Helen Mirren as the Queen
Granada Studios

Every Actor Who Has Played Queen Elizabeth

To honor the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-reigning monarch, let's take a look at every actor who has portayed her in film and television.
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Beloved monarch Queen Elizabeth II has passed away at the age of 96. Her record-breaking 70-year reign makes her one of the most storied rulers in history, so it’s no wonder that we keep making movies and TV shows about her.

London, England - March 14, 2008: Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a visit in London.
Shutterstock

From poignant portraits of her courage and sense of duty to Saturday Night Live parodies, there are so many versions of Her Majesty onscreen. Here’s every actor who has ever portrayed Queen Elizabeth II.

Neve Campbell in ‘Churchill: The Hollywood Years’

Raise your hand if you had no clue that this movie even existed! Neve Campbell appears as the teenage Princess Elizabeth in this bizarre satire, opposite Christian Slater as Winston Churchill. Yes, the star of Scream and Party of Five once played a gun-toting twenty-something QEII. Film critic Wendy Ide reported that “[T]he humour is largely underpant-based” in her review. I really hope she fired her agent after this… but incredibly, Churchill: The Hollywood Years isn’t the worst movie on this list!

Jane Alexander and Maggie Sullivan in Made-for-TV movies

Hallmark and Lifetime both took a crack at royal romances. Jane Alexander played Her Maj in William & Catherine: A Royal Romance, while Maggie Sullivan donned the crown in Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance. Of the two, Maggie Sullivan is the more successful; she would also appear in the sequel, Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal. The movies are all exactly as cheesy as you’d expect. If you love fromage then you’ll probably enjoy them.

Freya Wilson in ‘The King’s Speech’

The King's Speech
Paramount Pictures

The King’s Speech focuses on Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, as he struggles to overcome his speech impediment on the eve of World War II. Not many films show Elizabeth as a kid, and Freya Wilson does a good job with her small role. Visually, the casting is almost eerie—Wilson looks so much like the young queen! Helena Bonham Carter played the queen’s mother; later, she would play Princess Margaret in The Crown.

This movie would go on to win four Oscars, including Best Picture. George was very close with his eldest daughter, and during this period in her life, she went by the childhood nickname Lilibet. Harry and Meghan would later name their daughter in her honor.

Sarah Gadon in ‘A Royal Night Out’

We tend to think of Queen Elizabeth as a stately, white-haired monarch, but she was a teenager once, just like everyone else. In A Royal Night Out, Elizabeth and her wild-child sister, Margaret, sneak out of the palace to celebrate with the rest of London on VE Day. Just seven years later, Elizabeth would ascend the throne—but for this moment, she’s a rebellious teenager swept up in the excitement as World War II ended.

The movie is really charming, and I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical pictures with a more lighthearted tone. If you want to get a sense of what Elizabeth was like before shouldering the duty of the throne, this is a refreshing historical comedy.

Claire Foy in ‘The Crown’

Claire Foy was the first actress to take on the role of Elizabeth in The Crown. Her performance opposite Matt Smith as Prince Philip catapulted her into stardom. It’s also one of the best portrayals of the young queen captured on film. Elizabeth’s strength, iron-clad sense of duty, and deep-buried doubts shine through.

Foy would win multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards for her work in The Crown. Many fans felt a little disappointed when she passed the torch to the next actress.

Read More: ‘House of the Dragon’ Episode 1 Recap: Welcome Back to Westeros

Olivia Colman in ‘The Crown’

After Foy’s departure following a time jump, Olivia Colman picked up the reins. Although her performance is as nuanced and captivating as you’d expect from the Oscar-winning actor, Colman looks so much more like Princess Anne that it feels like a missed casting opportunity. She was also somewhat overshadowed by Claire Foy’s stellar performance, but she’s still one of the finest actors working in England today.

Imelda Staunton in ‘The Crown’

Imelda Staunton is the third—and likely final—performer to play Elizabeth on The Crown. Best known as the villainous, pink-clad bureaucrat in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Staunton has also enjoyed a decorated career on stage. Her hairstyle and wardrobe were slightly too Umbridge-adjacent, and she had the thankless job of playing Elizabeth during the “annus horribilus” period that included the divorces of three-quarters of her children, the fire at Windsor Castle, and then Diana’s Death.

Bonus Trivia: Imelda Staunton’s daughter, Bessie Carter, played Prudence Featherington in Bridgerton.

