Adventure Movies

20 Best Medieval Movies Of All Time

September 17, 202314 Mins Read


  • Medieval movies require extensive research, big budgets, and a delicate balance between historical accuracy and entertainment value.
  • High fantasy stories have overshadowed medieval settings in recent years, but they shouldn’t completely replace them.
  • From Robin Hood to The Green Knight, there are many excellent medieval movies that are worth watching for film fans.

The best medieval movies are difficult to do well. They require endless research to prevent them from becoming inaccurate, huge budgets to cater to the elaborate sets, costumes, and props required, and must often strike a balance between staying true to history and entertaining a modern audience. It’s certainly no easy feat. Despite the difficulties, the best medieval movies have been incredibly successful, both commercially and critically. From A Knight’s Tale to Henry V to The Name of the Rose, the best medieval movies are must-watches for any film fan.

The medieval period is fertile ground for epic tales of glory on the battlefield and romanticized reimaginings of historical events, but it seems to have fallen out of favor somewhat in recent years. High fantasy stories set in fictional worlds seem to be much more prevalent, but, as great as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones may be, they shouldn’t be a complete replacement for the medieval setting. Still, from the pioneering years of cinema in the first half of the twentieth century to the huge blockbusters of the modern day, there are more than a few of the best medieval movies that are more than worthwhile.

RELATED: 10 TV Series Set In The Medieval Era

25 Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)

Robin Hood stands as one of the most renowned legends from the medieval period.

One of the most famous legends of the medieval era is Robin Hood. There are a lot of movies based on the man who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, but the most popular version is the 1991 Kevin Costner movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The film retells Robin’s story as he returns home from the Third Crusade and finds his father dead at the hands of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, who has plans to take the throne for himself. This movie has a lot going for it, including a wonderful villain turn from Alan Rickman and the Sherrif. It also won a Grammy for Best Song.

24 Outlaw King (2018)

Robert initiates his rebellion right after the death of William Wallace in Braveheart

The Netflix original medieval movie Outlaw King is almost a spiritual sequel to Braveheart. Both sit among the best medieval movies, with Chris Pine starring in Outlaw King as Robert the Bruce. While not exactly historically accurate, this movie shows Robert starting his rebellion immediately after William Wallace’s death in Braveheart. In reality, the rebellion started a year later, but this was still a good follow-up, although not quite up to the level of Braveheart. The ending of Outlaw King has also left plenty of viewers talking about it long after the credits rolled.

23 The Virgin Spring (1960)

The wickedness that prevailed even in that era.

  • Stream on the Criterion Channel

Not all movies set in medieval times are about wars and battles. Often movies are set in the medieval era to show the living conditions and atmosphere of the era. In the cast of The Virgin Spring, this Ingmar Bergman movie was set in Medieval Sweden and showed the evil that existed even in those times. Christian Per Töre sent his daughter to take candles to the church. However, on her way there, she comes across three men who then sexually assault and murder her. These three then take shelter at her father’s home and when he realizes what they did, he exacts his own revenge. The movie won an Oscar and Wes Craven remade it as The Last House on the Left.

22 Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Regarded as one of the finest Russian war films ever produced.

Released in 1938, the great Sergei Eisenstein directed AlexanderNevsky, his first movie in the sound era and his first release in nine years. He received this opportunity when the Soviet film star Boris Shumyatsky offered up the biopic subject, who was a 13th-century warrior-saint who defeated the German knights of the Teutonic Order. Considered one of the best Russian war movies ever made, with an incredible look at devastated cities and battlefields, all while Nevsky led his troops to defend his country from foreign invaders. The movie remains highly praised and even has a Criterion Collection release.

21 The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die (2023)

A follow-up film inspired by the Netflix television series.

A sequel movie based on the Netflix TV series, which itself was based on the medieval Viking novels by Bernard Cornwell, The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die finished up the story from the series in the perfect manner. The show was extremely popular and when Netflix ended it, there was a promise of an end to this but as a movie. The only thing that really hurts this medieval movie is that it is almost like the final season of The Last Kingdom but condensed to two hours. With that said, it has the same amazing battles, a nice budget for effects, and a satisfying ending for all the characters from the series.

20 The Green Knight (2021)

The movie is a favorite for many fans of this genre.

