There are dozens of movie genres but few have had the longevity (and popularity) of medieval films. These releases can take the form of romances, epic historical dramas, or even musical comedies — however, the one thing that remains is a familiar Middle Ages setting.
There have been a number of very successful medieval-themed movie projects from across the globe — the United Kingdom, Japan, Czech Republic, and France to name a few geographical locations. That means viewers can see films based on the likes of Arthurian legends, French heroines like Joan of Arc, European peasants suffering the hardship of medieval life, and even samurai warriors in feudal Japan. And there’s a wide array of fantasy films with a Middle Age flair to choose from.
With such a rich history of movies based in these times it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to watching the best of the best. Fortunately, we’ve assembled the cream of the crop when it comes to movies set during the age of knights, castles, powerful warriors, and bloody battles. So settle in and kick your feet up — because here are the greatest medieval movies of all time.
80. King Arthur
"King Arthur" is a 2004 adaptation of the mythical Arthurian legends that takes a more realistic and somewhat darker approach to the stories. Featuring stars such as Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Mads Mikkelsen, and Ray Winstone, the movie focuses on Roman officer Arthur who is sent on one last mission on behalf of Rome. During his travels north of Hadrian’s Wall, he encounters the native Woads and becomes disillusioned with Roman rule after seeing the atrocities they have carried out. He and his fellow knights decide to remain in Britain and fight with the Woads against the Saxon invaders.
Facing tough competition against both "Spider-Man 2" and "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," this film could only reach third place during its opening weekend but still went on to gross more than $200 million. And Rotten Tomatoes gave "King Arthur" an approval rating of 31% with most critics agreeing that the story was confusing and unrealistic, while the action and battle scenes were inspired.
79. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Hitting cinema screens in 2017, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is a fanfiction action-adventure film directed by English filmmaker Guy Ritchie. It stars "Sons of Anarchy" actor Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, and Jude Law as his antagonist King Vortigern. The story follows Arthur as a crime boss who was brought up by prostitutes in a brothel following the murder of his parents by Vortigern. But when he is able to pull the legendary sword Excalibur from the stone, he asserts his claim for the throne of Britain and leads an army against the despised king.
"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" bombed at the box office, grossing just $146 million worldwide. According to Deadline Hollywood, the movie may have lost the studio more than $150 million in total after marketing costs were accounted for, making it one of the biggest losses of the year. Its critical reception was little better, with Rotten Tomatoes awarding the movie an approval rating of 31%.
78. The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
"The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" is a 1999 French film that was directed by Luc Besson. It stars Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc, along with John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, and Andrew Birkin in supporting roles. Telling the story of Joan of Arc, it takes place during the Hundred Years’ War in the 14th century and follows her life from childhood to when she takes on a leadership role in the battle against the English. Ultimately, she is captured by the enemy army and executed.
Besson had previously worked with Jovovich on "The Fifth Element" and this movie proved to be both a critical and financial success. The same cannot be said of "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc." The movie managed a worldwide gross of just under $70 million compared to its $60 million budget. Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes gave it an approval rating of 31% based on a series of mixed reviews from some 33 critics.
77. Tristan & Isolde
"Tristan + Isolde" is a rom-com that stars James Franco and Sophia Myles in the two main roles. The likes of Henry Cavill, Mark Strong, Rufus Sewell, and David O’Hara also have roles in the Kevin Reynolds-directed film. Ridley Scott began working on a possible film adaptation of the medieval legend in the 1970s and acted as a producer on the film. Taking place in the Dark Ages just after the Roman Empire has collapsed, the plot is focused on Tristan as he attempts to fight against the Irish occupation of Britain until he eventually meets Princess Isolde.
It opened in eighth place at the U.S. box office during its debut weekend, making $6.5 million and later went on to bring in a total of $28 million around the world. With an approval rating of 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics largely had mixed or negative reviews. Most of them focused on the lack of exciting action or meaningful plot development throughout.
76. Kingdom of Heaven
Orlando Bloom stars in the 2005 historical drama "Kingdom of Heaven," along with an ensemble cast that includes many well known actors — including Eva Green, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, Edward Norton, Michael Sheen, and Brendan Gleeson. Directed by Ridley Scott, "Kingdom of Heaven" takes place during the events of the Crusaders in the 1300s. Bloom’s character Balian of Ibelin travels to Jerusalem to help defend the kingdom against the invasion of Sultan Saladin.
On a budget of around $130 million, the film had box office takings of $218 million in total. "Kingdom of Heaven" received mixed reviews and divided opinions when it was released. With an approval rating of 39% based on more than 190 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie failed to meet the high expectations of a Ridley Scott project. The director would eventually release a director’s cut at the end of 2005 that received far more praise and is widely accepted as the proper version.
75. Heaven and Earth
"Heaven and Earth" is a Japanese film that was released in 1990. Directed by Haruki Kadokawa, the film didn’t see a Western launch until 1991. The movie charts the feudal Lord Kagetora as he protects his land from an invasive warlord and defends the people that live there. Inspired by real-world events, it includes the Battles of Kawanakajima. Takaaki Enoki, Masahiko Tsugawa, Atsuko Asano, and Naomi Zaizen have roles. Ken Watanabe was originally set to appear, but he was forced to miss the production as he was ill during filming.
According to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, "Heaven and Earth" was the biggest selling movie of 1990 in that country. It went on to have a worldwide box office of more than $5 million. While the film hasn’t been reviewed enough to receive a critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it does have an audience score of 90%.
Made in Britain, "Ironclad" is a 2011 war film that was written by Jonathan English, Erick Kastel, and Stephen McDool, with English also taking on directing duties. Starring James Purefoy in the title role — Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, Paul Giamatti, and Jason Flemyng also appear. Set in 1215, the plot showcases the siege of Rochester Castle by King John after he attempts retribution for being forced to sign Magna Carta by rebellious barons. Former Templar knight Thomas Marshall attempts to put a stop to the tyrannical king with the aid of the Archbishop of Canterbury and William d’Aubigny.
Created with a budget of some $25 million, "Ironclad" was financially successful enough to warrant a sequel in the form of "Ironclad: Battle for Blood." Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 42%, taking the average from 55 reviews in total despite the lack of attention to detail to history and the clunky story.
73. First Knight
"First Knight" is a 1995 film that is largely based on the Arthurian Legend and focuses on Sir Lancelot and his relationship with Lady Guinevere. Sean Connery stars as King Arthur, the man meant to marry Guinevere while Richard Gere and Julia Ormond play the two other main roles, with Ben Cross taking on the role of villain Prince Malagant. Unlike many other films featuring the tales of King Arthur, this movie does not include any magical elements and instead focuses on the scheming of Malagant as he attempts to take the throne himself by betraying Arthur and the other knights.
When it became available in cinemas, "First Knight" quickly grossed some $127 million. It was beaten only by "Apollo 13" and "Species" on its opening weekend, where it managed to earn more than $10 million. Based on almost 50 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes awarded the film an approval rating of 43% and suggested that bad casting and lack of meaningful on-screen chemistry was part of the problem.
72. Robin Hood
The first of many adaptations based on the legendary archer, "Robin Hood" is a 2010 film directed by Ridley Scott. Going through extensive rewrites, it stars Russell Crowe as Robin Hood alongside Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, William Hurt, Oscar Isaac, and Eileen Atkins. Taking a different approach to many other adaptations, this version portrays Robin as a common archer who impersonates a knight and deserts the crusaders in order to return home to England.
With a budget that could have risen as high as $230 million, "Robin Hood" had a lot of work to do in order to be a financial success. Releasing around the same time as "Iron Man 2," it also had tough competition to break even but still managed to achieve a worldwide gross of $321 million. According to Rotten Tomatoes, "Robin Hood" has an approval rating of 43% based on in excess of 250 reviews and was criticized for its lack of adventure.
