Stephen Arnell

Heavy is the head: ten films about the challenges facing new leaders

Heavy is the head: ten films about the challenges facing new leaders
Al Pacino in The Godfather [Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock]
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The Tory leadership race may already have supplied plenty of entertainment – but sometimes the real drama begins when a new ruler actually takes power. Many films have examined what can happen when an inexperienced leader assumes control, from the Biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) to sci-fi blockbuster Dune (2021). Others have explored the challenges that face new leaders at the helm – whether it’s being duped into invasions, subduing those who don’t accept your rule or catching conspiracists. Here are ten that might make informative (or cautionary) viewing for the next Tory leader:

The King (2019) – Netflix

Seriously underestimated on release, David Michôd’s (The Animal Kingdom) retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry V is a great movie, and one that gets better with re-watching. In a dry run to his role as Paul Atreides in Dune, Timothée Chalamet stars as the young king Hal, duped (spoiler alert) into invading France by scheming Chief Justice Sir William Gascoigne (wisperin’ Sean Harris). There the monarch learns both the price of kingship and the value of friendship in the shape of pal Sir John Falstaff (Joel Edgerton, very good). Robert Pattinson (The Batman) has a rather droll turn as Louis the Dauphin, who appears to have been influenced by the abusive castellan in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – he of ‘I fart in your general direction’ fame.

The Godfather (1972) – NOW, Amazon Rent/Buy

Francis Ford Coppola’s first movie in the trilogy charts the beginning of Michael Corleone’s (Al Pacino) moral decline, compelled by events and latent ambition to follow his beloved Pop Vito (Marlon Brando) as Godfather of a mafia crime family. The murder of older brother Sonny (the late James Caan), witless treachery of the useless middle sibling Fredo (John Cazale) and assassination of young Sicilian wife Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli) all contrive to push Michael along an increasingly dark path. Unlike his father, the new boss is a cold fish, at first underestimated, but then feared by friends, enemies – and family.

Excalibur (1981) – Amazon Rent/Buy