Hollywood is fascinated with medieval times. Mainly, these films are period drama that deals with historical figures and interprets historical events. However, medieval movies are also in the fantasy genre and children’s films. This setting is chosen because it is magical to children and can grab their attention. So, do not be shocked if these films are on there. Whilst many of these films are well-known, there are a few hidden gems you might not have heard of.
25/25. Timeline (2003, Netflix)
Time-traveling makes an appearance in Timeline. A group of archaeological students travels back to medieval France to rescue their professor after a wormhole experiment goes wrong. Ok, let’s start with this weird film. Timeline is considered more of a sci-fi film due to the whole wormhole plot. However, some parts of the film do take place in medieval times. So, it counts. Compared to others, it has a unique charm. The plot is ridiculous, and the characters are one-dimensional. However, it’s worth a watch for its ‘so bad it’s good quality. It’s hard to explain, but it still entertained me despite its flaws. Or rather, because of its flaws.
24/25. Mary, Queen of Scots (2018, Netflix)
There are few periods of England’s history as fascinating as the Golden Age, the reign of Elizabeth 1st. One of the reasons this period of history is fascinating to look at is the rivalry between Queen Elizabeth the 1st and Mary, Queen of Scots. This film depicts the relationship between the two Queens as a friendship to enemies. With Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie as the lead Queens, you know this will be a good film. Like many others on this list, do not look for historical accuracy. However, it is almost like seeing a ‘what-if’ scenario where these two excellent women met and talked. Could things have changed if these two met or talked face to face? The music composed by Max Richter is divine, and the costumes are some of the best on this list.
23/25. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)
The story of Joan of Arc is that of bravery and courage. As a young girl, she experienced the brutal English forces first-hand. After receiving what she thinks is a vision of God, she rides to protect France from the English army. This retelling of Joan of Arc’s story is a stylish war. One war is the French army against the English. The battles are brutal, with sieges and legendary moments such as the Drawbridge scene. The fight scenes are at various angles, quickly changing and even getting blood smeared on the camera to get the point across. Milla Jovovich sells the role of messenger well, being fierce in battle but also shaky in her private confessions. Her devout faith in God is ever-present, even when it could cost her everything. Joan’s consciousness (played by David Hoffman) gives some great insight into Joan’s inner struggle.
Were her visions real? The film leaves that open to the audience to decide. Like the hero herself, we will never know the answer. It is worth a watch for Jovovich’s performance alone.
22/25. Kingdom of Heaven (2005, Disney+)
Hollywood’s best medieval movies like to take us back to the Crusades and the Black Death plague. This is no exception here in 2005’s ‘Kingdom of Heaven.’ Here, a blacksmith aids the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Battle of Hattin.
This film is a fictional retelling of the life of Balian of Ibelin, defender of Jerusalem. Orlando Bloom shines in his role, giving his character depth. Many characters carry truly heart-breaking scenes that still hold up 17 years later. As expected by the director of the historical epic Gladiator, Ridley Scott nailed the large scale of the battle. Even the more miniature scenes, such as the chess scene, have so much detail in them. Just prepare lots of snacks and bathroom breaks as this is a 3-hour journey.
21/25. The Name Of The Rose (1986)
Based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Umberto Eco, ‘The Name of the Rose’ is a historical mystery, where Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his protégée Adso of Melk investigate a chain of mysterious deaths of monks at an abbey. The first adaptation of this novel six years after the book was published was a passion project by director Jean-Jacques Annaud. It is a murder mystery in a monastery. This is one of the best medieval movies of all time that broke records when it came to its production value. The production teams were required to make the whole exterior and interior designs on a hilltop in Rome, making it the most extensive exterior set built since Cleopatra. It paid off as the atmosphere and setting look amazing, even today. If you want to see some good improv acting, check out this film.
