King Arthur
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries contain spoilers. Spoiler tags are avoided in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for King Arthur can be found here.

The following is a very brief overview of the Arthurian legend (based on the version found in Le Morte d'Arthur (1485) by Thomas Malory):

Arthur is born to Uther Pendragon (King of Britain) and Lady Igraine, after the wizard Merlin tricks Igraine into thinking that Pendragon is her husband Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. After Arthur's birth, Merlin takes the boy to the home of a country lord, Ectorius, to be raised as a foster-child (although Ectorius is ignorant of Arthur's true parentage). Fifteen years later, Pendragon is killed by the Saxons, and having foreseen his death, Merlin has his sword, Excalibur, magically set in a stone so that only the rightful heir to the throne will be able to remove it. After Pendragon's death, a tournament is held in London to bring all potential heirs together. Ectorius and his sons attend the event, and when Ectorius' son Kay breaks his sword during the tournament, Arthur determines to find him a new one. He comes across the Sword in the Stone, as Merlin had intended all along, and not realising the significance of what he is doing, he pulls it out. Stunned, Ectorius and Kay swear fealty to him, and he is subsequently crowned king of Britain.

He immediately sets about consolidating the kingdom by uniting the various clans and warlords, and defeating the invading Saxons. He takes Merlin as his chief advisor and he sees to the needs of the common people, leading to his Kingship being celebrated up and down the land. However, early in his reign he begets a son with his half-sister, Morgause (although they are both unaware of their relationship at the time). Upon finding out that she is related to him by blood, he takes every newborn boy in the kingdom and sends them to sea to be executed. However, the boat on which they are travelling crashes before the babies are killed, and Arthur's son, Mordred, survives. Unaware of this, Arthur marries a princess, Guinevere, and inherits the Round Table from her father Leodegrance (King of Carmelide), who was entrusted with its security by Pendragon. Arthur then gathers his knights at Camelot and establishes the Knights of the Round Table.

At first, Arthur finds himself without an enemy. There are no more invaders, and all internal disputes and conflicts have been resolved by the knights. The recent arrival of Lancelot (who has been sent by his foster mother, the Lady of the Lake, to guard Arthur) and Tristan to Camelot has only added to the harmony. However, Rome accuses Arthur of not paying tribute to Emperor Lucius and Arthur reacts impetuously by claiming that Britain conquered Rome long before Rome conquered Britain, so in fact, Lucius should pay tribute to him. Furious at this affront, Lucius raises a massive army to crush Arthur (and hopefully Christianity along with him). Arthur sails to Normandy to meet his cousin Hoel, who he hopes will join his army, but upon arriving he finds a giant terrorising the region, eating the men and raping and killing the women. In an effort to inspire the common people to support him, Arthur fights the giant in single combat, defeating him and gaining many much needed troops for his conflict with Rome. His army subsequently triumphs over the Romans, and Arthur is crowned Emperor of Rome. It is determined that he will rule by means of a proxy government, and he returns to Britain where he and the knights receive a hero's welcome.

Back in Britain, Lancelot quickly establishes himself as Arthur's most skilled and daring knight, as well as the most chivalrous and honourable. Among his adventures, he is enchanted into a deep sleep by Morgause's sister, Morgan le Fay, a powerful magician who once studied under Merlin. Lancelot, however, manages to escape her castle. He also proves victorious in a tournament fighting on behalf of his fellow Knight of the Round Table, Bagdemagus. Additionally, he slays a rogue knight, Turquine, who had several of the Round Table Knights held prisoner. He is also prone to assisting damsels in distress, and he regularly champions the cause of the oppressed and shows sympathy to those he has defeated in combat. However, he also admits that he is in love with Guinevere, although he says they have never slept together.

Whilst Lancelot is having his adventures, a man with no memories arrives at the court. Mocked by some of the knights, he is about to leave when a woman, Lynette, comes to Arthur asking for assistance against the Red Knight of the Red Lands (Sir Ironside), who has the strength of seven men, and is holding Lynette's sister, Lyonesse, prisoner. Much to Lynette's horror, Arthur sends the unknown man, who had been put to work in Arthur's kitchen. The man subsequently encounters the Black, Green, Puce, and Blue knights, defeating them all before finally facing the Red Knight. He defeats the knight and is able to persuade all of the knights to return with him to Camelot, except the Black knight, who he kills. Back in Camelot, the man determines to win the respect of the Knights of the Round Table, and organises a tournament, where, in disguise, he defeats several of them. Shortly after the tournament, he discovers he is in fact Sir Gareth Beaumains, Arthur's nephew, and Knight of the Round Table Gawain's brother. He is thus welcomed to the Table and knighted by Lancelot who becomes his mentor and friend.

Meanwhile, Tristan meets a woman from his past, Iseult, an Irish princess married to his uncle, Mark of Cornwall. Tristan had met her years before when she healed him after a battle. They had fallen in love, but Tristan had had to return to Camelot. Later, Tristan had returned to Ireland to win the hand of Iseult for Mark but they had again fallen in love on the way back to Britain, and Mark had banished Tristan from Cornwall. However, Tristan and Iseult meet again, deciding they can no longer be apart, and so they flee from Mark. Lancelot hides them and they live together for many years. However, Mark eventually finds them, stabbing Tristan in the back, but not killing him. Mark is then about to kill Iseult, but she pleads with him to let her die at the hands of her love, Tristan. Mark agrees and Tristan crushes her in a final embrace.

At this point, the knights embark on a quest for the Holy Grail. After many adventures Perceval, Bors, and Lancelot's illegitimate son Galahad achieve the Grail. Upon finding it, the purest of the knights, and the only one deemed to be truly without sin, Galahad, vanishes as his soul leaves the earth and travels to heaven.

Back in Camelot, things are not going well. The affair between Lancelot and Guinevere has become common knowledge amongst the knights, and is driving a wedge between Arthur and his greatest knight. At this point, Maleagant, from the otherworldly land of Gorre, kidnaps Guinevere and holds her prisoner in his castle. Lancelot arrives at the castle to free her, and knowing the knight's reputation, Maleagant begs for sympathy, which Guinevere persuades the reluctant Lancelot to grant. However, upon realising that Maleagant is aware of their affair, Lancelot feels he must kill him, and arranges to fight him in single combat. However, to make things fairer, Lancelot removes half of his armour and ties one hand behind his back. Nevertheless, he easily defeats Maleagant and returns Guinevere to Camelot.

Meanwhile, Mordred has returned to Britain and revealed himself to Arthur. Posing as an honourable youth, deeply respectful of his father and the knights, Mordred secretly has plans to usurp the throne and kill the man who sentenced him to death when he was an infant. When Arthur's nephew (and Gareth and Gawain's brother), Agravaine learns of the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, he is set to publicly reveal the news but is killed by Lancelot, who goes into hiding. Knowing that Lancelot will do anything for Guinevere, Arthur decides to use her as bait, by sentencing her to burn her at the stake. However, some of the knights refuse to be a party to such a thing and leave to join Lancelot. Nevertheless, the ceremony goes ahead, and the fires are lit. Lancelot and his knights arrive and a battle breaks out during which many knights on both sides die (including Gareth, who is accidently killed by his mentor, Lancelot.) Horrified at what has happened, and wishing revenge on Lancelot for the death of Gareth, Gawain forces Arthur into declaring war on Lancelot, who has fled to France. After the forces meet again, Gawain and Lancelot engage in single combat, which is won by Lancelot, who spares Gawain's life. Meanwhile, against the advice of his advisors, Arthur has left Mordred in charge of Britain. However, he soon learns that Mordred has seized the throne, and he leads his forces back home. In the subsequent invasion, Gawain is mortally injured, and writes to Lancelot, begging for his help against Mordred and for forgiveness for his role in splitting the Round Table. Lancelot agrees, and Arthur sues for a temporary peace with Mordred until Lancelot arrives. At the negotiations however, when a soldier draws his sword to kill an adder, both sides attack one another, and Arthur is forced to fight Mordred without Lancelot. At the Battle of Camlann, Arthur charges Mordred and impales him with a spear. But with the last of his strength, Mordred impales himself even further, pulling himself to within striking distance of the exhausted Arthur. He then mortally wounds Arthur, before dying himself. As he is dying, Arthur commands Bedivere, one of his most trusted knights, to cast Excalibur into the lake, where it is retrieved by the hand of the Lady of the Lake. Arthur is then taken on a boat to Avalon, vowing to return again when Britain most needs him. When Lancelot arrives, he mourns the deaths of his comrades, and travels to Amesbury to see Guinevere, who has become a nun. Ashamed of what has happened, Lancelot discards his weapons and becomes a monk. Arthur's successor is appointed (Constantine III), and his remaining knights head to the Holy Land to crusade against the Turks, where they are slaughtered on Good Friday.

