Arts and Life

Best portrayals of Queen Elizabeth in TV and film

Queen Elizabeth II inspired a wealth of television and film dramatisations during her 70-year reign.

Her Majesty has been “immortalised in everything from the big-budget period drama The Crown to cartoon fame in The Simpsons”, said Sky News’ entertainment reporter Gemma Peplow. Following the Queen’s death last Thursday, the former show returned to Netflix’s Top Ten most-viewed English-language TV list, with almost 17.6m hours of season one watched globally in the week up to 11 September.

The late monarch was played by Claire Foy in the first series of The Crown, which “debuted to rave reviews” in November 2016, said ITV News. Here is a round-up of some of the best portrayals of Elizabeth II.

1

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Stella Gonet in Spencer

Kristen Stewart earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the Princess of Wales in this 2021 film, which follows Diana as she considers divorcing Charles as the Royals gather at Sandringham to celebrate Christmas in 1991.

But Stewart’s depiction of Diana would have been “impossible to appreciate” without Gonet’s performance as the Queen, said Looper. Gonet plays Elizabeth as a monarch “completely at ease with her authority” who has “no trouble wielding it to keep people in line”. The film “hinges” on this portrayal, which makes the historical psychodrama “so emotionally satisfying”.

2

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Sarah Gadon in A Royal Night Out

In the 2015 film, Gadon play a young Princess Elizabeth on VE Day in 1945, as she and her sister, Margaret (Bel Powley), are allowed to secretly join public celebrations taking place across London. 

Gadon “is exceptional as the cocooned young princess who adjusts with surprising pragmatism to life beyond the palace gates”, said The Independent. The Canadian actor “earns her crown as a princess out to party”, the paper concluded.

3

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Claire Foy and Olivia Colman in The Crown

The first two season of the hit Netflix series feature Foy giving a “masterful portrayal” as a young Elizabeth transforming from a “bright-eyed princess to focused ruler”, said TV Insider.

Colman is next in line to play the Queen, taking over in seasons three and four as an older and more “evolved Elizabeth who has a better grasp on the challenge” of her royal role, said Looper. Colman’s performance “is just as captivating as Foy’s”, added the entertainment news site, and critics have also praised supporting cast members including Matt Smith (pictured above) as Philip.

Imelda Staunton is playing the Queen in season five, to be released in November.

4

Helen Mirren in The Queen

Mirren won an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in this 2006 biopic, which tracks the Queen in the days after the death of Princess Diana, in 1997. 

Mirren’s portrayal of the monarch “struggling to react to the tragedy” was rewarded with a Bafta and a Golden Globe as well, said Sky News’ Peplow. The real-life Queen may “also have approved”, added Peplow, who noted that Mirren had been made a dame for services to drama in 2003.

5

The Queen as herself at the Olympic opening ceremony

 “Who could play Queen Elizabeth II better than the Queen herself?” asked TV Insider. The  monarch “made many television appearances over the years”, the site continued, but none were as  “memorable” as the sketch in which she starred alongside Daniel Craig as James Bond for the London 2012 Olympics.

 The skit, which featured in the opening ceremony for the Games, was a truly “sweet and uniting segment”.

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