Perhaps, one of the main highlights of ‘Belle’ is that it has been inspired by a true story. Given the fact that it is a historical drama, premised on slavery as its main subject, and that too in England, such notions are relatively scanty. ‘Belle’, set in 1765, on the outset is the story of a mixed-race woman named Dido Elizabeth Belle, who was an illegitimate-born daughter of an enslaved woman and a Royal Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay. While in her initial years, Dido is brought up in slums, upon her mother’s death, Dido’s father brings her to upstate London and entrusts her with his uncle William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield and his wife Elizabeth. As the story advances, Dido is brought up along with the niece of Lord and Lady Mansfield named Lady Elizabeth Murray. Soon, things turn gloomy and talks turn scornful as the hunt for their promised grooms begin.
As far as slavery in England is concerned, the movie doesn’t necessarily project the crudeness and the brutalities involved with slavery per se and seemed to skim on the immoral aspects of slavery. It portrays another side of the story which is the societal enigma, the status of women as prospective brides, legacies, and the selfish motives that came into play when Englishmen-suitors chose their brides.
Speaking of movies similar to ‘Belle’ can be premised around either of slavery, oppression, societal dystopia, women empowerment, with equal rights to women despite their caste, color, creed or upbringing, a historical drama set in early 18th century centered around women or children or a movie on the royalty of England or Europe and the prevailing laws therein. Compared to the other movies premised solely on slavery, ‘Belle’ is like a warm embrace, a breath of freshness. As a part of this list, we bring you movies which are a must watch if you found ‘Belle’ fascinating, awe-inspiring, informative, historically significant, and invigorating. You can watch several of these movies like Belle on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
15. Suffragette (2015)
Based on true events and set in 1912, ‘Suffragette’ was a socio-political movement undertaken by a working class of British women to fight for their right to vote, which was considered as a social stigma back then, which would apparently lead to a “loss of social structure”. Rather than the expected peaceful movement which hadn’t yielded anything so far, the women formed radical groups and resorted to extreme yet tenable measures to garner attention, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, a notable leader of the movement. Deep and moving ‘Suffragette’ ends with a positive note, stating that the women were given their rights to vote after the end of World War I.
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14. Cinderella (2015)
A fantasy-fiction which too deals with oppression, cruelty and forever changing societal statuses (as women couldn’t inherit legacies) in a fitting-yet-imaginative manner, ‘Cinderella’ is a culturally and cinematically significant masterpiece, which possesses a lot of relevance with the then European regressive ethos with respect to women. The movie is a heartwarming story of an orphaned Ella, who is constantly under the thumb of her Stepmother (BTW, a brilliant portrayal by Cate Blanchett) and who falls for a young Prince, thanks to Fairy Godmother for prepping her up to seem princess-like. As the story grows, the evil designs of the Stepmother seemingly fail when the glass shoe left by (Cinder)Ella at the palace finally finds its rightful owner. A brilliant piece of artwork, ‘Cinderella’ is mindblowing for a fantasy-genre movie.
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13. Loving (2016)
Arguably, ‘Loving’ is one of the best works of Joel Edgerton so far. As the story goes, a white man Richard Loving and a black woman Mildred fall in love and decide to marry upon finding of Mildred’s pregnancy. Notwithstanding their awareness of Virginian laws which prohibited such interracial marriages, they move to Washington to see their marriage materialize but all in vain. Then begins their battle (inspired by a true story on plaintiffs of Loving v. Virginia, 1968) against the state and the federal Governments to repeal the anti-miscegenation laws prevailing in the U.S. at that time. Pathbreaking and sensational, ‘Loving’ is a standing proof of the color-divide that was very much prevalent until the mid-70s in the US, even a century after the culmination of American Civil War.
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12. Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
A movie centered around Carey Mulligan who plays Bathsheba Everdene, ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ is a woman’s turmoil within and her choices of the partner she should court and her regrets thereafter. Set in the Victorian era, Bathsheba must choose between three men, a sheep farmer, a sergeant, and a wealthy bachelor as her suitor. Her initial choice doesn’t go very well as the latter turns out to be cheating on her, her stint with the wealthy bachelor is short-lived as he ultimately kills her deceiving ex-husband and goes to jail and she’s left with the sheep farmer she’s been so far infatuated with. The detachments of Bathsheba, the time she’s living in and the choices she had before marrying someone, portray her as a stubborn person at the outset, yet wary inside.
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11. Testament of Youth (2014)
In this World War I based movie, the central character is Vera Brittain, an aspiring student at Oxford, who faced a lot of resistance to become one. She has good memories of her brother Edward, and two of her close friends, Victor and Roland. As the war erupts, all four of them enlist (Vera as a nurse), while Victor and Roland fall for Vera and Roland proposes to her. As the story advances, Vera gradually loses all of her loved ones, Roland, Victor, followed by brother Edward in the perils of war. She’s constantly in a state of the trauma of seeing so many deaths and calls for “peace” in the end. Her tragic experiences are dwarfed by the fact that the war was over and that she doesn’t have to face her ordeals yet again.
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10. Sweet Land (2005)
‘Sweet Land’ is a heartwarming and visually appealing love story of a German woman Inge, who has come to Minnesota in the 1920s to marry another Norwegian farmer settled in Minnesota named Olaf. Due to lack of any immigration documents and her unfamiliarity with the American ways and culture, Inge and Olaf aren’t allowed to be married by their community and their minister despite living together for a while. ‘Sweet Land’ is Inge’s struggle to find her love, learn the language, culture, and customaries and seek the unity and approval of their community despite financial turmoil faced by Olaf and his family. The performances and the visual treatment of the movie are charming.
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9. A Royal Affair (2012)
A film centered around a queen’s dilemma, ‘A Royal Affair’ is a story set in 1767 Denmark, wherein a British Princess named Caroline is hastily married to King Christian VII of Denmark. Though her interests lie in fine arts and books, she soon realizes the prevailing autocracy of the country and that many of the artworks are banned. Also, she begins realizing that the King is not in a sound state of mind. Caroline falls for King Christian’s physician turned royal advisor Struensee and a royal affair begins between the two. Albeit with a tragic end with the beheading of Struensee and exile of Caroline, ‘A Royal Affair’ has a fulfilling story and comes with a rich production design, and also Alicia Vikander.
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8. Jane Eyre (2011)
‘Jane Eyre’ is the story of a governess Jane Eyre, who now works at the Thornfield Hall, owned by one Mr. Rochester. As Jane and Rochester come to know each other, Rochester becomes to be known of as an outright lecherous and hazy persona, imploring Jane to know more of him, before she falls for him. Soon, Rochester realizes that he loves Jane too and they’re all set to marry, unbeknownst to Jane that Rochester has been hiding a terrible secret – that he’s already been married 15 years ago and his mentally ill wife Bertha still lives a concealed life in Thornfield Hall, hidden from others. Distraught, Jane leaves the place, only to reconcile with a blind and crumbly Rochester later. With Michael Fassbender and Amelia Clarkson at the helm, ‘Jane Eyre’ is a fast-paced suspense thriller set in 19th century England, a movie centered around a woman who faces betrayals and prejudice, yet chooses to unite with her love despite all of his wrongdoings.