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Helen Mirren playing Elizabeth II looking distraught over the telephone. The Queen
  • 5 Must-See Films About UK Royalty


    Posted on: 08/06/2015

    It's her majesty's birthday today! And what better way to celebrate than with a list of delightfully royal film fare.

    Here are 5 films focused on UK royalty:

    1. The Queen (2006)

    The recent birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, Prince William and Kate Middleton's second child, reminds us all of the UK's ongoing (slightly obsessive) affection for their monarchs. Indeed, of the world's interest in the family. With the birth of royal babies, we're reminded that it's this type of intrigue for the contemporary royals that inspired The Queen.

    Almost a decade ago now, The Queen still resonates as a deeply personal and candid account of the royal family's grief in the wake of Princess Diana's tragic death. The story that rocked the world placed the royal family under intense scrutiny. Every decision and action was judged. Every emotion (or lack thereof) communicated to the public via an insatiable media. The Queen does it's best to capture it all.

    The Queen Helen Mirren

    The British prime minister and the royal family find themselves quietly at odds after Princess Diana's accident in Paris on August 31, 1997. Prime Minister Tony Blair (played by Michael Sheen) saw a potential PR disaster in the making, and took it upon himself to convince Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) to make a statement in tribute to the fallen Diana – an action that went against the taciturn queen's usual nature.

    Director Stephen Frears captures the raw and evocative response to the national tradgedy with grace and Mirren's portrayal was so good she claimed Best Actress at the 79th Academy Awards.

    The film is worth a watch to remind us all that heavy is the head the wears the crown.

    2. Braveheart (1995)

    Braveheart won many fans with its tender and fiery portrayal of thirteenth century Scottish hero, William Wallace (played by a charismatic Mel Gibson prior to his many indiscretions). After suffering a personal tragedy at the hands of English soldiers, Wallace struggles to unify his nation against the English forces lead by King Edward I (aka Edward Longshanks). Thus a legend was born.

    The longevity of this epic action film owes to the fact that it's more than just an action film. The storyline is well crafted, the score sublime and most of the characters are given depth and substance.

    It's the ultimate underdog story following a man who's suffered greatly; he's reached breaking point. Wallace is trying to realise the impossible and lead his divided nation to a brighter future. He must rely on the gutsy and smart Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau) to secure independence for Scotland. He must deal with fickle Scottish lords. King Edward I is ruthless and, of course, acting in the interests of his realm and family - that being to dispatch of Wallace.

    The film's memorable one-liners, in particular this one, have also helped secure its place in popular culture:

    Although William Wallace is from lesser nobility, he was still recognised as a leader and even crowned with a garland of oak at his trial to suggest he was the king of outlaws. Despite a grisly fate awaiting him, he is said to have responded to the charge of treason against him with the following: "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." Wallace spoke of freedom even in the face of death.

    Though the film has turned twenty, the charm of the fable hasn't aged.

    3. Yellow Submarine (1968)

    The vibrant, musical adventure, Yellow Submarine, makes our list representing for UK music royalty, the Beatles.

    Released at the height of psychedelic pop culture, Yellow Submarine was a critical and commercial hit worldwide. Based on the music of the Beatles, the film was produced by over 200 animators who painstakingly drew the vivid imaginings of Pepperland and its surrounds.

    The submarine at the centre of George Dunning's wild creation is jolted into gear when the music-hating Blue Meanies attack Pepperland, and Old Fred must sail away in search of help. Landing in Liverpool he encounters Ringo and once John, Paul and George are aboard it's full steam ahead to Pepperland and victory!

    Our Senior Film Programmer, Kristy Matheson, tells us "Although the Beatles refused to voice their animated personas, they appear in the closing scene and years later expressed their fondness for the film. In fact it is purported that Sean Lennon realised John was a Beatle after seeing the film and asked his father why he was a cartoon!"

    Tunes from the Beatles, animation, parodies - all perfect reasons for a watch (or rewatch) of Yellow Submarine.

    Beatles Parody Simpsons

    4. Elizabeth (1998)

    Gravitas. Magnificent acting. Court intrigue. Elizabeth is one for the ages. Perhaps the Golden Ages, if you feel like watching the sequel:

    Nominated for seven awards at the 71st Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress, Elizabeth launched Cate Blanchett's career internationally. Blanchett plays "The Virgin Queen" alongside an all star cast (Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Daniel Craig, Fanny Ardant and Richard Attenborough) and she claimed a BAFTA and Golden Globe for her work. Unsurprising really once you watch the film.

    The penetrating historical drama introduces us to a young Elizabeth who's elevated to the throne after the death of her half-sister Mary I, who had imprisoned her. Her reign over a divided and bankrupt England is perceived as weak and under threat of invasion by Early Modern France or Habsburg Spain. With religious zeal threatening to tear England asunder, the newly crowned queen must step up and take control.

    Elizabeth Cate Blanchett Acmi

    And she does. A particularly memorable scene includes Elizabeth presenting her ideas on religious reform at parliament which immediately sparks outcry. The monarch's teasing remark to a Bishop "How can I force you, Your Grace? I am a woman" dares them to question her authority while winning them over with charm. Priceless.

    5. The King's Speech

    It’s fitting that an A-list of screen royalty brings this chapter of the British monarchy back to life. And what an exciting chapter it is. When King George V passes away, King Edward VIII, played by our very own Guy Pearce, is next in line for the throne. When he scandalously abdicates to marry a divorcee, his younger brother Bertie (Colin Firth) is crowned King George VI of England.

    The Kings Speech Web
    Bertie is an unlikely leader due to his life-long stutter. Throughout the film he often appears at the edge of the frame – a motif of his perceived isolation. Wanting to give him the best chance to succeed, his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), the future Queen Mother, arranges for him to see an eccentric, Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Their initially strained relationship develops into a mutual respect for each other, culminating in the King’s delivery of an inspirational radio address that unites the nation. The two remain friends until the King’s death in 1952.

    The film bagged two Oscars; Best Actor (Colin Firth) and Best Picture.

     - Web Marketing Coordinator, Miles Openshaw and Lydia Gibala, Marketing Coordinator


    In celebration of a different type of UK royalty, check out our David Bowie is exhibition. The exhibition runs from 16 July to 1 November.

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