The 31 Best Medieval Movies of All Time

While the common people lived only in squalor during the long epoch of 1000 years, noble knights fought against nasty adversaries and rescued fair damsels from their sinister machinations. With this black and white painting, medieval films both mystify and condemn the time in which they are set in equal measure.

On the other hand, such a view also offers the possibility to let the imagination run wild, bring supernatural creatures to life, or send the heroes on a journey through time. This is exactly why so many different genres are set in medieval movies, from fantasy to crime thriller and from romantic comedy to heroic epic. There’s something for just about every movie preference. Maybe you’ll find your personal favorite in our selection of the best medieval movies.

1. The Last Duel (2021)

Eric Jager’s book “To Honor and Death: A Knightly Duel for the Life of a Woman” served as inspiration for the film’s screenplay. Nicole Holofcener wrote the screenplay with the help of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. She was included to give the movie a female perspective. After Good Will Hunting, this was the first time Matt Damon and Ben Affleck worked together on a script.

Jean de Carrouges, a knight at the French court of King Charles VI., Jacques Le Gris challenges to a duel to defend the honor of his wife. She accuses Jacque of rape. With Jacques enjoying the favor of his liege lord Pierre d’Alencon, Jean has no choice but to turn to king Charles VI. to turn.

The movie consists of three chapters, in which we get a sort of summary. The first chapter gives us a glimpse into the relationships and politics of the court. The crime and the search for justice are presented in the second chapter. The last chapter describes the final result and the chronology of events.

2. The Name of the Rose (1986)

A participant in a theological dispute, Franciscan monk William of Baskerville (Sean Connery) travels with his novice Adson (Christian Slater) to a Benedictine abbey in the Italian Apennines. There he witnesses a mysterious death, which is followed by others. While superstition and fear determine the other monks’ actions, with clear logic, William gets behind the mystery and solves the murders.

From Umberto Eco’s novel, which is considered difficult to film, Jean-Jacques Annaud directed a suspensefully staged (and faithfully depicting the Middle Ages) historical crime thriller. Successful at the box office, the film, crew, and acting ensemble rightfully won several European film awards.

3. Braveheart (1996)

As lead actor, director, and producer, Mel Gibson films a pet project. He plays the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace in the fight against the English occupiers under King Edward I., who claims the Scottish throne for himself. For Wallace, the fight for liberation is also a personal vendetta, as the English murdered not only his father and brother but also his wife. William Wallache is betrayed and fails, but the Scots are awakened and end up fighting for their independence.

For the sake of a gripping dramaturgy, Gibson could not be too precise with the historical events in his epic about the Scottish folk hero. Success proved him right, as the thrilling film won five Oscars and a Golden Globe and was also very well received by audiences.

4. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Returning to England from the Crusades to the East, Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) finds his father murdered and his castle burned to the ground. The culprit is quickly identified. The Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) ran a brutal regiment during the absence of King Richard the Lionheart. Robin takes up the fight against this injustice at the head of the enslaved population and with the help of his companions (as well as the beautiful Marian).

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Among the many adaptations of the popular Robin Hood legend, this film stands out for its pace, ironic dialogue, and superbly nasty Alan Rickman as the sheriff. This concession to the zeitgeist made it more successful than a second contemporaneous film adaptation that didn’t even make it to American theaters. Bryan Adams provided the Oscar-nominated theme song to the hit film.

5. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

After the death of his wife and child, young blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom), the illegitimate son of a nobleman, joins a crusade to Jerusalem. There, amidst intrigues and battles, he tries vainly to be a mediator between religions.

Ridley Scott’s battle epic is very loosely based on the life of Balian of Ibelin and other historical figures of the late 12th century. Century. The director skillfully mixes all the ingredients to what a good and exciting medieval film should have: Drama, war, love, and nobility. It also provides a vivid picture of everyday chivalric life in medieval Jerusalem. Critics especially praised the high-caliber cast, right down to the supporting roles.

6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

As the satirical Fantasy film, the British comedy troupe Monty Python treats the saga of King Arthur, who sets out with his Round Table in search of the Holy Grail. During the search, the knights have to go through several adventures in which all but Arthur and Sir Bedevere get lost. They suspect the Grail to be in the castle of their occupiers, the hated French, but are arrested by the police shortly before reaching their supposed destination.

This classic film is a must-see for those who love wry English humor. It is as silly as anarchic and is rightly considered a successful parody of medieval society. In short, it is one of the funniest movies of all time.

7. Henry V. (1989)

Actor and director Kenneth Branagh take on the production of Shakespeare’s drama about King Henry V. He is urged by his church superiors to conquer the French throne. Originally, this idea is meant to dissuade him from his plan to secularize church property, but Henry jumps at it and eventually defeats the French in a losing battle.

