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Knight's Tale

A movie directed by Brian Helgeland

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A KNIGHT'S TALE: A Very Different Review

  • Jul 23, 2001
  • by
Pros: Exciting, sometimes predictable, creative, funny, excellent casting, deep yet light

Cons: back view male nudity, sexual allusions, not historically accurate

The Bottom Line: Like encountering a gleaming sapphire in sooty soil, this movie was a pleasant surprise. Light and funny-it has a deeper side. One of the best movies released in years.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

It seems nowadays that there has been a large deterioration of the delights of human nature among Americans. What used to be delight in things predictable and comfortable has turned to scorn. Where there used to be thrill in creativity, there is now simply criticism for what "could" have been done, but wasn't.

It is more rare to have people actually appreciate comfort, predictability and genius wrapped up in one accomplishment. Instead of basking in the joy of the achievement, the crowd ambles aimlessly off, cynically looking for the next thrill, destined never to find it.....

So is the unbelievable reaction I have encountered to one of the most awesome masterpieces of cinema in a very long time. It is a jewel so rare and priceless that most of the crowd ambling by, misses the sheer fragility and beauty of it.


In many ways, I am not a typical person. I see things that most people too wrapped up in the shuffle of their lives miss. I know things that many people may never learn in a lifetime.

When it comes to movies, I go by gut and instinct. I am rarely wrong.

When we first saw the previews for A KNIGHT'S TALE, my husband and I both knew immediately that we wanted to see it. Despite the screwy descriptions that made it sound horrible, we knew in our gut that this was one that we HAD to see.

The day that the movie was released, I happened to see an interview with Heath Ledger, (who plays the main character in the movie) on one of the overstock of talk shows. I was shocked. Having seen him in 10 Things I Hate About You, I assumed he was a strapping hunk like the rest of the movie going world seems to think.

Here instead was this very twirpy skinny guy who was so nervous and disoriented that I truly thought that he was standing in for the REAL Heath Ledger. I had a hard time believing that this man was the same person who was in the Patriot, 10 Things I Hate About You, had joined the Australian theater at age 10 and at 16 started appearing on television!

I started to take a second look at whether or not I wanted to waste full price on seeing this movie. So I forgot about it. I also forgot about the huge visual transformation I perform on myself on a regular basis let alone the magic that Hollywood can perform on a twirpy skinny guy....


It was a hot day and my husband and I were trying to think of something economically easy for us to do. We rarely have time to go to the movies anymore, so when we finally had a window of time, we had to quickly decide and go to the movie that we wanted to see. We did not have time to waste.

We called all of the theaters and I had decided that LEGALLY BLONDE would be the only movie I could handle that day. The last call was to the dollar theater. When I found out that A KNIGHT'S TALE was going to be there, we both jumped at the chance to see it.


After reading all of the reviews of this movie some time ago, I really thought that I had misjudged my gut feeling. So few of the 90+ reviews were anything very positive that I was rather ambivalent about seeing it. For $2.00 (weekend price) I figured it was worth it.

When the movie started, the feeling was instantly one that bonded us completely with the cast. Each character as they are introduced so powerfully and intensely portrays their personality and idiosyncrasies that I found myself instant IN the movie.

The casting was perfect, the costuming excellent, and the melding of modern culture with shakespearean acting and storyline was unbelievably a success.

I usually can not STAND popular radio music (already abused and battered by redundant overplaying) slapped into a movie. It is tiresome and commercializing. For the most part, I HATE it. This movie is one of a very few exceptions. It's inclusion was actually delightful.


Willam Thatcher as a boy wanted to be a knight. His father was a poor thatcher of roofs. In a great sacrifice, he took his son to a knight and asked if he could study under him. The knight took in the small boy of about 7 and brought him into his care until he died.

Once he died, we are left to watch ....

William (Heath Ledger),
Roland (Mark Addy from a few famous movies like Full Monty, Jack Frost, and Flintstones Rock Vegas),
Wat (Alan Tudyk- from 28 Days, Wonder Boys and Patch Adams)

...try to figure out how to provide for themselves, now that their knight is dead just before a jousting tournament.

William gets the bright idea that he will become royalty, alias Ulrich von Lichtenstein, and compete in the tournament to get the prize so they could eat.

Once he wins the first tournament, then he decides that they should do this for a living. Wat reminds me of Peter the apostle in the Bible(hot headed yet loyal, but always jumping ahead of everyone before he thinks- hilarious to watch), and Roland reminds me of Friar Tuck from Robin Hood. Yet both characters are still different and lots of fun to watch develop.


