As a general rule, Americans are fascinated with royalty. Perhaps because we’ve never had any royals of our own. Or maybe the seeds of interest are planted in us by the childhood fairy tales we read. Whatever the case, films about monarchs, both fictional and real, usually do well with viewers.

Now, I do love a good fairy tale princess story. Sadly, real-life royals don’t lead as enchanting lives as their fictional counterparts. In fact, history paints most of their lives rather differently. For many, their position is a magnet for political turmoil, unhappy state marriages, and even tragedy.

RELATED: 25 AMAZING PERIOD DRAMAS TO WATCH IF YOU LIKE VICTORIA ON PBS

Still, their lives fascinate us. So, I’ve put together a list of films and a few TV shows about real-life royals. Some adhere more closely to historical facts than others.

I’ve tried to include a more diverse list of movies about royals, but the majority of these are of European background. This just proves the movie industry still has many more interesting real-life royals to explore. Let’s hope Hollywood gets the memo.

Note: Availability is based on the U.S. availability at the time of publication. Availability can change at any time.

MOVIES ABOUT ROYALS

(films and shows listed in no particular order)


1. Grace of Monaco (2014)

Grace of Monaco; movies about royals
Photo: The Weinstein Company

Though Grace Kelly wasn’t born royal, she became one through marriage. This royal movie shows just a brief slice of her life during the early 1960s and depicts Grace as contemplative and a bit unhappy.

Where to Watch:  Rent or buy on digital or DVD.

Content Note: This film is not rated. But other than a few swear words and an off-color joke, there’s nothing offensive in it.

2. Queen Christina (1933)

Queen Christina photo.

Queen Christina, a Swedish royal, lived in the 17th century, refused to marry and eventually abdicated her throne. Greta Garbo plays the queen in one of her more famous performances.

This royal film pairs her with former lover and frequent co-star John Gilbert as a fictional romantic interest. But the movie does cover her years on the throne leading up to her decision to give up the throne.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on digital or DVD.

Other Film Depictions: The Girl King (2015)

3. The Last Emperor (1987)

The Last Emperor photo
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

This Oscar-winning royal film depicts the life of the last emperor of China (and of the Qing dynasty). It follows Puyi from his childhood ascension to the throne,  to his expulsion as ruler, eventual imprisonment to a puppet of the Communist party

Where to Watch:  Rent or buy on Amazon, iTunes or VUDU. You can also buy on DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG-13 for mild violence, sexuality, and language

4. Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

Jodhaa Akbar photo
Photo Credit: UTV Motion Pictures

A romanticized portrayal of the marriage between the sixteenth century Mogul Emperor Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar and Indian princess Jodhaa Akbar (aka Mariam-uz-Zamani). Though she was his fourth wife, she was the mother to his succeeding son. International star Aishwarya Rai plays the title character.

Where to Watch:  Stream on Netflix or buy on DVD.

Content Note: TV-14

5. William the Conqueror (2013)

William the Conqueror poster

For such an important and larger than life figure, it’s shocking that this French film is just about the only one I could find about this pivotal ruler. This famous king is a ripe subject matter for a Hollywood production.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime.

Content Note: This film is unrated but has brief partial nudity.

6. Diana (2013)

Diana movie photo; movies about royals
Photo Credit: Entertainment One

No one of my generation will ever forget the people’s Princess. This movie takes a look at the last couple years of Princess Diana’s life and her secret relationship with a Pakistani doctor.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime, Roku, Vudu, and Tubi. You can also rent/buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG-13

7. A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom; movies about royals
Photo: BBC Films

This recent film depicts the interracial, cross-cultural love story between Seretse Khama (king of what would become Botswana) and Ruth Williams, a white British woman. It stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike.

RELATED: A United Kingdom Review:  A True and Beautifully Romantic Love Story from the Director of ‘Belle’

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG-13

8. Queen Margot/La Reine Margot (1994)

Queen Margot/La Reine Margot photo
Photo Credit: Miramax

This French biographical drama focuses on Margaret of Valois, daughter of Catherine Medici, sister to three French kings, sister-in-law to both the King of Spain and Mary, Queen of Scots and wife to Henry III of Navarre who would eventually become King of France. 

