Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies With Connections To 'King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword'

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what's in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.)

This weekend, the 1,026th incarnation of King Arthur on film hits theaters. This time, the old sword-wielder of myth comes courtesy of the Guy behind Snatch and Sherlock Holmes. Guy Ritchie promises a visually lush trip into 6th century England where Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) will reach out to grab his destiny unless Vortigern (Jude Law) keeps him evilly from it.

This is a hardscrabble Arthur. He's denied his birthright as exalted ruler, and has to grow up on the rough streets of Londinium before pulling the famous sword from the almost-as-famous stone that brings him power and responsibility (the great version of one usually conjures the other). King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, like many modern riffs on ancient tales and Ritchie's own Holmes series, will attempt to inject rock and roll into the Middle Ages.

movie mixtape sword in the stone

The Sword in the Stone

Has there been a better version of the Arthur myth? Doubtful. None of the other ones involve a virus fighting a dragon witch. The 1963 Disney animation focuses almost entirely on Arthur (aka Wart) as the poor boy king who has to carry comically large piles of dishes and act as squire for a bullying homunculus with a bad bowl cut. He meets the great and befuddled Merlin on accident and starts down the road toward leadership and enlightenment thanks to magic, catchy songs, and an emphasis on the importance of education. Merlin and Wart's transformation into animals, and Merlin's battle with the vicious Mad Madam Mim are standouts in animation history (and they're ridiculously fun to boot).

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If you take only one thing away from this list, make it this bonkers George Romero-crafted, Ed Harris-starring drama focused on traveling motorcycle jousters. Naturally, King William (Harris) utilizes the philosophy of the Round Table to lead his troupe of performers, but warring factions break out, led by Tom Savini's Morgan, causing friction within this strange, niche community. Come for the b-movie weirdness and Renaissance Faire motorbike stunts; stay for the surprisingly effective emotional journey and interpersonal struggles. Don't be alarmed when zombies never show up.

Blazing Dragons

For those of you waiting for Monty Python and the Holy Grail to appear on the list, you get Blazing Dragons instead. The brainchild of Python founder Terry Jones, this pun-loving animated show refashioned King Arthur's court with, you know, dragons. The gag is that their relatively peaceful realm is beset by evil humans (who can't even breathe fire). It's fun and zany, and, since it's Canadian and French, it's slightly more taboo than cartoons aimed at American kids. The connections to Arthur are clear (like Sir Galahot and Sir Loungealot), and it's bolstered by Jones' considerable love for history and myth.

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A Knight's Tale

A new documentary examining the life of Heath Ledger hits May 17, and the tenth anniversary of his death is January 2018. It's a tad bittersweet to look back on this eye-catching breakout role for Ledger, who used it to prove he could be more than the moody teen lover from 10 Things I Hate About You or a side character in Monster's Ball. His charm owned this curious artifact – a modern rock-infused sports movie from the mind behind L.A. Confidential. Ledger's William is a mere squire who takes over jousting duty when his master dies mid-tournament, going on to fake his identity and join an upper class he has no birthright to. Beyond the droll nods to modern life (like Kate the Blacksmith's "mark of her trade" being two Nike swooshes), there's a genuinely touching sentiment about rising beyond your class-bound fate and proving nobility is an internal quality, not something that comes with a crown.

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Released the same year as Knightriders (a mini-Arthur boom in 1981?), John Boorman's take is as classic a sword and sorcery epic as you'd want. There are sprawling sets, wild costumes, and a young Helen Mirren chewing scenery as Morgana. It's the massive story of Arthur (a dashing Nigel Terry) bringing the knights of the Round Table together to unite the Britons. It's about honor and clashing swords and shields and big battles in the fog and sexualized magic and treason and larger-than-life figures. After all, it's from the guy who made Zardoz.

If you wanna make it a triple feature, tack on Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac, which removes all the magical elements of the Arthur myth and replaces them with an unreal amount of blood and gore. The film imagines the Middle Ages with zero Hollywood gloss and romanticizing. Turns out, things were dirty back then.

movie mixtape indiana jones and the last crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

A knight with a whip and a fear of snakes, choosing his drinking vessel wisely. Raiders was great for its dive into Old Testament power; Temple of Doom was great for its trip into a heart of darkness; but there's something special about Last Crusade because of its intersection of three incredibly powerful Western stories: the Christ story, King Arthur's crusade for the grail, and the defeat of the Nazis. It's because of that blend that we get the imagery of a Nazi collaborator drinking from a (false) Biblical icon in front of a British knight. Jones (Harrison Ford) journeys into reconciling his father issues and achieves what Arthur never could.

King Arthur Legend of the Sword Clips

The Mix

It's too easy to find movies that play in this sandbox. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are like Shakespeare's plays or zombie movies, doomed and honored to be endlessly remixed and modernized and sometimes set to music. Because of that, it's also too easy to find bad versions. Luckily, the good is out there, and so is the experimental, which is at least worth a shot.

If all else fails, stick with Monty Python and marvel at how silly it would be to choose a king by whomever a lake-dwelling woman tossed a sword to last.

And if you really want to impress friends at parties, illustrate your knowledge that Excalibur (from the lake) and The Sword in the Stone (from not the lake) are two entirely different swords. They will look it up, and then shower you with free drinks and compliments, and definitely won't beat you up and let the tenth grade field trip bus leave without you.

Grab a roast turkey leg and tell us what other Arthurian movies we should check out in the comments section.