This month sees Queen Elizabeth II celebrate her platinum jubilee, marking her 70 years on the throne and the streets of the United Kingdom are awash with flags, and millions have been watching the events take place in London both on-screen and in person. So what better time than now to take a closer look at how Lizzy has been portrayed in cinema and TV.
Over the course of her lengthy reign, the Queen has been regularly portrayed in a host of films and TV shows, some of these being superbly performed by actors who got everything about their performances spot on.
These have covered all the eras of her time as the head of state, from her early years on the throne all the way through to the 2020s, where she still retains a great deal of responsibility and dutifully continues her duties even though she is well into her 90s.
Some of the shows and movies that have had the Queen as the centrepiece of their productions have gone to great lengths and expense to recreate the period they are covering, while others have sought out stock footage that can also help get viewers thoroughly immersed in the subject matter and the narrative that is played out before them.
Here are some of the most memorable occasions that Queen Elizabeth II has been played in both film and TV.
Helen Mirren in The Queen
Perhaps the most triumphant portrayal of any member of the royal family ever. Helen Mirren oozes greatness in her performance as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. Stephen Frears’s film covers the period immediately following the death of Princess Diana and doesn’t mince its words.
It’s an honest look at the most famous family to have ever lived. Expertly written by Peter Morgan, the film proved a massive box office success and won a great many awards, and Mirren puts in a masterclass display. Her portrayal of the Queen is nuanced and leaves audiences mesmerised as she shows Elizabeth struggling with the media and public reaction to Diana’s death, and we get to see how the antiquated world that surrounds the royal family is still very much stuck in the past.
Helen Mirren won the Best Actress award at the Oscars, and when the film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, she received a five-minute standing ovation. This goes some way to showing just how great she was in a movie that was as honest a portrayal of the institution that is the royal family as has ever been committed to film.
Neve Campbell In Churchill: The Hollywood Years
The film this depiction takes place in is pretty terrible but then it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a little bit of fun. The movie is something of an attempt to recreate the silliness and playfulness of the Airplane series, or even Hot Shots, but fails to live up to those lofty classics.
Neve Campbell, who you may know from the Scream movies series or Party of Five, plays a young Queen Elizabeth, and it’s a fairly silly portrayal that goes with the overall vibe that the film is attempting to reach.
Claire Foy in The Crown
The tv series The Crown came about directly due to the success of The Queen and was created by the writer of the 2006 movie. Claire Foy plays Elizabeth in the first two series of the program and covers a complicated period of her life.
Once again, as with Helen Mirren’s portrayal of the Queen, Claire Foy’s performance is subtle and often leaves the audience either rooting for her or being disturbed by her apparent ambivalence toward some members of her family or to historical events that have unfolded in front of her.
This is the sign of a great performance. Foy is very understated in her depiction of the Queen, and as a result, she can look a little unforgiving and overly brittle, and this is precisely how Peter Morgan deals with Elizabeth as the subject of his historical account of her life and the life of The Crown.
Olivia Colman in The Crown
Olivia Colman took over the reins from Claire Foy and put in an outstanding job of showing the Queen’s maturation and the travails that she encountered during a very tough period of her reign.
Colman, an Oscar winner in her own right, won all manner of awards for her role in The Crown, and she puts in a true tour de force and once again cuts a fairly stout figure in the show, and many royal commentators have said publicly that she does a great job of displaying exactly the kind of person the Queen is and how the role she plays as the head of state has shaped the very fabric of her being.
Emma Thompson In Playhouse Presents
This lesser-known drama covers a very specific event that occurred in the Queen’s life, during which a troubled schizophrenic broke into Buckingham Palace and spent time in her bedroom, apparently talking to Elizabeth for some period of time.
Emma Thompson, another Oscar winner, is excellent in this one-off episode, as is Eddie Marsan, who plays the intruder. It’s a very interesting performance from Thompson and shows another side of the monarch, and though it’s an entirely fictional account of the incident (as it’s unlikely that the Queen conversed for any real length of time), it’s a spellbinding display from a great actress.