Catherine the Great

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Catherine the Great TV Poster Image
Flat biopic has violence, innuendo, nudity.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It offers a fictitious account of the last years of Catherine The Great’s reign. Power, loyalty, and deceit are all themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Catherine can be a cruel ruler, but tries to be a humanitarian and improve the well-being of her country. She is strong, intelligent, and open about her sexuality. While she has confidants and love interests, few people in her court can be trusted. 


Shootings, hangings, beheadings, etc. are all visible. Yelling and arguing is frequent.


Strong sexual innuendo, including simulated sex acts and nudity. 


Cursing is audible from time to time. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and smoking is visible, whether it be over meals or during meetings. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the HBO docudrama Catherine The Great is an adult-oriented historical biopic that contains lots of mature themes. It features very strong sexual innuendo, including nudity and simulated sex acts. There’s also a lot of violence, ranging from arguing, yelling, and insult hurling, to scenes featuring assaults, beheadings, and shootings. Curses are audible, too. Drinking (vodka, wine, etc.) and smoking is frequently visible. 

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What's the story?

CATHERINE THE GREAT is a limited series that chronicles the life of Empress Catherine of Russia towards the end of her reign. It stars Helen Mirren ​​​​as Catherine, who is seeking to expand the her empire and make Russia a stronger European power. Strong and intelligent, she has a series of affairs with men like Grigory Orlov (Richard Roxburgh) and Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke), the details of which she sometimes shares with her lady-in-waiting and confidant, Countess Praskovya Bruce (Gina McKee). But Catherine must watch out for her many political rivals, including her son, Prince Paul (Joseph Quinn), who pose a constant threat to her rule. 

Is it any good?

The dramatic biopic of one of Russia’s greatest historical figures offers lots of richly detailed sets and costumes. But despite the visual splendor, Catherine The Great fails to deliver an authentic narrative. Helen Mirren’s powerful performance, which underscores the challenges the Empress faced both as a powerful political figure and as a woman who does not embody patriarchal ideals, manages to keep the story going. But there is a lack of chemistry among the cast, which makes it hard to invest in the characters and commit to the overall series. Those who like historical dramas may find it entertaining enough to watch, but it just doesn’t rise to a royal occasion. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the real Catherine II of Russia. Why is she known as “The Great?” How did her reign impact the future of Russia?

  • How realistic is Catherine The Great? Is the way that she is portrayed based on historical fact? Or is it based on sexist rumors that have existed about her?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

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