The 10 Best Portrayals Of British Monarchs On Film

The 10 Best Portrayals Of British Monarchs On Film

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Respected opinions were sought, votes tallied and numbers crunched. Then, in the spirit of the autocratic behaviour most of these performances represent, all the evidence and advice was roundly ignored.

Here is a subjective list of the 10 best cinematic portrayals of British monarchs, ordered chronologically by reign. May it stimulate as well as possibly infuriate.

Henry II (Reigned 1154-1189)Played by Peter O’Toole in Becket (1964) and The Lion in Winter (1968)

The piercing blue eyes of Peter O’Toole have twice been engaged in bravura performances of Henry II.

It was a tortuous road to get the story of Henry and his wayward Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, told on film. Literary greats such as Tennyson and Eliot attempted dramatizations, with varying degrees of success.

Finally, the French left-wing firebrand, Jean Anouilh, caught the right balance between humour and pathos in his play, Becket. The film adaptation is aided by Richard Burton’s superb performance as a gaunt looking Becket.

Peter O’Toole as Henry II in The Lion in Winter (Credit: Public Domain).

If Becket is about the souring of the love inherent to friendship, then The Lion in Winter addresses embittering family love.

Taking place 13 years after Becket’s martyrdom, Henry II is now a broken man whom no amount of secular power can mend. His wife and children openly plot against him, like vultures hovering over their next prey.

O’Toole was nominated for Oscars for both of his performances, and won neither. He went on to receive another six nominations in his career, all to no avail. Katharine Hepburn won her third Oscar for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter.

Edward I (Reigned 1272-1307)Played by Patrick McGoohan in Braveheart (1995)

Edward I reigned at a time when to be known as “A Great and Terrible King” really meant something. Loved – and feared – by his people and the whole of Christendom, Edward was as equally hated and feared by almost everyone else.

Known as “the Hammer of the Scots,” he also presided over the expulsion of Jews, after they had been robbed blind and left destitute. Nowadays he would be called a bad man, but historically he is considered a great king.

In Braveheart, amidst Mel Gibson’s usual fascination with baiting and hating the English, and graphic suffering, Patrick McGoohan towers with a powerhouse performance of a monarch used to getting his own way.

The monarch may never have athrown his gay son’s lover out of a window, but in this case the poetic license is wholly in keeping with Edward I and his legacy.

The Lord of Dust, creator of daemons and spinner of the finest fairy tales, Sir Philip Pullman is one of the world’s greatest storytellers. But Pullman is a lover of great art as well as great words, and he has been inspired by many artists from different periods.

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Henry V (Reigned 1413-1422)Played by Kenneth Branagh in Henry V (1989)

One of the few times cinema and Shakespeare conspire and collude is with this, Shakespeare’s most popular historic play. As patriotically stirring as the late Dame Vera Lynn, Henry V is invoked and produced at times of low morale among the British people.

As is usually the case, the flipside to honour and chivalry is wholesale slaughter, running into the thousands, as well as a general disregard for anything foreign.

Whilst Laurence Olivier delivered a powerful king in Henry V (1944), his version is pipped by Branagh’s production, by virtue of the ease of delivery of the text and superb support from Paul Scofield, Ian Holm and Emma Thompson.

Henry VIII (Reigned 1509-47)Played by Robert Shaw in A Man for all Seasons (1966)

“The man every man wants to be and all women want to be with…” Sorry, that was James Bond. Henry VIII was almost the polar opposite of this. Once athletic and handsome, he became bloated, disease riddled and despondent. And yet, he’s always a hit at the box-office, though at times a little more than a pantomime villain.

He has been portrayed by Charles Laughton in The Private Life of King Henry VIII (1933), Richard Burton in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) and Eric Bana in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). Everyone has their own favourite Henry VIII, but Robert Shaw captures him at the height of his powers and influence.

The struggle between a Henry and a Thomas not only echoes the power struggle of our first entry, but also highlights once again that if you go to war with a king, you’ll most likely lose your head.

