Recommendations for all-time best "royal court intrigue" movies, TV series and books?
December 28, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for all-time best "royal court intrigue" movies, TV series and books?

Recently half-watched the first two seasons of Showtime's "The Tudors" and thinking there must be better fare out there. What are your all-time faves? Modern political intrigue stories okay, too. Thanks, hive mind!
posted by ZenMasterThis to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, so The Tudors gets much, much better. Seriously, the first season is godawful, and the second season is alright, but the third and fourth seasons are really, really good. I'd watch the second half of Season 4, at least.

If you end up actually enjoying it, check out Michael Hirst's Elizabeth. There's a sequel as well, but I haven't seen it.
posted by griphus at 7:58 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recently read and loved Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies." Excellent, if fictionalized, look at the circumstances surrounding Henry VIII's first and second marriages.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:00 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I, Claudius, definitely.
posted by Catseye at 8:06 AM on December 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

The Lion in Winter (multiple versions.)

Dangerous Liasons. John Malkovitch. RRrrrrrrrrrrr! (No, seriously.)
posted by BrashTech at 8:09 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

"You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" is a favorite line from the intrigue-packed "House of Cards."
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:12 AM on December 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

This may be a bit off the mark, but I can't resist. If you have ever played Interactive Fiction games (sometimes called "text adventures"), you should really try Varicella by Adam Cadre (scroll down a bit). All sorts of court intrigue with you at the center of it. It's challenging, but lots of fun.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:15 AM on December 28, 2012

The Lion in Winter
Rome (HBO series, espeically in the second season)
posted by spaltavian at 8:17 AM on December 28, 2012

Came here to recommend House of Cards and I, Claudius.
posted by BibiRose at 8:19 AM on December 28, 2012

If you don't mind the royal courts in question being heavily fantasy-fictionalized, I recommend the trashily awesome work of Jacqueline Carey. (Kushiel's Dart kicks off the series, or skip to Naamah's Kiss if you prefer your intrigue without BDSM.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:26 AM on December 28, 2012

Nancy Mitford's Madame de Pompadour is a really great biography.

I liked the miniseries The Last King, which is about Charles II and stars Rufus Sewell along with every other actor in the UK who wasn't busy making a Harry Potter movie at the time.

Would you count something like A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones?
posted by bcwinters at 8:31 AM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I love I, Claudius

The Borgias is okay.

And Valmont is MUCH better than Dangerous Liasons.

And oddly enough, I really enjoyed that weird version of Marie Antoinette.

Nicholas and Alexandra was a sensation in its day.

The Other Bolyn Girl is very good.

Anne of the Thousand Days.

And if you want to do it old school: Hamlet and MacBeth
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:32 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Game of Thrones" is much, much more, but it does contain some a few court intrigues, primarily in the first of the two seasons so far released. The series begins in the shadow of a not-very-distant-past regicide and a fragmenting empire, and while the sort of mainland plot carries on, a second plot across the sea features some exiled family of the slain king attempting to regain the throne (with a long and weird road ahead).

I haven't read the books, and probably won't, but it's a quality show, even though it does lay the gratuitous sex and violence on a bit thick sometimes. Maybe not what you're looking for, but you'll figure that out pretty quickly if that's the case.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:34 AM on December 28, 2012

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks for all the input! I'm leaning towards the stories based on real-life history, but I'll take a look at the fiction / fantasy stuff too.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:48 AM on December 28, 2012

Juana la Loca (released in U.S. as "Mad Love")
posted by fuse theorem at 8:49 AM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I, Claudius and Claudius the God are exactly what you're looking for. Much of them is lifted from Tacitus's Annals.

Seconding Varicella.

Finally, if you like PC games, Crusader Kings II is almost nothing but court intrigue. No generation of rulers in that game has ever bored me.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:50 AM on December 28, 2012

Ooh, yes, I have just started reading Wolf Hall and it is excellent.

The Other Boleyn Girl is pretty terrible, in the breathless excitable bad soap opera sense. It's definitely entertaining, but you feel kind of greasy and soiled after reading it, like the sensation you get after having eaten an entire family sized bucket of truck stop fried chicken on your own.
posted by elizardbits at 8:54 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Queen Margot

Just a note about House of Cards: I just went to Netflix to watch it again, and a search brought up a trailer for an upcoming U.S. remake (with Kevin Spacey!) but the original is still there, listed as House of Cards Trilogy (BBC).
posted by Room 641-A at 9:37 AM on December 28, 2012

Mary Renault's Alexander Trilogy is full of court intrigue, particularly in the final volume, Funeral Games, a dark and brutal study of the collapse of empire.

And if that whets your appetite, you might also enjoy Evelyn Waugh's Helena and Gore Vidal's Julian.
posted by verstegan at 9:41 AM on December 28, 2012

Guy Gavriel Kay's work, particularly his Sarantine duology (set in a not-very-fictionalized alt-Byzantium, court of Justinian), his alt-France Song for Arbonne, his alt-Chinese work Under Heaven, and probably his forthcoming work in the same alt-China, River of Stars.
posted by PussKillian at 10:49 AM on December 28, 2012

Everything by Carolly Erickson is delightfully soap-opera-y.

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak is an excellent novel about the court of Catherine the Great.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:29 PM on December 28, 2012

"The Lion in Winter" is frigging amazing. Witty, cruel, romantic.

Also pretty darn good is "A Man for All Seasons," about Sir Thomas More.

Another vote for The Tudors and Rome.

And I know you want real-life, but the "Game of Thrones" books are pretty politically sophisticated (and courtly). The show is good, too, but the books are more intricate.
posted by elizeh at 3:44 PM on December 28, 2012

nthing I, Claudius
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:23 PM on December 28, 2012

The Princesse de Clèves. The Princess of Montpensier, recently filmed by Bertrand Tavernier - not in the royal court but intrigue, nobility, all that. Agree on Dangerous Liaisons, the novel and the film. A lot of 17th and 18th century French literature - Corneille, Racine. Agree on Ridicule, another film about the 18th century French court.

Richard III (I recall the most recent film of it was not bad?)

Kurosawa's Ran
posted by citron at 5:09 PM on December 28, 2012

Becket would be a good double feature with The Lion in Winter. Peter O'Toole plays Henry II in both movies.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:05 PM on December 28, 2012

Korean miniseries Dae Jang Gum is set in the court of of a dynasty in the 1600s and is just food and drama all the time.
posted by Iteki at 1:37 AM on December 29, 2012

The Queen. It shows the period after Diana's death, partly from Blair's and partly from Elizabeth's point of view.
posted by rjs at 8:03 AM on December 29, 2012

A lot of the above either influenced or were influenced by a relatively unknown but brilliant work of historical intrigue fiction, The Lymond Chronicles. Here's the first one. It's a joke among fans that everyone who reads her goes on to become a writer, so you might also (when you're done with Dunnnett) look for the books her fans wrote.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:37 AM on December 29, 2012

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