Top Five Favorite Movies about British Monarchs

I’m sure you’ve all heard about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement this week. I had no idea they’ve been dating for more than eight years, sounds like their romance is the stuff that dreams are made of. I haven’t been following news about them pretty closely, but from the occasional tidbits I heard, they seem like a good match and it’s nice to see they truly choose to be with each other. It’s cool that William gave his mother’s engagement ring to Kate… I kinda teared up when I read William saying that the giving Diana’s ring to his fiancé “… was my way of keeping her close to it all.”  (Updated 4/26/11 – well, since the royal wedding takes place this weekend, my prayer is for William & Kate to have a wonderful and lasting marriage as grand as the wedding itself!)

In honor of the happy couple, I’m picking five favorite movies about the British monarch of the last couple of decades (I figure there’ll be too many if I don’t put a 20 year limit!). Here they are in order of release:

  1. Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997)
    I have to admit this movie was on my radar because it’s Gerry Butler’s feature film debut. Butler didn’t have a big part, but he was pretty memorable as Archie, John’s supportive brother. But I’ve come to love this movie for the beautiful story of love and friendship between a grieving Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) who’s still mourning her dead husband and her servant John Brown (Billy Connolly) who adores her. It’s through their special friendship that she ‘comes back to life’ again, but their relationship caused quite a stir.

    Dench and Connolly are both wonderful as the Queen and Mr. Brown  (Dame Judi was nominated for an Oscar for her outstanding performance). Connolly is known for his comedic work but he proved to have some dramatic chops here. This movie is touching, funny and heartwarming, helped by a tight script and beautiful cinematography. The scenes of Balmoral Castle and the Highlands could double as a Scotland tourism promo.
  2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    Not exactly a film about a particular royal family, but Queen Elizabeth I plays a big part of the plot as a prominent supporter of English theater. It’s arguable whether Gwyneth Paltrow deserved her Oscar as Viola, the cross-dressing actress who auditions for the part of Romeo. No matter, I think the movie itself is enjoyable, it’s more of a rom-com set in the late 16th century London that focuses on the Bard’s forbidden romance that provides rich inspiration for his play. I guess even Shakespeare can get writer’s block :D

    According to Wikipedia, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kenneth Branagh passed on the lead role, but I quite like Joseph Fiennes in this, he’s a passionate and captivating actor. This movie boasts a fabulous, mostly British cast: Judi Dench (again – and she won Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her mere eight minute of screen time!), Geoffrey Rush, Tom Wilkinson, Imelda Staunton, Rupert Everet, Colin Firth and Ben Affleck.
  3. The Queen (2006)
    The story takes place post Princes Diana’s death. The Queen’s decision to retreat to her hideaway in Scotland’s Balmoral Castle upset the heartbroken public and puts pressure on newly elected PM Tony Blair, who constantly tries to convince the monarchy to address the public.

    The film itself isn’t perfect, but I was captivated by Helen Mirren’s sympathetic but believable portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II. She truly owned this film and elevated it above what it would have been under a lesser talent. It’s not just the amazing makeup work, but Helen Mirren had her mannerism and body language down to a science. The monarch is often portrayed in less-than-favorable light, but I like the fact that this movie didn’t seem to pass judgment on the Queen and carefully illustrated her as a truly complex character. Michael Sheen is also stunningly convincing and charismatic as Blair, I guess it helped that he has an uncanny physically resemblance with the real guy.

  4. Elizabeth: The Golden Age – (2007)
    There is a good reason why I adore Cate Blanchett and considers her my all-time favorite actress. Her versatility is mind-boggling, in the same year she portrayed Queen Elizabeth I, she was also Bob Dylan in I’m Not There… both of which were nominated for an Academy Award in 1998 (she should’ve won both, IMO!)

    Just like The Queen, Blanchett’s the best part of this sequel of the 1998 version. Queen Elizabeth I endured various political crises late in her reign of nearly 45 years, court intrigues, an assassination plot, the Spanish Armada; as well as a personal dilemma as he fell for Sir Walter Raleigh, played by the ever-s0-dashing Clive Owen. It’s arguable if this one lives up to the original, some call it style over substance. But I think it deserves to be on this list merely on Blanchett’s phenomenal acting.
  5. Young Victoria (2009)
    This is the only one out of the five that I saw at the theater. I am a big fan of Emily Blunt and intrigued by the fact that this is about the younger version of the same queen in Mrs. Brown. Blunt at 26 with her luminous skin was quite believable as the teenage Queen who came to the throne at 18. The movie dramatizes the turbulent first years of Queen Victoria’s 63-year rule and her enduring, almost fairy-tale romance with Prince Albert. Rupert Friend is quite charming and sympathetic as Albert, who admired and respected the young queen when everyone wanted to control and manipulate her.

