Films are a great way to pick up historical knowledge tempered with your own research of course. So let’s look at ten movies that captured great medieval battles. The first would have to be the Battle of Montgisard in 1177 where the leper king of Jerusalem Baldwin IV managed to defeat a numerically superior Saracen force. Here’s how the movie Arn portrayed it.
Ten years later and Saladin turned the tables on the crusaders defeating them at the Horns of Hattin – depicted in the movie Kingdom of Heaven.
Here’s a battle you may not know much about – I didn’t – but is a key date in the emergence of Islam. In the year 636CE, the Byzantine (or eastern Roman) army was defeated by an Arab army. This ended seven centuries of Roman rule in Syria and brought the region in to the Arab/Islamic caliphate.
When you’re heavily outnumbered, you need a leader to make a rousing speech – and who better than Henry V courtesy of Shakespeare played by Kenneth Branagh (or you could watch the Lawrence Olivier movie made in the 1940s).
Within the Templar era – a new enemy emerged that nobody in Europe could have forseen: The Mongols. This movie – called ‘Mongol’ – was co-funded by Germany, Russia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. And here’s taste of what the Mongol hordes brought into the Middle East and Europe, terrifying all in their path.
It’s often assumed that crusades were all against Islam. In fact, the medieval popes had other enemies in their sights. One was the Hussite heresy in eastern Europe, which proved very attractive to many people. In 1420, the Holy Roman Emperor fought for the Catholic church against the Hussite leader, Jan Zizka, at the Battle of Vitkov Hill captured in this movie.
Another thorn in the papal backside were the schismatic orthodox Christians and the Teutonic Knights were sent off to bring the Poles and Lithuanians into line. Unfortunately, all did not go as planned as the this communist era film of the Battle of Grunwald shows.
Here is a movie on the life of Saladin – with lots of battles – made in 1963 by the Egyptian film industry. Note the reference to refugees fleeing the crusaders. This was a time when a very nationalist government had taken over in Egypt and was engaged in hostile rhetoric with neighboring Israel.
And I suppose I’d better include Mel Gibson’s take on the wars between Scotland and England in the Middle Ages.
And finally – let’s have a mythical battle from Lord of the Rings