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Ladyhawke is a 1985 American medieval fantasy film directed and produced by Richard Donner and starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. The story is about a young thief who unwillingly gets involved with a warrior and his lady that are hunted by the Bishop of Aquila. As he comes to know about the couple's past and secret, he finds himself determined to help them overcome the Bishop's oppressions, both in arms and in the form of a demonic curse.

Ladyhawke ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Donner
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byEdward Khmara
Music byAndrew Powell
CinematographyVittorio Storaro
Edited byStuart Baird
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
(North America)
20th Century Fox
Release date
April 12, 1985
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$18.4 million



In medieval Europe, infamous thief Phillipe "The Mouse" Gaston escapes from the dungeons of the Bishop of Aquila. The Bishop’s guards, led by Captain Marquet, corner him at an inn. Etienne Navarre, former captain of the guards, defeats Marquet and rides off with Phillipe while his hawk scatters other guards along the way. That evening, a farmer attacks Phillipe only to be killed by an enormous black wolf accompanied by a mysterious young woman.

The following day, Navarre reveals his intention to kill the Bishop and asks Phillipe to help him get inside Aquila. The unwilling Phillipe gets tied up that night, but tricks the mysterious woman and escapes. However, he is recaptured by the Bishop’s guards.

Navarre and his hawk are ambushed and each is hit by a crossbow bolt. However, Navarre defeats them and saves Phillipe. The wounded Navarre makes Phillipe take the injured hawk to Imperius’s ruined castle for help. At the castle, Phillipe learns that the hawk is the mysterious woman. After tending to her wound, Imperius explains to Phillipe that she is Isabeau of Anjou. After Isabeau had rejected the Bishop's advances, he put a curse on her and Navarre. The curse turns Isabeau into a hawk by day and Navarre a wolf by night; therefore, despite being always together, they are eternally apart.

The Bishop's men attack the castle, but Phillipe and Isabeau manage to evade capture with Navarre arriving just in time. Imperius instructs him to break the curse by both he and Isabeau facing the Bishop on “a day without a night and a night without a day”. Navarre dismisses the advice, and proceeds with his plan to infiltrate Aquila and kill the Bishop. Phillipe decides to accompany Navarre and “Ladyhawke”.

After several dangerous encounters with the Bishop's hired wolf hunter and the hostile elements, Phillipe convinces the couple to follow Imperius' advice. At night, Imperius and Isabeau smuggle Navarre into Aquila while Phillipe dives into the sewers to get inside the cathedral.

Unable to see any divine sign, Navarre once again decides to kill the Bishop. He convinces Imperius to euthanize Isabeau in case he fails, which will be signified by the ringing church bell.

Phillipe infiltrates the cathedral and unlocks the doors. Navarre rides in and duels with Marquet. During the bout, Navarre sees a solar eclipse through a high window and realizes the curse really can be broken. He tries to get back to Imperius but fails to keep the guards from ringing the bell. Despairing that Imperius has killed Isabeau, he continues his fight and eventually kills Marquet.

As Navarre is about to kill the Bishop, a human Isabeau enters the cathedral and stops him. Together they face the Bishop and break the curse. The maddened Bishop tries to kill Isabeau, only to die by Navarre’s thrown sword instead. Isabeau and Navarre finally embrace each other in joy.


  • Akeela, Kollchek, Levi, and Sasha—a quartet of melanistic Siberian wolves—as Etienne's lupine form.[1]:141
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Isabeau of Anjou, the Comte d'Anjou's daughter, who, with Etienne, is hunted by the Bishop.
  • Gift (c.1979–2 or 3 Dec 2014)[2][3] and Ladyhawke (d. May 2007) (named Spike II until 2000)[4]—two female red-tailed hawks—as Isabeau's avian form.
  • Leo McKern as Imperius, an old monk living in a ruined castle who used to serve the Bishop.
  • John Wood as the Bishop of Aquila, who is obsessed with killing Etienne and capturing Isabeau.
  • Ken Hutchison as Captain Marquet, the current Captain of the Guard.
  • Alfred Molina as Cezar, a wolf trapper who serves the Bishop.
  • Giancarlo Prete as Fornac, a higher ranking guard.
  • Loris Loddi as Jehan, a higher ranking guard.


