The Lion in Winter (1968) Movie Review: All Hail the King and Queen!

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

Historical epics have always been a popular type of film. Famous examples include Spartacus (1960) and Braveheart (1995). European royalty has also fascinated people for generations. Many wonder what life must be like for a monarch, and many films attempt to capture the complexity of having such a powerful role. The Lion in Winter is a very bold film because of its audacious depiction of the power struggle that exists between members at the top of a social hierarchy.

A Toast

The acting is absolutely superb. Katharine Hepburn proudly exhibits her skills as an actress while bringing Eleanor of Aquitaine to life. A fun fact is that she is actually a direct descendant of this historical figure as well as Eleanor’s son, King John. Peter O’Toole also played Henry II for the second time after having that same role in Becket in 1964, and received nominations for both films. It is a real shame that Peter O’Toole never won an Academy Award because it is almost as if he was born to play Henry II. James Goldman also received an Oscar for bringing his own stage play to the big screen. Indeed, this film definitely deserved all of its awards and nominations because it is a stellar attempt to show audiences one of the most important periods of European history.


Historical films do much more than provide history lessons. They can relate audiences to time periods that they might not have been able to understand in academic settings. Films about history oftentimes romanticize such events, but this film reveals the fundamental fact that even kings and queens are still people in spite of their social rankings. This film achieves the unique goal of revealing how everyone has struggles and hard times, and yet all people can still function together in the real world. The Lion in Winter might have taken place in 1183 AD, but it shows that even the kings and queens of Europe must confront challenges in order to have a lasting impact on both history and the world itself.

The Lion in Winter (1968) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: during every argument

Take a Drink: during every reference to mature topics

Drink a Shot: during every somewhat violent scene that might include knives and swords

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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