‘The Name Of The Rose’ was adapted into a medieval tv show starring John Turturro in the lead role as friar William of Baskerville. I recommend trying this miniseries out
20/25. Black Death (2010, Netflix)
‘Black Death’ takes a more realistic approach to how people would react to the Plague. A group of Holy men is sent to a village seemingly unaffected by the Plague. They believe it to be the work of a necromancer.
By far, this was one of the scarier movies on this list. The amount of gore and blood is worthy of the genre. It is the sounds that freak you out. There are no heroes here, even though the main crew claims to follow the word of God. Whilst the Plague is a deadly disease, no one dies from it. Instead, it’s the characters and their ideologies. This is an excellent medieval film for horror lovers with a cast of Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Kimberley Nixon, and Carice van Houten.
19/25. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017, Netflix)
This is another take on the legends of King Arthur. Raised by prostitutes after his parent’s murder, Arthur is forced to face his destiny as the future king after pulling out the legendary sword Excalibur. However, his Uncle and current king, Vortigern of Briton, will not give up without a fight.
Every adaptation of the Arthurian legends brings something new. Whilst some classic adaptations focus mainly on the characters, ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ takes a more action-oriented approach, with frequent battles and assassinations. It was also exciting to see Arthur as a street hustler, not a prince born into wealth. The CGI in this battle is impressive, but what draws viewers in is the natural landscape. Couple this with the humor of the director Guy Ritchie and a cast that bounces off one another; you have a fun movie to watch on the classic legend.
18/25. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, Netflix)
Hollywood takes another classic British folktale and legend to the big screen. Filled with a vengeance for his father’s death, Robin of Locksley plans to save his home from the Sherriff of Nottingham. If you are looking for some cheesy 90’s fantasy, look no further than ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.’ With Bryant Adam’s Emmy winning power ballad. The cast consists of Morgan Freeman, Kevin Constar, and Michael McShane, this film is a cult classic. However, Alan Rickman as the Sherriff is a scene-stealer. In fact, you should watch it purely for his performance. Lastly, look at the glorious hair!
17/25. Shrek (2001, Netflix)
Every child from the 2000s knows the famous green ‘Shrek.’ This computer-animated film introduced the world to its favorite ogre, Shrek. When fairy-tale creatures invade his swamp, he sets off on a quest to help rescue Princess Fiona and get back to his swamp. Coming along with him is Donkey, a talking donkey. Before ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ came along, ‘Shrek’ was the medieval film children loved and still do. Known best for its humor and character design, both children and adults love this film. Whilst the story is simple to understand, the characters are developed immensely. Shrek seems anti-social and hates people. However, it is later revealed that he gets judged for his appearance before getting to know him. Donkey is seen as a blabbermouth. However, Donkey is the first person to not care about his appearance.
This movie teaches its audience through multiple angles about not judging a book by its cover. Or, in Shrek’s case, ogres and onions have layers. You will understand that reference as soon as you watch the film.
16/25. Outlaw King (2018, Netflix)
This medieval movie follows the rebellion of Scottish warrior turned King Robert the Bruce against the English army. Robert the Bruce is declared an outlaw after rebelling against the rule of King Edward I of England, with the climax of the film taking place at the Battle of Loudoun Hill in 1307. When thinking of an actor to portray Robert the Bruce, Chris Pine would not have been many people’s first choice. However, it was an excellent performance.
The accents are a bit off, but they are not as bad as you think they would be. However, the focus of this film was the various sieges and battles of Bruce’s guerrilla force. These are high-end productions, with stunts such as fireballs being hurled at castles and more. This film is not the most historically accurate, but it is entertaining. It is a worthy successor to Braveheart.
15/25. The King (2019, Netflix)
This is how you do a coming-of-age story about a teenager becoming a king. In this adaptation, Henry the 5th was never the first choice to be king. Instead, his father tried to have his younger brother Thomas take the throne. But, after the death of his brother and father, it is up to him to pick up the pieces. William Shakespeare wrote the play on this film is based on. ‘The King’ demonstrates the pressure and loneliness of the throne.
