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Ancient History in the Movies | Medieval Movies | Modern History in the Movies
Course: Myth, Epic Romance: Medieval History in Film

Medieval History in the Movies

Version 4.9
What follows is a list of movies on medieval themes compiled with the help of Microsoft's Cinemania, The Internet Movie Database [The IMdb is a splendid resource: consult it for more detailed information (complete cast, crew and technical information), plot summaries, and links to reviews for many of the films below], and various contributors to the Mediev-l discussion list. It is arranged thematically following the general plan of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. "Medieval" has been taken very widely - from the first-century (CE) Roman Empire until the 17th-century.Although "medieval" and "movies" might not seem to be a good fit -- and a lot of bad films have been made -- it is perhaps worth noting that they have gone together since the earliest surviving American feature film - André Calmettes and James Keane Richard III of 1912. My essay Thinking about Historical Film may be of interest for readers of this web page. The following data, when available, are give for each film[Title] [Year] [Alternative title]
[Country of Production] [Genre] [Duration in minutes] [MPAA Rating] [Color?] [Lang]
[Director] [Star(s)]
-[Comments]Contents
See the separate file onHistory of Sainthood in the Movies Notes
  • By "clicking" on the title of the movie, you will be taken to the Internet Movie Database record on that movie.
  • Movies are in English unless otherwise noted.
  • I am willing to add movies, and to add any comments or reviews list-readers might send me.
  • At some time in the future, I expect, it will be possible to link list like this to the actual films, which will be immediately (for a fee) playable on your computer/TV/digital appliance.
  • * = UNF students see me for access to a copy in JAX.

 

Pagan Late Antiquity

Caligula (1980)
US , Drama, 156, R, Color
Director: Tinto Brass: Cast includes: Malcolm McDowell, John Gielgud, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren
-Essentially a 15 million dollar porno movie, despite its excellent cast.

*Fellini Satyricon (1970)
Italy, Historical, 129, Rated R, Color
Director: Federico Fellini; Cast includes" Martin Potter (Encolpio)
-Not exactly a filming of Petronius Arbiter's novel.. The tag ran "Rome. Before Christ. After Fellini". Potter is Encolpio a beautiful youth, whose young lover and slave, Gitone, has been stolen from him and sold to an older man. He vows to get him back.

*The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
US, Historical, 153, No rating, Color
Director: Anthony Mann; Cast includes: Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness (Marcus Aurelius), James Mason, Christopher Plummer (Commodus), Anthony Quayle
-By no means as bad as it might have been.

*The Viking Queen (1967)
UK, Historical/Adventure, 91, No rating, Color
Director: Don Chaffey
-Despite its title, this film is about a Boudica-like character during the Roman occupation of Britain. The first few minutes are so historically inaccurate that this is a real classic of bad Hollywood history.
-Leonard Maltin summarizes it as "Empty-headed costumer of early England under Roman rule, with plenty of gore as anarchists incite a violent uprising among the people." "England"! Rome!, Viking Queens! Ouch."

Revenge of the Gladiators (1965) [aka La Vendetta di Spartacus]
Italy, Historical/Adventure, 100, No rating, Color
Director: Michel Lupo

*Gladiator (2000) 154 mins
Dir. Ridley Scott, With Russell Crowe.
A movie which may represent the rebirth of the sandals and sand epic. It was widely praised in the press, and panned by ancient historians (with the Harvard faculty member who was listed as "historical" consultant sending out a mass apologia to colleagues). Ridley Scott made full use of modern technology to create a "real" ancient Rome, but the result looks more like the French Second Empire. The arena sequences are OK, but do not match those with Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.

Sign of the Gladiator (1959)
Italy, Historical, 84, No rating, Color
Director: Vittorio Musy Glori; Cast includes: Anita Ekberg
-A gladiator captured by the Queen of Syria.

Back to Index

Christian Late Antiquity

Ponzio Pilato (1962)
France/Italy, drama/religious, 100 1962 Color, In Italian
Director: Gian Paolo Callegari, Irving Rapper: Cast includes: Emma Baron, John Drew Barrymore, Basilk Rathbone

The Silver Chalice (1954)
US, Religious, 144, No rating, Color
Director: Victor Saville: Cast includes: Virginia Mayo, Jack Palance, Paul Newman, Natalie Wood,
-Paul Newman as the Greek who designed the Chalice for the last supper. Newman later took out an ad to apologize for this, his first movie.

Barabbas (1962)
US, Religious, 134, No rating, Color
Director: Richard Fleischer; Cast includes: Anthony Quinn

*Ben-Hur (1926)
Director: Fred Niblo: Cast includes: Ramon Navarro
US, Religious/Historical, 141, No rating B&W
-Famous for the naked male slave chained to a wall, and also included a topless woman.

*Ben-Hur (1959)
US, Religious/Historical, 212, No rating, Color
Director: William Wyler: Cast includes: Charleton Heston, Stephen Boyd
-Based on Lew Wallace's book. The story of Judah Ben-Hur and his boyhood friend Messala. Ben Hur is a love story between two men: Heston was not let into the secret (he has made a career of unacknowledged homoeroticism -- see The Agony and the Ecstasy or Planet of the Apes], but Boyd knew what role he was to play. The Arena sequences are among the best put on film.

Quo Vadis? (1951)
US, Historical, 171, No rating, Color
Director: Mervyn LeRoy; Cast includes: Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov
-Story of St. Peter. Among other things.

Peter and Paul (1981)
US 200 min, No rating, Color,
Director: Robert Day; Cast includes: Anthony Hopkins, Robert Foxworth, Raymond Burr
-About SS Peter and Paul in Rome.

*The Robe (1953)
US, Religious, 135, No rating, Color
Director: Henry Koster; Cast includes: Richard Burton, Victor Mature, Jean Simmons
-Based on Lloyd C. Douglas' novel about Roman centurion who presides over Christ's crucifixion. The first movie in CinemaScope.

*Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954)
US, Religious, 101, No rating, Color
Director: Delmer Davies: Cast includes: Victor Mature, Susan Hayward
-Sequel to the Robe. Caligula looks for it now.

*The Sign of the Cross (1932)
US, Historical, 118, No rating B&W
Director: Cecil B. DeMiller: Cast includes: Fredric March, Claudette Colbert (Empress Poppaea), Charles Laughton (Emperor Nero)
Nero burns Rome. This was made before the Hayes code, and represents an high point id De Mille's skill of getting in as much sin as possible under a pious justification. Laughton as Nero is every bit as decadent as one could hope, but the last third of the movie is spectacular. Frederic March tries to "warm up" the Christian girl (Landi) he is pursuing by taking her to an orgy where she is carressed by a half-dressed lesbian -- in the background, martyrs sing on their way to the arena. The arena scenes are massively violent and erotic -- with naked women being attacked by crocadiles, and, at one point, an Amazon spearing a pygmy and lifting the still wriggling guy up in the air. The movies was cut to shreds after the Hays code, and it is important to get hold of the uncut version.

Androcles and the Lion (1952)
US, Comedy, 98, No rating, B&W
Director: Chester Erskine; Cast includes: Jean Simmons, Alan Young, Victor Mature
-Based on GB Shaw play.
-There was also a TV version in 1965 with Norman Wisdom and Noel Coward.

*Sebastiane (1976)
UK, religious, 82, Color, In Latin
Director: Derek Jarman
-[PBH Comment] Story of the early Christian martyr St. Sebastian set as a homoerotic fantasy around 303 CE.. Mostly filmed with all characters naked, and the dialogue is all in Latin. Jarman explicitly exploits the image of Sebastian as a gay icon, and although set in late antiquity is not a historical film in any useful way. It is interesting to see Latin used as a daily language, and for gay classicists the movie will have an especial appeal. It would be difficult in most institutions to show this to any other class than a history of sexuality class.

Fabiola (1917)
Italy
Director: Enrico Guzzanoi

Fabiola (1949) [Alt: Fabiola And The Fighting Gladiator / Fabulous Fabiola]
France-Italy, Historical, 96, No rating B&W
Director: Alessandro Blasetti
-About 4th-century persecution against Christians in Rome. The English-dubbed version, adapted by Marc Connelly and Fred Pressbburger features a different story line from the original! Both Fabiola movies are adaptations of the famous novel by Cardinal Wiseman about the persecutions of the Christians at Rome just before her conquest by Constantine.

*Constantino Il Grande (1961)[Alt: Constantine The Great \Constantine And The Cross]
Italy, Drama, 120, No Rating, Color
Director: Lionello de Felice; Star; Cornel Wilde,Belinda Lee.
-The story of the founder of Byzantium in the center of which is the scene of the flaming cross which the Emperor sees in the sky just before the big battle. The movie gives a conventionally pious view of Constantine. Leonard Maltin rates it as "intelligent".

Il Crolo Di Roma (1963) [Alt: Rome In Flames]
Italy
Director: Antonio Margherriti
-About the time after the death of Constantine when sporadic persecution was still being carried out.

Agostino d'Ippona [aka Augustine of Hippo] (1972)
Italy, 121 mins.
Directory: Roberto Rossellin
The life of St, Augustine of Hippo by one of the masters of Italian Cinema.

Back to Index

The Barbarian/German Impact

Attila Flagello Di Dio (1918)
Italy
Director: Febo Mari

Attila, Flagello Di Dio (1954) [Alt: Attila, Attila the Hun]
France-Italy, Historical, 83, No rating, Black & White/Colorized
Director: Pietro Francioso; Cast includes: Anthony Quinn, Sophia Loren, Irene Pappas
-Attila prepares to attack Rome.

Attila (1980) [Alt: Attila, il flagello di Dio, Wild trieben es die alten Hunnen]
Italy
Director: Franco Castellano

*Attila (2001) (TV mini)
US, Historical, Color
Director. Rick Lowry; Cast includes Gerard Butler (Attila) and Tim Curry (Theodosius).

Sign of the Pagan (1954)
US, Historical, 92, No rating, Color
Director: Douglas Sirk: Cast includes: Jeff Chandler, Jack Palance (Attila the Hun)
-Attila at the gates of Rome meets Pope Leo the Great.

Back to Index

Byzantium, etc.

*Simón del desierto (1965) [Alt: Simon of the Desert]
Mexico, historical religious, 44 1965 Black and White, In Spanish
Director: Luis Buñuel; Cast includes: Claudio Brook (Simon), Silvia Pinal
- Buñuel's version of the story of St. Simon Stylites, who stood on a pillar for forty years. This is one of the best accounts of Early Christian Asceticism ever put on screen.

Theodora, Imperatice Di Bizanzio (1909) [Alt: Theodora Empress Of Byzantium]
Italy
Director: Ernesto Mario Pasquali

Theodora (1912)
France
Director: Henrey Pouctal

Teodora (1913)
Italy
Director: Ambrosio

Theodora (1919) [Alt: Theodora, the Slave Princess]
Italy
Director: Giovanni Vitrotti, Leopoldo Carlucci

Teodora (1921/23)
Italy ( no other details available)

Teodora Imperatice Di Bisanzio (1954) [Alt: Theodora Slave Empress\ Theodora Queen Of Byzantium \Theodora]
Italy/France, Adventure, Black & White, In Italian
Director: Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampron); Cast includes: Gianna Maria Canal, George Marchal, Irene Pappas
- The most important movie about Theodora (though that really is not saying much)

The Last Roman (1968) [Alt: Kampf um Rom]
Germany-Romania, Historical, 92, No rating B&W
Director: Robert Siomak: Cast includes: Orson Welles, , Syliva Coscina (Theodora), Lang Jeffries (Belisarius)
-Based on Felix Dann's German bestseller Kampf um Rom about the decline of the Roman Empire.
-Probably the most ambitious Byzantine movie ever which in its original German version was released in 2 part of some 4 hours. (everywhere else the movie was shown in only half its length). Based on a 19th century novel by Felix Dahn it presents the struggle of the daughters of the Gothic king Theodoric for power after his death. and then the conquest of their kingdom in Italy by the Byzantine general Belisarius . the movie won a very bad critical views but it is very grandiose and detailed.
see also:
Kampf um Rom II - Der Verrat (1969)  

The Warrior and the Slave Girl (1958) [aka La  Rivolta dei gladiatori]
Italy, Historical, 84, No rating, Color
Director: Vittorio Cottafavi
-Set in ancient Armenia

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The Byzantine Commonwealth - Russia

*Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Russia, War/Historical, 107, No rating B&W
Director: Sergei Eisenstein, D.I. Vassillev; Cast includes: Nikolai Cherkassov
-The repelling of a German invasion in the 13th century. Score by Prokofiev. One of the great movies.

*Andrei Rublev (1966)
Russia, Historical, 185, No rating, Color, B&W
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
-about the 15th-century icon painter.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] On the other side of the ledger, has anyone else seen Tarkowski's Andrei Rublev? I don't know enough about Medieval Russia to judge it. It seemed to do a reasonable job portraying the period, and is cinematically outstanding, although Rublev's character struck me as a bit too modern.

Ivan the Terrible, Part One (1943)
Russia, Historical/Drama, 96, No rating B&W
Director: Sergei Eisenstein, D.I. Vassillev; Cast includes: Nikolai Cherkassov
-Music by Prokofiev

Ivan the Terrible, Part Two (1946)
Russia, Historical/Drama, 88, No rating B&W
Director: Sergei Eisenstein, D.I. Vassillev; Cast includes: Nikolai Cherkassov
-Music by Prokofiev. This was banned in Russia until 1958 because Stalin object to the portrayal of Ivan's secret police.

