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A Knight's Tale

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian Helgeland
Produced by Todd Black
Brian Helgeland
Tim Van Rellim
Written by Brian Helgeland
Starring Heath Ledger
Mark Addy
Shannyn Sossamon
Alan Tudyk
Rufus Sewell
Paul Bettany
James Purefoy
Laura Fraser
Roger Ashton-Griffiths
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Richard Greatrex
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) United States
May 8, 2001
Running time 132 min.
Unrated cut:
144 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $41,000,000
Gross revenue $117,487,473 (world)

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 American action-adventure comedy film directed, produced, and written by Brian Helgeland. The film stars Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer, and James Purefoy as Sir Thomas Colville/Edward, the Black Prince. The film follows the story of William Thatcher, a peasant turned knight, along with his companions in the world of medieval jousting. William poses as a knight and competes in tournaments, winning accolades and acquiring friendships with such historical figures as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales and Geoffrey Chaucer. The film takes its title from Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" in his Canterbury Tales. The film was a box office success, garnering $117,487,473 with a budget of just over $41,000,000.


Plot summary

Set in late Medieval Europe in the 1370s, the story begins with the protagonists and squires, William (Heath Ledger), Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk), discovering their master, Sir Ector (Nick Brimble), dead of bowel problems in the middle of a jousting tournament. He was ahead "three lances to none" and merely had to finish the final round to win the tournament and be awarded the money that was to buy food for them all. While Wat and Roland resign themselves to destitution now that they no longer have Sir Ector's employment and protection, William Thatcher takes the armour, and more importantly the helm, from Ector's body and poses as the noble to finish the match. William's inexperience is evident, as he disappointingly receives a lance blow to the face mask, but regardless wins the tournament (and the money) due to Ector's previous lead. This gives William the idea that, with proper training, he and his companions could make a living in jousting.

Along the way to his first tournament in Rouen, William and his friends come upon Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), "trudging" down a road with no clothes or money. William persuades the writer to fake his patents of nobility, as it is illegal for peasants to joust, and joins the jousting circuit under the assumed name of "Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein" from Gelderland. Chaucer is then discovered to have a terrible gambling problem, which William saves him from by paying his debts with his tournament winnings, and therefore gains Geoffrey's true loyalty (and services as a herald at the tournaments). Helped by Chaucer, Wat and Roland, he begins to win match after match. When his armour—still the same suit taken from Sir Ector—becomes loose and damaged, he gains an addition to his fellowship, Kate the Farrier (Laura Fraser), who makes him revolutionary new armour and decides to travel with them. William soon meets and falls in love with a noble lady, Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), who has already been noticed by the evil yet powerful Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell). A rivalry begins between the two of them for the affection of Jocelyn and the accolades of the tournaments, and Adhemar defeats William in his first tournament.

In the following tournament, they are both assigned to tilt against Prince Edward (James Purefoy), who has entered under the name "Sir Thomas Colville," hoping he will get a rare chance to compete if his opponents do not know his identity as the Prince of Wales. Adhemar learns his identity and withdraws at the last minute, not willing to take the risk. When William's turn comes, however, his competitiveness overcomes the pressure to withdraw, and he jousts with Edward (to Edward's surprise and pleasure) and wins the tournament, along with Edward's respect. Following this good omen, Will's companions, Wat, Roland, Kate and Geoff, gamble all of their share of the money that William will win the French tournament in Paris. Coincidentally, and simultaneously, Jocelyn tells William that he must lose the tournament to prove his love to her. After he openly accepts defeat after defeat, she changes her mind; that is, he must now win to prove his love. He does win the tournament, which is followed by a romantic scene.

The group travels to London for the World Championship, and an important flashback to William's childhood is shown. His father, wanting the best for his son, reluctantly gives him over for squire services to Sir Ector, so that someday, he can realize his dream of becoming a knight and "change his stars" to live a better life than his father. Returning to the present—and to London for the first time since childhood—William, assuming that his father has long since died, visits his old neighborhood and inquires of a young local girl, (Alice Connor), whether or not she remembers his father. She informs him that he is in fact still alive and well, albeit blind. William visits his father, concealing himself at first using his alias Ulrich, until he tells his father that he has a message from his son William—that he has changed his stars after all. His father, overcome with joyous emotion, realizes it is actually his son, and they embrace and spend hours catching up.

Although everything appears well, Adhemar has returned from fighting in the Battle of Poitiers and discovers William's humble origins. He alerts the authorities to the secret. William's friends beg him to flee, including Jocelyn, who promises to give up her privileged life and run away with him, but he refuses to run and is arrested. Adhemar visits him in prison and gloats that he will marry Jocelyn while beating the defenseless William. When William is moved to the stocks, his companions all stand with him to defend him from the crowd, which grows increasingly hostile until Prince Edward emerges from the mob. Silencing the crowd, he kneels beside William and quietly says, "What a pair we make, hmm? Both trying to hide who we are, both unable to do so. Your men love you. If I knew nothing else about you, that would be enough. But you also tilt when you should withdraw, and that is knightly too." He orders William to be released, telling the crowd that his historians have discovered that William is descended from an "ancient royal line" and that he is entitled to a knighthood after all. The newly dubbed "Sir William" goes on to resume his place in the tournament and compete against Adhemar.

With Jocelyn and William's father in attendance, Adhemar cheats with an illegal lance with a sharp point on the tip, which stabs into William's shoulder during the first round. William, unable to grip his lance or breathe properly due to his injury, has his armour removed and his lance strapped to his arm and competes in the final round wearing only ordinary clothing. The two adversaries charge for the final bout, with William's life in the balance. He shouts his finally accepted true name, "WILLIAM," and knocks Adhemar from his horse, winning the tournament. Chaucer remarks that he should write this whole story down, a reference to "The Knight's Tale" of the Canterbury Tales. Jocelyn runs out ecstatically to meet William and they embrace in a long kiss.



Use of anachronisms

In the film's actor/director DVD commentary, Brian Helgeland, co-commentating with Paul Bettany, states that the film was intended to have occurred sometime in the 1370s during a six-month period in which Chaucer had apparently gone missing and show what he might have done during this time, which Helgeland says later on in the commentary inspired Chaucer to write his Canterbury Tales. (The first Canterbury tale is The Knight's Tale. Chaucer also threatens two men he meets in the film with undying humiliation through fiction; these characters seem to have inspired the vitriolic descriptions of the Tales' Pardoner and Summoner.)

Helgeland also jokes in the commentary that he chose 1970s music and hairstyles for the movie because "the seventies are always the same", regardless of century. More seriously, Helgeland justifies his use of music by speculating that even during the 1370s, persons in the main characters' age group would've enjoyed newer, more contemporary music than something that had been around since their great grandparents were young, and opted to use music that would affect the audience the same way late 1300s music would've affected the youth of the 1370s. Thus, Helgeland attempted to stylize the movie in such a way as to bring the Middle Ages to the audience, rather than force the audience into the Middle Ages.

To this end, many intentional anachronisms are used within the story itself. Jocelyn's appearance combines medieval and modern styles, and the armor Kate makes for William is engraved with a symbol resembling the Nike logo. In the first jousting scene, when "We Will Rock You" is playing, the crowd provides the rhythmic thump-thump-clap as a modern-day crowd that recognizes the song would, the audience performs the wave, and a teenage girl is shown in the stands doing a distinctly twentieth-century dance. At a banquet, Count Adhemar tries to trip up the unsophisticated "Sir Ulrich" by urging him to show the other guests a dance from his own country; William, not knowing any real dances, improvises with Jocelyn and comes up with something suited to a rock video.

Language is also borrowed from the present day. An extended metaphor involving hunting during William's first conversation with Jocelyn leads to his calling her a "foxy lady." The first time Chaucer introduces William at a competition, he ends with a comedy-club "Thank you, I'll be here all week" in response to the crowd's wild cheers. When Jocelyn defends herself during an argument with William by saying, "Better a silly girl with a flower than a silly boy with a horse and a stick," an offended Wat calls after her, "It's called a lance... hellooo?" with the particular sarcastic intonation that gained popularity during the 1990s. Also Jocelyn's hair is of a contemporary nature.


The entire movie was filmed in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

The film includes a great deal of jousting footage. The initial scene of the two knights jousting is actually footage of Heath Ledger's stunt double in an accident. During filming of a later scene in the movie, the lance of the stunt double's opponent moved off target and hit him in the head. The double fell to the ground unconscious. In another incident, Heath Ledger knocked out one of director Brian Helgeland's front teeth with a broomstick when the two were demonstrating a jousting move. It was several months before Helgeland's mouth had healed enough to repair the damage.

Plenty of effort was expended creating lances that would splinter convincingly without injuring the stunt riders as well. The body of each lance was scored so it would break easily, and the tips were made of balsa wood. Each was also hollowed out, and the hole filled with balsa chips, uncooked linguine and sawdust to make convincing splinters.[citation needed]


The film is notable for its deliberate use of classic rock songs like AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long,"Queen's "We Will Rock You," War's "Low Rider," David Bowie's "Golden Years," Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" and many others[1][2] in the soundtrack of a film that notionally takes place during the Middle Ages.


Initially the reception for this film was mixed, with complaints about the anachronisms (the classic rock music in a movie that takes place during the Middle Ages), the many jousting scenes, the thin plot, and why the spoiled upper class Jocelyn was portrayed as a better prize than the hard working lower class Kate. The aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes rated the movie as being 59% fresh. [3]

Newsweek revealed in June 2001 that print ads for at least four movies released by Columbia Pictures, including A Knight's Tale and The Animal (2001), contained glowing comments from a film reviewer who did not exist. The fake critic, David Manning, was created by a Columbia employee who worked in the advertising department. "Manning" was misrepresented as a reviewer for a newspaper in a small Connecticut town.


1. Rotten Tomatoes

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 film about a peasant squire who takes up the identity of his master after an untimely demise so that he can compete in jousting tournaments.

