9 Arthurian Movie Adaptations You Might Have Forgotten - Nerdist
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9 Arthurian Movie Adaptations You Might Have Forgotten
With David Lowery’s lush adaptation of The Green Knight hitting theaters, it’s the perfect time to dive back into the cinematic world of Arthruian legends. There are some obvious movie choices like Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017); or Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 take on King Arthur (who could forget a blue Keira Knightley?). There are also the classics like Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Excalibur (1981), Camelot (1967) and Disney’s The Sword in the Stone (1963). But what if you want to dig a bit deeper into the mythology? Here are some Arthurian adaptations you might have forgotten about or have never heard of that are sure to transport you back into a more fantastical time and place where chivalry reigned and tables were round.
Sean Connery, Richard Gere, and Julia Ormond as Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, respectively, positioned in front of Camelot in a promo image for Arthurian movie First Knight.
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Parsifal, 1912 (dir. Mario Caserini)
This early Italian cinematic epic was inspired by the German opera of the same name by Wagner. In turn, this was inspired by Wolfram von Eschenbach’s “Parzival” a 13th-century epic poem. It tells the tales of Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail. Directed by Mario Caserini, it follows the knight Parsifal (Vitale De Stefano) on a mission to protect the most holy of relics after his King Amfortas (Mario Bonnard), fallen into sin and corrupted by Satan, fails to do so. This silent film features lush costuming and groundbreaking special effects for its time.
 
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, 1949 (dir. Tay Garnett)
Based on the 1912 novel of the same name by Mark Twain, this comedy follows mechanic Hank Martin (Bing Crosby) who, in 1912, bumps his head and wakes up in Arthurian Britain, AD 528. There he falls in love with the fair maiden Alisande la Carteloise (Rhonda Fleming) and befriends the gallant Sir Sagramore (William Bendix). However, he also incurs the wrath of both Merlin (Murvyn Vye) and Morgan le Fay (Virginia Field). Will Hank be able to overcome all obstacles – including time – for his newfound love? You’ll have to watch and see.
 
Lancelot and Guinevere, 1963 (dir. Cornel Wilde)
Released as Sword of Lancelot in the United States, this drama was directed by, co-written by, produced by and stars Cornel Wilde. A loose adaptation of Le morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory, it follows Lancelot (Wilde) as he falls for Guinevere (Jean Wallace) after he saves her from Sir Modred (Michael Meacham). Things fall apart in the seemingly perfect Camelot as Modred informs King Arthur of their love affair. Fun fact: this film inspired a Dell comic book adaptation.
 
Lancelot du Lac, 1974 (dir. Robert Bresson)
Inspired by the Lancelot-Grail cycle, and especially the works of French poet Chrétien de Troyes, Bresson’s take on the fall of Camelot was mostly composed of amateur actors. Bresson also downplayed the more fantastical element of Arthurian lore. Although the film does go heavy on graphic violence. After sending 100 men to retrieve the Holy Grail, only 30 men return. Among these is Lancelot (Luc Simon), the lover of Guinevere (Laura Duke Condominas). This film also includes Gauvain (Humbert Balsan), although its version of his death veers drastically from most accounts.
 
Perceval le Gallois, 1978 (dir. Éric Rohmer)
Again inspired by Chrétien de Troyes, this time specifically Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Rohmer’s film follows the life of Perceval (Fabrice Luchini) as he becomes a knight, as well as brief episodes with Gauvain (André Dussolier). Unlike most adaptations of Aurthian myths, this adaptation is anything but lush. The action mostly takes place in a highly theatrical setting with rudimentary props and stylized backdrop. Rohmer also includes a singing chorus, and the characters narrate their own thoughts. The result is more an exercise in cinematic language than it is a faithful adaptation of the source material.
 
The Fisher King, 1991 (dir. Terry Gilliam)
Terry Gilliam’s drama starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges takes its name from and brings to life aspects of the Fisher King stories. In Arthurian legends the Fisher King, also known as the wounded king, ​​is the last in a long bloodline charged with keeping the Holy Grail. Our friend Percival is often the only knight able to restore him from his mortal wounds. In the film Robin Williams plays Parry, a homeless man who has convinced himself he is the knight destined to find the grail and heal the Fisher King. He enlists the help of shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), who eventually uncovers the man’s real story.
 
First Knight, 1995 (dir. Jerry Zucker)
Again drawing inspiration from Chrétien de Troyes, this version of the Lancelot and Guinevere affair also forgoes any magical elements in favor of grounded drama. Here, King Arthur (Sean Connery) is not only dealing with the betrayal of Lancelot (Richard Gere) and Guinevere (Julia Ormond), but also the rebellion of Prince Malagant (Ben Cross). This film strays further from source material than many adaptations, adding a relatively happy Hollywood ending for the star-crossed lovers.
 
Merlin, 1998 (dir. Steve Barron)
This mini-series not only brings the stories back to their fantastical pagan roots, but also sets the stories in the Sub-Roman Britain from which they likely sprang. Sam Neill stars as Merlin, a creation of Queen Mab (Miranda Richardson) to draw people back to the old Celtic ways. Much drama ensues, and many stories collide including those of The Lady in the Lake, the sword Excalibur, the rise of King Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere and more. For those who like their Arthurian stories with a heavy dose of sword and sorcery, this is the show for them.
 
The Mists of Avalon, 2001 (dir. Uli Edel)
Adapted from the 1983 novel of the same title by Marion Zimmer Bradley, this is a feminist re-telling of the Arthurian myths from the point of view of Morgaine aka Morgan La Fey (Julianna Margulies), Viviane aka the Lady of the Lake (Anjelica Huston), and Morgause (Joan Allen) as they fight to keep Pagan traditions alive. This miniseries leans into the ancient Welsh mythology from which the Arthurian legends began. As the title suggests, it explores the magical realm of the island of Avalon. Perfect again for those who love the more fantastical elements of these stories.
Editor’s Note: CW: Sexual assault and child abuse.
The author Marion Zimmer Bradley, though an outspoken feminist during her career, was posthumously accused of sexual assault by her daughter, Moira Greystone, in a 2012 email to The Guardian. Further, Bradley’s former husband Walter H. Breen was a convicted child sex abuser many times over. Bradley herself confessed to knowing of Breen’s crimes and even helping to facilitate them.
While the author’s contribution to Arthurian myth and literature is notable, and therefore germane to this piece, Nerdist will not do so without calling to light these horrific and disgusting actions, and to link to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) to read ways you can help other children who were the victims of such atrocities.

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