11 Best Movies That Feature Napoleon Bonaparte


The next couple of years is shaping up to be big for anyone who likes film/TV depictions of Napoleon Bonaparte. Ridley Scott has a 2023 movie based on the historical figure, which was previously called Kitbag, but now carries Napoleon as its title. Steven Spielberg is another well-known director getting in on the Napoleon action, with a limited series in development that’s based on an unrealized Stanley Kubrick screenplay.

It might be enough to qualify as something of a pop culture resurgence for the famed French military commander and political leader whose life was naturally dramatic and conflict-filled enough for cinema. These upcoming projects are far from the only Napoleon-related media out there, as he’s been depicted in countless films since the silent era, many of which have become classics.

11 ‘Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian’ (2009)

Director: Shawn Levy

Image via 20th Century Fox

There were a total of three Night at the Museum movies, with things escalating into denser and sillier territory with each installment. The series involves a large number of museum exhibits that magically come to life at night, and in the second film, Battle of the Smithsonian, various figures come to life and split into factions within the museum, leading to warfare.

And as far as historical figures associated with warfare go, few are as notable as Napoleon. He definitely ends up on the more villainous side, given his allies include Al Capone and Ivan the Terrible, but given Night at the Museum is a family-friendly movie, thankfully, things never end up getting too dark or genuinely violent. It’s a classic family comedy, and a mostly forgettable one that might nonetheless still entertain younger viewers.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

Release Date
May 20, 2009

Shawn Levy

Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Owen Wilson, Hank Azaria, Robin Williams, Christopher Guest



Watch on Hulu

10 ‘The Story of Mankind’ (1957)

Director: Irwin Allen

The Story of Mankind - 1957
Image via Warner Bros.

Like Désirée, The Story of Mankind is another movie featuring Napoleon. The film was made in the 1950s and has mostly been forgotten about decades later, making it something that’s less than amazing overall. Its premise is wild, as it involves the entire human race being put on trial by divine beings, with the court of sorts combing over various scenes from history involving various famous figures, more or less as evidence for the trial.

This allows The Story of Mankind to have a huge cast, with more than 20 historical figures featured throughout the film. One of them is Napoleon, played by a young Dennis Hopper some years before he became known for playing off-the-wall and intense villains. The Story of Mankind is a curious and messy film but an undeniably ambitious one that also features Abraham Lincoln, Moses, Joan of Arc, and William Shakespeare as characters, among many others.

Buy on Amazon

9 ‘Love and Death’ (1975)

Director: Woody Allen

Love and Death - 1975
Image via United Artists

Love and Death aims to provide a more humorous look at Russian literature than the more serious War and Peace from 10 years earlier. It’s a parody mixed with a historical comedy and centers on a pacifist who’s enlisted into the Russian army before getting tangled up in a plot to assassinate Napoleon.

Historical accuracy is not the order of the day here, but with Love and Death being a very tongue-in-cheek comedy, that’s more than understandable. A comical depiction of Napoleon is on offer here, and he’s a fairly prominent character in this film which also finds time to gently parody non-Russian European movies, like films by Ingmar Bergman. It’s about what you’d expect from a Woody Allen historical comedy film, for better or worse.

Watch on Prime Video

8 ‘Désirée’ (1954)

Director: Henry Koster

Désirée - 1954
Image via 20th Century Fox

Marlon Brando is surely one of the most prestigious actors ever to play Napoleon, which he does here in Désirée. It’s a historical drama more concerned with romance than war. It follows the brief engagement of Napoleon to Désirée Clary, who went on to become the Queen of Sweden after her involvement with Napoleon.

Like many films from decades past that weren’t well-received, Désirée is now rather obscure, with another 1954 movie starring Marlon Brando — the Best Picture-winning On the Waterfront — enduring as a classic. Still, it might be worth the novelty of seeing Brando’s take on Napoleon: one of the most famous actors of all time portraying one of the most famous historical figures of all time. Marlon Brando has been in better movies, sure, but it’s a worthwhile watch for his performance alone.

Rent on Apple TV

7 ‘Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ (1989)

Director: Stephen Herek

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - 1989
Image via Orion Pictures

Regarding comedic depictions of Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure might well have Love and Death beat. After all, the latter doesn’t involve time travel and therefore wasn’t able to feature a scene of Napoleon going bowling in the 20th century.

Napoleon’s far from the only historical figure to appear in the movie, given the plot involves two high school students traveling through time and meeting important people from history, all so they can pass their history class. It’s an entertaining 1980s classic for a reason, with its creative use of real-life figures like Napoleon making it a good deal of fun, even to this day. It’s an iconic Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter movie, and a very good time overall.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Release Date
February 17, 1989

Stephen Herek

Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shor, Tony Steedman



Rent on Apple TV

6 ‘Time Bandits’ (1981)

Director: Terry Gilliam

Time Bandits - 1981
Image via HandMade Films

Time Bandits is one of Terry Gilliam’s most celebrated movies and is an engaging mix of comedy, fantasy, and history that shows Gilliam was so much more than “just” a member of the iconic comedy group Monty Python. The plot involves a young boy getting tangled up with a group of thieves who go through history via time travel to steal various treasures and fortunes, with their journey colliding with Napoleon at one point.

