Last year Total Film compiled its top 16 “epic medieval movies” which you can see by clicking HERE. I’ve gone through some of my favorite films based in the Middle Ages before and while I agree with some of the choices in Total Film, I’ve got some differences.
In first place, they put Black Death – a tale of the worst pestilence to hit medieval Europe. This was a plague that devastated cities from the Byzantine empire to England. A young monk, in the movie, hears of people mysteriously surviving the plague and goes to investigate. The lead actor is Sean Bean, who you may have caught in the Lord of the Rings and it also features Eddie Redmayne, who starred in the TV adaptation of Pillars of the Earth.
Total Film puts the spoof comedy movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail next. But it’s the third movie I would recommend strongly – The Name of the Rose. Based on the Umberto Eco novel, it’s a darkly intellectual tale of murderous intrigue in a monastery starring Sean Connery. Also look out for a very young Christian Slater – the film was made in 1986.
I can’t agree with some of the other choices in the Total Film list – A Knight’s Tale starring the late Heath Ledger was pretty awful. I don’t recommend. Kingdom of Heaven should have been a classic movie except for the miscasting of Orlando Bloom in the lead. But it still has incredible scenes.
A curious inclusion is the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone, made in 1963, which I think has been largely forgotten these days. It was frequently shown on TV when I was a kid. Another take on the Arthurian legend in the Total Film is the 1981 movie Excalibur, directed by John Boorman. It’s an incredibly magical, mystical movie and has improved with age – unlike the ghastly and more recent telling of the tale with Clive Owen, to be avoided!
Personally, I’d have put in movies like the 1961 classic El Cid with Charlton Heston, the 1963 Egyptian movie Saladin, the 1938 Stalin-era Soviet biopic of Russian hero Alexander Nevsky and the Swedish Templar movie Arn. Might also have included the French medieval movie The Return of Martin Guerre that was later remade in the American Civil War period as Sommersby. I absolutely wouldn’t have included the unintentionally hilarious Season of the Witch or Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves.