The films are
listed in chronological order and this list is not definitive.
AND THE PAUPER (1909 through 2000)
have been numerous adaptations of the classic Mark Twain novel which
begins during the final days of Henry VIII's reign. This link will
take you to the most recent version.
THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII
This film stars the great
Charles Laughton as King Henry and beautiful Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn.
It's the first 'Tudor movie' I ever watched and still one of the best.
It can be purchased on video. Interesting note - Laughlin's
real-life wife, Elsa Lanchester, plays Anne of Cleves. The two later
co-starred in Billy Wilder's superb adaptation of Agatha Christie's
'Witness for the Prosecution', - check it out, it's a fun, suspenseful
film with a different twist ending from the book.
MARY OF SCOTLAND
This film is based upon a
Maxwell Anderson play, and stars Katharine Hepburn as Mary Stuart and the
great Fredric March as Bothwell. It was directed by John Ford.
It can't be purchased; check the cable listings.
Vivien Leigh and Laurence
Olivier play lovers against the backdrop of Anglo-Spanish intrigue, with
Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth I. This is a nice, swashbuckling
romance with intrigue and intelligent dialogue.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND
Elizabeth and Essex and Elizabeth the Queen
This film is based upon the Maxwell Anderson play, as was Anne
of the Thousand Days (below) and Mary of Scotland
(above). It has an interesting cast - Bette Davis in her first
incarnation as Queen Elizabeth, the great Errol Flynn as Essex, and Vincent Price
(before he was typecast in horror films) as
Walter Raleigh. It can't be purchased; check the cable
Based upon the Margaret Irwin
novel, which has recently been reissued, this film stars Jean Simmons as
Elizabeth Tudor. Charles Laughton reprises his role as Henry VIII
from The Private Life of Henry VIII (above). The plot is
primarily concerned with Elizabeth's relationship with Thomas Seymour, and
takes great historical liberties; it is entertaining and well done.
It can be purchased on video. And read Irwin's work, too - she's
AND THE ROSE (1953)
This film tells the
story of Henry VIII's youngest sister Mary and her forbidden love affair
with Charles Brandon. I haven't seen it but several visitors have
told me it's wonderful; you can purchase it on VHS.
THE VIRGIN QUEEN
Once again, Bette Davis
plays Queen Elizabeth; Richard Todd plays Raleigh and Joan Collins is his
true love. I recently watched it again on AMC; it's colorized and
the men wear a lot of wacky-colored clothes (which is actually realistic,
though jarring.) The dialogue is
witty and Bette Davis is always fun to watch. It can be purchased on
video; also, check the cable listings.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
This film is based on
Robert Bolt's play and stars Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, executed
for refusing to recognize Henry VIII as head of the English church.
This is a great film worth watching on its own merits, even without its
Tudor connections. The story of More's refusal to betray his
conscience is justly famous and the film is a wonderful tribute to his
life and accomplishments. It is available on dvd. Look out for
the uncredited cameo of Vanessa Redgrave as Anne Boleyn.
ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS
This film stars Genevieve
Bujold as Anne Boleyn and Richard Burton as Henry VIII. It's
entertaining, the supporting actors are good, and Bujold's performance has
grown on me; she shows the vulnerability beneath Anne's wit and charm.
It's based upon Maxwell Anderson's play. If they remade this film,
wouldn't Virginie Ledoyen be the perfect Anne?
THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII
This is a great Masterpiece
Theatre series which was shown on PBS in America. It stars Keith
Michell as Henry VIII and is divided into six parts, one for each
wife. It was recently released on dvd. I have written a review
of the dvd at Amazon.com; click
here to read it.
Michell later appeared
in a film version of the
series, much shortened, of course, and with different actresses
portraying the wives.
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
I should admit that I am a
fan of Vanessa Redgrave and thus suitably biased, but this is an
entertaining movie. It also features the equally great Glenda Jackson
as Queen Elizabeth, a role she reprised in the Masterpiece Theatre series,
Elizabeth R. Redgrave was nominated for the Best Actress
Oscar for her role. In the film there is a meeting between the two
queenly cousins, - the meeting never occurred in real life, though Mary
desperately wished for it.
