The death of Queen Elizabeth II after
more than 70 years on the throne was, in many ways, perhaps the first time many people really thought about the changes in the royal family. Her Majesty was, after all, a constant. The only queen most of us have ever known to sit on the throne of England. And yet, she was one of many. A monarch in a long line of monarchs, many of whom lived through even more dramatic times than Queen Elizabeth herself. Which seems almost impossible to imagine, what with the public affairs, the scandals, and the rifts happening at every turn. But, if these movies about the royal family are to be believed in any way, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While all of these movies are fictional versions based on true events, they are at least mildly based on historic events. Like the time Queen Victoria became besties with her Scottish hunting guide and everyone hated it, for instance. Or when one king abdicated the throne and his younger brother had to do it even though he had a stutter and was terrified. Or two sisters duking it out to become queen, one of them stuck in prison while the other plots to have her killed. It’s a lot. And it’s all in these movies.
It could be said that the 2006 movie
The Queen is rather less dramatic than some of the older tales. It takes place mostly at Balmoral Castle in Scotland over the course of a long weekend in 1997, but it is the weekend in question that makes this movie so compelling. Not to mention the acting. Dame Helen Mirren won her only Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, a monarch trying to understand a new world and a nation grieving the loss of Princess Diana. Her husband Prince Philip (James Cromwell) is not much help, nor is her oldest son and heir Prince Charles (Alex Jennings), who is trying to find a way to help his sons William and Harry grieve the mother they adored. It seems newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) is the only person who can help her. A tight, quiet, very British sort of movie, The Queen is a must-watch for all royal observers. Stream The Queen, rated PG-13, on HBO Max. The Young Victoria
Emily Blunt really pulled off something extraordinary in
2010’s The Young Victoria . She took a larger than life character like Queen Victoria herself and made her unbelievably relatable and beautifully human. The movie follows Victoria’s rise from a newly minted queen bullied by royal courtiers like Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) to a woman confident in her own power. Helped along by her great love, her future husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), who seems to understand her better than anyone. The Young Victoria is equal parts love story, palace intrigue, and a feminist tale that you’ll love. Stream The Young Victoria, rated G, on Amazon Prime Video. The King’s Speech
After his older brother King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson, his younger brother became King George VI. A role he never intended to fill and one he could not back out of even if he wanted to. In 2010’s
The King Speech, we see this time period through the eyes of the man himself, King George (Colin Firth). Or we hear it, at any rate, as the new king struggles with a speech impediment that leaves him terrified of public speaking. Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unorthodox speech pathologist who literally helps King George find his voice. The King’s Speech is a sweeping historical drama told through an interesting lens and totally worth the watch. Stream The King’s Speech, rated R, on Pluto TV. Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown
Dame Judi Dench has played Queen Victoria more than once, but her first kick at the royal can came when she played the
monarch in . In this film she plays a newly widowed monarch in a deep state of grief after the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert. After retreating from court and society, Queen Victoria began a friendship with a Scottish hunting guide named John Brown (Billy Connolly). While this movie is largely fictional and not based in truth, particularly when it comes to the implied love affair between the two (hence the nickname given to Queen Victoria by her royal courtiers “Mrs. Brown”), it’s an intriguing watch. And here’s hoping Her Majesty did get a little love in her life. Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown in 1997 Stream Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown, rated 7+, on Amazon Prime Video. Spencer
When Pablo Larrain chose Kristen Stewart to play the iconic role of Princess Diana in
Spencer in 2021, it was a hotly debated gamble. Stewart is a well known actress and perhaps more importantly, an American. But she pulled it off, earning herself a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her sensitive portrayal of the former Princess of Wales over the course of the Christmas holidays at Sandringham in 1991. By that point, according to the film, Princess Diana felt very much like an outsider to everyone other than her two sons. And it is that relationship in particular that rings true in , a movie worth watching for Stewart and the fashion alone. Spencer Stream Spencer, rated R, on Hulu. Elizabeth
Cate Blanchett took on the role of Queen Elizabeth I for the movie Elizabeth in 1998, expectations were high. The general interest in all things royal was at somewhat of a fever pitch and it seemed as though historical fiction about their time on the throne was everywhere you looked. And yet, this movie managed to stand head and shoulders above the crowd. The movie follows the rise of Queen Elizabeth I as monarch after the death of her older sister Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century. She is surrounded by threats, in her own royal court and abroad, and finds solace in the arms of a not-so-secret lover, Sir Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes). While Queen Elizabeth might have been dubbed the “Virgin Queen,” this movie gives us a more flesh and blood version of what her life could well have looked like. Stream Elizabeth, rated PG-13, on Netflix. The King Timothée Chalamet’s Prince Hal takes a lot of license from Shakespeare in The King, notably elements of characters from several of his plays. This King Henry or “Hal” as he likes to be called, comes across as anything but kingly. He’s a party boy who doesn’t care about inheriting the throne but, as always happens, has the throne thrust on him whether he wants it or not after both his father King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn) and younger brother Thomas (Dean-Charles Chapman) both die. There are battle scenes and plots aplenty, and Chalamet is exactly as bored and uninterested as you might expect. Just the kind of escapist movie with the merest hint of historical accuracy to watch on a cold Sunday afternoon. Stream The King, rated 16+, on Netflix. Mary Queen of Scots
There was a short time when two queens ruled over the United Kingdom, both daughters of King Henry VIII. Two women were more powerful than any man in their kingdoms, and of course that could not continue. The 2018 movie
stars Margot Robbie as Queen Mary and Saoirse Ronan as Queen Elizabeth I, both of them trying to feminist icons in their own right but it was only about 400 years too soon unfortunately. The movie is told from both of their perspectives as they are manipulated and controlled by courtiers, a theme in royal movies and perhaps royal life if these movies are to be believed. Mary Queen of Scots Stream Mary Queen of Scots, rated R, on Amazon Prime Video. The Other Boleyn Girl
While most of us have certainly heard of King Henry VIII and his doomed wife Anne Boleyn, I bet you know there
was another Boleyn sister. A sister who reportedly had not only an affair with the monarch before her sister but also allegedly had a baby with him as well. Or so the story goes in The Other Boleyn Girl, a very fun period piece from 2008 starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn and Scarlett Johansson as her sister Mary. The two are both used as pawns by their family to curry favor with King Henry VIII (Eric Bana, which felt like a generous choice), and both are doomed in their own ways because of it. Based on the book of the same name by Phillipa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl is one to watch. Stream The Other Boleyn Girl, rated PG-13, on Netflix. The Favourite
When King William III died in the early part of the 18th century, his wife Queen Anne became ruler of England. And there begins the famous story behind the
2018 period piece The Favourite . Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne, a petulant, volatile monarch who is often manipulated by her preferred lady-in-waiting Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). Until ambitious Abigail (Emma Stone) comes on the scene and wants to be the one pulling Queen Anne’s strings. The Favourite sees the two women duking it out for power over Queen Anne and perhaps most interestingly, shows the consequences that can come when they lose favour. Based on true events, the powerhouse acting alone in this movie makes it worth a watch. Stream The Favourite, rated 16+, on Disney+.
Whether you are a royal watcher or a royal scoffer, you know you’re going to love the devious intrigue and glamour of these fictitious glimpses behind the crown. It’s escapism at its best.