7 Best Movies About Queen Elizabeth I (& 3 Great Shows)


  • There are an abundance of movies about Queen Elizabeth I, showcasing her unique contributions to Western civilization and her place in history.
  • Many movies and TV shows, such as
    Elizabeth: The Golden Age
    , offer intriguing character studies and bring to life the Queen’s reign, featuring notable performances by actors like Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench.
  • The miniseries
    Elizabeth I
    Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen
    provide more in-depth explorations of Queen Elizabeth I’s life and reign, portraying her relationships, politics, and impact on England.



England’s Queen Elizabeth I is a renowned and complicated historical figure who made unique contributions to Western civilization. As a result, it’s not surprising that there are plenty of movies about Elizabeth I to choose from. While the English royal family has always been a source of interest for viewers across the globe, TV shows and movies keep that spark of intrigue alive. The line of succession in British history is a bloody one, full of political intrigue, scandal, and reform that makes for great television and movies.

Few royals are remembered as Elizabeth I was, and she has quite a unique place in history. One of England’s most esteemed monarchs, Queen Elizabeth I is known as the “Virgin Queen,” as she famously never married. She brought her domain into the Golden Age after the oppressive rule of her sisters and King Henry VIII before her. There are many accomplishments to her estimable name, making the sheer amount of TV shows and movies about Elizabeth I quite understandable.

The crown Queen elizabeth the II
The Crown: All 3 Queen Elizabeth II Portrayals, Ranked

Several talented actresses have played Queen Elizabeth II throughout the 6 seasons of Netflix’s The Crown, but certain qualities set them each apart.

Elizabeth (1998)

Played By Cate Blanchett



Director Arlene Sanford Release Date September 13, 1998 Writers Michael Allin , Tom Nursall , Harris Goldberg Cast Jonathan Taylor Thomas , Jessica Biel , Adam LaVorgna , Gary Cole , Eve Gordon , Lauren Maltby

In one of Cate Blanchett’s best roles, she stars as Elizabeth Tudor in the 1998 historical drama film Elizabeth, arguably one of the best Queen Elizabeth movies about Elizabeth I. This film centers onthe female monarch’s ascension to the throne after her sister Mary I’s (more commonly referred to as “Bloody Mary”) death and Elizabeth’s early years as Queen.

There is also a plotline focusing on the ill-fated secret romance of Elizabeth Tudor and Sir Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) as she remains married to her country, unwilling to give up her power in a political alliance with other suitors. The film is an intriguing character study, artfully played out by Blanchett. The role earned Blanchett her first Oscar nomination while the movie itself earned a Best Picture nomination. It also features performances from Emily Mortimer and Geoffrey Rush as well as early roles from Alfie Allen and Daniel Craig

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Played By Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I sitting on a gold throne in a yellow gown in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Director Shekhar Kapur Release Date September 9, 2007 Cast Jordi Molla , Aimee King , Cate Blanchett , Laurence Fox , John Shrapnel , Geoffrey Rush

Nearly a decade after the first movie, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is the sequel with Blanchett back as Queen Elizabeth I. This movie picks up later in her reign, and Blanchett continues to bring unwavering confidence yet stark empathy to the role, acting as Elizabeth Tudor who leads England into a golden era, despite dealing with the strained relationship with Spain. The movie explores assassination plots against the queen, the growing aggression of her enemies, and some romantic pursuits.

This sequel also serves as a standalone film despite Blanchett reprising her role and Geoffrey Rush returning as her advisor Sir Francis Walsingham. They are also joined by some exciting new cast members, including Clive Owen, Rhys Ifans, and Samantha Morton. The movie fell far short of its predecessor in terms of critical reception, however, Blanchett still managed to secure an Oscar nomination for her role.

Fire Over England (1937)

Played By Flora Robson

Queen Elizabeth and Raymond Massey smiling in Fire Over England

Fire Over England

Director William K. Howard Release Date March 5, 1937 Cast Laurence Olivier , Vivien Leigh , Flora Robson , Leslie Banks , Morton Selten , Tamara Desni , Lyn Harding , Raymond Massey

Fire Over England is a black-and-white production from 1937, and one of the earliest Queen Elizabeth I movies. The narrative follows a naval officer who discovers Spain’s plan to fight against England, leading to the naval battle that ended with England being victorious. This narrow plot leads the young man to win the heart of one of Queen Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting.

Fire Over England is still one of the most important Queen Elizabeth movies, because the actress who plays her, Flora Robson, adds an essence of elegance to the character, and her unnamed lady-in-waiting, played by Vivien Leigh, is a gem who beguiles the audience. In fact, it was Leigh’s performance in this movie that helped her to earn the role of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With the Wind which would make her an icon.

Shakespeare In Love (1998)

Played By Judi Dench


Shakespeare in Love

Director John Madden Release Date December 11, 1998 Studio(s) Universal Pictures Writers Tom Stoppard , Marc Norman Cast Ben Affleck , gwyneth paltrow , Joseph Fiennes , Geoffrey Rush , judi dench , Colin Firth

Best Picture Oscar winner Shakespeare In Love is a must-watch film and definitively one of the best movies about Elizabeth I. This is a movie that will appeal to the heart of a hopeless romantic. While it focuses mostly on the relationship between the famous playwright Shakespeare (Joseph Finnies) and his lover Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow), Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench) also makes an appearance.