Patrick McGoohan, aka
Danger Man and Number Six, is
suitably evil as Moray and Timothy Dalton is a thoroughly repulsive
Darnley. (I think everyone can agree that playing Darnley is a
thankless task.) The sets and costumes are a wonderful evocation of the
Tudor era. The same production team made Anne of the Thousand
This Masterpiece Theatre
mini-series starring Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth is fantastic. And
it was recently released on dvd, with lots of extras. I have written
a review of the dvd at Amazon.com; click
here to read it. It's worth the expense.
Jackson is incomparable and the series itself is wonderful.
The mini-series format gives the story enough time to unfold and what a
fascinating, engrossing story it is - the great events of Elizabeth's
reign, the facets of her character, her interminable marriage
negotiations..... these are treated in detail and with commendable
historical accuracy. The supporting actors - Mary, queen of Scots,
Dudley, Cecil (William and Robert), Bacon, Essex, etc - are also superb.
This popular film stars
Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Jane Grey and the very handsome Cary Elwes as Guilford Dudley. The movie, like many Tudor flicks, is less
than accurate in the facts department, mostly concerning Jane and
Guilford's marriage. But the invented 'love story' between them is
well done and saves the film from being too depressing. I had the
pleasure of seeing Jane Lapotaire, who plays Princess Mary in this film,
portray Katharine of Aragon at a RSC production of 'Henry VIII'.
Lady Jane is finally available on dvd.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
This film stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the fictional Lady Viola de Lesseps and Joseph Fiennes as
Shakespeare. Judi Dench appears briefly as Queen Elizabeth I; though
her time on screen is short, she is unforgettable. There are
numerous supporting actors who also shine. The costumes, sets, and
musical score are also wonderful.
Fiennes are lovely together; the script is witty and fun; and the ending
is spectacular. This is one of the few films I've seen that
successfully mixes genres. And it's almost as if the actors themselves knew they were
in a great film. Their performances are confident and
enthusiastic. This is truly a joy to watch.
I went to see this film on a whim and then promptly forced family
and friends to watch it with me.
Some naysayers have written to me in disagreement and all of their complaints
are directed against Paltrow. I think she is perfect in the role;
even her scenes as the cross-dressing Thomas Kent are great. But
opinions can differ - and even if you dislike her performance, there is
much else to recommend the film.
Both Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth
were released around the same time in 1998. Ironically, as it turned
out, I was really looking forward to Elizabeth and didn't give SIL a
numerous Shakespeare in Love fan sites; visit
This film stars Cate Blanchett as the Virgin
I disliked this film when I first saw it,
though I admired the visuals. The cinematography and costuming were
excellent; some of the acting was impressive, particularly Blanchett and
Christopher Eccleston as Norfolk. (When are they ever bad?) But I found the story and
direction to be muddled and overwrought, as was the score.
Part of my disappointment was doubtless caused by my Tudoritis. I
was looking forward to the film and wouldn't have been easily
satisfied. But my movie-going companion, who does not suffer from
Tudoritis, remarked, 'This isn't just a bad Tudor film. It's a bad
I recently watched it again. And
again, I admired Blanchett's performance and the costumes were still
I still wonder why they felt the need to rewrite one of the most
compelling female lives of all time. And did Elizabeth live in a
The official website has been taken
down, but Geocities.com hosts a
nice fan page.
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (2003)
This film is an adaptation of Philippa Gregory's popular
novel. It was produced by the BBC and stars Natasha McElhone as Mary
Boleyn and Jodhi May as Anne. The film premiered in the UK in spring
2003. As of October '03, it hasn't aired in the US and isn't currently scheduled for sale
Click here to visit the
BBC's official website for the film. Click the above IMDB.com
link to check its release schedule.
Two other films set in the 16th century are also worth watching:
LA REINE MARGOT (QUEEN
I love this French film starring
the incomparable Isabelle Adjani as Marguerite, daughter of Catherine
d'Medici and princess of France. It's a wonderful story with great
historical accuracy. And can you believe Adjani was 38 when she made
this film? Let's hope it will be released on dvd in the US
soon. Until then, read the Alexandre Dumas novel upon which it's
based. I think it's one of his more entertaining
EVER AFTER (1998)
This film is a retelling of the Cinderella story set in
16th century France. Drew Barrymore plays the heroine who triumphs
over the ugly stepsisters and evil stepmother. It's very
performances are fun, the costumes beautiful, and the romance
The official movie site is still up; click here to
In order, the images are from 'Elizabeth',
'Shakespeare in Love', 'Anne of the Thousand Days', 'Shakespeare in Love',