71. Robert the Bruce
"Robert the Bruce" is a 2019 film that was directed by Richard Gray and tells the story of the Scottish leader as he is almost defeated and is forced to seek help from a peasant family that nurses him back to health following a deadly injury. After recovering and coming to a better understanding of what it means to be Scottish, he is able to return to the battlefield and achieve freedom for the country in the war with the English. The movie stars Angus Macfadyen, Jared Harris, Anna Hutchison, and Patrick Fugit and acts as a sequel to the classic 1995 blockbuster "Braveheart."
Unlike its predecessor, "Robert the Bruce" was not anywhere near as successful. And the critical reception was almost as disappointing — Rotten Tomatoes awarded the film a score of 44%. This approval rating was based on 50 reviews, with the consensus indicating that it failed to live up to the heights of "Braveheart."
"DragonHeart" is a 1996 fantasy film that was written by the same screenwriter responsible for "The Fly." Rob Cohen, who directed "The Fast and the Furious" in 2001, directed "DragonHeart" and it stars a cast that includes Dennis Quaid, David Thewlis, Sean Connery, Pete Postlethwaite, and Dina Meyer. The story sees a knight known for slaying dragons who teams up with the very last of the giant reptilian species to battle against an evil King hellbent on causing destruction and death. The film went on to spawn multiple sequels and prequels, with the latest installment "Dragonheart: Vengeance" released in 2020.
Although "DragonHeart" was not a box office success when it originally launched, it has become a cult hit over the years. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie grossed $115 million based on a budget of $57 million. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval score of 50% from 30 reviews, indicating that it received a mixed reception from critics. However, the impressive visuals in the movie helped it to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
69. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
There is no shortage of Robin Hood movies and this 1991 adaptation is probably one of the best known, even if it is not one of the most well-received. Starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Rickman, the film sees Robin Hood returning home from the Crusades to find his father has been killed and his land confiscated. Teaming up with a group of peasants who have been cruelly treated by the Sheriff of Nottingham, he takes the fight to the villain with the help of Little John and Will Scarlett.
With a budget of only $48 million, the movie went on to be a box office success grossing $390 million. Reviews for "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" were mixed but there was some praise for the musical score along with the performances of both Freeman and Rickman. On the other hand, Costner was criticized for his strange accent. Despite a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of just 51%, the film was nominated for a number of awards.
"Willow" is a fantasy film that was originally developed by George Lucas, with writer Bob Dolman creating a screenplay based on Lucas’ story. It stars Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, with Davis taking on the role of a farmer who reluctantly agrees to go on a dangerous mission to protect a child who is being hunted by the evil Queen Bavmorda. Directed by Ron Howard, it also features special effects by Industrial Light & Magic, who developed a groundbreaking morphing technology for a key sequence.
The success of "Willow" has led it to have a strong following and profitability since its release — with excellent home video sales and box office takings of $57 million in the United States alone — even if it was not as financially successful as it was expected to be. Meanwhile, it has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 51% and a television series based on it is expected to launch on Disney+ later this year, once again starring Davis as Willow.
67. Robin Hood (Disney)
In 1973, Disney released "Robin Hood," an animated adaptation that featured the voice talent of Brian Bedford, Monica Evans, Phil Harris, and Roger Miller. Each of the characters is portrayed by a different anthropomorphic animal, with Robin being a fox, Little John a bear, and the Sheriff of Nottingham as a wolf. It largely follows the traditional legend of the hero as they fight against Prince John as he attempts to take control of the crown while his brother King Richard is away fighting in the Crusades.
"Robin Hood" is one of Disney’s earliest animated feature films and was a commercial success upon its release. It has box office takings of $33 million and has continued to have strong home media sales in the decades after it first hit cinemas. Although it has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 55%, the critical reception has lowered over the years as reviewers reappraised the movie, especially for its recycled use of animated sequences from other Disney movies.
66. The Black Cauldron
"The Black Cauldron" is another animated Disney movie set during medieval times. Hitting cinemas in 1985, it is officially the company’s 25th animated film and is partly based on Lloyd Alexander’s "The Chronicles of Prydain" novels. Starring voice actors such as Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, and Nigel Hawthorne, the story follows a young boy and his gang of friends as they seek a magical item that the villain wants to use for his own ends.
This movie is one of Disney’s biggest financial bombs, making just $21.3 million at the box office against a budget of more than $40 million. This led to the company refusing to release the film on home video until more than a decade later in 1998. "The Black Cauldron" was largely praised for its impressive use of computer-generated imagery for the animation and voice acting, although the darker themes and incoherent story were criticized. Rotten Tomatoes gave the animated movie a score of 55% based on the 33 reviews available.
65. Joan of Arc
"Joan of Arc" is yet another adaptation of the story of the Joan of Arc, charting her life after helping lead the French to victory against the English. Starring Lise Leplat Prudhomme, the story focuses on her arrest and trial as she is accused of heresy and ultimately executed by being burned at the stake. The movie is itself a sequel to the 2017 musical "Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc," although it forgoes the musical elements.
Unlike its predecessor, "Joan of Arc" was not quite as successful and received largely mixed reviews from critics. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 57%, with the site noting that it offers a distinct take on the story but struggles to decide what type of movie it wants to be. Meanwhile, Metacritic assigned the film an average score of 50 out of 100 based on a selection of reviews.
64. A Knight’s Tale
Starring Heath Ledger as a peasant who impersonates a knight in order to take part in jousting tournaments, "A Knight’s Tale" is a medieval comedy. The movie also features Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, and Paul Bettany in supporting roles while Shannyn Sossamon plays the main love interest and Rufus Sewell the villain. Unlike many films set in medieval times, "A Knight’s Tale" features contemporary rock music from artists such as Queen, AC/DC, and Thin Lizzy. Bettany plays Geoffrey Chaucer, a writer whose work also inspired some of the key plot points in the movie.
Created with a budget of $65 million, the movie almost made that back with just its U.S. box office. In total, it grossed more than $117 million, making it a modest financial success even if it did not reach the heights that the producers wanted. In terms of critical reception, "A Knight’s Tale" had a mixed to positive reception with a Rotten Tomatoes approval score of 59% based on almost 150 reviews.
63. Arn: The Knight Templar
Based on "The Crusades" trilogy by author Jan Guillou, "Arn: The Knight Templar" is a medieval epic that follows a Knight Templar from Sweden who is sent to fight in the Crusades as punishment for engaging in premarital relations. It is here that his fighting skills from his training under another Knight Templar at the monastery lead to a decisive victory against the Saracens attacking Jerusalem. The cast includes a number of Swedish actors including Joakim Nätterqvist, Sofia Helin, Stellan Skarsgård, and Gustaf Skarsgård along with other stars from across Europe.
According to The Guardian, "Arn: The Knight Templar" has its positive aspects and critics praised the performances of the actors. However, the idea that the Knights Templar were a force for good is revisionist, making the story unbelievable to those who have any understanding of history. There are not enough Western reviews of the movie for Rotten Tomatoes to give it an approval score but it does have an audience score of 61% based on more than 5,000 reviews.
62. Outlaw King
"Outlaw King" is yet another movie based on the life and exploits of Robert the Bruce, the Scottish King who led Scotland in its war for independence against England. The story charts Robert’s life as he leads a rebellion against Edward I. It was directed by David Mackenzie, who also co-wrote and co-produced the movie, and released directly on Netflix. It stars Chris Prine as Robert, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, and Tony Curran taking on supporting roles.