“Dench puts on a stunning performance as she carefully pulls the strings of the narrative.”

Elizabeth is the person who judges whether Shakespeare’s play can truly capture the nature of love in its authenticity. As usual, Dench puts on a stunning performance as she carefully pulls the strings of the narrative, and thus is a particular highlight of the critically beloved film. She plays the queen as a blunt yet comedic presence in the movie, commanding the screen whenever she appears. Dench earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Oscars for her performance which remains one of the shortest Oscar-nominated performances of all time at just over five minutes of screen time.

The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex (1939)

Played By Bette Davis

Bette Davis as Elizabeth and Errol Flynn as the Earl of Essex with their faces close in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

Based on a Broadway play of the same name, this fictionalized romance about Queen Elizabeth united a number of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex was originally released in black and white but has since been remastered into a color production. This film covers the tumultuous relationship between Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex, as their relationship stays hidden because the Queen refuses to give up her power by marriage.

This is a great film for cinephiles and history buffs alike, despite the fact that it is a largely fictionalized take on the relationship. With Bette Davis and Errol Flynn starring in this film as Queen Elizabeth and Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, this was the pair’s second movie together and their chemistry is electric.

The Virgin Queen (1955)

Played By Bette Davis

Bette Davis as Queen Elizabeth I smiling in The Virgin Queen 1955

Like Cate Blanchett, Bette Davis is a legendary actor who has taken on the role of Queen Elizabeth I more than once. Davis reclaims the role in the 1955 film, The Virgin Queen. The plot in this film is relatively simple. With the discovery of the New World, explorer Sir Walter Raleigh seeks the Queen’s consent to travel to America. When Queen Elizabeth I is hesitant, he works to seduce her in hopes her newfound fondness will allow him to set sail.

Davis plays Elizabeth I with a quiet austerity, but beneath this public veneer is a fair and gracious monarch. It may not be Bette Davis’ most iconic role, but it’s one of her best. The movie comes from director Henry Koster who was behind such other classics as Harvey and The Bishop’s Wife.

Orlando (1992)

Played By Quentin Crisp

Tilda Swinton as Orlando posing in a room filled with candles in Orlando

Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando: A Biography, Orlando is a brilliant adaptation of classic literature that holds incredible relevance today for its examination of gender identity and discrimination. Tilda Swinton stars in a breakout role as a poet who is magically transformed from a man to a woman, and who is ordered by Queen Elizabeth not to age. As a result, Orlando goes through many years of English history, meeting different figures from different eras, similar to the history element of Forrest Gump.

Queen Elizabeth I plays an important role in the movie, being responsible for Orlando’s own journey in many ways. The movie also plays on the story’s ideas of gender by casting a male actor in the role of Queen Elizabeth. It’s worth the watch as both Swinton and Crisp provide powerhouse performances through the lens of Shakespeare’s masterful storytelling.

Elizabeth I (2005)

Played By Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth I in a blue gown

One of the best movie actresses of all time, Helen Mirren portrays the iconic monarch in the 2005 two-part miniseries Elizabeth I. Alongside Mirren as the Queen, Jeremy Irons plays the Duke of Essex, and Hugh Dancy is the Earl of Leicester. While not one of the many movies about Elizabeth I, instead telling a fuller tale with a TV format, the show’s creators took a different spin on this narrative.

Elizabeth I tells the story of Queen Elizabeth’s final days as reigning monarch, rather than her ascension to the throne, the rivalry with Mary, Queen of Scots, or a chronological plotline following events during her nearly fifty-year reign. It is a lot of fun seeing Mirren in this role as she won an Oscar in 2007 for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.

Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen (2006)

Played By Anne-Marie Duff

Anne-Marie Duff as Queen Elizabeth I looking sad in The Virgin Queen

Movies about Elizabeth I don’t have the runtime to explore her entire influential reign. Therefore, the miniseries format is ideal for a full exploration of Queen Elizabeth’s impact on England, and the show Elizabeth I: The Virgin Queen delves into her life with surprising depth. Starring Anne-Marie Duff (during her run on the UK Shameless series) as the titular monarch.

This 2006 miniseries attempts to cover the entirety of Queen Elizabeth Tudor’s life, from infancy to death. In the matter of four episodes, the show details the tyrannical rule of her sister, Queen Mary I (Joanne Whalley), her love affair with Robert Dudley (Tom Hardy), and her last years of life. Duff gives an engrossing performance in the lead role which earned her a nomination for a BAFTA TV award, while Hardy continued to cement himself as a rising star before his Hollywood breakout.

Reign (2013-2017)

Played By Rachel Skarsten



Cast Adelaide Kane Release Date October 17, 2013 Seasons 4 Network The CW Showrunner Brad Silberling

While CW’s Reign starts out as following Mary Stuart’s (Adelaide Kane) attempt to regain her throne, halfway through the series, Reign is written to include Queen Elizabeth’s (Rachel Skarsten) efforts to maintain her power. It is written as a rivalry between the two monarchs, with both fearing of usurped crowns and recognizing that they were both female pawns on the political chessboard of monarchies, hierarchies, and birthright.

The TV show Reign is also known for the show’s costuming. Even though it is based in the 1500s, the costume designer pulls modern fashion in order to create a young adult show that is both historical and intriguing to its demographics. It also embraces soap opera elements in its storytelling to deliver a period piece with stunning looks and a lot of drama that allow it to stand out in the genre in a fun way.

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