In Depth

Best films and TV shows based on the British royal family

There's no shortage of royalty-related programming out there - here's some you may have missed

If this year's royal weddings have got you wishing there was more opportunities to see the monarchy in action its worth checking out these royal-related films and TV shows: 

The Crown

Based on the award-winning play The Audience by showrunner Peter Morgan, this lavish, Netflix Original drama will eventually chronicle the life of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) from the 1940s to the modern day. The series begins with an inside look at the early reign of the queen, who ascended the throne at age 25 after the death of her father, King George VI.

The first two series drew critical acclaim with The Guardian saying that: “Netflix can rest assured that its £100m gamble has paid off. This first series, about good old British phlegm from first to last, is the service's crowning achievement so far.”

The third series, set in the 1960s and 1970s, is out later this year, with Olivia Colman taking over from Claire Foy in the lead role.

The Queen

Before The Crown, The Queen saw Peter Morgan turn his hand at writing a feature-length film set during the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana. Helen Mirren plays a taciturn yet remorseful Queen Elizabeth II struggling to come to terms with the overwhelming public response to Diana's death, while Michael Sheen plays then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, who pushes the royals for an official expression of grief.

The film holds a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Mirren’s performance earned her an Oscar for Best Actress.

The Windsors

Here’s something to watch if you like your royal TV shows a little more frivolous. The Windsors transposes today’s royals into a soap opera situation and imagines what their lives and loves might be like.

The series has been criticised for storylines such as Kate Middleton catching ebola and Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice becoming radicalised.

Reviews have been mixed, with The Guardian saying: “High-brow humour this is not. But, despite a number of cast and crew comparing the show to Spitting Image, The Windsors doesn't feel like satire: more a comic drama that makes the odd comment about monarchy.”

The King's Speech

In this Oscar-winning film, Colin Firth plays the future King George VI, who employs Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to cure him of his debilitating stammer.

The two men become close friends as the new king counts on Logue to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast after the UK’s declaration of war on Nazi Germany in 1939.

The New York Times hailed the film’s leads saying: “With their volume turned up, the appealing, impeccably professional Mr. Firth and Mr. Rush rise to the acting occasion by twinkling and growling as their characters warily circle each other before settling into the therapeutic swing of things and unknowingly preparing for the big speech that partly gives the film its title.”

The Madness of King George

Directed by Nicholas Hytner and adapted by Alan Bennett from his own play, this 1004 comedy tells the true story of George III’s deteriorating mental health, and his equally declining relationship with his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, particularly focusing on the period around the Regency Crisis of 1788–89.

The film was a critical success. “Under Hytner's guidance, the cast, composed of some of the best actors in British cinema, rises to the occasion,” said Variety. “Boasting a rich period look, almost every shot is filled with handsome, emotionally charged composition.”

In 1999, the British Film Institute voted the film the 42nd greatest British film of all time.

The Other Boleyn Girl

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This 2008 film, directed by Justin Chadwick, presents a dramatised account of the lives of 16th-century aristocrats Mary Boleyn (Scarlett Johansson), one-time mistress of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana), and her sister, Anne (Natalie Portman), who became the monarch's second wife.

Describing it as “an enjoyable movie with an entertaining angle on a hard-to-resist period of history”, The San Francisco Chronicle highlighted Natalie Portman's performance, which “shows a range and depth unlike anything she's done before”, and “is the No. 1 element that tips The Other Boleyn Girl in the direction of a recommendation”.

Victoria

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While The Crown looks at the life and times of the current monarch, ITV’s hit drama Victoria delves into the life of another famous British queen. The story begins with the death of King William IV in 1837, propelling the young princess onto the throne the tender age of 18, and chronicles her relationships with the influential forces around her. Strong performances by Jenna Coleman as the young queen and Rufus Sewell as influential prime minister Lord Melbourne won the show critical praise, and saw it renewed for a third outing later this year.

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