The British Monarchy’s catalogue of blood feuds, forbidden love affairs, wars, abdications and endless scandals has supplied material for the writers of every age. From Shakespeare’s thinly disguised commentaries on Elizabeth and James I respectively to Peter Morgan’s reimagining of the Royals as high-end Soap Opera in The Crown, the audience for these gilded dramas has never waned.
And now, as Elizabeth II, and indeed millions of Britons, celebrate her becoming not just the longest serving British monarch, but the third longest serving monarch in world history, we take the opportunity to cast our gaze over some of the best Royalty-themed films of the first century of cinema. In no particular order, here are the top 10 picks to watch over the Jubilee weekend courtesy of Justin Trefgame, course leader at MetFilm School.
Kristin Stewart brings her own brand of sparkle and unpredictability to this intense, poetic take on Princess Diana. Whether Diana was really like this or not is sort of missing the point. Pablo Larraín’s film is a tightly wound character study of a woman unravelling under intense pressure and as a consequence plays out as much as a psychological horror as it does conventional drama.
2. The Queen
Given the intense scrutiny the modern day Royals find themselves under, it’s quite rare to find Elizabeth II at the centre of a movie narrative. Helen Mirren transcends as a Queen in semi-exile after the death of Diana, facing a crossroads in her reign and, more immediately, a beguiling stag that haunts her estate in the Scottish Highlands.
Radical choice of director (Shekhar Kapur). Young actress ready for super-stardom (Cate Blanchet). The rise of Elizabeth retold as The Godfather. A period film for all the ages.
4. Mrs Brown
Judi Dench cemented her reputation as one of the world’s most accomplished screen actors with this moving portrayal of a grieving Queen Victoria. But perhaps the film’s biggest surprise was the unexpected, nuanced performance of Scottish comedian Billy Connolly as the ‘commoner’ who encouraged her to return to public life.