Richard Donner had attempted to get the film financed for a number of years and came close to making it twice, once in England and once in Czechoslovakia. He eventually got the project up at Warners and Fox, where it was green-lit by Alan Ladd Jr. Originally, Kurt Russell was cast as the male lead alongside Michelle Pfeiffer. The role of the pickpocket was offered to Sean Penn and then Dustin Hoffman, before Donner decided to go with Matthew Broderick. Eventually, Russell pulled out during rehearsals, and Rutger Hauer was chosen to replace him.[5]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic      link

The film's score was composed by Andrew Powell and produced by Alan Parsons. Richard Donner stated that he was listening to The Alan Parsons Project (on which Powell collaborated) while scouting for locations, and became unable to separate his visual ideas from the music. Powell combined traditional orchestral music and Gregorian chants with contemporary progressive rock-infused material. It has been cited[who?] as the most memorable example of the growing trend among 1980s fantasy films of abandoning the lush orchestral scores of composers such as John Williams and James Horner in favor of a modern pop/rock sound.[6] The soundtrack album was released in 1985 and re-released with additional tracks in 1995. On February 10, 2015 a 2-disc set was released from La-La Land Records; it includes previously unreleased music and bonus tracks, and is limited to 3,000 units.[7]

Critical receptionEdit

Ladyhawke has a rating of 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 22 critics' reviews.[8]

Vincent Canby in The New York Times called the film "divided against itself," and went on to say that "scenes of high adventure or of visual splendor... are spliced between other scenes with dialogue of a banality that recalls the famous Tony Curtis line, 'Yondah lies my faddah's castle.'"[9] Time Out called it "all rather facile sword-and-sorcery stuff, of course, but at times very funny... and always beautifully photographed."[10] Variety described the film as a "very likeable, very well-made fairytale... worthwhile for its extremely authentic look alone."[11]

The New York Times singled out Matthew Broderick's skill in coming "very close to transforming contemporary wisecracks – particularly, his asides to God – into a more ageless kind of comedy," and said of Michelle Pfeiffer that her "presence, both ethereal and erotic, is so vivid that even when she's represented as a hawk, she still seems to be on the screen."[9] Variety praised the casting of the lead actors, considering Pfeiffer "perfect as the enchanting beauty."[11] Time Out called Rutger Hauer "camp" and Pfeiffer "decorative."[10]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing (Robert G. Henderson) and Best Sound (Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore and Bud Alper), winning neither.[12] It won a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, and was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Music (Andrew Powell).[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Senn, Bryan (2017). "Ladyhawke". The Werewolf Filmography: 300+ Movies. MacFarland. pp. 140–141.
  2. ^ Wildlife Images Rehabilitation & Education Center (3 Dec 2014). "Today marks the passing of one of our most famous animals …". Facebook. Retrieved 24 Jul 2019.
  3. ^ "Gift—The Red-Tailed Hawk". Rutger Hauer Official Website. Dec 2014. Retrieved 24 Jul 2019.
  4. ^ "A Special Star" (PDF). Florida Naturalist. Audubon of Florida. Summer 2007. p. 13. Retrieved 24 Jul 2019.
  5. ^ Tom Mankiewicz, My Life as a Mankiewicz p 260-265
  6. ^ "Ladyhawke - Soundtrack".
  7. ^ "film music - movie music- film score - Ladyhawke - Andrew Powell - Limited Edition". Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  9. ^ a b Vincent Canby (April 12, 1985). "FILM: 'LADYHAWKE,' A MEDIEVAL TALE".
  10. ^ a b DPe. "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Time Out". Archived from the original on 2008-02-01.
  11. ^ a b Variety Staff (December 31, 1984). "Ladyhawke".
  12. ^ "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  13. ^ "Ladyhawke - Awards".

External linksEdit