7.42 h 3 min1998X-RayR
Oscar-winning drama portrays the early years of the reign of Elizabeth I - royal intrigues, assassination attempts and foreign political interference cause turmoil in 16th century England.
Shekhar Kapur
Eric CantonaCate BlanchettGeoffrey Rush
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Christopher EcclestonJoseph FiennesRichard AttenboroughFanny ArdantKathy BurkeÉric CantonaJames FrainVincent CasselDaniel CraigJohn GielgudAngus DeaytonEdward HardwickeTerence RigbyAmanda RyanKelly MacdonaldEmily Mortimer
Alison OwenEric FellnerTim Bevan
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Nudityviolencealcohol usefoul languagesexual content
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4.7 out of 5 stars

4223 global ratings

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Top reviews from the United States

Classic Film BuffReviewed in the United States on August 1, 2011
4.0 out of 5 stars
"Abandon all hope of getting a true portrait of Elizabeth Tudor's early rule all ye who view here!"
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I'll try to make this as succinct as possible, this is a film you will want to watch for the quality of the performances, the camerawork, the elaborate costumes and settings, and the intriguing, overstuffed story. However, if you were a student using this film as a study aid for a test on the initial reign of Elizabeth I, you'd flunk for sure! The truth is stretched so far that if it were a spring it would break and snap back with a loud BOING! What a pity, since the Tudor dynasty is strong enough to stand on the actual facts to spin an enthralling tale dramatically without all the phony embellishments.

The story begins in the last years of the reign of the pathetic Queen Mary Tudor (Kathy Burke) of England who is slowly dying of a tumor. Obsessed with her Roman Catholic religion, abandoned by her husband King Phillip of Spain, ill advised by the powerful Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston), and other nobility and clergy she is near breakdown both physically and mentally. She allows herself to be persuaded that her younger half sister the Princess Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett), heir to her crown, yet a Protestant is a possible traitor. Mary has Elizabeth transported and confined to the Tower of London. Although Mary has little love for Elizabeth, she cannot believe her guilty of treason and refuses to have her executed or disinherited. Elizabeth is eventually released to Hatfield one of her country estates where she lives quietly until Mary dies and she assumes the throne. However, her triumph is short lived as the fledgling queen is beset by serious problems, the treasury is empty, England threatened with an unfriendly neighbor, Scotland, the religious question divides the country, and she is pressured to marry and produce an heir. In addition she has to juggle an importunate lover Sir Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), a secretary of state who seeks to govern her, Sir William Cecil (Sir Richard Attenborough), her enigmatic director of security Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), and the treacherous Duke of Norfolk who continues to be a malign presence.

Front and center in this heady swirl of pageantry, sex, intrigue and melodrama is the star making performance of Cate Blanchett as the young Elizabeth. I'd never seen Ms. Blanchett before this film, and I was astounded at just how accomplished she was in developing her portrayal. Elizabeth Tudor was one of the most complex, brilliant women in history, a true Renaissance "Prince" in the Machiavellian sense. She was capricious, a mass of contradictions, formidably intelligent yet neurotic, cool headed but possessed of a fiery temper, charismatic yet kept most people at arms length. In turn she could be lion hearted, petty, shrewd, vain, generous, coquettish, diplomatic, bull headed, charming, devious and ruthless. Ms. Blanchett is able to evoke most of these characteristics as she undergoes Elizabeth's journey from the vulnerable, imperiled princess at the beginning to the iconic, majestic Gloriana at the end, without ever losing the audience's interest or sympathy. One of my favorite scenes is when Elizabeth is preparing to address a session of Parliament on the topic of religious conformity. She makes the queen endearingly human as she nervously rehearses her speech aloud by herself, forgetting pieces, making corrections, getting frustrated and angry the same as any college student preparing for their first lengthy speech in Effective Presentation 101. In terms of her appearance in the coronation scene at Westminster Abbey, clad in an ermine mantle over cloth of gold, jeweled gold crown perched atop her loose, flowing strawberry blonde hair Ms. Blanchett uncannily mirrors a famous portrait of Elizabeth in her coronation regalia. Her compelling, muti faceted portrayal heralded the arrival of an exciting, young actress brimming over with talent. Deservedly her achievement was rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar nomination and wins for both the Golden Globe and the British Film Academy Awards for Best Actress.