Their interfaith marriage incited the events of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The royal movie is based on a book by Alexandre Dumas. It also stars many famous French actors such as Isabelle Adjani, Daniel Auteuil, Vincent Perez, and Virna Lisi.

Where to Watch: Stream on Kanopy. Rent on Rent or buy on Youtube, Google Play, iTunes or VUDU.

Content Note: Rated R for nudity, sexuality, and graphic violence.

9. Juarez (1939)

Juarez movie still
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

This is the story of the brief reign of Mexico’s Archduke Maximilian I and his wife Empress Carlotta. These two were well connected European royals. She was a cousin of Queen Victoria and he was the brother of the Austrian Emperor. They were installed as monarchs of Mexico by France’s Napoleon III in an attempt to retain control of the country.

Though their marriage was a love match, it ended in tragedy. This film features an all-star cast with classic Hollywood’s biggest names including Bette Davis.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

10. Cleopatra (1963)

cleopatra; movies about royals
Photo: 20th Century Fox

Though this is long and at times a bit boring, it is arguably the most famous of films about this ancient Egyptian queen. This royal movie shows her takeover of the throne, her relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, as well as her political ambitions which eventually lead to her death.

The upside of this movie is its’ amazing settings, beautiful (if historically inaccurate) costumes, and the gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor playing opposite Rex Harrison and real-life lover Richard Burton.

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: This is unrated, but there are quite a few scenes of scantily dressed women.

Other film depictions: Cleopatra (1934), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), Antony and Cleopatra (1972), Cleopatra (2013)

11. Alexander the Great (1956)

Alexander the Great promotional image
Photo Credit: United Artists

Let’s all just forget about that atrocious version starring Colin Farrell as the Greek king ruling over one of the largest empires in history. This version has much better reviewer ratings and stars the talented actors, Richard Burton and Frederic March.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime. Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Other Film Depictions: Alexander (2004), Young Alexander (2010)

12. The Hollow Crown (2012, 2016)

the hollow crown prince hal
Photo: BBC

This highly-rated British mini-series based on Shakespeare’s writings features multiple English kings including; Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and Richard III.

It features a star-studded cast with fan favorites like Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Stewart, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Sturridge, Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, Michelle Dockery, Keeley Hawes, Judi Dench and more. I’ve been dying to see this.

Where to Watch: Episodes are available for purchase on Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Or buy the whole series on DVD.

Content Note: Equates to TV-14 for language, battle violence, and brief nudity.

Other film depictions: Richard II (1978), Richard III (1955), Richard III (1995), Henry V (1944), Henry V (1989)

13. Sofia/Sofiya (2016)

Sophia promotional poster; movies about royals

I was very impressed with this eight-part Russian royal series about the Byzantine Princess Sophia’s marriage to Moscow’s Grand Prince Ivan III (history nicknamed him Ivan the Great).

Ivan was the first to use the title Tsar, defeated the Mongolian horde and consolidated power of Russia’s city-states under Moscow’s rule. The production values of this series are excellent as are the subtitles.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime, Tubi, or Hoopla. You can also buy on Amazon and Google Play.

Content Note: This is unrated, but there is battle violence and at least one graphic bedroom scene.

14. Ekaterina (2014)

Ekaterina (2014) Russian Television Series promotional image
Photo: Russia-1

Of all the adaptations I’ve seen on Catherine the Great, this is my favorite. It’s an opulent, visually sensuous production, rich with jewel tones and beautiful uses of light and shadow. Plus, it has the added bonus of providing a focus on Catherine’s predecessor Elizabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great.

RELATED: Ekaterina (2014) Russian Television Series Review – A Rich and Complex Portrayal of Catherine the Great

The talented actress playing her won the Russian equivalent of an Oscar. It also features the most nuanced portrayal of Catherine’s doomed husband Peter. And who better to produce a series about the Russian empress than Russia itself? The subtitles are good and the occasional narration gives context for Russia’s place in history at that time.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime

Content Note: Unrated, but I would give it a TV-14 rating for battle scenes and non-explicit bedroom scenes.