Tsar Ivan Groznyj (1991)
Director. Gennadi Vasilyev

Prisoner of the Volga (1960)
Yugoslavia, Historical, 102, No rating, Color
Director: W. Tourjansky
-About a solider who seeks revenge when a general impregnates his wife.

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The Byzantine Commonwealth - Georgia

*The Legend of the Suram Fortess aka Ambavi Suramis tsikhitsa (1984)
USSR, historical, 88 mins.Color. In Georgian.
Director: Dodo Abashidze and Sergei Parajanov (aka Paradjanov)
The film is set  in medieval Georgia and the legend concerns the last wall around the Suram fortress. The wall collapses no matter what the builders try to keep it standings. A woman denied be the man she loves makes a prophecy and advises the prince who abandoned her to bury his son in the walls of Suram Fortress to protect it during a siege.According to the prophecy the only way to complete the wall around the fortress is to immure the hero into the wall.

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Islam

*Mohammad, Messenger of God/The Message (1977)
Lebanon-UK, Religious, 180, Rated PG, Color
Director: Moustapha Akkad; Cast includes: Anthony Quinn, Irene Pappas
-In accordance with Islamic law, Muhammad is not actually shown on screen, and neither he, nor most of his relatives are allowed to speak. This left Muhammad's uncle as the central character.

al-Risâlah (1976)
Lebanon, Religious, 170, Color
Director. Moustapha Akkad
-Story of Islam.

Arabian Nights (1942)
US, Adventure, 86, No rating, Color
Director: John Rawlins; cast includes: Maria Montez, Sabu
-"Camp"

*Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944)
US, Adventure, 87, No rating, Color
Director: Arthur Lubin; cast includes: Maria Montez, Jon Hall
-A follow-up to Arabian Nights.  There is a historical set-up to this fantasy movie. It is set just after the Mongols have conquered Baghdad, and Ali Baba is presented as a surviving Abbasid prince.

The Golden Blade
US, Adventure, 81 min, No rating, Color
Director: Nathan Juran; Cast includes: Rock Hudson (Harun), Piper Laurie (Princess Khairuzan), Anita Ekberg, Bill Radovich (Eunuch)
-Arabian nights type adventure

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
UK, Fantasy/Adventure, 104 min, Rated G, Color
Director: Gordon Hessler; Cast includes: John Phillip Law, Caroline Munro, Tom Baker

Arabian Nights (1974) [aka Il Fiore delle mille e una notte]
France-Italy, Fantasy, 128, No rating, Color
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
-Several 1001 Nights stories, framed by the story of slave-girl Pellegrina, who becomes "king" of a great city. [Part of Pasolini's Medieval trilogy of Arabian Nights, Decameron, and Canterbury Tales]

*Omar Khayyam (1957)
US, Adventure, 101, No rating, Color
Director: William Dieterle; Cast includes: Cornel Wilde
-Set in medieval Persia.
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] What about the incomparable Omar Khayyam starring Cornell Wilde? When Omar finally gets to the heart of the assassin's stronghold (you know they're bad guys because they thrown people down holes and stuff), the evil rotten chief terrorist of the medieval world, The Old Man of the Mountains, turns out to be Edward Platt, later known as The Chief of CONTROL on "Get Smart!"

*El Naser Salah el Dine [Alt: Saladin] (1963)
Egypt, Historical/Drama (Technicolor), 175 mins. Director Youssef Chahine.
An Arab movie about Saladin. It is not clear in the movie that Saladin was a Kurd, not an Arab, and he is presented as a prototype of Nasser in calling for Arab unity in order to expel the western intruders.

*Destiny [Alt: Al-Massir] (1997)
Egypt, Historical/Drama (Technicolor), 135 mins. Director Youssef Chahine.
The story of Averoes set in 12th century Al-Andulus. It is an attack by Chahine on fundamentalism.

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The Celtic World

The Fighting Prince of Donegal (1966)
US, Historical/Children's, 112, No rating, Color
Director: Michael Herlihy; Cast includes: Peter McEnery, Susan Hampshire
-Disney movie for children set in Ireland in 1587. Swashbuckler.

St. Patrick: The Irish Legend (TV) (2000)
US, 100 mins.
Director: Robert Hughes, 100 mins.
The life of St. Patrick, from childhood, to his mission to Ireland.

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Vikings/Nordic

See ORB: Scandinavia and Northern Seas Page

Barbara (1997)
Denmark
Director: Nils Malmros, With Anneke von der Lippe
[Bruce Gilchrist] A young priest falls in love (and marries) a liberated woman,  but she cannot remain chaste while he is away.  Filmed entirely in the Faroe islands,   set in 1640,  and spoken in Old Faroese. Coproduction with Denmark,  this is an A-film with impressive     cinematography,  superb period detail and excellent acting.Should be of great interest to medieval scholars.   Excellent!

Erik the Conqueror (1961) [Alt: The Invaders]
Italy, Historical, 81, No rating, Color
Director: Mario Bava; Cast includes: Cameron Mitchell
-10th century Vikings.

*Erik the Viking (1989)
UK, Historical, 104, Color
Director: Terry Jones; Cast includes: Tim Robbins, Mickey Rooney, Eartha Kitt
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Eric the Viking, an attempt and failure to recreate the Monty Python Holy Grail or Life of Brian attitude.

Hrafninn flygur (1984) [Alt: Korpen flyger, When the Raven Flies]
Iceland/Sweden, 109, Color, [In Icelandic]
Director: Hrafn Gunnlaugsson

Hvite Viking, Den (1991)
Norway/Denmark/Sweden, Adventure, 131, Color
Director: Hrafn Gunnlaugsson
-10th century Norway

The Juniper Tree  (1987)
Iceland, Drama.
Director: Nietzcha Keene, With Bjork.
[Bruce Gilchrist] Icelandic ancient faery-tale film.  Notably starring Bjork Guthmunsdottir--Iceland's popular music diva

The Long Ships (1964)
UK-Yugoslavia, Adventure, 125 min, No rating, Color
Director: Jack Cardiff; Cast includes: Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier.
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] This took some deciding, though. I almost voted for The Long Ships (to an Old Norse specialist, awful Viking movies have a special awfulness) Then there is the Long Ships, with Richard Widmark as the Viking hero and Sidney Poitier as his northern African, Muslim, bad-guy counterpart.
-This is film with the Golden Bell in Morocco, with Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier emoting vociferously but to no effect. The most enjoyable characterization in the film is Lionel Jeffries' mute harem eunuch.

The Norseman (1978)
US, Adventure, 90, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles B. Pierce: Cast includes: Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde
-About an 11th-century Viking prince sailing to America in search of his father, abducted by Indians.
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Perhaps the worst was The Norseman starring Lee Majors with a cadre of football players who wend their way to America to free Major's dad from the Indians. This one is so bad that it is a classic.
- The Majors entry was one clunker I had managed to make myself forget all about! Talk about suppressed memories. Right down there with Plan 9 from Outer Space..... I once taught a course on medieval literature into film and discovered that film and things medieval are apples and oranges.

I Tartari (1962) [Alt: The Tartars]
Color
Director: Ferdinando Baldi, Richard Thorpe (I); Cast includes: Victor Mature, Orson Welles

Viking Women and the Sea Serpent (1957)
US, Fantasy/Adventure, 66, No rating B&W
Director: Roger Corman
-original title - The Saga of The Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of The Great Sea Serpent.

The Viking (1928)
USA, 9 reels, adventure 1928 Color
Director: Roy William Neill; Cast includes: Donald Crisp (Leif Ericsson), Pauline Starke
-Amazing, but true, an all color silent Viking movie from 1928.

The Vikings (1958)
US, Historical/Adventure, 114, No rating, Color
Director: Richard Fleischer: Cast includes: Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] There was also a REAL stinker back in the '50s called "The Viking" with Tony Curtis (of Black Shield fame) and Kirk Douglas with Janet Leigh as the Anglo-Saxon princess they were fighting over. If you look closely at some of the rowing scenes, one of the Vikings has a very visible vaccination scar and another is wearing an equally visible gold wristwatch.
-This one has Kirk Douglas as a clean-shaven Viking, and his father explaining that "he's so vain he scrapes his face".

The Viking Sagas (1995)
Director. Michael Chapman
-Praised for its accuracy in depiction, but not for its sucsess as a movie.

*The 13th Warrior (1999)
US, Action/Horror, 102 mins
Director: John McTiernan; Cast includes: Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif
-[PBH Comment] Based on Michael Crichton's novel the Eaters of the Dead, which combined the genuine account of his encounters with the Rus (Vikings on the Volga) of the Arab traveler Ibn Fahdlan (here played by Banderas) with themes take from Beowulf and -- apparently -- H.G. Well's Time Machine. For all the pans the movie received from film critics, it was treated much more kindly by medievalists, and some were delighted with it. "Accuracy" is not the issue, but it was very interesting to see the "civilized" point of view presented as that of a cultured Muslim from Baghdad. Note that Ibn Fadlan's text is online at http://www.vikinganswerlady.org/ibn_fdln.htm

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Feudalism/ Knighthood

*A Knight's Tale (2001)
US, Action, 132, PG 13, Color
Director: Brain Helgeland; Star: Heath Ledger
-Set in the world of tournements, this is not a "historical film" in any conventional sense.

*Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
UK, Historical/Comedy, 90, Rated PG, Color
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones; Star; Graham Chapman
-Meant to be humorous. It is, in parts.

*The Seventh Seal (1957)
Sweden, Drama, 96, No rating B&W
Director: Ingmar Bergman: Cast includes: Max Von Sydow
-Set in 14th-century Sweden, about a knight returning from a crusade playing a chess game with death. The film made Bergman famous. It is less about the crusade era, however, than Swedish existentialism in the 1950s.

*The War Lord (1965)
US, War/Historical/Drama, 123, No rating, Color
Director: Franklin Schaffner; Cast includes: Charlton Heston
-Based on Leslie Stevens' The Lovers. Heston is a knight invoking the "right" to sleep with another man's bride on their wedding night. (See Braveheart for the same myth)
-[PBH Comments] The War Lord is a complex story, but a modern one. It is set in a slightly hazy eleventh-century primarily to use the myth of the "first night" as a springboard for the story. Apart from that detail it could have been a western. As a film it is moderately interesting. For teaching purposes, fairly extensive discussion of inaccuracies would be required.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] How about The War Lord in which I believe someone says to Charlton Heston "I hate your knightly guts."
-I must protest at the inclusion of The Warlord in this discussion. it is a very interesting film which Heston made after his success with Ben Hur and chose to do things like wear a bowl-cut hairdo which his PR men told him would ruin his reputation as a sex-symbol. Aside from the ius primae noctis, for which an interesting rationale is provided, the film is really quite realistic (the claustrophobic quarters of a dungeon fortress) and very interesting. recently re-released and worth a look.

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Law

*The Advocate [Alt: The Hour of the Pig]
US (1993): Historical/Drama/Crime
Director: Peter Thompson: Cast includes: Colin Firth
-A 15th-century French lawyer defends a pig put on trial for murder.

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Crusades

See ORB: Crusades Bibliography

*The Crusades (1935)
US, Historical/Drama, 123, No rating B&W
Director: Cecil B. DeMille; Cast includes: Loretta Young (Berengaria), Henry Wilcoxon (Richard), Ian Keith (Saladin)
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] - May I nominate Cecil B. De Mille's The Crusades. It is memorable not only for its conflation of all Crusades into one big mess but most especially Loretta Young as Berengaria spending a brief vacation in Saladin's harem. I defy anyone to beat that!
-Ah, yes, and with C. Aubrey Smith as "The Hermit", tied to a stake on the Saracens' parapet, arms outstretched, crying "In this sign, you will conquer!!"
-Pauline Kael notes that "DeMille wilfully garbled every single character and incident."

*King Richard and the Crusaders (1954)
US, Historical, 114, No rating, Color
Director: David Butler; Cast includes: Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Virginia Mayo
-Not well regarded. Based on Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] This is the film with a disguised Saladin sneaking into the Christian camp to cure Richard. Sanders is very unconvincing as Richard. There is also an otherwise unknown cousin of Richard's named Edith Plantagenet (!!!) in love with a mere knight. Certainly a strong contender in any event.

Lionheart (1987)
US, Adventure, 104 min, Rated PG, Color
Director: Frankilin J. Schaffner; Cast includes: Eric Stoltz
-Stoltz leads a "childrens crusade in search of King Richard I in the 12th century."

The Mighty Crusaders (1957)
Italy, Religious/Historical/Action, 87, No rating, Color
Director: Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia
-A version of Tasso's poem

*Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
UK, Historical/Comedy, 90, Rated PG, Color
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones; Star; Graham Chapman
-Meant to be humorous. It is, in parts.

*The Seventh Seal (1957)
Sweden, Drama, 96, No rating B&W
Director: Ingmar Bergman: Cast includes: Max Von Sydow
-Set in 14th-century Sweden, about a knight returning from a crusade playing a chess game with death. The film made Bergman famous. It is less about the crusade era, however, than Swedish existentialism in the 1950s.

*El Naser Salah el Dine [Alt: Saladin] (1963)
Egypt, Historical/Drama (Technicolor), 175 mins. Director Youssef Chahine.
An Arab movie about Saladin. It is not clear in the movie that Saladin was a Kurd, not an Arab, and he is presented as a prototype of Nasser in calling for Arab unity in order to expel the western intruders.

*Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Russia, War/Historical, 107, No rating B&W
Director: Sergei Eisenstein, D.I. Vassillev; Cast includes: Nikolai Cherkassov
-The repelling of a German invasion in the 13th century. Score by Prokofiev. One of the great movies.

Black Cross (1960) [Alt: Krzyzacy]
Poland, Historical/Adventure, 175, No rating, Color
Director: Aleksander Ford
-About the Teutonic knights. Not up to Eisenstein.

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Medieval European Literature on Film

See #IMDb: Shakespeare Movies

*The Canterbury Tales (1971)
France-Italy, Drama, 109, No rating, Color
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
-Four stories. Graphic and sadistic footage will appeal to some.
-[From a correspondent] Canterbury Tales has Ninetto Davoli in a Chaplinesque version of "The Cook's Tale" [he had a good eye, Pier Paolo].
-[Bruce Gilchrist]   While Decamaron has a fair amount of sex,  it is faithful to the tales and is an enjoyable film.  Suitable for showing to a class.    His Raconti di Canteburi however is much more graphic. The humping never seems to stop and it all gets rather silly.  It's a failure and is not suitable for showing to a class.  It's tolerable I suppose  compared to Jarman's Sebastiane, but that's about it.
[Part of Pasolini's Medieval trilogy of Arabian Nights, Decameron, and Canterbury Tales]

*Canterbury Tales, The (1998)
UK, T. 2x28mins
Director. Jonathan Myerson
-Six of the stories from the Canterbury Tales done in a variety of animation styles. It works very well. The filsm was made in three versions -- Middle English, Modern English, and Welsh.

Dante's Inferno (1935)
US, Drama, 88, No rating, Black & White
Director: Harry Lachman; Cast includes; Spencer Tracy, (and in a minor role Rita Hayworth)
-Not about Dante, but a modern circus owner. The film does contain an Inferno Devil's Paradise sequence.

Decameron Nights (1953)
UK, Drama, 87, No rating, Color
Director: Hugo Fregonese; Cast includes: Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Louis Jourdan as Boccaccio.

The Decameron (1970)
France-Italy-West Germany, Drama, 111, Rated X, Color
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
-Eight tales from Boccacio. Pasolini plays Giotto.
-[Bruce Gilchrist]   While Decamaron has a fair amount of sex,  it is faithful to the tales and is an enjoyable film.  Suitable for showing to a class.    His Raconti di Canteburi however is much more graphic. The humping never seems to stop and it all gets rather silly.  It's a failure and is not suitable for showing to a class.  It's tolerable I suppose  compared to Jarman's Sebastiane, but that's about it.
[Part of Pasolini's Medieval trilogy of Arabian Nights, Decameron, and Canterbury Tales]

*El Cid (1961)
US, War/Biography, 184, No rating, Color
Director: Anthony Mann; Cast includes: Sophia Loren (Chimene), Charlton Heston (Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar El Cid), John Fraser (King Alfonso).
-Quite good, in fact.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Of course, I am personally above such rancor. I specialize in medieval Spain, which has scarcely been mentioned since El Cid, and who can find fault with anything with which Sophia Loren was associated? But man that scene with the Cid riding out with a stake up his back is good but hokey cinema!

The Mighty Crusaders (1957)
Italy, Religious/Historical/Action, 87, No rating, Color
Director: Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia
-A version of Tasso's poem. A love story between a Christian and a Saracen forms the basic story.

The Eternal Return (1943) [Alt: L'Eternel Retour]
France, Drama, 100, No rating B&W In French
Director: Jean Delannoy: Cast includes: Jean Marais, Madeleine Sologne
-Based on Jean Cocteau's modern-dress adaptation of the Tristan and Isolde legend.

*Perceval le Gallois (1978)
France, Drama, 140, No rating, Color
Director: Eric Rohmer
-Based on the 12th century French romance, translated by Rohmer. Unfortunately Roger Ebert calls it "relentlessly turgid".

Beowulf (1998) (TV)
US, 27, Color. Animated.
Director. Yuri Kulakov, With Jospeh Fiennes and Derek  Jacobi

*Beowulf (1999)
US. 89, Color
Director: Graham Baker. With Christopher Lambert
-The Beowulf story moved to the future.

Grendel, Grendel, Grendel (1980)
Australia, Animated, 90, No rating, Color
Director: Alexander Stitt; Star; (voices) Peter Ustinov, Keith Mitchell
-Beowulf's opponent.

*The 13th Warrior (1999)
US, Action/Horror, 102 mins
Director: John McTiernan; Cast includes: Antonio Banderas, Omar Sharif
-[PBH Comment] Based on Michael Crichton's novel the Eaters of the Dead, which combined the genuine account of his encounters with the Rus (Vikings on the Volga) of the Arab traveler Ibn Fahdlan (here played by Banderas) with themes take from Beowulf and -- apparently -- H.G. Well's Time Machine. For all the pans the movie received from film critics, it was treated much more kindly by medievalists, and some were delighted with it. "Accuracy" is not the issue, but it was very interesting to see the "civilized" point of view presented as that of a cultured Muslim from Baghdad. Note that Ibn Fadlan's text is online at http://www.vikinganswerlady.org/ibn_fdln.htm

*Die Nibelungen (1924) [Two Parts: *Siegfried and *Kriemhild's Revenge]
Dir. Fritz Lang. Germany, Fantasy, 186 min, No rating, Black & White
-Extraordinary silent film.

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England

Alfred the Great (1969)
UK, Historical, 122, Rated PG, Color
Director: Clive Donner; Cast includes: David Hemmings, Michael York

Lady Godiva (1955)
US, Drama, 89, No rating, Color
Director: Arthur Lubin; Cast includes: Maureen O'Hara
-About the woman who rode naked through Coventry. It would be filmed differently today!

Black Arrow (1985) TV
US 93, No rating, Color
Director: John Hough: Cast includes: Oliver Reed
-Based on Robert Louis Stevenson's hero.

The Black Shield of Falworth (1954)
US, Adventure, 99, No rating, Color
Director: Rudolph Mate; Cast includes: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh
-Knighthood in medieval England in time of Henry IV. Based on Howard Pyle's Men of Iron
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] In any event, I haven't heard anyone's nomination for the worst medieval movie ever filmed. I have a special place in my heart for The Black Shield of Falworth, but I'm sure that there are many others equally, or even more, despicable. God! tough to top that.

*The Black Rose (1950)
US. Adventure, 120.
Director: Henry Hathaway; Cast includes Tyrone Power and Orson Welles.
A noble Saxon youth in Norman England is forced to run away. he takes with him a loyal retainer who brings along a long bow. The two go all the way to China where they become involved in intrigues in the court of Kublai Khan. Note that the trope of   Saxon/Norman conflict is here extended well into the late 13th century!

*Becket (1964)
US, Historical/Drama, 148, No rating, Color
Director: Peter Glenville; Cast includes: Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton
-Based on Jean Anouilh's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket and his English King, Henry II. Although there is no historical data to support the suggestion, Anouilh sees a homosexual relationship. Superb film.
- See ORB: Becket Bibliography

Murder in the Cathedral (1952)
UK. BW, 140 mins.
Director: George Hoellering.
Film version of T.S. Eliot's play of the same name, about the murder/martyrdom of Thomas Becket.

*The Lion in Winter (1968)
UK, Historical/Drama, 135, No rating, Color
Director: Anthony Harvey: Cast includes: Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor), Peter O'Toole (Henry II), Anthony Hopkins (Richard the Lionheart)
-[PBH Comment] Probably the greatest of all "medieval movies" for sheer enjoyment. The intra-familial disputes of the Plantagenets are quite accurately depicted. What does not come across is that by the late 12th century dynasticism, although it still had legs, was supplemented by increasingly elaborate state structures. And then there is Hepburn. Magnificent as ever, it must be remembered that she never played anyone but herself. Recommended for teaching simply as a way to excite student interest.
-See ORB: Eleanor Bibliography

*King Richard and the Crusaders (1954)
US, Historical, 114, No rating, Color
Director: David Butler; Cast includes: Rex Harrison, Virgina Mayo
-Not well regarded

*Ivanhoe (1952)
US, Romance/Adventure, 106, No rating, Color
Director: Richard Thorpe; Cast includes: Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine
-based on Sir Walter Scott's romantic novel. Saxons support Richard, Normans support John, and Elizabeth Taylor at her most beautiful as Rebecca (one of the few movie representations of any Medieval Jewish character).
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] We've also forgotten the horrendous Ivanhoe with Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor and Olivia de Havilland.
-Ah yes. But I was young then and it seemed quite romantic. Indeed, Ivanhoe (more the book than the movie) had a good bit to do with my early interest in things medieval.

*Ivanhoe (1982). TV
UK, Drama, 188/156 mins, Color
Director Douglas Camfield; Cast includes James Mason Isaac of York), Anthony Andrews (Ivanhoe), Olivia Hussey (Rebecca), and Lysette Anthony (Rowena).
The video is an edit of the mini-series. It received quite good notices for both its acting and its battle scenes.

Ivanhoe (1997) TV-Mini
Dir. Stuart Orme

Edward II (1970)
Director:. Tobey Robertson
Cast includes: Ian McKellen
-Made for TV version of Marlowe's play

*Edward II (1991)
UK, Drama, , 91 min, No rating, Color
Director: Derek Jarman; Cast includes: Steven Waddington, Tilda Swinton
-based on the 1592 play by Christopher Marlowe about the homosexual Edward II.

The Warriors (1955) [Alt: The Dark Avenger]
UK, Historical, 85, No rating, Color
Director: Henry Levin; Cast includes: Errol Flynn (Prince Edward), Michael Hordern (King Edward III)
-Early hundred year's war

*Henry V (1945)
UK, War/Drama, 137, No rating, Color
Director: Laurence Olivier; Cast includes: Laurence Olivier
-Shakespeare's play, played for wartime nationalism. Olivier's rendition of the St. Crispin's day speech will make you want to be English!

*Henry V (1989)
UK, Historical/Drama, 137, No rating, Color
Director: Kenneth Branagh; Cast includes: Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed
-Brilliant, but much darker version of Shakespeare than Olivier's. Branagh was 27 when he amde this -- Henry V's age at Agincourt (check).

Richard III (1912)
US, Drama, 55, No rating, B/W and hand-tinted color
Director: André Calmettes and James Keane (II); Cast includes: Frederick Warde (King Richard III)
-This 1912 filmor Shakespeare's play is the earliest surviving American feature film.

*Richard III (1955)
UK, War/Historical, 155, No rating, Color
Director: Laurence Olivier; Cast includes: Laurence Olivier (King Richard III), Ralph Richardson (Buckingham), Claire Bloom (Lady Anne), John Gielgud (Clarence)
-Shakespeare's play.
-There are many other versions.

Tower of London (1939)
US, Historical, 92, No rating B&W
Director: Rowland V. Lee; Cast includes: Basil Rathbone (Richard III), Boris Karloff (Mord, the Executioner)
-Princes in the Tower story

*Tower of London (1962)
US, Historical, 79, No rating B&W
Director: Roger Corman; Cast includes: Vincent Price
-remake of 1939 film

*The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)
UK, Biography, 97, No rating B&W
Director: Alexander Korda; Cast includes: Charles Laughton, Robert Donat, Elsa Lanchester, Merle Oberon.

Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1973)
UK, Biography, 125, Rated PG, Color
Director: Waris Hussein; Cast includes: Keith Michell, Donald Pleasence, Charlotte Rampling
-Condensed from the British TV series.

*A Man for All Seasons (1966)
UK, Drama, 120, No rating, Color
Director: Fred Zinnemann: Cast includes: Paul Scofield
-The story of St. Thomas More as a man of conscience. Won six Oscars.

A Man for All Seasons (1988)
US TV, Drama, 120, No rating, Color
Director: Charlton Heston. With Charlton Heston and Vanessa Redgrave
-Remake of 1996 film and closer to Robert Bolt's play. It is hard to imagine the off screen conversations ebtween Heston and Redgrave about politics. By all accounts heston has great respect for her as an actress.

Anne of the Thousand Days (1969)
US, Historical, 145, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles Jarrott; Cast includes: Richard Burton (King Henry VIII), Geneviève Bujold (Anne Boleyn), Irene Papas (Queen Katherine), Anthony Quayle (Wolsey)
-About Anne Boleyn. Quite inaccurate!

Lady Jane (1985)
UK, Biography, 142, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Trevor Nunn; Cast includes: Helena Bonham Carter

Tudor Rose (1936)
(No other information)
-The story of Lady Jane Grey.

The Sword and the Rose (1953)
US, Romance/Historical, 93, No rating, Color
Director: Ken Annakin; Cast includes: Richard Todd, Glynis Johns (Princess Mary Tudor), James Robertson Justice (King Henry VIII)
-Disney movie set in England of Mary Tudor. A color re-filming of When Knighthood was in Flower (1922).

The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
US, Romance/Biography, 106, No rating, Color
Director: Michael Curtiz; Cast includes: Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Vincent Price

*The Virgin Queen (1955)
US, Historical, 92, No rating, Color
Director: Henry Koster; Cast includes: Bette Davis, Richard Todd, Joan Collins
-Elizabeth and Raleigh

*Elizabeth (1998)
UK. 121, Color
Director: Shekhar Kapur, With Cate Blanchett.
-So amazinging anti-Catholic, it could not have been made by a modern English director.
-there are many other movies on Queen Elizabeth.