Following a somewhat mixed reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, Mackenzie cut more than 20 minutes. This was largely the result of concerns about pacing as some felt that the action dragged a little too slowly. The final release was better received by critics. According to Rotten Tomatoes, "Outlaw King" has an approval rating of 62% based on 150 reviews and was widely praised for its exciting battle scenes.
In 2018, the romantic comedy "Ophelia" hit cinema screens around the world. The film stars "Star Wars" actor Daisy Ridley in the title role, with Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, and George MacKay having supporting parts — "Harry Potter" performer Tom Felton also has a role. The movie is essentially a reimagining of William Shakespeare’s play "Hamlet" but told from the perspective of Ophelia rather than the other characters from the play. The movie is based on a novel by Lisa Klein that tells the story of Ophelia.
Making its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, "Ophelia" was then given a limited release in the UK and the United States. According to Box Office Mojo, the movie has a worldwide gross of just $338,940. Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes gave it an approval rating of 62% based on 138 reviews, while the movie also has an audience score of 60%, suggesting that critics and viewers had a very similar opinion of it.
60. Conan the Barbarian
"Conan the Barbarian" is a sword and sorcery film that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role of the barbarian who seeks revenge after the evil Thulsa Doom kills his parents. Brought up as a slave, Conan becomes an almost invincible fighter and gains his freedom so he can pursue vengeance against the leader of the demonic snake cult. Along with the Austrian actor, "Conan the Barbarian" also features James Earl Jones, Gerry Lopez, Sandahl Bergman, and Max von Sydow.
On a budget that is estimated to have run to $20 million, the fantasy film is estimated to have earned between $70 and $80 million at the box office. "Conan the Barbarian" amassed mostly positive reviews, although there were several high-profile negative reviews and this means that Rotten Tomatoes only gave the film an approval rating of 66%. That didn’t stop the movie from becoming a cult hit in the following years and even led to a sequel in 1984 called "Conan the Destroyer" and a 2011 reboot starring Jason Momoa.
59. Solomon Kane
Based on the 1928 pulp magazine that features the character and was created by Robert E. Howard, "Solomon Kane" is an action-adventure film. It tells a completely original story that gives an origin story to the puritan avenger, explaining how he left his life as a privateer and gained absolution for the crimes he had committed. Starring James Purefoy as Solomon Kane — the film also sees Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, and Pete Postlethwaite portray various characters. In development for more than a decade, it eventually launched in 2009 and made its debut at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival.
At first, "Solomon Kane" was intended to be the first in a trilogy of films featuring the character. However, poor financial performance of the movie quickly put a halt to those plans. It grossed less than $20 million according to Box Office Mojo, not even half of its production budget. The critical reception for the film was better and it has been certified as fresh by Rotten Tomatoes with an approval score of 66%.
58. The Sword in the Stone
One of the better received of Disney’s animated medieval movies, "The Sword in the Stone" was first released in 1963. The company’s 18th animated feature, the story is based on T. H. White’s novel. It is a reimagined version of the Arthurian legend and focuses on a young boy named Wart who eventually grows up to become the heroic King Arthur thanks to the help of the wizard Merlin. The film is famous for the fact that three different voice actors portrayed the main character, with the different voices often appearing in the same scenes. This was due to the fact that the original actor Rickie Sorensen went through puberty during production.
The Numbers has calculated that "The Sword in the Stone" has earned more than $22 million in North America alone thanks to its initial gross and two future re-releases. The movie was also successful enough that Disney is currently working on a live-action remake that is being directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. According to the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an approval rating of 66%.
57. Knights of the Round Table
"Knights of the Round Table" is a 1953 British film that adapts the legend of King Arthur from a historical point of view. When Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere begin an affair, it causes friction between Arthur and his knights, giving his enemies a chance to strike at the kingdom and attempt to take the throne for themselves. Directed by Richard Thorpe, the story was largely based on the 1485 book "Le Morte D’Arthur" by Sir Thomas Malory. Actors Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, and Felix Aylmer.
Filmed in England and Ireland, the movie was nominated for two Academy Awards for its art direction and sound recording. It was also well received at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Grand Prix, and was a moderate financial success. Rotten Tomatoes gave the "Knights of the Round Table" an approval rating of 67%, although this is based on just six reviews.
56. The Romance of Astrea and Celadon
"The Romance of Astrea and Celadon" is a French movie that tells the story of the shepherds Celadon and Astrea. The pair live near an enchanted forest and soon fall in love. Celadon, however, ends up cursed and is unable to see Astrée, forced to go on a dangerous quest to undo the oath that stops him from being with the woman he loves. First released in 2007, the story is based on the novel "L’Astrée" by Honoré d’Urfé and features actors Andy Gillet, Stéphanie Crayencour, Cécile Cassel, Véronique Reymond, and Jocelyn Quivrin.
Certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an approval rating of 67%. However, the audience score is far lower, standing at just 52% based on more than 500 audience ratings. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the average rating for "The Romance of Astrea and Celadon" was 6.11 out of 10.
55. The War Lord
"The War Lord" is a historical drama that was released in 1965 and stars Charlton Heston and Richard Boone. The plot follows a Norman knight who is sent by his duke to help construct a fortress to defend against the oncoming Frisian invasion. Set in 11th century Normandy, the film also features a doomed romance between two central characters. Other than the two main actors, Rosemary Forsyth, Maurice Evans, and Guy Stockwell all have major roles. Meanwhile, Franklin J. Schaffner directed "The War Lord" while the musical score was composed by Jerome Moross.
For the most part, "The War Lord" received positive reviews and was widely praised by critics for its realistic and dark depiction of the medieval period. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes awarded the movie an approval rating of 67% from nine different reviews. It has a similar audience score, with more than 500 viewers giving it an average score of 60%.
"Ladyhawke" is a medieval fantasy movie that stars a number of high-profile actors. These include Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rutger Hauer. "The Omen" director Richard Donner took the helm on the film following his work on "The Goonies." The story follows a thief known as Gaston as he escapes from a medieval dungeon with the help of Navarre and his spirit hawk. Owing him a life debt, Gaston agrees to help Navarre complete his mission to kill the bishop of Aquila.
"Ladyhawke" did not perform well at the box office, grossing less than its $20 million budget according to The Numbers. It also faced a mixed reception from critics but managed to gain an approval score of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the main points of criticism for "Ladyhawke" was that the musical score was terrible. Composed by Andrew Powell, it is widely considered to be one of the worst soundtracks of any movie thanks to its jarring use of instruments and effects that clash with the fantasy setting.
"Highlander" is a 1986 movie that tells the tale of an immortal Scottish swordsman who is forced to battle against another immortal foe attempting to be the last of his kind standing. Born in the 16th century, Connor MacLeod was exiled from his clan after surviving a mortal wound and was trained by Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez. The two characters are portrayed by Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, while Clancy Brown, Roxanne Hart, and Beatie Edney have major roles.
"Highlander" wasn’t a hit when it was initially released. Yet, in the years since, it has become something of a cult film and has developed a strong following. This led to a number of sequels and television series based on the initial movie, despite the fact that it failed to make back its budget of $16 million during the original release. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval score of 70% and much of the praise focused on its over-the-top action and soundtrack, which features songs from the band Queen.
52. The King
"The King" is a war film that is partially based on several plays by William Shakespeare, including the likes of "Henry V," "Richard II," and "Henry IV, Part 1 & 2." It effectively tells the story of King Henry V, who is crowned after his father dies and must ensure his survival at a time of political and military upheaval. Timothée Chalamet stars as Henry V, while Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, Steven Elder, Lily-Rose Depp, and Ben Mendelsohn have significant roles in the movie. David Michôd directed the film and also co-wrote it, while Brad Pitt acted as one of the producers.
