3x3: best kings and queens in movies

At first Tom called this a topic about monarchs in movies, but then the other two jokers on the podcast made comments about butterflies and he changed the topic name. So, we discuss our favorite kings and queens in movies at the one-hour mark of the Qt3 Movie Podcast of Tomorrowland.

3. Marie Antoinette
2. 300

  1. Henry V

Kelly Wand
3. Jupiter Ascending
2. King Kong

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Tom Chick
3. Marie Antoinette
2. Ironclad

  1. The Fountain

What are your favorite kings and queens in movies? We are talking actual monarchs here, so no “King of New York”-type shenanigans, please. Also, please send your in your picks for next week’s topic to [email protected].

Why would you ever say shenanigans are not allowed?

  1. Alien queen from Aliens
  2. Bill Pullman from Newsies
  3. Emperor Palpatine from Return of the Jedi

There is no way that I could order these since I love them all so much:

Richard Harris as King Arthur in Camelot is flat out fantastic. He is almost inside out with his optimism of all that can be until he is betrayed by the two people he loves the most. His performance may be melodramatic, but it is glorious in its enthusiasm.

Jeremy Irons as Scar in The Lion King. Prior to his brief reign, Scar just drips contempt for his brother and nephew. He may not look like much while he sulks in a corner, but this dude is dangerous. Irons does a bit of a slow burn here and does it all with a sense of broken majesty.

Louis Prima as King Louie in The Jungle Book. In a film full of great songs, Louie gets one of the best with “I Wanna be Like You”. He is a great mix of humor, madness and danger. Plus, he gets to scat with Baloo in full monkey drag.

I love your Camelot and The Jungle Book choices, Kemper Boyd. Both of those movies have such warm places in my heart. Camelot was one of the first shows I worked in professionally, and as taken as I was as a kid with the music (my parents owned a record version of it that I would listen to over and over again), being in the show really taught me how poignant Arthur’s arc is in the story of the live show. This really carries out in the movie. I own a version of the soundtrack, and a record with Richard Harris as Arthur too. I do love how you put it above, that Burton’s is glorious in its enthusiasm.

As for The Jungle Book, I thought about that this week. I love that performance–I never tire of watching this movie–but I was keenly aware of Tom’s admonition that we not bend the topic too much, so I shied away, even though I think you can justify it. Then I forgot about it totally when we discussed runners-up. I’m so glad you brought it up here.


-So what we gonna do?
-I don’t know–HEY! Now don’t start that again!

EDIT: I see you’re actually talking about Richard Harris and don’t mention Burton. I must have misread your post and got confused. Either way, I love the two versions but definitely prefer the movie soundtrack.

One that stands out in my head is Conan the Barbarian. The closing shot shows the result of him fulfilling the prophesy that has followed him his whole life: “Honor and fear were heaped upon his name and, in time, he became a king by his own hand.”

Conan sits slumped to one side on a throne in the middle of nowhere, surrounded only by smoke as far as the eye can see.

The Lion in Winter (1968). Peter O’Toole as King Henry II and Katherine Hepburn as Queen Elinore of Aquitaine. Every christmas, Henry II releases Elinore from her prison in the Tower of London to celebrate and fight with their kids, Richard “Lionheart” (Anthony Hopkins), Prince John (Nigel Terry) and Geoffrey (Jonh Castle). Henry wants John to become his heir, Elinore wants Richard and nobody wants Geoffrey to become king.

There is so much going on between the cast, how the relationships unfold, perfect dialogs, such a great movie. There was a remake with Patrick Steward and Glenn Close made for TV. It was still great, the script is really one of the best… Everybody is intriguing against everybody else, alliances are built and then broken, and then built again… until the great finale.

It is a family movie, in that you see a family struggling with themselves. One more example of Tolstoys beginning of Anna Karenina:
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

A slight modification: Best dorky kings & queens (& emperors)

  1. David Spade in The Emperor’s New Groove

  2. Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries

  3. Colin Firth in The King’s Speech

I know the movie wasn’t very interesting, but the Queen Ravana was simply gloriously portrayed by Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of battles fought and lives lost. It once pained me to know that I am the cause of such despair, but now their cries give me strength. Beauty is my power.

