"A Knight's Tale" - a future cult classic

I was just watching A Knight’s Tale with the late Heath Ledger and I feel fairly certain that in time, maybe 10 years, this movie is going to be a cult film with a lot of fans. I remember when it first came out, it was widely mocked, and even now it’s not taken very seriously. It’s considered one of Ledger’s stupider movies, especially in light of the really amazing performances he put in prior to his death. But I think the cheerful anachronism of A Knight’s Tale and the sheer honesty of the movie - with no ironic or self-conscious connotations whatsoever, a completely unashamed and unpretentious effort - puts it above the average feel-good comedy. I mean, American honky-tonk music playing in the background of a tavern in 14th-century France? The opening sequence with We Will Rock You, at the end of which you actually see the heralds with trumpets “playing” the last bar of the song (even though you can’t hear them)? The only meta-reference that is kind of annoying is the Nike marks on the armour, but I’m willing to let that slide.

There are some irritating historical inaccuracies in the aesthetic of the film. I know a lot of peoples’ reaction would be, “come on!” but, I believe that even with the anachronism of the music and everything, they should have still made an effort to keep the time period of the film accurate and keep the costumes and armour consistent with that. It’s possible to have something be completely farcical and still have the setting of it be consistent with reality. And in reality, you would not have seen knights jousting in full plate armour in 1370, when the movie is supposed to take place; they probably would have worn a combination of chain mail and plate with a heraldic surcoat over it. And contrary to what movies would have you believe, plate armour was very closely fitted to the body and did not have such a clunky and bulky look to it. You also see helmet types that did not appear until 130 years later, and at one point “Ulrich von Lichtenstein” competes in a sword duel wearing a barred-visor burgonet, a kind of helmet that was used in the mid-1600s during the time of Oliver Cromwell, not remotely consistent with the late Middle Ages. Actually, the helmets in A Knight’s Tale have no basis in history at all - they have giant vision slits that in reality would have been suicidal to joust with. And where are the plumes and helmet crests? And…they win gold trophies in the tournament, and then sell them for silver florins? But I’m willing to overlook that; the movie is still fun as hell.

Does anyone else like it? Or is liking this movie one of those things that none of the kool kids are supposed to cop to?

Being a simple man, I have a simple aesthetic criteria for movies.

My favorite films are the ones I have watched the most often (Rudy – no lie – over 400 times, Gettysburg and Pulp Fiction over 300 times).

A “Great” movie is my system is any I’ve seen over 50 times. So I call A Knight’s Tale great.

The history of helmets and armor aside, the movie has a witty, romantic, exciting script (“Yes William. With the pigs”) well served by the actors.

And like all great movies has a scene of pure brilliance. In this case, the one where he reunites with his father (“I bring you word, Master Thatcher. Word of your son”).

So future cult or not, is will hopefully entertain generations. I might watch it again the more I think about it.

I agree completely with your first paragraph, “A knights tale” is a great film.

I am curious though, why you state the view that “A knights tale” is a great film that takes liberties with the source material, and then follow this with a criticism over an issue (The knights armor/helmets) that 99% of the the worlds populations couldn’t give a rats ass about?

If anybody makes a sequel to this with stupid plumes or helmet crests I will beat them to death with the bloody stump of Mark Addy and Berenice Bejo’s unconsummated love.

Knight’s Tale was a very entertaining movie…the anachronism was handled very well, and worked for the narrative.

I don’t subscribe to the view (which seems to be extremely and disconcertingly common, around here and in general) that if a movie is unrealistic in some ways, then it is okay for it to be unrealistic in all ways.

For example:

I would say (about some over-the-top action movie,) “he’s operating that firearm incorrectly.”

Other person: “Well…IT’S A MOVIE!”

OK, it’s a movie. It’s unrealistic in some ways. That’s fine. But there are some things that are just factually correct, and what separates a great movie from a good movie is when they get those little details that are accurate.

As a historian, I love seeing historically-accurate details in films. What is A Knight’s Tale? It’s a story set in 14th century Europe, with a soundtrack by modern rock bands. That’s the anachronism. OK, it’s quite unrealistic, and proudly so.

But does this mean that they should not strive to recreate the aesthetic appearance of 14th century Europe? No, it doesn’t.

See what I’m getting at here? Making some things in a movie comically unrealistic is not an excuse to cop out on everything in the movie - especially if, like this one, it’s set in a historical setting.

During the 14th century, it is a fact that knight’s tournament helmets were decorated with crests, which were often extremely outlandish and cool-looking. Here is one example; here is another one. It would have been cool as hell to see those in the movie.

