Queen Elizabeth I
We get it, OK? The Virgin Queen was a bad-ass feminist heroine who ruled England for nearly 45 years, way back in the 16th century. From her parents’ (Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn) sordid history and her notorious dust-up with Mary, Queen of Scots to her military victories and endless speculation on her romantic life, Elizabeth I’s life provides no shortage of material.
Accordingly, Her Majesty has dominated pop culture ever since Edmund Spenser wrote The Faerie Queen in her honor back in the 1590s. Although she turned up in 19th-century British lit and a handful of operas, it was the second half of the 20th century — and the feminist revolution that began in the late ’60s — that opened the floodgates of Elizabeth worship. Everything from highly respected biographies to Bess-related mystery series to kids’ books to Philippa Gregory’s endless Tudor novels followed. By 2005, the queen had even showed up in Marvel comics. Elsewhere in the nerd realm, she’s starred in several video games, including the many installments of Civilization.
The queen’s film history goes back to Sarah Bernhardt’s 1912 portrayal in the French short Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth. Since then, every generation has had its own defining Elizabeth performance; ours, of course, is Cate Blanchett’s, in 1998′s Elizabeth and 2007′s Elizabeth: The Golden Age (although Helen Mirren was no slouch in Tom Hooper’s 2005 British TV miniseries Elizabeth I). Our favorite Elizabeth on film, though, has to be Jenny Runacre’s punk-rock Bod in the anarchic 1977 Derek Jarman production Jubilee.