That’s kind, child. Especially when it’s said that yours is the face of true beauty in this kingdom. This all must be difficult for you. I too lost my mother when I was a young girl. I can never take your mother’s place, ever. But I feel that you and I are bound. I feel it there, your heart.

I know its been said before, but its like she was in another movie than the rest of the actors - one that actually was awesome!

Dingus. You know I love you all - on this I am on record.

But there’s a (very English) complaint I must raise, one that stiffens the sinews and lends my eye a terrible aspect: please for the love of all that is holy it’s Henry The Fifth not Henry Five. Repeat 100 times, good yeoman, I beseech thee!

Henry Five, Henry Furious.

The King from Tangled - The saddest king ever. As the father of a daughter, Tangled hits me right in my heart strings. When we see the king preparing to light the first floating lantern on Rapunzel’s birthday, the sadness in this guy’s face is more than I can take. The fact that Rapunzel has unknowingly keyed into this event that is mourning her, enough to spur her to journey outside of the tower, pretty much destroys me every time. It’s a cathartic recognition of both the pain of losing a child and the joy of realizing a long held dream.

I can’t take it, you guys. I’ll be back in a few minutes.

The Queen of Hearts from Alice In Wonderland - By contrast, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland is a “cartoon”, but this depiction basically set the standard for who the Queen of Hearts should be for me. The voice actress is named Verna Felton and was a Disney regular who cut her voice over chops in radio from the 1930s-50s. She certainly plays it quite broad here, but the Queen is a bit of a broad, and it makes a good contrast to Alice’s calm, British demeanor. It’s funny that the monarch huffs and puffs like a gal from Brooklyn while Alice maintains her regal manner. This quality served Verna well when she also did the voice of Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law, but she was also the kind voice of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella!

The King from The Princess Bride - What a funny old coot.

For some reason, only movies about British monarchs are coming to mind at the moment, so:

  1. newbrof mentioned Peter O’Toole as Henry II in The Lion in Winter, so I’ll put in a vote for his other turn as Henry II in Beckett

  2. Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I in Elizabeth

  3. Nigel Hawthorne as George III in The Madness of King George

The Madness of King George is fantastic and came to my mind as well, but it didn’t fit my theme of singing kings.

I remember Harris telling a great story about the filming of this movie. He got into a big row with director Joshua Logan about how a certain scene should be played. When Logan wouldn’t give in, he stormed into Jack Warner’s office. Warner listened to Harris, then got up from his desk and told Harris to follow him. He led Harris out onto the street outside the studio, pointed up at the building wall and said, “What does that sign say?” Harris replied, “Warner Bros.” Warner said, “Right. When it says ‘Harris Bros.’ we’ll do it your way, but until then we’ll do it our way.”

Sean Connery’s bit appearance as King Richard at the end of Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves always grabs me. He’s just so Regal in that moment.

Mel Brooks in History of the World Part I - “I love my people – PULL!” “Hump, Death, Hump, Death…” “It’s good to be da King!”

Dame Judy Dench in Shakespeare in Love - “I know something about being a woman in a man’s job, by God I do”

I am kind of surprised that nobody has chosen Lena Headey in 300: Rise of an Empire. I wasn’t particularly impressed with her in 300, but in the sequel I think she becomes a rather kick-ass Queen of Sparta and worthy of a 3x3 mention.

I also wanted to choose the Daimyo from the movie Ran, but a Daimyo isn’t equivalent to a king so it wouldn’t be a valid pick, sadly.

Another vote for Richard Harris, and i’d also give Peter O’Toole a shout for The Lion in Winter.

And not actually the ‘king’ but probably deserved it, Nicol Williamson as Merlin in the film Excalibur. Also in a not quite ‘King’ but deserving role, Charlton Heston as Don Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar in El Cid.

I think there could be many nominations from this golden era of film (50’s-70’s)?

Nigel Hawthorne as George III in The Madness of King George.

Great pick. I love that movie, I love that family. I wonder how the script would have played out if it were set a few years earlier, when Young Henry was still alive and the heir apparent. Or a few years later, after Geoffrey had died in a tournament mishap (but not before fathering a young Arthur that was to give King John such troubles). Peter O’Toole plays such a great king.