Released on Netflix in 2019, "The King" was praised by the vast majority of critics. It currently holds an approval rating of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been certified as fresh on the review aggregator. However, historians were more critical of the film, arguing that it was neither historically accurate nor a fair adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays.
"Beowulf" is a 2007 fantasy that became well known for its use of CGI animation and visual effects. Based on the epic poem from Old English history, the screenplay was written by famed author Neil Gaiman and "Pulp Fiction" co-writer Roger Avary. Among the star-studded cast were Ray Winstone, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Crispin Glover, and Robin Wright. The plot sees the famed warrior Beowulf fighting a monster known as Grendel that has been causing destruction across Denmark.
For the most part, "Beowulf" earned positive reviews and received praise for its visual effects and voice acting. However, many critics also lamented the changes made from the original poem that didn’t make sense. The good elements of the movie outweighed those issues, though, and led to Rotten Tomatoes awarding it an approval score of 71% and has been certified as fresh. Unfortunately for backers, the film was not a financial success and earned $196 million at the box office against a budget of $150 million.
50. Black Death
Set during the initial outbreak of the bubonic plague in England during the 14th century, "Black Death" is a horror film that focuses on a small village that has apparently been untouched by the plague. A monk and envoy of the local bishop, played by Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean respectively, are sent to the village to capture a necromancer who is believed to be using dark magic to resurrect people and protect them from the disease. Other actors in the film include Carice van Houten, John Lynch, Tim McInnerny, and Kimberley Nixon.
A relatively minor film with a small budget, "Black Death" only grossed $272,000 internationally. Based on 66 reviews, the movie has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 71%. Meanwhile, it has a similar score on Metacritic, with an aggregated rating of 71 out of 100. Critics praised the dark themes and lack of computer-generated effects to create a terrifying atmosphere.
49. Army of Darkness
"Army of Darkness" tells the story of a hardware store clerk who is sent back to the year 1300 in a medieval world. Here, he is forced to lead a band of fighters against an evil army of the dead known as Deadites as he battles to reach the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis in order to discover a way to return to his own time. Bruce Campbell takes on the role of Ashley Williams, while Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, and Ian Abercrombie are also in the movie. "Army of Darkness" was directed by Sam Raimi, who also played a role in writing and producing it.
The third film in the "Evil Dead" franchise, "Army of Darkness" acted as a sequel to "Evil Dead II" and proved to be a financial success, grossing almost double its $11 million budget. According to Rotten Tomatoes, "Army of Darkness" has an approval score of 74% and perhaps more impressively an audience score of 87% based on more than 100,000 ratings.
"Excalibur" is yet another adaptation based on the Arthurian legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The plot closely follows the events of Thomas Malory’s romance work "Le Morte d’Arthur" as Arthur and Merlin work together to unite the kingdom of Britain and establish the Round Table of Camelot to allow Britons to fight evil forces that are set on invading the country. John Boorman took on directing duties alongside co-writing and producing the movie, while Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cherie Lunghi, and Nicol Williamson are all part of the cast.
With a budget of $11 million, "Excalibur" grossed more than three times that amount, with worldwide box office takings of $35 million in total. It proved to be a hit with critics and audiences, debuting at number one on its opening weekend. Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes has given the film an approval rating of 74% based on more than 80 reviews and officially certifies it as fresh.
47. Robin and Marian
Sean Connery has starred in his fair share of medieval films — and "Robin and Marian" is one of the better ones. The 1976 movie was directed by Richard Lester and is yet another version of the Robin Hood story that was developed for the big screen. Alongside the veteran Scottish actor, Audrey Hepburn took on the role of Lady Marian, Nicol Williamson played Little John, and Robert Shaw portrayed the Sheriff of Nottingham. The story sees an older Robin Hood return from the Crusades where he has been fighting with King Richard and attempting to win the love of Marian.
While there is little information about how much money "Robin and Marian" grossed at the box office, the critical reception for the movie was positive. It currently holds an approval rating of 74% based on more than 30 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. In 2002, the film was nominated for AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Passions list, a collection of the greatest love stories in movie history, according to the American Film Institute.
46. The Name of the Rose
In 1986, Sean Connery returned to the medieval movie genre with "The Name of the Rose." This movie is based on Umberto Eco’s novel of the same name and follows a dissident friar known as William of Baskerville who is sent to an isolated abbey to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. Other cast members include F. Murray Abraham, Christian Slater, Helmut Qualtinger, and Valentina Vargas. The "The Name of the Rose" was primarily filmed in Rome and narrated by Dwight Weist.
"The Name of the Rose" was a box office failure when it was released, grossing just $7.2 million. However, the film did prove popular in the rest of the world and managed to bring in more than $70 million. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an approval rating of 74%, indicating it had mixed to positive reviews. Connery received a BAFTA win for Best Actor, while the movie was also winner of the BAFTA for Best Make Up Artist.
45. Valhalla Rising
"Valhalla Rising" is a 2009 Danish adventure movie that is entirely English language rather than subtitled and was filmed almost completely in Scotland. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, it stars Mads Mikkelsen in the main role of One-Eye, while Maarten Stevenson, Ewan Stewart, Gary Lewis, and Alexander Morton are also in the cast. The story follows One-Eye as he escapes the life of a slave and joins up with soldiers who are intending to go to the Holy Land on a Crusade.
Based on more than 60 reviews, the movie has an approval score of 74% according to Rotten Tomatoes — although the audience score is far lower and currently stands at just 49% after more than 10,000 votes. All of this was not enough to make "Valhalla Rising" a financial success. According to The Numbers, the movie made less than $1 million at the box office. Compared to its budget of $5.7 million, this made it a box office bomb.
"Ivanhoe" is a 1952 medieval film that follows a knight who goes on a quest to free King Richard and restore him to the throne of England. Wilfred of Ivanhoe eventually discovers the missing king is being held by Leopold of Austria while his brother, Prince John, does nothing to save him and instead rules in his absence. Robert Taylor plays the titular knight while Elizabeth Taylor plays Rebecca. Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Emlyn Williams, and Robert Douglas all have roles. The movie faced some controversy after Marguerite Roberts was removed from the writing credits after being blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
In its opening week at Radio City Music Hall, the film set a new record grossing $177,000. In total, "Ivanhoe" grossed more than $10 million worldwide and was MGM’s biggest film of the year. Critical reception was also positive, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an approval score of 79% based on 19 reviews.
"Becket" is a 1964 historical drama that tells the story of Thomas Becket and King Henry II. The two, who had been strong friends, soon come into conflict when Becket becomes Archbishop of Canterbury and sides with the Church against his King. The plot follows their deteriorating relationship and Becket’s eventual death. Richard Burton was cast in the role of Becket and Peter O’Toole as King Henry II. John Gielgud, Paolo Stoppa, Donald Wolfit, and David Weston all have roles in "Becket."
The movie grossed more than $9 million against its budget of $3 million according to The Numbers. It currently has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 76%. As an important cultural release, "Becket" was preserved in the Academy Film Archive in 2003. It was also nominated for a number of Academy Awards and won for Best Writing, while both O’Toole and Burton were nominated for Best Actor.
42. Hamlet (1990)
Mel Gibson is no stranger to medieval movies and he once again went back to the middle ages when he portrayed Prince Hamlet in the 1990 movie "Hamlet." Glenn Close, Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, Alan Bates, Stephen Dillane, Helena Bonham Carter, and Nathaniel Parker all have supporting roles in the film based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy. Unlike other adaptations, "Hamlet" is a faithful adaptation of the play, although it does drop some minor characters and plot points to better suit the medium of film.
