Ten Excellent Films Featuring Royalty (with links to full reviews)Feb 25, 2005 (Updated Nov 15, 2005) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in MoviesThe Bottom Line If you're into kings and queens, shoguns and lords, archdukes and emperors, give this list a look-see!
This is a difficult category to circumscribe. Here are some of the decisions I've made in deciding what to include and not include in my list.
1. I'm applying the concept of royalty to both European and Asian cultures. For Asian cultures, characters with such titles as Emperor, Shogun, or Lord will be considered royalty. Being part of the aristocracy does not by itself qualify a character as royalty.
2. To qualify, a film must deal with royalty to a substantial extent. The film cannot merely have royal characters in the story's background or a character with such titles as prince or princess participating in an adventure that is otherwise unrelated to royal activities.
3. The royal characters must be either based on real characters or realistically represent royalty as it exists or existed. Fairytale (e.g., Cinderella's Prince) and science fiction royalty (e.g., the Emperor in Star Wars) are excluded.
4. Films in which the lifestyle and/or problems of royalty are central to the story may appear higher on the list than other films that are better overall but with a weaker emphasis of royal activities.
5. The film may be a drama, an opera, or a musical.
I have no doubt that I've overlooked some other worthy choices, but here's my top-ten, followed by an alphabetical list of also-rans.
1. Boris Godunov (1954) Country: U.S.S.R. Director: Vera Stroyeva Rating: * * * * *
At his death in 1584, Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of Russia, left behind two sons, one mentally retarded and the other the small child Dmitri. Ivan's brother-in-law, Boris Godunov, an ambitious schemer, has Dmitri murdered. Then, feigning humility, Godunov orders his troops to gather the people to implore him to take the crown. This opera, featuring the brilliant raw genius of composer Modest Petrovitch Mussorgsky, follows Godunov's descent into guilt and insanity.
2. Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II (1945/58) Country: U.S.S.R. Director: Sergei Eisenstein (See Eisenstein: The Sound Years.) Rating: * * * * *
Part I begins in 1547 with the magnificent coronation of Ivan. There is opposition to his coronation among the boyars. Ivan proves to be as adept at court intrigues as his enemies and slowly consolidates his power by destroying his enemies. Ivan the Terrible was filmed in high contrast black-and-white and is one of the most visually complex films ever made, with great attention to mise-en-scene and multi-layered visual symbolism.
3. Ran (1985) Country: Japan Director: Akira Kurosawa Rating: * * * * *
This epic masterpiece was based on King Lear, beautifully adapting the play to 16th century feudal Japan. The Great Lord Hidetora, head of the Ichimonji clan, has reached a stage in life when he wants to divide his holdings among his three sons, but soon finds himself betrayed by two of them. Ran features strong characters, extraordinary cinematography, special effects, musical score, and performances.
4. Elizabeth R (1971) Country: U.K. Director: Roderick Graham and Richard Martin (See DavidMac's Review.) Rating: * * * *
When Elizabeth Tudor succeeds to the throne of England as a young woman, her advisors insist that it is imperative that she marry and that the marriage be one to strengthen English alliances. Instead, Elizabeth transform herself into the so-called virgin Queen and launches the Elizabethan age. This is one of the best miniseries ever made.
5. La Nuit de Varennes (1982) Country: France Director: Ettore Scola Rating: * * * *
Some may dispute my inclusion of this film because it barely shows the royalty involved, King Louis XVI and his family. Nevertheless, the story revolves entirely around a fateful night in 1791, at the height of the French Revolution, when King Louis XVI attempted to flee Paris and make his way to Austria, where he intended to organize an army to crush the Revolution. The story unfolds from the vantage point of a second coach that is following some six hours behind the Kings family, in which the passengers included the writer Restif de la Bretonne ("the first pornographer"), the American patriot Thomas Paine, the famous Italian lothario Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, and the Countess Sophie de la Borde (lady-in-waiting to Queen Marie Antoinette). There are several very strong performances.
6. Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) Country: U.K. Director: Charles Jarrott (See AliventiAsylum's Review.) Rating: * * * * *
This epic costume drama features strong performances from the likes of Richard Burton, Genevieve Bujold, and Irene Papas. In 1526, Henry VIII discards his wife Katherine of Aragon in favor of the younger and more beautiful Anne Boleyn. Anne proves to be a shrewd manipulator herself, maneuvering to have her offspring declared legitimate. The Vatican refuses, however, to have Anne's previous marriage annulled, leading to a climatic schism and Henry's ascension as head of the Church of England. Anne Boleyn's efforts come to naught, however, as her first child is a daughter and her second is stillborn. Henry then abandons her for Jane Seymour, leading to Anne's final destiny after just a thousand days as Queen.
7. Napoléon (1955) Country: France Director: Sacha Guitry Rating: * * * *
This is the story of the rise and fall of the Emperor Napoléon I, from his birth on the island of Corsica in 1769 until his death in 1821 on the island of St. Helena. It details his romance and marriage with Josephine and his other romantic intrigues, along with his military campaigns. The story unfolds as if it were being recounted by minister Talleyrand, on the day of Napoléon's death, to a group gathered at his home for an evening of conversation.
