Okay, confession time. When I was younger, I was 10,000% convinced that I was destined to become a real-life princess. Blame it on watching Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella one too many (thousand) times. Even though I shockingly *didn’t* end up living in a medieval palace surrounded by stacks on stacks of sparkly crowns and opulent jewels, I still remain fascinated by all things royal. (Seriously, you don’t want to know how many times I’ve watched Marie Antoinette.) And when there’s IRL royals with soap-opera-worthy drama, you better believe I’m firing up the first documentary I can find to learn all the BTS details.
So if you, like me, would prefer to spend your free time (which, TBH, we all have a L-O-T of right now) watching a period piece on Queen Elizabeth I or an hour-long doc on Harry and Meghan’s extravagant wedding, then I’ve got great news for you: There are so many movies about the British royal family for you to stream right this very second. You can even choose your own adventure. There are serious documentaries, dramatic reenactments, and of course, some perfectly cheesy rom-com movies that let us mere mortals dream about becoming a prince or princess—I’m looking at you, A Christmas Prince. Now go pop open your fanciest bottle of champagne, throw on your tiara and your most luxurious pajamas, ’cause you’re in for a night full of proper dignified fun.
The Duchess (2008)
If there’s a period piece about a duchess, you best believe Kiera Knightly is going to be in it. If you’re not familiar, this movie is based on the IRL Duchess of Devonshire—an 18th century aristocrat stuck in a, shall we say, less than ideal marriage. Naturally, then, when a hot, young politician comes around, he quickly catches her eye.
Cate Blanchett shot to fame after starring in Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, playing the titular role of Elizabeth I, who assumed the throne following the death of Mary I, her half-sister. In between dodging high-ranking suitors suggested by her main advisor William Cecil, Elizabeth began a secret affair with a regular earl, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes). She also had access to an elaborate closet. Thanks to famed costume designer Alexandra Byrne (who’s been nominated for—count ’em—four Oscars for her work, it’s casual), Elizabeth’s 16th century style is front and center in the film.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)
As you might have guessed, this movie is the sequel to Elizabeth, and it’s all about the later half of the red-haired queen’s reign. And although, yes, the writers may have taken some creative license with the plot, it’s still interesting as hell to watch, even for just the stunning costumes alone.
Diana: In Her Own Words (2017)
If you’re fascinated by the story of Princess Diana, then you must, must, MUST watch this documentary. It’s based on previously unreleased tapes of Lady Di talking all about her struggles adapting to royal life, which included depression and an eating disorder, plus all her marriage troubles with Charles. It’s some heavy yet fascinating stuff.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Arguably one of the most notorious royals ever, Marie Antoinette was married off to the future King of France, indulged in an over-the-top luxurious lifestyle and then lost her head during the French Revolution. This movie’s got Kirsten Dunst as the lead and Sofia Coppola directing, so yeah, it’s a visual masterpiece.
A Christmas Prince (2017)
What happens when a reporter goes undercover at a castle to get the story on the hottie playboy king-to-be? They start to fall in love, obvi. The cheese factor is through the roof here, but it’s just so damn cute and Christmas-y—I can’t blame ya for wanting to rewatch it every single holiday season.
The King (2019)
Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson take it waaaay back, royally speaking, to embody 15th century nobles in this movie. Timmy plays King Henry V, while R-Patz is his nemesis, the Prince of France. And NGL, they both look great facing off against each other in their suits of armor. You can read up on the full true story of The King here.
The Princess Switch (2018)
Basically, this movie is a cute, modern, Christmas-y version of the classic prince-and-the pauper tale. Vanessa Hudgens plays both a princess and a lowly baker who decide to switch places and then end up falling for the men in each other’s lives.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Mary Queen of Scots, let me just tell you that it’s super messy, pretty complicated, and really freaking interesting. Fun fact: Her cousin was Queen Elizabeth I, who ended up being the one to get Mary beheaded, you know, as cousins do. With the talented powerhouses Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie playing the two queens, this movie is definitely a must-watch.
King Arthur (2004)
You might be familiar with the whole sword in the stone, medieval King Arthur story, but this movie takes that plot and reimagines it as if it happened in the Roman empire. And if that doesn’t pique your interest, then Kiera Knightly as a badass, arrow-shooting Guinevere hopefully will.