Other Film Depictions: The Scarlett Empress (1934), Young Catherine (1991), Catherine the Great (1995), Catherine the Great (2015)

15. Sissi Film Series; Sissi (1955), Sissi: The Young Empress (1956), Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress (1957)

Sissi film series image

This set of German royal films cover the life of Elisabeth of Bavaria, wife of Franz Joseph I Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. The first film is one of the most successful in German history and is televised on Christmas every year in Europe. They portray her journey from an obscure country princess to an elegant, poised woman of importance.

Where to Watch: Sissi – Stream on Kanopy. Rent or buy on Amazon or iTunes. Sissi: The Young Empress & Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress – Stream on Kanopy. Rent or buy on Amazon, Youtube, Google Play or iTunes.

16. Marie Antoinette (1938)

Marie Antoinette (1938); movies about royals
Photo Credit: MGM

The ill-fated queen of Louis XVI who became the last queen of France due to the French Revolution. She is a fascinating historical subject whose actions are much debated. Oscar-winning actress Norma Shearer gives a moving portrayal of her in this film also starring Tyrone Power and John Barrymore. The celebrated Adrian designed the amazing and gorgeous costumes.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Other Film Depictions: Marie Antoinette (2006)

17. The Last King/Birkebeinerne (2016)

The Last King photo
Photo Credit: Magnolia Pictures

I know almost nothing about medieval Norwegian history. So this film about a group of loyalists protecting the illegitimate infant son of King Haakon III after his death sounds intriguing. Although I can’t vouch for its’ historical accuracy.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix and Hoopla. You can also rent/buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for brutal war violence, language, and sexuality

18. Mary of Scotland (1936)

Mary of Scotland movie still
Photo Credit: RKO Radio Pictures

One of many things royals are famous for is conflict with other royals. Katharine Hepburn stars as the title queen of this film finding herself locked into a political battle with Queen Elizabeth of England. Sadly history proves that things do not end well for her. But she gets the last laugh because her son eventually inherits the throne of both Scotland and England.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Other Film/TV Depictions: Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Mary Queen of Scots (2013), (2018), Reign (2013-2017)

19. The Favourite (2018)

The Favourite movie still
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Protestant Queen Anne inherited the English throne after her Catholic father was deposed in the Glorious Revolution. During her reign, the nations of England, Scotland, and Ireland were united under the banner of Great Britain. Instead of focusing on the events of her reign, this film chooses to depict the relationships she has with her ladies in waiting.

Where to Watch: Stream on HBO, rent on Vudu, or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language

20. Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)

Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) movie image
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

I’ve always been fascinated by the last Tsar of Russia and his English born wife. Many productions focus on Rasputin and his relationship with him or on their daughter Anastasia. This three-hour film focuses more on these two, their private and political lives and the tragic events leading to their deaths.

Where to Watch: Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: PG

21. Outlaw King (2018)

Outlaw King photo
Photo Credit: Netflix

Robert the Bruce is one of the most important figures in Scottish history. He accomplished the nearly impossible, uniting the clans under his leadership and won Scotland’s independence from England. The title of this film accurately hints at the subject matter, the years that Bruce lived as an outlaw before defeating the English and claiming the Scottish throne.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Content Note: Rated R for sequences of brutal war violence, some sexuality, language, and nudity.

Other Film Depictions: The Bruce (1996), Robert the Bruce (2019)

22. The King’s Speech (2010)

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush as King George and Lionel Logue in The King's Speech
Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

The current Queen’s father George was never meant to be king. But upon the abdication of his older brother Edward, his life changed. The King’s Speech is a fantastic royal movie about his unique relationship with the man responsible for helping him control his speech impediment while he prepares to assume the role of king. It’s a touching and inspiring story. Colin Firth stars as the King in an Oscar-winning performance.

Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix and Showtime. Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated R mostly for brief strong language.