Along the way, whenever they need someone, a person crosses their paths that happens to have the exact talent that they need.

This way they meet Chaucer, who is supposed to be THE Geoffrey Chaucer of Canterbury Tales fame (played by Paul Bettany from British theater and television). Chaucer reminds me a lot of Tybalt from Romeo and Juliet.

Later on, they also meet Kate (played by Laura Fraser from Man In The Iron Mask, Titus Andronicus, Cousin Belle and British television).

Kate reminds me of a brunette version of Betty from the old Archie comic book series. She is loyal, dependable, and very handy, but William is in love with another woman,Jocelyn. Perhaps that analogy cuts her character short. She is far more complex than a comic book character, but I always thought that way about Betty.

Chaucer is a embellishing kind of guy who can turn a very simple speech into a rousing tribute at a moments notice. He happens to have the ability to draft the knighthood papers that are needed to enter the tourney.

Kate happens to be a common farrier (maker of horseshoes) who later becomes Williams armorer.

This rag tag group of characters forms a lovable and completely believable misfit family who accompany William in his quest to be a knight.


Along the way, William has mercy on another knight, despite the break with traditional treatment in a jousting match.

He also engages the attention of a beautiful woman Jocelyn (played by the Hawaiin native, Shannyn Sossamon -this being her debut in film) who is the target of every man's desire all over Europe. This angers a very evil and rotten knight, Count Adhemar (played by Rufus Sewell a highly regarded theater actor as well as on screen in Britain).

So heady with love, William (alias Ulrich von Lichtenstein) tries to capture the attention and love of Jocelyn. This enrages Count Adhemar who vows to kill William.


The general feeling of A KNIGHT'S TALE is a marvelous interpretation of a story with a similar title of The Knight's Tale actually written by Geoffery Chaucer.

Although I have only read through parts of the original (it is difficult reading with the old language spellings), I marvel at the way that this rendition is actually more engaging and God oriented than the original.

The original written in a time when talking of God was fashionable and mainstream, was surprisingly hedonistic. This movie was more Jesus Christ oriented than the original, or at least the parts that I read of the original. That alone was a shock to us. It is so fashionable to slam Christianity in Hollywood, that this was very refreshing.

I have to say that the undercurrent of the film, while being lighthearted and fun, had a deeper meaning for those willing to look. There was a lot of visual symbolism and background scenes that made astounding statements to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.

There are a lot of hilarious sight gags, and background scenes that evoke a laugh here and there too. There is a wealth of joy to be found here. The payoff of strength of moral character and mercy is also not missed.


A KNIGHT'S TALE was meant to be a farce. It was designed to be silly in places. There are a lot of scenes that are intensely shakespearean that suddenly get an upbeat starting in the background leading unexpectedly into a rock song. The characters completely transform into the style of the song's era, but stay in character while doing it.

It is a brilliant piece of filmmaking and excellently done. The one-liners and allusions to modern icons (Kate puts the Nike symbol on the modernistic armor she designed and says that if anyone wants one that they should contact her business) is subtly and wonderfully woven into the story.

The hair styles that Jocelyn wears are hilarious. They are something you would see out of the goth movement. In fact, her costumes are something you could see (in black, of course) in HOT TOPIC. The face painting is also a great feature.

An interesting note is that Jocelyn's lady in waiting, Chrisitana is played by a well-known French actress (Berenice Bejo) who has never spoken English in a film before, even though she speaks five languages.


There is a technique in art called scratchboarding. The surface of the board is completely black, but if you scratch the surface, you will find any number of colors underneath it. The more you scratch away, the more colors show up. If you just look at the surface and do not dig any deeper, then all you see is black.

So it is with this movie. On the surface, it is just a silly farcical movie that lightheartedly merges modern times with an era from long ago. However, the deeper you dig, the more jewels you will find.

With such an upstanding international cast and crew, I think that this movie is in a genre not easily identified. It will go as deep as you want to go.

A KNIGHT'S TALE reminds me of another masterpiece of a film - Kenneth Brannaugh's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. The interaction and chemsitry between the cast is a rare find, and the acting is wonderful.

There is something to be said for predictability, the comfort of a happy ending and the security of knowing that right does win at the end.

There are countless numbers of one parent or parentless families who have left behind scads of disillusioned little children with nothing positive to hang on to.