Grace Kelly: The American Princess (1987)
In case you didn’t know, Meghan Markle isn’t the first American actress to become an actual princess. Grace Kelly did it loooong before her by marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco. This doc gets into the deets on how Kelly went from an Oscar-winning actress to a tiara-wearing princess.
Name a more classic prince and princess story than Cinderella...I’ll wait...forever. It may not be the most realistic royal tale, you know, with the whole fairy godmother and glass slipper and magic aspect, but that’s why it’s so romantic, duh.
The Girl King (2015)
If you’re into obscure European royals, this movie’s for you. It’s based on the life of the little-known Queen Christina of Sweden who, TBH, is wildly fascinating. She became queen at just 6 years old and was super smart and well-educated, but because she dressed in a “masculine” way and never married, everyone questioned her sexuality. She also spent so much money that the country reached the verge of bankruptcy. Ultimately, she decided to abdicate the throne, converted religions, and is now buried in the Vatican.
Fergie: Downfall of a Duchess (1997)
For those who don’t know, Sarah Ferguson is low-key one of the most controversial royals. She was previously married to Prince Andrew (yeah, that Prince Andrew) and she was once photographed with her TOES in the mouth of another man (!!) even though she was still legally hitched. (Sorry, I know that visual is...a lot.) The tabloids had a field day back in the ’90s thanks to her outlandish spending habits. She’s had even more scandals since this doc was released, but it’s definitely a good place to start your Fergie education.
Harry and Meghan: A Modern Royal Wedding (2018)
If you’re feeling nostalgic for the days when Harry and Meghan were still official members of the royal fam, then take a little walk down memory lane with this doc. And hey, if you’re planning a royal-inspired wedding of your own, it might even give you a few ideas.
Kate: The Making of a Modern Queen (2018)
How exactly does one go from being a totally normal girl from a normal family to being the future Queen of England? This documentary explains exactly how Kate gracefully pulled off this feat. Ladies and gents, take note!
The King’s Speech (2010)
Whether you’re entranced by the commitment between the Queen Mother (Helena Bonham Carter) and King George VI (Colin Firth) or the bond between the King and his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), every minute of this movie will move ya. The buildup to the king’s final speech will keep you from even checking your phone, so be sure to have a well-stocked snack pile nearby. On a related note: If you don’t cry during a Colin Firth movie, were you even paying attention?
Elizabeth at 90: A Family Tribute (2016)
Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday in 2016 was basically a yearlong celebration that included a new plaque, an official ticketed four-day extravaganza that included 900 horses and 1,500 performers, the annual Trooping the Colour, a street party along The Mall in London, and finally, the release of this documentary, Elizabeth at 90, from the BBC. Clocking in at an appropriate 90 minutes, it includes never-before-seen footage of the royal family, interviews with Prince Harry, Prince William, Princess Anne, Prince Edward, and Prince Charles, who serves as narrator.
A Royal Night Out (2015)
Of all the “untold stories” of the royal family, this one will leave you smiling for days. Sarah Gadon, who most recently starred in Netflix’s Alias Grace, plays a young Princess Elizabeth, who ventures out of Buckingham Palace for one night (with permission from her dad, the king) to participate in the VE Day celebrations in 1945. Joining her is her sister, Princess Margaret (Bel Powley), and two chaperones, who are apparently really bad at their jobs.
Whatever Love Means (2005)
^Apologies for this extremely janky video, I couldn’t find a trailer for this flick anywhere!
Fans of Camilla Parker Bowles should have no problem enjoying every second of ITV1’s fictionalized retelling of how she fell in love with Prince Charles in the early 1970s.
Okay, a warning: If you’re sentimental for Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor’s relationship, you might feel conflicted about this depiction of their love story. Although, fear not, there are still things to be grateful for in W.E.: (1) Madonna directed it, (2) Wallis Simpson has more than five lines, and (3) Oscar Isaac is also in the movie.
The Princess Diaries (2001)
While this film is not about any particular member of the royal family, one should always find an excuse to watch The Princess Diaries and its sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.
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