At first, it looks like another typical medieval film that we’ve seen time and time again. But then the ending surprises you. I will not spoil it. Timothée Chalamet plays the nuanced role of King Henry the 5th, who is young but underestimated. The costumes are excellent and some of the most accurate to the period. Whilst the battles are enjoyable, it is the script and internal politics of the court where the film shines. These are so intriguing and add to the film’s unique charm.
14/25. Excalibur (1981, Amazon Prime)
We go back to the Arthurian legends with Excalibur. This tale of the legendary sword sees the powerful wizard Merlin guiding Uther Pendragon’s bastard son Arthur to becoming King Arthur and uniting the Knights of the Round Table against Morgana Frey and Mordred. Filmed in 1981, this version of the Arthurian legends is still considered the best amongst fans. It holds nothing back, bringing the grandeur, elegance, and strangeness this story deserves.
There is so much to unpack, from magical incest cursing the land to a quest for the Holy Grail in this two-and-a-half-hour movie. Not to mention the spooky green aura to represent willpower and magic or the dream sequences and visions. The dated fight scenes and cinematography holds a rustic charm to the film and experience. Whilst there are plenty of stars in this film, such as Dame Herrin Marin, Nigel Terry, and Paul Geoffrey, the film’s real star is Nicol Williamson as Merlin. His wisecracks are hilarious, and his quotes are still remembered today.
13/25. Brave (2012, Disney+)
The animated medieval movie takes us to the medieval Scottish Highlands, where Princess Merida of DunBroch tries to break an age-old tradition without realizing the consequences. Magic also plays a significant role in this story, being a Disney fairy-tale.
At its core, this is a story about a mother and daughter struggling to communicate with one another. The excellent voice acting by Kelly Macdonald (Merida) and Emma Thompson (Queen Elinor) sells the tension and love of this relationship even more. The graphics are beautiful, holding up ten years after its debut. If you want a family-friendly, hilarious film with excellent voice acting, the brave Disney redhead is one film we’d recommend.
12/25. The Physician / Der Medicus (2013, Amazon Prime)
We travel back to the Black Death in ‘The Physician’. Traumatized by the death of his mother, English Christian Rob Cole becomes determined to become a physician. He travels to the Middle East and discovers more than he thought he could.
Whilst many of these films are based on warriors, murders, and legends, The Physician chooses to pick up a scapple (not really) rather than the sword. The history is fascinating, as we see a sizeable cultural shift throughout ‘Der. Medicus’. It is a humbling experience for a Christian in those times to seek out knowledge from another culture and religion. It makes you think about many things that still affect us today, such as refusing an autopsy for religious reasons or the knowledge of this. The visuals are excellent, and the same can be said about the cast and music.
11/25. Henry V (1989, Amazon Prime)
This film is an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play about the monarch and is widely considered one of the best adaptations of a Shakespearian play.
Another medieval movie about Henry V is next on our list. Kenneth Branagh created the epic film in 1989. So, do not expect the best photography. However, this is a faithful Shakespearian adaptation. From the dialogue to the exquisite costumes, the film makes everything seem like watching a production. However, it feels believable compared to many other adaptions which go over the top. Kenneth Branagh gives his all in this performance, giving off the aura of an experienced theatre performer. Another selling point is the music. While some soundtracks are generic, the music enhances legendary speeches such as the St. Crispin’s Day Speech in some scenes.
10/25. Army Of Darkness (1992, Apple TV)
The third installment of the ‘Evil Dead’ franchise. The one-person zombie-killing army, Ash Williams, is transported to the Middle Ages (around King Arthur’s time). Now, it is his mission to find a way home. The trope of having a modern person transported into the past is weird, but the audience can take it seriously like in Doctor Who episodes.
