The Top 11 Movies & TV Shows About Mary, Queen Of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots, the rightful monarch of Scotland, was most known for her rivalry with Queen Elizabeth I of England and this led to many movies about Mary Queen of Scots. Across multiple centuries, this monarch has been depicted in film and cinema around the world. Her story was as tragic as it was compelling, fascinating history lovers for centuries. This admiration leads, of course, to extreme bouts of inspiration from film and TV studios across the world. From series to movies, very few mediums were left untouched by the fiery spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Mary Queen of Scots never had a chance at a real life before Elizabeth I had her locked away for years. She inherited the throne when she was only six days old after her father’s death. She would only live to be 44 before Queen Elizabeth, her first cousin once removed, ordered her execution. This was after she served for 18 years in captivity, and with that, the life of Mary Queen of Scots became a thing of legend, something that filmmakers and showrunners have run with various forms of retellings of that era in British history.

11 Reigns (2013-2017)

Mary Queen of Scots in The CW show Reign.

Reign showcases Mary Stuart navigating political and sexual intrigue in the French court, before sailing back to Scotland in this flirtatious drama. The young adult television show resurrected the public’s interest in the famous Scottish queen by targeting a young adult audience with modern music, pseudo-historical costumes, and monarchial drama. Adelaide Kane, an actress previously featured on MTV’s Teen Wolf, stars in this royal series as Mary Stuart. While the characters’ costumes and hierarchical etiquette aren’t historically accurate, these are creative liberties that the show’s producers strategically altered for its audience; therefore, viewers can look past it.

10 Elizabeth I (2005)

Barbara Flynn as Mary Queen of Scots.

Elizabeth I was a 2005 TV series about the life of Elizabeth and her struggles with Spain as she leads England as its Queen. When it comes Mary Queen of Scots, she only appears in the first part of the series. This was focused on Mary’s plans to have Elizabeth killed, although she denied it in the series. Finally, her execution took place in that first part and it led to the war between England and Spain. Helen Mirren played Elizabeth in the series while Barbara Flynn took on the role of Mary Queen of Scots. The series won nine Primetime Emmy Awards in 14 nominations, including Outstanding Miniseries.

9 Mary, Queen of Scots (2018)

Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth.

  • Currently not included as part of a streaming package

Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan star in Mary, Queen of Scots as Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, respectively. One of the newest movies about Mary Queen of Scots, it’s a stunning display of costume, believable acting, and the overall hostile and tense dynamic between the two female monarchs. however, Mary, Queen of Scots takes creative liberties with the historical context that some audiences are not appreciative of. That said, the film does a great job of portraying what it must have been like for the two characters to be female monarchs in a male-dominated political era.

8 Mary of Scotland (1936)

Katharine Hepburn as Mary Queen of Scots.

  • Currently not included as part of a streaming package

Mary of Scotland is a 1936 film that follows Mary, Queen of Scotland, as she returns to her Celtic homeland. As with most movies about Mary Queen of Scots, this tells about her giving up her throne and requesting aid from Queen Elizabeth I, who locks her up in the Tower of London out of fear for her own throne. Katharine Hepburn portrays Mary, Queen of Scots, while Florence Eldridge is Elizabeth Tudor, the Queen of England. Both actresses have the theatrical velocity needed to represent such strong female leaders on screen, and the costumes each woman wore were tantalizing against the black-and-white color scheme of the film.

7 Gunpowder, Treason & Plot (2004)

Mary Queen of Scots in Gunpowder, Treason & Plot.

  • Currently not included as part of a streaming package

Gunpowder, Treason & Plot is an intriguing entry to the movies and shows about Mary Queen of Scots, as it gives a broader view of history than most. This miniseries not only follows Mary Queen of Scots, but it also chronicles the story of her son — King James I of England — and his experiences on the English throne. The main overarching conflict of this show is how King James I works to stop the Gunpowder Plot. On a production level, the miniseries isn’t perfect, but if viewers are yearning for more details (factual or dramatized) regarding the Gunpowder Plot, Gunpowder, Treason & Plot is worth a watch.

6 Elizabeth R (1971)

Mary Queen of Scots in Elizabeth R

Elizabeth R differs in its medium compared to the other productions on this list. This work is a BBC miniseries directed as plays for the television screen. The main focus of this show is to create a narrative that is deeply-rooted in accurate historical context, while also giving enough screen time to perfectly cover not only the reign of Queen Elizabeth I but also the moments of which Mary Queen of Scots influenced England’s reigning monarch.

5 The Execution of Mary Stuart (1895)

A title card from The Execution of Mary Stuart

  • Currently unavailable for streaming or rental

One of the oldest movies ever made, The Execution of Mary Stuart is a brief look at the final moments of the fallen monarch’s life after being imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I. Of the movies about Mary Queen of Scots, this one does not hold a lot of substance, it’s a unique first look at how the monarch was depicted by directors hundreds of years after her reign. It’s also a must-watch for cinephiles and history buffs because this is one of the first films to ever be created.

4 Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)

Vanessa Redgraves in Mary, Queen of Scots

  • Currently unavailable for streaming or rental

Of the movies about Mary Queen of Scots, this one centers on the tumultuous rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I (Glenda Jackson) and Mary, Queen of Scots (Vanessa Redgrave). The heightened focus on the rivalry is meant to explore the hostile dynamic between the two female monarchs amid an era where it wasn’t popular to have women in such political, hierarchal, and monarchial power. Both Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave are Academy Award-winning actresses and viewers can tell how skilled the women are as they embody two of the strongest female leaders in England and Scotland’s history.

3 The Heart of a Queen (Das Herz der Königin) (1940)

  • Currently unavailable for streaming or rental

The Heart of a Queen is a 1940 black and white German film that has a unique approach among the movies about Mary Queen of Scots. This film serves to parallel the execution of Queen Marry of Scots due to her propaganda against the queen( which historically was a supposed assassination attempt) with the propaganda of World War II. Cinephiles and historians would love this film because of director Carl Froelich’s unique approach to the Queen Mary of Scots narrative. Audiences may need subtitles to understand the dialogue.

2 Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

Samantha Morton as Mary Queen of Scots in Elizabeth The Golden Age

Elizabeth: The Golden Age was the sequel to the 1998 biopic that won Cate Blanchett an Oscar for her role as Elizabeth. This movie starts in 1585, Elizabeth’s later years as the Queen of England. This is when Mary Queen of Scots came to Elizabeth for help, only to end up imprisoned when the Queen was worried about her own place on the throne. If Elizabeth dies without an heir, Mary takes over the throne, and Elizabeth believes Mary is conspiring to have her assassinated. Samantha Morton plays Mary in one of the most successful movies about Mary Queen of Scots, with Blanchett once again earning praise for her performance.

1 Mary Queen of Scots (2013)

A shot from Mary Queen of Scots movie.

the 2013 movies, Mary Queen of Scots, directed by Thomas Imbach, follows a familiar narrative course compared to other Films about the Scottish monarch. This film centers on a young Mary Stuart in France awaiting her marriage to the prince and then it turns its attention to her reclaiming her Scottish throne. This film, though not widely known, works to convey accurate costumes and near-authentic accents; however, audiences may need to turn subtitles on to be able to understand what some characters are saying. Overall, it’s a solid adaptation of Mary, Queen of Scots’ rise to power and ascension to her Scottish throne.

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