Other Film Depictions: Bertie and Elizabeth (2002)

23. Elizabeth (1998)

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth; movies about royals
Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures

This is arguably the definitive film on Queen Elizabeth I thanks to a brilliant portrayal by Cate Blanchett. Known as the Virgin Queen, she survived political maneuverings to become one of the longest-reigning monarchs in English history. This movie portrays her rise to power.

Where to Watch: Stream on Starz. Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for violence and sexuality.

Other Film Depictions: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Virgin Queen (1955), Elizabeth I (2005) Elizabeth the Golden Age (2007), The Virgin Queen (2007)

24. The Young Victoria (2009)

The Young Victoria photo; movies about royals
The Young Victoria Photo: Sony Pictures

Though there are many films and shows about this queen, this is my favorite due to the sensitive performance by Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend as Victoria and Albert. As the title suggests, this film focuses on the years before she becomes queen and those directly following her ascension to the throne.

RELATED: The Young Victoria (2009) Film Review: An Adorable Bildungsroman

Where to Watch: Stream on Sony Krackle, Britbox or Sundance Now. Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG

Other Film/TV Depictions: The Mudlark (1950), The Story of Vickie (1958), Victoria & Albert (1997), Mrs. Brown (1997), Victoria (2016 -)

25. The Lion in Winter (1968)

The Lion in Winter photo
Katharine Hepburn & Peter O’Toole as dueling spouses.

Powerhouse performances by Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn as bickering couple King Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitane make this a must-see royal film.

The Lion in Winter depicts an explosive family gathering during Christmas 1183. Henry allows his imprisoned wife to join him for the holiday where they argue over which one of their three sons is fit to succeed him. This movie also features the debuts of Timothy Dalton and Anthony Hopkins (as Richard the Lionheart).

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on Digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG

Other Film Depictions: Becket

26. The Madness of King George (1994)

The Madness of King George image
Photo Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

I bet you can’t guess what this one is about. The bloodlines of many royal families were often rife with health issues including madness. That’s what comes from centuries of inbreeding. England’s George III is one of the more famous examples of this. His eldest son the Prince of Wales (George IV) served as Regent during the last year’s of George III’s life since he was unable to rule.

This award-nominated film features an outstanding cast including; Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Rupert Graves, Rupert Everett and Jim Carter (aka Carson of Downton Abbey)

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime. Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG-13

27. A Royal Scandal (1997)

A Royal Scandal poster

Speaking of the Prince of Wales, this royal film focuses on the famously disastrous marriage between him and the German princess Caroline. The marriage produced one child and eventually led to a trumped-up public trial of Caroline’s purported unfaithfulness to a man flaunting his mistress in her face.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime.

Content Note: TV-14

28. The Crown (2016)

The Crown promotional image; movies and tv shows about royals
Photo: Netflix

It has to be difficult portraying a living historical figure with honesty, while also protecting their public image. This royal series does a good job balancing that line. It gives us all a glimpse into the early years of the current Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

RELATED: The Crown (2016) Review – Netflix’s Sweeping Biographical Drama About Queen Elizabeth

The Crown also shows the demands upon her as a wife and mother, but also as the political figurehead of England.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Content Note: TV-MA for brief strong language, brief nudity, and an explicit sex scene in season two.

Other Film Depictions: A Royal Night Out (2015), The Queen (2006)

29. Wolf Hall (2015)

Wolf Hall photo
Wolf Hall. Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII. Photo: BBC

Henry VIII is a popular choice for productions about royals. He is famous for his relationships with his wives and also for his rebellion against the Catholic Church. During his reign, he separated England from the spiritual influence of Rome. This royal series is one of the better portrayals of this controversial monarch.

RELATED: Wolf Hall Review – A Fascinating Historical Drama About the Tudor Court

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime. Buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: TV-14

Other Film Depictions:  The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) Anne of The Thousand Days (1969), A Man for All Seasons (1966), The Tudors (2007), Henry VIII (2003)

30. Anna and the King (1999)

Anna and the King image; movies about royals

English woman Anna Leonowens really did serve as a tutor to the children of the King of Siam (now Thailand). However, the story has been embellished a bit over the years for film audiences. Still, this version seems to give a more balanced view of the king, the nation, and his relationship with Anna. Not to mention it has some spectacular scenery.