Not here, though! ‘Army of Darkness’ knows this premise is ridiculous and roles with it. Plenty of comedic scenes plays to this plot, such as Ash advertising his gun as a ‘boomstick’ and even including its price to a medieval village. It is as ridiculous and hilarious as it sounds being written, but Bruce Campbell’s performance sells the whole story. Of course, this is a horror comedy, so it is VERY loose on historical accuracy. But this is one of the funniest films on this list.
9/25. Willow (1988, Disney+)
When a prophecy foretold a Daikin (tall people) child with a special ruin would bring the end of Queen Bavmorda of Nockmaar, the Queen seeks its destruction. The child upon birth is smuggled away, landing in Willow’s care. Willow is a Nelwyn (little people) and is tasked to find the child’s family. Along the way, he meets Madmartigan, a tall person. Together, they try to protect the child and find out who she is.
The best thing about this film is the relationship between Willow Ufgood and Madmartigan. Actors Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer play off one another, bringing oneliners that will make you laugh. The rest of the cast does fantastic too. The special effects of magic also are worth noting. This film might have come out in 1988, but the scene where the queen turns everyone into pigs is still creepy to this day. For a fun fantasy live action-adventure, we’d recommend Willow.
8/25. The Kid Who Would Be King (2019, Apple TV)
The Arthurian legends come to the 21st century. When a bullied kid named Alex discovers the legendary Excalibur, he must band together his friends and enemies to aid Merlin against the rise of Morgana. No, you read that correctly. This film is, in a word, fun! So many times (other than Monty Python), these films focus on portraying the myth faithfully. This fantasy medieval movie has car chases with knights of Morgana, an entire school being knighted after the headteacher declares no lessons for knight training.
Nothing feels forced, as even the kids marvel at the absurdity of the plot at times. The hilarious moments with Angus Imrie’s Merlin, decent CGI, and acting makes ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ enjoyable.
7/25. How To Train Your Dragon (2010, Netflix)
Available on: Netflix
Soar amongst the skies on a dragon’s back in this film. ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ takes us to the Viking village of Berk, where humans and dragons are at constant war with one of them. Hiccup, the chief’s son, is no warrior. Using an invention, he manages to shoot down a dragon. Determined to prove himself, Hiccup goes to try and kill this dragon. Instead, the two bond and begin a friendship that would change Berk forever. Dreamwork animations know how to do films for everyone. How To Train Your Dragon, is a film with more depth. Like Dragon Prince, it’s full of humor and the plot is easy to follow.
However, real enjoyment comes from the characters and their development. Toothless says nothing, yet this fluid and amazing animation give him so much personality. The music, composed by John Powell, adds to the atmosphere of a human and dragon finding a new understanding of one another. The film is one of those you won’t get tired of ever seeing.
6/25. The Last Duel (2022, Disney+)
We go to 1340 France for ‘The Last Duel’. Knight Jean de Carrouges and squire Jacques Le Gris face off in a duel after accusations from Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite de Thibouville, that Gris abused her. This film is heavy to watch. It’s not your typical war period drama. Jodie Comer resonates as a woman going against the norms and outing her attacker. It’s even tougher to hear her being shamed. The different perspective outlines the characters very differently. For Guis, he sees Marguerite as flirting and looking back at him.
This is different from Marguerite’s perspective, where we see her side of the story. The same goes for the honorable knight Carrouges, who also changes in a different perspective. The three leads of Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, and Adam Driver all deliver their roles so well. This medieval movie is thought-provoking and leaves you feeling so many mixed emotions.
5/25. Braveheart (1995)
Available on: Netflix
One of Mel Gibson’s most famous roles, Braveheart, tells Sir William Wallace’s tale and his crusade for Scottish Independence from King Edward I of England. Inspired by the 15th-century poem about Sir William Wallace, it depicts everything from the Battle of Stirling Bridge to his eventual execution. Let’s get one thing out there. This film is not historically accurate. However, it is entertaining. At almost 3 hours, an average movie might feel dragged out.
