Movies set in medieval times are among the most popular historical fare, and these 15 examples will live on in film history as enduring classics.
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Making a good historical film is no easy task. In order to be authentic to history while yet engaging a contemporary audience, historical dramas necessitate a lot of research, a lot of money, and a great deal of skill. It’s not an easy task, to be sure.
The fact that so many medieval films have been a commercial and critical success despite the challenges is testament to the genre’s popularity. Using IMDb ratings, we compiled a list of the best English-language medieval films. A Knight’s Tale, Henry V, and The Name of the Rose are only a few of the best-loved medieval novels and plays.
Shawn S. Lealos’s most recent update was on June 10, 2020. A wide variety of medieval-themed films are available on DVD and on the big screen. There are a wide variety of film genres to choose from, but the crusades and films about knights come to mind for most people. Films from the medieval period, which spanned from the 5th century through the 15th century, have a rich history. From the Round Table to feudal lords and crusaders, some of the best films in history took place during this time period, from Japan to England and everywhere in between.
1. A Knight’s Tale (2001) – 6.9
Heath Ledger’s international stardom was confirmed in A Knight’s Tale, one of the last films he starred in. On the list of best medieval films, it shares the top spot with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the 2018 release Outlaw King, all of which have IMDb ratings of 6.9.
William Thatcher, played by Ledger, is a guy who takes on the character of a knight in order to compete in a series of jousting competitions. The plot revolves around the premise that humans have the power to determine their own futures.
2. Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – 7.2
The Kingdom of Heaven has a fascinating past. The film Kingdom of Heaven demonstrated how a director’s cut could save a film years before fans began requesting one for Justice League. Kingdom of Heaven was a box office bomb when it was released in theaters. After Scott’s DVD release, the film was a huge hit and remains one of the greatest medieval films ever made.. As a crusader, Orlando Bloom plays a blacksmith who accompanies his father Liam Neeson (played by Orlando Bloom) on the trek to the Holy City.
3. El Cid (1961) – 7.2
El Cid, a 1961 film starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, has an IMDb rating of 7.2, making it one of the site’s most popular entries. Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, better known as El Cid, is the subject of this film.
On a Christian Spain that is being overrun by the Moors in the 11th century, this movie is set. When foreign invaders invade the country of El Cid, a charismatic knight, he seeks to unite the people and mobilize them against them. Ridley Scott’s epic, Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom, has an IMDb rating of 7.2 stars.
4. The King (2019) – 7.3
The King, which was released in 2019, is one of the most recent entries to IMDb’s list of the most popular medieval films. After becoming King of England in the 15th century, Henry V’s life is depicted in the film, which is based on various Shakespearean plays.
When Henry’s brother dies, he assumes the throne. Many challenges await him in the early days, including war and betrayal. It also features Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton, Lily-Rose Depp and Dean-Charles Chapman as well as Timothée Chalamet as Henry V.
5. Excalibur (1981) – 7.4
Excalibur was directed by John Boorman in 1981. A story about King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table is what this book is about, as stated in the title. It was a fantastic cast, to say the least. Arthur was played by Nigel Terry. He was Leondegrance, Patrick Stewart. Gawain was Liam Neeson’s character. Morgana was played by Helen Mirren. For Best Cinematography, the film was nominated for an Academy Award, while director John Boorman was awarded a Cannes Film Festival honor in 1981.
6. Richard III (1955) – 7.4
Richard III, a medieval drama based on Shakespeare’s play, chronicles the story of England’s ruthless monarch and the conquests he undertook. Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen, and Ralph Richardson are among the cast members of the film.
The Battle of Bosworth Field signaled the end of the Middle Ages in England when Richard III was killed. In order to avoid the possibility of ceding the crown to his nephews Edward V and Richard the Duke of York, some historians believe that he killed them. The Tower of London is supposed to be where the young princes were secretly interred.