Robert Shaw in A Man For All Seasons (Credit: Highland Films/CC)

Elizabeth I (Reigned 1558-1603)Played by Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth (1998) and Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

The notion of a Warrior Queen seems to have enthralled Brits ever since Boudicca fastened scythes to her chariot wheels. At the cinema Elizabeth I is a perennial favourite, with only Queen Victoria having more screen portrayals.

So many great actors have impersonated Elizabeth: Vanessa Redgrave, Bette Davis, Glenda Jackson, Miranda Richardson in Blackadder, and even Quentin Crisp in Orlando. Good Queen Bess, however, is the role that Blanchett was born to play, twice.

In Elizabeth, she is young and flighty. By the second film, she is ready for a bloody war with Spain. Like O’Toole and Dench – also ‘double monarchs’ – we actually believe in this characterisation, which ages in real-time no less.

Blanchett received Oscar nominations for both films.

Charles I (Reigned 1625-1649)Played by Alec Guinness in Cromwell (1970)

Set in a horrendously bloody and divisive time, Alec Guinness actually become the arrogant God-given monarch destined to lose his head. It’s an astonishing personification, up there with the greatest of biographical performances.

The film rightly won an Academy Award for costume design, Guinness’ Charles could have stepped straight out of a Van Dyke portrait. Oliver Cromwell, played by Richard Harris, is no angel either. His initial idealism gives way to growing displays of ruthlessness and dictatorship.

It was Harris’s performance that captured nominations and awards at the time.

Gus Casely-Hayford talks about various aspects of African history: the importance of African history and why it belongs to all of us, the various civilisations, how Timbuktu became an unparalleled centre of learning, the need to continue building African cultural confidence in the wake of colonialism and the exciting future African archaeology has in store.

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Queen Anne (Reigned 1702-1714)Played by Olivia Coleman in The Favourite (2018)

Before this film, very few people knew much about Queen Anne, yet her reign came at the juncture of a Stuart period of revolution, war and unprecedented domestic suffering, the adoption of the German Hanoverians, 200 years of peace and stability and the codifying of most tropes, forever to be designated as “English”.

Set after Anne outlived all of her children, causing a crisis of succession and her increasing isolation, The Favourite portrays the misjudgements loneliness can cause and their exploitation by the ambitious and unscrupulous.

The Favourite marked Coleman’s meteoric rise from TV comedy actress to Oscar-winning Hollywood A-lister.

George III (Reigned 1760-1820)Played by Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George (1994)

It’s fair to say that the transformation of this production from cult play to box office blockbuster caught everyone by surprise.

Rupert Everett and Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George (Credit: MGM/CC)

The surprisingly moving story of George’s descent into madness is definitely helped by the superlative talent on display. Nigel Hawthorne excels as the king, yet he lost out on an Academy Award to Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump.

Special mention must go to the dependable Ian Holm as the Doctor and Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte. Historical biopics attract the cream of the acting profession, with Shakespearean actors of note vying for these plum roles.

Victoria (Reigned 1837-1901)Played by Judi Dench in Mrs Brown (1997) and Victoria and Abdul (2017)

Portrayed on screen more than any other monarch, Queen Victoria’s reign of over sixty years certainly had myriad high and low points. Although separated by twenty years, Judi Dench’s films have similar stories.

Her Majesty, forever in mourning, strikes up a seemingly inappropriate relationship with, God forbid, “foreigners” – the Scotsman John Brown, who she may have married in secret, and an Indian.

Mrs Brown was originally made for television and then, like others here, and other portrayals of Victoria such as Emily Blunt’s The Young Victoria, became a worthy hit at the cinema.

Judi Dench as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown (Credit: Public Domain)

Elizabeth II (Reign 1952- )Played by Helen Mirren in The Queen (2006)

There aren’t that many film roles that garnered a Best Actor Oscar and an invitation to dinner at Buckingham Palace.

The film is set in the days following Diana, Princess of Wales’ death, when the Royal Family retained what they felt was a dignified silence. The public though judged their lack of visible grief as cold and out of touch.

The brilliance of the narrative and performance is in presenting our beloved Queen at her most unpopular, and then showing how she recaptured our hearts.

