At least as far back as Shakespeare, kings have made for meaty dramatic roles, and actors have lined up to play them. We've gathered some of the most memorable screen kings from almost 90 years of movies and television. Emperors and pharaohs are also eligible, but we draw the line at dictators (hence, no Julius Caesar). Napoleon, who crowned himself, is a bit of an edge case, but in light of the surfeit of other performances we've left him off too. Mythological or legendary kings don't qualify, so no King Arthur either.
Read on, and vote up your favorite actors who have played kings!
- Photo: The Weinstein Company
Colin Firth received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as King George VI, who must unexpectedly take the throne of England on the eve of WWII while battling a speech impediment.
- Age: 60
- Birthplace: Grayshott, United Kingdom
- Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
What with all the machismo, gory combat, and rippling abs, it's easy to forget that Gerard Butler's Leonidas is a king. A member of the Agiad dynasty, Leonidas was one of two kings who traditionally co-ruled Sparta in Classical times. Gerard Butler was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actor.
- Age: 50
- Birthplace: Paisley, United Kingdom
- Photo: Showtime
Showtime's hit costume drama The Tudors gave us probably the sexiest Henry VIII, though it wasn't a particularly accurate portrayal of the King in his later years, when he had an ulcerous wound on his leg and had become obese. Jonathan Rhys Meyers received two Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor.
- Age: 43
- Birthplace: Drimnagh, Republic of Ireland
- Photo: DreamWorks Pictures
Early in his career, Joaquin Phoenix played Marcus Aurelius's sinister, conniving son Commodus in the 2000 Ridley Scott epic Gladiator, which won the Best Picture Oscar for that year. Phoenix was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and received equivalent nominations from BAFTA and the Screen Actors Guild.
- Age: 45
- Birthplace: Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico