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God Save the Queen… in Movies and TV!

Exactly three months ago we saluted Queen Elizabeth II on the 70th anniversary of her coronation. We looked at her, not from history but from the universe of imagination, fantasy, and stories. As a head of state, Elizabeth represented, for seven decades, a key role in a complex real world. The icon that she became had the same power. We offer again Mario Pacheco Székely’s journey into Queen Elizabeth II’s role in movies – a different kind of reign.

Originally published June 8, 2022


With the festivities marking the Platinum Jubilee (70th anniversary) of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, we have a great opportunity to revisit some of the films and television series in which the British monarch appeared or was portrayed on film, television, and even satires about her.

Cameras have surrounded Elizabeth II since she was 27 years old when she was appointed as the Queen of England on June 2, 1953, in Westminster Abbey. That event was narrated by the greatest exponent of her generation and acclaimed for his Shakespearean acting legacy, Sir Laurence Olivier (Rebecca, Richard III), in the documentary, A Queen is Crowned (1953).

Ten years ago, the queen was depicted in a fictional setting in the opening of the Isles of Wonder telecast of the 2012 Summer Olympics, directed by Golden Globe winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). The telecast, previously recorded at Buckingham Palace, showed the monarch walking alongside secret agent James Bond (Daniel Craig, Golden Globe nominee for best actor for Knives Out, 2020) and boarding a helicopter to parachute over the Millennium Stadium (of course, it was a stuntwoman).


On June 4, 2022, the 96-year-old monarch reconnected with pop culture by sharing tea with Paddington Bear (digitally animated) on her balcony. The scene was broadcast worldwide on television as thousands of spectators in the courtyards of Buckingham Palace cheered their queen.

The Naked Gun (1988) – In a scene from this comedy, the queen throws the opening ball of a baseball game at the Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California. Later, in the middle of the gala reception scene, the star of the movie (Leslie Nielsen) ends up falling on Elizabeth II, sliding from end to end on a long table on the podium.

The queen is played by Jeannette Charles, who made a small career out of her resemblance to the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

With a close resemblance to Elizabeth II and a perfect imitation of her voice, Charles holds the record for the most impersonations of the queen, including such films as Superstud (1976), Queen Long (1976), All You Need is Cash (1978), National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985), and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004) – Neve Campbell (Scream) plays then Princess Elizabeth in this satire that imagines Adolf Hitler moving into Buckingham Palace and scheming to marry into the Windsors. All of this is in a wacky comedy by Peter Richardson in which Prime Minister Winston Churchill is played by Christian Slater (winner of the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a series for Mr. Robot in 2016).



The Queen (2006) – Helen Mirren, the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Actress for The Queen (2007), achieves what for many is the definitive big-screen portrait of the monarch. The London-born actress attracts us to the enigma of the woman who has seen the passage of modern history in front of her eyes and coping with the dilemma of how to comfort her family and people.

The King’s Speech (2010) – The film that gave Colin Firth his Golden Globe for Best Actor for portraying George VI dramatizes how the future King, coping with a stammer, consults a speech and language therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to help him deliver his first BBC wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s war declaration on Germany.




David Seidler’s screenplay gives a glimpse of the domestic relationship between George VI, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a series for The Crown in 2020 and 2021), and their children, especially mischievous 11-year-old Princess Elizabeth (Freya Wilson).

Playhouse Presents: Walking the Dogs (2012) – In an episode of the BBC series, Emma Thompson, winner of the Golden Globe for Best Actress, Drama for Howards End (1993), plays Elizabeth II who is surprised by a bedroom invader who overrides the security system. The brief evening is spent with the queen treating the man to a biscuit and giving him marriage advice.

A Royal Night Out (2015) – Loosely based on the historical event in which Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret have a few hours of celebration with the London people as an excuse to celebrate the day of the victory of the Second World War on May 8, 1945.

Julian Jarrold’s film blends romance and suspense with a fabricated anecdote about how the royal girls must return to Buckingham Palace by 1 a.m. Sarah Gordon (True Detective) plays 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth who is befriended by a man, a pilot absent without leave.

The BFG (2016) – Based on the popular children’s book “The BFG” by Roald Dahl, the performance-capture animated film by Steven Spielberg features protagonist Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) as a girlfriend of a benevolent giant. The 10-year-old girl takes her imposing ally, nicknamed BFG, to breakfast in the dining room at Buckingham Palace, with Elizabeth II (Penelope Wilton), while the adults jump with the peculiar “frobscottle” drink.


The Queen’s Corgi (2019) – Although it lacks a single good review, this animated film follows in the footsteps of a little corgi breed dog that Elizabeth II treasures and takes a dramatic turn when it is lost. Who can resist seeing the sovereign of the United Kingdom as a normal person throwing the ball and hugging her dog?

Spencer (2021) – Stella Gonet (The House of Elliot) plays Elizabeth II in Latino filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s film (nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2016 for Neruda). The movie depicts the feeling of isolation and loneliness of Princess Diana Spencer (Kristen Stewart, nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Actress in 2022 for this film).

The Crown (2016-present) – In this streamer series produced by Netflix, the story of Elizabeth II’s life is told in different eras. Claire Foy won the Golden Globe for Best Actress, Drama in a series in 2017 for this role as the princess promoted to the queen who must make peace with her destiny and pay tribute to her father, King George VI, in addition to being married to Prince Philip.

“I am a bit of an idealist and I trust in equality,” Foy said to the HFPA in a press conference about her approach to the role. “Finding the courage to have this conversation, to empower those who are coming and build on those who have gone before, to get women and femininity to be thought of in a different way.”

For Seasons 3 and 4, Olivia Colman, also a winner of several Golden Globes (the last one in 2020 for Best Actress in a Drama Series for The Crown), shows the maturity of a woman who helps England enter the modern era of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and faces the drama of the adoration for Diana Spencer and the crisis with the latter’s husband, crown heir Prince Charles.

The fifth season, to be released in November 2022, will star Imelda Staunton (nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Actress for Vera Drake, 2005), who will essay the mature years of Elizabeth II at the turn of the century and with the challenges of a generational change.


Translation by Mario Amaya