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First Knight
Directed by Jerry Zucker
Produced by Hunt Lowry
Jerry Zucker
Written by William Nicholson
Starring Sean Connery
Richard Gere
Julia Ormond
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Editing by Walter Murch
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) July 7, 1995
Running time 134 minutes
Country USA
Language English
Budget $75,000,000
Gross revenue $127,600,435

First Knight is a 1995 American romantic fantasy adventure film based on Arthurian legend, directed by Jerry Zucker. It stars Richard Gere as Lancelot, Julia Ormond as Guinevere, Sean Connery as King Arthur and Ben Cross as Malagant.

The film follows the rogue Lancelot's romance with Lady Guinevere of Leonesse, who is to marry King Arthur of Camelot, while the land is threatened by the renegade knight Malagant. The film is noteworthy for its absence of magical elements, its drawing on the Arthurian material of Chrétien de Troyes for plot elements and the substantial age difference between Arthur and Guinevere.[1]


Plot summary

The film's opening text establishes that King Arthur of Camelot, victorious from his wars, has dedicated his reign to promoting justice and peace and now wishes to marry. However, Malagant, a Knight of the Round Table, desires the throne for himself and rebels.[1]

The movie opens with Lancelot, a vagabond and skilled swordsman, dueling in small villages for money. Lancelot attributes his skill to his lack of concern whether he lives or dies. Guinevere, the ruler of Leonesse, decides to marry Arthur partly out of admiration and partly for security against Malagant, who is shown raiding a village.

While traveling, Lancelot chances by Guinevere's carriage on the way to Camelot, and helps spoil Malagant's ambush meant to kidnap her. He falls in love with Guinevere, who refuses his advances. Though Lancelot urges her to follow her heart, Guinevere remains bound by her duty. She is subsequently reunited with her escort.[1]

Later, Lancelot arrives in Camelot and successfully navigates an obstacle course on the prospect of a kiss from Guinevere, though he instead kisses her hand. He also wins an audience with her husband-to-be, Arthur. Impressed by Lancelot's courage and struck by his recklessness and freewheeling, Arthur shows him the Round Table which symbolizes a life of service and brotherhood. Guinevere is subsequently kidnapped by Malagant's followers and imprisoned in an oubliette. Lancelot poses as a messenger to Malagant only to escape with Guinevere and return her to Camelot. Once again, Lancelot tries to win her heart, but is unsuccessful. On the return journey, it is revealed that Lancelot was orphaned and rendered homeless after bandits attacked his village, and has been wandering ever since.[1]

In gratitude, Arthur offers Lancelot a higher calling in life as a Knight of the Round Table. Amidst the protests of the other Knights (who are suspicious of his station), and of Guinevere (who struggles with her feelings for him), Lancelot accepts and takes Malagant's place at the Table, saying he has found something to care about. Arthur and Guinevere are subsequently wedded. However, a messenger from Leonesse arrives, with news that Malagant has invaded. Arthur leads his troops to Leonesse and successfully defeats Malagant's forces. Lancelot wins the respect of the other Knights with his prowess in battle. He also learns to embrace Arthur's philosophy, moved by the plight of villagers.[1]

Lancelot feels guilty about his feelings for the queen and in private announces his departure to her. She cannot bear the thought of him leaving and asks him for a kiss, which turns into a passionate embrace, just in time for the king to interrupt. Though Guinevere claims to love both Arthur and Lancelot - albeit in different ways - the two are charged with treason. The open trial in the great square of Camelot is interrupted by a surprise invasion by Malagant, ready to burn Camelot and kill Arthur if he does not swear fealty. Instead Arthur commands his subjects to fight, and Malagant's men shoot him with crossbows. A battle between Malagant's men and Camelot's soldiers and citizens ensues, and Lancelot and Malagant face off. Disarmed, Lancelot seizes Arthur's fallen sword Excalibur and kills Malagant. The people of Camelot win the battle, but Arthur dies of his wounds. On his deathbed, he asks Lancelot to "take care of her for me" - a double entendre referring to both Camelot and Guinevere. The movie closes with a funeral raft carrying Arthur's body floating out to sea, which is set a flame.[1]

Partial cast


Director Jerry Zucker, who also co-produced with Hunt Lowry, made First Knight as a follow-up to his Academy Award nominated 1990 hit Ghost. Previously, he was primarily known for teaming with his brother David Zucker and with Jim Abrahams to create comedies such as Airplane! and The Naked Gun.

The script was written by William Nicholson. Adam Greenberg was in charge of cinematography, while production design was under John Box. The score was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. The film was edited and mixed by Walter Murch.


Filming was shot on location in Great Britain. Exteriors were done in Gwynedd, North Wales and in England around Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Interiors were completed at Pinewood Studios.

Box office and reception

The film managed to earn a domestic gross of $37,600,435 and $90,000,000 in foreign markets; overall, earning a combined take of $127,600,435 worldwide.

Critical reaction to the film has been mixed. Based on 41 reviews, First Knight is rated at 44% on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer.[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Aronstein, Susan (2005). Arthurian Cinema and the Politics of Nostalgia. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403966494. 
  2. ^ Rotten - First Knight

External links

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