Michael Sheen is brilliant as Tony Blair but it’s not a great film; Prince Charles mugs and gurns, more Goon Show character than fan. Also the symbolism of the stag scene is so heavy-handed as to warrant a warning. Despite all this, Mirren makes a wonderful Queen.

The 10 Most Uncanny Portrayals of an Historical Figure in Film

The use of history in cinema is still an uneven playing field. Filmmakers are storytellers, and a good storyteller never lets the truth get in the way of an entertaining story. Much to the dismay of many historians, the facts in historically-based films are often distorted to accommodate artistic license and ensure commercial success. And let’s face it: these films are not intended as documentaries.

However, in an age where the lives of historical figures are well-documented – and access to this information is readily available to the average internet user – there are higher expectations for filmmakers to adhere to the facts. This creates quite the challenge for both screenwriters and directors who must weave both truth and fiction into a coherent and fulfilling story, but it also presents an even tougher challenge for actors.

As audience members, our first (and perhaps deepest) connection with the film is the way in which the actor embodies his/her character how they look, move, sound, behave and react to their historical setting. In some cases, the success of the film hinges on the performance alone.

When utilising the finest techniques of the craft, an actor can closely resemble the person they are portraying and truly capture their spirit. Below is a list of ten uncanny portrayals of an historical individual on the big screen. Here, the performances of these thespians successfully compare to the primary evidence and documentary footage of their real-life counterparts – warts and all.

In order to offer effective comparisons, the list only focuses on representations of persons who lived in either the 20th or 21st Century.

10. Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher) in The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, 2011)

The longest serving Prime Minister in British history, Margaret Thatcher was definitely a bold – albeit controversial – leader. In order to gain an understanding of her legacy, one only needs to watch the polarizing reactions throughout the United Kingdom to the announcement of her death in 2013. Thatcher’s time in office was marked by social unrest due to high levels of unemployment, but she remained unflinching towards many of her economic policies. And let’s not forget the Falklands…

So it was fitting that the former Prime Minister’s portrayal on the big screen was given to an actress who equally commands the attention and respect of the audience: Meryl Streep. Although The Iron Lady opened in 2011 to a modest box office return and lukewarm reviews from critics, Streep’s performance was widely acclaimed and considered to be the finest moment of her acting career winning her a third Academy Award in the process.

The film explores three distinct stages in Thatcher’s life: her struggle to break into the elitist, male dominated Tory Party her time as a formidable leader of the nation and her downward spiral from dementia in her later years.

Streep masters each incarnation perfectly adopting her ironclad stare, her domineering march, and of course her characteristic shrill that often echoed across the cabinet table and into the parliament chambers. After one viewing, it is easy to imagine why they dubbed Thatcher the ‘Iron Lady.’

9. Ian McKellen (James Whale) in Gods and Monsters (Bill Condon, 1998).

There is nothing Hollywood loves more than a biographical film depicting the life and career of one of its own. James Whale is best remembered in cinema for his classic horror films of the 1930s. He was also regarded as quite a controversial player in the industry – being one of the first filmmakers to be openly gay throughout his entire career. Who else could portray such a colourful character but one of the world’s proudest and openly gay thespians: Ian McKellen.

McKellen is a man who can take any script and transform it into the work of Shakespeare, and his performance in Gods and Monsters is certainly no exception. The actor breathes life into Whale’s tragic last days leading up to his suspicious death in 1957. The character that McKellen paints for us on screen is a fragile echo of a once great visionary, tormented by the horrific memories of his days fighting in the First World War.

A truly mesmerising and heart-breaking performance, McKellen draws from his own struggles in overcoming discrimination to highlight James Whale’s experience as an outcast.

8. Geoffrey Rush (David Helfgott) in Shine (Scott Hicks, 1996)

When Shine opened in cinemas in 1996, there was one question on everyone’s minds: who the hell was Geoffrey Rush, and where did he come from? The 43-year-old Australian cracked into the film industry later than most actors, but his Academy Award-winning role as the acclaimed pianist David Helfgott was an extraordinary debut.

