The Iron Lady (film)

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The Iron Lady
UK Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhyllida Lloyd
Written byAbi Morgan
Produced byDamian Jones
CinematographyElliot Davis
Edited byJustine Wright
Music byThomas Newman[1]
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 26 December 2011 (2011-12-26) (Australia)
  • 6 January 2012 (2012-01-06) (United Kingdom)
  • 19 January 2012 (2012-01-19) (America)
  • 15 February 2012 (2012-02-15) (France)
Running time
104 minutes[2]
  • France
  • United Kingdom
Budget$13 million[3]
Box office$115.9 million[4]

The Iron Lady is a 2011 biographical drama film based on the life and career of Margaret Thatcher, a British politician who was the longest-serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of the 20th century and the first woman to hold the office.[5] The film was directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Abi Morgan. Thatcher is portrayed primarily by Meryl Streep,[6] and, in her formative and early political years, by Alexandra Roach. Thatcher's husband, Denis Thatcher, is portrayed by Jim Broadbent and by Harry Lloyd as the younger Denis. Thatcher's longest-serving cabinet member and eventual deputy, Geoffrey Howe, is portrayed by Anthony Head.[7]

Despite the film's mixed reception, Streep's performance was widely acclaimed. She received her 17th Oscar nomination for her portrayal and ultimately won the award for the third time—29 years after her second Oscar win. She also earned her third Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama award (her eighth Golden Globe Award win overall) and her second BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The film also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and the BAFTA Award for Best Makeup and Hair.

The film was loosely based on John Campbell's biography The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher, from Grocer's Daughter to Prime Minister.[8]


The story begins with Thatcher in the present. In a series of flashbacks, the audience is presented with a young Margaret Roberts working at the family grocer's shop in Grantham, listening to the political speeches of her father, whom she idolised – it is also hinted that she had a poor relationship with her mother, a housewife.

We learn she has won a place at Somerville College, Oxford University, revealing that her interests toward Politics rather than Chemistry and her struggle as a young lower-middle-class woman attempting to break into a snobbish male-dominated Conservative Party and find a seat in the House of Commons. She meets affluent businessman Denis Thatcher who is impressed by her eloquence and asks her to marry him; she accepts, but not after telling him she will not merely look beautiful at his side and be a mere housewife and mother, which she sums up in the exclamation: "I don't want to die cleaning a teacup."

Her struggles to fit in as a "Lady Member" of the House and as Education Secretary in Edward Heath's Cabinet are also shown, as are her friendship with Airey Neave, her decision to stand for Leader of the Conservative Party, her eventual victory, including her voice coaching and image change.

Further flashbacks examine historical events during her time as Prime Minister, after winning the 1979 General Election, including the rising unemployment related to her monetarist policies and the tight 1981 budget (over the misgivings of "wet" members of her Cabinet – Ian Gilmour, Francis Pym, Michael Heseltine, and Jim Prior), the 1981 Brixton riot, the 1984–1985 UK miners' strike, and the bombing in Brighton of the Grand Hotel during the 1984 Conservative Party Conference, when she and her husband were almost killed. Also shown, slightly out of chronological sequence, is her decision to retake the Falkland Islands following the islands' invasion by Argentina in 1982, the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano and Britain's subsequent victory in the Falklands War, her friendship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and emergence as a world figure, and the economic boom of the late 1980s.

By 1990, Thatcher is shown as an imperious but ageing figure, ranting aggressively at her cabinet, refusing to accept that the "Poll Tax" is unjust, even while it is causing riots, and fiercely opposed to European integration.[9] Her deputy, Geoffrey Howe, resigns after being humiliated by her in a cabinet meeting. Heseltine challenges her for the party leadership, and her loss of support from her cabinet colleagues leaves her little choice but to resign as Prime Minister after eleven years in office. A teary-eyed Thatcher exits 10 Downing Street for the last time as Prime Minister with Denis comforting her. She is shown as still disheartened about it almost twenty years later.