Branagh was praised for translating the beauty of Shakespeare’s language into appropriate images with great attention to detail. The result is one of the best films about the Middle Ages and is an impressive cinematic experience.

8. A Knight’s Tale (2001)

In the comedically staged medieval film, squire William (Heath Ledger) pretends to be a knight and challenges the noble participants at a jousting match. With his adversary, the Count of Anjou, he now fights for the favor of Lady Jocelyn, who, in the end, is impressed by William’s courage and honor and gives him her heart.

Predominant places of action in the film are tournament places in France and England. The inner change from a simple man to a nobleman is believably portrayed (by means of the skills the squire acquires). The audience is rooting for him. The cloak-and-dagger film, which is also set in a modern scene by the music, is simply fun to watch, which earned it a lot of positive feedback from audiences and critics alike.

9. The Green Knight (2021)

The Green Knight takes us back to the Arthurian legends with a tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The film is a contemporary version of the Arthurian legends and the famous Knights of the Round Table from 14.Century.

This story is about a special task set for the knights by King Arthur to test the best of them all. Arthur’s nephew Sir Gawain, known to be reckless and impulsive, plunges into the trial. The plot tells all the challenges he faces on his way to becoming the best in the end.

Critics praised the film’s realism, but many viewers found it heavy-handed.

10. The Seventh Seal (1957)

Now it gets dark. The knight Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), who has returned from the Crusades, makes a deal with Death, who is waiting for him at home. He is allowed to live on as long as the Grim Reaper does not defeat him in a game of chess. If he loses, he must die.

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Ingmar Bergmann’s black-and-white film, which meditates on life, religion, and death in powerful images, is considered a masterpiece. Bergmann’s art lies in the fact that although the film is dark and profound, lightness and joy always shine through. It skillfully contrasts historical facts with modern aspects of life.

11. Die Päpstin (2009)

The film is about the legend of the inquisitive Johanna, who fights to be allowed to go to school. For this, she pretends to be her dead brother, enters a monastery, and finally gets to the holy chair in Rome for a short time.

Although the existence of a female pope in the 9. Although the existence of the army of darkness has never been clearly proven in the sixteenth century, stories have been told about it since the later Middle Ages. The film adaptation was based on a successful novel of the same name.

In contrast to the more complex book, the film’s suspense focuses on Johanna’s ordeal and her passionate struggle for education. In front of the gloomily drawn Middle Ages, the character drawing of the female popes stands out very vividly.

12. Ladyhawke(1985)

Lovers Etienne de Navarre (Rutger Hauer) and Isabeau d’Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer) are under a cruel curse that prevents them from getting together. She turns into a hawk daily, while he becomes a wolf every night. Only during a solar eclipse can the spell that lies on them be lifted again.

Amidst the picturesque backdrop of Italian landscapes perfectly set by the camera, director Richard Donner succeeds in creating an exciting yet romantic fantasy film in which the Middle Ages, rich in mystery, are believably brought to life.

13. The Lion in Winter (1968)

The British royal court in the late 12th century. The century is dominated by resentment, envy, vindictiveness, and vanity. In the midst of these skirmishes, King Henry II. (Peter O’Toole) and his wife Eleanor (Katherine Hepburn), who has fallen out of favor with him, search among their sons for a suitable successor to his throne. No easy undertaking.

Besides the outstanding acting performances, the film captivates with sharp dialogues. It is a successful psychological family drama full of witty twists and turns. An Oscar for Hepburn and a Golden Globe for O’Toole were rewards and recognition of good performance.

14. Dragonheart (1996)

Enemies become friends. This is not unusual in the film, except that this fantasy film is about the friendship between a knight (Dennis Quaid) and a dragon. Only together can they succeed in freeing the country from the oppression of the evil king.

For the computer animation of the dragon, Sean Connery’s facial expressions were transferred to the dragon’s face with 200 different facial expressions. This makes the character come alive and even makes them seem human. In addition, Connery also lent his voice to the dragon in the original version. As a result, Dragonheart was so successful that three sequels were filmed in the following years.

15. The King (2019)

In the recent history of English medieval films, this film is a blockbuster. Henry the Fifth was crowned King of England after his father’s death. The king has all the achievements and failures of King V. described in detail. All his friends and enemies’ impending obstacles, challenges, and evil intentions eventually lead to tyranny and an angry king.

16. Army of Darkness (1992)

In the third installment of the “Dance of the Devils” films, hardware salesman Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) finds himself on a journey through time that leaves him stranded in the Middle Ages. He gets caught between the fronts of rival princes and ends up fighting demons and the living dead. In the end, he manages to defeat the army of darkness and return to the present day.