Seven Seas to Calais (1962)
Italy, Historical/Biography, 102, No rating, Color
Director: Rudolph Mate; Cast includes: Rod Taylor, Keith Mitchell
-About Sir Francis Drake

Fire Over England (1937)
UK, War/Historical/Adventure, 89, No rating B&W
Director: William K. Howard; Star; Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson (Queen Elizabeth), Leslie Banks (Earl of Leicester), Raymond Massey, (Philip of Spain), Vivien Leigh (Cynthia)
-All about the Armada

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England - Arthurian

See Robbins Library: Arthurian Bibliographies

Camelot (1967)
USA, musical, Color, 179 minutes.
Director: Joshua Logan; Cast includes: Richard Harris, David Hemmings, Lionel Jeffries, Franco Nero, Vanessa Redgrave!
A musical that is tedious beyond belief. Despite huge expense it looks tacky, and no one can sing.

*Excalibur (1981)
UK, Fantasy/Action, 140, Rated PG, Color
Director: John Boorman; Cast includes: Nigel Terry (Arthur), Paul Geoffrey (Perceval), Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere), Helen Mirren (Morgana), Nicholas Clay (Lancelot)
-A very lush movie. Has a reputation (like 2001: A Space Odyssey) of being watched while under the influence of magic substances.
-Excalibur includes Thomas Malory as a writer in its credits; the movie only makes sense if read allegorically.

*First Knight (1995)
US, Romance/Adventure, 132, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Jerry Zucker; Cast includes: Sean Connery (Arthur), Richard Gere (Lancelot), Julia Ormond (Guinevere)

*Knights of the Round Table (1953)
US, Historical, 115, No rating, Color
Director: Richard Thorpe; Cast includes: Robert Taylor (Sir Lancelot of the Lake), Ava Gardner (Queen Guinevere), Mel Ferrer (King Arthur)
-MGM's first widescreen film

*Sword of Lancelot [aka Lancelot and Guinevere] (1963)
US, Historical, 116 mins, Color
Dir. Cornel Wilde.

*Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
UK, Historical/Comedy, 90, Rated PG, Color
Director: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones; Star; Graham Chapman
-Meant to be humorous. It is, in parts.

*Perceval le Gallois (1978)
France, Drama, 140, No rating, Color
Director: Eric Rohmer
-Based on the 12th century French romance, translated by Rohmer. Unfortunately Roger Ebert calls it "relentlessly turgid".

Siege of the Saxons (1963)
UK, Historical/Adventure, 85, No rating, Color
Director: Nathan Juran
-About King Arthur's daughter.

*Prince Valiant (1954)
US, Adventure, 100, No rating, Color
Director: Henry Hathaway; Cast includes: James Mason, Janet Leigh,
-A cartoon character in the middle ages, with Arthurian characters.

*Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1973)
UK, Adventure, 101, Rated PG, Color
Director: Philip Breen; Cast includes: Murray Head
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ca. early 1970's with Murray Head as Gawain. Recently shown on TNT's Saturday Nitro. OUCH!]
The films sticks close to the original story, but has aged very badly.

Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Gawain and the Green Knight. (1982)
UK, Adventure, 101, Rated PG, Color
Director: Stephan Weeks; Cast includes: Miles O'Keeffe (Gawain), Sean Connery (Green Knight), Trevor Howard (Arthur), Peter Cushing
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Sword of the Valiant with Miles O'Keefe as Gawain. Great hair that didn't move...at all!!! Medieval theme taken to the mystic outer limits!. O'Keefe previously played Tarzan.

*Lancelot du Lac (1974) [Alt: Le Graal, The Grail, Lancelot of the Lake]
France/Italy, Drama, 84, Color
Director: Robert Bresson; Cast includes: Luc Simon
-What happens after the knights have failed to find the Grail.

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England - Robin Hood

See Robbins Library: Robin Hood Sources Bibliography
See Robbins Library: Robin Hood Filmography

*The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
US, Adventure, 102, No rating, Color
Director: Michael Curtiz, Willim Keighley ; Cast includes: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains.
Established many of the tropes of later Robin Hood films.

The Adventures of Robin Hood TV-Series: 1955-1960

The Bandit of Sherwood Forest (1946)
US, Adventure, 86, No rating, Color
Director: George Sherman, Henry Levin; Cast includes: Cornel Wilde
-Robin Hood's son carrying on the old tradition.

Men of Sherwood Forest (1954)
UK, Adventure, 77, No rating, Color
Director: Val Guest; Cast includes: Don Taylor

The Prince of Thieves (1948)
US, Adventure, 72, No rating, Color
Director: Howard Bretherton; Cast includes: Jon Hall

*Robin and Marian (1976)
UK, Romance/Adventure, 112, Rated PG, Color
Director: Richard Lester; Cast includes: Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn
-Middle aged Robin and Marion in a "revisionist" story.

Robin Hood (1973)
US, Children's/Animated/Action, 83, Rated G, Color
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
-Animals play the human roles. Not a Disney great.

*Robin Hood (1991)
US, 150, No rating, Color
Director: John Irvin; Cast includes: Patrick Bergin, Uma Thurman.

*Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
US, Historical/Adventure/Action, 138, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Kevin Reynolds; Cast includes: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman
-Quite good in fact, although very 1990's. Stay for the last shot!
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] But my favorite Worst Medieval Movie remains Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I've never quite gotten over the moment when Kevin Costner's Robin asks a belligerent Will Scarlett, "Why do you hate me? Did I harm you in some former life?"

Rogues of Sherwood Forest (1950)
US, Historical/Adventure, 80, No rating, Color
Director: Gordon Douglas ; Cast includes: John Derek
-Robin's son fights to get Magna Carta signed.

The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)
US, Children's/Adventure, 83, No rating, Color
Director: Ken Annakin; Cast includes: Richard Tood, Joan Rice, Peter Finch
-Reasonable Disney version.

Sword of Sherwood Forest (1960)
UK, Adventure, 80, No rating, Color
Director: Terence Fisher; Cast includes: Richard Greene, Peter Cushing

Time Bandits (1981)
UK, Fantasy/Comedy, 110, Rated PG, Color
Director: Terry Gilliam; Cast includes: John Cleese (Robin Hood)
-Time travel fantasy.

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Scotland

The Bruce (1996)
UK, Romance/Historical/Action, 90, Rated R, Color
Director: Bob Carruthers and David McWhinnie; Cast includes  Oliver Reed, Brian Blessed, Michael van Wijik and Sandy Welch as Robert the Bruce
Includes a battle of Bannockburn sequence that was the largest filmed reconstruction of medieval battle ever staged in the Britain. 

*Braveheart (1995)
US, Romance/Historical/Action, 177, Rated R, Color
Director: Mel Gibson; Cast includes: Mel Gibson
-[PBH Comments] Won a lot of Oscars! This is a massively inaccurate portrayal of the life of the 13th-century Scots hero William Wallace. Gibson plays a woaded Wallace with a Glaswegian accent. The history is twisted in so many ways - the myth of ius primae nocte, the supposed liaison between Wallace and Isabella - that they would need a web site to unravel. On the other hand the battle scenes are very well done - violent bloody, and altogether impressive and the story is well told, in a conventional way. I was not, however, entirely convinced by Gibson as a suffering saviour. For class use, many students will enjoy this film, and, as ever, might be inspired to read up on the subject.

*Mary of Scotland (1936)
US, Historical/Biography, 123, No rating B&W
Director: John Ford; Cast includes: Katharine Hepburn, Frederic March.
-Flopped at the box office.

*Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
US, Historical/Biography, 128, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles Jarrott; Cast includes: Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots), Glenda Jackson (Queen Elizabeth), Patrick McGoohan (James Stuart), Timothy Dalton (Henry, Lord Darnley), Nigel Davenport, Trevor Howard, Daniel Massey, Robert Dudley,Ian Holm
-Incredible cast, but inaccurate. The homosexual relationship between Darnleyl and Riccio is portrayed.

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France

*The Advocate  [Alt: The Hour of the Pig]
US (1994): Historical/Drama/Crime
Director: David Thompson: Cast includes: Colin Firth
-A 15th-century lawyer defends a pig put on trial for murder.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
US, Drama, 93, No rating B&W
Director: Wallace Worsely; Cast includes: Lon Chaney

*The Hunchback of Notre Dame(1939)
US, Horror, 115, No rating B&W
Director: William Dieterle; Cast includes: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara
-The classic version of Victor Hugo's novel. Forget the Disney version.

*Le moine et la sorcière [Alt: The Sorceress] France (1987): Historical/Drama, 97 minutes.
Director: Suzanne Schiffman; Cast inlcudes Tchéky Karyo and Christine Boisson
-The Sorceress was written by a professional Medieval scholar - Pamela Berger of Boston College - and was shot in both French and English. It is based on a genuine medieval text by the 13th-century Dominican, Etienne de Bourbon, about the cult of s St. Guinefort near Lyons in France. St. Guinefort (probably derived from "Cynephoros" in Greek, sometimes a name for St. Christopher) was a sainted greyhound! The story, which is slow but involving, focuses accurately on early 13th century historical issues: the survival of "folk" culture; the role of women; the beginnings of the Dominican order; the use of profit-based farming techniques (in this case carp ponds) by local nobilities. The actors are professional, and the story has interesting twists. A very good film for classroom use.

Beatrice (1988)
France, Historical, 128, Rated R, Color
Director: Bertrand Tavernier: Cast includes: Julie Delpy
-Violent family story set during the Hundred Years War. A father bullies his son and engages in incest with his daughter.

Les Visiteurs du soir, (1942) [Alt: The Devil's Envoys]
France, Romance/Fantasy, 110, No rating B&W
Director: Marcel Carné
A fantasy romance set in the 15th century and based on a French legend:

*Ladyhawke (1985)
US, Fantasy/Adventure, 124, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Richard Donner; Cast includes: Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Broderick
-rightly called a fantasy, but set in Medieval France.

The Vagabond King (1956)
US, Musical/Historical, 86, No rating, Color
Director: Michael Curtiz; Cast includes: Kathryn Grayson, Oreste, Rita Moreno
-About François Villon, a version of Rudolf Frimal's operetta. Filmed before in 1930. Story without music as The Beloved Rogue (1927), and If I Were King (1928)

Diane (1956)
US, Historical, 110, No rating, Color
Director: David Miller: Cast includes: Lana Turner
-Set in the court of Francis I of France.

Queen Margot (1954)
France, Historical/Drama/Biography,
Cast includes: Jeanne Moreau
-About the St. Bartholemew's day massacre.

*Queen Margot (1994)
France-Germany-Italy, Historical/Drama/Biography, 143, Rated R, Color
Director: Patrice Chéreau; Cast includes: Isabelle Adjani
-Adjani as Marguerite de Valois and the events surrounding the St. Bartholemew's day massacre of 1572. Good critical reception. Based on Alexander Dumas' novel. The French language version runs 166.

*Intolerance (1916)
US, Drama, 178, No rating B&W
Director: D.W Griffiths: Cast includes: Lillian Gish
-Griffiths wrote "The purpose of the production is to trace a universal theme through various periods of the race's history. Ancient, sacred, medieval, and modern times are considered. Events are not set forth in their historical sequence, or according to the accepted forms of dramatic construction, but as they might flash across a mind seeking to parallel the life of the different ages." It has a section on the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the French Huguenots in 1572.

Carnival in Flanders (1935) [Alt: La Kermesse Héroïque]
France, Historical/Comedy, 95, No rating B&W In French
Director: Jacques Feyder
-Pauline Kael wrote: "It is a day in 1616; a Spanish regiment comes to a town in occupied Flanders. The cowardly burghers hide, but their charming ladies meet the challenge, and in the morning the Spaniards depart, poorer in worldly goods, richer in experience."

Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)
France, Romance/Drama, 138, Rated PG, Color
Director: Jean Paul Rappeneau; Cast includes: Gerard Depardieu
-Based on a late 19th century play about a long-nosed early 17th century Frenchman.
-There are many other versions

*The Return of Martin Guerre, The (1982) [Alt: La Retour de Martin Guerre]
France, Historical, 111, No rating, Color
Director: Daniel Vigne, Jean Claude Carrierè: Cast includes: Gerard Depardieu
-Based on trial records about an impostor in 16th century Southern France. An excellent movie, with solid historical advice given by Natalie Zemon Davis to the film makers. Try to see subtitled version, not the dubbed one.

Cardinal Richelieu (1935)
US, Historical/Biography, 83, No rating B&W
Director: Rowland V. Lee; Cast includes: George Arliss

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France - Joan of Arc

See ORB: Joan of Arc Bibliography

See List of all Joan of Arc Movies, with film clips. [At SMU]

*Joan the Woman (1916)
Director: Cecil B. Demille, BW, Silent, 100 mins.
With opera singer Geraldine Farrar as Joan.