The earliest known references to Arthur are found in 6th century Welsh and Breton poetry and folklore. In these texts, Arthur is presented as a warrior who protects Britain from various supernatural beasts, such as cat-monsters, dragons, giants and witches. The leader of a band of superhuman heroes, Arthur is depicted as living in the wild and having a close relationship with the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn. One particular text with reference to Arthur is Y Gododdin by Aneirin, which includes information on a soldier who slew 300 men, but then claims of the solder that "he was no Arthur." Scholars, however, believe that the reference to Arthur may have been added at a considerably later date.

The earliest datable reference to an historical Arthur (as opposed to a mythological figure) is found in Historia Brittonum (c.830), an anthology compiled by a Welsh monk named Nennius, who describes Arthur as a military commander ("dux bellorum") rather than a king. Nennius lists twelve battles fought by Arthur, culminating in the Battle of Mons Badonicus (the Battle of Mount Badon), where he is said to have single-handedly killed 960 men. However, it is worth noting that both Nennius' authorship of Historia as well as its usefulness as an historical document are disputed by many scholars.

The next reference to Arthur is found in the anonymous Annales Cambriae, a compilation of chronicles primarily from Wales written some time in the early 10th century. The Annales twice mention Arthur, and also mention Myrddin (Merlin) and Medraut (Mordred). According to the Annales, the Battle of Mons Badonicus occurred in the year 516, and at the battle "Arthur carried the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ on his shoulders for three days and three nights, and the Britons were victorious." This is usually interpreted to mean that Arthur's shield bore an image of Christ. The Annales also claims that both Arthur and Medraut died in 537, at the Battle of Camlann, and Merlin went insane in 573, at the Battle of Arfderydd. As with the Historia, however, the historical reliability of the Annales has been disputed by scholars.

A reference to a possible historical Arthur is found in the Legenda Sancti Goeznovii (1019), the only early text other than Historia and the Annales which describes Arthur in human, rather than mythological, terms. The Preface details how Vortigern usurps the British throne and invites the Saxons into the country. However, the Saxons begin to run amok, until they are driven out by the new king, Arthur. After Arthur's death then, the Saxons return and conquer Britain. The date of Legenda is seriously disputed, however, with some scholars placing it as late as the 13th century, long after the traditional Arthurian myth had begun to spread.

The Historia and the Annales (and possibly Legenda) contain the only early historical references to Arthur, but due to their unreliability, coupled with a lack of references to Arthur in historically dependable texts, many scholars have argued that Arthur has no authentic historical precedent, but is instead purely a fictional character built up over the centuries. Scholars such as, for example, Nowell Myers and David Dumville point out that Arthur is not mentioned in numerous texts which do mention the Battle of Mons Badonicus; for example, the 6th century polemic De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae by Gildas, which was written within living memory of the Battle; Bede's 8th century Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum; or the 9th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. All of these texts are considered historical reliable, and all deal with incidents during the supposed lifetime of Arthur, yet none of them mention him.

Nevertheless, although there is a dearth of references to an historical Arthur, there is no such problem with references to a mythological figure. An early reference to the folkloric Arthur is found in the Welsh prose story Culhwch ac Olwen (c. 1100), which includes a list of over 200 of Arthur's men, of whom Cei (Kay), Bedwyr (Bedivere) and Gwalchmei (Gawain) are his most trusted lieutenants. In the story, Arthur helps his kinsman Culhwch win the hand of Olwen by completing a series of impossible tasks, including the hunt for a semi-divine boar (this hunt is also mentioned in Historia).

Arthur also appears in several Latin texts of the period, although none of them are regarded as historically reliable. In the Life of Saint Gildas, written in the early 12th century by Caradoc of Llancarfan, Arthur is said to have killed Gildas' brother Hueil and rescued his future wife Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) from Glastonbury. In the Life of Saint Cadoc, (c.1100) by Lifris of Llancarfan, Arthur demands a herd of cattle from a man who killed three of his soldiers. Arthur is also mentioned in the Life of Saint Carannog, the Life of Saint Padarn (where he is presented as a maniacal tyrant who tries to steal Padarn's tunic) and the Life of Saint Eufflam, all written in the early 12th century. Arthur is also mentioned numerous times in the early Welsh Triads, a collection of short summaries of Welsh tradition and legend, which present Arthur as "Penteyrnedd yr Ynys hon" (Chief of the Lords of this Island).

A vital text in terms of the codification of the Arthurian legend is Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brittaniae (c.1138). The first narrative account of Arthur's exploits, it is here where Uther Pendragon is first depicted as Arthur's father, Merlin is first presented as a wizard and the sword Caliburnus (Excalibur) first appears. Becoming king at age 15, Arthur's most important knights are Kaius (Kay), Beduerus (Bedivere) and Gualguanus (Gawain). They fight a series of successful battles and expand the empire into Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. Arthur also conquers Gaul, a Roman territory at the time, leading to a conflict with the Romans. He defeats a Roman army in Gaul and prepares to march on Rome itself, however, word reaches him that back in Britain his nephew Modredus (Mordred) has married his wife Guenhuuara (Guinevere) against her wishes and seized the throne. Arthur returns to Britain and defeats Modredus in the Battle of Camlann, during which both himself and Modredus are killed (as is described in the Annales). Before his death, Arthur hands the crown to his kinsman Constantine, and is then taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed, promising he will return when Britain most needs him. How much of the story is invented, and how much based on pre-existing material is unknown. Geoffrey certainly consulted Nennius' Historia and the Annales, and most scholars believe he knew Culhwch ac Olwen, but beyond this, no known sources exist, and most scholars believe that Geoffrey simply created a fictional tale around the few scant historical references available to him.

Whatever the case regarding historical accuracy however, the enormous popularity of Geoffrey's Historia instigated an avalanche of Arthurian romances which expanded on the basic narrative, and ultimately gave birth to an entirely new national mythology. Throughout the late 12th and on into the 13th century, the cycle continued to expand across Europe, especially in France, as more and more characters became bound up in the legend and more and more historical events became mythologized. An important early addition to the narrative is that of the Round Table, which was first mentioned in Roman de Brut (1155) by Wace. However, the most significant writer in this period was Chrtien de Troyes, who wrote five Arthurian narratives; rec et nide (1170), Cligs (1176), Yvain, le Chevalier au Lion (1177), Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette (c.1181) and Perceval, le Conte du Graal (c.1190). rec and Cligs are tales of courtly love set in Arthur's time and Yvain is the tale of a supernatural adventure undertaken by Gawain. By far the most important as regards today's manifestation of the legend are Lancelot (which introduces the character of Lancelot, as well as the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, and first mentions Camelot) and Perceval (which introduces the character of Perceval, as well as the quest for the Holy Grail, which would be expanded on in Robert de Boron's Merlin, written in the early 13th century). Also important in this period is the introduction of another new character; Tristan, a figure from Celtic folklore, who was first included in the Arthurian myth in Prose Tristan by Luce de Gat (c.1233), an adaptation of the mythological Celtic story of the romance of Tristan and Iseult.