Just as a fine diamond will sparkle more dazzlingly in the proper setting, an impressive supporting cast adds to the luster of Ms. Blanchett's portrait. Heading this list is another newcomer, Joseph Fiennes, who as Elizabeth's great passion Sir Robert Dudley, greatly resembles a younger version of an actual portrait of Dudley with his brooding, gypsy like looks, and acts with a feverish recklessness. Geoffrey Rush brings a cold blooded pragmatism to Sir Francis Walsingham, while Sir Richard Attenborough ably brings out the self-serving interest of Sir William Cecil. The malevolence of Christopher Eccleston's Norfolk makes him a truly dangerous adversary to Elizabeth. As the foppish, giddy Duke of Anjou, a would be suitor of Elizabeth, Vincent Cassel brings some moments of comic relief to the heavy drama. The hysterical Queen Mary of Kathy Burke, a woman haunted by her failures evokes pity. There is also a glimpse of the future James Bond, as Daniel Craig plays a small but key role as the Jesuit priest Father John Ballard. Finally, in one of his last roles, theatrical great Sir John Gielgud has a quick cameo as the Pope.

The settings and costumes are opulent and magnificent, all the splendors of Elizabeth's court, a Renaissance tapestry brought to life, the musical score is effectively used to underscore the events unfolding on the screen. All were rewarded with Oscar nomiinations, a total of seven in all including Best Picture. However the only trophy won was by Jenny Shicore for Best Makeup.

Regarding the extras, director Shekhar Kupur does a commentary, an insightful glimpse into the vision of the film, and there are two good featurettes, the better of the two is "The Making of Elizabeth", which is more developed, but the second one "Elizabeth" is also worth a look. Also when this DVD was released, the inferior sequel "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" was soon to open, there is a sneak peak at that as well.

Though the film will certainly hold the average person's interest, the danger is that the uninformed viewer will take this very loose dramatic interpretation as the actual history of Elizabeth I and her early reign. So, by all means watch this if for no other reason than the glittering performance of Cate Blanchett, without it I would certainly drop the rating at least by one star. Please remember though to go into this cleared eyed with the definite understanding that this is the writer and director's dramatic interpretation of the Elizabethan Age, and not the way it really was. And, if you want to get a more accurate, balanced glimpse into a fascinating queen, try reading Alison Weir's excellent biography "The Life of Elizabeth I", published in 1998 the same year "Elizabeth" was released.
7 people found this helpful
candace williamsReviewed in the United States on November 2, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
This movie is a classic.
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I finally bought this movie after watching it at least 20 times. It’s one of those movies, if you like it and you like to watch classics over and over again this is one of those.
MidwestladyReviewed in the United States on October 16, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Classic film about Queen Elizabeth I
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I loved this movie, especially the part where she convinced the house of Lords to accept the Act of Uniformity. But the entire movie is just excellent.
Michael DobbinsReviewed in the United States on October 1, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great drama Historically inaccurate
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Historically inaccurate but a great drama nonetheless. Costumes are great as well as acting.
joel wingReviewed in the United States on December 25, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
A despised woman is thrust onto the thrown as everyone plots against her
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The opening credits provide the setting of the film. It’s 1554 in England after King Henry VIII has died. His daughter Mary (Kathy Burke) is the queen but she has no children. She then passes leaving the thrown to her half-sister Elizabeth (Cate Blanchett) who is a Protestant. The country is already divided between Catholics and Protestants and it’s feared that Elizabeth’s ascension will only make the situation worse. The story is not only about the struggle of Elizabeth to hold the thrown in such a tumultuous period when everyone around her is plotting, but also about her love life as she is under pressure to marry and have a child to ensure her rule.

The situation Elizabeth finds her in is encapsulated in one scene. Joseph Fiennes as Lord Robert Dudley who is Catholic and wants to keep the thrown with his sect tells his aide to make sure Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) who is a Protestant does not return to London. Walsingham’s servant is about to stab him but is talked out of it. Then Walsingham cuts the servant’s throat. These were the people and the means they would use to control the crown and what Elizabeth had to deal with.

Blanchett does a great job with her part. She has to grow into being queen since she is not only a novice but a Protestant and despised as a result. You see her building up strength. There’s one scene where she faces the bishops that personifies her intelligence and wit that was so necessary to rule. It’s a strong message about feminism.

