The Queen in film, TV and documentaries – must watches to celebrate her life

·3-min read
Olivia Colman as the Queen, andTobias Menzies as Prince Philip, in the Crown (Alamy/PA)
Olivia Colman as the Queen, andTobias Menzies as Prince Philip, in the Crown (Alamy/PA)

Queen Elizabeth II reigned over the nation with incredible grace for more than 70 years, and will be remembered as one of the greatest monarchs of all time.

She was depicted on screen countless times in her long life, both in reality and as a fictionalised character.

Here, we have created a list of the best films, TV shows and documentaries to watch and remember her fondly, as we mourn her death aged 96.

Films and TV shows

The Crown: The Netflix original drama, highlighting the trials and tribulations of the royal family, became a must-watch after its launch in November 2016. With the cast changing every two seasons to reflect how the royals aged throughout the decades, the Queen has been portrayed by Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman, with Imelda Staunton due to take over the role for seasons five and six. Binge-watch from the beginning and you may even be viewing some early episodes the Queen enjoyed – in 2017, when season one was out, a royal commentator reportedly said: “Happily, she really liked it, although obviously there were some depictions of events that she found too heavily dramatised.”

The Queen: This critically-acclaimed 2006 film, directed by Stephen Frears, imagines what went on behind the closed doors of Balmoral and Downing Street in the traumatic week after Princess Diana died in 1997. Helen Mirren plays the Queen battling between her own emotions and what the country expects of her, while Michael Sheen plays the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The Queen And I: This 2018 comedy, based on Sue Townsend’s satirical novel,  stars an array of famous names, including Samantha Bond as the Queen and David Walliams as her foe – republican prime minister Jack Barker, who strips the royals of their assets and titles, and has them banished to a rundown council estate. Initially, this may not sound the most appropriate viewing recommendation – but the movie Queen is emotionally switched on and the family begin to find unlikely allies, making this an uplifting watch.

Documentaries

Fictional TV and films are all well and good, but the Queen did so much for our country that you may prefer to hear the real stories behind her reign.

Queen Elizabeth II about to take her seat in the Royal box at the Odeon, Leicester Square for the Royal Film Performance of MGM’s ‘Les Girls’.
Queen Elizabeth II about to take her seat in the Royal box at the Odeon, Leicester Square for the Royal Film Performance of MGM’s ‘Les Girls’.

The Queen: 70 Glorious Years: Some of the UK’s best-loved stars took part in this thought-provoking BBC One documentary, that marked the Queen’s 2022 Platinum Jubilee. Narrated by Julie Walters and featuring contributions from the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Trevor McDonald, Floella Benjamin, Twiggy and Boy George, the programme looks at how the nation transformed during the Queen’s long reign, with her the one constant in people’s lives.

A Queen Is Crowned: Narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, this 1953 technicolour documentary of the Queen’s Coronation brings viewers all the pomp and pageantry of the day. Originally released in cinemas, the lavish vintage film was Oscar nominated and a Bafta winner, and features The London Symphony Orchestra on the soundtrack. For anyone who witnessed the event first time around, this is a hugely nostalgic watch – and younger viewers will appreciate the magnitude of the historic event.

Elizabeth And Margaret: Love And Loyalty: Released on Netflix in 2020, this documentary consists of two, 45 minute episodes that analyse the relationship between the Queen and her younger sister Princess Margaret, who died aged 71 in 2002. It shows how the young royals coped after their uncle abdicated the throne, and also reveals how Margaret – often seen as the royal rebel – sacrificed her own happiness to support her sister.

Elizabeth: A Portrait In Parts: Rare footage from the royal archives was collated in this documentary, released in cinemas in 2022 to mark the Platinum Jubilee, to give fresh and nostalgic insights into our longest-ever ruling monarch. Made by the late acclaimed film and stage director Roger Michell, who also brought us Notting Hill and died in 2021 aged 65, this was his final project.