The next significant piece of literature is known as the Vulgate Cycle (also known as the Lancelot Grail Cycle and Prose Lancelot). The Vulgate was an early 13th century anonymous anthology composed of five separate tales which elaborated upon previously iterated parts of the legend; Estoire del Saint Grail (deals with Joseph of Arimathea bringing the Grail to Britain), Estoire de Merlin (deals with the early history of Merlin and Arthur), Lancelot propre (deals with the adventures of Lancelot, goes into detail about the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, and also introduces the Lady of the Lake), Queste del Saint Graal (deals with the Grail Quest and first introduces Galahad), and Mort Artu (deals with Arthur's death at the hands of Mordred, who is presented as his illegitimate son for the first time). The Vulgate was followed c.1240 by the Post-Vulgate Cycle, which is essentially a retelling of the same basic narratives found in the Vulgate, although in it, the Knights of the Round Table grow in importance and for the first time in the legend, the Lady of the Lake gives Excalibur to Arthur.

The most significant aspect of the Post-Vulgate Cycle today is that it was the primary source for Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (1485), a retelling of the entire legend in English. Le Morte galvanizes many of the aspects of the Legend best known today; the duping of Igraine by Uther Pendragon and Merlin, the removal of Excalibur from the stone (first described in Robert de Boron's 13th century Merlin), the purity of the Knights of the Round Table, the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, the Grail Quest, the death of Arthur at the hands of Mordred, the returning of Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake, Arthur's passage to Avalon and his promise to return when most needed. Almost all subsequent reiterations of the myth are closely based on Malory and as such, the Arthurian legend had been wholly established and had entered the zeitgeist.

After Malory, with the waning of the Middle Ages and the birth of the Renaissance, the popularity of the legend began to decline. With many scholars questioning the historical underpinnings, and when the myth was retold, it tended to be in a symbolic fashion, or as comedy. The only significant work to deal with Arthur seriously in this period, although it brings nothing new to the legend, is Edmund Spencer's epic poem The Faery Queen (1590-1596).

It was not until the 19th century birth of Romanticism, and the attendant interest in the Middle Ages in general and chivalry in specific, that the legend would once again become popular. In 1819, Le Morte d'Arthur was republished for the first time since 1634, leading to a resurgence of the legend in poetry; in 1832 Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote the Arthurian based poem 'The Lady of Shalott', and in 1835 William Wordsworth wrote 'The Egyptian Maid', an allegory of the Grail Quest. Tennyson continued to write poetry based on the Arthurian mythology, culminating in Idylls of the King (1856-1885), twelve narrative poems which recast the entire mythology as laid out in Malory based on Victorian sensibilities. Idylls was hugely popular and spawned hundreds of imitations as well as bringing about a resurgence of interest in the original myths. From that point forth, the Arthurian legend has always been a popular subject for art and literature, and in the early twenty first century, it is, if anything, more popular than ever.

As can be seen from the details above, the basic plot differs a great deal. Many of the best known aspects of the myth are absent from the film, with perhaps the most significant being Merlin's status as a wizard, the Grail Quest, the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere and the absence of Camelot, Avalon and Mordred. However, the film specifically chose to recast the legend as history; its purported aim was to deal with the possible reality behind the legend, not with the legend itself. According to the production notes,


few know that Arthur really existed, that he lived more than 500 years before the first romantic tales of his adventures were written down, and that the reality is a far cry from the chivalrous tales of the Round Table. King Arthur sets out to put the record straight, by taking us back to the 5th century, to the Dark Ages. There, stripped of the elaborate magic and romance of the medieval stories, a new but authentic image of Arthur and his men is presented (production notes no longer available online).
This is the historical basis which underpins the film, and it is this historical imperative which necessitates that the film be so different from the legend. There is no place for magic or the supernatural, no Camelot or Avalon. This tale aims at a realist presentation of actual people and actual events, not a romanticised mythological reiteration of an already established legend. As such, differences between the film and the legend are widespread.

One of the biggest such differences concerns the character of Arthur himself. The historical basis of the film obviously means that much of Arthur's biographical detail is different. For example, in the film, Arthur's (Clive Owen) father is a Roman soldier and his mother a Celtic woman, whereas in the legend, his father is Uther Pendragon and his mother is Igraine. In the legend, he is raised by a country lord and serves as a page until pulling the sword from the stone at age fifteen, whereas in the film he has been in the Roman army since early youth. These differences exist because the Arthur of the film needs to be presented as a real character existing in the real world. He is referred to by Bishop Germanus (Ivano Marescotti) as "Artorius Castus," and it is specified that he was given the name Artorius as the ancestral name of a legendary leader, presumably Lucius Artorius Castus, who has been identified as a possible historical Arthur. Furthermore, his actions in the film, unlike those in the legend, are loosely based upon Ambrosius Aurelianus, who is mentioned in a number of the early texts which also mention Arthur, including the Historia Brittonum and De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. Aurelianus was a Romano-Briton who fought the Saxons in various battles over the course of the 5th century, and who probably commanded the British forces at the Battle of Mons Badonicus (in relation to this, it is worth noting that on his commentary track, director Antoine Fuqua inaccurately claims that Artorius Castus commanded the British forces at Mons Badonicus. He is several centuries off the mark; Castus operated in Britain no later than the mid 3rd century, the battle took place in the late 5th century).

Aside from the differences in his biography, there is also a great deal of difference in Arthur's personality and his attitude. In the legend, he is presented, from time to time, in a somewhat negative light. In the early stages, when he is still a page to Ectorius and Kay, he is depicted as a simple boy; kind, humble and pious. Once in power, however, his morals wan, and although the people hold him up as a symbol of the perfect leader, and although the knights revere him, his private conduct is often questionable. For example, he is shown as having no qualms in sentencing hundreds of innocent children to death in an effort to cover up his own transgression. It is his impetuous response to Rome which initiates a war in which hundred of thousands are killed. He is also presented as given to burying his head in the sand, and his reaction upon discovering the affair between Guinevere and Lancelot is to try to ignore it. When this is no longer possible, he decides to burn Guinevere at the stake, and he then proves weak willed enough to allow Gawain to talk him into an unnecessary war. He then foolishly leaves Mordred in charge of the country despite the vehement protests of his advisors. In the film, however, we see a very different Arthur; morally incorruptible, entirely honourable, deeply pious, wholly righteous, a philosopher, a preacher of freedom and individual rights who abhors violence, an all-round bastion of virtue and chivalry, very different from the morally dubious Arthur of legend.

The depiction of the knights also differs from the legend. On the most basic of levels, the knights in the film are Sarmatians fighting for the glory of Rome and hoping to one day return home. In the legend, the knights are Britons, fighting for the freedom and honour of Britain against whatever evils may assail her. Several of the knights are also noticeable by their absence, especially Kay and Bedivere, who both appear as early as Culhwch ac Olwen (c.1100), long before the appearance of Lancelot, Galahad, Gawain et al. Kay (Arthur's half-brother), is the first of the knights to be granted a seat at the Round Table (followed by his father Ectorius), and it is Bedivere whom Arthur entrusts with the vital task of returning Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake after the Battle of Camlann. Although Kay's importance would diminish in later manifestations of the legend, where he becomes something of a comic character, Bedivere would remain one of Arthur's most important knights in every reiteration of the legend. When the film was released, it was commented upon by several Arthurian scholars that it seemed strange such a key figure should be left out, especially when such lesser known and less important knights as Dagonet and Bors were included.

The Knights who do appear in the film are also somewhat different from their counterparts in the legend, although to a lesser degree than is the case with Arthur himself. For example, in the film, Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) is an atheist, and although he is Arthur's closest friend he cannot understand Arthur's faith. In the legend, however, Lancelot is extremely pious, and is seen as the most honourable and chivalrous of the Knights. This is significant because in the film, Lancelot tells Guinevere (Keira Knightley) he would have left her to die in the dungeon, something inconceivable to the Lancelot of the legend.

Galahad is also altered from his legend persona. In the film, Galahad (Hugh Dancy) is only a few years younger than Lancelot, but in the legend, Galahad is Lancelot's illegitimate child (wounds received by King Pelles (the Fisher King) had caused his kingdom to turn into a barren wasteland, but upon hearing of a prophecy which states that an illegitimate knight will achieve the Holy Grail and heal the land, Pelles tricks Lancelot into believing that his daughter, Elaine of Corbenic, is actually Guinevere, and the two have sex, resulting in the birth of Galahad). In the legend, Galahad becomes one of the strongest knights mentally, a leader who initiates the Grail Quest, and it is he who is deemed pure enough for his soul to travel to heaven upon achieving the Grail. In the film however, Galahad is presented as merely the youngest and most nave of the knights, possessing little knowledge of the world around him, and very much presented as a follower rather than a leader.

Bors (Ray Winstone) is presented in the film as a somewhat clichd loudmouth, boorish and brash, who revels in the violence of combat and is full of lust. In the legend however, Bors is celebrated for his piety and celibacy (he refuses to sleep with a woman even when she threatens to kill herself if he does not), and ultimately, he is one of only three knights pure of heart enough to achieve the Holy Grail (the others being Galahad and Perceval). He is also devoted to Lancelot, something not seen in the film.

In the film, Dagonet (Ray Stevenson) is a self-sacrificing giant, gentle when he needs to be, a man of few words but great strength, wholly honourable and dedicated to his fellow knights. In the legend however, Dagonet is basically the court jester of the Round Table, a buffoon and a coward who regales the other knights with false stories of his bravery and prowess in battle. Additionally, he is several times shown as not being above lying and cheating if he thinks it can benefit him.

The character of Guinevere is also very different. In the legend, she is very much a traditional female in a courtly romance; she remains a fairly transparent character, without any real character development of her own, instead serving on numerous occasions as the damsel in distress (she is rescued by Lancelot at least three times throughout the legend, and by Arthur at least twice). She is also portrayed as half of the reason for the fall of Camelot (her affair with Lancelot). In the film, however, Guinevere is Merlin's daughter, a skilled warrior, dedicated to her land and people, tough, determined and strong.

Obviously, the character of Merlin is also very different. In the legend as it exists after Geoffrey of Monmouth, he is a wizard, capable of great magic and possessed of the ability to see the future (for example, he casts a spell over Uther Pendragon which makes Pendragon appear to Igraine as if he is her husband Gorlois, thus allowing Pendragon to have sex with Igraine, which results in the birth of Arthur, as Merlin had foreseen). In the film, however, Merlin (Stephen Dillane) is a Pict, a seer and a military commander. There is nothing supernatural about him.

Finally, the sword Excalibur is presented as void of any magical powers in the film, whereas in every manifestation of the legend, Excalibur is, to one degree or another, a magical sword.

Despite all of these differences however, some critics felt the film was unable to detach itself from the shadow of the legend. For example, in her Seattle Times article, "We're not in Camelot anymore", Moira Mcdonald criticised the film for failing to provide enough background material to fully disentangle itself from the myth;

"Fuqua's film purports to give a more historically accurate take on the popular Arthurian legend; that's all very well, but we already know these names in another context. And within the new film's occasionally sloppy storytelling, we start filling in the blanks, using our knowledge of the previous stories - and the result is confusion. Lancelot is introduced as if he's a major character, but he actually has little to do. If he were named, say, Fred, this wouldn't be a problem; but as it is, we keep waiting for plot points that never develop. And drop-in characters like Merlin are simply mystifying - if we didn't already know he was a wizard, we might conclude that he was just a wacko" (quoted here).

The answer to this question is simple; according to Antoine Fuqua,


It's much more reality-based as opposed to the fantasy. It excited me because it's King Arthur as you've never seen him before. What appealed to me was that it was based on a sense of a reality. There was historical research done and there were some facts we found that we didn't know before. It's thrilling to discover that there is this hero that you grew up with who actually really existed.
In a more ideological sense, Fuqua has also stated "I wanted the movie to be about King Arthur and not about a magical sword, because I think, in these times, we need real heroes" (quoted here). This comment identifies a political motif in the film which suggests perhaps a motive for many of the changes to the legend, other than simply presenting a new spin on an old myth.

This political strand was commented on by many critics upon the release of the movie. For example, in his UK Times article, "He was a Dark and Stormy Knight", Stewart Lee wrote,

Like all good mythical heroes, King Arthur is all things to all men. For the poets of the Middle Ages, his legend provided the perfect empty vessel into which to pour the ideals of "courtly love". For Henry II, who attempted to legitimise his own rule via Arthurian precedents established in Geoffrey of Monmouth's semi-spurious Historia Regum Britanniae, Arthur was a political propaganda tool. For the monks of Glastonbury Abbey, who fabricated Arthur's tomb sometime in the late 12th century with an eye on box-office receipts of their own, Arthur was a money-spinning tourist attraction. [...] For the screenwriter David Franzoni, Arthur is a metaphor for American Vietnam GIs [...] The film's depiction of Rome's waning imperial influence, of its exploitative client-state relationship with Britain, of its maltreatment of its prisoners and its vulnerability to bands of Pictish insurgents, seems to parallel imperialist America's current situation (quoted here).
Screenwriter David Franzoni has confirmed this interpretation, stating

I understand Rome's posturing when it became the ultimate military state. It comes from fear. And America is perhaps going through a lot of that right now, so it's not unfair to read into it that it could be about Iraq. But I began writing the movie before we went into Iraq. The GI connection is what is important for me. Like the Sarmatian knights, if you're a GI you're surrounded by people who hate you; you hate what you're doing, but you have to do it; and you're living for the day you get out. I see Arthur as being like someone drafted to Vietnam, who goes there full of ideas and gung ho, then gets it all shot away and comes down to himself. And that used to be an American hero, but we've become so cowboyed and numbed, we've lost track of who we once were" (quoted here).
However, not all critics felt that changing the legend in favour of a political imperative was a good thing. For example, in his Guardian article, "Death of a Legend", Jonathan Jones wrote,

Arthur, in the version that has been best known for centuries with its romantic picture of Camelot, its honourable knights who fight tournaments and go in search of adventure, and the tragic death of Arthur in his last battle with his incestuous son, Mordred, is a sad, subtle, poetic legend, full of emotional nuance. The filmmakers' assumption seems to be that modern audiences need something harsher, simpler, more political - Arthur and the Britons fight for "freedom". But in evacuating myth from the world we rob ourselves of an imaginative, and even a moral, resource. By turning Arthur into a statebuilding soldier defending "freedom", his story is made glibly compatible with the way things are done now, the lies that make wars rational. [...] The stories of King Arthur are about war, and so is Homer's Iliad. But when these stories are told properly, in the grandeur and passion of myth, they are far more wise about the futility of war than any supposedly "realistic" retelling (quoted here).
Similarly, in his Village Voice article, "Hack hawk down: Bruckheimer blitzkrieg stifles Arthurian epic's revisionist ambitions" Michael Atkinson wrote "However anthropologically accurate King Arthur may or may not be, it turns out to be as much of a swoony valentine to a social ideal that never existed as any other Arthurian text" (quoted here).

