With Season Three of The Crown finally coming to Netflix on November 17, we have all become a bit obsessed with the British royal family and political establishment. Can’t wait ten more days? Get your fix with these ten modern movies about the British royals and the most infamous British politicians.
I say modern movies, as there have been so many made over the years that we would need a list of 100 to cover all the good ones, so we have only chosen films made in the last twenty years. Documentaries are also out, as are miniseries, as thanks to the prolific production schedule of the BBC, there are a lot of those.
Finally, if you haven’t already indulged in The Tudors (2007-2010), which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry VIII, Henry Cavill as Charles Brandon and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn, then what are you waiting for!
Brexit: The Uncivil War (2019)
Dealing with current British political history, Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this film that tries to understand how Britain has reached the point of almost leaving the European Union. It shows the lead up to the 2016 referendum and the activities of the strategists behind the Vote Leave campaign. The film manages to get you on the edge of your seat, even though you already know the outcomes and the material can be quite dry.
Darkest Hour (2017)
Starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, it focusses on the political side of World War II during the 1940 crisis when the Nazis were sweeping across Europe. Many in the British establishment wanted to make peace with Hitler rather than fight a war that they thought they couldn’t win. Churchill firmly refused as he believed that Hitler could not be reasoned with, making him many enemies in government.
A British history film packed full of Australian talent, Cate Blanchett stars as Queen Elizabeth I in the early years of her reign, while Geoffrey Rush plays Sir Francis Walsingham, her principal advisor in those years. It shows her accession to the throne after the death of her older sister Mary I, who had her imprisoned for being a Protestant, and the many plots and intrigues against her, especially by Catholics, as she tries to secure her throne.
The Favourite (2018)
When Olivia Coleman takes over as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown, it will not be her first turn as British loyalty. She also played Queen Anne in this film, alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as two women battling for power and influence as favourites of the queen. A delightfully light hearted look at the period while still drawing on true historic material, the three female leads give formidable performances.
The Iron Lady (2011)
Meryl Streep stars in the biopic about Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, and the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century. She is a famously divisive figure in British history closing coal mines and raising interest rates, but also investing heavily in the National Health Service. Streep one an academy award for her representation of the hard nosed politician.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Colin Firth stars as King George VI, and his efforts to overcome his speech impediment with a speech and language therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. George was initially the younger brother of the king, but was thrust into power when his brother abdicated in order to carry on a relationship with an American divorcee. He then falls under even more pressure as he must make a radio broadcast for Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
This film shows the conflict between Mary, the Queen of Scotland played by Saoirse Ronan, and Queen Elizabeth I of England, played by Margot Robbie. While the film suffers from a few historical inaccuracies, the leading ladies are well matched and deliver excellent performances, and the visuals are stunning, if cleaner and more colourful than reality could have been.
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Surprisingly the only Henry VIII film on this list, considering he was such an interesting character, this film is more about the women who made him. Eric Bana stars as the king himself, and Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn. It also stars Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn, Henry’s first love interest in the Boleyn family. The political machinations of the era are told through the eyes of these two women.
The Queen (2006)
Before there was The Crown, there was The Queen, played by British powerhouse actress Helen Mirren. She portrays the monarch during the events surrounding the death of Diana, the ex-wife of Prince Charles. The Queen wanted the matter treated as a private affair, but was forced to respond differently by her son Charles, the Prime Minister of the day Tony Blair, and the British public more generally.
The Young Victoria (2009)
Emily Blunt stars as Queen Victoria in this portrayal of the lover story of the queen and her husband Prince Albert, played by Rupert Friend. We see the 18-year-old queen exerting her independence, and then trying to maintain it through political machinations. We also see her husband struggling with his subordinate role and wanting to take on more.