The Lion in Winter (1968) (Blu-ray)

by - March 12th, 2024 - Blu-ray and DVD

How does the Blu-ray/DVD Disc stack up? (all ratings out of 10.)
  • Movie10
  • Video8
  • Audio7
  • Extras5
  • Overall8


“For these ten years you’ve lived with everything I’ve lost, and loved another woman through it all, and I am cruel? I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice!”

Eleanor of Aquitaine


The Lion in Winter (1968) | PHOTO: MGM

Nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor (Peter O’Toole), Director (Anthony Harvey) and Costume Design (Margaret Furse) and winner of three Oscars — Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Adapted Screenplay (James Goldman) and Music Score (John Barry) — The Lion in Winter is to my mind a masterpiece. Goldman, adapting his own award-winning play for the screen, delivers a stellar script that O’Toole and Hepburn make melodiously cantankerous music out of, and the unbelievably stocked supporting cast includes the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, John Castle, Nigel Terry, and Jane Merrow in choice supporting roles.

The film concerns an elder King Henry II (O’Toole, who also portrayed a younger version of the historical figure in 1964’s Becket — a performance he also received an Academy Award nomination for) who summons his three sons Richard (Hopkins), Geoffrey (Castle), and the sniveling John (Terry) to his Anjou residence during Christmas. He also orders his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn) to be briefly released from her imprisonment for this holiday gathering, as it appears he is ready to name his successor to the English throne.

What follows is a witty, frequently funny, sometimes shockingly violent (mostly emotionally, but sometimes physically as well) affair that also includes Henry’s latest mistress Alais Capet (Merrow), a French princess who is the half-sister to King Philip II of France (Dalton) and also happens to be betrothed to Richard (who seems rather disinterested in marrying her). There’s lots of double-dealing, a bit of back-stabbing, and a whole lot of familial dirty laundry strewn out on the table for all to see. All-in-all, it’s gloriously entertaining.

The Lion in Winter (1968) | PHOTO: MGM

As terrific as the entire ensemble may be, make no mistake, this is the O’Toole-Hepburn show right from the start. The moment the duo take the screen together sparks cannot help but fly. They twist and turn the verbal knife into one another’s bellies with gleeful, purposefully Machiavellian relish. Yet they also generate an immeasurable aura of respect for one another, one that is hewed with vestiges of love that hasn’t so much been lost as it has been set aside for the sake of political gains. But it’s still there, residing just underneath the surface, and the way O’Toole and Hepburn can make it vividly real with just the raise of an eyebrow, the crook of a shoulder, or the oral stammer of an otherwise venom-filled syllable is simply masterful.

What can I say? I adore The Lion in Winter, and even if it can’t entirely escape its theatrical roots, this vividly realized yet still dynamically character-driven epic is an absolute all-timer I could watch on repeat for days on end and never grow tired of.


The Lion in Winter is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1 1080p transfer.


This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack along with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and includes optional English SDH subtitles.


All extras are the same as found on Kino’s previous 2018 release of the film and include:

Audio Commentary by Director Anthony Harvey recorded in 2000
Interview with Sound Recordist Simon Kaye (10:23)
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:18)

A new slipsleeve has also been included with this rerelease of the title.


The Lion in Winter is one of my all-time favorite historical melodramas. Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn are electrifying, and the supporting cast — many of whom were at the very beginning of their careers — is magnificent right across the board. While Kino’s KL Studio Classics rerelease of the title offers up nothing new (other than another high-quality slipsleeve that has become de rigueur for this product line), this is still a fine Blu-ray and comes highly recommended.

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