Add me to the Knight’s Tale loving group. It’s one of my very favorite movies, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it. I can quote the script along with the movie.

Who cares about the inaccuracies? I watch it to be entertained, and THAT it does well. It has a kick-ass soundtrack, witty dialog, romance, action, beautiful horses, handsome men… what more can a girl want in a movie?

I may just watch it again this afternoon…

Another Knight’s Tale-lover who doesn’t care about the armor.

I think you’re absolutely right that the reason the movie works is its unironic approach to storytelling, set within a delightful meringue of what-the-hell anachronism. The opening is great, yeah, and it’s what sucked me in the first time a friend sat unsuspecting me down to watch it – but even better is the scene at the ball when his beloved bails Heath out [sorry, haven’t watched it out in almost a year, don’t remember the characters’ names] by joining him on the dance floor, and the music is … David Bowie.

Definitely one of my favorites, and, yeah, forget Netflix delivering something-or-other and the two movies I have out from the library, I may just watch it tonight. I need something that will make me smile, and this does, from start to finish.

I liked it. Of course, I would probably like any movie that referenced The Book of the Duchess and borrowed a key fight sequence from Chretien de Troyes, and I’m not sure there are that many people like me out there, but it was fun to watch even if you don’t recognize the medieval lit allusions.

I love this movie. Yes, it’s kind of silly, but it was also clever, romantic, and entertaining. And it spawned my deep and abiding love for Paul Bettany, who stole the show as Geoffrey Chaucer.


Great movie, lots of fun to watch.

The only thing that bugs me is the splinters that come off of their jousting rods every time they run into each other. They look like sawdust and particle board pieces and I would think the rods were made of more sturdy materials!

Other than that, I love the costumes, the music and Heath Ledger is dreamy with his long flowing curly blonde hair. ::swoon::

I think this is where we disagree. What makes you think that this is the anachronism, that the “difference” is that it has rock music by modern bands?

In my opinion, the anachronism is that “A Knights tale” doesnt care about any of the details. ANY of them. It doesnt care if the music is right, if the armor is right, if serfs and Knights would drink together, if Chaucer really did MC at big jousting tournaments, it doesnt care about any of that, because its intention is simply to make an enjoyable film in a new setting.


*I don't subscribe to the view (which seems to be extremely and disconcertingly common, around here and in general) that if a movie is unrealistic in some ways, then it is okay for it to be unrealistic in all way*s.

misses the point completely I believe.

Indeed. The long and short of it is, as many have said, that it is a tale devoid of any pretense and tells an uplifting tale of overcoming one’s obstacles in life. All things are sacrificed or ignored as irrelevant to tell the tale. To get hung up on ANYTHING outside of that is to miss a large part of the point. The tale could be told at any time and any place and would still stand tall.

Plus, to point to the musical anachronisms and then get hung up on the armor is ludicrous. What about ALL of the others?

Jocelyn’s attitude, mouth, and independence.
The clothing
The language issues
The presentation of Chaucer
and a million other things

Foolish, I say. Enjoy the movie for what it is: a smart, funny movie with a positive message.

  • Jonathan ‘also with degrees in history’ Chance

I just considered it a comedy that happened to involve knights. It was accurate enough for a rock music comedy romance set in a fictitious land of knights and maidens in need of deflowering.

Her name…is Jocelyn.

I love this movie, because it is fun and embraces the anachronisms with a relish. I think Jocelyn would have been hung as a witch for some of the outfits she wore, I doubt Chaucer looked like Paul Bettany, but it’s a movie that must have been a blast to film.

It’s called a lance…hello…

So, gentlemen…Kate or Jocelyn?

They were designed like that for the visual effect.

That’s not how I remember it at all. Well, the movie wasn’t taken “seriously” in the sense that it wasn’t a serious drama or something, but I remember it as getting decent (albeit not great) reviews and being moderately popular. It’s at 58% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

I loved “A Knight’s Tale” To me the “We will Rock You” sequence was designed to show this wasn’t going to be an accurate depiction of the times. It was just good fun - & heath has never looked better!

The movies I hate are the ones that pretend they are depicting a historical time accurately. The first one that comes to mind is one I haven’t seen right the way through - Keira Knightleys version of Pride & Prejudice.

Yes, it was pretty much in your face from the get-go, which I think was smart. It set up the whole feel for the movie right off the bat, so the audience knew what it was getting into and could play along.

neither. Chaucer’s wife for me.