Scott Hicks’ biographical drama illustrates the hardships Helfgott faced throughout his formative years as a child prodigy and aspiring musician. The pressures he placed on himself and his strained relationship with his overbearing father ultimately lead to a nervous breakdown. After enduring electric shock therapy, Helfgott spent time in a mental institution recovering from schizoaffective disorder.

Rush handles the character’s mental instabilities with subtlety and grace. He even resumed piano lessons from his childhood so that the director did not have to rely on a hand double throughout the film.

One of the actor’s most memorable scenes is in the film’s opening, where a rain soaked Helfgott stumbles into a restaurant with a cigarette drooping from his naïve grin. What follows is a frantic and yet tragic performance of giggling and rambling, as the eccentric Helfgott is unable to compose himself in front of the restaurant staff.

7. Helen Mirren (Queen Elizabeth II) in The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006)

One of Europe’s oldest royal families, the House of Windsor is a predominant icon of British history and culture – not to mention a key tourist attraction for the United Kingdom. Public opinion for Queen Elizabeth II has generally been positive throughout recent years. However, that was not the case in 1997 when both the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family refused to participate in the world’s outpouring of grief over the tragic loss of Princess Diana.

The Queen focuses on the critical attitudes of both the media and the public towards the monarchy, as well as the rise in popularity of newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (charismatically portrayed by Michael Sheen). Ironically, the film was released at a time when public support for Blair had begun to fade and the monarchy was slowly regaining the respect of the people.

Helen Mirren is able to humanise the detached persona of Elizabeth II, providing an often overlooked perspective of a woman who must manufacture her feelings to meet the expectations of the people. Mirren approaches the character as both a leader and a mother – one who struggles to keep both her nation and her family from falling apart. The performance earned Mirren widespread praise, an Academy Award, and a dinner invitation from the Queen herself.

6. Ben Kingsley (Mahatma Gandhi) in Gandhi (Richard Attenborough, 1982)

The profound teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi continue to have tremendous effect on modern society. The champion of non-violent protest and non-cooperation sought to achieve total independence for India from the British Empire. His tactics would later inspire some of history’s greatest civil rights leaders and influence many freedom movements around the world. Casting such a prominent historical figure would prove to be quite the challenge for the filmmakers.

It is difficult to imagine anyone but Ben Kingsley playing Gandhi. It’s even more difficult to believe that Star Wars veteran Alec Guinness was originally considered for the role. Kingsley delivers a flawless representation of Gandhi’s humble nature, determination and remarkable spirit. At times it is easy to confuse the actor for the ‘Great Soul’ himself.

Honorable Mention: EXCALIBUR

Complete with relatively unknown actors at the time – Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, Nigel Terry and Gabriel Byrne – Nicol Williamson as Merlin was the highlight of John Boorman’s tale of England’s King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The gorgeous cinematography, which made this movie such a standout, was from Alex Thomson who received an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography and also went on to win a number of awards.

It’s been reported that the documentary ‘Behind the Sword in the Stone’ had recently wrapped photography and is looking for funding to complete post production. It features interviews with the original cast more than 30 years on and retraces the steps it took to make the fantasy epic.

1963's Cleopatra remains one of the largest film productions ever undertaken and cost a reported $31 million, which was unprecedented at the time. The historical epic clocks in at over three hours long and charts the queen's rule over Egypt.

Starring Elizabeth Taylor as the titular queen, Cleopatra remains one of the most recognizable queens in history due in large part to her elaborate and iconic wardrobe. The Egyptian style is like nothing else and elevates this queen, beyond the normal.

Top 10 English Kings / Queens

1. King Alfred (871 to 899) Alfred was King of Wessex, but during his reign, he was able to unite different areas of England and move the country towards greater unity. He had a rare combination of the formidable warrior – defeating the Vikings, and also being a scholarly and educated man.

2. Queen Victoria (1837-1901) The second longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria presided over the pinnacle of British power. During her reign, Britain was transformed into a modern industrial nation, and the British Empire spread across the globe. Throughout these rapid changes, Victoria proved to be a stabilising influence – an epitome of Victorian values.

