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12 Pretty Accurate Movies Set In Medieval Times

List Rules
Vote up the movies that do the best job of sending viewers back to the Middle Ages.

Medieval movies have been popular since Hollywood's early days, and they're still going strong. Everyone has films in this genre that resonate with them, but most stretch the truth in how they portray the period, dispensing with real medieval facts for the sake of cinematic spectacle. For those who are sticklers for accuracy, that may be frustrating; for others, such flaws can't get in the way of a good story.

Movies set in the Middle Ages tend to include knights jousting and sword-fighting, ladies in waiting, armies marching into conflict, elaborate costumes of chain mail and leather, and royals locked in power struggles, but there are some films that stand out among the rest for their dedication to telling the tale - or at least certain aspects of the tale - as it really happened. Check out this list of the most accurate medieval movies to learn what they get right and what they don't.

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  • Monty Python Shows Just How Animals Were Used As Projectiles In 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'
    Photo: EMI Films

    The Python troupe's classic comedy film follows King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as they search for the Holy Grail.

    What It Gets Right: Although the legend of King Arthur is played for laughs in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there's a lot the troupe gets right about the time period. The Middle Ages were a time of rampant disease, filth, and staggering fatalities. Holy Grail reflects this in scenes with plague victims being wheeled through the streets on carts and peasants wallowing in filth. The cow catapulted over a fort wall is also based in reality; in some ancient entanglements, fecal matter, plague-infected bodies, and animal cadavers were used as biological weapons.

    The Pythons also accurately show how primitive science was, and how greatly superstition influenced the masses, especially during the sequence when villagers, who have accused a woman of being a witch, decide that the only way to know if she's truly a witch is to see if she weighs the same as a duck.

    Where It Falls Short: Needless to say, the plot points are regularly exaggerated for comedic effect - or due to budget constraints. In one example, the production couldn't afford real horses, so coconuts were used to mimic the sound of their galloping.

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  • 'Outlaw King' Accurately Depicts William Wallace As Being Quartered
    Photo: Netflix

    While Outlaw King isn't the pinnacle of historical realism, it does succeed where Braveheart doesn't in terms of telling the story of the Wars of Scottish Independence.

    What It Gets Right: The character of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) was written with factual events of the real man's life in mind, including the many setbacks he experienced before becoming an esteemed warrior on the battlefield. There is some crossover with the time period covered in Braveheart, as William Wallace (portrayed in that movie by Mel Gibson) existed in the same timeframe. Wallace is seen only briefly in Outlaw King, and only part of his chest and a limb are featured. In reality, Wallace was tortured and quartered, and his remains were sent to four different regions in Scotland.

    Outlaw King also outshines Braveheart in terms of costuming, as there are no kilts to be found (they didn't exist until the 1600s). The armor seen here is what would have been worn during the Middle Ages. Also, Outlaw King gets its weaponry right; the massive trebuchet featured in the film really did exist. It was called Warwolf both in real life and on screen.

    Where It Falls Short: Chris Pine looks nothing like the real Robert the Bruce, who was short, stocky, and may have suffered from a mild case of leprosy. Edward, Prince of Wales, is portrayed as being cruel and sadistic in the movie, but was said to be quite generous with his subjects in real life.

  • The 1928 silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc tells the story of the trial of Saint Joan of Arc.

    What It Gets Right: The movie takes its story from the actual transcripts of her trial. In her one and only major film role, Maria Falconetti plays the martyred saint with great conviction. According to legend, director Carl Theodor Dreyer required her to kneel for long periods on stone and remain expressionless in the process so that her inner agony would be more apparent.

    Silent film actors usually wore an abundance of makeup. However, Dreyer wanted his actors makeup-free, as they would have been in real life. The set was no less authentic. The entire movie was filmed on a stage built from concrete and modeled after the architecture of the day.

    Where It Falls Short: Dreyer once said historical accuracy was not a concern of his while making the movie, but he created a fairly accurate portrayal of Saint Joan nonetheless.

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  • The Name of the Rose tells the story of a Franciscan friar, William of Baskerville (Sean Connery), who investigates a series of slayings in a 14th-century Benedictine monastery.

    What It Gets Right: Based on the book by Umberto Eco, this somber film takes the viewer on a journey through one of Catholicism's darkest eras. During this time, the Inquisition, an institution of the Catholic Church created to combat heresy and punish those it believed committed it, was at its peak, and monasteries hid books that didn't follow the doctrine of the day. The movie reflects this period accurately, as the slayings are based around a scriptorium in the abbey that William of Baskerville is visiting, and where books believed to be pagan in nature are hidden.

    Where It Falls Short: The book of the same name, while well-researched, is considered historical fiction. William of Baskerville is based on friar William of Ockham, who discovered the "Ockham's Razor" principle, in which the simplest explanation is the most likely. He is not a Sherlock Holmes-type investigator, but William of Baskerville's name is a nod to the Arthur Conan Doyle novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.