RELATED: Vintage Review: Anna and the King – A Sweeping Old Fashioned Epic

Where to Watch: Rent/buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG-13

Other Film Depictions: Anna and the King of Siam (1946), The King and I (1956)

31. Lady Jane (1987)

Lady Jane; movies and tv shows about royals
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Perhaps the shortest reigning monarch in history, Lady Jane Grey assumed the throne of England after the death of Edward VI. She was a pawn of political machinations by influential power players who cared little that she bore the consequences of their actions.

Like many other monarchs involved in power struggles, things didn’t end well for her. See a young Helena Bonham Carter in the role of Lady Jane.

RELATED: Vintage Period Drama Review: Lady Jane Starring Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime. Rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG-13

32. Mayerling (1957)

Mayerling photo still; Thirty-Five Fascinating Movies About Real-Life Royals to Watch

It can be argued that the events that happened at Mayerling contributed to the end of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. The tragic deaths of Crown Prince Rudolph (son of Emperor Franz Joseph and the previously mentioned Sissi) and his young mistress left the empire in turmoil.

Further muddying matters are the unresolved events behind the deaths. Was it a murder/suicide or a political assassination? This adaptation stars the beloved Audrey Hepburn and her real-life husband Mel Ferrer.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime. Rent or buy on Amazon and DVD.

Other Film Depictions: Mayerling (1936), Mayerling (1968), The Crown Prince (2006)

33. A Royal Affair (2012) 

A Royal Affair; movies about royals
Photo Credit: Nordisk Film Distribution

This Danish film is definitely heavy on the romantic drama. It stars Alicia Vikander as the British princess Caroline Matilda. She carries on an affair with the German doctor overseeing her insane husband’s care which eventually leads to tragedy but also changes the nation.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime, Hoopla, Tubi, and Sundance Now. You can also rent/buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated R for sexual content and violence

Other Film Depictions: The Dictator (1935)

34. Princess Ka’iulani (2009)

Princess Ka'iulani photo
Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions

This is the story of the last Hawaiian princess who finds her throne usurped by American corporate and government interests. It’s a beautiful film about a brave young woman fighting a losing battle with little support. It also features a younger Shaun Evans (Endeavour) as a love interest.

Where to Watch: Stream on Tribeca Shortlist. You can also rent or buy on digital and DVD.

Content Note: Rated PG

35. Charles II: The Pride and the Passion (2003) 

Charles II: The Power and the Passion promotional poster

This king’s story is rather unique in English history. His father was beheaded in the English Civil War led by Oliver Cromwell and Charles was exiled. Eventually, he was able to return to England and regain his birthright.

He is also the uncle of the previously mentioned Queen Anne. This royal film focuses on both his private affairs as well as his political battles after he’s restored to this throne. It features a standout performance by the yummy Rufus Sewell as the complex king.

Where to Watch: Stream on Prime or Britbox.

Content Note: Rated TV-14. Very much a soap opera portrayal, Charles II has multiple bedroom scenes with some brief nudity.

Other Film Depictions: Restoration (1995)

What are some of your favorite movies about royals? Who is your favorite historical monarch? Let me know in the comments.


(Featured image credit: BBC, BBC Films, Columbia Pictures, Gramercy Pictures, Sony Pictures)

ARE YOU A ROMANCE FAN? FOLLOW THE SILVER PETTICOAT REVIEW:
Silver Petticoat Review Logo Our romance-themed entertainment site is on a mission to help you find the best period dramas, romance movies, TV shows, and books. Other topics include Jane Austen, Classic Hollywood, TV Couples, Fairy Tales, Romantic Living, Romanticism, and more. We’re damsels not in distress fighting for the all-new optimistic Romantic Revolution. Join us and subscribe. For more information, see our About, Old-Fashioned Romance 101, and Modern Romanticism 101.
If you enjoyed this article, please help us spread the word! Share with your friends or save to Pinterest to read later.
Thirty-Five Fascinating Movies and TV Shows About Real-Life Royals to Watch: Pin

MORE PERIOD DRAMAS:

You May Also Like: