Merlin And 9 Other Great Movies And TV Shows About Arthurian Legends And How To Watch Them
The legend of King Arthur rises once more!
One of my guilty pleasures in life is living through fantasy movies, and most of the time, those take place during some sort of medieval-like point in history. One of the most known legends during medieval times is about King Arthur, the Knights of the Roundtable, Merlin, and their assorted friends and enemies.
I’m sure that you have heard King Arthur legends for many years - and so have people in Hollywood. From TV shows to movies galore, we've practically seen every story there could be about King Arthur, whether that be through the TV show Merlin, some hilarious comedies, or more. Here are the best Arthurian legend movies and TV shows that are streaming (or available to rent) right now.
There are many King Arthur series out there for your enjoyment, but my personal favorite has always been Merlin. This reimagining of the classic tale of the powerful wizard follows several seasons of witchcraft, wizardry, and more, as Merlin learns who he is and where he must go - Camelot, to serve the (then) prince, Arthur, and his group of men, with his magical powers.
Merlin is sort of what I think a Harry Potter TV series would be like. It further expands on the legend of Merlin and everything the wizard is capable of, while also providing some valuable character buffs in terms of story for its main cast. I personally love what they do with Arthur in this, moving him from sort of a jerk of a prince to a friend of Merlin who would have his back. It’s such a great story, and I wish it had gotten more than just five seasons.
Stream Merlin on Netflix. (opens in new tab)
First Knight (1995)
If you want a traditional King Arthur retelling, First Knight is the one for you. Lancelot, one of King Arthur’s most trusted knights and friends, falls in love with King Arthur’s betrothed, Guinevere. Now, it's his feelings for his love vs the respect he has for Arthur - as he deals with a threat to the other Knights of the Round Table.
This is probably one of the most bare bones King Arthur stories for you to watch, but it’s such a great one. First of all, Sean Connery is a fantastic King Arthur. I mean, honestly, one of his best roles. While the film lacks in certain elements, I feel that his work, overall, really saves it, as he delivers a compelling performance. Plus, the set design is also really cool, and transports you back to a time of knights and princesses easily.
Stream First Knight on Netflix. (opens in new tab)
Rent First Knight on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975)
I mean, you knew this was going to be on the list. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the most classic British comedies of all time, and has been admired for decades. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table go on a normal quest to look for the Holy Grail and gain its powers. However, they run into distractions, obstacles, and much more, getting more ridiculous with each and every turn.
I could go on for hours about why Monty Python and the Holy Grail is such a fantastic movie. I mean, the Terry’s (Gilliam and Jones) knocked it out of the park, creating not only a hilariously quotable film, but one that has decent set design, great battle sequences, and so many fun jokes you’ll be crying from tears of laughter. I mean, who could forget that Bridge of Death scene? Has me laughing every time.
Stream Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Netflix. (opens in new tab)
Rent Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
The Fisher King (1991)
This isn’t the most standard Arthurian adaptation, but it’s still a great one. Starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, The Fisher King uses aspects from the classic quest for the Holy Grail, following a man who is searching for some sort of sign to continue after royally screwing up his life. He takes solace in helping a homeless man find his life again, knowing that if he can help others he might be able to come to terms with what his past.
The Fisher King isn’t a normal Arthurian adaptation, but I think it’s one of the best for that reason. When I say it uses aspects from the classic Grail quest, I don’t mean he is searching for the physical object - rather that the main character (played by Bridges) is looking for redemption, because if he is able to come back from the mistakes of his past, he’ll be able to move on to a new life. If he can do that, then he can be the ‘Fisher King,’ who is often the owner of the Holy Grail in Arthurian legend.
It’s a beautiful story, and one you should definitely watch. Plus, he and Williams are a great pairing and should have been in more movies together. There’s more as to what the “Grail” is in the movie, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Rent The Fisher King on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
I feel like Camelot a places where you know the name, but might not know the story and the bloodshed of it. That’s what Camelot is. Focusing on several Arthurian legends rather than just a couple, the classic fantasy movie, Camelot, follows King Arthur as he battles against his once former friend, Lancelot, and the many trials that he has had to go through as the leader of his kingdom.