Box Office Mojo reports that "Hamlet" grossed slightly more than $20 million internationally, just about breaking even with its budget. The critical response for the movie was positive. It holds an approval rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a number of BAFTA and Academy Awards, although it came away with no wins.
41. The Vikings
Kirk Douglas stars in the 1958 epic "The Vikings" where he plays opposite the swashbuckling hero Eric as his half-brother Einar. Tony Curtis plays Eric and Ernest Borgnine, Janet Leigh, and James Donald all have significant roles in the film. The plot sees Eric brought up by Vikings after his father is killed and he is abducted while being sent to Italy. He is then forced to fight his half-brother when they two desire the same woman and eventually leads an invasion of Northumberland against King Aella.
"The Vikings" made an estimated $6.2 million at the box office and in video rentals, not far shy of double what the budget for the movie was. That made it a financial success and the film was popular enough to lead to a spin-off television series called "Tales of the Vikings," which ran for 39 episodes. Rotten Tomatoes awarded "The Vikings" an approval score of 76% based on 21 reviews, indicating that critics mostly enjoyed it.
40. Warrior’s End
"Warrior’s End" is a 2009 epic film that was written by Bjorn Anderson, who also took on directing duties for the project. Joined by actors Zach Maurer, John Symonds, and Paul Eenhoorn, the movie follows Prince Andreas of Midea as they discover a major threat to their land. The young prince is forced to rally his people and become a true leader, slowing down the invaders until help can arrive.
While the movie doesn’t have an entry on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, it does have a positive rating on IMDb. According to the site, it holds an average rating of 7.7 out of 10 based on 35 scores. "Warrior’s End" made its debut at Seattle’s True Independent Film Festival and was awarded the Mt. Rainier Award.
Disney and Pixar teamed up for "Brave" in 2012. The movie marked the directorial debut of Mark Andrews, who was assisted by Brenda Chapman. The story focuses on Princess Merida, the daughter of a medieval leader in the Scottish Highlands. Unwilling to marry her betrothed groom, she strikes out on her own but sets in motion a chain of events that threaten her family and kingdom. It was the first Pixar film to feature a sole female protagonist, who was played by Kelly Macdonald. Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson, and Robbie Coltrane all had major roles in "Brave."
"Brave" was a huge financial success for Pixar and Disney. It grossed $540 million worldwide, far outstripping its $185 million budget and performing similarly to Pixar’s prior film "Cars 2." Although the movie was not as well received as many other Pixar projects, it still achieved a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 78% based on more than 250 reviews.
"Braveheart" is arguably one of the most popular medieval movies of all time. The historical drama stars Mel Gibson as William Wallace, with the actor also taking on directing and producing duties. The movie charts the life of Wallace as he faces early trauma and eventually becomes an influential leader in Scotland’s rebellion against King Edward I of England. Alongside Gibson, "Braveheart" also features the talent of Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Brendan Gleeson, and Angus Macfadyen, who would go on to reprise his role in the 2019 sequel "Robert the Bruce."
Gibson’s movie ended 1995 as the 13th highest grossing film of the year. In total, it had box office receipts of $213 million, with $75.6 million of that coming in the United States. This is significantly more than its reported budget of $72 million. According to Rotten Tomatoes, "Braveheart" is certified as fresh and has an approval score of 78% based on more than 80 reviews.
37. Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc
First released in 2017, "Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc" is a musical that tells the story of the early life of Joan of Arc. Beginning with the young girl at just 8 years old, the movie is set during the Hundred Years’ War in 1425. Having spent her life tending to her sheep, Joan of Arc realizes she can no longer endure the suffering of the French people and so she takes up arms to help drive off the English and protect the faith in her home country. The movie is based on Charles Péguy’s play "The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc." It stars Lise Leplat Prudhomme as Joan of Arc — with Lucile Gauthier, Aline Charles, and Elise Charles all having roles.
Based on some 44 reviews, "Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc" has an approval rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. It also holds an audience score of 85%, with more than 500 viewers rating the film on the review aggregator. The movie was also nominated for several awards, including the Cahiers du Cinéma, the Faro Island Film Festival, and the International Cinephile Society Awards.
"Macbeth" is a 2015 film that follows the Thane of Glamis after he speaks with three witches who prophesied that he will be King of Scotland. Plotting with his wife, he kills King Duncan and seizes the throne for himself but finds that it comes at an immense cost to his own life. The film is largely faithful to the original William Shakespeare play and stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as Lord and Lady Macbeth. Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, and Elizabeth Debicki make up the rest of the cast alongside a variety of minor characters.
After debuting at the Cannes Film Festival, it was selected to be in the running for the Palme d’Or, the highest award for films at the festival. "Macbeth" received widespread critical acclaim, with the movie holding a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 80% and an average rating of 71 out of 100 on Metacritic. Despite this positive reception, the movie was a commercial failure and did not recoup its budget of $20 million, grossing just $16.3 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.
Cate Blanchett stars as Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 1998 period drama "Elizabeth," alongside Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Richard Attenborough, Christopher Eccleston, and John Gielgud. Directed by Shekhar Kapur and written by Michael Hirst, the film largely focuses on the early reign of Elizabeth and the challenges she faced from those who wished to depose her. Much of the action takes place immediately after she takes the throne following the death of her half-sister Mary I.
On a budget of $30 million, "Elizabeth" earned $82 million at the box office. As well as being a modest financial success, the movie achieved positive reviews from the vast majority of critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 83% and it also has an audience score of 86% based on 50,000 ratings. Additionally, "Elizabeth" was nominated for a number of Academy Awards and earned the Oscar for Best Makeup.
34. Richard III
Based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, "Richard III" is a 1955 film that stars Laurence Olivier in the lead role. The actor also wrote, produced and directed the film. Among the rest of the cast are actors Claire Bloom, Ralph Richardson, Cedric Hardwicke, John Gielgud, and Laurence Naismith. The story follows the king as he battles his enemies and engages in multiple relationships, with the plot also incorporating elements of "Henry VI, Part 3."
"Richard III" is unique in that it was released in the United States on television and in cinemas on the same day. This likely affected its box office takings, which were disappointing compared to other films of the time. However, a reissue in 1966 went on to break records in cities across the country, but that wasn’t enough to put a stop to Olivier’s career as a director of Shakespeare films. Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie an approval score of 84% based on 19 reviews, suggesting it still received plenty of acclaim despite its financial issues.
33. The Last Duel
Ridley Scott directed this movie that was written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon. "The Last Duel" follows the knight Sir Jean de Carrouges who challenges his former squire Jacques Le Gris to a duel to settle a dispute after the knight accuses him of assaulting his wife Marguerite. An adaptation of "The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France" by Eric Jager, the three main characters are played by Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer respectively. Its filming was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which put a halt to production for a few months.
"The Last Duel" received widespread acclaim from critics, with the film holding a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 85% and an audience score of 81%. Yet, those great reviews were not enough to motivate viewers to go to the cinema to see the movie. Box Office Mojo reported that it made just $30.6 million at the box office despite a budget of $100 million, making it a big loss for 20th Century Studios.
"Flesh+Blood" is a 1985 film that mixes the romance and adventure genres. Set in medieval Europe, the movie focuses on a young girl who is abducted by a group of common mercenaries who want revenge against the lord who reneged on his promise to pay them for their services. It stars Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Burlinson, Susan Tyrrell, Ronald Lacey, and Jack Thompson, while Paul Verhoeven directed the movie. The story is partly based on a Dutch television series known as "Floris," which starred Hauer and was also directed by Verhoeven.