Read More: What to Watch After Bingeing Season 2 of ‘Bridgerton’

Emma Thompson in ‘Walking the Dogs’

Emma Thompson as Queen Elizabeth
Sky Arts

Emma Thompson is a visual mismatch for Queen Elizabeth, but she’s so talented that you almost don’t notice in Walking the Dogs. The TV movie follows the events of 1982 when a disturbed man managed to sneak into the queen’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace. The dogs in question are, of course, the queen’s beloved corgis.

Helen Mirren in ‘The Queen’

Helen Mirren is the only actor to play both Queens Elizabeth, in 2005’s Elizabeth I and a year later in The Queen. (She also played Queen Charlotte in The Madness of King George. The Queen shows Elizabeth in the dark days after Princess Diana’s death. She was a less-than-sympathetic figure during the Diana years, to put it mildly, but the real Elizabeth admired Mirren’s performance so much that she invited the actor to have dinner. Plot twist: Mirren didn’t go!

Mirren also played QEII on stage in The Audience, a role that earned her a Tony Award in 2015. Kristen Scot Thomas would take over the role on the West End.

Barbara Flynn, Samantha Bond, Emilia Fox, Susan Jameson, and Diana Quick in ‘The Queen’ (2009)

Before there was The Crown, there was The Queen. This docudrama from the BBC sees five different performers recreating sequences from the queen’s life over multiple decades. Here’s where you might have seen these actors before:

  • Samantha Bond – Miss Moneypenny from the Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond films.
  • Barbara Flynn – The Forsyte Saga and Cranford. She also played Mary, Queen of Scots opposite Helen Mirren in Elizabeth I.
  • Emilia Fox – Georgiana Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, Morgause in Merlin.
  • Susan Jameson – Myra Booth in Coronation Street.
  • Diana Quick – Julia Mottram in Brideshead Revisited.

Despite the amount of talent on display, this patchwork affair of archival footage, historical reenactments, and interviews simply tried to do too much in five episodes. Considering that The Crown needed six seasons to cover the same ground, you can understand why this series felt overstuffed. It also highlights the challenge of playing a historical figure when you see these performers contrasted with actual footage of the real people.

Julie Walters in ‘The Queen’s Corgi’

The Queen's Corgi
Belga Films

Does this movie still count since it’s animated? Sure! Too bad it’s also pretty terrible. Julie Walters—most famously Molly Weasley in the Harry Potter movies—voiced the monarch in this flop that has a scathing 0% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s likely too violent, adult, and crude for kids, following the adventures of a corgi named Rex, who ends up on a terrifying adventure after getting lost.

Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Cars 2’

Cars 2
Pixar

Okay, okay: but what if Queen Elizabeth was a car? She appears as a blinged-out Rolls Royce in the film, complete with a rooftop crown and badges that resemble the ones Elizabeth wears on her sash and gown at state banquets. Pixar puts this bizarro-version of the queen at the World Grand Prix in London. Cars 2 was bad but not nearly as abysmal as The Queen’s Corgi. This point goes to Vanessa Redgrave.

June Squibb in ‘7 Days in Hell’

June Squibb as Queen Elizabeth
HBO

Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington starred in this tennis mockumentary, but June Squibb makes a memorable appearance as QEII, a hard-drinking, player-bribing, bird-shooting take on the monarch who eventually attacks one of the rival tennis players. Weirdly enough, the movie is (very) loosely based on a real-life event—the Isner-Mahut match at Wimbledon in 2010, which lasted a total of just over eleven hours spread across three days.

Fred Armisen on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Fred Armisen played Queen Elizabeth in a handful of sketches during his tenure on SNL. In one particularly memorable sketch, Andy Samberg appears as Prince William introducing Kate Middleton (played by guest host Anne Hathaway) to his grandparents. Bill Hader is funny as a toothpick-chewing Prince Philip, but Armisen steals the show with his cockney accent and aggressive attitude. “Call me Deborah!”

Read More: Kate McKinnon’s Best ‘SNL’ Sketches

Jeannette Charles: Professional Elizabeth Impersonator

National Lampoon's European Vacation
Warner Bros.

Although she would never win any awards for her portrayals of the queen over four decades of movies, Jeannette Charles appeared as Elizabeth more times than any other actor. Of her 37 credits on IMDb, 28 of them are as some version of Her Maj. Highlights include National Lampoon’s European Vacation, The Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!, and Austin Powers in Goldmember. Charles is just a year younger than the actual queen, so she’s been the perfect choice for a contemporary cameo over the years.