    The assassination attempt towards the end took a lot of liberty from reality, but it sure makes for a dramatic scene. Mark Strong plays one of his many villainous roles as the queen’s adviser John Conroy, he portrayed him so convincingly that I really loathed him in this movie! The movie feels tedious at times, though those moments allow you to marvel at the beautiful scenery and intricate costumes. The music is beautiful too, I’m even considering buying the soundtrack.

***

Please note that at the time I made this list, I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, but I predicted that it might very well make my list. Sure enough I was right, I even championed for it in this Oscar Best Picture Fight Club and it won!


So, what are your favorite movies about British royals?

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38 thoughts on “Top Five Favorite Movies about British Monarchs

  1. Glad you put “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” but why was “Elizabeth” left out? I agree that Cate Blanchett is a truly gifted actress (And her perfomance in “I’m Not There? ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE!), but was “Elizabeth” that truly allows her gift to shine. We see Elizabeth grow from a somewhat naive little girl into the strong and royal queen that has never ceased to intrigue centuries after her death.

    • Y’know, I was debating about that myself… I probably should’ve put BOTH in there as you’re right, both are memorable. I guess the sequel wins because I LOVE Clive Owen ;) Thanks for your comment.

  2. The Last King (2003) is a TV miniseries, not a film, but Rufus Sewell expertly plays King Charles II. He was the first, and only, (or last, as the title says) king ever to dissolve Parliament (he also slept around quite a bit too). I thought as long as you included GB in your list, I could sneak Rufus in too! :-D

    • Ha…ha.. why am I not surprised? Though honestly, Mrs. Brown would’ve been on my list with or without GB. He just got the credit as he made me check it out, but the movie belongs to Dench & Connolly. In any case, I’m sure Rufus makes a fiiiine King ;)

      • Oh, me too when I saw Mrs. Brown, Dench & Connolly were VERY good together in it. Even if GB hadn’t been in it, I would still have had to mention TLK anyway. Since RS actually played a king, this post was just a good excuse for me to play my fan girly character ;-D

    • I TOTALLY forgot 1 film that is my all-time favorite, and I guess I’m getting old because I couldn’t believe that I had left it out.

      “Anne of The Thousand Days,” with Richard Burton as Henry VIII and Geneviève Bujold as Anne Boleyn. How much did I love this film? I bought a VHS copy and spent $100 on it because it was out of print (I got the DVD now, but still have the VHS). Absolutely fantastic acting by Burton and Bujold and remarkable chemistry.

      • I just IMDb-ed it… wow, how many movies have there been on Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn?? Y’know, I’ve never actually seen a Tim Burton movie, so maybe I’ll watch this one. The Anne Boleyn story is definitely one of the most fascinating amongst the British royals. I just visited The Tower of London last year where she um, lost her head… so tragic!

    • Are you saying they put you to sleep Castor? Well, perhaps some do but some of these movies are captivating. But then again I’ve always had a certain curiosity about the subject matter, especially British monarchy, which is the most filmed monarchy of all I think.

  3. Fun list, but they’re all queens! Now, I am a huge fan of Elizabeth I (the real queen, AND as played by Blanchett/Dench) but the kings need some love too! Are you interested in seeing The King’s Speech w/Colin Firth at all? It sounds kind of interesting, and I am stoked for Mr. Firth to be receiving Oscar buzz, AND for Geoffrey Rush to return to his (ridiculously talented) dramatic roots instead of playing an over-the-top pirate.

    • He..he.. yes, I know, but not to say stories about the kings aren’t interesting, I just haven’t watched enough of ‘em.

      Um… you probably missed it in the intro. I said TKS probably make my list if I had seen it and yes, I’m all for Firth winning an Oscar!

    • Hi Cheri… welcome to FC! Yes of course it counts… Camelot is great… wonderful cast and Richard Harris singing, can’t beat that. I just limit my list to the last 2 decades to make it easier for me :)

      P.S. Your blog is lovely, I’ll be sure to visit it often.