3. Richard I – The Lionheart (1189-1199) Richard I was a crusading King who gained fame for his chivalry, courage and indefatigable spirit. He earnt the respect of his great enemy Saladin. Though his commitment to the crusades gained him respect for his fighting spirit, it was at the cost of neglecting England, where he spent little time out of his reign.

4. Henry V (1413 – 1422) Immortalised by Shakespeare for his efforts in defeating the French at the Battle of Agincourt, Henry was successful militarily. At home, he helped unify the rule of England. He was the first king to promote the use of the English language and was able to preside over a period of relative domestic stability.

5. Queen Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603) – After the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII, Elizabeth brought a degree of welcome stability and calm to the kingdom. Despite the religious rift of the Reformation, Elizabeth largely avoided the descent into religious strife. Elizabeth also rallied her navy before the famous defeat of the Spanish Armada when England looked vulnerable to invasion.

6. King Edward I (1272 – 1307) King Edward was an imposing figure and personality who transformed the fortunes of Britain. On the domestic front, Edward strengthened the legal and administrative code he strengthened the role of Parliament, creating seeds of our modern government. He also waged brutal wars of conquest in Wales and Scotland, which united the kingdom but at the cost of great brutality.

7. King Edward VII (1901 – 1910) Edward VII incurred the displeasure of his mother, Queen Victoria for his playboy lifestyle. But, on coming to the throne, he was able to use his charm and personality to win over European allies (especially France). He also reinstalled vigour to the monarchy after the long retreat of Queen Victoria. The Edwardian period was an era of great social and economic progress.

8. Queen Elizabeth II (1953 – ) The longest-serving monarch, Elizabeth has presided over six decades of rapid social change. The period has seen Britain divest itself of Empire, and become relatively less influential. Despite ups and downs, Elizabeth has been an important stabilising influence.

9. King George VI (1936 – 52) George never expected to be king. He came to the throne when his charismatic brother unexpectedly abdicated. Shy and modest, George was able to see through the constitutional challenge. In his own quiet way, he provided leadership and strength during Britain’s greatest test – the Second World War.

10. King Arthur (5-6th Century). King Arthur is a legendary figure who is said to have united the British tribes in defeating the Saxon invaders. The legends of King Arthur were important in the medieval traditions of chivalry and knighthood. Unfortunately, reliable sources are vague about the exact details of King Arthur and his knights.

Other notable kings and queens

King Canute (995 – 1035) Danish prince who became King of England and Denmark. Canute was widely regarded as a wise ruler who succeeded in ending Viking invasions and brought a degree of peace and stability to England. He was also generous to the Christian church and sponsored religious projects.

King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) Tudor English King. To marry his 2nd wife – Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII split the Church of England from Rome, a key element in the English Protestant Reformation.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “Famous English Kings and Queens“, Oxford, , 11th June 2014. Last updated 13 July 2019.

Kings and Queens of Britain

A brief note on choosing the Top 10 English kings and queens.

Across the centuries, it is hard to judge and rank different queens. The qualities needed for a medieval king were very different to those of the Nineteenth Century. Some great Kings, like Edward I, also had reputations for great brutality in their conquest of Scotland so it is difficult to rank them. However, some medieval kings like King Stephen, who lacked a ruthless touch, also presided over anarchy and a disintegration of basic law. This is one reason why in the medieval ages, strength and military success were deemed essential components of a king.

Related pages

English people – Famous English men and women. From Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I to Henry VIII and Winston Churchill. Includes the great poets – William Shakespeare, William Blake and William Wordsworth.

Great Briton list – Top 100 famous Britons as voted by a BBC poll. Including Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Thomas Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth I.

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When it comes to playing royalty, no-one comes close to Dame Judi Dench. The first of her films to make the list is Mrs Brown, which sees her play Queen Victoria. The movie concentrates on the relationship Victoria develops with a charismatic Scottish servant (played by Billy Connolly) following the death of Prince Albert. Dench captures Victoria in a defiant light in the role, while still finding sensitivity and warmth. Mrs Brown is also notable for being Gerard Butler’s film debut — although he’d go on to specialise in action thrillers rather than quaint period dramas later in his career.