Written and directed by Brian Helgeland.
He Will Rock You.taglines


William Thatcher

  • [In a letter to Jocelyn] It is strange to think, I haven't seen you since a month. I have seen the new moon, but not you. I have seen sunsets and sunrises, but nothing of your beautiful face. The pieces of my broken heart are so small that they can be passed through the eye of a needle. I miss you like the sun misses the flower; like the sun misses the flower in the depths of winter. Instead of beauty to direct its light to, the heart hardens like the frozen world your absence has banished me to. I next compete in the city of Paris, I will find it empty and in the winter if you are not there. Hope guides me, it is what gets me through the day and especially the night. The hope that after you're gone from my sight, it will not be the last time that I look upon you.

Geoffrey Chaucer

  • Good people, I missed my introduction! But please... Please I pray you, hear it now, for I would lay rest the grace in my tongue and speak plainly. Days like these are far too rare to cheapen with heavy handed words, and so, I'm afraid without any ado whatsoever...[passes in front of King Edward] Excuse me My Lord, Here he is, one of your own, born a stone's throw from this very stadium, and here before you now, the son of John Thatcher... Sir Wiiiiiilliam Thatcheeer!


William: [sees a naked man on the road]Oi sir, what are you doing?
Chaucer: Uh... trudging. You know, trudging? [pause] To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.
William: Uhhh... were you robbed?
Chaucer: [laughs] Funny really, yes, but at the same time a huge resounding no. It's more of an... involuntary vow of poverty... really.

William: I'll ride in his place.
Roland: What's your name, William? I'm asking you, William Thatcher, to answer me with your name. It's not Sir William. It's not Count, or Duke or Earl William. It's certainly not King William.
William: I'm aware of that.
Roland: You have to be of noble birth to compete!
William: A detail. The landscape is food. Do you want to eat or don't you?
Roland: If the nobles find out who you are there'll be the devil to pay.
William: Then pray that they don't.

William: I'm Ulrich von Leichtenstein, from Gelderland, and these are my faithful squires. [gestures to Roland] Delves, of Dodgington, [gestures to Wat] and Falhurst, of Crew.
Chaucer: I'm Richard the Lionheart. Pleased to meet you. No, wait a minute, I'm Charlemagne. No, I'm Saint John the Baptist!
[William draws a dagger]
William: All right, hold your tongue sir, or lose it.
Chaucer: Now, you see, that I do believe...Sir Ulrich.

[Count Adhemar takes not of William's armor]
Adhemar: Your armor, sir.
William: What about it?
Adhemar: How stylish of you to joust in an antique. You'll start a new fashion if you win. My grandfather will be able to wear his in public again, and a shield, how quaint.
William: [Angrily] Hyah! [William rides off]
Adhemar: Some of these poor country knights, little better than peasants.

Old Bishop: [after William rides into the cathedral on a horse to woo Jocelyn] Does this not shock you, ladies?
Jocelyn: Certainly, my lord, I just, I only laugh just to keep from weeping.
Old Bishop: [Understandingly] Beauty is such a curse. Pray your years come swiftly for you, pray your beauty fades that you may better serve God.
Jocelyn: Oh, and I do, my lord. I pray for it all the time. Why, God, did you curse me with this face?
Old Bishop: God's will has a purpose, but we may not know it. :[Extends his hand so that she may kiss his ring]
Jocelyn: [goes to kiss hand, but instead admires the costly ring on his finger] Oh, that is lovely...

Chaucer: [Keeping beat for a dance lesson] And one and two and three and four and your hands should be light like a birdie on a branch. And one and two and three and four and Wat doesn't lead he follows like a girl. [Wat punches him] And one and two and twirlie twirlie twirlie! And one and two and you're still getting it wrong! And one and two and three and four you can hit me all day cause you punch like a... what?
Roland: A girl!

Jocelyn: I've come to see what you'll wear to banquet tonight.
William: Nothing.
Jocelyn: Well, then we'll cause a sensation, for I'll dress to match.
William: Don't you ever get tired of putting on clothes?
Chaucer: [mutters to William] Um, I believe she's talking about taking them off, my lord.
Jocelyn: A flower is only as good as its petals. Don't you think?
William: A flower is good for nothing.
Jocelyn: Really?
William: You can't eat a flower, a flower can't keep your warm...
Jocelyn: And a rose never knocked a man off a horse either.
William: You're just a silly girl, aren't you?
Jocelyn: Better a silly girl with a flower, than a silly boy with a horse and a stick... [walks away]
Wat: It's called a lance... hello... ?

Jocelyn: Damn your pride, William. It is you and only you that will not see you run.
William: My pride is the only thing that they can't take from me.
Jocelyn: They can take it away from you, they can and they will. Oh, they will. But love they cannot take.

French Squire 1: An Englishman will not win this French tournament. English legs are unsteady on French soil.
French Squire 2: And because French wine is too much for English bellies.
French Squire 3: And most importantly, because the Pope himself is French.
Roland: Well, the Pope may be French, but Jesus is English! You're on!

[Standing over Adhemar]
Wat: You have been weighed.
Roland: You have been measured.
Kate: And you have absolutely...
Chaucer: Been found wanting.
William: Welcome to a New World. God save you, if it is right that he should do so.


  • He Will Rock You.
  • He didn't make the rules. He was born to break them.


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