*The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) [Alt: La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc]
France, Historical, 77, No rating B&W, silent
Director: Carl Dreyer; Cast includes: Renée Maria Falconetti
-The original negatives were destroyed, but a reconstruction of the film was successfully undertaken, with Dreyer's blessing by Lo Duca in 1952 using a serendipitously found negative and lip-readers to determine the text [by Joseph Delteil, author of Jeanne D'Arc, (Paris 1925)]. Lo Duca added a score of works by Albinoni [Adagio], Vivaldi, Scarletti, Bach and Palestrina. Dreyer himself had used plainchaint. [Cf. Maria Warner, Joan of Arc, (London: 1981) p.275n64]. The video version currently available has a piano score.
-held by Pauline Kael to be the greatest performance ever captured on film. The film was so powerful that it was initially banned in England. Based on actual trial transcripts.
-[PBH Comment] The film provides no context, no laughable dauphin, dramatic visions. It is a simple rendition of the trial records from 1431 presented as a series of direct parallels with the passion of Christ as seen in 15th century art. Falconetti's intensely innocent face is the focus of the action, such as it is. Kael is correct in her assessment of the film. For teaching, it might be hard to persuade a class to watch a silent movie, but I can guarantee a strong emotional reaction.

*Joan of Arc (1948)
US, Religious/Biography, 100, No rating, Color
Director: Victor Flemming; Cast includes: Ingrid Bergman, José Ferrer
-Originally 145 minutes.

*Saint Joan (1957)
US, Religious/Historical/Biography, 110, No rating B&W
Director: Otto Preminger; Cast includes: Jean Seberg, Richard Widmark
-based on G.B. Shaw's play. Screenplay by Graham Greene.
-There was also a 1967 TV version

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962) [Alt: Procès De Jeanne D'arc]
France, Drama/Biography, 65, No rating B&W
Director: Robert Bresson
-An hour-long précis of the trial based on the historical records.

*Jeanne la Pucelle 1. Les Batailles (1993) [Alt: Joan the Maid 1.: The Battles]
France, drama, 160 Color , In French (1993)
Director: Jacques Rivette; Cast includes: Olivier Cruveiller, André Marcon, Sandrine Bonnaire (Jeanne d'Arc)

*Jeanne la Pucelle 2. Les Prisons (1993) [Alt: Joan the Maid 1.: The Prisons]
France, drama, 176 Color , In French (1993)
Director: Jacques Rivette; Cast includes: Sandrine Bonnaire (Jeanne d'Arc)

*Joan of Arc (1999) [TV MiniSeries]
US, Drama/Biography,
Director: Christian Duguay; Cast includes: Leelee Sobieski, Jacqueline Bisset, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine,
Peter O'Toole.

*Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc  (1999)
France, Drama/Biography
Director: Luc Besson. Cast includes: Milla Jovovich,  John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman.

Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior (in process)
Director: Ronald F. Maxwell.
See http://ronmaxwell.com/virginwarrior.html

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Spain and Portugal

*El Cid (1961)
US, War/Biography, 184, No rating, Color
Director: Anthony Mann; Cast includes: Sophia Loren (Chimene), Charlton Heston (Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar El Cid), John Fraser (King Alfonso).
-Quite good, in fact.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Of course, I am personally above such rancor. I specialize in medieval Spain, which has scarcely been mentioned since El Cid, and who can find fault with anything with which Sophia Loren was associated? But man that scene with the Cid riding out with a stake up his back is good but hokey cinema!

El Greco (1963)
France-Italy, Biography, 95, No rating, Color
Director: Luciano Salce; Cast includes: Mel Ferrer

*The Castilian (1963)
Spain, Historical/Adventure, 129, No rating, Color
Director: Javier Seto: Cast includes: Cesar Romero, Frankie Avalon
-A noble defends his people against invaders.

*Captain From Castile (1947)
US, Historical/Adventure, 140, No rating, Color
Director: Henry King: Cast includes: Tyrone Power, Ceasar Romero
-Cortez' conquest of Mexico and the Spanish Inquistion all involved in on story. With a famous score by Alfred Newman.

*Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)
UK, Historical/Drama/Adventure, 118, Rated G, Color
Director: Irving Lerner ; Star; Christopher Plummer (Inca King Atahualpa), Robert Shaw (Pizzaro)
-About Pizzaro and the conquest of Peru. According to Pauline Kael, Plummer camps it up, while Shaw plays Pizzaro straight.

*Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) [Alt: Aguirre: The Wrath of God]
US/West Germany, drama/historical, 90, 1972 Color
Director: Werner Herzog: Cast includes: Alejandro Repulles, Gonzalo Pizarro, Cecilia Rivera, Helena Rojo, Edward Roland
-16th century ruthless conquerors pursue wealth in South America.

The Private Life of Don Juan (1934)
UK, Romance/Biography/Adventure, 80, No rating B&W
Director: Alexander Korda; Cast includes: Douglas Fairbanks, Merle Oberon
-Don Juan in his forties.

Viridiana (1961)
Spain, Drama, 90, No rating B&W
Director: Luis Buñuel; Cast includes: Silvia Pinal
-The story of a young religious novice, Viridiana (Silvia Pinal), as she is about to take her vows. Said to be Buñuel's greatest film.

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Italy

Magnificat (1993)
Italy, In Italian
Director: Pupi Avati
-[From a correspondent] Hierarchical relations in the earlier middle ages: a young girl becomes a monastic oblate, a young man who succeeds his father as lord of the territory calls for divine signs, there is a very civilized exercise of jus primae noctis.

Bride of Vengeance (1949)
US, Drama, 91, No rating B&W
Director: Mitchell Leisen: Cast includes: Paulette Goddard
-Story of Borgia intrigue in Italy.

*Prince of Foxes (1949)
US, Historical/Adventure, 107, No rating B&W
Director: Henry King; Cast includes: Tyrone Power, Orson Welles (as Borgia)
-About Cesare Borgia. Extremely lavish production.

The Flame and the Arrow (1950)
US, Adventure, 88, No rating, Color
Director: Jacques Tourneur; Cast includes: Virgina Mayo, Burt Lancaster
-rebel leaders romping through medieval Italy

The King's Whore (1990) [Alt: The King's Mistress]
Austria-France-Italy-UK, Historical/Drama, 115, Rated R, Color
Director: Axel Corti; Star; Timothy Dalton
-Set in court of Piedmont [time period?]

Die Pest in Florenz (1919)
Germany, horror, 96, Black & White
Director: Otto Rippert; Screenwriter: Fritz Lang
-[From IMD] An evil seductress causes Cesare, the city's ruler, and his son to both fall madly in love with her. The son, killing his father before an order to torture the woman can be carried out, then turns the city's churches into dens of sexual debauchery. Acts of evil and corruption continue unabated until the arrival of Death, who brings with her a horrible plague which she is about to loose upon the city. [Period?]

*Il miracolo (1948) [Alt: The Miracle]
Italy, 41, Black & White, In Italian.
Director: Roberto Rossellini. [A segment of L'Amore]

L'Amore (1948) [Alt: Ways of Love, Woman]
Italy, Drama, 69, In Italian
Director: Roberto Rossellini; Cast includes: Anna Magnani
-Magnani believes she has believes she has been divinely impregnated. The 1/2 of the Fellini's 8 1/2. [Period?]

Romeo and Juliet (1936)
US, Romance/Historical, 126, No rating B&W
Director: George Cukor: Cast includes: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, John Barrymore
-Shakespeare's play, but simplified.

Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Italy-UK, Romance/Historical, 138, Rated PG, Color
Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Cast includes: Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting, Michael York
-Shakespeare's play, played by two age-appropriate actors. Only about half the play is used. Famous musical score by Nino Roto
-There are many other versions.

Galileo (1975)
UK, Biography, 145, Rated PG, Color
Director: Joseph Losey; Topol (Galileo), Edward Fox (Cardinal Inquistor)
-Based on Bertolt Brecht's play.

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Scholars and Scholasticism

*Stealing Heaven (1988)
Yugoslavia, Romance/historical, Rated R, Color
Director: Cliver Donner;
-Sexually explicit account of Abelard and Heloise.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] One of the best I have seen in recent years is Stealing Heaven about Abelard and Heloise's love affair. Of course, some of it is not "reality" but then, aren't movies supposed to be like that?

*The Name of the Rose (1986)
France-Germany-Italy, Mystery/Historical, 130, Rated R, Color
Director: Cast includes: Sean Connery
-Based on the novel by Umberto Eco.
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] I would recommend The Name of the Rose for it's accurate (?) portrayal of medieval dentistry. See it on wide screen. Take your orthodontic friends. Otherwise: good philosophy, bad mystery.

*The Black Rose (1950)
US. Adventure, 120.
Director: Henry Hathaway; Cast includes Tyrone Power and Orson Welles.
A noble Saxon youth in Norman England is forced to run away. He takes with him a loyal retainer who brings along a long bow. The two go all the way to China where they become involved in intrigues in the court of Kublai Khan. Note that the trope of   Saxon/Norman conflict is here extended well into the late 13th century! The first thirty minutes or so has the noble Saxon at Oxford University conversing about his future with Friar Roger Bacon!

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Heresy and Mendicancy

Francesco, giullare di Dio (1950) [Alt: Flowers of St. Francis, Francis: God's Jester]
Italy, religious, 75, Black & White, In Italian.
Director: Roberto Rossellini: Cast includes: Brother Nazario Gerardi (Francis)
-Written by Fellini

Francis of Assisi (1961)
US, Religious/Biography, 111, No rating, Color
Director: Michael Curtiz: Cast includes: Bradford Dillman (Francis Bemardone), Dolores Hart (Clare Scefi)

Francesco d'Assisi (1966)
Director: Liliana Cavani

*Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973)
Italy-UK, Historical, 121, Rated PG, Color
Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Cast includes: Graham Faulkner (Francesco), Judi Bowker (Clare), Alec Guinness (Pope Innocent III)
-Zeffirelli's hippy St. Francis. Music by Donovan.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] May I enter a nomination for Brother Sun, Sister Moon? I recently had an opportunity to view it for the first time since its original release in the early '70s and wound up rather wishing I hadn't paid to experience it then--especially the Donovan "Do your own thing" soundtrack.

*Francesco (1989)
Germany-Italy, Historical/Drama, 105, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Liliana Cavani; Cast includes: Mickey Rourke (St. Francis), Helena Bonham Carter
-Odd casting, to say the least. Caviani's second go at the subject. It needs to be compared to her 1974 film on the Buddhist sage Milarepa.

Uccelacci e uccellini (1966) [Alt: Hawks and Sparrows].
Italy., history/religion, 88, Black & White, In Italian
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini;
-Toto and Ninetto Davoli as two friars on the road.

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Rural/Urban Life

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
New Zealand, Fantasy/Adventure, 92, Rated PG, Color, B&W
Director: Vincent Ward; Cast includes: Bruce Lyons, Chris Hayward
-An odd story, but a good film. About an English boy who leads a group of villagers into a tunnel to escape the plague, and emerges in a modern city (Auckland?)

*Le Moine et la sorcière, aka The Sorceress France (1987): Historical/Drama, 97 minutes.
Director: Suzanne Schiffman; Cast inlcudes Tchéky Karyo and Christine Boisson
-The Sorcesess was written by a professional Medieval scholar - Pamela Berger of Boston College - and was shot in both French and English. It is based on a genuine medieval text by the 13th-century Dominican, Etienne de Bourbon, about the cult of s St. Guinefort near Lyons in France. St. Guinefort (probably derived from "Cynephoros" in Greek, sometimes a name for St. Christopher) was a sainted greyhound! The story, which is slow but involving, focuses accurately on early 13th century historical issues: the survival of "folk" culture; the role of women; the beginnings of the Dominican order; the use of profit-based farming techniques (in this case carp ponds) by local nobilities. The actors are professional, and the story has interesting twists. A very good film for classroom use.

*The Return of Martin Guerre (1982) [Alt: La Retour de Martin Guerre]
France, Historical, 111, No rating, Color
Director: Daniel Vigne, Jean Claude Carrierè: Cast includes: Gerard Depardieu
-[PBH Comment] Based on trial records about an impostor in 16th century Southern France. An excellent movie, with solid historical advice given by Natalie Zemon Davis to the film makers. Make sure to see the subtitled version, not the dubbed. Return raises issues about the nature of family life, geographical isolation, class and education boundaries, religious conflict and social control - all in a way that makes real sense to viewers. Moreover, it addresses real issues of the use of historical evidence as well. This is among the best possible movies to show to a class, perhaps with NZD's book on the subject, or the American Historical Review set of articles devoted to the movie.

*Pied Piper, The (1972)
UK, Drama, 90, Rated G, Color
Director: Jacques Demy; Cast includes: Jack Wild, Donald Pleasance, Donovan (The Piper)
-Not exactly a children's story in this version of plague-ridden (in this case rats) villagers.

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Christian Spirituality

*Simón del desierto (1965) [Alt: Simon of the Desert]
Mexico, historical religious, 44 1965 Black and White, In Spanish
Director: Luis Buñuel; Cast includes: Claudio Brook (Simon), Silvia Pinal
- Buñuel's version of the story of St. Simon Stylites, who stood on a pillar for forty years.

*Anchoress (1993)
US, Religious/Drama, 108, No rating, Color
Director: Chris Newby; Cast includes: Natalie Morse.
-Set in the Middle Ages, about a young woman who chooses to be walled up for the rest of her life.

Magnificat (1993)
Italy, In Italian
Director: Pupi Avati
-[From a correspondent] Hierarchical relations in the earlier middle ages: a young girl becomes a monastic oblate, a young man who succeeds his father as lord of the territory calls for divine signs, there is a very civilized exercise of jus primae noctis.

Nostradamus (1994)
US, Drama/Biography, 118, Rated R, Color
Director: Roger Christian; Cast includes: Tcheky Karo, F. Murray Abraham

*The Virgin Spring (1959) [Alt: Jungfrukällan]
Sweden, Drama, 88, No rating B&W
Director: Ingmar Bergman: Cast includes: Max Von Sydow
Story of religious medieval Swedish family whose daughter is raped by vagrants. Oscar for best foreign movie.

