Today’s Essential Movies are going to cover the historical movies (that may or may not have an actual historical basis) with a setting prior to 1500. As always, these are the movies that I find entertaining and enjoyable enough to watch over and over again.
I’m going to start today with all the various Robin Hood movies. First and foremost of these is The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, and Basil Rathbone. This is the one by which all other Robin Hood movies are judged and is just a fine story. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is also a fun movie but more because of Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham than for Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood. A victim of bad timing is Robin Hood with Patrick Bergin as Robin and Uma Thurman as Maid Marian. A little darker in many ways than the others. And of course, there is always Mel Brook’s take through Robin Hood: Men In Tights. I have not yet seen the most recent Robin Hood with Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett as Robin and Marian. Finally there is Robin and Marian with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn with an interesting “ever after” spin.
I guess I tend to group movies around certain times in history for some reason and here are a few others from the supposed time of Robin Hood that continue to entertain me. First of these is Ivanhoe. Of course, Robin Hood makes an appearance but the main thrust is Norman versus Saxon while King Richard was away at the Crusades. A couple of other Crusades related films I’ve enjoyed are Kingdom of Heaven and King Richard and the Crusaders. The former is probably a bit more historically accurate in many ways than the latter but as I’ve stated previously, I’m not really looking so much for historical accuracy as I am a good tale told well. El Cid is another of these although a little earlier than the others. My last movie for this particular period is The Lion in Winter. For some reason, I’ve always had a fascination for Queen Eleanor of Aquitane and Kate Hepburn brings her to life.
Hollywood used to make great epic pictures, especially around great people or events through history. Many of us grew up watching The Ten Commandments on TV around Easter each year. Or Ben Hur. I’m still as likely to watch either of these if they’re on as most anything else presented at the same time. Spartacus as well. Cleopatra may have been one of the last great epic films. If not Cleopatra, then it was The Fall of the Roman Empire. I do have to say, that although it was not an epic in the style of the old Hollywood, Russell Crowe’s Gladiator is one I find enjoyable over and over again as well. . . .
While I’ve always enjoyed the stories of King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table there aren’t near as many movies that I’ve enjoyed from this period as there have been of the King Richard and Robin Hood times. Of course, the movies Camelot and Knights of the Round Table are on this short list. Prince Valiant is also a fun watch for me as is First Knight. And Monty Python and the Holy Grail of course.
And because I can: