Diana Spencer aka the former Princess of Wales has had a tumultuous life, following her royal marriage and her tragic loss. Since the 90s, she has been a constant muse for feature films and documentaries. The latest example is, of course, Pablo Larraín’s Spencer that takes a fictionalized look at her divorce from Prince Charles and departure from the Royal family.
With her warm persona and iconic fashion choices, Diana easily qualifies as the empathetic protagonist. The story of her life would be similar in almost all movies but it’s the interpretation that differs. For instance, Diana follows a conventional biopic approach while Spencer involves magical realism.
10 Princess In Love (1996) – 4.2
One of the scandals in Diana’s life was her affair with the military officer Captain James Hewitt. Even though not all aspects of this affair have been validated, Hewitt made bold claims in the book Princess In Love (for which he was consulted). The book inspired the infamous movie of the same name that is centered upon the extramarital relationship.
The one unique thing about Princess In Love is that it might be one of the few movies on the British royal family that deal with Diana’s infidelity as compared to Prince Charles who is seen as the usual suspect. Still, the movie is probably too melodramatic for viewers as is evident from its low ratings.
9 Diana: The Musical (2021) – 4.7
A special Netflix recording of the Broadway musical of the same name, Diana covers the highs and lows of her life through larger-than-life musical performances. Jeanna de Vaal’s vigor as the lead is commendable even though everything else about Diana is questionable.
Both critical and audience reactions have been negative towards the musical with some finding the narrative to be too exploitative or unintentionally hilarious.
8 Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story (1982) – 5.5
By no means is Charles & Diana: A Royal Love Story a cinematic masterpiece. But for modern viewers, this American production can be an amusing time capsule of sorts. Released a year after the royal wedding, the movie tends to romanticize every aspect of Charles and Diana’s relationship with extreme creative liberties.
Needless to say, the movie hasn’t aged well but it still shows the calm before the storm. Before international media covered the scandals of the marriage, Charles and Diana were once seen as an adorable couple (despite the issues they had in real life). Seeing the merriness in this film, the audience can only feel sorry for Diana for the life that awaited her.
7 Diana: Last Days Of A Princess (2007) – 5.4
As the title suggests, this docudrama covers the final days of Diana’s relationship with Dodi Fayed leading up to the tragic car crash. Even though actual archival footage and personal interviews are featured in the movie, a parallel approach of reenactment is also present.
Hence, both narrative styles blend together to present the last days in the life of the “People’s Princess.” At the same time, it doesn’t break any new ground and covers the events that many other documentaries have already had.
6 Diana (2013) – 5.5
Diana documents the last two years of its titular protagonist’s life with Naomi Watts starring in the movie. The screenplay draws inspiration from Kate Snell’s non-fiction book Diana: Her Last Love. Diana’s divorce and eventual relationship with Dodi Fayed form most of the premise. In the middle, her relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan is also touched upon. However, Khan didn’t stick with her for his own objections towards Diana’s celebrity persona.
By covering such diverse relationships, Diana shows how ill-fated her romantic life was. At the same time, Diana also covers the Princess’ activism through campaigns against land mines. Unfortunately, the movie’s fate was also ill-fated as it drew overwhelmingly negative reviews.
5 Whatever Love Means (2005) – 5.5
Prince Charles and Princess Diana were once asked by an interviewer if they were in love. While Diana answered with a resounding “Oh, yes”, Charles responded glumly, “Whatever ‘in love’ means”. This quote aptly lends to the title of this British TV film that covers Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
As many would know, Charles and Camilla shared a close relationship even before his marriage to Diana. It is widely believed that the continuing affair was one of the reasons behind Diana’s divorce. So, naturally, Diana also plays a significant supporting part in this movie that even goes on to cover Charles and Camilla’s life in the aftermath of her death.
4 Spencer (2021) – 7.0
Offering Kristen Stewart’s career-best performance, Spencer takes a personal look into Diana’s life without giving the spotlight on any other Royal. Instead of focusing on the same old narrative of a ruined marriage, Spencer shows how its tragic heroine felt suffocated with the rules and regulations that came with the family.
Her eating disorders have also been portrayed sensitively. To make the premise more surreal, a parallel is also drawn between her and Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated queen of Henry VIII. But apart from the dramatic elements, the movie also celebrates the beauty of the mundane such as scenes involving Diana visiting her childhood home or playing a game with her children. In such moments, Stewart wonderfully brings out the naivety of Princess “Di.”
3 The Queen (2006) – 7.3
Even though Princess Diana only appears in archival footage, she plays a major part in The Queen as the movie is set in the aftermath of her car accident. As the royal family debates on how to break the news, Queen Elizabeth II struggles with the subsequent reactions from the public and the Tony Blair-led government. Peter Morgan’s screenplay and Helen Mirren’s leading turn in the film succeed in building a thriller out of Diana’s death.
The movie is significant for being one of Morgan’s various projects involving royalty. This, of course, culminated further in his Netflix series The Crown that covers Diana’s life in greater detail.
2 Diana, 7 Days (2017) – 7.5
Commissioned by Prince Harry and William to mark the 20th death anniversary of their mother, Diana, 7 Days is a BBC documentary that covers Diana’s funeral and the impact it had on the grieving British public.
Apart from Diana’s close friends and family, the documentary also covers the reactions of politicians and journalists of the time giving a true extent of the significance that the former Princess of Wales had on the country. Instead of covering conspiracy theories or royal gossip, this is one of the few documentaries on Diana that takes an empathetic look at her death.
1 Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy (2017) – 7.6
Yet another documentary produced by Diana’s two sons, Diana, Our Mother commemorates her life and her work towards causes like AIDS, land mines, and cancer. Some never-seen-before footage includes home movies and unseen photographs from her childhood.
Harry and William themselves feature in interviews for the documentary along with friends like Elton John and family members like Charles Spencer.
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