Helen Mirren, who played Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006) and The Audience (2013), said on Sept. 8, “I’m mourning, along with the rest of my country, the passing of a great queen. I am proud to be an Elizabethan. We mourn a woman who, with or without the crown, was the epitome of nobility.”
Mourn — and celebrate — Elizabeth’s illustrious life with these royally informative documentaries, films and shows.
Elizabeth the Unseen Queen (2022)
Maybe this was a retort to The Crown’s version of family history, maybe not. Anyway, as Queen Elizabeth herself notes in this doc, this never-before-seen candid footage and interviews with the royals “can often show the fun behind the formality.” Seeing her frolic and sing with her sister as a child in home movies is priceless.
Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts (2022)
The day before he died at 65, A-list director Roger Michel (Julia Roberts’ Notting Hill, Helen Mirren’s The Duke) finished this playful, impressionistic documentary collage of seven decades’ worth of Elizabethan news footage. This could be the most fun doc on this list.
Watch it: Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts, on Showtime
Don’t miss this: 10 Life Lessons Learned From Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen (2006)
Helen Mirren won all the awards, and won our hearts for Elizabeth, by playing her during her “annus horribilis,” one of the toughest times of her life. The movie, by Stephen Frears (Victoria & Abdul, High Fidelity), is utterly inspiring.
Watch it: The Queen, on multiple streaming services
The Majestic Life of Queen Elizabeth II (2012)
With rare archival footage, this doc tells her story from the shocking changes after her father King George VI’s death to the marriage of Prince William to Kate Middleton.
Watch it: The Majestic Life of Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth Is Queen (1953)
This doc about her coronation was the first to make Elizabeth a movie star, long before anybody played her on-screen. She’s at least as cinemagenic as Freya Wilson, who played her as a child in The King’s Speech. She’d already been a teenage heroine rallying the Allies in World War II, so her coronation was a huge event. All four Beatles had crushes on her as teenagers.
Watch it: Elizabeth Is Queen, on Prime Video
Elizabeth at 90 (2016)
A fond birthday tribute (containing more royal home movies) by John Bridcut, who’s made fine films about British composers and Hillary Clinton.
Watch it: Elizabeth at 90, on Prime Video
Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty (2020)
There were never such devoted sisters as the queen-to-be and her spotlight-loving kid sis, Margaret. They were bonded by five years essentially imprisoned together in World War II at Windsor Castle. During air raids, they’d flee from the nursery to the dungeon.
Watch it: Elizabeth and Margaret: Love and Loyalty, on Netflix
The Royal House of Windsor (2017)
Find out how the queen’s clan managed to survive in office over the past tumultuous hundred years in this six-episode docuseries.
Watch it: The Royal House of Windsor, on Netflix
The Crown (2016-2023)
The queen’s shade will not smile upon you as you watch this massive hit purporting to tell her family’s saga, which has been criticized for fictionalizing a bit. Still, few have played her more amazingly well than Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton. And when Wikipedia’s Elizabeth II entry debuted in 2017, 19 million people read it, making it the third-most-read page on Wikipedia.
Watch it: The Crown, on Netflix