Viridiana (1961)
Spain, Drama, 90, No rating B&W
Director: Luis Buñuel; Cast includes: Silvia Pinal
-The story of a young religious novice, Viridiana (Silvia Pinal), as she is about to take her vows. Said to be Buñuel's greatest film.

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Medieval Women

*Anchoress (1993)
US, Religious/Drama, 108, No rating, Color
Director: Chris Newby; Cast includes: Natalie Morse.
-Set in the early Middle Ages, about a young woman who chooses to be walled up for the rest of her life.

Magnificat (1993)
Italy, In Italian
Director: Pupi Avati
-[From a correspondent] Hierarchical relations in the earlier middle ages: a young girl becomes a monastic oblate, a young man who succeeds his father as lord of the territory calls for divine signs, there is a very civilized exercise of jus primae noctis.

Pope Joan (1972)
UK, Religious, 132, Rated PG, Color
Director: Michael Anderson; Cast includes: Liv Ullman
-About the Pope Joan myth.

Kristin Lavransdatter (1995). [Alt: Kransen, Kristin Lavransdotter] Norway/German/Sweden, 180, In Norwegian
Director: Liv Ullmann;
From the novel by Nobel prize winner, Sigrid Undset. A young woman, daughter of a medieval Norwegian landowner, tries to find her own path.

*Le Moine et la sorcière [Alt: The Sorceress] France (1987): Historical/Drama, 97 minutes.
Director: Suzanne Schiffman; Cast includes Tchéky Karyo and Christine Boisson
-The Sorcesess was written by a professional Medieval scholar - Pamela Berger of Boston College - and was shot in both French and English. It is based on a genuine medieval text by the 13th-century Dominican, Etienne de Bourbon, about the cult of s St. Guinefort near Lyons in France. St. Guinefort (probably derived from "Cynephoros" in Greek, sometimes a name for St. Christopher) was a sainted greyhound! The story, which is slow but involving, focuses accurately on early 13th century historical issues: the survival of "folk" culture; the role of women; the beginnings of the Dominican order; the use of profit-based farming techniques (in this case carp ponds) by local nobilities. The actors are professional, and the story has interesting twists. A very good film for classroom use.

*Stealing Heaven (1988)
Yugoslavia, Romance/historical, Rated R, Color
Director: Cliver Donner;
-Sexually explicit account of Abelard and Heloise.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] One of the best I have seen in recent years is Stealing Heaven about Abelard and Heloise's love affair. Of course, some of it is not "reality" but then, aren't movies supposed to be like that?

*Mary of Scotland (1936)
US, Historical/Biography, 123, No rating B&W
Director: John Ford; Cast includes: Katharine Hepburn, Frederic March
-Flopped at the box office

*Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
US, Historical/Biography, 128, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles Jarrott; Cast includes: Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots), Glenda Jackson (Queen Elizabeth), Patrick McGoohan (James Stuart), Timothy Dalton (Henry, Lord Darnley), Nigel Davenport, Trevor Howard, Daniel Massey, Robert Dudley,Ian Holm
-Incredible cast, but inaccurate. The homosexual relationship between Darnley and Riccio is portrayed.

Viridiana (1961)
Spain, Drama, 90, No rating B&W
Director: Luis Buñuel; Cast includes: Silvia Pinal
-The story of a young religious novice, Viridiana (Silvia Pinal), as she is about to take her vows. Said to be Buñuel's greatest film.

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Homosexual/Transgendered Characters
[-See also Joan of Arc section]

*Fellini Satyricon (1970)
Italy, Historical, 129, Rated R, Color
Director: Federico Fellini; Cast includes" Martin Potter (Encolpio)
-Not exactly a filming of Petronius Arbiter's novel.. The tag ran "Rome. Before Christ. After Fellini". Potter is Encolpio a beautiful youth, whose young lover and slave, Gitone, has been stolen from him and sold to an older man. He vows to get him back.

*Ben-Hur (1959)
US, Religious/Historical, 212, No rating, Color
Director: William Wyler: Cast includes: Charleton Heston, Stephen Boyd
-Based on Lew Wallace's book. The story of Judah Ben-Hur and his boyhood friend Messala. Boyd was told to play the relationship as more than friendship.

*Sebastiane (1976)
UK, religious, 82, Color, In Latin
Director: Derek Jarman
-[PBH Comment] Story of the early Christian martyr St. Sebastian set as a homoerotic fantasy around 303 CE.. Mostly filmed with all characters naked, and the dialogue is all in Latin. Jarman explicitly exploits the image of Sebastian as a gay icon, and although set in late antiquity is not a historical film in any useful way. It is interesting to see Latin used as a daily language, and for gay classicists the movie will have an especial appeal. It would be difficult in most institutions to show this to any other class than a history of sexuality class.

Arabian Nights (1974)
France-Italy, Fantasy, 128, No rating, Color
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini; Cast inlcudes: Ninetto Davoli, Franco Merli
-Several 1001 Nights stories, framed by the story of slave-girl Zummarrud, who becomes "king" of a great city. The story revolves around Nur-ed-Din, a beautiful boy whom all desire. He desires only Zamurrad. When he finds her - as king - the men who bring him to her suggest that "He must prefer melons to plums".
[Part of Pasolini's Medieval trilogy of Arabian Nights, Decameron, and Canterbury Tales]

*Becket (1964)
US, Historical/Drama, 148, No rating, Color
Director: Peter Glenville; Cast includes: Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton
-Based on Jean Anouilh's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket and his English King, Henry II. Although there is no historical data to support the suggestion, Anouilh sees a homosexual relationship.

*The Canterbury Tales (1971)
France-Italy, Drama, 109, No rating, Color
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
-Four stories. Graphic and sadistic footage will appeal to some. Notable homosexual scene.
-[From a correspondent] Canterbury Tales has Ninetto Davoli in a Chaplinesque version of "The Cook's Tale" [he had a good eye, Pier Paolo].
-[Bruce Gilchrist]   While Decamaron has a fair amount of sex,  it is faithful to the tales and is an enjoyable film.  Suitable for showing to a class.    His Raconti di Canteburi however is much more graphic. The humping never seems to stop and it all gets rather silly.  It's a failure and is not suitable for showing to a class.  It's tolerable I suppose  compared to Jarman's Sebastiane, but that's about it.
[Part of Pasolini's Medieval trilogy of Arabian Nights, Decameron, and Canterbury Tales]

*The Lion in Winter (1968)
UK, Historical/Drama, 135, No rating, Color
Director: Anthony Harvey: Cast includes: Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor), Peter O'Toole (Henry II), Anthony Hopkins (Richard the Lionheart)
-Richard's relationship with Philip II is played as overtly homosexual.

Edward II (1970)
Cast includes: Ian McKellen
-Made for TV version of Marlowe's play.

*Edward II (1991)
UK, Drama, , 91 min, No rating, Color
Director: Derek Jarman; Cast includes: Steven Waddington, Tilda Swinton
based on the 1592 play by Christopher Marlowe about the homosexual Edward II.

*The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
US, Biography, 140, No rating, Color
Director: Carol Reed; Cast includes: Charlton Heston (Michelangelo), Rex Harrison (Pope Julius II)
-Based on Irving Stone's story of Michelangelo. Omits to mention M's homosexuality.

The Titan--Story of Michelangelo (1950)
US, Documentary/Biography, 68, No rating B&W
Director: Robert Snyder
Originally a Swiss film made in 1940, it was reedited for U.S. release by Robert Snyder, and won an Oscar as Best Documentary.

Caravaggio (1986)
UK, religious, 97, No rating, Color
Director: Derek Jarman; Cast includes: Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton
-Story of Michelangelo Caravaggio (1571-1610)in which Jarman develops his belief that Caravaggio was homosexual. The actors use modern British slang.

*Mary of Scotland (1936)
US, Historical/Biography, 123, No rating B&W
Director: John Ford; Cast includes: Katharine Hepburn, Frederic March
-Lord Darnley is unambiguously portrayed as a mincing queen -- complete with ear-rings, and permed hair.

*Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
US, Historical/Biography, 128, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles Jarrott; Cast includes: Vanessa Redgrave (Mary, Queen of Scots), Glenda Jackson (Queen Elizabeth), Patrick McGoohan (James Stuart), Timothy Dalton (Henry, Lord Darnley), Nigel Davenport, Trevor Howard, Daniel Massey, Robert Dudley,Ian Holm
-Incredible cast, but inaccurate. The homosexual relationship between Darnleyl and Riccio is portrayed.

Orlando (1993)
France-Italy-Netherlands-UK, Historical/Drama, 93, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Sally Potter: Cast includes: Tilda Swinton
-based on Virginia's Wolf's sex-transformation novel. The hero(ine) lives four hundred years first as a man, and later as a woman.

Queen Christina (1933)
US, Romance/Historical, 97, No rating B&W
Director: Rouben Mamoulian ; Cast includes: Greta Grabo
-Garbo's greatest role, perhaps. Set in Sweden in 1637. Christina was raised as a man, she tells advisors she will not marry and have children. She has eyes only for Countess Ebba (with whom she exchanges a kiss), who betrays her by falling in love with a man. Christina, distraught, dresses as man and takes a room in a local inn. There she meets, and falls in love with a Spanish nobleman. She eventually abdicates to be with him, but is killed before they can marry.

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The Renaissance

*Prince of Foxes (1949)
US, Historical/Adventure, 107, No rating B&W
Director: Henry King; Cast includes: Tyrone Power, Orson Welles (as Borgia)
-About Cesare Borgia. Extremely lavish production.

*The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
US, Biography, 140, No rating, Color
Director: Carol Reed; Cast includes: Charlton Heston (Michelangelo), Rex Harrison (Pope Julius II)
-Based on Irving Stone's story of Michelangelo. Omits to mention M's homosexuality.

The Titan--Story of Michelangelo (1950)
US, Documentary/Biography, 68, No rating B&W
Director: Robert Snyder
Originally a Swiss film made in 1940, it was reedited for U.S. release by Robert Snyder, and won an Oscar as Best Documentary.

Caravaggio (1986)
UK, religious, 97, No rating, Color
Director: Derek Jarman; Cast includes: Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton
-Story of Michelangelo Caravaggio (1571-1610)in which Jarman develops his belief that Caravaggio was homosexual. The actors use modern British slang.

Rembrandt (1936)
UK, Biography, 84, No rating B&W
Director: Alexander Korda; Cast includes: Charles Laughton (Rembrandt van Rijn), Gertrude Lawrence, Elsa Lanchester

Rembrandt (1999)
Director: Charles Matton; With Klaus Maria Brandauer

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Reformation and Catholic Reformation

*Martin Luther (1953)
US, 105, Black & White
Director: Irving Pichel; Cast includes: Niall MacGinnis (Martin Luther)

Luther (1974)
UK, Biography, 112, No rating, Color
Director: Guy Green: Cast includes: Stacey Keach
-based on John Osborne's play.

*A Man for All Seasons (1966)
UK, Drama, 120, No rating, Color
Director: Fred Zinnemann: Cast includes: Paul Scofield
-The story of St. Thomas More as a man of conscience. Won six Oscars.

A Man for All Seasons (1988)
US TV, Drama, 120, No rating, Color
Director: Charlton Heston. With Charlton Heston and Vanessa Redgrave
-Remake of 1996 film and closer to Robert Bolt's play. It is hard to imagine the off screen conversations ebtween Heston and Redgrave about politics. By all accounts heston has great respect for her as an actress.

Queen Margot (1954)
France, Historical/Drama/Biography,
Cast includes: Jeanne Moreau
-About the St. Bartholemew's day massacre.

*Queen Margot (1994)
France-Germany-Italy, Historical/Drama/Biography, 143, Rated R, Color
Director: Patrice Chéreau; Cast includes: Isabelle Adjani
-Adjani as Marguerite de Valois and the events surrounding the St. Bartholemew's day massacre of 1572. Good critical reception. Based on Alexander Dumas' novel. The French language version runs 166.

*Intolerance (1916)
US, Drama, 178, No rating B&W
Director: D.W Griffiths: Cast includes: Lillian Gish
-Griffiths wrote "The purpose of the production is to trace a universal theme through various periods of the race's history. Ancient, sacred, medieval, and modern times are considered. Events are not set forth in their historical sequence, or according to the accepted forms of dramatic construction, but as they might flash across a mind seeking to parallel the life of the different ages." It has a section on the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the French Huguenots in 1572.

Queen Christina (1933)
US, Romance/Historical, 97, No rating B&W
Director: Rouben Mamoulian ; Cast includes: Greta Grabo
-Garbo's greatest role, perhaps. Set in Sweden in 1637. Christina was raised as a man, she tells advisors she will not marry and have children. She has eyes only for Countess Ebba (with whom she exchanges a kiss), who betrays her by falling in love with a man. Christina, distraught, dresses as man and takes a room in a local inn. There she meets, and falls in love with a Spanish nobleman. She eventually abdicates to be with him, but is killed before they can marry.

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Expansion Overseas

The Norseman (1978)
US, Adventure, 90, Rated PG, Color
Director: Charles B. Pierce: Cast includes: Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde
-About a, 11th-century Viking prince sailing to America in search of his father, abducted by Indians.

Christopher Columbus (1949)
UK, Historical/Biography, 104, No rating, Color
Director: David MacDonald; Cast includes: Frederic March
-In some respects still the best Columbus movie.

