Even the most serious medieval scholar can make fun of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. For an enjoyable trip into the pseudo-past, try some of the films below. They're not all particularly "realistic," but whether they're romantic and touching or downright hilarious, they can be an awful lot of fun.
You may notice these films are all from the last century. I still haven't seen anything more recent that I find as good as these "top ten" -- but I'm willing to be convinced! If you have a favorite "fun" medieval film not listed here, contact me and recommend it!
1. Excalibur1981; directed by John Boorman; stars Nicol Williamson, Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Cherie Lunghi, Nicholas Clay, Liam Neeson
John Boorman's visually stunning epic effectively depicts the Arthurian legend at its dramatic best while maintaining humor and charm. Lavish costumes, sets, and location shots enrich a story closer to Malory's Morte D'Arthur than any other film.
The Oscar-winning story of young Will Shakespeare and the vibrant actress who becomes his muse. A brilliant, amusing, and entirely delightful film.
The Hollywood version of the middle ages is sterile and full of men in tights, but it's funny and clever when Danny Kaye takes on the role of a jester and spy. The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle...
4. Ladyhawke1985; directed by Richard Donner; stars Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Broderick, Leo McKern
Humor lightens a love story that would otherwise be cloyingly sweet, but is instead profound, in this fairy tale about a couple under the tragic curse of an evil bishop and the cheeky thief who may help them break the spell.
So much fun! and still my favorite version of Robin Hood after more than 65 years. Dashing Errol Flynn, lovely Olivia de Havilland, sinister Basil Rathbone, gorgeous technicolor Merrie Men, and Alan Hale Sr. stealing scenes right and left -- what more could anyone ask?
Enjoy the strangest depiction of the Arthurian tales ever in this hilarious film classic. Beware the Knights who say "ni!" It makes an especially good double-feature with Excalibur or Alexander Nevsky.
7. Ever After1998; directed by Andy Tennant; stars Drew Barrymore, Dougray Scott, Anjelica Huston, Patrick Godfrey
Enjoyable version of the Cinderella story set in 16th-century France paints a picture right out of an illumination by the Limbourg brothers. Barrymore is delightful as the strong-willed, good-hearted heroine; Huston's a perfectly wicked stepmother; and Godfrey is a likable Leonardo da Vinci.
This amusing, witty and nicely-filmed version of Shakespeare's comedy casts Emma Thompson as the sharp-tongued Beatrice and Kenneth Branagh as the infuriating Benedick. Is it any wonder their friends think they're made for each other?
9. Dragonheart1996; directed by Rob Cohen; stars Sean Connery, Dennis Quaid, Pete Postlethwaite
A dash of Arthurian legend intensifies this funny and touching adventure about a Dragonslayer, the last Dragon, and the truth about good and evil. Great special effects.
What would a "most fun films" list be without a Mel Brooks movie? Most Robin Hood flicks (particularly Prince of Thieves) and other medieval adventures are raucously lampooned in this farce. Not Brooks' best, but still bound to provoke some chuckles.