Stories and tales set in the medieval-themed worlds are always full of wonder and mystery, and that is because the environment lends itself well the romanticized concepts of knightly honor and long lost magic. This was a time of myth of legend, when heroes rose up to defend their people and their kingdoms. This is why a lot of fantasy stories are set in this wonderful era. And for all of you fantasy fans, we have put together some of the best films and TV shows into a single list of amazing things you should not miss out on.
While some medieval history buffs maybe looking for historically pinpoint accurate films and series based on these times, this list comprises the most entertaining of movies and tv shows and isn’t focused on accuracy and education.
Game of Thrones (Series)
While Game of Thrones isn’t historically linked to the Middle Ages there’s no denying it has heaps of medieval influence within the both the books and the TV series. Whether that be castles, weapons, dialect or many more references it’s littered with them. The HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series has become a worldwide hit, and why not? The story is filled with amazing characters, a rich backstory, and the delivery of the plot is so well made that even non-fantasy viewers are hooked. The story is about the complex politics of Kings Landing, one of the largest of Westeros’ seven kingdoms, and the slowly encroaching threat of the supernatural White Walkers past the Northen Wall. Sadly, saying anything more than that would be a massive spoiler for anyone who has not seen this yet. With that said, if you like fantasy and have not seen the show yet, you now have the perfect excuse to binge-watch a series.
This classic 1981 movie is a retelling of the story of Arthur and the knights of Camelot. Many of the key points of the original legend is represented loyally in the film, making it a good reference for those new to the tale. Of course, being an old film, much of the cinematography feel clunky and the pacing is slow. Still, it boasts a stellar cast of actors, Patrick Steward, Liam Neeson, and Nigel Terry are joined by many other amazing talents in this film.
Mel Gibson’s film may not be well-liked by history purists, but it still makes for a pretty awesome movie if you just want to gorge on some popcorn while watching men being manly in kilts. All jokes aside, Braveheart is an iconic movie not because of the middle ages setting, but because of its amazingly well made screenplay and stunning cinematography. Until today, the “Braveheart speech” is counted as one of the most iconic film monologues (along with the president’s speech in Independence Day, and the Rohirrim’s charge in Return of the King).
Kingdom of Heaven (Movie)
The Kingdom of Heaven is a film full of political intrigue and people killing each other with pointy melee weapons with the cinematic flair of Ridley Scott, the result is an very intriguing movie that will have you wondering just how many hardships does the protagonist have to go through. The movie stars Orlando Bloom, Edward Norton, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, and Martin Csokas.
Conan the Barbarian (Movie)
The original Conan the Barbarian movie starring former Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger was a classic film that lived up to its pulp fiction story origins. In many ways, Conan transcends the whole early and middle-ages setting with its content. Of course, being a pure work of fantasy fiction, that much fudging for the sake of having a really cool plot is understandable. Conan has gotten a more recent retelling in a 2011 film starring Jason Momoa in the lead role –the film feels a lot less comic-like and is more in the line of the modern fantasy movies.
Henry V (1989) (Movie)
This adaption of the Shakespearean play is, quite honestly, an acquired taste. Academically speaking, if you are looking to read up on the play itself, this movie as good as it gets. But if you were hoping for something a little more along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, you might want to lower your expectations a little as this is not a modern retelling. Instead, this 1989 film adaptation of Henry V is a British production that honors the source material by actually providing viewers with an experience to actually watching a live play.
The Tudors (Series)
This TV series from Showtime has its tale set in the era of King Henry VIII, and focuses on the Royal House of Tudor. The series itself combines soap-opera style romance with the historical and fictional political intrigue. As a historical reference, this is not really he show you want to watch for additional education. But if you wanted a captivatingly good
storyline about the frailties of people who hold power, then you can treat yourself to four entire seasons of this show.
This classic fantasy film by George Lucas is a tale of an evil ruler attempting to outdo a prophecy –and most fantasy fans always know how that turns out. Not surprisingly, the legendary infant ends up in the hands of the protagonist and a grand adventure full of magic begins. Despite being an old film, the special effects for this movie looked pretty good, and it also boasts of some really nice cinematic environments.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Movie)
It is hard to come up with fantasy-themed jokes and not quote ones from Monty Python and the Holy Grail –and that is not surprising at all. As the title suggests, the comedy troupe of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Micheal Palin are responsible for much of the laughs. Slow pacing aside, this film will have you laughing till your sides hurt as you follow King Arthur’s quest for the holy grail –which is probably the only ‘normal’ plot detail we can say about this movie. If you have not seen it, do so.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) (Movie)
This classic Errol Flynn is incredibly dated, but it still considered by many film enthusiasts as highly iconic. If you have a love for all tales about Robin Hood or have a great interest in the history of film and cinematography, this movie is certainly worth the watch. The film’s plot is as expected; Robin of Locksley, a loyal supporter of Richard the Lionhearted, takes refuge in the Sherwood forest and organizes a band of outlaws to rob from the rich and give to the poor.
The Sword in the Stone (Movie)
Surprisingly, despite the title of this classic Walt Disney animated creation, this is not an movie that focuses on the story of King Arthur. Instead, this film focuses on Merlin, and his way of teaching young Arthur about the importance of using knowledge and cunning in the face of adversity. The film goes to lengths to demonstrate basic concept of physics to its viewers, as well as the importance of sound reasoning and judgment when it comes to settling conflict. In many ways, this is a great movie for children to watch as it imparts very important life lessons in a fun and interesting way.
Black Death (Movie)
There is a certain sense of heaviness in the film Black Death, it follows the story of a monk who is leading a group of dangerous mercenaries to a village that is supposedly being protected by magic against a plague that is sweeping across the land. The film has many poignant moments, especially the part where the monk finally learns of the village’s secret and how it affects him. In some ways, Black Death is as much a psychological drama as it is an adventure film.
Army of Darkness (Movie)
This third sequel to the Evil Dead series takes on a completely new feel as Ash ventures past the cabin and into the distant past. Where the original Evil Dead movies focused on the deadites unleashed in the future, Army of Darkness literally sends Ash back to the past in order to deal with the maleficent evil of the Necronomicon. The feel of the movie also switches from slasher style horror to kick-ass medieval action-adventure. This is a great example of how director Sam Raimi is able to take what would have been an otherwise mundane (or b-movie-ish) plot and turn it into an instant classic.
The Seventh Seal (Movie)
This movie is a lot more symbolic than it is literal, but many of the key plot points are at least delivered as straight actions. The basic plot of the movie is that a knight arriving from the Crusades ends up challenging Death to a game of chess –not with anything specific as a prize, but rather the notion that the longer the game goes on, Death will not be able to take him so quickly. The knight does this in order to have enough time to be able to perform a sincere act of kindness. Much of the film is focused on the various ills and problems of humanity, as well as its often futile attempts at redemption. As an old black and white film, the Seventh Seal is a thinkpiece of a movie –which is something of an acquired taste.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Movie)
Unlike many other tales about the legendary Joan of Arc, this iconic 1928 film shows us the champion of France after she has been captured by the English. Much of the film revolves around her trials –displaying her steadfast devotion to her beliefs. Plenty of filmmakers cite this movie as very influential and iconic, with its incredible use of close up shots that helped shape the direction of modern cinema.