  4. Ah, even the Serbian crown prince (who is queen Elizabeth’s cousin or something like that) has sent his congrats to Willie and Kate :)
    I don’t really like British royal family, I prefer the Danish one, Morrocan, Jordanian – those are much more cool :)

    Back to films – you already know ELIZABETH THE GOLDEN AGE is in my top 5 best films of all times. I feel I don’t need to explain why :) And people who say it’s over the top are the very same immature fanboys who think the biggest sin in the history of film is THE DARK KNIGHT not getting Oscar nomination :P

    YOUNG VICTORIA was a bit too short, but both Emily and Rupert were so lovely, kind, warm, charming, that I ended up loving that magical little film eventhough it’s not perfect.

    I also love watching all the old classic films on British kings and queens with great costumes, stunning sets and cheesy acting :)

    • I don’t really pay that much attention to any of the royals in real life, it’s just in the movies, British monarchs seem to get more film treatments over any other, there are just so much drama! Oh I think I remember the Danish crown prince Fredrik I think his name… he married a non blue-blood Australian woman Mary Elizabeth Donaldson.

      He..he.. yes I know you like that movie a lot and also your disdain for TDK. I think Blanchett should’ve won but I don’t know if the movie itself is THAT top notch though.

      Yeah, I think I like Young Victoria more BECAUSE of Emily & Rupert… what a sweet romance these two have. Too bad Elizabeth I never really experienced true love in her life… but I guess she’s already married to her country.

  5. Great idea for a list, Ruth. I’m no royalist by any stretch of the imagination (I’m already sick of hearing about the ‘happy couple’) but I do have a fascination for historical monarchy, back in the days when being a monarch actually meant something.

    I agree with Vince, The Madness of King George was excellent and would have made my list. I also thought the first Elizabeth was a little better, and would have put in Ian McKellen’s Richard III. I loved Mrs Brown, though, and thought The Young Victoria was good, too.

    Love the blog idea. :-)

    • Thanks Richard! Well I’d imagine the news across the pond is even more pervasive so I feel your pain :) Still, I think it’s good news and I do wish the best for them.

      I realize I’ve watched more queen than king movies… not sure why… I just learned that the King George one is Nigel Hawthorne, somehow I thought it was Patrick Stewart.

  6. Great list Ruth, but I wouldn’t put Shakespear In Love in my list, I don’t like that one.

    Elizabeth is awesome, Cate Blanchet is brilliat. I would have put Henry V in it, it’s Kenneth Branagh Movie.
    I forgot the title and is it British royal or not, there’s a movie staring Ralph Fiennes and Keira, their marriage is not a happy one. I kinda like that movie.

    • Oh, I think you mean The Duchess. I haven’t got around to seeing it, but it does look good. I like Keira and the story sounds intriguing. I’m just not too fond of Dominic Cooper, I have seen him in a couple of things and he hasn’t impressed me. But I’d still check it out.

  7. Very interesting post! I don’t think that the subject gets the attention that it is due. I don’t really pay that much attention to the “royal” films myself. I like the history, but find myself often picking apart several “facts” in films/shows that portray the characters. I’m not sure that I can list any fav royal films.

    Are you going to watch The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush?

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    • Hi there Sir Luke, I had to IMDb-ed this one. No doubt it’s hilarious, it’s by Richard Curtis and it even got Rowan Atkinson in it! I love Vicars of Dibley, which is also by Curtis. I should check this one out. Thanks for the tip.

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  10. I love “The Queen” and “The Young Victoria” they are really great films and the latter was particularly interesting since Victoria is usually portrayed as the sullen old lady. I wish they finally made good movie about either Anne Boleyn or Bloody Mary.

    • I haven’t seen ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ yet, but I’m curious about it as I LOVE Bana. Glad you like Young Victoria. Do check out the Judi Dench one ‘Mrs Brown,’ she’s absolutely marvelous in it.

  11. have to say I couldn’t ever see me doing such a top five list, a very classy choice Ruth, such a lady.
    I recently seen Young Victoria, I really liked it.
    Didn’t like The Queen, but Mirren’s imitation was perfect. Glad The King’s Speech wasn’t in there that movie was so overrated and Firth over-egged it, Geoffrey Rush was far more interesting.
    Very interesting post, very regal of you ;)

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