Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna (1901-18) was the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. She was the youngest of four daughters (although older than her brother, Tsarevech Alexei, heir to the throne). In a fascinating story told repeatedly on screen, her father was sweet but NOT a good ruler, and between his bad instincts; long-standing poverty and inequality across the country; his wife’s (Empress Alexandra) involvement with mystic Rasputin; her brother’s hemophilia; and World War I, Russia ended up in a revolution. The tsar was forced to abdicate, the family was put under house arrest, and famously they were eventually executed.
Anastasia is symbolic of the tragic princess, and as the youngest, the romanticized view we often have of royal children. She was furthermore the most mischievous, and has the strongest personality of the Russian royal children, at least in terms of what’s remembered today. Furthermore, she was the focus of speculation that one or more of the royal family survived the murder, with multiple pretenders claiming to be her, most famously, Anna Anderson — but DNA testing proved that she was indeed killed along with her family.
I have a leftover-from-childhood fascination with Anastasia and the Romanovs, and one of these days I want to do a “Frock Flicks Guide to the Fall of the Romanovs” — but the problem is there’s still so many films/TV series I have yet to watch. So I shall tide myself over with this roundup of Anastasia on film, and get cracking on filling in my viewing gaps. I am including portrayals of Anna Anderson, since these have primarily been in the context of presenting her as the real Anastasia.
Clothes Make the Woman (1928)
An American silent film about Anna Anderson. Obviously it’s contemporary, but I’m including it because I’m a completionist! Eve Southern (Intolerance) plays Anna.
Anastasia, the False Czar’s Daughter (1928)
A German silent film about Anna Anderson, with Lee Parry as Anna.
Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
Obviously focused on Rasputin and Empress Alexandra. This was the first sound film in which all of the Barrymores acted together (John as Prince Paul Chegodieff, Ethel as Alexandra, Lionel as Rasputin). Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables) is an uncredited Anastasia, and the costumes are by Adrian!
Anastasia: Die letzte Zarentochter (1956)
Another German take on Anna Anderson, with Lilli Palmer (The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders, Peter the Great) as Anna/Anastasia.
I should love this film, but weirdly it leaves me cold … okay, I may have only watched it once when I was a teenager. But I should have loved it! Ingrid Bergman didn’t emotionally connect with me, and I thought many of the costumes were too 1950s. Maaaaaybe I’ll give it another whirl, if only to save myself from the crap I will get in the comments. Bergman plays Anna Anderson/Anastasia, Yul Brenner is General Bounine, Helen Hayes is Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, and the costumes are by René Hubert.
Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
Focused on the tsar and tsarina, with Oscar-winning costumes by Yvonne Blake. Fiona Fullerton (Shaka Zulu) plays Anastasia.
Fall of Eagles (1974)
A sprawling BBC miniseries that focuses on three ruling European families (the Hapsburgs of Austria-Hungary, the Hohenzollerns of Germany, and the Romanovs of Russia), from 1848 to 1918. Sounds like exactly my cup of tea, except I don’t think I can take the videography. Pippa Vickers plays what appears to be a very minor role as Anastasia.
The first episode shows the later days of Anastasia and the royal family, while subsequent episodes focus on Anna Anderson — this TV miniseries is firmly in the “Anna was Anastasia” camp. Amy Irving (Yentl, The Far Pavilions) plays Anna, Jennifer Dundas (Little Gloria … Happy at Last) plays young Anastasia, and Rex Harrison, Olivia de Havilland, and Omar Sharif round out the cast. You can read all about my pre-teen obsession!
Assassin of the Tsar (1991)
Malcolm McDowell plays a man in an asylum who claims to be Yakov Yurovsky, chief guard and executioner of the Romanovs. Apparently much of the film is a flashback to the Russian Revolution. Olga Borisova plays Anastasia.
Aka Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny — I definitely need to see this! Focused on Rasputin and told from Tsarevich Alexei’s perspective, with Alan Rickman as Rasputin, Greta Scacchi as Alexandra, Ian McKellen as Nicholas II, and Hungarian actress Patricia Kovács as Anastasia.
Y’all will kill me if I don’t include the animated film VERY LOOSELY based on the story of Anna Anderson. Meg Ryan and Kirsten Dunst voice Anna/Anastasia.
The Romanovs: An Imperial Family (2000)
A Russian production: the last year and a half of the Romanovs, with Olga Budina as Anastasia.
Russian Ark (2002)
A weird, arty, visually interesting but story-wise boring AF film showing various episodes in the history of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. Nicholas II and family show up having tea, and then the daughters (including Anna Antonelli as Anastasia) do some arty dancing through the palace.
The Lost Prince (2003)
A so/so plot-wise, fabulously costumed BBC miniseries about Prince John (1905-19), youngest child of Britain’s King George V and Queen Mary (Miranda Richardson), who had epilepsy and was hidden from public view for most of his short life. In one scene, the British royal family is shown vacationing with the Romanovs, as they did. Algina Lipskis plays Anastasia.
I weirdly want to watch this Russian docudrama about the Romanov dynasty from the first Russian tsar, Michael (1596-1645) through Nicholas II. I can’t find out who played Anastasia, in what must be a very minor role.
Grigoriy R. (2014)
A Russian miniseries focused on Rasputin. Once again, I can’t find a credit for Anastasia, but I see her in stills so I know she’s there!
The Last Czars (2019)
The trainwreck-y Netflix docudrama about Nicholas II and family (and Alexandra’s nipple). Gabija Pazusyte plays Anastasia, and Indre Patkauskaite randomly plays Anna Anderson.
Anastasia: Once Upon a Time (2020)
A digitally-released movie that is pissing off people right and left: “Anastasia Romanova escapes through a portal when her family is threatened by Vladimir Lenin, and she finds herself in the year 1988, befriended by a young American girl.” Tasteful much?
What’s your favorite portrayal of the real Anastasia on screen?