King Arthur and the legends surrounding his name are one of the really popular myths out there. The legend would lead us to believe that Arthur was once the King of Great Britain sometime in the medieval period, though whether he was a real king or merely fictional is still up in the air. Regardless, now matter how broad or limited a person’s knowledge of King Arthur and Camelot is, there’s almost a guarantee they will recognize something from it. Whether it be the famous sword trapped in the stone, or maybe the wizard Merlin, there’s always something that everyone knows about these legends.
The legends hold a lot of importance to modern culture too, as their stories are retold many times, or seep into and influence other productions across all kinds of genres and mediums. From animes like The Seven Deadly Sins featuring a great magician Merlin, to books like the seventh in the Witcher series, titled The Lady of the Lake, full TV productions like BBC Merlin, even to popular movies like Harry Potter — where ‘Merlin’s beard’ is a popular saying you’ll hear a lot — or Shrek the Third, where Arthur is found to rule the kingdom. Of course, there’s no lack of movies directly based on the myths either. Here’s just a few of the many different cinematic retellings of the Arthurian legends you can find.
Camelot is a fun musical drama retelling of some of the most divisive moments in King Arthur’s life — namely, his marriage to and life with Guenevere until the eventual loss of her to his knight Lancelot. Intertwined with the wonderful music is a tragedy of its own, starting with the time Guenevere and Arthur first met. Their marriage was arranged, but they quickly grew in love, and as Arthur built the kingdom up, he attracted more knights to his realms, including Lancelot. The moment Guenevere falls in love with him and is eventually caught always remains the downfall of Camelot, as Arthur fell into despair after losing his wife to his best friend. If you enjoy musicals, this is definitely one to take a look at.
6 The Sword in the Stone
Disney loves animating fairytales and myths, so it should come at no surprise that they did the same with Arthurian legend in The Sword in the Stone. As is usual for Disney, the animation is more lighthearted than the original myths, and certainly a lot more comedic. When the king dies with no heir, a sword stuck in an anvil appears, and whoever can pull the sword from it is the rightful king. No one can free it, however, and it is quickly forgotten. Meanwhile, a young Arthur meets the eccentric wizard Merlin, who decides to tutor the young boy. Watch the movie for a series of magical mishaps and new discoveries sure to make you laugh as England searches for their new king.
Excalibur brings the entirety of Arthur’s legend to life in this thrilling epic fantasy film, though they do take their own liberties in some places. Merlin takes a young Arthur away from Uther Pendragon as payment for helping Uther sleep with Igrane, a married woman. Uther angrily thrusts Excalibur into a stone after, claiming no one but him could ever wield it, but Arthur pulls it out a few years later and Merlin announces him as the son of Uther and the rightful ruler. It then follows Arthur as he runs into friends and enemies alike while uniting the realms, and his will is tested as those he trusts most begin to betray him. If you’re looking for an extensive retelling of the basics of Arthurian legend, this is definitely the movie to watch.
4 The Kid Who Would Be King
The action-adventure film The Kid Who Would Be King focuses on one vital aspect of Arthurian Legend — once King Arthur died, he would eventually be reincarnated, returning when he was needed the most. Twelve-year-old Alex is just starting secondary school when he discovers a whole new side to the world he lives in. He discovers Excalibur and pulls it from the concrete it’s embedded in, waking the evil sorceress Morgana, who sends minions after the sword and has plans to enslave all of Britain. With the help of Merlin, who finds Alex not long after he retrieves the sword, and a few of his classmates, he must find a way to stop Morgana before she can rise again and take over the country. This fun, modern setting is definitely worth seeing, and can be enjoyed no matter how much you know about the legends.
3 The Green Knight
What makes The Green Knight different from the other movies mentioned on this list so far is that it isn’t a retelling of the standard Arthurian legends, and Arthur isn’t the main focus. Instead, it bases itself on another book in the legends titled Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Said Green Knight interrupts a feast of the round table and challenges the knights to a duel, one Sir Gawain gladly accepts. The only rule he asks for is that if they land a blow on him, they must travel to him a year later to receive an equal blow in return.
Gawain decapitates the knight, and the consequences catch up to him later as he makes the long journey to what seems like his untimely demise. Don’t expect a big adventure from this movie, but instead watch for a visually gorgeous journey of self discovery bound to leave its mark. Lowery’s The Green Knight is simply one of the top fantasy movies of 2021, and one of the year’s most artful.
2 Lancelot of the Lake
Lancelot of the Lake, also known as Lancelot Du Lac, is a French movie from the great Robert Bresson that takes a closer look at the relationship between Lancelot and Guenevere. Lancelot is one of the few knights to return from their quest of searching for the Holy Grail, which they were unable to find. He continues to do his normal knightly duties, however, until he is injured in a tournament and seeks refuge in his own castle to recover.
It’s around this time that Arthur finds out about the relationship between Lancelot and Guinevere and is furious, locking her up. Thanks to Lancelot, she escapes, but Arthur continues pursuing them, including trying to lay siege on the castle they are seeking refuge in. Of course, this gives Arthur’s enemy Mordred a chance to attack while he is weak. If you want another look at this tragedy but from the perspective of Lancelot this time, with a quiet, sad, arthouse bent, this film is definitely worth watching.
1 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
No list based around Arthurian legend would be complete without including Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This comedy, part of the several great Monty Python movies, parodies these classic Arthurian legends as Arthur gathers a group of knights — some clearly based on actual knights, such as Sir Galahad the Pure, and some made up to also add to the comedic value, like Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-as-Sir-Lancelot. As Arthur and his knights decide against traveling to Camelot, deeming it a silly place, their quest turns into trying to find the Holy Grail, which brings a lot of surprising twists and struggles for them. Hilarity ensues as the group encounters bizarre people along the journey and are constantly thwarted by French soldiers. If you’re looking for a laugh, you’re sure to get plenty out of this film.
We Almost Got a King Arthur Trilogy Starring Kit Harington, Here’s Why We Didn’t
About The Author