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.
It’s difficult to make a good historical film. History-based movies and TV shows involve a lot of time spent researching, a lot of money spent on elaborate sets and costumes, and must balance the need to be authentic with the need to entertain today’s audiences. It’s not going to be simple.
Despite the challenges, a slew of medieval films have found commercial and critical success. We did some research and compiled a list of the most popular English-language medieval movies on IMDb. Listed below are some of the most popular medieval novels, including A Knight’s Tale, Henry V, and The Name of the Rose!
Shawn S. Lealos updated this page on June 10, 2020. They appear in many shapes and sizes in Medieval flicks. While the crusades and films about knights come to mind for many, there are a plethora of other cinema genres to explore. There is an extensive film history of the medieval period, which spanned from the 5th through the 15th century. This time period has been the setting for some of cinema’s greatest works, from films about the Knights of the Round Table to feudal lords and crusaders.
15. A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Heath Ledger’s international stardom was reinforced with the film A Knight’s Tale, which he starred in before his death. On the list of the best medieval movies ever made, it ranks alongside Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Outlaw King.
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 film is based on the premise that people have free will and may control their own fate.
14. Kingdom of Heaven (2005
An fascinating backstory is provided by the Kingdom of Heaven. 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 disaster when it was first released in theaters. Ridley Scott’s DVD release of the picture was a huge success, and it is still widely regarded as one of the greatest medieval films ever made by any director. He joins his father Liam Neeson as a crusader and heads to the Holy City in the movie, Orlando Bloom.
13. El Cid (1961)
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 backdrop of Christian Spain being conquered by the Moors in the 11th century, this movie is set. Using his charisma and charm, El Cid, the brave knight, strives to bring his kingdom back together against the invading invaders. Ridley Scott’s epic, Kingdom of Heaven, starring Orlando Bloom, has an IMDb rating of 7.2 stars.
12. The King (2019)
Many of the most popular medieval films on IMDb were produced in the twentieth century, but The King, which was released in 2019, is one of the more recent entries. Taking its cues from a slew of Shakespearean works, the film follows Henry V as he adjusts to life as King of England in the 15th century.
When Henry’s brother dies, he assumes the throne. War and treachery are among the challenges he must overcome in the early stages of his rule. Timothée Chalamet, Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton, Lily-Rose Depp, and Dean-Charles Chapman also star in the film.
11. Excalibur (1981)
Excalibur, directed by John Boorman in 1981, is a film about the medieval era. As the title suggests, this is a tale of King Arthur and his band of mercenaries known as the Knights of the Round Table. We had an incredible cast. Arthur was Nigel Terry, who played the role. Leondegrance was Patrick Stewart’s character. Gawain was played by Liam Neeson. Morgana was Helen Mirren, played by the actress. For his work on the film, Boorman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1981.
10. Richard III (1955)
Shakespeare’s Richard III portrays the story of a harsh English monarch and his conquests in the Middle Ages. It features Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen, and Ralph Richardson in the cast.
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 young princes are said to have been buried in secrecy in the Tower of London, according to legend.
9. Henry V (1989)
A number of well-received medieval films, like Henry V, were inspired by Shakespeare’s work. The Laurence Olivier-directed 1944 film garnered a score of 7.1, while the 1989 remake received a 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. Judi Dench and Robbie Coltrane also appear in the film.
8. The Name Of The Rose (1986)
IMDb’s highest-rated film ever, The Name of the Rose, was made in 1986 by Sean Connery, who acted in the historical drama. 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.
Christian Slater plays William’s apprentice as he investigates a mysterious death at an abbey. Film adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel of the same name
7. Becket (1964)
A solid 7.8 rating on IMDb makes 1964’s Becket the best Medieval picture ever. The film, which stars Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, explores Henry II of England’s relationship with Bishop Thomas Becket.
Thomas Becket, who is today revered as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, was Canterbury’s Archbishop from 1162 until 1170. Assassinated by four of the king’s henchmen, he was eventually declared a saint by both Catholic and Anglican churches.
6. The Lion In Winter (1968)
The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole as King Henry II and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, is another well-regarded film about Henry II’s life. Young Anthony Hopkins portrays the couple’s eldest 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. For her performance as Katharine Hepburn as well as the film’s music and screenplay, the film received three Academy Awards. The Errol Flynn starrer The Adventures of Robin Hood likewise garnered a 7.9 rating on IMDb.
5. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
The Passion of Joan of Arc, a 1928 silent film, tells the account of Joan of Arc’s trial in 1431, based on the true story. French clerics who were loyal to England tried Elizabeth for heresy despite her leading the French in the Hundred Years’ War. Pauline Kael hailed Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s portrayal of Joan of Arc as the greatest in cinematic history.
4. Ran (1985)
Akira Kurosawa became a master of the medieval period genre after moving to Japan. Ran, one of Kurosawa’s last films, was released in 1985. Ran, Kurosawa’s take on King Lear, was significantly influenced by Shakespeare. 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.
3. The Seventh Seal (1957)
The Seventh Seal, a film by Ingmar Bergman, was released in 1957. Max von Sydow plays a medieval knight who returns home at 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.
2. Monty Python & The Holy Grail (1975)
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. Monty Python stars Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin in the film, which was released in 1975.
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.
1. Braveheart (1995)
Braveheart, the 1995 epic narrative of William Wallace, is the highest-rated English film set in medieval times. After the murder of his new bride, 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.
Even after dominating award season, the film went on to win Best Director and Picture at the Academy Awards. However, Braveheart remains one of the most recognizable medieval films of all time, despite its many historical mistakes and Mel Gibson’s current turmoil.