The movie is really great. There is tons of intrigue, drama and great acting.
3 people found this helpful
Gena RaeReviewed in the United States on September 19, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Love it!! Elizabeth I was a good Monarch...Queen.
THE PROFESSORReviewed in the United States on June 16, 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
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Make no mistake about it; this is historical soap opera. It's really, really good soap opera, with lush costumes and a hit parade of great actors, but for all those Academy Awards, it's a B sides as far as their performances go, because they had very little with which to work. I think perhaps the idea was to give us a sort of Shakespearean version of how the Bard would have given us Elizabeth I. We certainly forgive him utterly rank and foul historical inaccuracy without the slightest bit of concern over loss of artistic integrity and rightly so; this isn't that. Yes, the addition of witches, murder plots, revenge, and all that delicious madness make for a rip roaring good ride that are part of the fun in a play that has little to do with the real reign of the Scots king Macbeth and how he rose to power--part; Shakespeare also had a really intelligent script with layers upon layers so rich that the best actors have been mining it for centuries, with performers of every generation thinking it might be worth a little murdering or least the trade of their own souls in a witch's bargain to get a shot at playing those roles. Here, when Walsingham is given a weak and silly soliloquy on innocence to perform as he "shockingly" cuts the throat of a youth, even an actor with the talent of Geoffrey Rush can't salvage the scene. I think it also a shame that so much of the movie is focused on the marriage question, with that dominating all matters of church and state and even brief forays into war, but, having made the artistic choice to use that as the framework, what really undercuts the portrait and portrayal is that we see little of her personal acts, views, and wielding of wedding in power politics on the way to the big virgin bride of Frankenstein moment it uses as a culmination. She talks and is even more talked at on the topic, but it's all surface level and ultimately much ado about nothing. Yet the most unforgivable moment comes when the filmmaker is not confident enough in or content with coda and adds postscripts of seeming historical facts that are complete fiction! It's indeed fine for a filmmaker to take whatever liberties with history he or she desires in an art work of fiction, but blatantly manipulating and misleading people with false claims seemingly presented as fact outside of the fictional playacting is altogether different and entirely unacceptable!!!! So, to correct the record ahead of time should you choose to give this movie a watch, Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley certainly had a complicated relationship with periods of fracture, but he remained loyal to her and was not involved in some nefarious plot he survived only as some distant reminder of danger. It was just the opposite, with him accepted and acting as a close advisor whose council she trusted until his death, shortly after the overcoming of the Spanish threat in the notorious Gloriana triumph. that came after the events depicted in the film. If you appreciate royal soap operas and gorgeous costumes, you'll probably find enough to enjoy in those depictions to keep you entertained, but despite the Academy Award-winning accolades, this isn't really top-shelf work of particular quality. The technical production values are great, but it's just not a great production.
2 people found this helpful
Gotham HawkeyeReviewed in the United States on December 6, 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars
Not a documentary, not meant to be, but a GRAND movie!
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This was easily the best cast film of 1998, perhaps of the decade. Blanchett's Elizabeth is every bit as complex and, in the end, interestingly enigmatic, and a bit tragic, as was the historic Elizabeth I.
Those who complain that this movie is filled with historic inaccuracies miss the CLEAR intension of the movie to be a pastiche, a tableaux, an impressionistic look at Elizabeth I's rise to power. (Notice how the open credits suggest tableaux, and the rather hard edits between scenes lend the movie, slighly, a quality of a collection of scenes, not necessarily meant to be tightly woven together. Also, for those who know their Church history, the opening scene sets the impressionistic interpreation the movie follows by dressing the Roman bishops in ALL black, even their mitres. No such liturgical vestment has ever existed, even for Requiem Masses...the Roman Church, in this movie, is The Bad Guy, and its representatives are costumed accordingly. This is not an historical mistake, it is an ARTISTIC CHOICE, and it works.)
Geoffrey Rush's portrayal of the historical Lord, advisor, and protector of Elizabeth I is subtle and utterly amazing. And the writing helps developes the character well, too. Lord Wallsingham's homosexuality was rather an open, albeit quiet, secret w/in Elizabeth's court. It was also why he was trusted until the very end...Elizabeth knew his heart would always be unclouded by the various matrimonial schemes surrounding her and drawing in many of her other advisors. Thus the movie's clever and subtle consistency in first showing Rush's character in the company of a young man (in a bedroom), then showing him w/ another young, attractive man who works w/ him as an apprentice spy, and finally sending him off to engage with Mary of Scots in a way one could hypothesize a heterosexual man might be less able to. (I am vague in order to not give away too many surprises.)
This movie is a feast for the eyes. It is dark, to be sure--black costumes, torch-lit corridors, and scenes at night abound--but, again, these are good impressionistic choices that set off the BRIGHT moments in the movie during which Elizabeth's early innocence and later power are communicated. I don't give this movie a full 5 stars only because of what were, I feel, some very poor decisions regarding the soundtrack (Mozart's Requium and Elgar w/in the same crucial scene! ) and a handful of spots where the pacing could have been picked up. All in all, however, this is a GREAT movie and a MUST HAVE.
20 people found this helpful
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