Tristan & Isolde (film)

Tristan & Isolde is a 2006 British-American epic romantic drama film directed by Kevin Reynolds and written by Dean Georgaris based on the medieval romantic legend of Tristan and Isolde. Produced by Ridley Scott (who had been working on an adaptation since the mid-1970s) and Tony Scott, the film stars James Franco and Sophia Myles, alongside a supporting cast featuring Rufus Sewell, Mark Strong, and Henry Cavill. This was Franchise Pictures' last film before bankruptcy.

Tristan & Isolde
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKevin Reynolds
Written byDean Georgaris
Produced by
CinematographyArthur Reinhart
Edited byPeter Boyle
Music byAnne Dudley
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 13, 2006 (2006-01-13) (United States)
  • April 21, 2006 (2006-04-21) (United Kingdom)
  • May 4, 2006 (2006-05-04) (Czech Republic)
  • May 18, 2006 (2006-05-18) (Germany)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Germany
  • Czech Republic
Box office$28 million[2]


Set in the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire, Lord Marke of Cornwall plans to unite Britain – Celts, Picts, Angles, Saxons and Jutes – against Irish domination. The Irish king, Donachadh, thwarts this, attacking Tantallon Castle while the treaty is being negotiated. The castle's lord and his wife die, but Marke saves their young son, Tristan. Marke welcomes Tristan into his home as his own.

Nine years later, Tristan is a warrior, loyal like a son to Marke. Tristan with other Cornish warriors attack an Irish slave caravan. Tristan kills Morholt, the leader of the army, his father's killer, and the betrothed of Donachadh's daughter (Princess Isolde).

Tristan is severely wounded in the fight, believed dead, though he is only suffering the effects of Morholt's poisoned sword. Put out to sea on a funeral boat, Tristan washes up on the shores of Ireland and is found by Isolde and her maid, Bragnae. An antidote revives him. Isolde takes on Bragnae's identity, and she and Tristan fall in love as she nurses him back to health.

They must separate after Tristan's boat is discovered. He returns to Cornwall, receiving a hero's welcome. Plotting to defeat Britain, Donachadh proposes a peace treaty, promising Isolde in marriage to the winner of a tournament. Tristan wins the tournament on behalf of Marke, unaware she is the woman he fell in love with. When he realises, he heartbrokenly accepts it, as the marriage to Marke will end the warring between their two peoples.

Marke is kind to and falls in love with Isolde. She grows fond of him, but her heart still belongs to Tristan. Tristan is cold and distant towards Marke, who doesn't know why. Isolde tells Tristan that she is his anytime he wants. He is torn between his love for Isolde and his loyalty to Marke, but he eventually gives in to Isolde; they renew their love and begin an affair. Discovered by Lord Wictred, a Saxon chieftain and longstanding dissenter to Marke's leadership, he and Donachadh conspire to use the affair to overthrow Marke, Wictred getting Marke's throne in exchange.

Marke tells Tristan he believes Isolde is having an affair. Tormented by guilt, Tristan burns down his and Isolde's bridge. After Marke and Isolde's coronation, Tristan attempts to end it, but Isolde begs him not to leave her. They are caught embracing by Marke, Donnchadh, and the other British kings. Donachadh pretends to be furious, breaking the alliance. Seeing this as Marke's weakness, the other kings also part ways with him. Marke is hurt and furious over Tristan and Isolde's betrayal. However, when Isolde explains their history, Marke relents; Tristan is taken to the river and told by Isolde that Marke is letting them and Bragnae leave together. Tristan puts them in the boat and tells her that if he leaves they will be remembered for all time as those "whose love brought down a kingdom." Tristan pushes the boat away from the shore and runs off to battle.

Simultaneously, Melot, Marke's nephew and Tristan's friend, resentful of his uncle's long favoring of Tristan, shows Wictred the hidden passage into the castle. Wictred tells Melot he will become king when Marke is defeated. However, once in the passage, Wictred stabs Melot and sneaks his army into the castle. Marke and his forces swiftly become trapped between Donachadh's army outside the castle and Wictred's men within.

Tristan sneaks back into the castle via the tunnel, where he finds a dying Melot and they reconcile. Tristan helps Marke's soldiers secure the castle, becoming mortally wounded in combat with Wictred, who he still manages to kill. Tristan, Marke and his soldiers emerge, presenting Wictred's severed head to Donachadh. Marke urges the British kings to aid them in making Britain a single, free nation. Inspired, the British attack Donachadh and his army.

Marke carries Tristan to the river, where they meet Isolde. He then returns to battle. With his last breath, Tristan tells Isolde; "I don't know if life is greater than death. But love was more than either." She buries him, planting two willows by the grave, which grow intertwined, then disappears from history, never to be seen again. Marke defeats the Irish, unites Britain, and rules in peace.



In the mid-1970s, before the beginning of the filming of The Duellists, Ridley Scott pitched the idea of a film adaptation of medieval romantic legend of Tristan and Iseult, and he planned to release this film as his second movie.[3] However, the project never materialized at the time, and Scott pitched the idea of Legend during the filming of The Duellists as a replacement of this project.[4] The film was finally released in 2006 with Kevin Reynolds as the director and with Scott as the producer.


Box officeEdit

Tristan & Isolde opened theatrically in 1,845 North American venues on January 13, 2006. In its first weekend, the film earned $6,583,135 and ranked eighth in the domestic box office.[5] The film ended its run on March 30, having grossed $28,047,963.[2]

Critical receptionEdit

The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 31% score based on 121 reviews, with an average rating of 4.90/10. The site's consensus states: "Competent but somewhat static, Tristan & Isolde doesn't achieve the sweeping romanticism that it aims for."[6] Metacritic reports a 49 out of 100 based on 30 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times writes, "there is something undeniably pleasant about an entertainment like Tristan & Isolde that delivers exactly what it promises, no less, no more." She adds: "There is some fairly bloodless fighting and some very chaste lovemaking."[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "TRISTAN + ISOLDE (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. November 30, 2005. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Tristan and Isolde (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. March 31, 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  3. ^ Evan Jacobs. "EXCLUSIVE: Setting the Period With Tristan + Isolde Executive Producer Ridley Scott". Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Franco, James. "James Franco's Favorite Mistake: Filming Tristan & Isolde". Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for January 13-15, 2006". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. January 16, 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
  6. ^ "Tristan & Isolde (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved January 1, 2021.
  7. ^ "Tristan & Isolde reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 1, 2009.
  8. ^ Dargis, Manohla (January 13, 2006). "Young Lovers in a Cave Can't Escape the World". The New York Times.

External linksEdit