In remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II, our guest writer Delicia Johnson takes a look at some of the best movies, TV series, and documentaries depicting the life of Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
Whether they take some creative liberties or rely solely on the archives, each of the following works celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s resilience, sense of duty, strong moral character, selflessness, and love of country and family.
Elizabeth: A Portrait In Parts
This 2022 documentary by the late director Roger Michell (Persuasion, Notting Hill) shows a more playful side to Queen.
Whereas most royal documentaries are solemn, Elizabeth: A Portrait In Parts is more fun and informal.
Divided into parts and offering breadth rather than depth, this is a wonderful introduction for those who know little about the Queen and the British monarchy.
Elizabeth: A Portrait In Parts is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
The King’s Speech
Nominated for 12 Oscars, this historical drama movie from 2010 focuses on King George VI’s struggle with a speech impediment and his subsequent assistance from a speech and language therapist.
Although centered around her father King George VI (Colin Firth) and his unexpected ascension to the throne, we see glimpses of a young Elizabeth in the film. We also see the events that led to her becoming heir apparent and, eventually, Queen.
The King’s Speech is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
The Queen: In Her Own Words
This 2020 documentary narrated by Andrew Scarborough (Downton Abbey) shows Queen Elizabeth II’s life through snippets from her own speeches.
Her quotes provide a guide to how the Queen performed her duties and ensured the continuity of the monarchy through turbulence and personal crises within the royal family and political upheavals abroad and closer to home.
The Queen: In Her Own Words is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
The tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997 is a critical juncture in the recent history of the British monarchy.
This 2006 movie follows Queen Elizabeth II as she navigates a “new world” where royal protocol is not what the public presumably needs. Modernism and sensibility clashes with tradition and dignity, alongside a vulturous media, republican sentiment, and a modern prime minister.
Helen Mirren gives an understated performance as Queen Elizabeth II, successfully demonstrating her majesty’s restrained emotion, quiet strength, and grace.
The Queen is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Elizabeth At 90: A Family Tribute
This BBC documentary from 2016 is a collection of never-before-seen footage shot by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
Narrated by Charles, the Prince of Wales (now King Charles III), various members of the royal family also contribute warm anecdotes in the documentary, sharing both their love and admiration for the Queen.
The audience sees the Queen in the role of a beloved family member and matriarch.
Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Netflix’s award-winning series dramatises Elizabeth’s life from her marriage to Prince Phillip and becoming Queen at just 25 years old through to the ‘Diana years’, with a special focus on her relationships with prime ministers including Sir Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Whilst criticised for its lapses into sensationalism and historical inaccuracies, The Crown remains an entertaining much-watch for any royal fan and a fine springboard for further research into the British monarchy.
Claire Foy and Olivia Colman are both compelling in the role of Queen Elizabeth II at different stages in her life, while Imelda Stanton takes over the role in the upcoming final two seasons.
A Royal Night Out
In this romantic comedy-drama from 2015, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret partake in 1945’s VE celebrations.
Inspired by a historical footnote rather than based on actual events, this is a fun starting point for younger royal enthusiasts.
A Royal Night Out is a charming fan-fiction that captures the spirit of the future queen and her sister – and look out for Rupert Everett as King George VI.
A Royal Night Out is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.
Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen
Narrated by the Queen, Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen is another collection of home movies shot by the royal family.
The footage shows the Queen’s life before and up to her coronation, even featuring images of the Queen being pushed in her pram by her mother.
Insightful and beautifully put together to mark 2022’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, this is one of the most personal and insightful documentaries about the Queen.
A Queen Is Crowned
In technicolor and narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, get a front row seat to the events before and leading up to the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
The narration provides an in-depth report of events and a background to the pomp and ceremony, transporting us back seven decades to the era her reign began.
A Queen is Crowned is available to watch on BritBox.
The Queen’s Green Planet
ITV’s 2018 documentary features a charming conversation between the Queen and Sir David Attenborough as they walk in the garden at Buckingham Palace.
The Queen’s Green Planet looks at the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, a remarkable initiative to create a vast network of native forests across all 53 Commonwealth countries, protected forever in the Queen’s name to preserve natural habitat for future generations.
The Queen’s Green Planet is available to watch on the ITV Hub.
Being The Queen: The Life of Elizabeth II
The Queen’s life is told primarily through interview recordings with the people who knew her personally.
Through archival footage and photos, this National Geographic documentary shows some of the most important events in the history of the British monarchy and how the Queen managed to keep the monarchy relevant in a modern world.
Being The Queen: The Life of Elizabeth II is available to watch on Disney+.