Good and love really DOES win in the end. There is such a thing as a happy ending. And good things to happen to people who struggle. Needs do suddenly get met when a person is most desperate. And God is there whether we want to believe it or not.

This is a movie we will purchase when it comes out and watch it many times, I am sure.


Although this movie is far better than some PG movies I have seen, there are a few things you need to be aware of. In a few scenes, Chaucer's gambling problems leave him naked. The nudity is back view only and tastefully done. However, there are still people who might be offended at this.

Another thing is that Jocelyn and William have a scene together where they do sleep together, but it is not shown, just inferred. There are some allusions to sexual innuendos, but they are done in such a way that it would go over most children's heads. It is old English style.

There is a scene where the three friends are trying to decide what to do. As they talk, there is a man hanging on the gallows in the background. It is in the middle of nowhere and very absurd. It is meant to be Monty Python type humor. It is just plain silly. However, again, this is something you may not want children to see.

Lastly, the jousting is rough. People get knocked off of horses. There is not gore or evil violence, it is just treated as a sport. The scene of chariots in BEN HUR is more difficult to watch than this was. However, very young children may get upset or nervous.


Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12

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More A Knight's Tale reviews
review by . August 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   This is my favorite Heath Ledger movie he ever did. It is similar to a standard fantasy tale involving a boy growing up poor, and dreaming big -- until they turn things on their head every now and then (but not in a Mel Brooks sort of way). For instance, having the herald leading the crowd at the joust in a rousing rendition of Queen's "We Will Rock You" was just inspired genius. They don't break the fantasy illusion too much, and they don't break the 4th wall …
review by . October 19, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I didn't have much interest in this when it first arrived in theaters. Back then Heath Ledger was, to my mind, just another young handsome face and this seemed like a sappy star vehicle designed to further his career. Of course, he turned out to be much more than a handsome face and if I'd bothered to see this film I would have known it then. Not only does he give a charismatic and compelling early performance, the film itself is a lot of fun: a very clever and entertaining update of the old knight …
review by . September 04, 2004
A Knight's Tale really works. It's eye candy, not brain candy, but it worked a treat for me. I thought the potential love triangle was left sadly unexplored (especially as there wasn't really any chemistry between Will and Jocelyn), but otherwise, full marks: Sewell was a great villain, the father/son bit was done nicely (you should see Cheapside nowadays, by the way), and I thought the rock music worked extremely well. Finishing with Ackadacka was just inpired (so much so that School of Rock took …
review by . February 16, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
Yes, our young hero trains to be a great jousting knight to the sounds of "Takin' Care of Business" in "A Knight's Tale." That scene, along with the "We Will Rock You" opening, among others, definitely sets this period piece apart from the pack. "A Knight's Tale" is fun. It has that "poor kid does good" theme running throughout and can be very heroic and sentimental at times. But don't expect this flick to blow you away. It is very good, and quite unique, but the overall story is rather standard …
review by . November 28, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: An interesting twist on historical themes as light entertainment, and some great comedic moments.      Cons: Poor characterization, simplistic, and predictable      The Bottom Line: All the friends I have recommended this to either attend our local Renaissance Festival and are avid jousting fans, or can't resist a man in armor.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot. Something nearly …
review by . March 05, 2002
Pros: i didn't pay for it     Cons: the anachronisms and cliches made me ill     The Bottom Line: Made me angry for hours after having seen it. I'm sure that there are a million better scripts out there. Why did this get produced?     Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot. I am a very enthusiastic person and I tend to overuse superlatives. At least once a day (my friends can attest to this) I will say something …
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About this movie


In the Middle Ages, before television or professional sports, there is only one form of competition to separate the men from the boys: jousting tournaments. William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), a poor and humble squire, has always dreamed of proving himself worthy as a knight. When he gets a lucky chance--seeing an opportunity to disguise himself in the identity of a knight--William decides to maintain the illusion for as long as possible. He is aided by his friends Wat, Roland, and Geoffrey Chaucer--a writer with a knack for forging official papers. Under his new title, Sir Ulrich of Liechtenstein, William wins tournaments and receives monetary awards. However, the only way for William to prove himself as truly noble is to beat out all of his enemies, including the arrogant and undefeated Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), in a series of jousts. Once he does so, William will reveal his his true identity. Writer-director Brian Helgeland creates a unique blend of rousing adventure, comedy, and modern sensibility i...
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Director: Brian Helgeland
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: May 11, 2001
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: June 4, 2002
Runtime: 2hr 12min
Studio: Sony Pictures
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