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The Lion in Winter (1968)

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1183 AD: King Henry II's three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won't commit to a choice. They and his wife variously plot to force him.



(screenplay), (play)
Won 3 Oscars. Another 12 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kenneth Ives ...
Queen Eleanor's Guard
Fran Stafford ...
Lady in Waiting
Ella More ...
Lady in Waiting
Kenneth Griffith ...
Strolling Player
Henry Woolf ...
Strolling Player
Karol Hagar ...
Strolling Player


Christmas 1183--an aging and conniving King Henry II plans a reunion where he hopes to name his successor. He summons the following people for the holiday: his scheming but imprisoned wife, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine; his mistress, Princess Alais, whom he wishes to marry; his three sons (Richard, Geoffrey, and John), all of whom desire the throne; and the young but crafty King Philip of France (who is also Alais' brother). With the fate of Henry's empire at stake, everybody engages in their own brand of deception and treachery to stake their claim. Written by <jgp3553@excite.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The most significant reserved seat attraction of the year!


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

30 October 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El león en invierno  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (70 mm)

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)


(Eastmancolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Production shut down for a time when Anthony Harvey fell ill with hepatitis and the flu. See more »


At the beginning of the film, Henry compares his situation to that of King Lear. Although Shakespeare wrote King Lear more than 400 years after the death of Henry II, it was based on a legend of Leir of Britain as recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who was alive in Henry II's day. See more »


[first lines]
Henry II: Come for me!
See more »


Featured in The 76th Annual Academy Awards (2004) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Possibly the best dialogue ever written for a film... ever.
11 July 2000 | by (Storrs, CT) – See all my reviews

I love this film. I love this film. I am not sure that I can say that phrase enough when describing this movie. Lion in Winter is quite simply one of the strangest and most beautiful movies that I have ever seen. It is some wierd amalgam of a 'home for the hollidays' type family drama, and Machiavellian political intrigue.

The essential plot is that it is 1183 and Henry II must declare his successor to the Plantagenet throne. He invites his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (played by Katherine Hepburn), who is in exile, and his sons to along with king of France, to Christmas dinner. Over the course of the evening truths are told and arguments are had, the film rolls over all of the conventions of the many genres that it plays with and turns them into something new and beautiful.

The film could have been written by Machiavelli himself, and often smacks of the Mandragola. The film demonstrates family disfunction within a very interesting, medieval paradigm. While the film is about issues such as family, loyalty and love, ultimately is most gratifying as a vehicle for O'Toole and Hepburn to chew the scenery and dig into a few truly juicy roles.

It is fantastic film that any lover of dialogue driven drama-comedy should rent and watch over and over again.

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