YAKIMA, Wash. — I’ve just finished both seasons of “The Crown” on Netflix; color me impressed. The acting, production value and writing are on par with most motion pictures. With an average budget of $13 million per episode, that comes to $130 million for a 10-episode season, and it shows.
If you’re not familiar, “The Crown” chronicles Queen Elizabeth II’s reign over England and the Commonwealth. The plan is to go six seasons, with different actors every two seasons to account for the era they are dramatizing, and the age of the queen and other characters.
I for one will miss Claire Foy as the monarch; she has nailed what has to be an extremely difficult role.
I guess as an American I find the whole monarchy thing a little weird. But I must admit, I’m glad the Windsors are still kicking around in Jolly Old England. The coverage of their latest royal wedding would attest to their popularity. I find it to be a quaint and literally old-school institution that is a nice callback to the past.
In that spirit, here are some films I enjoy about royalty. As always, feel free to email me your favorites.
■ “Excalibur” (1981)
Let’s start with the seriously bonkers movie, as writer/director John Boorman delivers the definitive King Arthur epic. It is a beautiful thing to look at, while being seriously weird, but delightfully so. It boasts early film performances by Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart and Gabriel Byrne.
The treat of the film is Merlin, played with splendor by English actor Nicol Williamson, who should have won the best supporting actor Oscar for his work. He is missing for the latter chunk of the film, and he is missed.
Boorman hired a young Helen Mirren as Morgan Le Fey because he knew she had serious animosity toward Williamson due to a mishap in a production of “MacBeth” they both starred in. He was hoping the tension would translate to the screen in their scenes together.
“Excalibur” has its flaws, but it’s a good time at the movies.
■ “Elizabeth” (1998)
This is the film that introduced Cate Blanchett to the world. That alone puts this on the list.
The film is a look at the early life of Queen Elizabeth I. It is a fascinating movie, filled with intrigue at a time in England’s history that could have gone either way.
With a Spanish invasion looming and enemies from within, the queen must navigate herself and her country to safety. From the costuming to the performances, it is a fun ride throughout, with Elizabeth emerging victorious and the Golden Age of England about to begin.
Blanchett proved early on she is a force to be reckoned with.
■ “The Queen” (2006)
We move to Queen Elizabeth II in this one, chronicling the challenges the monarchy faces after the death of Princess Diana. It’s Helen Mirren’s second appearance on this list, and she is wonderful in her Oscar-winning performance. This was written by Peter Morgan, who went on to create the aforementioned series “The Crown.” The hope is that Mirren will return to the role for the final two seasons of the show.
A theme in “The Queen” that reverberates in all of these films is the tenuous relationship the royals have with the public. One major misstep, and their reign could be over.
Nobody could have foreseen how popular Diana would become, and how the world would mourn her passing. The royal family’s lack of action after her death gets them into a crisis of confidence with their subjects. It is a riveting historical drama.
■ “The King’s Speech” (2010)
This is my favorite of the bunch. It just showed up on Netflix if you want to give it a whirl. I suffered a bit from stuttering as a child, so it’s possible that’s why this film is close to my heart.
This one follows Prince Albert, who has a debilitating stutter, and is still expected to make public appearances. His wife finds him an unorthodox speech therapist who helps him. And it eventually becomes even more important, as his brother, King Edward VIII, abdicates the throne and Prince Albert becomes King Edward VI.
It is a beautiful film that won Oscars for best picture and best actor for Colin Firth. It’s a great story about the right people meeting at the right time — especially when England is about to enter World War II. It gets my highest recommendation.
• A lifelong movie fanatic, Jason Valentine is the weather anchor for KAPP 35 evening news and reviews movies on the Friday 5 p.m. news. He has professionally reviewed films since 1994. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.