The Iron Lady: Margaret Thatcher – an on-screen history

A look at those who wielded the handbag long before Meryl Streep


Decision 79 (1979)


Among the lighter moments during the BBC’s election night programme were the thoughts of Glyn Worsnip, the songs of Richard Stilgoe and – as presented below – the impressions of Janet Brown as our incoming prime minister.

Anyone for Denis? (1981)

Angela Thorne played the PM in this comedy based on Private Eye’s Dear Bill letters, which were purportedly penned by Denis Thatcher. Satirist John Wells wrote and starred.

Spitting Image (1984)

The satirical puppet show portrayed Thatcher as a bullying tyrant and cross-dresser – most notably she wore suits, used the urinals and chomped on cigars. Steve Nallon lent his vocal talents to the part.

The Falklands Play (2002)

Originally commissioned by the BBC in 1983 for production and broadcast in 1986, Ian Curteis’s drama was subsequently shelved by Michael Grade (then controller of BBC1) for its pro-Thatcher stance and alleged jingoism. An amended and abridged version was eventually produced for transmission in 2002, with Patricia Hodge in the lead role.

Margaret Thatcher: the Long Walk to Finchley (2008)

The depiction of a young and flirtatious Margaret (Andrea Riseborough) raised eyebrows at the time, particularly for a scene in which Edward Heath mistakes Thatcher’s lust for power as passion for him. The drama, though, went on to win three Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, including a best actress win for Riseborough.

Margaret (2009)

In this examination of Margaret Thatcher’s fall from the premiership in the 1990 leadership election, Lindsay Duncan was on fine form. Here, Mrs Thatcher gives her reaction to Geoffrey Howe’s resignation speech.