  1. King Jaffe Joffer, King of Zamunda, and his wife and Queen Aeoleon, as portrayed by James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair, in the movie Coming To America. Under their reign, their kingdom appears peaceful, prosperous, and pulchritudinous, with none of the famine, war, pestilence, and death that touched so many of their sub-Saharan neighbors in the post-colonial era. Jaffe and Aeoleon are portrayed as wise and loving. They are also master manipulators. They convince their son and Crown Prince that he must travel, must sow his wild oats, must go slumming, must consider marrying for love, with such subtlety that he thinks these ideas are his. On the way, they teach the next king, who to this point has lived his life in sybaritic luxury, about poverty, about the wider world, about the value of hard work in a meaningless McJob. They enrich their kingdom by molding the crown prince into his best potential.

Certainly Jaffe has several advantages in ruling over his utopia. Chief among these are his natural resources, which are alluded to in his costuming. His herculean lion-cloak has diamonds for eyes. Does the wealth of his kingdom derive from the heartless stone? Are the diamond mines of Zamunda filled with maimed children, pickaxes, and despair, I wonder?

  1. What’s a king by any other name? A monarch, an autocrat, a Dear Leader, a tyrant? If they call him “Your Excellency” and he can plunge his nation into war, isn’t he pretty much a king? Anyway, Groucho Marx’s Professor Rufus T. Firefly is appointed autocratic leader for life in Duck Soup because the last queen is a total fangirl for him. He espouses an unusual brand of Marxism that she thinks would be the perfect fit for her nation. His Excellency starts his reign by issuing surprisingly draconian edicts, then, oh, plunges his nation into war. He may be a terrible king, but he has inimitable style. Hail, hail Freedonia! Land of the brave and free!

  1. Baldwin IV, the Leper King of Jerusalem, in the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven. He sounds like Ed Norton and moves like Ed Norton, but his face is covered with leprous sores, and he isn’t credited, so I suppose we’ll never know who played him. But King Baldwin makes the most of his reign before the leprosy catches up with him. He juggles troublesome factions in his court. He makes diplomatic overtures to the sultan Saladin, who he knows is his more than his equal but is also juggling his own troublesome factions. Most important, his conception of the Kingdom of Jerusalem is one that strives for an earthly mirror of heaven, where subjects can live in peace, justice and solace. If his reach exceeds his grasp, well, he’s got Hansen’s disease. He barely has fingers with which to grasp at all. In the meantime he moves his pieces and plays the game of thrones.

And he has a bad-ass face mask.

Runners Up - Old King Jihl from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. A kindly version of Immortan Joe, but too bedridden to ride his post-apocalyptic kingdom’s awesome aircraft.

King Charming in Cinderella (2015) played by Derek Jacobi. The movie tries to be all things to all four quadrants of audiences. It has to please the little Disney Princesses that grew up on the cartoon by wrapping everything in sumptuous production design and costuming, it reaches out to fans of Tim Burton movies by dragging out Helena Bonham Carter as the deadbeat fairy godmother, it provides plenty of scenery on which Cate Blanchett may deign to dine, and…it needs something for the dads or boyfriends or husbands that would rather be at home playing Crusader Kings II. For those guys, here are Robb Stark (King of the North), The Scientist Guy from The Avengers, and Clau-Clau-Claudius playing the Prince, the Grand Duke, and the King. I get the impression that director Kenneth Branagh and writer Chris Weitz wanted to spend more time making a movie about these dudes. For the sake of the fairy tale, these guys have to talk about girly stuff like weddings. But the Grand Duke wants to form alliances with other powers. The Prince wants to marry a commoner, and thus reduce the chance of rebellion in a province by 5%. The King hears his son’s arguments, and gently asks how many soldiers a commoner can provide. In a short amount of time, this king is presented as a man who is bent by the weight of the crown, but wants to leave his kingdom in better shape than how he left it.

Genghis Khan in Mongol. Little Temujin starts his career by being frequently captured. By the end of the movie, his horde is doing the capturing. And his title, cheng-gis khan, translates to something like “The Super Bad-Ass King”.

Dishonorable Mention to John Goodman as King Ralph I, who abdicates the throne of England, but maintains his duchy and rank among the peerage. All the trappings of power but little of the responsibility. At least he forces old Peter O’Toole to be king in his place. I don’t recall if Peter has a family of his own, or if on his death Ralph will need to be re-coronated. But, as said above, Peter O’Toole plays such a great king. England will be in fine hands.