Eventually, Thatcher is shown packing her late husband's belongings and telling him it's time for him to go. Denis' ghost leaves her as she cries that she is not yet ready to lose him, to which he replies, "You're going to be fine on your own... you always have been", before leaving forever. Having finally overcome her grief, she contentedly washes a teacup alone in her kitchen.



Filming began in the UK on 31 December 2010, and the film was released in late 2011.

In preparation for her role, Streep sat through a session at the House of Commons of Parliament in January 2011 to observe British MPs in action.[11] Extensive filming took place at the neogothic Manchester Town Hall.[12]

Streep said: "The prospect of exploring the swathe cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge. I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervour and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own."[13]

NPR commentator Robert Seigel and Thatcher biographer John Campbell accused writer Abi Morgan and star Meryl Streep of having the most say in the film's production and dictating some historical inaccuracies, such as the film's photography showing no other woman serving in the House of Commons during the time Thatcher was serving,[8] with the hopes of presenting a different image of Thatcher to the film's American audience.[8]


Historical inaccuracies[edit]

It is suggested in the film that Thatcher had said goodbye to her friend Airey Neave only a few moments before his assassination by the Irish National Liberation Army and had to be held back from the scene by security officers. In fact, she was not in Westminster at the time of his death and was informed of it while carrying out official duties elsewhere.[14]

The film does not portray any other female MPs in Parliament. In fact, during Thatcher's time in Parliament, the total number of female MPs ranged between 19 and 41.[15] Additionally, her cabinets are always depicted as all-male, but one woman, The Baroness Young, was a cabinet member between 1981 and 1983, serving as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and later Lord Privy Seal while also serving as leader of the House of Lords.

The Labour Party leader Michael Foot is depicted as a critic of the decision to send a task force to the Falkland Islands, and Thatcher is shown admonishing him in the wake of Britain's victory over Argentina. In fact, Foot supported the decision to send a task force, something for which Thatcher expressed her appreciation.[16] John Campbell noted that her decisions in office became an inspiration for the Labour Party's pro-middle ground policies enacted when Tony Blair served as Prime Minister.[8]

Campbell also noted that while Thatcher thought a patronising male environment dominated the House of Commons,[8] and that the film showed the representation from her point of view,[8] it did not encourage her to maintain the upper-middle-class image she used early in her political career as the film suggests and that Thatcher did in fact exploit the fact that she was raised by a grocer in a small Lincolnshire town and had a very ordinary background when she was running for leader of the Conservative Party.[8]

Thatcher's staunch opposition to the 1990 reunification of Germany is not mentioned. The Prime Minister had felt that reunification might pave the way for the expansion of Nazi sympathy and distrusted the West German government.[17]

Critical reception[edit]

Meryl Streep's performance garnered critical acclaim and she received her third Academy Award, her second BAFTA award and her eighth Golden Globe award for her portrayal as Margaret Thatcher in this film.

The Iron Lady received mixed reviews from critics, although there was strong praise for Streep's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52% and an average score of 5.70/10, based on 234 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Meryl Streep's performance as The Iron Lady is reliably perfect, but it's mired in bland, self-important storytelling."[18] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[19] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[20]

Her children, Mark and Carol, have criticised the film's depiction of Thatcher and reportedly said before the completion of the film that "it sounds like some left-wing fantasy."[21] Stuart Jeffries of the British newspaper The Guardian was cautiously optimistic about a non-British actor playing Thatcher.[10] Karen Sue Smith of America wrote that "by combining the Baroness's real roles of wife, mother and leader, the film's portrait of her does what many purported 'lives of great men' fail to do – namely, show the person in context, in the quotidian."[22]

The Daily Telegraph reported in January 2012 that "it is impossible not to be disturbed by [Streep's] depiction of Lady Thatcher's decline into dementia" as part of an article that was headlined: "The Iron Lady reflects society's insensitive attitude towards people with dementia."[23] Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, praising Streep's performance but lamenting that "she's all dressed up with nowhere to go" in a film that cannot decide what it wants to say about Thatcher: "Few people were neutral in their feelings about her, except the makers of this picture."[24] Mark Kermode gave the film a negative review.[25]