7. Henry V (1989) – 7.5
Henry V, one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, has spawned a number of great medieval films. While Laurence Olivier’s 1944 version of the picture had a score of 7.1, the 1989 version received a score of 7.5.
Director Kenneth Branagh stars as Hamlet in this 1989 version of Shakespeare’s play. While the Hundred Years’ War rages on, the film follows Henry V’s efforts to secure France’s throne for England. Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, and Robbie Coltrane all appear in the film.
8. The Name Of The Rose (1986) – 7.7
IMDb’s most popular film of all time was Sean Connery’s The Name of the Rose, a period piece starring Connery that was released in 1986. William of Baskerville, a fictional 14th-century Franciscan monk, is the focus of this English-language film, despite the fact that it was produced in Italy, France, and Germany.
In an abbey, William and his apprentice, Christian Slater, investigate a strange death. Film adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel of the same name
9. Becket (1964) – 7.8
Becket is one of the best medieval movies on IMDb with a rating of 7.8 out of 10. In this film, Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole portray Henry II of England and his connection with the bishop Thomas Becket.
Thomas Becket served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 to 1170, during which time he became renowned as Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Four of the king’s knights assassinated him, and he was eventually canonized by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England for his heroic actions in the face of death.
10. The Lion In Winter (1968) – 7.9
The Lion in Winter, featuring Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, is another highly regarded film about Henry II’s life. Young Anthony Hopkins portrays the couple’s oldest son, Richard the Lionheart, in the movie.
One of the most successful pictures of 1968, it is based on a Broadway play of the same name. Best Music Score, Best Adapted Screenplay and Katharine Hepburn as Best Actress were all Oscar winners for the film. 7.9 on IMDb was also given to The Adventures of Robin Hood, which starred Errol Flynn.
11. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) – 8.1
The Passion of Joan of Arc, a silent film released in 1928, depicted the true narrative of Joan of Arc’s 1431 trial. The Hundred Years’ War saw her lead France in war against the English, but the French church, sympathetic to the English, put her on trial for heresy. Actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti was hailed by film critic Pauline Kael as the best actress ever to portray Joan of Arc on the silver screen.
12. Ran (1985) – 8.2
Akira Kurosawa became a master of the medieval period genre after moving to Japan. Ran, a film from Kurosawa’s later career, was released in 1985. Ran, a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, was a major influence on Kurosawa. An aging feudal lord in feudal Japan loses his kingdom’s inheritance, sparking a bloody civil war between his two sons for control of what’s left of their father’s domain. The conflict ultimately destroys what’s left of their father’s kingdom.
13. The Seventh Seal (1957) – 8.2
The Seventh Seal, directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1957, is considered one of the director’s finest works. Maximilian von Sydow plays a medieval knight who returns home after the end of the crusades. The dying knight challenged Death to a game of chess for his life during the Black Death in order to postpone his death and see his wife one last time.
14. Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975) – 8.2
Monty Python and the Holy Grail breaches all the norms by being both a comedy and a medieval picture with a high rating. Retellings of King Arthur and recent murder investigations are featured in the film. Comedy troupe Monty Python is represented by Graham Chapman, John Cleese (as himself), Terry Gilliam (with Eric Idle), Terry Jones (with Terry Jones) and Michael Palin (with Terry Jones) in this 1975 release.
An 8.2 rating for The Seventh Seal, which tells the story of a knight who takes on Death in a chess match, isn’t bad either.
15. Braveheart (1995) – 8.3
Braveheart, the 1995 epic narrative of William Wallace, is the highest-rated English film set in medieval times. After the murder of his new wife, Wallace goes from being a peaceful farmer’s son to a leader of the Scottish army in Braveheart, a film directed and starring Mel Gibson.
The film swept the awards season, even winning Best Director and Best Picture at the Oscars. However, Braveheart remains one of the most recognizable medieval films of all time, despite its many historical mistakes and Mel Gibson’s current turmoil.