It is an unnamed battle which took place during the Marcomannic Wars between Rome and various Germanic tribes, one of which was Sarmatia (situated roughly in the region of present day Georgia). The battle took place in the area of present day Vienna in 175, with the victorious Romans led by Emperor Marcus Aurelius.

According to the controversial opening legend of the film, "Recently discovered archaeological evidence sheds light on [Arthur's] true identity."

This refers to the Artognou stone, often mislabelled the Arthur stone, which was discovered in 1998 at Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. According to historical advisor John Matthews,


The archaeological discoveries they are referring to are connected to the Sarmatians. The Sarmatians were posted to Britain, as part of the Roman Legion, five and a half thousand of them. They basically formed a kind of unique cultural enclave up in a place called Ribchester, in present-day Lancashire, and that base has been excavated over the years, and recently more wholly than before. What's come out of that is the fact that they not only stayed there for several hundred years, but that they kept a sense of their cultural identity, of their religious beliefs, and that's one of the reasons that this is the film it is, and the story it is, because it's some of their ideas and beliefs that influenced the Arthurian legend, so we believe" (quoted here).
The Artognou stone was discovered in securely dated 6th century contexts within the ruins of the castle, where it had been used as part of a drain, although this was unlikely to have been its original use. At the top right-hand corner of the stone is an incised letter A and another incomplete character on either side of a large diagonal cross; it is theorised that the image may be that of a Christogram (the Greek alphabet letters Alpha and Omega flanking a large Greek letter Chi). Below this is an inscription in Latin; "PATER COLIAVIFICIT ARTOGNOV COL FICIT", meaning "Artognou descendant of Patern Colus made (this). Colus made (this)" (see CISP (Celtic Inscribed Stones Project) for translation information). This inscription seems to have been repeated lower down on the stone as well, although only a few of the letters are visible.

Initially, the stone created a stir in the media because it was thought that "Artognou" could refer to Arthur, which would mean that there was solid evidence of his existence prior to the 6th century (the idea being that the name on the stone would indicate a commemoration of an earlier historical figure). The reason for this was that "Artognou" (which means "known as a bear") was thought cognate with the Old Breton name Arthnou, a possible variant of "Arthur". Also important was the tradition (albeit without any historical proof) that Arthur had been born at Tintagel.

Ultimately however, the stone proved to be of little use as historical evidence, and the vast majority of scholars have dismissed any possible connection to the Arthurian legend. The archaeological team itself concluded that "although Tintagel is often associated with the mysterious and mythical past, we must dismiss any idea that the name on this stone is in any way to be associated with the legendary and literary figure Arthur". Similarly, archaeologists Rachel Harry and Kevin Brady have stated "The name on the stone is in no way directly associated with King Arthur" (quoted here). According to Professor Chris Morris, lead archaeologist of the dig, "The first element of the name, "Art", is used in several other Celtic names such as "Arthmail" and "Arthien" and so cannot be directly associated with the name "Arthur", much less the legendary king of that name" (quoted here). Also, Geoffrey Wainwright, Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage, wrote, "despite the obvious temptation to link the Arthnou of this stone to either the historical or the legendary figure of Arthur, it must be stressed that there is no evidence to make this connection" (quoted here).

Obviously, this serves to undermine the claim at the head of the film, and in relation to this, it is worth noting that even some of the filmmakers were unhappy with the opening legend. For example, John Matthews himself wrote: "I wanted them to put something else. 'Recently documented evidence', anything would have been better. [...] At the press showing, quite a few people laughed at that and I couldn't blame them." Similarly, David Franzoni said "I wish they'd either said nothing or been specific" (both quotes found here).

Because not everyone feels that historical inaccuracies are goofs per se, and as such, have no place in the goofs section, the FAQ page seems to provide a good neutral place where such inaccuracies can be recorded, as well as reasons hypothesized as to how or why these inaccuracies may have occurred.

Before looking at historical inaccuracies in King Arthur, it is worth noting that the basic premise of the film is that Arthur and his knights were originally Sarmatians. This theory is known as the "Sarmatian hypothesis", and was formulated by C. Scott Littleton and Ann C. Thomas in 1978 ("The Sarmatian Connection: New Light on the Origin of the Arthurian and Holy Grail Legends", Journal of American Folklore 91:3 (Fall, 1978), 512-27). In 1994, Littleton and Linda A. Malcor identified a Roman military commander, Lucius Artorius Castus, as the historical Arthur (for more information, see their book From Scythia to Camelot: A Radical Reassessment of the Legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and the Holy Grail). Malcor went on to work as one of two primary historical advisers on the film, the other being John Matthews, himself a proponent of the Sarmatian hypothesis and a believer in an historical Arthur from the 5th century. However, having said that, the Arthur of the film is based not on Castus but on Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-Briton who operated during the 3rd century.

With this in mind then, the opening legend of the film claims that "Historians agree that the classical 15th century tale of King Arthur and his knights rose from a real hero who lived a thousand years earlier in a period often called the Dark Ages." Unfortunately, this isn't even remotely close to the truth, and upon the release of the film, this false claim seriously angered many historians. There is no such agreement, and the Sarmatian hypothesis remains a fringe theory in Arthurian studies, as does the notion that Arthur was a real historical figure. In both cases, critics point out that there is no solid evidence whatsoever to back up the claims, which are instead based on speculation, conjecture and circumstantial evidence. In this sense then, even the opening text of the film makes two sizable errors; claiming the Artognou stone provides evidence of Arthur's historical existence (which it doesn't), and claiming that historians are in agreement that there was an historical Arthur (which they aren't). Not a great start for a film which champions itself as historically accurate.

Moving on to look at some of the subsequent inaccuracies in the film then,

- The majority of the events in the film take place in 467 (the film begins in 452 and then jumps forward fifteen years), but included in the narrative is one of Germanus' visits to Britain (which occurred in 429 and 447), Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård) and Cynric's (Til Schweiger) arrival in Britain (495), the Battle of Mons Badonicus (c.517), and Cerdic and Cynic's deaths (534 and 556 respectively). None of these events occurred in 467. This kind of historical telescoping is very common in period narratives (Shakespeare was notorious for it). Obviously the historical advisors would be familiar with these dates (one would hope), and to change them as the film does isn't so much an error or an inaccuracy as it is a choice made for narrative expediency. The vast majority of historical narratives do likewise, simply so as to compress real time into filmic time.

- The Roman legions are shown withdrawing from Britain in 467, but in reality, they had completely withdrawn by 410. This is a difficult one to explain. One assumes that the historical advisors would have been aware of the 410 date, as it is not in dispute. For the purposes of the narrative, the film could have been set in 410 without any major alterations. However, to do so would move the events in the film even further away from the historical dates involving Germanus, Cerdic and Cynric. In this sense then, the change from 410 to 467 may be another example of historical telescoping; an attempt to find a happy medium between events as far apart as 410 and 556.

- All of the main characters in the film have their 12th century names (which we still use today), rather than their Latin or, more correctly, Celtic equivalents; for example, "Guinevere" should be called "Gwynhwyfer", "Merlin" should be called "Myrddin", "Gawain" should be called "Gwalchmei" etc. Obviously, this was a conscious choice on the part of the filmmakers to ensure audience identification. The names of Merlin, Guinevere, Gawain, etc are known by the vast majority of people in their modern form only, not their original Celtic forms. As such, although it does create an anachronism, it is no less of an 'error' than the fact that the characters are speaking modern English. In this sense then, the filmmakers simply decided to adopt the names with which people are most familiar.