Christopher Columbus (1985) (TV)
Director: Alberto Lattuada. With Gabriel Byrne

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)
France-Spain-UK-US, Historical/Drama/Adventure, 145, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Ridley Scott; Cast includes: Gerard Depardieu (Columbus), Sigourney Weaver (Queen Isabella)
-Somewhat lumbering. Stirring music by Vangelis. Depardieu is better playing in French!

*Christopher Columbus--the Discovery (1992)
Spain-US, Historical/Adventure, 120, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: John Glen; Cast includes: Marlon Brando (Torquemada), Tom Selleck {Ferdinand), Rachel Ward (Isabella), George Corraface (Columbus)
-Not well reviewed

*Captain From Castile (1947)
US, Historical/Adventure, 140, No rating, Color
Director: Henry King: Cast includes: Tyrone Power, Ceasar Romero
Cortez' conquest of Mexico and the Spanish Inquisition all involved in on story. With a famous score by Alfred Newman.

*Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969)
UK, Historical/Drama/Adventure, 118, Rated G, Color
Director: Irving Lerner ; Star; Christopher Plummer (Inca King Atahualpa), Robert Shaw (Pizzaro)
-About Pizzaro and the conquest of Peru
-According to Pauline Kael, Plummer camps it up, while Shaw plays Pizzaro straight.

*Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972) [Alt: Aguirre: The Wrath of God]
US/West Germany, drama/historical, 90, 1972 Color
Director: Werner Herzog: Cast includes: Alejandro Repulles, Gonzalo Pizarro, Cecilia Rivera, Helena Rojo, Edward Roland
-16th century ruthless conquerors pursue wealth in South America.

Retorno a Aztlan (1991) [Alt: Necuepaliztli in Aztlan, In, Return to Aztlan]
Mexico, Drama/historical Color, In Nahuatl
Directors: Juan Mora Catlett
Ancient Mexico before the Spanish conquest.

La Otra conquista (1998)
Mexico, Drama, 105, Spanish
Director: Salvador Carrasco
-Set in Mexico in 1520.

*The Mission (1986)
UK, Drama, 125, Rated PG, Color
Director: Roland Joffe; Cast includes: Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
-The story of the Jesuit mission in Paraguay. Screenwriter Robert Bolt.

*Seven Cities of Gold (1955).
US. Drama, 103
Director: Robert D. Webb
The story of the 18th century expedition of Father Juniper Serra and the founding of the California Missions - especially the first at  San Diego.

*Black Robe (1991)
Australia-Canada, Historical/Drama/Adventure, 101, Rated R, Color
Director: Bruce Beresford; Cast includes: Lothaire Bluteau, Aden Young
-Based on a splendid novel by Brian Moore. Looks at French Jesuits among "Canadian" Indians and issues of two-way acculturation.

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The Mongols

*The Conqueror (1956)
US, War/Historical/Adventure, 111, No rating, Color
Director: Dick Powell: Cast includes: John Wayne
-Mongols vs. Tartars, and John Wayne as Genghis Khan. Shot in Utah downwind of a nuclear facility, a high percentage of stars and crew, including Wayne, later developed cancer.
-[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Let's not forget The Conqueror, starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

*Genghis Khan (1965)
US, Biography/Adventure, 124, No rating, Color
Director: Henry Levin: Cast includes: Omar Sharif (as Genghis Khan), Stephen Boyd, James Mason, Telly Savalas.

Genghis Khan (1998)
Director: Sai Fu and Mai Lisi
-A Mongolian take on Genghis Kahn

The Mongols (1961)
Italy, Historical/Adventure, 102, No rating, Color
Director: André de Toth, Leopolda Savona; Cast includes: Jack Palance, Anita Ekberg
-Palance as the son of Genghis Khan on the rampage in 13th century Europe.

The Golden Horde (1951)
US, 77, Color
Director: George Sherman. With Ann Blyth
-The princess of Samarkand and an English knight confront the armies of Ghengis Khan.

*The Black Rose (1950)
US. Adventure, 120.
Director: Henry Hathaway; Cast includes Tyrone Power and Orson Welles.
A noble Saxon youth in Norman England is forced to run away. He takes with him a loyal   retainer who brings along a long bow. The two go all the way to China where they become involved in intrigues in the court of Kublai Khan.

The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
US, Adventure, 100 min, No rating, Black & White
Director: Archie Mayo; Cast inlcudes; Gary Cooper (Marco Polo), Sigrid Gurie, Basil Rathbone, Lana Turner
[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] What about Marco Polo!?! Gary Cooper stuffing dry pasta in his pocket to take back to Italy, Basil Rathbone looking evilly inscrutable, Alan Hale as some sort of nomadic chief, and best of all the art deco interiors of the Chinese palaces--big, white, and glossy.

Marco Polo (1962)
Italy, Biography/Adventure, 90, No rating, Color
Director: Hugo Fregonese, Piero Pierotti; Cast includes: Rory Calhoun
-Epic about journey to China

Marco the Magnificent (1965)
US, Biography/Adventure, 100, No rating, Color
Director: Denys de la Patelliere, et al; Cast includes: Horst Bucholtz (Marco), Anthony Quinn (Kublai Khan)

Marco (1973)
US, Musical/Biography/Adventure, 109, Rated G, Color
Director: Seymour Robie: Cast includes: Desi Arnaz (Marco Polo), Zero Mostel (Kublai Khan)

The Incredible Adventures of Marco Polo (1998)
US
Director: George Erschbamer
-Panned by all.

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Medieval China, Japan, India

[Note: There is no effort to be comprehensive under this category.]

The Emperor and the Assassin (1999) [Alt: Jing ke ci qin wang ]
China, Historical,  161 mins, Color
Director: Kaige Chen
-The story of the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shih Huang Di

*Temptation of a Monk (1993) [Alt: You seng]
Hong Kong, Historical,  118 mins, Color
Director: Clara Law
-The story of a general who becomes a monk in Tang dynasty China.

Ran (1985)
France-Japan, War/Historical, 161, Rated R, Color
Director: Akira Kurosawa:
-Set in 16th century Japan, this is a version of King Lear.

Gate of Hell (1953) [Alt: Jigokuman]
Japan, Historical/Drama, 89, No rating, Color
Director: Teinsuke Kinugasa
-12th century samurai falls in love with and shames a married woman. Oscar for best foreign film and costume design.

Lightning Swords of Death (1974)
Japan, Action, 83, Rated R, Color
Director: Kenji Misumi
-Violent story of an outlaw samurai wandering Medieval Japan

*The Silk Road (1992)
China-Japan: Drama, 126 min, , Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Junya Sato
-Epic set in 11th-century China.

Asoka (2001)
India: Drama, 180 mins (plus various cut versions), Color
Dir. Santosh Sivan.
-The early life of the Emperor Asoka, and his conversion to Buddhism.

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Medieval Fantasy

*Dragonheart (1996)
US, Adventure/Fantasy, 108 min, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Rob Cohen; Cast inlcudes: Dennis Quaid, Sean Connery
-Roger Ebert called this "sublimely silly". About the last of the Dragonslayers.
-Also a 2000 sequel

The High Crusade (1994)
Germany, Sci-Fi / aliens / knights / comedy, 100, 1994 Color
Director: Klaus Knoesel, Holger Neuhäuser; Cast includes: John Rhys-Davies, Rick Overton

*Ladyhawke (1985)
US, Fantasy/Adventure, 124, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Richard Donner; Cast includes: Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Broderick
-rightly called a fantasy, but set in Medieval France.

The Lair of the White Worm (1988)
UK, Horror, 94, Rated R, Color
Director: Ken Russell; Cast includes: Hugh Grant, Amanda Donahue
-"campy"

Leonor (1975)
France-Italy-Spain, Drama, 90, Rated PG, Color
Director: Juan Luis Buñuel ; Cast includes: Liv Ullman
-woman rises from the dead

Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991)
US, Comedy, 95, Rated PG, Color
Director: Stewart Rafill; Cast includes: Kristy Swanson
-Medieval peasant's spirit trapped for a 1000 years in a dummy is released in the modern world.

Masque of the Red Death (1989)
US, Horror, 83, Rated R, Color
Director: Larry Brand; Cast includes: Adrian Paul, Patrick McNee
-Plague in a "Renaissance Kingdom."

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
New Zealand, Fantasy/Adventure, 92, Rated PG, Color, B&W
Director: Vincent Ward; Cast includes: Bruce Lyons, Chris Hayward
-An odd story, but a good film. About an English boy who leads a group of villagers into a tunnel to escape the plague, and emerges in a modern city (Auckland?)

*Prince Valiant (1954)
US, Adventure, 100, No rating, Color
Director: Henry Hathaway; Cast includes: James Mason, Janet Leigh,
-A cartoon character in the middle ages, with Arthurian characters.
-Also a TV series (1991) and a  "real" version (1997).

The Princess Bride (1987)
US, Comedy/Children's/Adventure, 98, Rated PG, Color
Director: Rob Reiner: Cast includes: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
US, Fantasy, 100 min, Rated R, Color
Director: Albert Pyun
-Warlocks and sword fighters.

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Modern Periods/ Medieval Themes

Tempest (1959)
Italy, Historical, 125, No rating, Color
Director: Alberto Lattuada
-On the Pugachev peasant uprising in Catherine the Great's Russia.

The Green Glove (1952)
Director: Rudolph Mate; Cast includes: Glenn Ford
US, Crime, 88, No rating B&W
-Post WWII France, ex-solider returns to find a medieval jewelled religious item.

Knightriders (1981)
US, Drama, 145, Rated R, Color
Director: George Romero; Cast includes: Ed Harris
-About a traveling band which stages "medieval fairs" at which they joust in full medieval gear, from motorcyles.

*Agnes of God (1985)
US, Mystery, 98, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: Norman Jewison: Cast includes: Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, Meg Tilly
-A pregnant Quebecker nun.

Mazes and Monsters (1982)
Canada 100, No rating, Color
Director: Steven H. Stern; Cast includes: Tom Hanks
-Four teenagers caught up in Medieval role playing games.

*The Milky Way (1970) [Alt: La Voie Lactée].
France, Religious, 102 min, Rated PG, Color
Director: Luis Buñuel
-About two pilgrim-tramps and their encounters with the Devil, the Virgin Mary, people who are arguing about Catholic doctrine, and assorted religious zealots.

A Month in the Country (1987)
UK, Drama, 96, Rated PG, Color
Director: Pat O'Connor; Cast includes: Colin Firth, Kenneth Branagh
-A modern story, but with a medieval painting as a focus as a man recovers from WWI shell shock by restoring the painting in a Yorkshire church.

My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Dir. Gus Van Sant. With Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix.
-The plot of Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I, moved to the context of rent boys in Seattle. I kid you not.

The Rapture (1991)
US, Drama, 102, Rated R, Color
Director: Michael Tolkin; Cast includes: Mimi Rogers, David Duchovny
-Modern millenialism. The movie represents, quite literally, the coming of the Apocalypse.

*Romero (1989)
US, Political/Biography, 102, Rated PG-13, Color
Director: John Duigan; Cast includes: Raul Julia.
Compare with Becket.

