A Knight's Tale
A Knight's Tale is a 2001 American medieval adventure-comedy film written, produced, and directed by Brian Helgeland. The film stars Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Laura Fraser, Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer, and James Purefoy as Sir Thomas Colville/Edward the Black Prince.
|A Knight's Tale|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian Helgeland|
|Written by||Brian Helgeland|
|Based on||"The Knight's Tale"|
by Geoffrey Chaucer
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Edited by||Kevin Stitt|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
138 minutes (Extended cut)
|Box office||$117.5 million|
The story is told in an anachronistic style with many modern references. It follows a peasant named William who poses as a knight and competes in tournaments, winning accolades and acquiring friendships with such historical figures as Edward the Black Prince and Geoffrey Chaucer.
The film takes its title from Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" in his The Canterbury Tales, though the plot is not similar. It received mixed reviews, and grossed $117.5 million against a budget of $65 million.
At a jousting tournament in 14th-century Europe, young squires William Thatcher, Roland, and Wat discover that their master, Sir Ector, has died. With just one more pass he could have won the tournament. Destitute, William wears Ector's armour to impersonate him, taking the prize.
Although only nobles are allowed in tournaments, William is inspired to compete and win more prizes. Roland and Wat would rather take their winnings and leave, but William convinces them to stay and train him. While traveling, the trio encounters a young Geoffrey Chaucer, who is also destitute and agrees to forge a patent of nobility so William can enter, assuming the name of "Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein" from Gelderland. But William is brought before Simon the Summoner and Peter the Pardoner: Chaucer has a gambling problem and is in their debt. William demands Chaucer be released and promises payment.
During the competition, William's armor is damaged very badly; he goads Kate, a female blacksmith, into repairing it without payment. He wins the tournament's sword event, enabling him to pay Chaucer's debt. In the joust, he faces Sir Thomas Colville, who withdraws from the tournament after being injured by William, though they exchange a ceremonial pass so that Colville can retain the honor of never having failed to complete a match. The proceedings are observed by Jocelyn, a noblewoman with whom William has become infatuated, and Count Adhemar, a rival both in the joust and for Jocelyn's heart. In the final joust, Adhemar defeats William. At the prize ceremony, William vows revenge on Adhemar who then taunts William, "You have been weighed, you have been measured and you have been found wanting."
Kate joins William's party and forges new lightweight armor. In the following tournament, Adhemar and William are both assigned to tilt against Sir Thomas Colville, but they learn that he is actually Edward the Black Prince. Unwilling to risk harming the future King of England, Adhemar immediately withdraws prior to their match. William, despite his friends' objections, chooses to joust against Edward anyway and then addresses him by name, further earning his respect.
Adhemar is called away to the Battle of Poitiers, and William achieves several victories in his absence. William proves his love for Jocelyn by complying when she first asks him to deliberately lose (in contrast to knights who promise to win "in her name"), and then, just before he would be eliminated, to win the tournament after all.
The group travels to London for the World Championship. William recalls leaving his father to squire for Sir Ector and learn to become a knight, hoping to "change his stars". Adhemar has also arrived in London and announces that he is in negotiations with Jocelyn's father for her hand in marriage. William dominates at the tournament, but when he visits his father, who is now blind, Adhemar discovers his true identity and alerts the authorities.
William is arrested and placed in the pillory, but is defended from the hostile crowd by his friends. Just as the mob reaches its frenzy, Prince Edward reveals himself. He acknowledges William's honor and an ability to inspire his friends' dedication that is in the best traditions of knighthood. Edward then announces that William is in fact, "beyond contestation", descended from an ancient noble family, and knights him "Sir William".
William returns to the tournament to face Adhemar in the final match, but Adhemar cheats with an illegally sharpened lance, seriously injuring William. Entering the final pass, William is losing by two lances and must unhorse Adhemar to win. He demands to be stripped of his armor while Chaucer buys time by performing the introduction of William that he omitted earlier. William, unable to hold the lance due to his injuries, asks Wat to strap it to his arm. Finally he tilts against Adhemar, with his father and Jocelyn in attendance. Bellowing his true name as he charges, he knocks Adhemar to the ground with a crushing blow. On the ground, Adhemar experiences a vision of William and his friends telling him that he has been "weighed, measured and found wanting".
In the ensuing celebration, as Jocelyn and William embrace, Chaucer remarks that he should write an account of these events.
- Heath Ledger as William Thatcher, the protagonist who is a brave and loyal peasant who has dreamt of being a knight since childhood.
- Shannyn Sossamon as Jocelyn, a lady of noble birth, bound to the church and encouraged to be faithful to God but enjoys the fun and tricks in life.