- Arthur's notions of freedom are anachronistic. He thinks about freedom in a very modern sense, but the concepts underpinning his ideas would not become common until the Age of Enlightenment, many centuries later. He believes in free will in the sense of 'freedom to act'; he tells Alecto (Lorenzo De Angelis) that "all men are free, equal. And each of us has the right to choose his own destiny," a concept of freedom totally alien in the 5th century. His belief system seems to suggest that he is a Compatibilist; he believes in God, and hence a deterministic universe, but he also believes in the ability of man to exert free will within the confines of that determinism. Compatibilists believe that there is no inherent paradox in the belief that mankind can maintain free will within an order predetermined by an omniscient being. However, such views did not become common until espoused by the likes of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), and would have been completely nonsensical in the 5th century. As with the issue of names, the sense of freedom espoused by Arthur could simply have been chosen so as to connect to a modern audience. The film needs to be understood and assimilated by a contemporary 21st century audience, which has a very different impression of what does and does not constitute freedom than a 5th century audience. If Arthur speaks about freedom, but then gives a 5th century theory of what freedom is, an audience would see something it didn't recognise as freedom, but would be told that that is exactly what it is. So again, the filmmakers probably chose to go with the anachronism for the sake of understanding the context. Having said that however, it could simply have come about due to lack of adequate historical research, a theory which is somewhat supported by the next inaccuracy.

- The beliefs and biography of Pelagius are represented incorrectly. Arthur tells Germanus that Pelagius' "teachings on free will and equality have been a great influence" and tells Alecto that Pelagius teaches a doctrine in which "all men are free, equal. And each of us has the right to choose his own destiny." In the Director's Cut of the film, Pelagius actually appears in an early scene (played by Owen Teale) where he is asked by young Arthur (Shane Murray-Corcoran) where does free will fit into his life if it has already been determined that he is to be a military commander, like his father before him. Pelagius answers "it has always fallen to a few to sacrifice for the good of many. The world isn't perfect, but perhaps people like me, and you, and them can make it so." Later in the film, Alecto tells Arthur that Pelagius is dead, having been killed after being declared a heretic by "Germanus and the others". Whilst the film is accurate in the sense that Pelagius did oppose the established church teachings on the issue of free will, it misrepresents the nature of his beliefs. The film presents his concepts of free will as akin to contemporary notions of political freedom and freedom to act (see the inaccuracy above regarding Arthur's concept of free will). This places Pelagius (and Arthur) in the role of a civil libertine, a pseudo-campaigner for social justice. In reality however, topics such as freedom to act and political freedom were of no interest to Pelagius. Rather, he denied the notion of Original Sin and argued instead that Man was free to choose between good and evil without divine intervention or influence. He also believed that living life according to the natural laws of honour and goodness would be enough to assure the soul a place in Heaven. This is quite different from the societal concept of freedom seen in the film. Additionally, Pelagius was not executed for heresy in 466 (Alecto says he was killed a year ago); he was declared a heretic by the Council of Carthage in 418, and left Rome. Unconfirmed reports state that he died of natural causes in Palestine in 420, but after 418, there is no solid record of him, and no one knows where he went or what he did. Whilst there is the chance that Pelagius' theories were 'modernised' to facilitate audience understanding (as with Arthur's beliefs), the basic error in the interpretation of Pelagius' doctrine may simply have arisen due to careless research on the part of David Franzoni. The factual errors in his biography were probably purposefully chosen. Pelagius serves a dual role in the film; to provide a basis for Arthur's benevolent beliefs and to illustrate, by his execution, the evils of Rome, the church and Germanus. He thus functions as a narrative device, with his biography changed to facilitate this role.

- Saint Germanus is portrayed in the film as a cruel and pompous aristocrat, a dishonourable liar, and certainly not someone likely to be canonised. This is the exact opposite of most depictions and records of him. For example, according to Alban Butler's The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (1759), Germanus "extended his hospitality to all sorts of persons, washed the feet of the poor and served them with his own hands, while he himself fasted." Again, this 'mistake' probably came about for the purposes of narrative expediency. As with Pelagius, Germanus serves a narrative function within the film; he is a bureaucratic pseudo-villain, a foil to Arthur's benevolence and morality, and a representative of the dishonour which the film presents as existing at the heart of the Church. Germanus was one of the few Catholic bishops to visit Britain in the time, and, for this reason alone, he was most likely chosen in the role of Christian villain, irrespective of his real life activities.

- The politics of Rome are depicted throughout the movie as if the leader of Rome is the Pope (who in 467 would have been Hilarius). For example, the Pope is said to have the power to grant lands in any of the Empire's territories (Marius (Ken Stott) tells Arthur, "Everything we have is here, in the land given to us by the Pope of Rome"). Similarly, a bishop, rather than a military officer, is sent to deliver the knights' discharges, and the decision to send them north of Hadrian's Wall is taken by the Pope rather than the Emperor (Germanus tells Arthur that "Rome has issued a final order for you and your men", and when Arthur is reluctant to follow the order, Germanus asks him "Will you defy the Pope?"). In reality, the Empire was controlled by the Emperor (who in 467 would have been Romulus Augustulus), with each regional territory was controlled by a magister militum. The Pope would not gain the power to grant lands and make such important decisions until many centuries later. Unlike some of the inaccuracies above, there would be no problem here with presenting the situation just as it existed at the time; whereas an audience may not accept 5th century concepts of freedom as their own concepts of freedom, no audience would have trouble accepting an Empire controlled by an Emperor rather than an Empire controlled by a Pope. As such, there are two possibilities here; either the filmmakers consciously chose to anachronistically increase the power of the Pope, possibly so as to play into the notion of Arthur's faith and the sense of dishonour inherent in the church, or it is very poor historical research on the part of David Franzoni.

- The knights ride horses with stirrups, however, stirrups were not used in Europe at the time. Stirrups were invented in China in the late 5th century and not seen in western Europe until the 7th century, long after the events of the film. Interestingly enough, in relation to this point, the production notes falsely claim that during the 5th century, Romans "learned the use of the stirrup, which gives stability to the mounted warrior, enabling him to stand in the stirrup to thrust with sword and spear against barbarian infantry" (production notes no longer available online). This is inaccurate. The Romans did have solid saddles (which led to the subsequent invention of stirrups), but they did not have stirrups. It is difficult to attribute this error to anything other than poor historical research on the part of the art department and/or the historical advisors.

- The hilts on Lancelot's swords are affixed with modern day torx screws. This error cannot be attributed to anything other than carelessness on the part of the art department.

- Lancelot fights with two hands, using a gladius sword in each hand. Whilst this may look good, there is no evidence whatsoever of anyone of the time period, in any culture, using two hands to fight. This is obviously attributable to aesthetics; Lancelot looks good fighting with two swords, so it doesn't matter if it's historically inaccurate or not.

- Tristan's (Mads Mikkelsen) hawk is a Harris' Hawk, which is native to South America, Chile and Argentina. These countries would not even be discovered by Europeans for over 1000 years. Again, this error seems due to simple carelessness on the part of the filmmakers.