In the film, he’s portrayed by the late Ian Holm, who’s probably best known for his roles in The Lord of the Rings movies as Bilbo Baggins, and his performance in the original Alien as Ash. His appearance in Time Bandits as Napoleon is a small one, thanks to the film’s somewhat episodic nature, but it’s nevertheless memorable.

Time Bandits

Release Date
July 13, 1981

Terry Gilliam

John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin



Watch on Max

5 ‘Napoleon’ (2023)

Director: Ridley Scott

Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon charging into battle with a sword
Image via Apple

Within the gargantuan filmography of Ridley Scott, there are plenty of remarkable (and some not-so-remarkable) historical epics, with 2023’s Napoleon being the latest of these. Given the title, one shouldn’t be surprised that it’s about Napoleon Bonaparte, but viewers may be surprised – in a pleasant way – to see that Napoleon is one of the better epics Scott has directed.

It might not be quite as good as Gladiator or the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven, but it’s much better than more recent epics like 2014’s Exodus: Gods and Kings and 2010’s Robin Hood. It boasts some hugely impressive – and just plain huge – battle sequences throughout its 2.5+ hour runtime, and also boasts some great performances from its lead actors, especially Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, and Vanessa Kirby in the role of Empress Joséphine, Napoleon’s first wife.


Release Date
November 22, 2023

Ridley Scott

Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Ben Miles, Ludivine Sagnier


Watch in Cinemas

4 ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (2002)

Director: Kevin Reynolds

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
Image via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

There have been numerous adaptations of the novel The Count of Monte Cristo, with 2002’s being one of the biggest and most well-known. Its plot takes place in the early 1800s and primarily focuses on a man who’s wrongfully imprisoned and then seeks revenge after he makes a daring escape.

Napoleon’s role in the story is fairly limited, but he’s still a key part of The Count of Monte Cristo‘s opening scenes. He’s depicted in exile and near the end of his life, interacting with the main characters after they come upon the island he’s exiled on, seeking medical assistance. It’s a fictionalized event, of course, but it coincides with what happened to Napoleon in the final years of his life. As a historical adventure and drama film, The Count of Monte Cristo works well overall.

Watch on Hoopla

3 ‘Waterloo’ (1970)

Director: Sergey Bondarchuk

Rod Steiger in front of his troops in the 1970 Napoleon film Waterloo
Image via Columbia Pictures

The Battle of Waterloo wasn’t the only large-scale battle Napoleon was involved with by any means, but it might be the most famous. Some of that could be due to the iconic ABBA song, “Waterloo,” which directly name-drops Napoleon and has a catchy melody that is impossible to forget once heard.

The battle — and the way its aftermath was the beginning of the end for Napoleon — makes it ripe for film, and hence Waterloo (1970) was born. When it comes to story and pacing, it leaves something to be desired, but Waterloo has good performances and an amazing battle sequence shown on an unbelievably large scale; arguably some of the most spectacular scenes of combat ever seen in any war movie. As far as older action-packed movies go, Waterloo delivers.

Buy on Amazon

2 ‘Napoléon’ (1927)

Director: Abel Gance

Napoleon, surrounded by the crew of his ship, in Abel Gance's

One of the most famous silent films of all time would have to be 1927’s Napoléon, which is sometimes given the full title: Napoléon vu par Abel Gance (Napoleon as seen by Abel Gance). Abel Gance was a revolutionary filmmaker for his time, and Napoléon is seen as his most ambitious and noteworthy film. It’s a stunning achievement, considering its age, and is up there as one of the finest biopics of all time, without a doubt.

This epic goes for over five hours, covering much of Napoleon’s early life and career. Gance was so ambitious that he originally intended this to be the first of six films about the historical figure, with the final one ending with Napoleon’s death. There’s no greater testament to how eventful Napoleon’s life was than that more than five hours of film potentially only recounted one-sixth of it.

Buy on Amazon

1 ‘War and Peace’ (1965)

Director: Sergey Bondarchuk

War and Peace - 1965
Image via Mosfilm

Admittedly, War and Peace is more concerned with the Napoleonic Wars than it is with Napoleon as a character who only features briefly. Still, he does inevitably show up in this incredibly long seven-hour/four-part movie, perhaps because there was more than enough time in such an epic for him to appear.

It’s a movie that spares no expense regarding budget, runtime, or production, and it stands as perhaps the ultimate film/TV adaptation of the novel of the same name. For anyone who likes a good historical drama/war film, War and Peace is a must-watch, though those with a particular interest in Napoleon should brace themselves for his minimal screen time. Still, it’s worth watching in any event, as this is one of the most spectacular (and lengthy) war epics of all time.

Watch on Max

NEXT: Underrated War Movies Everyone Should See


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *