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Top 10 Fun Medieval Films


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. Excalibur

1981; 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.
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2. Shakespeare in Love

1998; directed by John Madden; stars Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench
The Oscar-winning story of young Will Shakespeare and the vibrant actress who becomes his muse. A brilliant, amusing, and entirely delightful film.

3. The Court Jester

1956; directed by Melvin Frank & Norman Panama; stars Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury
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...
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4. Ladyhawke

1985; 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.
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5. The Adventures of Robin Hood

1938; directed by Michael Curtiz; stars Errol Flynn
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?
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6. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

1975; directed by Terry Gilliam; stars Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
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.
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7. Ever After

1998; 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.
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8. Much Ado about Nothing

1993; directed by Kenneth Branagh; stars Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Robert Sean Leonard, Kate Beckinsale
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?
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9. Dragonheart

1996; 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.
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10. Robin Hood: Men in Tights

1993; directed by Mel Brooks; stars Cary Elwes, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Tracy Ullman
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.
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