With a budget of $6.5 million, "Flesh+Blood" didn’t have to perform all that well to make back what the studios had spent. Unfortunately, it couldn’t even manage that, making an estimated $100,000 at the box office in the United States, which means it was a massive flop. The film bombed despite positive reviews as shown by the Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 86%, although it has become something of a cult hit in recent years.
31. Macbeth (1971)
Directed by the controversial Roman Polanski, with a screenplay by him and Kenneth Tynan, "Macbeth" is a 1971 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Scottish play. Jon Finch stars as Macbeth, with Francesca Annis playing Lady Macbeth and Martin Shaw as Banquo. Like the original play, the plot follows the ruthless Macbeth as he seizes the throne with the help of his wife and does everything he can to remain in power.
"Macbeth" proved to be a huge financial failure when it was released, with total losses of $3.5 million. Much of the criticism of the movie was due to its strong violence, with many commentators blaming Playboy Productions (which helped with financing) for its apparent influence on the more shocking elements of the release. Yet, even these criticisms were not enough to affect reviews, which were overwhelmingly positive. According to Rotten Tomatoes, "Macbeth" has an approval rating of 86% based on 29 reviews.
30. Mongol: The Rise Of Genghis Khan
"Mongol: The Rise Of Genghis Khan" is an epic film that tells the story of the early life of the famed Mongolian leader. It charts his rise to power, from slave to Emperor who managed to conquer much of Europe and Asia in the early 1200s. Directed by Sergei Bodrov, the movie stars Tadanobu Asano, Honglei Sun, and Khulan Chuluuny in the three main roles.
The film was initially meant to be the first installment in a trilogy about Genghis Khan’s life but the next two parts have been stuck in development hell since 2008 with little movement in the last decade.
With a budget of $18 million, "Mongol: The Rise Of Genghis Khan" went on to gross $26.5 million worldwide at the box office. Taking average scores from some 104 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an approval rating of 87%, while it also has an audience score of 76%.
"Kagemusha" is a jidaigeki — essentially the Japanese genre of period pieces in medieval times — that is set during the Sengoku period. Following a petty thief who is hired by a samurai as his double because he closely resembles him, the man must later impersonate the warrior when he suddenly passes away. It stars Japanese actors such as Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken’ichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu, and Hideji Ōtaki. Famed director and painter Akira Kurosawa took on directing duties.
"Kagemusha" has won plenty of plaudits over the years. Kinema Junpo listed it as one of the best 100 films to come out of Japan, while it won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival. The film was later nominated for two Academy Awards and won BAFTA awards for Best Costume Design and Best Direction. Meanwhile, it has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 88%.
"Shrek" might not seem like a medieval film at first but it is clearly set in the middle ages, involving knights, castles, lords, and fairy tale elements. It follows the adventures of the ogre Shrek after Lord Farquaad exiles fairy tale creatures to his swamp, prompting him to try and rescue Princess Fiona to earn his freedom once again. The movie is based on a picture book created by William Steig and was DreamWorks Pictures most successful animated feature. The voice cast includes actors such as Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow.
With a rather limited budget of $60 million, "Shrek" went on to earn $488 million at the box office and spawned an entire franchise. This included three sequels and a variety of other media such as spin-offs and games. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an approval rating of 88% and has been certified fresh with an audience score of 90%. It also competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and has been preserved in the United States Library of Congress.
27. Sleeping Beauty
"Sleeping Beauty" is one of Disney’s earliest animated feature films and is based on the 1697 fairy tale that was originally created by Charles Perrault. The story sees royal princess Aurora put under a curse that can only be broken by a prince with the help of three good fairies. They work together to undo the damage caused by Maleficent and rescue the princess from her fate. Voice actors including Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Barbara Luddy, and Bill Thompson lend their voices to characters in the film.
Disney’s animated movie proved to be a huge success and grossed $51.6 million in the United States and Canada alone. This was far more than Disney had spent to create the film, with "Sleeping Beauty" having a budget of only $6 million. Additionally, it was well received by critics and holds an approval rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. The classic movie was later added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for preservation as a significant part of cinema history.
26. The Green Knight
Launched in 2021, "The Green Knight" is an epic fantasy that is another adaptation of the King Arthur legend. Written, directed, and produced by David Lowery, the story follows King Arthur’s nephew Gawain and his quest to confront the famous Green Knight a year after their first meeting. Dev Patel portrays Sir Gawain and Ralph Ineson is the Green Knight, while Alicia Vikander (Essel), Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, and Sean Harris (King Arthur) also star.
"The Green Knight" is loosely based on the story "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and was also influenced by "Willow" and "Ladyhawke" according to director Lowery. With a budget of $15 million, The Numbers calculated that the medieval movie grossed a tad under $19 million at the box office. The movie was a bigger hit with critics than it was with audiences, achieving a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 89%.
25. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
"How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" is the third entry in the fantasy series. Once again created by DreamWorks Animation, the film is directed and written by Dean DeBlois and continues the story of Hiccup and Toothless as they reach maturity and take on leadership roles. The plot follows the pair’s efforts to discover a hidden world of Night Fury dragons before the evil Grimmel can get there first. Jay Baruchel reprises his role as Hiccup Haddock, with America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, David Tennant, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, and Kit Harington all having roles.
Against a budget of $129 million, "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" grossed a total of $525.7 million. This impressive box office performance includes an opening weekend of $50 million where it debuted in the number one spot. The movie also holds an approval rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.
24. Joan of Arc (1948)
"Joan of Arc" is one of the earliest films in this list, having first been released in cinemas way back in 1948. Directed by Victor Fleming, the movie is based on a Broadway play by Maxwell Anderson called "Joan of Lorraine." Ingrid Bergman plays the title role in both versions, reprising the role of Joan. The plot differs significantly from the original play, being more of a biographical take on the heroine’s life, showing how she came to defend France and her ultimate execution by being burnt at the stake.
According to an issue of Variety from 1948, the film made $5.7 million at the box office against a reported budget of $4.6 million. While common viewers and critics have complained that Bergman was too old to play the character, it didn’t seem to affect reviews when the movie first came out. Rotten Tomatoes has awarded "Joan of Arc" an approval score of 90%.
23. The Lion in Winter
Peter O’Toole stars in "The Lion in Winter" (1968), alongside Anthony Hopkins, Katharine Hepburn, Nigel Terry, Timothy Dalton, and John Castle. The story is set in 1183 and follows King Henry II’s decision on who to name his successor. The King has three sons, and different members of his inner circle have their own ideas about who should inherit the kingdom when Henry II dies. The film is based on James Goldman’s play "The Lion in Winter" and he returned to write the screenplay.
The Numbers estimates that "The Lion in Winter" made $22.3 million at the box office. This was more than four times the movie’s budget of $4 million. It received widespread critical acclaim upon release and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with an approval rating of 90%. "The Lion in Winter" went on to win three Academy Awards, with Hepburn taking home the Oscar for best actress.
22. How to Train Your Dragon 2
The sequel to the first DreamWorks Animation dragon film, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" hit cinemas in 2014. Dean DeBlois returned after directing the first entry and would also go on to helm the third in the trilogy. Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson, Gerard Butler, and America Ferrera all reprise their roles, while Cate Blanchett and Kit Harington join the cast. The story follows Hiccup and Toothless as they attempt to protect an ice cave that is home to hundreds of previously unknown dragons and stop Drago from continuing his evil plans.
Like its predecessor, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" was a financial and critical hit. Box Office Mojo reports that it made a total of $621.5 million at the worldwide box office, far outstripping its budget of $145 million. Meanwhile, it currently holds an approval rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and an audience score of 89%. The movie went on to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards and won the Golden Globe in the same category.