The film is not a typical medieval film, but it is a slapstick adventure worth seeing, which trains the laughing muscles violently. It is less gloomy than its predecessor films set in the present day—fun for fans of weird comedy and absurd fantasy trash.

17. Ran (1985)

The aging Prince Hidetora decides to divide his kingdom among his three sons. His father sends him away when the youngest advises him against this plan. But his warnings soon prove to be true. The father is attacked and chased away by the older sons, who claim to be the sole rulers. Having gone mad, the old prince finally dies out of despair.

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Set in the late Middle Ages, this film is thematically based on the drama “King Lear.” Akira Kurosawa, however, wanted to achieve with Ran (translated: turmoil, unrest, chaos) consciously also a present-day reference through his end-time visions. He succeeds in this with impressive and powerful images. Today “Ran” is considered one of the best Shakespeare adaptations.

18. First Knight (1995)

The evil prince Malagant threatens Queen Guinevere (Julia Ormond). Because he offers her his help, Guinevere agrees to King Arthur’s (Sean Connery) marriage proposal. To thank him for saving Guinevere from kidnapping, he makes Lancelot (Richard Gere) a Knight of the Round Table. But Guinevere and Lancelot fall in love with each other. The king feels betrayed. There Malagant attacks Arthur’s castle. Although his knights fight for him, the king is fatally shot. Before he dies, he forgives the lovers and gives them his blessing.

“The First Knight” is a good, colorful and entertaining representative of typical medieval films, which will appeal especially to friends of a romantic love story should please.

19. Macbeth (2015)

Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is a cunning but brutal Scottish army commander who wins the favor of his king through his successes. His power-hungry wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), does everything she can to fulfill a prophecy that foretold Macbeth as the future king. Pressured, Macbeth kills King Duncan and crowns himself. But his numerous enemies do everything to overthrow him again.

Few stories have been filmed as often as Shakespeare’s drama “Macbeth.” The fact that this medieval film is nevertheless worth seeing is primarily due to the haunting acting of its lead actor. The contemporary adaptation of the dialogues should make the movie interesting for a young audience. Games of Thrones sends its regards.

20. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Hicks may be slight for a Viking, but he has a special gift. Instead of killing dragons, as the tradition of his village demands, he learns to tame dragons so that they can live together in peaceful coexistence in the future.

The 3D animated film owes its success to its simple yet exciting storytelling, great dialogues, and beautiful images, which make it worth watching, not only for children. An Oscar nomination as best animated film was only logical.

21. Valhalla Rising (2009)

The Viking One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen), imprisoned by the Normans in Scotland, manages to escape. Together with a young boy, he arrives at a camp of Christian warriors who are about to set out on a crusade to the Holy Land. But the boat gets lost in the fog and ends up on an unknown coast.

What makes the film interesting is Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of the fighter One-Eye, who doesn’t speak a word during the entire movie, but only acts through his presence. The film’s dark tone will appeal to arthouse cinema fans who like to watch unusual films.

22. Season of the Witch (2011)

The plague rages across Europe in the Middle Ages, leaving a trail of death in its wake. Guilty men are sought, and women who know how to heal are quickly condemned as witches by the church. Crusader Behman (Nicolas Cage) and his friend Felson (Ron Perlman) are ordered by a cardinal to take Anna (Claire Foy), an alleged servant of the devil, to a remote monastery where she will be brought to justice. Slowly it dawns on the fighters what they have let themselves in for with this mission.

This well-cast medieval film is something for those who, in addition to adventure flick horror movies, love. A conclusive content can be expected here, but surprising effects. One reason why audiences better received the film than critics.

23. Hard to Be a God (2015)

In the Russian Science-Fiction Drama, scientists travel to a planet where the Middle Ages still prevail. Draconian punishments await those who resist or question the system there. This presents the explorers with a conflict of conscience as to whether they should intervene and use their knowledge to improve conditions or leave the inhabitants ignorant.

The story of the film is based on a Russian novella. The project dragged on for 15 years until its completion. When the director died, his widow and son finished the film. The result is a stunning and unusual work that is thought-provoking but also experimental and takes some getting used to.

24. Excalibur (1981)

25. The Princess Bride (1987)

26. The 13th Warrior (1999)

27. Highlander (1986)

28. Beowulf (2007)

29. Robin Hood (2010)

30. Hamlet (1996)

31. Ironclad (2011)

Medieval movies take us back in time. They have in common that, in most cases, the portrayal is quite gloomy. But that’s all because, as you can see, almost every film genre feels at home in the Middle Ages. Picking the best movie among them depends on your personal preferences. Just watch it.

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