The Lion in Winter (1968)



Critic Consensus: Sharper and wittier than your average period piece, The Lion in Winter is a tale of palace intrigue bolstered by fantastic performances from Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and Anthony Hopkins in his big-screen debut.

Movie Info

The year is 1183. Like many a modern-day politician, Britain's King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) finds it occasionally useful to take his wife out of mothballs and parade her before the public. Henry's Queen Eleanor (Katharine Hepburn), long exiled to a faraway castle, is "invited" to join Henry and their three sons for a family reunion. In this way, Henry hopes to maintain a stronghold on his Empire and to prevent the balance of power from shifting to Eleanor or to one of his sons: Richard the … More

Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: James Goldman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 19, 2001
Nelson Entertainment


as Eleanor Of Aquitaine

as Henry II

as Alais

as Geoffrey

as King Philip of Franc...

as William Marshall

as Bishop of Durham

as Strolling Player

as Strolling Player

as Eleanor's Guard

as Strolling Player

as Strolling Player

as Strolling Player
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Critic Reviews for The Lion in Winter

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (8)

Henry and Eleanor are reduced to a TV-sized version of the sovereigns next door, their epic struggle shrunk to sitcom squabbles.

Full Review… | July 14, 2014
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

James Goldman's screenplay, so chic and sophisticated to the ears of suburbanites, is chock-full of the worst kind of sophomoric fiddling with what Goldman takes to be genuine highfalutin lingo.

Full Review… | July 14, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

An intense, fierce, personal drama put across by outstanding performances of Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Director Anthony Harvey opened up Goldman's play into authentic spaces far from any proscenium, and remained faithful to an energetic drama propelled by its performances and dialogue.

Full Review… | December 21, 2007
Top Critic

Harvey's direction is intelligent enough, though the reduction of power struggles to fits of personal pique -- where the fate of nations hangs in the balance -- becomes a little irritating. Enjoyable for its two lead performances, however.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

...outdoorsy and fun, full of the kind of plotting and action people used to go to just plain movies for.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Lion in Winter


wonderful war of words among masters.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


King Henry II invites his estranged wife and three children to celebrate Christmas with his mistress, and the three sons vie for the throne.
Only slightly better than the remake, this classic film, for which Katharine Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar, is more fast-paced and sharply executed. Writer James Goldman's sharp wit, including such lines as "Quiet, darling, Mummy's fighting" and "If I was on fire, no one would pee on me to put me out" "Let's strike a flint and see," becomes clearer when put in the hands of such technically savvy actors are Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, and Anthony Hopkins.
But as with the remake, I struggled to understand what the backbone of this film is beyond family melodrama. There were a few moments when, looking at Hepburn's world-weary, tear-stained face, I thought that it was bemoaning the ravages of age, and indeed, this is the best that I can come up with, but I can't understand how this theme interacts with the political plot.
Overall, like the Stewart/Close version, Lion in Winter is fun to watch, and even though I hate Hepburn normally, I found her performance compelling here.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Riveting. Dialogue of razor-sharp wit, layers of motives and intimate revalations, and captivating performances. Can't find a modern movie with dialogue this smart.

Matthew Slaven
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer

The Lion in Winter Quotes

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