21. El Cid
"El Cid" is a 1961 epic that tells the story of the 11th-century warrior Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. The movie follows the famous Spanish hero as he attempts to defend the country against the invading Moors — all while battling to save his family’s honor and keep the peace as much as possible. Directed by Anthony Mann, the film stars Charlton Heston as Don Rodrigo, Sophia Loren as Doña Ximena, and Herbert Lom as Ben Yussuf. Other actors in "El Cid" include Raf Vallone, Geneviève Page, John Fraser, and Michael Hordern.
After a month in the cinema, "El Cid" had earned $8 million and would go on to gross $26.6 million in total. Reviews were equally impressive, with critics praising the movie for its action sequences and performances. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 92% based on 13 reviews.
20. The Seventh Seal
Directed and written by Ingmar Bergman, "The Seventh Seal" is a historical drama set during the time of the Black Death in Europe. The story follows a Swedish knight who is returning to his own country after fighting in the Crusaders, finding it ravaged by the plague. While contemplating life and the meaning behind his actions, he encounters the Grim Reaper and plays chess against the being for his soul. It’s based on Bergman’s own play "Wood Painting" and helped cement his career as a renowned director.
Making its debut at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, "The Seventh Seal" won the Special Jury Prize. It also proved influential, with things like Death being portrayed as a caped man with a pale white face becoming synonymous with the character. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an approval rating of 94% and has been officially certified as fresh due to the positive reception from some 65 reviews.
19. 13 Assassins
The 2010 film "13 Assassins" is a Japanese samurai movie that sees a group of trained killers join in an attempt to kill an evil lord. The group is aware that their mission is likely to end in death but they are determined to stop the leader of the Akashi clan from being appointed to the Shogunate Council. Directed by Takashi Miike, the movie was based on an earlier film of the same name that was created by Eiichi Kudo. Along with stars Kôji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, and Yûsuke Iseya.
"13 Assassins" was developed with a budget of $6 million, a relatively small amount for a film in 2010. It grossed some $17.5 million worldwide, with the vast majority of that figure from sales in Japan. The movie was a big hit with reviewers as well and holds a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
18. Andrei Rublev
"Andrei Rublev" is a Russian movie released in 1966. A Soviet production, it was directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and stars Anatoliy Solonitsyn, Ivan Lapikov, Nikolay Grinko, Nikolay Sergeev, and Nikolay Burlyaev. The film charts the life of iconographer Andrei Rublev in 15th-century Russia, demonstrating the challenges he faced and the realities of life in the country during medieval times. Released at different times in Russia and around the world, various versions of the film exist with different levels of censorship.
The reception to "Andrei Rublev" was incredibly positive. It won a number of awards and received the FIPRESCI award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969. Reviews overwhelmingly praised it, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a score of 95% and an audience score of 93%. According to Empire, it is one of the 100 best films from world cinema and is generally regarded as one of the best films ever made.
17. Hamlet (1996)
Based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, "Hamlet" is a 1996 film and tells the entire story of the original work. That means it runs for more than four hours in total and has a slightly updated setting compared to most other versions that have been released theatrically. Directed and written by Kenneth Branagh, he also stars as Prince Hamlet. Derek Jacobi, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Billy Crystal, Charlton Heston, and Richard Briers portrayed characters in the movie.
Widely regarded as one of the best ever Shakespearean films, "Hamlet" received a huge amount of acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes awarded it an approval score of 95% based on more than 50 reviews, with the review aggregator certifying it as fresh. It even went on to be nominated for four Academy Awards. None of that meant that it was a financial success, though, with the film grossing less than $5 million against a budget of $18 million.
16. Lancelot du Lac
"Lancelot du Lac" is a 1974 French film that literally translates to "Lancelot of the Lake." The plot follows the knights of the Round Table, a group of men who are far from the heroic warriors they are often depicted as in Arthurian legend. King Arthur discovers that his wife Queen Guinevere is having an affair with Lancelot, prompting a war between the knights with tragic consequences. Directed and written by Robert Bresson, the movie stars Luc Simon, Laura Duke Condominas, Vladimir Antolek-Oresek, Humbert Balsan, and Patrick Bernhard.
The movie made its debut at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival in May and was released in France and the rest of the world later that year. Based on 20 reviews, "Lancelot du Lac" has a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 95% and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
15. Romeo and Juliet
"Romeo and Juliet" is a 1968 film and one of the most famous adaptations of William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. An Italian production, the movie was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and features Laurence Olivier providing narration for the action. A relatively faithful adaptation of the original story, the movie follows Romeo and Juliet, two youngsters from feuding houses who fall in love. However, the conflict around them eventually leads to the tragic death of both. Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey took on the two main roles while Michael York, Milo O’Shea, John McEnery, Pat Heywood, and Natasha Parry all have roles.
At the time of its release, "Romeo and Juliet" was the most successful Shakespearean movie of all time in terms of box office gross. It made $38.9 million on a budget of just $850,000 according to The Numbers. The film’s critical reception was equally as enthusiastic, holding a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 95%. "Romeo and Juliet" was also nominated for four Academy Awards and took home Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.
14. Throne of Blood
First released in 1957, "Throne of Blood" is a Japanese historical drama that is an adaptation of the William Shakespeare play "Macbeth." Taking heavy influence from the Japanese Noh drama, the movie switches the setting of the action to feudal Japan as a general schemes with his treacherous wife to take control of Spider’s Web Castle to fulfill a prophecy that he would be crowned ruler. As you might expect, there are several creative differences between the original play and the Japanese adaptation, which stars Toshiro Mifune, Isuzu Yamada, and Takashi Shimura.
Widely regarded as one of the best movies based on a Shakespeare play, "Throne of Blood" was critically acclaimed upon its release. Certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie holds an approval rating of 95% and an audience score of 94%. It went on to win a number of gongs at the Mainichi Film Awards.
"Ran" is a 1985 medieval Japanese film based on William Shakespeare’s "King Lear." A Akira Kurosawa project, he directed the film along with co-writing the screenplay and acting as the editor. The story follows many of the same plot points as the play but was actually created before Kurosawa had decided to incorporate Shakespeare’s work with his own. It sees an elderly warlord looking to pass on his land to his three sons. But the corrupting influence of their desire for power turns the sons against each other and their father. "Ran" stars Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Hisashi Igawa, and Mieko Harada.
The movie was Kurosawa’s last big project and is often cited as one of his finest works as well one of the best war films ever made. It won praise for its huge action sequences, impressive costume design, and memorable film score. Certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it has an approval rating of 96% and an audience score of 95%. "Ran" also won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, while Kurosawa was nominated for Best Director.
12. Monty Python and The Holy Grail
British comedy group Monty Python are well known for their parody films that satire historical leaders and time periods. "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" borrows from Arthurian legend and sees King Arthur sent on a quest to find the Holy Grail, although he and his knights run into a wide array of problems and tricky situations. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, it stars both of them alongside Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin.
With a tiny budget of just $400,000, "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" ended up being a huge financial success. It grossed more than $5 million at the box office and led to a Broadway musical called "Spamalot" — which has itself been highly lucrative and earned several Tony Awards. With an approval rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" was highly acclaimed upon release and is widely regarded as one of the best comedy movies of all time.
11. The Court Jester
"The Court Jester" is a 1955 musical comedy that also features elements of costume dramas. The product of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, who wrote, directed, and produced the film, it focuses on a carnival performer who is drawn into a plot. Named Hubert Hawkins, he works with a rebel group who are protecting the right king who has been deposed by an evil tyrant. He is eventually able to spy on the enemy ruler by posing as a court jester and spying on him in a plot to reinstate the rightful king. Danny Kaye, Glynis Johns, Cecil Parker, Angela Lansbury, and Basil Rathbone all portrayed characters in the movie.