- There was never a group of people called the Woads. However, this in and of itself is not an inaccuracy as such, because, as the production notes explain


the name Pict or pictus actually means 'the Painted People' probably deriving from their habit of tattooing themselves with tribal markings, using a blue dye produced from the woad plant to give them their fearsome appearance. This gives us the name for the Picts in the movie, where they are called 'woads' by the Romans - a typical way of referring to your enemies with an insulting term (production notes no longer available online).
Similarly, historical advisor John Matthews explains

the Picts are probably the oldest native inhabitants of Britain, yet almost nothing is known about them. Wild tribes people living north of Hadrian's Wall, they carried on a guerrilla war against the Romans. Their name means 'the Painted Ones' - probably given to them from their habit of tattooing themselves with intricate markings, believed to be tribal or religious. The Woads, as they are called in the movie - the name is taken from the blue dye which they use to paint their bodies. Calling the Picts 'Woads' was a device meant to echo similar belittling titles given to enemies wherever they are encountered (quoted here).
According to Antoine Fuqua, the decision to call the Picts Woads was taken by Disney executives, as they didn't like the name Pict and told David Franzoni to come up with something snappier. As such, the fact is that although there were no such people as the Woads, they are supposed to understood as Picts. However, herein lies the error. In Commentarii de Bello Gallico (c.40-50 B.C.), Julius Caesar wrote of the Picts "Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem", which translates as "All the British colour themselves with glass, which produces a blue colour." This has traditionally been interpreted as meaning that the Picts used the woad plant (binomial name: Isatis tinctoria) to colour themselves prior to battle, as the woad produces a blue dye. However, most modern scholarship believes this interpretation of Ceasar is inaccurate, and instead, it is thought that they most likely painted themselves with some form of copper ink (see here for a discussion of the woad plant as used by the Picts). Creating a group of people who never existed (ie the Woads) is, in and of itself, not an error, but a conscious choice on the part of the filmmakers. However, the name itself is based on a very traditional, and now somewhat outdated, interpretation of a vague comment in an ancient text, and most major scholars of the period dismiss it. As such, this error again seems due to inadequate research on the part of David Franzoni and/or poor advice on the part of John Matthews. Effectively, the Picts of the film are called after a plant that they probably didn't use to colour themselves!

- The Picts [Woads] are shown operating very close to Hadrian's Wall, when in fact they never came that far south. Generally speaking, the furthest south they came was Antonine Wall in the Central Belt of Scotland. Whilst this error could be attributed to the demands of the plot (the final battle being fought at Hadrian's Wall necessitates the Woads being there, which creates an historical error by necessity), it could just as easily be attributed to inadequate historical research on the part of the filmmakers, and as with the issue of the Saxons invading from the wrong end of the country (see below), the plot could easily have been restructured to facilitate historical accuracy.

- The knights often speak about wanting to return home to Sarmatia. However, by the time of the film, Sarmatia had ceased to exist as a nation. By 467, Sarmatia had been conquered by the Huns and her people rendered subservient. One group of dispossessed Sarmatians, the Alans, invaded Spain with the Visigoths. Many others followed the Huns into Europe and settled in modern Hungary. Some joined the Roman army. Others remained where they were and were absorbed into the Hun population. Again, this inaccuracy can probably be excused as a narrative device. The knights are Sarmatians, and their overriding goal is to return home, even though, historically speaking, that home no longer exists. The use of Sarmatia as an image of home serves to elicit audience sympathy and to give the characters a very definite and definable goal, so again, one assumes the filmmakers chose to ignore the historical inaccuracy for the purposes of narrative expediency.

- The final mission for the knights involves them travelling north of Hadrian's Wall to rescue the family of the Pope's godchild, Alecto. However, as the film correctly establishes, there were no Romans north of the wall, thus creating both a sizeable historical error and a major plot hole (or continuity error, depending on your perspective). Germanus tells Arthur that the mission comes directly from the Pope, and later, Marius tells Arthur that the Pope granted his family the land on which his villa is built. However, if the family is so important to the Pope, why would he give them land beyond the furthest reaches of the Empire's most remote territory, devoid of any protection and surrounded by hostile natives? Due to the plot hole it creates within the film itself, this error can only be attributed to very careless writing on the part of David Franzoni.

- When threatening Germanus before going on the final mission, Arthur says that no "papal army" will be able to stop him if Germanus betrays him. He's correct, but probably not the way the filmmakers intended. A papal army wouldn't have been able to stop him because papal armies didn't exist in the 5th century; the first papal army was raised by Pope Gregory VI in 1046 in anticipation of the arrival in Rome of Holy Roman Emperor, Henry III. Henry had been summoned to Rome by members of the clergy to mediate a bitter dispute between Gregory, former pope Benedict IX and Sylvester III, who claimed to be the real pope and who had brought about the abdication of Benedict. The army was never called into action, as the dispute was settled by Henry, with Gregory stepping down and being replaced by Clement II. This anachronism is difficult to attribute to anything other than careless writing/research on the part of David Franzoni.

- The Saxons are seen invading from the north, meaning they landed somewhere on the eastern coast of modern day Scotland and then travelled south to modern day England. In reality, however, the Saxons invaded from the south; they arrived first in Kent on the south-eastern coast. To have landed in the north and travelled south by foot would make little sense, as they would have to traverse a series of fortifications (such as Antonine Wall and Hadrian's Wall) after marching for days on end. By landing in the south, they were not only nearer the centres of power, they could avoid any obstacles. Whilst it could be argued that the invasion from the north was necessary for the plot, so as to create tension as to whether or not Arthur could complete his mission before the arrival of the Saxons, it seems more likely that this error arose due to careless historical research; the plot could easily have been written to accommodate the historical fact that the Saxons came initially into Britain from the south.

- During their passage through Britain, Cerdic stops a warrior from raping a woman because he claims it would dilute their pure Saxon blood. However, Cerdic is a Celtic name, not a Germanic name, probably derivative from the name Ceretic, suggesting that miscegenation has already taken place between the two races. There are two primary theories as to this naming anomaly; firstly, his father was Saxon, his mother British, and he was simply given a name of his mother's people; secondly, Cerdic himself was a Briton, meaning that the record of his invasion of Britain contained in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle must be false. Whatever the case about Cerdic himself however, both historic and genetic evidence suggests that the Saxons mixed extensively with the Britons almost as soon as they first arrived. This error is difficult to attribute to anything other than poor research on the part of the filmmakers. Whilst the scene itself obviously functions to characterise Cerdic as proud of his heritage, but also cruel and callous, the filmmakers seem to have chosen the wrong way to illustrate this. Having a character whose very name provides evidence of interracial breeding preach about the evils of interracial breeding makes little sense. Either the filmmakers were unaware of the origins of his name, or they simply ignored it.

- During the Battle of Mons Badonicus at the end of the film, Guinevere's barely-there warrior costume is very anachronistic; clothes such as she wears during the battle simply didn't exist at the time. One would assume that the costume department were aware of this, and the costume was chosen for, ahem, aesthetic reasons.

- The traitor (Alan Devine) hides outside Hadrian's Wall in a Horse Chestnut tree. Horse Chestnut trees were not introduced into Britain until the mid 16th century. This error can be due to nothing but lack of research and inattention to detail.

- The weaponry used throughout the film has provoked much dialogue as to its authenticity, or lack thereof, and numerous historical inaccuracies have been cited regarding virtually every weapon seen in the film. The next few points represent a small sample of the discussion.

1) The Woads are seen using counterweight trebuchets to hurl flaming missiles at the Saxons. The counterweight trebuchet was an advancement of the traction trebuchet, which was invented in China in the early 5th century and spread to Byzantium in the late 6th century. The counterweight trebuchet seems to have been invented in Byzantium in the mid 12th century; there is no record of its usage prior to 1165, and there is no evidence of its use in Britain prior to the Siege of Dover in 1216, some 700 hundred years after the time of the movie. This error can be attributed to nothing other than very poor research; the aesthetics of the film (trebuchets look pretty cool) apparently overriding any sense of historical authenticity.

