5 Movies To Play At Your Own Personal Princess Diana Film Festival
There’s a Diana for every mood.
Prince Harry’s provocative memoir, Spare, and last month’s Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan, has put Princess Diana — nearly 30 years after her untimely death — at the center of cultural conversations yet again. In his book, Harry writes about the pain of processing his mother’s death as a child; and in a January 8 interview with 60 Minutes, admitted that he “refused to accept” Diana’s death until the age of 23 — even believing she might be alive and that the two would reunite.
For Diana’s fans, the popular Netflix series The Crown, which follows a fictionalized version of Diana (played by Elizabeth Debicki) through many stages of her highly-publicized life, is must-see-streaming. But there are several lesser-known movies about the People’s Princess that are also worth watching. Here are five of our favorites.
1. The Princess
Why we love it: Genuine archival footage recalls Diana’s captivating presence.
This 2022 movie lacks the commentary and narration by an off-screen talking head that’s so common among documentaries. Instead, it relies on genuine archival footage of Diana in the ’80s and ’90s. The result is a touching portrait of her complexity. The clips from British media will be particularly compelling for American viewers, as they highlight the intense press scrutiny Diana experienced from a very young age. While you may already be aware of some of the difficulties she faced as the black sheep of the royal family, it’s startling to see her struggles brought back to life so vividly.
The Princess is available to stream on HBO Max.
Why we love it: Eerie visuals and artful images parallel Diana’s heartbreak and isolation.
Spencer, which stars former Twilight actress Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, is anything but your typical biopic. The 2021 arthouse film gets its title from Diana’s maiden name and doesn’t try to present an all-encompassing look at her legacy. Rather, it focuses on three days in 1991 — from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day — using beautiful but eerie visuals to capture Diana’s mounting sense of isolation and inner turmoil. Though Stewart is American, she does a fine job replicating Diana’s distinctive voice and mannerisms. (Ken Wharfe, Diana’s former bodyguard, even told People, “of all the people who have played Diana over the past 10 years, [Stewart’s] the closest to her.”) The movie’s reception was divisive, as some appreciated its creative take while others found it pretentious — but it’s worth watching for the unexpected approach to Di’s inner life.
Spencer is available to stream on Hulu.
Why we love it: The drama of Diana’s final years is beautifully rendered.
This 2013 movie stars Naomi Watts as Princess Diana, and focuses on the final two years of her life, when she had just divorced Prince Charles, was finding new love, and began taking on more humanitarian endeavors. The movie was poorly reviewed (and deemed inaccurate by one of the figures depicted within it, Diana’s former boyfriend), but Watts’ performance earned praise. The New York Times wrote that she “make[s] Diana’s crushing loneliness palpable, lived-in, and real” — no small feat for an actress portraying someone so highly mythologized. Take the movie’s melodrama with a grain of salt, and you’ll enjoy Watts’ depiction of Diana in a period of self-discovery.
Diana is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
4. Diana, 7 Days
Why we love it: Prince William and Harry share exclusive insights in this documentary.
This 2017 film includes royal family members sharing their memories of Diana. Released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, Diana, 7 Days originally aired on the BBC. The royals don’t typically get involved in conversations about Diana — but Diana, 7 Days features exclusive interviews with Prince William and Prince Harry. When Diana died, they were just 15 and 12, respectively, and in the documentary they offer a candid account of their pain then and now. In a particularly emotional moment, Harry speaks of his final phone call with his mother, saying, “I have to live with that for the rest of my life. Knowing that I was that 12-year-old boy, wanting to get off the phone, and wanting to go run around and play games, rather than speak to my mom.” It’s both tragic and fascinating to hear his first-person take on a personal tragedy that also affected millions.
Diana, 7 Days is available to buy digitally from Amazon Prime.
5. Diana: The Musical
Why we love it: The royals get a kitschy makeover in this 2021 movie musical.
Princess Diana has been the subject of movies, TV shows, books, and magazine articles — so it was only a matter of time before someone made a Broadway musical about her. Sadly, it was ill-fated, opening in 2020 at the start of the pandemic and closing after just 33 performances. But in 2021, a movie version of the musical was released, and its glitzy costumes and whimsical design made it a “guilty pleasure” from start to finish. The odd spectacle of Diana and the royals singing and dancing is undeniably amusing (especially if you have a glass or two of Chardonnay — Diana’s favorite — before you watch).
Diana: The Musical is available to stream on Netflix.
Whether you prefer the archival documentary, an artsy biopic, or a campy musical, any one of these choices should make for a worthwhile addition to your personal Princess Diana film festival.
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