All Creatures Great and Small

What’s All Creatures Great and Small about?

Based on James Herriot’s memoirs about his life as a young vet in 1930s Yorkshire, this series is perfect comfort viewing for animal lovers. This heartwarming series is a wonderful pick-me-up for those spending Christmas at home this year, and the festive special is sure to spread some Christmas cheer. 

Who stars in All Creatures Great and Small?

All Creatures Great and Small stars Nicholas Ralph as James Herriot, while Callum Woodhouse, Samuel West and Ana Madeley also feature.

Where and when can I watch All Creatures Great and Small?

Series one can be streamed on My5, while the Christmas special airs on Channel 5 on 22 December 2020 at 9pm and will be repeated on Boxing Day.

All Creatures Great and Small

by James Herriot

James Herriot’s heartwarming memoirs of his time as a vet in 1930s Yorkshire have sold millions of copies since they were published. James is excited to start an idyllic new rural life, but between his erratic new colleagues, semi-feral cattle and an overweight Pekingese called Tricki Woo, has he bitten off more than he can chew? 

Little Women

What’s Little Women about?

A new feature-length adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel about sisterhood, love, creativity and growing up, this highly anticipated version of Little Women is directed by award-winning director Greta Gerwig. Brought up by a strong independent mother whilst their father is at war, the four March sisters have a happy yet impoverished childhood. But as they get older their lives become more complicated, and marriages, expectations and illnesses disturb the peace at the heart of the March family. A heartwarming classic that’s likely to elicit both tears and laughter.


Who stars in Little Women?

The film features an acclaimed cast, with Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen as sisters Amy, Meg, Jo and Beth. Award-winning actresses Meryl Streep and Laura Dern will star as Aunt March and Marmee, while rising star Timothée Chalamet plays the part of Theodore ‘Laurie’ Laurence.


When and where can I watch Little Women?

Little Women can be rented from Amazon and will air on Sky Movies Showcase this Christmas. 

Little Women

by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott’s beguiling novel tells the story of the courageous and ingenious March sisters, growing up in a family that’s impoverished, but full of love. 

A Christmas Carol

What’s A Christmas Carol about?

This mini-series has been adapted from Charles Dickens’s classic novella by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight. Three episodes will follow miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on his journey through Christmas past, present and future, guided by the ghost of his deceased business partner. This soul-stirring fantasy with a hopeful message makes perfect festive viewing.


Who stars in A Christmas Carol?

Guy Pearce, who has appeared in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Momento and The King’s Speech, will star as Ebenezer Scrooge, with Andy Serkis as the ghost of Christmas past. Stephen Graham (Jacob Marley), Joe Alwyn (Bob Cratchit), Vinette Robinson (Mary Cratchit), Tiarna Williams (Belinda Cratchit) and Lenny Rush (Tiny Tim) also make up the cast. 


When and where can I watch A Christmas Carol?

A Christmas Carol can be streamed on BBC iPlayer. 

A Christmas Carol

by Charles Dickens

A Christmas classic, Dickens’s novella is the uplifting tale of the miserly Scrooge, who finds the true meaning of the festive season with the help of some supernatural companions. 

The Personal History of David Copperfield

What’s The Personal History of David Copperfield about?

Directed by Armando Iannucci, this hilariously comedic adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel, David Copperfield, makes Victorian London feel surprisingly modern. We follow David Copperfield from his birth, through a troublesome childhood and eventually to a successful career as a writer. This adaptation has taken film festivals by storm and is already garnering awards buzz.


Who stars in The Personal History of David Copperfield?

Dev Patel, star of Slumdog Millionaire, is cast in the leading role alongside Tilda Swinton (Betsey Trotwood), Hugh Laurie (Mr Dick), Peter Capaldi (Mr Micawber), Gwendoline Christie (Jane Murdstone), Ben Whishaw (Uriah Heep) and Sophie McShera (Mrs Crupp).


When and where can I watch The Personal History of David Copperfield?

The Personal History of David Copperfield can be rented from Amazon or streamed for free by Amazon Prime customers. 

David Copperfield

by Charles Dickens

Partly modelled on Dickens’s own experiences, David Copperfield follows the eponymous hero from childhood struggles to a successful career as a novelist. This is one of Dickens’s most energetic and enjoyable novels, and the one he called his ‘favourite child’.


What’s Emma about?

A new adaptation of the story of one of Jane Austen’s most famous heroines: charming, spoiled, headstrong and insensitive Emma. Austen famously said she wanted to create ‘a heroine whom no one but myself will much like’. Here follows a plot of romance, heartbreak and misunderstanding as she tries her hand at matchmaking.


Who stars in Emma?

Anya Taylor-Joy is our leading lady, starring opposite Johnny Flynn as George Knightly.  The impressive cast includes Bill Nighy (Mr. Woodhouse) and Miranda Hart (Miss Bates)


When and where can I watch Emma?

Emma can be rented from Amazon and Google Play Movies and TV.  


by Jane Austen

A remarkable comedy of errors, Emma is the story of charming but insensitive Emma Woodhouse, who sets out on an ill-fated career of matchmaking, causing chaos as she tries to find her friend Harriet a suitor.

The War of the Worlds

What’s The War of the Worlds about?

Adapted from H. G. Wells most famous classic novel, The War of the Worlds plunges the audience into a dystopian world. Flitting from aliens on Mars plotting an invasion to a meteor dropping into London, this man versus machine adventure is bound to be a huge hit.


Who stars in The War of the Worlds?

Rafe Spall and Eleanor Tomlinson will play couple George and Amy, while Philip Gascoyne (Navy Officer), Jonathan Aris (Priest), Taliyah Blair (Lilian) will also star.


When and where can I watch The War of the Worlds?

This three-part BBC adaptation can be rented from Amazon. 

The War of the Worlds

by H. G. Wells

A gripping tale written in a semi-documentary style, The War of the Worlds sees humanity fight to survive a Martian onslaught. This seminal man versus machine adventure has been inspiring science fiction writers ever since it was first published in 1898.