With The Last Duel and The Green Knight recently hitting cinemas, now is a great time to invest in some medieval movie time!
From ye olde fantasy worlds to epic historical biopics, these films will take you back in time to worlds before modern technology—back to when sword fights, chivalrous knights, and royal power plays dominated.
Here are our picks for the best medieval movies as well as movies that take place in medieval-inspired settings.
12. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
Guy Ritchie reimagines the myth of King Arthur in his playful and visually stunning fantasy drama King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword. Although critics weren’t overly impressed with the movie’s campy gimmicks, we think it’s a whole bunch of fun!
Video game logic meets cinematic fantasy in Ritchie’s interpretation of Camelot. Charlie Hunnam stars as the young Arthur, unaware of his royal lineage. But after pulling Excalibur from a stone, he embraces his true calling. Jude Law (and David Beckham?) stars alongside him.
11. Outlaw King (2018)
Robert I (aka Robert the Bruce) was King of Scots during the early 1300s. Chris Pine takes up this historical role in David Mackenzie’s action-packed drama Outlaw King alongside Florence Pugh.
From the title, you can probably guess that Robert’s rule wasn’t smooth sailing. In fact, he was forced into exile by the English! Spurred on by the quartered body of William Wallace, Robert is bestowed the Crown of Scotland and deemed an outlaw by King Edward I.
Outlaw King is a classic tale of bickering kings, battlefields, and courtly romance, sure to please any history or film buff!
10. Black Death (2010)
The bubonic plague was a particularly gruesome disease that marks a dark time in history. Commonly known as the “black death,” the pandemic mercilessly swept through Europe during the 14th century.
Christopher Smith gives us a brutal look into this period of time with Black Death starring Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne. A young monk (Redmayne) is recruited by a knight (Bean) after rumors spread of victims rising from the dead.
These black-magic claims lead the two into a strange village, where all kinds of terrors take place. Black Death is a slow burner that skirts the edges of the horror genre, giving us but a taste of the savage and violent world of medieval England.
9. Becket (1964)
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If you like classic movies, this one’s for you. Peter Glenville’s 1960s epic recounts the infamous relationship between Henry II of England and Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Based on the 1959 play Becket or The Honour of God by Jean Anouilh, Becket documents the tumultuous transition from friends to foes: when Henry appoints his old friend Becket as the new Archbishop, he doesn’t appreciate how seriously he takes the holy position.
Conflicts arise and Becket’s famously mysterious death is blamed on the King. Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole star as the two opposing forces, making for some very sophisticated British viewing.
8. Macbeth (2015)
While waiting for Joel Coen’s black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation The Tragedy of Macbeth, now’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the renowned tragedy.
Haven’t read a Shakespeare play since school? Don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is one of the best movie versions of the story—and certainly the most aesthetically pleasing!
Clouded by smoke and rich color grading, Macbeth is as artistic as it is accurate to the original play. Set in 11th century Scotland, Macbeth stars Michael Fassbender as the guilt-ridden King.
Persuaded by his conniving wife Lady Macbeth (played by Marion Cotillard), Macbeth kills King Duncan to claim his crown, as was predicted by three creepy witches. It’s tense, it’s pretty, and it’s sure to make you feel a little more cultured.
7. The Seventh Seal (1957)
The Seventh Seal is a 1957 Swedish historical drama that happens to be one of the greatest films of 20th century—certainly regarded as one of Ingmar Bergman’s best films. A black-and-white cinephile classic, The Seventh Seal is set during the time of the “black death.”
You’ve probably seen the infamous chess scene at some point or another, even if you didn’t realize what you were watching. The iconic scene shows a disillusioned knight playing against the personification of Death, only able to survive if he continues playing.
6. The King (2019)
In The King, Timothée Chalamet had a good stab at an English accent for his lead role as Henry V of England (while Robert Pattinson’s stab at French was a little less successful).
Sourced from Shakespeare’s historical plays Henry IV, Part 1 & 2 and Henry V, The King is a dramatization of real events. David Michôd’s epic war drama follows “Hal” from his drunken teenage days to his reprisal of the crown, switching out his lie-in’s for serious royal duties.
Treachery and war are part and parcel of being a medieval King, which Hal quickly comes to realize. Don’t like Shakespeare? Don’t worry! The King prefers historical realism over eloquent soliloquys.
5. Henry V (1989)
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Unlike The King, Henry V is a filmic take on the king that is meant for Shakespeare fans. After all, it’s made by the playwright’s number one fan: Kenneth Branagh, who’s a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and star/director of several Shakespeare movies.
Receiving worldwide acclaim as one of the best Shakespeare adaptations in history, Henry V mimics the style of a play with numerous monologues and choruses. Branagh headlines as the ruthless English King, determined to lay claim to France.
Super-charged and brimming with grit and energy, Henry V is an all-star British classic that’s a must-watch for any Shakespeare fan.
4. The Green Knight (2021)
A stylistic A24-version of medieval history, The Green Knight puts an artistic spin on Arthurian lore. Blending the realistic with the mythical, The Green Knight takes us through all sorts of twists and turns.
Dev Patel is King Arthur’s nephew, challenged to duel the strange Green Knight, who’s a sort of Groot-like creature from old folklore. But here’s the catch: any strike you give him, you’ll get in return one year hence.
The following Christmas, Gawain embarks on a bizarre and grueling journey to the Green Chapel. The Green Knight is self-conscious, existential, and utterly original, so catch it while it’s still in cinemas! Our advice is to watch it twice to fully digest everything…
3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
This one’s the only real comedy on our list, but it’s such a classic that we had to include it. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of three feature films by Monty Python—a 1970s British comedy sketch troupe—which happens to be inspired by the legends of Camelot.
Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones direct this parody, which stars the familiar cast from the hit television series. It showcases the grim reality of the Middle Ages in hilarious and slapstick ways, framed as a modern murder investigation.
Giants, killer rabbits and knights make the quest for the Holy Grail a tedious one in this quintessentially British farce.
2. Braveheart (1995)
It seems William Wallace got a slightly better deal than Robert the Bruce (sorry Chris Pine and Angus Macfadyen) in terms of movies, with Braveheart ranking among the most quoted films of all time.
“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” Mel Gibson’s William Wallace shouts before launching into battle, and viewers have been shouting it ever since. Gibson didn’t just star but also directed this historical epic, depicting Sir William’s lead role in the First War of Scottish Independence.
Braveheart won five Academy Awards in 1996, including Best Picture and Best Director. Despite its factual inaccuracy, Braveheart remains a stern favorite to come out of the 90s.
1. The Lord of the Rings (2001–2003)
Middle Earth is one of the most detailed fantasy worlds in all literature and cinema. Director Peter Jackson remained painstakingly true to J. R. R. Tolkien’s books, building a cinematic world that still astounds audiences today. (We’re reserving number one spot for The Lord of the Rings only, as The Hobbit prequels were less adored by fans.)
Heavily inspired by folklore, Tolkien’s fictional landscape combines the familiarity of the medieval with the imagination of legend.
The trilogy follows one hobbit’s quest to Mordor to destroy the One Ring; meanwhile, his elf and wizard buddies are off fighting Orcs. Middle Earth was a key influence on George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones world—one which, unfortunately, couldn’t make it onto this list.