Although "The Court Jester" was not a financial success, it did receive wide praise upon release and has become well known as a classic of the time. It holds an approval rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, went on to win a Golden Globe, and was added to National Film Registry after being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
10. The Princess Bride
Featuring Peter Falk as a narrator and a young Fred Savage, "The Princess Bride" is a fantasy comedy based on William Goldman’s 1973 novel. The story unfolds as a grandfather reads to his sick grandson a story about a boy named Westley who becomes a fearsome pirate. After being separated from his true love, he goes on a quest to free her from captivity and reunite with her once again. Along with Falk and Savage, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Mel Smith, Peter Cook, Wallace Shawn, and André the Giant appeared in the film.
While "The Princess Bride" was far from a box office hit, it did make a modest profit by grossing roughly $30 million against a budget of almost $17 million. The critical reception was far more emphatic, though, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an approval rating of 97% based on almost 80 reviews. Over the years, the film has become a cult hit and is regularly included on lists of the best movies and comedies.
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc
First released in 1928, "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is a French silent film that tells the story of Joan of Arc’s capture and subsequent trial. Based on actual records from the trial in 1431, the story shows how the ecclesiastical judges attempt to force the French hero to confess that she is a heretic. Renée Jeanne Falconetti (sometimes credited as Maria Falconetti) plays Joan of Arc while Eugène Silvain, André Berley, and Maurice Schutz all had major roles. The film was directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, widely considered to be one of the greatest directors in the business.
Upon its release, the film was critically acclaimed and is often said to be one of the best films of all time. A Sight & Sound poll in 2012 saw "The Passion of Joan of Arc" listed in the top 50 movies ever made. It also holds a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 98% and has been certified fresh, with an audience score of 93%.
8. How to Train Your Dragon
"How to Train Your Dragon" is the 2010 movie that started the entire franchise. Starring Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, it features Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, David Tennant, Jonah Hill, and T.J. Miller among others in a wide array of roles. Taking place in a setting inspired by the time of the Vikings, the story sees Hiccup attempting to become a dragon hunter to prove himself. However, when he comes across Toothless, he discovers that these creatures might be more misunderstood than dangerous.
Based on more than 200 reviews, "How to Train Your Dragon" holds an approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 99%, signaling that it was almost universally acclaimed upon release. It was also a financial hit, grossing $494.9 million against a budget of $165 million. The movie went on to be nominated for a number of awards, including two Academy Awards, two BAFTAs, and a selection of Annie Awards.
7. Henry V
Released in 1989 "Henry V" is one of two movies based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, and it’s considered to be one of the greatest medieval films of all time. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, he also wrote the screenplay and stars as King Henry V of England. Derek Jacobi took on the role of Chorus and Narrator while Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Brian Blessed, Christian Bale, and Alec McCowen all take on different characters. The plot follows the action of the Hundred Years War as Henry V attempts to conquer France and join the two kingdoms together.
"Henry V" holds a rare 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, indicating that every one of the 40 reviews of the film were overwhelmingly positive. On a budget of $9 million, it went on to gross a little more than $10 million, meaning it was not a big financial success. Yet, it was nominated for a number of high-profile awards, including Academy Awards for Branagh as actor and director. It went on to win 11 awards in total of the 13 it was nominated for.
6. Marketa Lazarová
Based on the novel of the same name by Vladislav Vančura, "Marketa Lazarová" is a 1967 film that takes place during the Middle Ages. The plot follows a young girl who is the daughter of a local lord. She is taken captive by a group who rob innocents on the road and is forced into a relationship as war beckons between the rival groups. A Czech production, it was directed by František Vláčil and stars Magda Vášáryová, Josef Kemr, František Velecký, Jaroslav Moučka, and Naďa Hejná.
When it was released, "Marketa Lazarová" was met with near universal praise. It holds an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, although this score is only based on 12 reviews. However, it also holds an audience score of 86% based on more than 500 ratings. Often cited as the best Czech film ever made, it was nominated for several awards and won two at the Faro Island Film Festival.
5. The Return of Martin Guerre
"The Return of Martin Guerre" is a 1982 French film based on the real life story of Martin Guerre, a French peasant who disappeared and returned several years later. However, the man claiming to be Guerre was eventually found to be an imposter. Much of the film focuses on the trial of the supposed imposter as the judges attempt to discover who the man really is. Directed and co-written by Daniel Vigne, the film stars Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye as Martin Guerre and his wife Bertrande de Rols. The likes of Maurice Barrier, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, and Isabelle Sadoyan also had roles.
Based on 18 reviews, the film holds a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 100% and an audience score of 80% from more than 2,500 ratings. The U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures nominated "The Return of Martin Guerre" for Best Foreign Language FIlm alongside "Fanny and Alexander," "La Traviata," and "The Boat People."
4. Henry V (1944)
Also known as "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France," "Henry V" is a 1944 film based on William Shakespeare’s play. Directed by Laurence Olivier, the English actor additionally took on the role of King Henry V of England. Like the original play, the plot follows Henry V’s quest to defeat the French and become King of France alongside his English title. Other actors in the film include Renée Asherson, Robert Newton, and Leslie Banks.
At the 1947 Academy Awards, "Henry V" was nominated for four Oscars, such as Best Picture and Best Actor in the Leading Role. While it won none of these, Olivier did receive an Academy Honorary Award for "his Outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing Henry V to the screen." It was only a modest financial success, but the movie was critically acclaimed and holds an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews.
3. The Trial of Joan of Arc
Just one of many films based on the life of Joan of Arc, "The Trial of Joan of Arc" is a 1962 film that was developed in France. Filmmaker Robert Bresson took on writing and directing duties, while Florence Delay stars as the title character alongside Roger Honorat, Jean-Claude Fourneau, and Marc Jacquier. The vast majority of the cast were unknown at the time of filming, like many of Bresson films. Based directly on the trial of the legendary French leader, the story closely follows the real life capture, imprisonment, and trial of Joan of Arc by the English.
While "The Trial of Joan of Arc" did not receive particularly positive reviews when it was initially released, it has seen something of resurgence in recent times. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 100% based on 13 contemporary reviews. The film was also nominated for the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962.
2. The Adventures of Robin Hood
One of the earliest movie adaptations of the Robin Hood story, "The Adventures of Robin Hood" is a 1938 film that stars Errol Flynn in the title role. The story sees Prince John and his allies bringing tyranny to the lives of ordinary people in England after King Richard leaves to fight in the Crusades. Sir Robin of Locksley fights back against the oppression of the Saxons with guerilla warfare. Along with Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, and Una O’Connor all have roles in the movie.
"The Adventures of Robin Hood" appeared on Rotten Tomatoes list of the Top 100 Movies of All Time. As you might expect, it also holds a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 100% and is certified fresh after 48 positive reviews. Nominated for four Academy Awards, it won three for Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.
1. Seven Samurai
"Seven Samurai" is a 1954 samurai drama directed and co-written by legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. It tells the story of a village that has been devastated by bandits who continually steal their crops. The farmers hire a group of seven unemployed samurai warriors to help defend the produce and fight back against the bandits. The seven samurai were played by Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Daisuke Katō, Isao Kimura, Minoru Chiaki, Seiji Miyaguchi, and Yoshio Inaba, with actors such as Yoshio Tsuchiya and Bokuzen Hidari taking other roles.
Regarded as one of the best Japanese films ever made, "Seven Samurai" regularly appears in lists of the best movies of all time. It is also one of the most influential films in cinema history, inspiring future filmmakers. With a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 100% based on 90 reviews, it was met with universal acclaim upon release. It was a modest financial success in Japan and has proved popular on home video internationally.