2) When the knights are travelling through the forest on their way north, the Woads block them in using modified strips of a barbed wire type material. However, the extrusion technology necessary to produce barbed wire (and any derivatives thereof) was not invented until 1865, in the American west, and patented by Joseph Glidden in 1873. As with the trebuchets, this error again seems attributable only to very poor factual research; using a weapon that would not be invented for over 1400 years.

3) The Saxons are shown using crossbows whereas there is no physical evidence whatsoever that crossbows were a part of their arsenal. Although the ancient Greeks used rudimentary crossbows (called gastraphetes), as did the Romans (called manuballistae; a portable version of the siege weapons cheiroballistrae), and, possibly, the Picts themselves (crossbow-like weapons are depicted on several carved stones of the era), there is no evidence that they were used by the Saxons, and certainly not as commonly as shown in the film. Crossbows only became a major feature of warfare in Europe in the 11th century, and even then, only relatively advanced armies used them. The argument could be made that because the Romans (and possibly the Picts) had crossbows, the Saxons could have acquired them and duplicated the technology. Whilst this is a possibility, the film depicts virtually every Saxon warrior armed with a crossbow. If crossbows were that commonly used by Saxon armies, evidence would have been found of it. On the contrary however, there has never been a single Saxon crossbow recovered. Once again, this issue seems simply due to lack of historical research, or a blas attitude about historical factualities, with the filmmakers going for what looks good rather than what actually was.

4) The swords used by the Roman soldiers in the film are inaccurate for the time period. During the 5th century, all Roman soldiers were armed with spathae. The swords in the film are of a medieval design, which were never used by Roman forces. Again, the answer here is either poor research or a lack of concern about fact.

5) Tristan uses a Chinese sword called a dao. According to the director's commentary, Tristan thinks of himself as something of a Samurai warrior, wanting only a good death in battle, which would explain why he uses such a weapon. However, it is highly unlikely that a Roman soldier from Sarmatia, who is stationed in Britain would ever have come across or somehow gotten access to a dao. This choice was most likely due to character identification; the character is supposed to be a pseudo-samurai, so he needs to be armed with something with which the audience would associate with a traditional samurai; hence the dao. We shall, of course, ignore Fuqua's error in claiming that a Chinese sword is an appropriate weapon for a Japanese archetype!

According to the production notes, it says "Defender of the Land" in Ogham.

Lancelot narrates the film from start to finish. However, towards the end of the movie, he is killed, prompting the question of how could he be narrating.

Antoine Fuqua addresses this issue on his Director's Commentary, where he explains that originally, there was no wedding scene at the end of the film; it went straight from the funeral to the slow motion shots of the horses riding. However, after a poor test screening, the audience's biggest request was that there be some kind of scene at the end to complete the romance, so the wedding scene was added (over Fuqua's objections). Originally, the idea had been that the fade from the smoke of Lancelot's pyre to the shot of the horse would imply that his spirit had lived on in the animal, and that the other two horses are the spirits of Dagonet and Tristan (Lancelot's father (Clive Russell) tells him before he leaves home that the spirits of great warriors are reincarnated as horses). However, because of the wedding scene, this sense was lost, the fade from the smoke to the horse was now interrupted, so there was no immediate connection for the audience. As such, the filmmakers decided to have him narrate so as to give the impression that he had lived on somewhere beyond the psychical.

This does not necessarily imply, as some have stated, that Lancelot has been reincarnated as an immortal talking horse. Although that would make for one hell of a sequel.

No, but they were digitally enhanced for the US movie poster.

Knightley has spoken about this incident several times. She explained that the decision was taken by Disney's marketing people after a survey said that "other women refuse to look at famous actresses and stars with small breasts." In fact, according to Knightley, she is "not allowed to be on a magazine cover in the US without at least a C-cup because it "turns people off"" (quoted here).

Speaking to The Daily Mail in 2006, Knightley commented


I remember we had an interesting discussion when they said, "We want to make them slightly larger and you'll get approval" and I was like, "OK, fine. 'I honestly don't give a shit." But then they showed me the first copy and these things must have been double-Es - and they were down to my knees. And I was like, "I don't mind you making them bigger, but don't give me droopy breasts. They look like your grandmother's tits" (quoted here).
See here for a before and after comparison of Keira Knightley's breasts on the King Arthur movie poster.

Good God yes, according to a recent study, there are more than 100 films about the Round Table and Arthur.

As well as various spoofs and stories based in and around King Arthur, such as, for example, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1959), the following are some of the better known films which deal directly with the Arthurian legend:

Knights of the Round Table (1953), Lancelot and Guinevere (1963), Siege of the Saxons (1963), The Sword in the Stone (1963), Camelot (1967), Lancelot du Lac (1974), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Perceval le Gallois (1978), Excalibur (1981), Parsifal (1983), Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1984), First Knight (1997).

The best known TV adaptations would include:

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956-1957), Arthur of the Britons (1972-1973), The Legend of King Arthur (1979), Morte d'Arthur (1984), Arthur the King (1985), The Legend of Prince Valiant (1991-1993), Guinevere (1994), Merlin (1998), The Mists of Avalon (2001), Kaamelott (2004-2009) and Camelot (2011).

The R1 US Extended Unrated DVD released by Touchstone Home Entertainment in 2004, contains the following special features:

Director's Cut of the film

Feature length audio commentary with director Antoine Fuqua

"Knight Vision" Trivia Track (includes historical info, behind the scenes info and info totally unrelated to the film, such as the medical definition of a fracture, when ice skates were invented and how many calories are used during a kiss! (Yeah, I know.)

Alternate ending with optional commentary by Antoine Fuqua

"Blood on the Land: The Making of a King" a 17 minute making-of featurette

"King Arthur: A Roundtable Discussion" a 16 minute discussion of the film amongst the cast and crew

"King Arthur" X-Box Video Game Demo (can only be played in an X-Box - obviously!)

Photo Gallery

Both the R2 UK Theatrical Cut DVD and the R2 UK Director's Cut DVD, both released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment (UK) in 2004, contain only "Blood on the Land" and the alternate ending.

The R1 US Theatrical Cut DVD released by Touchstone Home Entertainment in 2004, contains all the features found on the R1 US Extended Unrated DVD, plus an additional commentary track featuring the cast and crew. However, this DVD is available in 1.33:1 full screen only and the commentary track is composed of exerts from interviews spliced together to cover the duration of the film.

There is approximately fifteen minutes of difference between the theatrical cut and the Director's Cut.

A detailed comparison between the theatrical version and the unrated version, with images, can be found here, while a comprehensive list of additional scenes, and other variations can be found here.

The scene on the battlefield with Lancelot's body is slightly longer and involves a short monologue from Merlin, where he ensures Arthur that he hasn't failed his knights despite the death of Lancelot and Tristan. This is followed by the funeral scene, which is also longer, with Bors giving a short speech. This is then followed by a scene of Lucan (Johnny Brennan) trying to remove Excalibur from a stone. He fails, but Arthur tells him that one day he'll be strong enough to do it. Black smoke then rises from Lancelot's pyre and there is a fade to the slow motion shots of the horses riding.

The wedding scene was added at the behest of the studio. It's worth noting that Antoine Fuqua dislikes the new ending, and on his DVD commentary states that he much prefers the original, darker ending.

Yes it is, although only the Director's Cut. The theatrical cut is unavailable. Both the US edition and the UK edition contain the same special features as the R1 US Extended Unrated DVD.

Page last updated by jca2112, 1 year ago
Top Contributors: jca2112, hankeegle, Bertaut, raunka

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