Eight of the best royal films, from The Queen to The Favourite

·3-min read

Throughout her life, Queen Elizabeth II was a constant presence on screen.

The British monarch was portrayed, evoked, parodied and mimicked in everything from wacky comedies (The Naked Gun)to psychological dramas (Spencer).

But she was not the only royal to have graced the world of Hollywood.

Since its inception, the film industry has revelled in tales of royal exploits, whether that’s in period dramas or more contemporary biopics.

While foreign monarchs have also provided ample inspiration for Hollywood scriptwriters – think Marie Antoinette or Coming to America – the most lucrative source material has always seemed to be the British monarchy.

Here’s a rundown of eight of the best royal films.

The Favourite

Directed by the idiosyncratic Killing of a Sacred Deer filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is a riotous, blackly comic exploration of a love triangle involving Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in the early 18th century. Colman is terrific – and sometimes grotesque – as the spoiled, vindictive queen, and was awarded an Oscar for her efforts.

Olivia Colman in a scene from the film
Olivia Colman in a scene from the film

The King’s Speech

Tom Hooper’s robustly made period drama focuses on King George VI (Colin Firth) and his efforts to treat his stammer with the aid of a speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. This film also won four major Oscars, for Best Picture, Best Director (Hooper), Best Actor (Firth), and Best Original Screenplay, and was a major box office smash.

Mrs Brown

Judi Dench played Queen Victoria in this 1997 film focusing on the relationship between the recently widowed monarch and her loyal Scottish servant John Brown (Billy Connelly). The film was well received when it was first released. Dench would later reprise the role of the Queen in the unrelated 2017 film Victoria & Abdul.

The Young Victoria

There’s a lot of star power to The Young Victoria, Julian Fellowes’s 2009 film about Queen Victoria’s early life and her marriage to Prince Albert. Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Mark Strong and Jim Broadbent are among the disinguished cast; the film itself is light and enjoyably romantic.

Emily Blunt in ‘The Young Victoria' (Photo Credit: Liam Daniel)
Emily Blunt in ‘The Young Victoria' (Photo Credit: Liam Daniel)

The Queen

Perhaps the definitive portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II on screen, this 2006 biopic saw Helen Mirren play the royal in the immediate aftermath of Princess Diana’s death. Mirren is fantastic in the career-defining role, having played Elizabeth I in a TV series just one year earlier.

The King

Timothee Chalamet plays a young King Henry V in this Netflix-released film, based loosely on the Shakespearean play. After Henry’s father dies, the new king finds himself thrust into a world of slippery politics and harrowing war.

Timothee Chalamet in ‘The King’ (AP)
Timothee Chalamet in ‘The King’ (AP)

The Other Boleyn Girl

The fact that The Other Boleyn Girl is written by The Crown’s Peter Moran might explain some of the liberties taken with historical truth. The film follows Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson), sometime mistress of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana), and her sister, Anne (Natalie Portman) who would later become the king’s second wife before famously being beheaded.

Spencer

This 2021 drama starred Kristen Stewart as the late Princess Diana, trapped in a manor with the rest of the royal family over one fateful Christmas in 1991. The film is a fiction, but remains one of the most interesting interpretations of English royalty to date. Stewart is spectacular, and Stella Gonet’s Queen Elizabeth packs a real punch in her short time on screen.

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