8. The Last Emperor (1987) Country: Italy Director: Bernardo Bertolucci Rating: * * * *
This is the story of the waning days of the Manchu (or Qing) dynasty, which ruled China from 1644-1912. The story begins in 1908, when "Henry" Pu Yi becomes emperor of China at the tender age of three. He will be forced to abdicate in 1912, though retaining figurehead status as emperor, in virtual confinement within the opulent Forbidden City complex (which encompassed more than 250 acres and 9999 separate rooms). The story follows the protagonist's ill-fated efforts to regain his empire by allying himself with the Japanese during World War II. This lavish film was awarded the Oscar for Best Film, along with several other Oscar trophies.
9. The Rise of Louis XIV (1966) Country: France Director: Roberto Rossellini Rating: * * * *
Although this film lacks the dramatic punch of some of the others on this list, I've included it because it set a standard of realism for epic period pieces that has seldom been equaled. The color cinematography is also superlative. Louis XIV (1638-1715) succeeded to the throne at age five. During his minority, France was governed by its prime minister, Cardinal Jules Mazarin. After Mazarins death, Louis surprised the nobility by becoming his own prime minister. He then exhibited great resourcefulness in consolidating all of the power of the government in his own person, making himself into the magnificent "Sun King."
10. Mayerling (1936) Country: France Director: Anatole Litvak Rating: * * * *
This film is based on the real life story of Rudolph (1858-1889), the Archduke and Crown Prince of Austria, though some literary license is taken. As the only son of the Emperor Francis Joseph, Rudolph was heir apparent to the throne, but was more attuned to the arts and literature than politics and was somewhat dissolute in his personal habits, drinking heavily and sleeping around. When Rudolph meets and falls madly in love with Marie Vetsera, a virtuous young lady, their romance is ill-starred from the get-go, culminating in a tragic suicide pact.
Some Other Worthy Royalty Films: (Alphabetically):
Anastasia (1956) Country: U.S. Director: Anatole Litvak (See mgscmwa's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Anna and the King of Siam (1946) Country: Director: John Cromwell (See artbyjude's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) Country: U.K. Director: Gabriel Pascal (No reviews. See Listing.) Rating: * * * *
Caligula (1971) Country: U.S. Director: Tinto Brass (See caligula79's Review.) Rating: * * * * * Caution: This film is highly pornographic
Camelot (1967) Country: U.S. Director: Joshua Logan (See drdevience's Review.) Rating: * * * * *
Cleopatra (1934) Country: U.S. Director: Cecil B DeMille (See George Chabot's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Edward the King (1975) Country: U.K. Director: John Gorrie (No reviews. See Listing.) Rating: * * * *
The Emperor and the Assassin (1999) Country: China Director: Chen Kaige Rating: * * * *
Hamlet (1948) Country: U.K. Director: Laurence Olivier Rating: * * * * *
Henry V (1944) Country: U.K. Director: Laurence Olivier and Reginald Beck (See BrianKoller's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Henry V (1989) Country: U.K. Director: Kenneth Branagh (See George Chabot's Review.) Rating: * * * * *
King and I, The (1956) Country: U.S. Director: Walter Lang (See bilbopooh's Review.) Rating: * * * * *
Lancelot of the Lake (1974) Country: France Director: Robert Bresson Rating: * * * *
Macbeth (1971) Country: U.K. Director: Roman Polanski (See filmlover's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Queen Christina (1933) Country: U.S. Director: Rouben Mamoulian (No reviews. See Listing.) Rating: * * * * *
Queen Margot (1994) Country: France Director: Patrice Chereau (See telynor's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Rasputin (1977) Country: U.S.S.R. Director: Elem Klimov Rating: * * * *
Rasputin and the Empress (1932) Country: U.S. Director: Richard Boleslawski (No reviews. See Listing.) Rating: * * * *
Throne of Blood (1975) Country: Japan Director: Akira Kurosawa (See mfunk75's Review.) Rating: * * * *
Victoria the Great (1937) Country: U.K. Director: Herbert Wilcox (Not in the Epinions database.) Rating: * * * *
You might enjoy my other genre lists:
Ten Excellent Spanish-Language Films
Ten More Excellent Spanish-Language Films
Coming-of-age Outside the USA!
Top Ten Foreign Language Psychodramas
Top Ten Non-English Language Political Movies
My Top Ten Non-English Language Tragedies
Top Non-English Language Comedies
Top-Ten Non-English Language Film Biographies
Top-Ten Non-English Language Action/Adventure Films
Top-Ten Non-English Language Mystery Films
Top-Ten Non-English Language ~Horror~ Films
Top-Ten English-Language ~Horror~ Films from Outside the USA
Ten Excellent Non-English Language Thrillers
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Ten Best Non-English Language War Movies!!
Ten Excellent Non-English Language Senior Films
Top-Ten Non-English Language Films Featuring Classical Music
The Top Non-English Language Epics
The 10 Best Foreign Language Romance Movies!!
The Ten Best Non-English Language Love Story Movies!!
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