In yesterday’s post, I introduced the first five of my all-time top ten list of movies about the Middle Ages. To recap, here are the first five:
- The Name Of The Rose
- Seventh Seal
- Monthy Python and the Holy Grail
Here is the rest of my all-time top ten movies about the Middle Ages:
- The Lion in Winter (1968) – Who cares if this is not altogether accurate historically! It’s based on a Broadway play (by James Goldman), which is why it’s so enjoyable. Plus, it stars Katherine Hepburn, who is magnificent as ever (she won an Oscar for her role), Peter O’Toole and youthful appearances from Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton (of James Bond fame). The plot follows the intra-familial disputes of the Plantagenet family, as an aging Henry II tries to decide who should be the next King of England. His two sons (Richard and John, who both became kings, anyway) and their mother, Eleanor of Acquitaine, engage in some devlish family subterfuge, and the whole plan for royal succession hangs in the balance.
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Robin and Marian (1976) – I had to get a Robin Hood reference into my list, but couldn’t decide which of the two I liked best. The Adventures of Robin Hood is one of the earliest films I can remember as a child, and Errol Flynn’s Robin and his “Merry Band of Men” were so much food for my boyish imagination. It’s a wonderfully satisfying, rollicking movie from start to finish that probably still holds up well (also stars Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains). Robin and Marian takes the Robin Hood legend 20 years beyond Adventures. Sean Connery (as Robin) returns from the Crusades, where he fought alongside Richard the Lionheart, and is reunited with several of his Merry Band of Men. He takes off in search of Maid Marian, who is now a nun. Well, I am a sucker for a good romance, and the chemistry that Connery and Audrey Hepburn develop on the screen is just lovely, what can I say. One of the saddest death scenes, ever! Screenplay by James Goldman (Lion in Winter).
- Beowulf (2007) – Though the Old English poem, Beowulf, is dated somewhere between the 8th and 11th centuries, I had to let it in through the gates of my Top 10 Middle Ages Films if only because of its resemblances to the Arthurian legends, and the later story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The movie, full of Hollywood stars and special effects, covers only part of the poem, but at least its the most compelling part. Beowulf, a Geat hero, comes to rid a Danish mead hall of the monster, Grendel, but after he succeeds, all hell breaks loose when Grendel’s mother unleashes her fury. The story is nightmarish and fantastical, but I liked the film for some of its tongue-in-cheek satire. The high-tech animation and colour heighten the drama and the intensity of some scenes. This could be classified as a medieval fantasy, but this was one I really liked!
- A Knight’s Tale (2003) – It is sometime in the Middle Ages, and a crowd is waiting for a jousting tournament to begin. And just like the pre-game warm-up for almost any modern sports event, the crowd breaks into a rousing chorus of … guess what? … “We will, we will, rock you!” And a young Heath Ledger soon appears on the scene sporting an Eddie Van Halen haircut. OK, so this is not a good historical film about the Middle Ages, but it succeeded for me, especially the jousting scenes and sword fights. Geoffrey Chaucer even gets involved. Ledger plays a commoner who wants to be a knight, but his low social status prevents him. He and his cronies manage to scheme their way into various jousts and other adventures and the film is a lot of fun, despite the modern rock soundtrack.
- Princess Bride (1987) – Another film that pokes fun at medieval archetypes, this film has garnered a cult following. It appears to be set in the Middle Ages, but its time frame is all over the place. There are swash-buckling heroes (á la Errol Flynn) and damsels in distress, sword fights, castles, giants and alchemists. It’s a bedtime story, told by a grandfather to his sleepy grandson, about the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright), who is engaged to marry the Prince of Florin, a boorish oaf, who she does not love. She is rescued by her childhood sweetheart, Wesley, through a hilarious set of circumstances and subplots. The plot gets a little goofy towards the end, but the characters are memorable, as are some of lines. You will always recognize a Princess Bride aficionado when you hear him/her utter, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Yes, I agree, brothers, I have spent all too much time with this list, but I did find it an enjoyable task. Someday, I will have to explain what movies are to you. You probably would not approve.