12 of the best movies about British royalty

The British Royals have been a fertile subject for movies since the dawn of cinema.

While we eagerly await the return of Netflix’s The Crown, we’ve picked out 12 of the best ever films with a Royal family focus, listed here in alphabetical order:

 

Elizabeth

The first of Australian actress Cate Blanchett’s two movies as the titular queen, this 1998 biographical film dramatises the early years of Queen Elizabeth I of England’s reign.

The young Protestant Elizabeth was crowned Queen upon the death of her Catholic half-sister Mary I in 1558.

The role won Blanchett a Golden Globe and a BAFTA in 1998 and Elizabeth received seven Oscar nominations.

Joseph Fiennes, Christopher Eccleston, John Gielgud, Geoffrey Rush and Richard Attenborough also star.

Time Out‘s review noted that “the film plays fast and loose with history,” but “rattles through dark, stony passions with some considerable panache.”

 

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Cate Blanchett reprised the role of Queen Elizabeth I in this 2007 sequel and was nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age moves in to the latter part of the Queen’s reign, picking up the story in 1585 as King Philip II of Spain plots war with England and Elizabeth finds herself pressured to marry.

The film was again criticised for its historical inaccuracies, but the New York Observer described it as “rousingly entertaining.”

 

Henry V

Sir Kenneth Branagh was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director for his 1989 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play about King Henry V of England.

Starring Branagh as the titular King, Henry V also featured Derek Jacobi, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Brian Blessed and a young Christian Bale.

The New York Times praised Branagh’s Henry as having “psychological heft and intellectual weight,” while Variety enjoyed “a plethora of fine performances from some of the UK’s brightest talents.”

 

The King’s Speech

Based on the stage play of the same name, The Danish Girl director Tom Hooper’s 2010 historical drama received 12 nominations at the Oscars, winning four awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor.)

The King’s Speech sees Colin Firth’s King George VI work with an Australian speech and language therapist, played Geoffrey Rush, to cope with his stammer.

The Guardian described the movie as “richly enjoyable and handsomely produced” and “a massively confident crowd-pleaser.”

 

The Lion in Winter

Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn led the cast of this 1968 period drama, which won three Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Hepburn.

Set at Christmas 1183, The Lion in Winter follows King Henry II’s plans to announce his successor to the throne.

A “humdinger of medieval powerplay” (The Times), the movie also features the film debuts of Sir Anthony Hopkins and future 007 actor Timothy Dalton.

 

The Madness of King George

Adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play, this comedy-drama from 1994 brings to life the true story of King George III’s mental health struggles, set against the Regency Crisis of 1788–89.

The Madness of King George won the award for Outstanding British Film and Best Actor in a Leading Role for star Nigel Hawthorne at the BAFTAs.

Alongside Hawthorne, the cast also includes Helen Mirren, Ian Holm and Rupert Everett.

“The thrill of Hawthorne’s astounding performance is not something you want to miss,” said Rolling Stone.

 

Mary Queen of Scots

From the creator of Netflix’s House of Cards, this 2018 movie stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) as 16th Century queen Mary Stuart.

Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defied pressure to remarry, choosing instead to return to reclaim her rightful throne in her native Scotland, a decision which causes conflict with Elizabeth I, played by Margot Robbie.

Mary Queen of Scots also stars David Tennant, Guy Pearce and Downton Abbey‘s Brendan Coyle.

 

Mrs Brown

This 1997 movie from Shakespeare in Love director John Madden tells the story of the relationship between the grieving Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her Scottish servant, John Brown, played by comedian Billy Connolly.

Variety described Mrs Brown as “part political intrigue, part family drama – and above all a passionate, if platonic, love story between two individuals who could not have been more different.”

 

The Other Boleyn Girl

Adapted from Philippa Gregory’s novel in 2008 by The Crown writer Peter Morgan, this historical romantic drama stars Natalie Portman as 16th Century aristocrat Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.

Scarlett Johansson plays her sister Mary, who was also one of Henry’s mistresses.

The Other Boleyn Girl was criticised for its distortion of historical fact, although critics were impressed by the American leads’ performance as the English sisters.

 

The Queen

With another script by The Crown creator Peter Morgan, this 2006 fictionalised drama depicts the British Royal Family’s reaction to the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II won her an Academy Award for Best Actress and the Prime Suspect star was even invited to dinner at Buckingham Palace by the Queen after its release.

Empire magazine’s review called The Queen “fascinating, funny, wicked and to the point.”

 

Victoria & Abdul

Dame Judi Dench received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for Mrs Brown and returned to the role of Queen Victoria two decades later in Victoria & Abdul.

The previously little-told true story centres around Victoria’s burgeoning friendship with her Indian Muslim servant Abdul Karim.

Directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, The Crown), the movie is based Shrabani Basu’s book.

Empire magazine wrote that “Judi Dench has once more made this iconic figure engagingly human.”

 

The Young Victoria

Written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, this 2009 movie focuses on the early years and reign of Queen Victoria and her marriage to Prince Albert.

Starring Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada) and Rupert Friend (Homeland) as Victoria and Albert, the cast of The Young Victoria also boasts Miranda Richardson, Mark Strong and Jim Broadbent.

Time magazine’s review said “We may be looking at Victoria and Albert through rose-colored glasses, but this love story is a touching romantic confection”

 

Take a look at our list of the best movies and TV series about Queen Victoria.