Despite the film's mixed reviews, Streep's title role performance garnered critical acclaim. Kevin Maher of The Times said: "Streep has found the woman within the caricature."[26] David Gritten in The Daily Telegraph commented: "Awards should be coming Streep's way; yet her brilliance rather overshadows the film itself."[27] Xan Brooks of The Guardian said Streep's performance "is astonishing and all but flawless".[28] Richard Corliss of Time named Streep's performance one of the Top 10 Movie Performances of 2011.[29]

Streep's portrayal ultimately won her the Academy Award for Best Actress (her 17th nomination and third award overall), as well as several other awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama.[30][31] The film also won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

Reactions from British politicians[edit]

In an interview with the BBC, then Prime Minister David Cameron described Streep's performance as "great" and "fantastic" but opined that the filmmakers should have waited before making the movie and focused more on Thatcher's time in office rather than her personal life and struggles with dementia.[32][33][34] Former Conservative Party chairman Norman Fowler was more critical of the film and stated "She [Thatcher] was never, in my experience, the half-hysterical, over-emotional, over-acting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep."[32] Thatcher's Home secretary Douglas Hurd described the dementia storyline as "ghoulish" in an interview with the Evening Standard.[32]

Thatcher stated before her death on 8 April 2013 that she did not watch films or programmes about herself.[35]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $30 million in the North American market, and $85 million in other markets, for a worldwide gross of $115 million.[4]


  1. "Soldiers of the Queen"
  2. "MT"
  3. "Grocer's Daughter"
  4. "Grand Hotel"
  5. "Swing Parliament"
  6. "Eyelash"
  7. "Shall We Dance?"
  8. "Denis"
  9. "The Great in Great Britain"
  10. "Airey Neave"
  11. "Discord and Harmony"
  12. "The Twins"
  13. "Nation of Shopkeepers"
  14. "Fiscal Responsibility"
  15. "Crisis of Confidence"
  16. "Community Charge"
  17. "Casta Diva"
  18. "The Difficult Decisions"
  19. "Exclusion Zone"
  20. "Statecraft"
  21. "Steady the Buffs"
  22. "Prelude No. 1 in C Major, BWV 846" (Johann Sebastian Bach)[36]

The trailer for the film features Madness's ska/pop song "Our House".[37] The teaser trailer features Clint Mansell's theme tune for the science-fiction film Moon.[37]

Not included on the soundtrack album or listings, although credited among the eight songs at the end of the film, is "I'm in Love with Margaret Thatcher" by Burnley punk band Notsensibles, which was re-released as a single due to the publicity. The song appears seventy-five minutes into the film as part of the Falklands War victory celebrations.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards and Nominations
Award Category Nominee Result
84th Academy Awards[38][39] Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Makeup Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland Won
1st AACTA International Awards Best International Actress Meryl Streep Won
BAFTA Awards[40][41] Best Leading Actress Won
Best Original Screenplay Abi Morgan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jim Broadbent Nominated
Best Makeup and Hair Marese Langan, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Nominated
Best Makeup Marese Langan Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Nominated
Denver Film Critics Society Best Actress Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Won
Irish Film and Television Awards Best International Actress Nominated
Best Costume Design Consolata Boyle Won
London Critics Circle Film Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
British Actress of the Year Olivia Colman Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Won
New York Film Critics Online Awards Best Actress Won
Online Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Actress Nominated

Home media[edit]