Judi Dench returned to the role of Queen Victoria 20 years later in 2017 drama Victoria and Abdul. With Victoria grown cantankerous and lonely in later life she finds great solace in an unlikely friendship with Indian waiter Abdul Karim. It’s a heartwarming true story which shines a light on a lesser-known side of Victoria’s reign and showcases Dench’s unsurpassable acting talents.

The Queen

This 2006 drama follows the events taking place in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death, with the public calling for Queen Elizabeth II to address her subjects. Helen Mirren presents a conflicted view of her majesty, wanting to do right by her family and her people and even questioning her own place at the head of the monarchy. It’s the standout performance in a film full of fantastic turns from the likes of Michael Sheen as Tony Blair and James Cromwell as Prince Phillip. Available to watch on Amazon Prime Video

David Warner

He spoke the verse conversationally. He slouched. He looked trapped by his elders. In 1965, the 24-year-old David Warner, the youngest actor to have taken on the role at the RSC, played Hamlet in a long red scarf and a corduroy jacket and became a pin-up for a generation of teenagers. Peter Hall's production, in which Glenda Jackson was an aggressive beatnik Ophelia, had touches of absurdist drama, but Warner's demeanour was rebellious, surly: "nasty" was how he described himself. His duel looked dangerous and, in keeping with his prevailing irony, he died on a sardonic laugh.

The 8 Best Movies About the British Royal Family

While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have given the world a modern-day fairytale to watch unfold in real time, life behind palace walls has long been fodder for the big screen. As stars of the world's longest-running soap opera dating back to King Henry VIII, members of the British royal family have been memorably depicted in many notable films. Here are the ones that are truly worth your time—ranked from good to great. And for more great royals coverage, don't miss the 9 Words British Royals Never Say.

Naomi Watts does her best to channel Princess Diana during the last fateful summer of her life, but it's hard to fully suspend disbelief when so many iconic images of the late princess are burned into our collective memory. Still, the doomed love story of Diana and Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Lost's Naveen Andrews) makes for a compelling melodrama. And for more compelling royal melodrama, here's How Prince Harry Popped the Question to Meghan Markle.

Based on the best-selling novel, it's the story of the lesser-known Boleyn sister, Mary (Scarlett Johansson), who bedded King Henry VIII and lived, while Ann (Natalie Portman) fought to become queen and lost her head in the bargain. Both actresses excel in their roles. The Other Boleyn Girl is brutal depiction of the powerlessness of women during the Tudors' reign.

After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) struck up a passionate and scandalous friendship with a Scottish servant (Billy Connelly).

The Oscar-winning film tells the true story of how a reluctant Prince Albert (Colin Firth), in the wake of the scandalous abdication of his brother King Edward VIII, overcomes his speech impediment with the help of an Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) and support of his wife Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother (Helena Bonham Carter). Consider it required viewing as a prequel to Netflix's The Crown.

Keira Knightly was born to star in British costume dramas and her performance as the Duchess of Devonshire is one of her best. The sumptuous period film chronicles the tragic tale of Georgiana Cavendish, the strong-willed, beautiful and stylish 18 th century aristocrat who was beloved by everyone but her older husband who conducted a very public affair with another woman.

After Georgiana's untimely death, the duke finally married his mistress. Sound like another ill-fated royal bride? History really does repeat itself. The duchess was the great-great-great grand aunt of Princess Diana.

Cate Blanchett commands every scene in this film that chronicles the 45-year reign of Britain's iconic first Queen Elizabeth, who bested all rivals, survived assassination attempts, battled the Pope, and spurned all suitors in order to rule a nation on her own. Imagine what she'd do today.

When royal courtiers plotted to find eighteen year-old Queen Victoria a husband and decided her first cousin, Prince Albert, was the man for the job, they could not have known they were making a match that would become one of the most enduring love stories in British history. Emily Blunt shines as Victoria in this lavishly romantic period drama. Downton Abbey alert: it was written by series' creator Julian Fellowes.