- Rufus Sewell as Count Adhemar, the antagonist who is a rich, spoiled count who has fought in many wars, sees other knights as primitive, and mistreats his servants.
- Mark Addy as Roland, a squire to the late Sir Ector and a loyal friend of William.
- Alan Tudyk as Wat, a violent, young squire who is obsessed with the greater things in life. He grows desperate but is a good friend of William.
- Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer, who is portrayed as a big-headed writer and ring announcer. He believes he is very clever and more intelligent than others. He has a terrible gambling habit, losing everything from his money to his clothes.
- Laura Fraser as Kate, a hard-working widowed blacksmith who is renowned for making good horseshoes. She believes the armourers see her as a foolish woman and is out to prove them wrong.
- Bérénice Bejo as Christiana, Jocelyn's loyal friend and lady-in-waiting.
- James Purefoy as Sir Thomas Colville (Edward the Black Prince)
- Leagh Conwell as Young William Thatcher
- Christopher Cazenove as John Thatcher
- Steven O'Donnell as Simon
- Nick Brimble as Sir Ector
- Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Old Bishop
- David Schneider as Relic Seller
- Alice Connor as Lone Girl
- Berwick Kaler as Man in Stocks
- Jonathan Slinger as Peter the Pardoner
Lances were created that would convincingly explode upon impact without injuring the stunt riders. The body of each lance was scored so it would break easily, and the tips were made of balsa wood. Each was also hollowed out, with the holes filled with balsa splinters and uncooked linguine.
In the DVD commentary, director Helgeland, co-commentating with Bettany, states that the film was intended to have occurred sometime in the 1370s during a six-month period in which Chaucer had apparently gone missing and show what he might have done during this time, which Helgeland says later on in the commentary inspired Chaucer to write The Canterbury Tales.
The film, which notionally took place during the Middle Ages, is notable for its deliberate use of classic rock songs in its soundtrack. The ten that were credited in the film are listed in order of appearance:
- "We Will Rock You" – Queen
- "Low Rider" – War
- "Takin' Care of Business" – Bachman–Turner Overdrive
- "Golden Years" – David Bowie
- "Further on Up the Road" – Eric Clapton
- "Get Ready" – Rare Earth
- "I Want to Take You Higher" – Sly and the Family Stone
- "The Boys Are Back in Town" – Thin Lizzy
- "You Shook Me All Night Long" – AC/DC
- "We Are the Champions" – Robbie Williams & Queen
Critical reception was mixed, with complaints about the anachronisms (the classic rock in a film that takes place during the Middle Ages), the many jousting scenes, and the thin plot. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and argued that the anachronisms made little difference, writing that the director himself "pointed out that an orchestral score would be equally anachronistic, since orchestras hadn't been invented in the 1400s." In an obituary for David Bowie, culture critic Anthony Lane referred to the film's use of the song "Golden Years" as "the best and most honest use of anachronism that I know of."
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 58% based on reviews from 148 critics. "Once you get past the anachronism," according to the site, "A Knight's Tale becomes a predictable, if spirited, Rocky on horseback." On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 54 out of 100, sampled from 32 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Newsweek revealed in June 2001 that print ads contained glowing comments from a film reviewer who did not exist for at least four films released by Columbia Pictures, including A Knight's Tale and The Animal (2001). The fake critic was named David Manning and was created by a Columbia employee who worked in the advertising department. "Manning" was misrepresented as a reviewer for The Ridgefield Press, a small Connecticut weekly.
The film earned US$56,569,702 at the North American domestic box office, and an additional $60,917,771 internationally, for a worldwide total of $117,487,473 (equivalent to $169,640,341 in 2019).
- "A Knight's Tale". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
- McCarthy, Todd (April 19, 2001). "A Knight's Tale". Variety. Retrieved December 1, 2017.
- "A KNIGHT'S TALE (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. April 27, 2001. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
- "A KNIGHT'S TALE (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. July 13, 2005. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- "A Knight's Tale". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on November 25, 2019. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
- "A Knight's Tale". Sony Movie Channel. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- "Interview with Brian Helgeland". moviehabit.com.
- Ebert, Roger. "A Knight's Tale". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Reel McCoy". Archived from the original on November 14, 2008. Retrieved September 25, 2009.
- Lane, Anthony. "David Bowie in the Movies". The New Yorker. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
- "A Knight's Tale (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
- "A Knight's Tale". Metacritic. Retrieved November 19, 2015.
- Horn, John (June 2, 2001). "The Reviewer Who Wasn't There". MSNBC. Newsweek. Archived from the original on June 9, 2001. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
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