Camelot is another one of those classic movies that I feel really stand out amongst the rest. When you think of classics, this is what you think of. It’s charming in every sense of the word, with a great cast, and really good musical numbers. Honestly, I think this is one of those classic movie musicals that deserves a remake nowadays, as it could be seriously well done on today’s movie screens.
Rent Camelot on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
King Arthur (2004)
Another unusual retelling of the Arthurian legend, King Arthur does show the typical characters of Arthurian legend, such as the King and his men, but this story takes place in the Roman Empire, and follows Arthur as a Roman army officer, and tells how he came to rule.
King Arthur is certainly something. And, that’s a good thing. While I’m not a huge fan of the complete overhaul of the story, I can support how they still made it work. The characters are quite convincing, thanks to some excellent performances from Kiera Knightley, Clive Owen, and more. Do I think it’s the best King Arthur adaptation? No, but I do think that it gets a lot of flack for no reason for its creative decisions. Also? The fight sequences are cool as hell.
Stream King Arthur on Hulu. (opens in new tab)
Rent King Arthur on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
The Sword In The Stone (1963)
Disney used to adapt all the classics, and King Arthur was one of them. In this Disney animated film, The Sword in the Stone follows the legendary figure, Arthur, as a young boy, who is just starting to learn his way in the world. With the help of Merlin, he begins to grow and become the knight he always dreamed of - starting with finding that legendary sword in the stone.
I mean, it’s Disney. You can’t really go wrong with this one. It’s a classic Disney film for a reason, and while it’s not talked about as much as some of their other movies, it’s still one of their best. I always loved Arthur in this, especially as a child, because it showed no matter where you grew up or where you came from, greatness could come from everywhere. If you want to introduce your kids to Arthurian legends, start here.
Stream The Sword in the Stone on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
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This is definitely one of the most famous King Arthur adaptations out there. Excalibur isn’t really even about King Arthur himself, but about the sword that the legendary leader wields. We follow the story of how this ancient sword came into existence, and how it has truly shaped Arthurian history.
Whenever I ask my mother about the best Arthurian movies, she always says Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Excalibur. The first one, obviously, for its funny moments, but this one for its genuinely super interesting story. We always hear about the story of King Arthur and what happened after he got the sword, but very rarely do we get to know the story of before, when he was just a young boy and his father wielded the weapon, and the horrors that occurred. It’s so cool and enthralling, and you’ll enjoy it from beginning to end.
Rent Excalibur on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)
One of the more recent additions to this list is The Kid Who Would Be King. In this adventure film filled with fantasy fun, we follow a young boy who finds Excalibur, but as soon as he pulls it from the ground, an evil witch who wants to destroy the whole world and everyone who exists, wakes up. Now, it's up to the boy and his friends to try and stop her before she kills everyone.
The Kid Who Would Be King is so freaking underrated and I hate that it is. This deserved so much more hype than it got. The acting is fantastic - Rebecca Ferguson as a villain is truly terrifying - the sets are super cool, the costume design is everything, and it all molds together so well in a really cool modern fantasy. I wish it didn’t do so poorly at the box office. It deserved a bigger audience.
Stream The Kid Who Would Be King on Disney+. (opens in new tab)
Rent The Kid Who Would Be King on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
The Green Knight (2021)
Last, but certainly not least, we have The Green Knight. This recent Arthurian adaptation doesn’t focus on King Arthur, rather, his nephew, Sir Gawain. We follow his adventures as he travels across the land in search of the titular Green Knight, a fighter covered in scales that shine of emerald who tests men's power, in order for Gawain to use the knight’s famed weapon - a green axe.
The Green Knight is so good it hurts. Like, I wish we got more of this. I wish this movie was four hours long. The Green Knight cast is so talented, there's amazing set design, and some fantastic visual effects that had me staring at the movie screen in awe. I mean, the ending alone is just so good. I refuse to spoil anything. Just watch it. Now.
Rent The Green Knight on Amazon. (opens in new tab)
Hopefully, you've found some new favorite Arthurian films (or TV series) to binge. Now, I’m going to go rewatch The Green Knight.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!