The Madness of King George

Movie review by
Tom Cassidy, Common Sense Media
The Madness of King George Movie Poster Image
Historical biopic about British king's mental health.
  • PG-13
  • 1994
  • 110 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Themes include self-compassion, understanding mental illness, and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Physician Francis Willis shows compassion in helping the king get back to health. King George's behavior is erratic and becomes both increasingly violent and sexually aggressive -- this is put down to his mental health. Many of the characters, including King George's own son, plot behind his back.

Violence

Attempted stabbing, but victim is unharmed. Characters are choked, shoved, slapped. A character spits on another. Close-up of burned skin. A character is chased and restrained multiple times; one time a character gets a bloody nose in the struggle. Soup is spat in someone's face. A character forcibly grabs a woman, kisses her, climbs on top of her.

Sex

Kissing. Character kisses someone's chest. Character publicly points out someone's breasts and bottom, causing embarrassment. A character places someone's hand on their breast -- it's then implied they put their hands on their genitals.

Language

Language includes "fart," "piss," "turd," "damn," "arse," "scabby bumsucker," and "goddammit."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Character sips from a hip flask.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Madness of King George is a historical dramedy based on the real-life events surrounding England's King George III (Nigel Hawthorne), who struggled with mental health. It was originally a successful stage play by Alan Bennett. The king's behavior is erratic and sometimes abusive, and he gets increasingly agitated throughout the movie, acting violently and sexually aggressive. This is put down to his diminishing mental health, which may be problematic. A doctor helps him back to health, but the 17th century process includes multiple scenes of violent restraint, which could bother sensitive viewers. Each character is portrayed in an honest light, with their flaws at the forefront. The movie encourages empathy and compassion, both to yourself and others. Mild language includes "piss," "damn," and "arse."

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What's the story?

At the start of THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE, King George III (Nigel Hawthorne) appears eccentric, but his behavior soon turns genuinely erratic. When it becomes clear that he's suffering from a condition that's causing delusions, members of parliament secretly try to have him removed from the throne while his son attempts to take power. Against the conspirators' wishes, radical physician Francis Willis (Ian Holm) treats the king and improves his mental health, instilling in him a better understanding of his condition.

Is it any good?

This superb movie is based on an award-winning play by celebrated playwright Alan Bennett, who also wrote the screenplay for this 1994 adaption, directed by Nicholas Hytner. The movie is reportedly historically accurate and honest about the characters, lending it an air of authenticity. The acting is first-class, with heavyweights Hawthorne and Holm's head-to-heads positively crackling. Helen Mirren as Queen Charlotte also gives an emotional performance as a wife who's feeling helpless. 

While the dialogue in The Madness of King George is snappy and the movie develops at a good pace, the historical setting and dense, uncompromisingly authentic period language might struggle to engage younger viewers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how mental health is portrayed in The Madness of King George. How was it viewed in the past? Do you think the way we treat and view conditions similar to King George's has improved today?

  • Do any of the characters treat King George with empathy? Who and why? Why should we show people empathy?

  • Do politicians always act in the interests of the people who elected them?

Movie details

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