Though it was somewhat overlooked when it was released, The Green Knight will likely become a beloved favorite of many fans in years to come. The movie stars Dev Patel as Gawain, a young and ambitious knight who finds himself on a quest to prove his nobleness when he is challenged by the mysterious Green Knight.The Green Knight adapts the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and includes fantasy elements just as the source material did. However, it is also a medieval tale that deconstructs tales of heroes and holds an impressive 89% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

19 The King (2019)

The story of Henry V’s life.

One of the more recent medieval releases, Netflix’s The King proved there was still interest in the genre. Though based on several plays by William Shakespeare, the film takes its own approach to chronicle the life of Henry V (Timothée Chalamet) after becoming the King of England in the 15th century. Chalamet proved he could carry his own movie outside the indie movie world and appeal to a larger audience. He delivers a layered performance as a brave warrior who is perhaps not as wise of a politician as he likes to pretend he is. The movie also features an impressive supporting cast including Robert Pattinson with an amusing French accent.

18 El Cid (1961)

One of the final films produced during the old Hollywood era.

  • Not Currently Available To Stream

The 1961 film El Cid starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren highlights one of the last movies made in the era of old Hollywood when such studio epics were common. The film chronicles the life of the Spanish legendary figure Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, also known as El Cid. The film is set in the 11th century against a backdrop of Christian Spain that is being overrun by the Moors. The charismatic knight El Cid tries to unify his divided country and rally his people against foreign invaders. The star power of the movie is one of the selling points as Heston and Loren received plenty of praise while the musical score and art direction are also standouts, earning several Oscar nominations in technical categories.

17 Valhalla Rising (2009)

Mads Mikkelsen delivers one of his most intense performances.

The Viking movie genre is not a very prevalent one, but Valhalla Rising is one of the examples why these brutal adventure movies should be seen more often. This Nicolas Winding Refn film features Mads Mikkelsen in one of his most visceral performances. Buoyed by the gorgeous Scotland landscape on which it was shot, Valhalla Rising is a worthy screening for both Mikkelsen fans and anyone who can get on Refn’s wavelength and comfortably stay there. Far from the director’s Drive, the film follows a Norse Warrior called One-Eye and a young boy as they travel with Christian Crusaders in 1096 AD.

16 The Northman (2022)

It’s a visually breathtaking adventure.

Famed for his brooding and unrelentingly strange horror-adjacent efforts, director Robert Eggers knows how to establish drama, build tension, and cultivate a bizarre climax that makes the film’s heroes seem no more well-intentioned than its villains. That’s very much on display in one of 2022’s best action movies, The Northman. A Norse tale of revenge that reverts into a tale of questioned allegiances and misinterpreted memories, it’s a visually stunning adventure that’ll leave audiences wondering why more movies don’t opt for the troubled antihero storyline. Though a box office disappointment, the movie’s battle sequences and authentic feel stood out among modern action movies.

15 Kingdom Of Heaven (2005)

Following Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning Gladiator, the idea of the filmmaker making another historical epic sounded like a great idea. Kingdom of Heaven follows a blacksmith (Orlando Bloom) who joins his father (Liam Neeson) as a crusader on the road to the Holy City. Years before fans started demanding the director’s cut of Justice League, the film Kingdom of Heaven showed how a director’s cut could save a movie. The messy film that was released in theaters was recut in its intended form as a massive epic that showed off Scott’s talent for big battle sequences while also making the historical aspects of the movie more gripping and effective.

14 Excalibur (1981)

One of the greatest medieval movies merges the mythology of classic tales.

  • Rent On Prime Video & Apple TV

Some of the best medieval movies combine the mythology of classic tales while also setting themselves in a heightened historical world. Such is the case with the wonderful fantasy adventure Excalibur. As expected from the title, this is a story about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. The cast was heavily praised with Nigel Terry as Arthur, Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance, Liam Neeson as Gawain, and Helen Mirren as Morgana. The movie got an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography, while Boorman won an award at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.

13 The Last Duel (2021)

A real life story of a terrifying incident that set the stage for a deadly confrontation.