However, the cast feels so compelling. The film does not feel 3 hours long. Mel Gibson’s performance is still talked about today in historical dramas. The acting was not the only thing high grade. In 1995, before The Lord of the Rings came out, Braveheart gave us legendary battle cinematography no other film quite reached at the time. It’s muddy, bloody, and well-choreographed. The horses’ deaths looked so natural; it was reported that an animal welfare investigation was opened into whether any horses were killed during the making of this film (none were). ‘Braveheart’ has so much cultural significance, and you’ll be screaming ‘FREEDOM’ too by the end of it.
4/25. Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975, Netflix)
What happens when you mix Arthurian legend and a British comedic group known for cutaway gags and stream-of-consciousness humor? You get ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail!’ As the title suggests, the story revolves around King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail.
To say this film is hilarious is an understatement. Some reviews have stated this film is more of a parody and study of life in medieval times. I’d have to agree. There is something fun for everyone, from jokes such as the infamous ‘Just a flesh wound’ Black Knight to the killer rabbit gag. The animations done for comedic purposes are also highly stylish and hold up today. There is a reason why this film is still considered one of the best comedies in British Film history. The rest of the world also agrees. You won’t regret watching this film.
3/25. The Seventh Seal (1957, Apple TV)
Set during The Black Death (the 14th century) in Sweden, a Knight named Antonius Block has lost his faith and meaning in his life. He challenges the personification of Death in a game of chess, hoping to win. However, no one wins this game.
Hailed as one of the greatest films, ‘The Seventh Seal’ has so many themes and symbols tied to religion. Delving into faith is arguably one of history’s darkest moments (after the Crusades and in the Black Death); Block is a man with many questions and doubts about God. Throughout the game, Block knows he cannot win. But, in a confession, he wants to do one significant act before his time is over. his film puts many of the questions humans have had multiple times and even why people believe in God, as this belief gives life some meaning.
While it does not claim any answers, it provides a new perspective on these questions. The black and white look empathizes the core messages of life and death, with both lead actors, Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot, playing their roles once more. You need to watch one of those films to fully experience its power and meaning, as no review can really give it justice.
2/25. The Northman (2022)
The action-packed medieval movie is certainly an ambitious project by Robert Eggers (The Witcher) following Amleth a young Viking prince who is an heir to the Viking throne. When his father gets killed by his uncle Fjolnir he goes on a quest to avenge this father. The brutal revenge story takes place in 10th-century Iceland in the early 900s. It’s a dark, bloody film. There is a scene where Amleth fights with a Viking warrior, he tears out his throat with only his teeth, he shouts to the gods and he is without a shirt.
This is the third medieval movie on this list that is based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The acclaimed Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard plays the lead role of Amleth, a prominent figure in the Scandinavian saga. Alexander follows the footsteps of his brother Gustaf Skarsgård, known for his role in the acclaimed ‘Vikings’. In fact, Eggers said in an interview “It is definitely Viking Hamlet.” The combination of Egger’s fantasy and the Viking myth makes ‘The Northman’ an epic medieval movie. Finally, a good Vikings movie! The ensemble also includes Anya Taylor-Joy, Willem Dafoe, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Claes Bang, Björk, and Gustav Lindh. Will be available in May 2022 on Peacock.
1/25. The Princess Bride (1987)
Available on: Amazon Prime
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” You may not have watched ‘The Princess Bride’ but have heard this phrase. We could not forget this cult classic off this list. ‘The Princess Bride’ is a story of love and hope. Princess Buttercup loses the man she loves and is forcibly betrothed to Prince Humperdinck. However, her love Westley is still alive and, along with her friends, is determined to stop this wedding.
‘The Princess Bride’ is a comforting film. Yes, the plot is predictable. Yes, the action is not quite up to the standards of today. However, it is a comforting fantasy medieval movie that sweeps you off your feet. Before you know it, the credits are already rolling. It’s hilarious and best known for its eternal quote, the characters and cast including Fezzik the Giant, are so enduring you won’t forget them after you’ve seen this film once.