The Iron Lady was released on DVD in the United States and the United Kingdom on 30 April 2012. The special features in the DVD include Making The Iron Lady, Bonus Featurettes, Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher, Battle in the House of Commons, Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits, Denis: The Man Behind the Woman.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Thomas Newman to Score 'The Iron Lady'". Film Music Reporter. 23 September 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  2. ^ "The Iron Lady (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
  3. ^ "The Iron Lady (2012) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ a b "The Iron Lady (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 September 2014.
  5. ^ Hoyle, Ben (21 March 2007). "Iron Lady Set to Follow the Queen on Screen". The Times. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  6. ^ Peck, Tom (2 July 2010). "Meryl Streep Takes on Her Toughest Role: The Iron Lady". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  7. ^ "The Iron Lady (2011)". IMDb. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "How Accurate Is 'The Iron Lady'?". NPR. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  9. ^ She refers anachronistically to the European Community (as it was then called) as the "European Union", its new name under the 1993 Maastricht Treaty, which became widely used by the end of the 1990s. See History of the European Union.
  10. ^ a b Jefferies, Stuart (9 February 2011). "Meryl Streep Playing Margaret Thatcher – What's Not to Like?". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 February 2011.
  11. ^ "Meryl Streep Attends Parliament for Thatcher Research". The Independent. 20 January 2011. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  12. ^ "Meryl Streep movie Iron Lady to be screened in Manchester town hall". men. 9 December 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Image of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher Unveiled". BBC News. 8 February 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  14. ^ "'The Iron Lady': What Meryl Streep and Co. Got Wrong About Margaret Thatcher". Yahoo!. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  15. ^ "Women MPs and parliamentary candidates since 1945 – UK Political Info". Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  16. ^ Moore, Charles. Margaret Thatcher, The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning. (Allen Lane, 2013), pp. 673 and 754
  17. ^ Hope, Christopher; Willgress, Lydia (30 December 2016). "Margaret Thatcher had deep misgivings over reunification of Germany, National Archives reveal". Daily Telegraph.
  18. ^ "The Iron Lady". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  19. ^ "The Iron Lady Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  20. ^ Weinstein, Joshua (15 January 2012). "Indie Box Office: 'The Iron Lady' Seizes $5.4M". Reuters. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  21. ^ Walker, Tim (17 July 2010). "Margaret Thatcher's Family Are 'Appalled' at Meryl Streep Film". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 19 July 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  22. ^ Karen Sue, Smith (20 February 2011). "A Grocer's Daughter". America. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  23. ^ "The Iron Lady and Margaret Thatcher's Dementia: Why This Despicable Film Makes Voyeurs of Us All'". The Daily Telegraph. 14 January 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (11 January 2012). "Meryl Streep upstages Lady Thatcher". Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  25. ^ "The Iron Lady reviewed by Mark Kermode". YouTube. 10 January 2012. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  26. ^ "Meryl Streep Film The Iron Lady Wows British Critics". BBC News. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  27. ^ "The Iron Lady: Review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  28. ^ "The Iron Lady: First Screening". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2011.
  29. ^ Corliss, Richard (7 December 2011). "The Top 10 Everything of 2011 – Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady". Time. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  30. ^ "Meryl Streep Explains Globes Cursing". Access Hollywood. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
  31. ^ Karger, Dave (12 February 2012). "BAFTA Winners Announced". Inside Movies (blog of Entertainment Weekly). Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  32. ^ a b c ""The Iron Lady" criticized by British leaders". CBS News. 6 January 2012.
  33. ^ "David Cameron: 'I wish 'The Iron Lady' hadn't been made yet'". NME. 7 January 2012.
  34. ^ "British Prime Minister David Cameron criticizes 'Iron Lady'". 6 January 2012.
  35. ^ "The Iron Lady: Baroness Thatcher will not see film of her life". 15 November 2011. Retrieved 17 May 2020 – via
  36. ^ "Iron Lady, The- Soundtrack details". Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  37. ^ a b "The Iron Lady Movie Trailer". 29 June 2011. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  38. ^ "Oscar 2012 winners – The Full List". The Guardian. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  39. ^ "Nominees and Winners for the 84th Academy Awards". Academy Awards of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars). Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  40. ^ "Bafta Film Awards 2012: Nominations". BBC News. 27 March 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  41. ^ Pond, Steve (12 February 2012). "'The Artist' Dominates at BAFTA Awards". Reuters. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
  42. ^ "Iron Lady DVD Movie". Retrieved 9 September 2017.

External links[edit]