Though it was one of the biggest box office bombs of 2021, The Last Duel recounts a real-life story lost in history that has stunning relevancy to modern society. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film was written and features performances by both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck while also starring Adam Driver and Jodie Comer in an acclaimed leading role. The movie is told through the perspectives of two knights and a lady all surrounding a horrific incident that leads to a deadly confrontation. Despite the fact that it was overlooked and Affleck scored an undeserved Razzie nomination, the performances, the telling of the tale, and the epic final battle led to an 85% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

12 A Knight’s Tale (2001)

Humans have the power to determine their own destinies.

Though fans know Heath Ledger best as The Dark Knight’s Joker, A Knight’s Tale is one of the films that cemented the late star as a leading man. Ledger stars as William Thatcher, a man who impersonates a knight and rises up through the ranks by jousting in a series of tournaments. The highly entertaining film centers around the idea that humans can choose their own destinies and is much more comedic than most medieval movies. Instead of taking itself too seriously with historical facts and accuracy, the movie incorporated modern music in a fun and unexpected way.

RELATED: 10 Best Heath Ledger Performances That Aren’t “The Joker”

11 Richard III (1955)

The pinnacle of Shakespearean film adaptations.

Laurence Olivier is an actor who seems to have been perfectly suited to performing these larger-than-life characters of medieval dramas. In Richard III, Olivier plays the titular nefarious character in the tale of his many plots and betrayals in order to seize the throne for himself. Olivier directed a number of movies based on Shakespeare plays, and while this was his only one not to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, Olivier’s performance was nominated. In the years since its release, many have called Richard III the best Shakespeare movie adaptation.

10 Becket (1964)

Won the restoration of the best picture in 2007

Following the restoration of the Best Picture-winning Becket in 2007, more people have been able to experience the brilliance of the movie. Starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole, the film documents the relationship between Henry II of England and the bishop Thomas Becket. Now known as Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Thomas Becket served as the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until 1170. The dynamic between Burton and O’Toole is riveting with both actors being nominated for Best Actor for their performances. The movie also spawned a spiritual sequel, The Lion in Winter.

9 Henry V (1989)

The adaptation of Shakespeare’s play “Henry V.”

Like Laurence Olivier before him, Kenneth Branagh’s movie career is filled with Shakespeare adaptations that he both directed and starred in. He made his directorial debut with the 1989 adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Henry V starring Branagh as the titular character as he tries to claim the kingdom of France in the name of England during the Hundred Years War. Branagh has a talent for taking the dense material of Shakespeare and bringing it to the big screen in a faithful yet accessible way. The movie is considered one of the best Shakespeare adaptations and earned Branagh Oscar nominations for his acting and directing.

8 The Name Of The Rose (1986)

  • Not Currently Available To Stream

While most medieval movies try to explore well-known historical figures or depict epic battles, The Name of the Rose, tells a more contained and genre-driven story that sets it apart. The movie tells the story of the fictional 14th-century Franciscan monk William of Baskerville who travels to an abbey and investigates a suspicious death. The movie is an obscure whodunit, planting a murder mystery story within the setting of a medieval movie. The result is a gripping and highly entertaining thriller with a terrific leading man performance from Connery.

7 Hamlet (1948)

Oscar-winning adaptation of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy, “Hamlet.”

This 1948 Oscar-winning adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Hamlet stars and was directed by Laurence Olivier, and it serves as something of a paired-down interpretation of the original play. That said, it retains the playwright’s trademark dialogue and expertly reflects the tribulations of its titular lead. The story of Hamlet is a timeless tale with which most cinephiles are at least casually familiar and the movie captures Shakespeare’s original text faithfully with a commanding lead performance. Fittingly, as perhaps the most acclaimed of Shakespeare’s plays, this was the crowing adaptation of Olivier, earning him Best Actor and Best Picture Oscars.

6 The Lion In Winter (1968)

A film based on a Broadway play

  • Rent On Prime Video & Apple TV

The Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole as King Henry II and Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine. It tells the story of the king’s decision about which of his three sons will inherit his throne. The film also stars a young Anthony Hopkins as the couple’s eldest son, Richard the Lionheart. The film is based on a Broadway play of the same name and was one of the highest-grossing films of 1968 showing the kind of audience there once was for these prestige stories of historical politics and intrigue. It also won three Academy Awards, including Best Music Score, Best Adapted Screen Play, and Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn.

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