Mary Queen of Scots – 4K UHD Review

Mary Queen of Scots is a 2018 historical drama film that was directed by Josie Rourke and written by Beau Willimon, based on John Guy’s biography titled Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart. The film stars Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots and Margot Robbie as her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, and chronicles the 1569 conflict between their two countries. Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, and Guy Pearce also star in supporting roles.

The movie starts off in 1561, with nineteen-year-old Mary, the Catholic Queen of Scotland, as she’s returning to her home country from France following the death of her husband, Francis II of France, to take up her throne, where she is received by her half brother, the Earl of Moray. In neighboring England, her cousin, twenty-eight-year-old Elizabeth is Protestant Queen of England — unmarried, childless, and threatened by Mary’s potential claim to her throne. Mary soon clashes with the cleric John Knox, and dismisses him from her court. Knox is a Protestant and is the leader of the Scottish Reformation and perceives Mary to be a danger to the kingdom’s Protestant supremacy.

The film was originally planned to be a Scarlett Johannson vehicle, scheduled to begin shooting in mid-2007 on a $25-30 million budget. After Johansson dropped out, the film sat in development hell for several years. Mary Queen of Scots had its world premiere on the closing night of AFI Fest on November 15, 2018, was released in the United States on December 7, 2018, and was released in the United Kingdom on January 18, 2019. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the performances (particularly Ronan and Robbie), and costumes, but was heavily criticized for the screenplay and considerable number of historical inaccuracies. The film received three nominations at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards, and two nominations for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hair styling at the 91st Academy Awards. For her performance, Robbie earned nominations for a SAG Award and BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, respectively.

The Film Itself (3/5):

Mary Queen of Scots is a movie that centralizes itself around 16th-century politics, and the intensity that comes from within. With that intensity being different than what we see in our political world today, my wife and I found it interesting to sit down and experience these experiences. Overall, it has a pretty solid and heartfelt storyline that presents itself in a similar to the old-time theatrics, that’s packed with a considerable amount of drama, and performances from some extremely passionate cast members. However, this movie seems to try to pack way too much content within its allotted run time, making it feel pretty confusing, and rather difficult to follow. The lack of consistency from within the storyline had both my wife and I asking a number of questions as it progressed, that we feel didn’t get answered by the time we reached the end. I think after some time with this, I’m going to have to re-visit it, keeping my eyes peeled for things I may have missed. Regardless of the historical inaccuracies, it was pretty entertaining, but it certainly had its decent number of problems.

Picture Quality (5/5):

Presented in a 2.39:1 presentation from Universal Studios, the 4K UHD release of Mary Queen of Scots gives audiences an extremely clean and clear cut look into the world of early modern politics. Representing both Queen Elizabeth and Mary, the makeup and costumes that were used for the two titular characters appeared to be historically accurate, and the outfits that the supporting characters wore were pretty on point with what I personally remembered from the history books. The colorization of the movie is extremely sharp, allowing for a distinct separation of the character and natural elements. With that sharpness taken into consideration, the utilization of HDR and Dolby Vision doesn’t boost a significantly bright palette, however, with the crispness of the visuals and the period that’s being presented with this movie, it should be expected for things to have a slightly washed appearance to them. If I were to pick a favorite series of sequences for this movie, it would definitely have to be those that took place in the outdoors. As the various landscapes and mountainous regions are panned across the screen, these pieces will certainly leave you in awe with their beauty.

Audio Quality (5/5):

Packaged with an English Dolby Atmos audio track, the 4K UHD release of Mary Queen of Scots packs an absolutely all out immersive audio experience for its viewers that are able to make use of the technology. The various environmental elements, both indoors and outdoors have just a small enough tone to them that makes them feel as if they really are within a set distance from the camera. The transitions in between the channels are effortless, adding the overall amount of immersion that is being given, and the dialogue is spoken cleanly enough that it makes sure that the characters are able to be heard and understood without any issues whatsoever.

The Packaging (3/5):

The 4K UHD release of Mary Queen of Scots comes packaged in the standard two-disc UHD amaray case.  In that case, the 4K copy of the movie, and the Blu-ray copy.  The UHD has the same piece of artwork that’s been included on the case, while the Blu-ray only has the standard release text.  There’s a digital copy redemption pamphlet and a slipcover that’s been made available in the original pressing of the release that features the same artwork as the case.


Special Features (3/5):

There’s a handful of additional features that are included with this release of Mary Queen of Scots. However, all of the available content is included on the Blu-ray disc, with no additional features included on the 4K UHD disc. That said, the content that’s included does offer a small expansion and historical look into the storyline, while others share a small look into the production work and the behind-the-scenes efforts that went on during the filming and production phases. These pieces, while they were an interesting visit, could have been much more detailed than they really were as this could have been an opportunity to include a decent number of historical facts that have since been documented from when this feud took place. That said, included with this release is:

  • An Epic Confrontation
  • Tudor Feminism
  • Something About Mary’s
  • Optional Feature Audio Commentary With Director Josie Rourke and Composer Max Richter

Technical Specs:


Codec: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

HDR: Dolby Vision + HDR10

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1


English: Dolby Atmos

English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)

French: Dolby Digital 7.1

Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1


English SDH, French, Spanish


Original Film: 124 Minutes

Final Thoughts:

Overall, the experience that Mary Queen of Scots gave wasn’t horrible; but it also really wasn’t anything worth writing home about. The storyline is a difficult follow, but the performances of the cast members (particularly Robbie and Ronan) were executed very well, and helped to make up for the lack of direction this movie took. The visual and audio presentation of the 4K UHD release was really nicely executed with its great use of HDR and Dolby Vision while the Atmos track really did a great job at making you feel like you were right there in the middle of everything. The special features were an “okay” touch, but I do feel that they could have been much more detailed or even have more smaller features included. If you’re considering this release for your collection, I would definitely recommend checking out, but wait for it to go on sale. Mary Queen of Scots will be available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD beginning on February 26.

Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.