Searching for dark academia movies to watch? Here are 36 dark academia movies and TV shows you’ll absolutely love.
Tweed blazers, oxfords and classic literature. The dark academia aesthetic exploded in popularity on TikTok. Classic literature inspired this aesthetic. And if you’re anything like me, then the dark academia aesthetic has you wanting to wear plaid, read books and explore libraries. So, I’ve compiled the best dark academia movies and tv shows you absolutely need to watch (plus get my list of movies to watch on Netflix).
This post is all about the best dark academia movies and TV Shows you need to watch
What is the Dark Academia Aesthetic?
Dark academia is a subculture with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing and learning. It’s the romanticization of learning.
I’ve heard it described as vintage with a gothic edge.
Think tweed, oxfords and plaid skirts but also dark photos and brooding poetry.
There have been some criticisms of Dark Academia. One important criticism is the lack of diversity in Dark Academia.
Many people have commented on how eurocentric and white-dominated this aesthetic is because it’s linked to old universities such as Oxford.
I think it’s really important we change that stereotype of academia. Below I’ve linked some wonderful posts and creators you can look at:
Dark Academia Reading List for Black People/Allies (Including Queer Black Authors) by Persephone Anasi
How to dress Dark Academia and POC Book Recs
R C Waldrun – Incredible Youtuber who posts about Dark Academia
Golden Lanni – Has many Dark Academic related videos
The Best Dark academia movies and TV shows
These are the best dark academia movies and tv shows that I really recommend.
While dark academia is a relatively new trend – the romanticization of learning has been present in movies for decades.
The following list includes movies and tv shows that you NEED to watch 🙂
Dark Academia Movies
Dead Poets Society, 1989
So I couldn’t write a post about dark academia movies without including Dead Poets society.
Dead Poet’s Society is set in 1959 at an elite conservative boarding school. It tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry.
Robin Williams is incredible as English teacher Mr Keating. Above all, his unconventional teaching methods will inspire anyone to read more poetry.
Starring: Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles
Northanger Abbey, 2007
Northanger Abbey is a 2007 British television film adaptation of a Jane Austen classic.
Catherine Morland moves to Bath to stay with the childless Allen family.
Introduced to society, she attracts the attention of two men. But her overzealous imagination begins to jeopardize her social position.
This is one of my favourite Jane Austen books and adaptations. The adaptation features Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan. Felicity Jones is particularly enchanting as Catherine Morland. I’m also a huge fan of dark academia books. And there is something so cosy about curling up indoors with a good dark academia book. If you’re looking for books rather than movies you can read my article on dark academia books
Starring: Felicity Jones, JJ Field, Carey Mulligan, Geraldine James
Available on Amazon Prime and Britbox
The Riot Club, 2014
The Riot Club follows two first-year Oxford University students. They join a secret society. And they learn that their reputations can be made or destroyed in one evening.
The movie is adapted from the play “Posh” by Laura Wade. The play is a commentary on Bullingdon Club.
The Bullingdon Club is an all-male private dining club at Oxford University. The club was notorious for wealthy students and bad behaviour.
Starring: Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Jessica Brown Findlay
Black Swan, 2010
The Black Swan follows Nina. She is a ballerina and gets the chance to play the lead role in Swan Lake.
After being cast in the lead role, Nina struggles to maintain her sanity.
The cinematography in this movie is incredibly beautiful. I also adore the soundtrack to the movie.
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder
The Theory of Everything, 2014
The Theory of Everything follows the life of Stephen Hawking. It starts with Hawking as a student.
However, he then discovers he has motor neurone disease.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking. And he puts in an incredible performance.
Redmayne even won an Academy Award for best actor following his performance in the movie.
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior
Available on Amazon Prime
Carol follows Therese Belivet. She spots the beautiful Carol browsing the doll display in a 1950s Manhattan department store.
The two women develop a fast bond. But it becomes a love with complicated consequences.
The décor, costumes and cinematography are all stunning.
But the enigmatic cast is what makes this movie so remarkable. In particular, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in the leading roles.
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy
If you’re looking for a dark academia movie adaptation then you should definitely watch The Goldfinch.
The movie follows Theo Decker. Tragically his mother dies in a terrorist bombing. And a wealthy family takes him in.
In a panic, he steals ‘The Goldfinch’ a painting. And that leads him to a world of crime.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort, Sarah Paulson
Tolkein is a biographical drama following the life of J.R.R Tolkein.
Tolkien is a storyteller. And he is part of a tight group of artists. But WWI threatens his work and relationship.
The Hobbit is one of my favourite books. But I knew very little about his life.
If you’re a fan of Tolkein’s work you should definitely watch this movie. If you enjoyed the cottagecore vibes of Tolkein’s work then I have a whole separate blog post on cottagecore movies. You can read my article on cottagecore movies to watch here
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins,
An Education, 2009
An Education is not your typical coming-of-age movie. It follows Jenny.
Jenny is a teenager studying for her exams. She meets David, a man who is twice her age. And her whole life changes.
David pursues her romantically. But she’s in for a rude awakening. And she realises he may not be who he seems.
The acting in this movie is superb. Seriously, it’s one of my top dark academia movies.
In addition, the film makes really interesting social commentary. And it comments on very real problems still present in society.
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike
A Little Princess, 1995
A Little Princess is an absolute classic.
It follows Sara. Her father sends Sara to a strict boarding school when he enlists in WWI.
But when he is presumed dead, the headmistress forces Sara to become a servant.
This makes me cry every time I watch it. And it’s a feel-good classic.
The movie is full of magic. Above all, it’s an excellent movie to watch with family. It also reminds me of Christmas and I love watching this every festive season! I’m not sure if it’s strictly a Christmas movie but there is something about this period drama that reminds me of a fairytale. However, I do have a whole blog post on christmas movies perfect to get you in the Christmas spirit. If you’re looking for festive movies then you can read my article on Christmas movies to watch here
Starring: Liesel Matthews, Eleanor Bron, Liam Cunnigham
Hugo is a young orphan. He loves the station clocks. And his most treasured possession is his late father’s automation.
Therefore, his mission is to find a key that will get it working.
This is a powerfully emotional movie. And it’s another great movie to watch with family. The story is captivating and magical.
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christoper Lee, Sacha Baron Cohen
Jane Eyre, 2011
When I think dark academia, Jane Eyre instantly comes to mind.
Jane Eyre is hired by Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. When she arrives at Thornfield Hall she starts to fall in love with Rochester.
But there is a terrifying secret looming within the walls at Thornfield Hall. So what is Rochester hiding from Jane?
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender,
Maurice is a romantic drama. And an adaptation of the 1971 novel Maurice by E.M Forster.
A young man is trapped by the oppressiveness of Edwardian society. His lover rejects him. And he tries to accept his sexuality.
This is a powerfully emotional and touching movie. Plus it also stars a young Hugh Grant as Clive.
Starring: Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Rupert Graves
Mary Shelley, 2017
I really enjoy a biographical drama movie.
Mary Shelley follows the life of the author. It starts with a young Mary Wollstonecraft.
Her family disapprove when she announces her love for Percy Shelley.
She stays in the home of Lord Byron at Lake Geneva. And the guests are challenged to write a ghost story. So Mary writes her novel “Frankenstein.”
Starring: Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Maisie Williams
Kill your darlings, 2013
If you’re looking for Dark academia movies, then you need to watch Kill Your Darlings.
Kill Your Darlings follows a young Allen Ginsbery. He has a rival for the affections of his charismatic classmate – Lucien Carr.
But his Rival is found dead. And Carr, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac are arrested for murder.
Kill Your Darlings captures the dark academia aesthetic perfectly. And the soundtrack is really atmospheric.
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Elizabeth Olsen
School Ties, 1992
School Ties follows David Greene. He receives a football scholarship to an elite prep school in the 1950s. He is Jewish. And he must hide his religion from his friends for fear of being rejected.
The characters and theme are perfect. Greene stands up for his beliefs and other people’s prejudices.
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon
The Imitation Game, 2014
The Imitation Game is based on the legendary real-life story of Alan Turing.
Turing is a British mathematician. And he joins the cryptography team to decipher the German enigma code. He builds a machine to crack the codes.
Benedict Cumberbatch was perfect for the role of Turing. The movie really does justice to the incredible cryptologists who cracked the enigma code.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
The Jane Austen Bookclub, 2007
If you’re a fan of Jane Austen then you should watch this movie.
Sylvia is dumped by her husband. To cheer her up, her friends organise a book club. The objective is to read a Jane Austen novel. But they realize that life imitates art in many ways.
This is more lighthearted. And an excellent balance between rom-com and literature.
Starring: Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Maggie Grace
Dorian Grey is an adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde book.
It follows a corrupt but beautiful young man. His image is captured in a special painting. And the painting keeps him from ageing. But for every sin he commits, the image in the painting rots.
The movie is very gothic. A quick warning – the plotline is very different from the book.
Starring: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Rebecca Hall
Mona Lisa Smile, 2003
The Mona Lisa Smile follows a free-thinking and non-conformist teacher. He works at an all-women’s private school in the 1950s.
He encourages women to pursue their dreams. And also question the roles expected of them in society.
Mona Lisa Smile is a classic noughties movie. But also really underappreciated. It follows an incredible cast of female actresses. And each story is portrayed perfectly.
Starring: Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin,
Enola Holmes, 2020
Enola Holmes is a more recent release on Netflix.
It follows teenager Enola Holmes. Her mother goes missing. So she uses her sleuthing skills to find her. But she must also outsmart her famous brothers. And help a runaway lord.
This is a lighthearted and fun watch. Millie Bobby Brown is effortlessly charming as Enola Holmes. Honestly, she really makes this film enjoyable.
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Louis Partridge, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin
Jingle Jangle a Christmas Journey, 2020
Looking for a dark academia style Christmas movie? Then you need to watch this.
It follows an incredible toymaker. But his apprentice betrays him. Decades after, the toymaker finds new hope when his bright young granddaughter appears on his doorstep.
If you enjoy musicals and ‘The Greatest Showman’ then you should definitely check this one out.
Starring: Madalen Mills, Anika Noni Rose, Keegan Key, Forest Whittaker
The History Boys, 2006
The History Boys follows a group of intelligent but rough-edged British schoolboys. Their two teachers have opposing view on education. And they battle to get them into Oxford and Cambridge.
This movie is really refreshing to watch. You’ll love the witty dialogue. And it’s also endlessly quotable.
Starring: Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Russell Tovey, Frances de la Tour
Dark Academia TV Shows
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, 2018
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an adaptation of ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’.
Sabrina Spellman is half-witch and half-mortal. And she struggles with her dual nature. Meanwhile, she also battles evil forces that threatening her and her family
So this is much darker in tone. Especially when compared to the original comic series.
The storyline is unique. And the plot twists are excellent.
Starring: Kiernan Shipka, Ross Lynch, Jazz Sinclair
Sherlock is a British crime adaptation. It’s adapted from the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But this adaptation puts Sherlock in the 21st Century.
Dr Watson is a former army doctor who needs to rent a flat. And he finds himself sharing with Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock is an eccentric with a talent for crime-solving. Together they team up to solve crimes.
The first three series are definitely superior! I love the chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss, Andrew Scott
The Queen’s Gambit, 2020
The Queen’s Gambit is a Netflix drama mini-series about chess.
It follows a young orphan. She has an astonishing talent for chess. But she struggles with addiction in a quest to become the greatest chess player in the world.
This series is one of the best things on Netflix in 2020. Above all, the story is really compelling. Also, the acting is first-class.