This fascinating look at the first week in September 1997 that forever changed the British royal family begins with the Queen (an Oscar-winning performance by Helen Mirren) learning of Princess Diana's death and ends with the funeral, which officially declared the end of the centuries-old tradition of the "stiff upper lip." Interspersed with actual news footage, this Stephen Frears–directed film is the definitively dramatic chronicle of seven days the world will never forget.

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Brit Film: Ten British Movies Coming in 2021 (Hopefully)

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Remember the days when we could get a ticket, grab a bucket of popcorn and a soda, and set down to watch a movie? Unfortunately, 2020 saw a halting of the moviegoing experience as COVID crept across the land and numerous films that were due out last year are ready to come back to theaters with new release dates. They join a slew of films that were already scheduled for release in 2021, offering plenty of options for moviegoers, including a number of British films. If you’re having trouble deciding what to see in the coming year, here are our ten selections for you to consider. It’s still not clear whether many of these films will actually get a cinema release or just end on digital on-demand services. We shall see.

Operation Mincemeat

While the final release date has yet to be announced, this WWII drama was one of the casualties of 2020. Starring Colin Firth as Captain Ewan Montagu, who along with Charles Chomondoley, staged an elaborate deception with a corpse and briefcase that caused the Nazis to divert forces away from the Allies’ planned invasion of Sicily.

Promising Young Woman

Originally meant to be released in April 2020, it was pushed back to December for in-person theaters and then again to January 2021 for video on demand. It’s a very dark comedy featuring Carey Mulligan as Cassie Thomas, out for revenge after a close friend was sexually assaulted. It’s set to be available for rent on January 15 through Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes, and more.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

James Corden is back as the voice of everyone’s favorite misbehaving English rabbit. Following the events of the first movie, Peter decides he can have more fun outside the garden and runs away, causing his family to leave in search of him. The movie is set for release in the UK on February 12 and in the States on April 2.

The King’s Man

A prequel to the Kingsman series of films based on comics by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, and directed by Matthew Vaughn, 2021’s The King’s Man sees the formation of the independent espionage organization. It was originally meant to be released in 2019 but now has a date of March 12.

Last Night in Soho

From comedy to horror, director Edgar Wright brings to 2021 the story of a modern girl who finds herself back in 1960s London. There she encounters her idol, a wannabe singer, but quickly begins to realize this place is not what it seems. The film is set to be released on April 23.

Death on the Nile

The follow up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile is another adaptation of Agatha Christie’s work that features Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. Naturally, when a passenger on the S.S. Karnak is found murdered, Poirot is drawn in to discover who the murderer is. As with the last movie, this one features an all-star cast as the suspects including Annette Benning, Russell Brand, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright, and Rose Leslie. It’s set for release on September 17.


Another prequel, this time to the book and film 101 Dalmatians, Cruella features Emma Stone as the titular villain and will seek to explore Cruella De Vil’s past on the streets of 1970s London and why she comes to hate dalmatians so much. Originally meant for release around Christmas 2020, the pandemic caused filming to be pushed back, and now it will be released on May 28.

The Beatles: Get Back

Far from the land of Middle Earth, director Peter Jackson brings this us this documentary about the making of The Beatles’ album Let It Be. Jackson’s picture takes previously-filmed materials for the album to show the good feelings that existed between the band at time when it’s generally believed that they were falling out. The film is due to be released on August 27.

No Time to Die

The latest entry into the long-running James Bond franchise, No Time to Die sees Daniel Craig’s James Bond come out of retirement at the request of CIA Agent Felix Lighter (Geoffrey Wright) to deal with a new threat posed by Safin (Rami Malek). Another victim of multiple delays due to the pandemic, James Bond will return on April 2.

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About John Rabon

The Hitchhiker's Guide has this to say about John Rabon: When not pretending to travel in time and space, eating bananas, and claiming that things are "fantastic", John lives in North Carolina. There he works and writes, eagerly awaiting the next episodes of Doctor Who and Top Gear. He also enjoys good movies, good craft beer, and fighting dragons. Lots of dragons.

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