When you hear the word ‘queen’, chances are that you have the image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in mind. British monarchs have been particularly influential throughout history, and continue to be widely recognised symbols of monarchy nowadays. Without further ado, this week’s top concertates around special films that revolve around an important monarch – and, as expected, it is heavily dominated by representatives who have reigned over the British Islands, as well as its colonies and dependencies.
Monarch in question: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
There is no major feature production called ‘The King’, but we have ‘The Queen’. Centred around Princess Diana’s death in her tragiv accident of August 1997, it chronicles Elizabeth’s reaction – or rather lack of reaction, initially – to the event. The Queen is brilliantly portrayed by Helen Mirren – a role that landed her an Academy Award, among many other prizes – and Stephen Frears’ direction is equally good. A layered and insightful film that you should definitely check out if you haven’t already.
Monarch in question: William Wallace of Scotland
This masterpiece of 90s filmmaking, directed by and starring Mel Gibson as William Wallace, is considered by many to be one of the best films of all time. Winning 5 Oscars, including the top award of the year, this historical film chronicles Wallace’s Scottish uprising against King Edward I of England, and speaks volumes about themes such as oppression and freedom.
Monarch in question: Queen Elizabeth I of Britain
Another well-received film that sports one Academy Award, Elizabeth focuses on the early years of Queen Elizabeth I – as she ascended to the throne aged 25, she faced numerous difficulties in adapting to life as a monarch and the various contexts of the ages. Wonderfully portrayed by Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth definitely remains one of the standout royal films of the last decades.
Monarch in question: King George VI of the United Kingdom
Sweeping the year’s Oscar awards for Picture, Director and Leading Actor, The King’s Speech is a bit of a different proposal when compared to the other items on the list, mainly due to its area of focus. Namely, it does not concentrate on political or military aspects (despite being set just prior to WWII), but on a personal trait of newly-coronated King George: his stuttering and inability to hold a coherent discourse.
Monarch in question: Macbeth of Scotland
This is the only selection on our list that does not chronicle the life of a real-world monarch, but is instead inspired from a famous play that should not be named, written by a certain William Shakespeare. Often overlooked nowadays, this is a fantastic film written and directed by a Roman Polanski closer to the beginning of his career. The 2015 version starring Michael Fassbender is also worth a watch, if in the mood for Shakespearean adaptations.
Monarch in question: King Christian VII of Denmark
We finally move (slightly) away from the British Isles, and to 18th century Denmark. King Christian falls ill, and the film is centred around his wife, Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, and her love affair with the chief physician of the royal house. A Danish language film nominated for a Foreign Language Academy Award, it stars two of the most well-known Danish actors of our time: Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander.
Monarch in question: Emperor Puyi of China
We end our list with not only a different continent, but an empire instead of a kingdom. Winning an impressive 9 Oscars at the 1988 ceremony, the film chronicles the life of the last Chinese emperor, stemming from his ascension to the throne as a boy to his status as a political prisoner of the Red Army upon their Pacific campaign of 1945.