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LISTS

A. Worst Medieval Movies [by readers of the Mediev-l list] [In no particular order]

  • The Silver Chalice (1954)
    US, Religious, 144, No rating, Color
    Director: Victor Saville: Cast includes: Virginia Mayo, Jack Palance, Paul Newman, Natalie Wood,
    -Paul Newman as the Greek who designed the Chalice for the last supper. Newman later took out an ad to apologize for this, his first movie.
  • The Long Ships (1964)
    UK-Yugoslavia, Adventure, 125 min, No rating, Color
    Director: Jack Cardiff; Cast includes: Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier.
    [From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] This took some deciding, though. I almost voted for The Long Ships (to an Old Norse specialist, awful Viking movies have a special awfulness) Then there is the Long Ships, with Richard Widmark as the Viking hero and Sidney Poitier as his northern African, Muslim, bad-guy counterpart. This is film with the Golden Bell in Morocco, with Richard Widmark and Sidney Poitier emoting vociferously but to no effect. The most enjoyable characterization in the film is Lionel Jeffries' mute harem eunuch.
  • The Vikings (1958)
    US, Historical/Adventure, 114, No rating, Color
    Director: Richard Fleischer: Cast includes: Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh
    [From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] There was also a REAL stinker back in the '50s called "The Viking" with Tony Curtis (of Black Shield fame) and Kirk Douglas with Janet Leigh as the Anglo-Saxon princess they were fighting over. If you look closely at some of the rowing scenes, one of the Vikings has a very visible vaccination scar and another is wearing an equally visible gold wristwatch.
    -This one has Kirk Douglas as a clean-shaven Viking, and his father explaining that "he's so vain he scrapes his face".
  • The Norseman (1978)
    US, Adventure, 90, Rated PG, Color
    Director: Charles B. Pierce: Cast includes: Lee Majors, Cornel Wilde
    -About an 11th-century Viking prince sailing to America in search of his father, abducted by Indians.
    [From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Perhaps the worst was The Norseman starring Lee Majors with a cadre of football players who wend their way to America to free Major's dad from the Indians. This one is so bad that it is a classic.
    - The Majors entry was one clunker I had managed to make myself forget all about! Talk about suppressed memories. Right down there with Plan 9 from Outer Space..... I once taught a course on medieval literature into film and discovered that film and things medieval are apples and oranges.
  • The Crusades (1935)
    US, Historical/Drama, 123, No rating B&W
    Director: Cecil B. DeMille; Cast includes: Loretta Young (Berengaria), Henry Wilcoxon (Richard), Ian Keith (Saladin)
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] - May I nominate Cecil B. De Mille's The Crusades. It is memorable not only for its conflation of all Crusades into one big mess but most especially Loretta Young as Berengaria spending a brief vacation in Saladin's harem. I defy anyone to beat that! Jo Ann.
    -Ah, yes, and with C. Aubrey Smith as "The Hermit", tied to a stake on the Saracens' parapet, arms outstretched, crying "In this sign, you will conquer!!"
    -Pauline Kael notes that "DeMille wilfully garbled every single character and incident".
  • King Richard and the Crusaders (1954)
    US, Historical, 114, No rating, Color
    Director: David Butler; Cast includes: Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Virginia Mayo
    -Not well regarded. Based on Sir Walter Scott's The Talisman.
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] This is the film with a disguised Saladin sneaking into the Christian camp to cure Richard. Sanders is very unconvincing as Richard. There is also an otherwise unknown cousin of Richard's named Edith Plantagenet (!!!) in love with a mere knight. Certainly a strong contender in any event..
  • The Black Shield of Falworth (1954)
    US, Adventure, 99, No rating, Color
    Director: Rudolph Mate; Cast includes: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh
    -Knighthood in medieval England. Based on Howard Pyle's Men of Iron
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] In any event, I haven't heard anyone's nomination for the worst medieval movie ever filmed. I have a special place in my heart for The Black Shield of Falworth, but I'm sure that there are many others equally, or even more, despicable. God! tough to top that.
  • Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Gawain and the Green Knight. (1982)
    UK, Adventure, 101, Rated PG, Color
    Director: Stephan Weeks; Cast includes: Miles O'Keeffe (Gawain), Sean Connery (Green Knight), Trevor Howard (Arthur), Peter Cushing
    [From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Sword of the Valiant with Miles O'Keefe as Gawain. Great hair that didn't move...at all!!! Medieval theme taken to the mystic outer limits!. O'Keefe previously played Tarzan.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
    US, Historical/Adventure/Action, 138, Rated PG-13, Color
    Director: Kevin Reynolds; Cast includes: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater, Alan Rickman
    -Quite good in fact, although very 1990's. Stay for the last shot!
    [From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] But my favorite Worst Medieval Movie remains Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I've never quite gotten over the moment when Kevin Costner's Robin asks a belligerent Will Scarlett, "Why do you hate me? Did I harm you in some former life?"
  • Braveheart (1995)
    US, Romance/Historical/Action, 177, Rated R, Color
    Director: Mel Gibson; Cast includes: Mel Gibson
    -Massively inaccurate portrayal of the life of the 13th-centiry hero William Wallace. Won a lot of Ocars.
  • Brother Sun, Sister Moon (1973)
    Italy-UK, Historical, 121, Rated PG, Color
    Director: Franco Zeffirelli; Cast includes: Graham Faulkner (Francesco), Judi Bowker (Clare), Alec Guinness (Pope Innocent III)
    -Zeffirelli's hippy St. Francis. Music by Donovan.
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] May I enter a nomination for Brother Sun, Sister Moon? I recently had an opportunity to view it for the first time since its original release in the early '70s and wound up rather wishing I hadn't paid to experience it then--especially the Donovan "Do your own thing" soundtrack.
  • The Conqueror (1956)
    US, War/Historical/Adventure, 111, No rating, Color
    Director: Dick Powell: Cast includes: John Wayne
    -Mongols vs. Tartars, and John Wayne as Genghis Khan. Shot in Utah downwind of a nuclear facility, a high percentage of stars and crew, including Wayne, later developed cancer.
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] Let's not forget The Conqueror, starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan.
  • The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)
    US, Adventure, 100 min, No rating, Black & White
    Director: Archie Mayo; Cast inlcudes; Gary Cooper (Marco Polo), Sigrid Gurie, Basil Rathbone, Lana Turner
    [From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] What about Marco Polo!?! Gary Cooper stuffing dry pasta in his pocket to take back to Italy, Basil Rathbone looking evilly inscrutable, Alan Hale as some sort of nomadic chief, and best of all the art deco interiors of the Chinese palaces--big, white, and glossy.

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B. Best Medieval Movies - by historical accuracy [Halsall]

These are not necessarily completely accurate, but do try to stick to the period and known facts.

  • Mohammad, Messenger of God/The Message (1977)
    Lebanon-UK, Religious, 180, Rated PG, Color
    Director: Moustapha Akkad; Cast includes: Anthony Quinn, Irene Pappas
    -In accordance with Islamic law, Muhammad is not actually shown on screen.
  • Becket (1964)
    US, Historical/Drama, 148, No rating, Color
    Director: Peter Glenville; Cast includes: Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton
    -Based on Jean Anouilh's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket and his English King, Henry II. Although there is no historical data to support the suggestion, Anouilh sees a homosexual relationship. Superb film.
  • The Lion in Winter (1968)
    UK, Historical/Drama, 135, No rating, Color
    Director: Anthony Harvey: Cast includes: Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor), Peter O'Toole (Henry II), Anthony Hopkins (Richard the Lionheart)
    -Probably the greatest of all "medieval movies." For sheer enjoyment.
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
    UK, Drama, 120, No rating, Color
    Director: Fred Zinnemann: Cast includes: Paul Scofield
    -The story of St. Thomas More as a man of conscience. Won six Oscars.
  • The Return of Martin Guerre (1982) [Alt: La Retour de Martin Guerre]
    France, Historical, 111, No rating, Color
    Director: Daniel Vigne, Jean Claude Carrierè: Cast includes: Gerard Depardieu
    -Based on trial records about an impostor in 16th century Southern France. An excellent movie, with solid historical advice given by Natalie Zemon Davis to the film makers. Try to see subtitled version, not the dubbed one.
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) [Alt: La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc]
    France, Historical, 77, No rating B&W
    Director: Carl Dreyer; Cast includes: Renée Maria Falconetti
    -held by Pauline Kael to be the greatest performance ever captured on film. The film was so powerful that it was initially banned in England. Based on actual trial transcripts.
  • The Mission (1986)
    UK, Drama, 125, Rated PG, Color
    Director: Roland Joffe; Cast includes: Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
    -The story of the Jesuit mission in Paraguay. Screenwriter Robert Bolt.

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C. Best Medieval Movies - as films [Halsall] [In no particular order]

  • Ben-Hur (1959)
    US, Religious/Historical, 212, No rating, Color
    Director: William Wyler: Cast includes: Charleton Heston, Stephen Boyd
    -Based on Lew Wallace's book. The story of Judah Ben-Hur and his boyhood friend Messala.
  • Alexander Nevsky (1938)
    Russia, War/Historical, 107, No rating B&W
    Director: Sergei Eisenstein, D.I. Vassillev; Cast includes: Nikolai Cherkassov
    -The repelling of a German invasion in the 13th century. Score by Prokofiev. One of the great movies.
  • Andrei Rublev (1966)
    Russia, Historical, 185, No rating, Color, B&W
    Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
    -about the 15th-century icon painter.
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] On the other side of the ledger, has anyone else seen Tarkowski's Andrei Rublev? I don't know enough about Medieval Russia to judge it. It seemed to do a reasonable job portraying the period, and is cinematically outstanding, although Rublev's character struck me as a bit too modern.
  • The War Lord (1965)
    US, War/Historical/Drama, 123, No rating, Color
    Director: Franklin Schaffner; Cast includes: Charlton Heston
    -Based on Leslie Stevens' The Lovers. Heston is a knight invoking the "right" to sleep with another man's bride on their wedding night. (See Braveheart for the same myth)
    -[From Mediev-l List "Worst Medieval Films" Discussion] -I must protest at the inclusion of The Warlord in this discussion. it is a very interesting film which Heston made after his success with Ben Hur and chose to do things like wear a bowl-cut hairdo which his PR men told him would ruin his reputation as a sex-symbol. Aside from the ius primae noctis, for which an interesting rationale is provided, the film is really quite realistic (the claustrophobic quarters of a dungeon fortress) and very interesting. recently re-released and worth a look.
  • The Seventh Seal (1957)
    Sweden, Drama, 96, No rating B&W
    Director: Ingmar Bergman: Cast includes: Max Von Sydow
    -Set in 14th-century Sweden, about a knight returning from a crusade playing a chess game with death. The film made Bergman famous.
  • Becket (1964)
    US, Historical/Drama, 148, No rating, Color
    Director: Peter Glenville; Cast includes: Peter O'Toole, Richard Burton
    -Based on Jean Anouilh's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket and his English King, Henry II. Although there is no historical data to support the suggestion, Anouilh sees a homosexual relationship. Superb film.
  • The Lion in Winter (1968)
    UK, Historical/Drama, 135, No rating, Color
    Director: Anthony Harvey: Cast includes: Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor), Peter O'Toole (Henry II), Anthony Hopkins (Richard the Lionheart)
    -Probably the greatest of all "medieval movies" for sheer enjoyment.
  • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
    UK, Drama, 120, No rating, Color
    Director: Fred Zinnemann: Cast includes: Paul Scofield
    -The story of St. Thomas More as a man of conscience. Won six Oscars.
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
    US, Adventure, 102, No rating, Color
    Director: Michael Curtiz, Willim Keighley ; Cast includes: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains
  • The Advocate [Alt: The Hour of the Pig]
    US (1994): Historical/Drama/Crime
    Director: David Thompson: Cast includes: Colin Firth
    -A 15th-century lawyer defends a pig put on trial for murder.
  • The Return of Martin Guerre (1982) [Alt: La Retour de Martin Guerre]
    France, Historical, 111, No rating, Color
    Director: Daniel Vigne, Jean Claude Carrierè: Cast includes: Gerard Depardieu
    -Based on trial records about an impostor in 16th century Southern France. An excellent movie, with solid historical advice given by Natalie Zemon Davis to the film makers. Try to see subtitled version, not the dubbed one.
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) [Alt: La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc]
    France, Historical, 77, No rating B&W
    Director: Carl Dreyer; Cast includes: Renée Maria Falconetti
    -held by Pauline Kael to be the greatest performance ever captured on film. The film was so powerful that it was initially banned in England. Based on actual trial transcripts.
  • El Cid (1961)
    US, War/Biography, 184, No rating, Color
    Director: Anthony Mann; Cast includes: Sophia Loren (Chimene), Charlton Heston (Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar El Cid), John Fraser (King Alfonso).
    -Quite good, in fact.
  • The Name of the Rose (1986)
    France-Germany-Italy, Mystery/Historical, 130, Rated R, Color
    Director: Cast includes: Sean Connery
    -Based on the novel by Umberto Eco.
  • The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
    New Zealand, Fantasy/Adventure, 92, Rated PG, Color, B&W
    Director: Vincent Ward; Cast includes: Bruce Lyons, Chris Hayward
    -An odd story, but a good film. About an English boy who leads a group of villagers into a tunnel to escape the plague, and emerges in a modern city (Auckland?)
  • The Virgin Spring (1959)
    Sweden, Drama, 88, No rating B&W
    Director: Ingmar Bergman: Cast includes: Max Von Sydow
    Story of religious medieval Swedish family whose daughter is raped by vagrants. Oscar for best foreign movie.
  • The Mission (1986)
    UK, Drama, 125, Rated PG, Color
    Director: Roland Joffe; Cast includes: Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
    -The story of the Jesuit mission in Paraguay. Screenwriter Robert Bolt.

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D. Medieval Movie Myths [Halsall] [In no particular order]

Some myths about the middle ages come up again and again. This is the beginning of a list.

  • Jus Primae Noctis
    The right of "first night" - i.e. that a "lord" had the right to sleep with male subordinate's new wives. This is a 19th-century myth.
    -- Featured in: Braveheart, The War Lord, Magnificat, The Sorceress.
  • Continual persecution of Christians by Rome.
    In fact persecution was intermittent, and rare, with periods of many decades between attacks.
    -- Featured in most "early Christian" genre movies.
  • Clinking Swords
    From Cathy Hanley  [Here is a myth, or rather] an inaccuracy which appears in every medieval film I've ever seen. Why is it that whenever anyone picks up or draws a sword the filmmakers feel obliged to add that annoying "ching" sound, even when the sword is drawn from a leather scabbard or picked up off a table? Anyone who has ever tried to draw a sword (I have several) will know that it's almost impossible to produce this sound. The only way I've found is to deliberately pull the sword across the back of a mail glove, but this isn't very authentic!I know it's probably more dramatic, but it sounds so false and is highly annoying.
  • Knights and Mobility
    That knights could easily get up by themselves (& easily) after falling off a horse with all their heavy chain mail and armor on their bodies. Some commentators have disputed this "myth."
  • Saxons and Normans
    Perhaps because of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, or perhaps because of the success of The Adventures of Robin Hood, the idea that Saxon Englishmen were raging against Norman conquerors comes up again and again in movies about England.
    -- Featured in: mostl Robin Hood movies, all versions of Ivanhoe, Becket (where the real Becket was not even a Norman), The Black Rose, and so on
  • Nuns
    All nuns were virgins admitted into a convent as lovely, nubile waifs.
  • Sex
    No one ever had sex outside of marriage or before marriage. Also, that all marriage ceremonies -- even of peasants in small outland communities-- were performed by priests in a church.
  • [suggestions taken]