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
A Discovery of Witches, 2018
A Discovery of Witches is a fantasy series. It’s adapted from the `All Souls’ trilogy of novels.
It follows Diana Bishop. She’s a historian. And she discovers a bewitched manuscript in the Bodleian Library. So she attempts to unravel the secrets in the book. But is forced into the world of magic.
She forms an unlikely alliance with a vampire. The vampire helps Diana protect the book. And also solve the riddles within.
Starring: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Alex Kingston
The Umbrella Academy, 2019
The Umbrella Academy follows a family of former superheroes. Over time, they’ve grown apart. But they reunite when they have to protect the world.
There may not be as many episodes of this one. But it’s so good that I had to include it.
The cast & storyline is incredibly diverse. And the humour was excellent. And I also really cared about the characters.
Starring: Elliot Page, Aiden Gallagher, Robert Sheehan, Tom Hopper, Emmy Raver-Lampman
A Series of Unfortunate events,2017
This series follows three orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. They’re investigating their parents’ mysterious death.
However, they’re saddled with an evil guardian. And he will do anything to get his hands on their inheritance.
This is an excellent adaptation. And it’s a really addictive series to binge-watch.
YA Fantasy fan? Me too! I’ve compiled a whole list of movies and series based on YA Fantasy books. You can check out my article on movies based on YA Fantasy books here.
Starring: Neil Patrick-Harris, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes
Elite is a Spanish Netflix Series.
It follows three working-class teens. They enrol in a super-exclusive private school in Spain. And the clash between the working class and wealthy students leads to murder.
This is a really well-done series. The acting, cinematography and script are excellent.
It also deals exceptionally well with controversial themes.
Starring: Arón Piper, Itzan Escamilla, Ester Expósito
Ares is a short horror series on Netflix.
It follows Rosa. She’s a biracial medical student. And she is also aiming to become one of Amsterdam’s elite.
So she joins an exclusive society. But the society is hiding a horrifying secret.
Ares is a beautifully crafted horror series. There are definitely some plot holes. But it’s still a series well worth watching
Starring: Jade Olieberg, Tobias Kersloot, Lisa Smitt
How to get away with murder, 2014
Do you enjoy thrillers and murder mystery tv shows? Well, you’ll love this series.
It follows Annalise Keating- a criminal defence lawyer. And also a group of aspiring law students. Keating teaches them defence law.
But their lives alter when they get caught up in a murder.
I really loved the premise. And the suspense kept me watching so I could find out what was going to happen.
Starring: Viola Davies, Jack Falahee, Aja Naomi King
Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries, 2012
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is a relatively new discovery. But oh am I addicted!
It’s in 1920s Melbourne. Phryne Fisher tries to solve the mystery of her sister’s murder.
There are plenty of episodes to get through. And the plots are always really twisty.
Miss Fisher is intelligent, strong and sassy. And she also enjoys being an older, sexually active woman.
If you are looking for fashion inspiration then you must watch this. The costume design is to die for!
Starring: Essie Davies, Ashleigh Cummings, Nathan Page
Victoria is a British historical drama. It follows the life of Queen Victoria.
It follows Victoria as she ascends the throne. She’s just 18 years old. Later, she falls in love with Prince Albert. And they get married.
Jenna Coleman is an absolute gem as Victoria. The cast had great chemistry. And the period costumes are on point.
Starring: Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes
Clique follows Holly. She attends university with her best friend. But her friend joins an exclusive group. And her behaviour completely changes.
Holly decides to investigate and take matters into her own hands.
There are only two series of this show. So you can binge them really quickly. The acting is superb. You want to keep watching so you don’t miss any details.
Starring: Synnove Karlsen, Sophia Brown, Rachel Hurd-Wood
Those were my dark academia movies and TV Shows to watch…
Whether you’re a fan of the dark academia aesthetic, gothic literature or are just looking for something to watch
I really hope you enjoyed my recommendations for the best dark academia movies. Let me know your recommendations in the comments below.