England’s Queen Elizabeth has always been a popular character Hollywood has focused on. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, there have been many films, miniseries, and television shows that have depicted the historic and famed monarch that brought England into the Golden Age after the oppressive rule of her sisters and Henry VIII before her. Here is a list of the top ten films and shows that have developed a modern narrative from the well-known and historical tales of England’s esteemed Virgin Queen.
10 Show: Elizabeth I (2005)
Helen Mirren portrays the iconic monarch, Queen Elizabeth, in the 2005 two-apart miniseries. Alongside Helen Mirren as the Queen, Jeremy Irons plays the Duke of Essex, Hugh Dancy is Earl of Leicester.
The show’s creators took a different spin with this narrative by telling the story of Queen Elizabeth’s final days as reigning monarch, rather than her ascension to the throne, the rivalry with Mary Stuart, or a chronological plotline following events during her nearly fifty-year reign.
9 Film: Elizabeth (1998)
Cate Blanchett stars as Elizabeth Tudor in this 1998 historical drama. This film centers on the female monarch’s ascension to the throne after her sister’s death and Elizabeth’s early years as Queen.
There is also a plotline focusing on the ill-fated secret romance of Elizabeth Tudor and Sir. Robert Dudley as she remains marrying to her county, unwilling to give up her power into a political alliance with other suitors.
8 Film: Elizabeth: the Golden Age (2007)
Nearly a decade later, Elizabeth: the Gold Age is the sequel to the 1998 production Elizabeth. This addition attempts to pick up later in the reign than where its preceding film left off. Cate Blanchett reprises her role as the divine monarch, acting as Elizabeth Tudor who leads England into a golden era, despite dealing with the strained relationship with Spain and that of her own subjects.
This sequel also serves as a standalone film. Viewers do not need to have seen the first film to understand this addition.
7 Show: “Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen” (2005)
This 2006 miniseries attempts to cover the entirety of Queen Elizabeth Tudor’s life, from infancy to death. In the matter of four episodes, the show details the tyrannical rule of her sister, Queen Mary I, the love affair with Robert Dudley, and her last years of life, as well.
6 Film: Fire Over England (1937)
Coming out around the same time as The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Fire Over England is a black and white production. The narrative follows a naval officer that discovers Spain’s plan to fight against England. This superficial and narrow plot leads the young man to win the heart of one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting.
While the plot could have been deepened, Fire Over England, is still an important film regarding Queen Elizabeth I, because the actress who plays the monarch, Flora Robson, adds an essence of elegance to the character, and her lady in waiting (who remains nameless in the casting directory), played by Vivien Leigh, is a gem of an actress who beguiles the audience in this dramatic narrative.
5 Film: Shakespeare In Love (1998)
A cult classic and nostalgic favorite, Shakespeare In Love is a must-watch film. This is a film that hearkens to the heart of a hopeless romantic. While it focuses mostly on the relationship between the famous playwright (who is played by Joseph Finnies) and his lover Viola (who is played by Gwyneth Paltrow), Queen Elizabeth (played by Judi Dench) also makes an appearance, as she is the person that judges whether or not Shakespeare’s play can truly capture the nature of love in its authenticity.
4 Film: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
Coming out shortly after Fire Over England, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was originally released in black and white, but has since been remastered into a color production. This film covers the tumultuous relationship between Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex, as their relationship stays hidden because the Queen refuses to give her power up by marriage and wishes to remain the nation’s Virgin Queen. This is a great film for cinephiles and history buffs alike.
Related: The Crown: Queen Elizabeth’s 10 Best Quotes, Ranked
Bette Davis and Errol Flynn star in this film as Queen Elizabeth and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.
3 Film: “The Virgin Queen” (1955)
Bette Davis reclaims her role as Queen Elizabeth in the 1955 film, The Virgin Queen. The plot in this film is rather simple. With the discovery of the New World, an explorer seeks the Queen’s consent to travel to America; however, when the Virgin Queen is hesitant, he works to seduce her in hopes that her newfound fondness for him will allow his to set sail.
2 Film: “Orlando” (1992)
While this Shakespearean play is centered on Orlando rather than Queen Elizabeth I, the reigning monarch plays an important role in the plotline. The reigning monarch allowed Orlando to inherit the lands that belonged to his family because she believed who he was as a person. Later, Orlando struggles to hold onto those lands after waking up in a different century as a woman. It’s definitely worth the watch, but audiences must give the film their full attention. This isn’t a production that is conducive to scrolling through one’s phone while watching.
1 Show: Reign (2013-2017)
While CW’s Reign starts out as following Mary Stuart’s attempt to regain her throne, halfway through the series, Reign is written to include Queen Elizabeth’s efforts to maintain her power. It is written as a rivalry between the two monarchs with both fearing of usurped crowns, as well as recognizing that they were both female pawns on the political chessboard of monarchies, hierarchies, and birthright.
Reign is also known for the show’s costuming; even though it is based in the 1500s, the costume designer pulls modern fashion in order to create a young adult show that is both historical and intriguing to its demographics.
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