Advantage Ball: Carefully minded throughout. At the beginning, Adhemar has the advantage by virtue of his greater experience, but once William finds his feet and begins to feel more confident, he begins to win easily, until Adhemar starts cheating. At the end, Chaucer's Rousing Speech gives him the edge he needs.
The real Ulrich Von Lichtenstein — yes there was a real one! — was a 13th c. knight who, on one occasion in his career of errantry, rode the tournament circuit in the guise of 'Queen Venus' complete with silk gown over his armor and long braids of false hair dangled beneath his helmet. He was a huge hit and the tour a massive success with a final score of three hundred broken lances without a single fall. Somebody really did their research to unearth Ulrich. That or they read the Horrible Histories book on knights.
Word Of God states that the musical anachronism (as well as some of the dialogue "It's called a 'lance', hellooo.") was done intentionally to illustrate that people of the era thought of their music pretty much the same as modern people do of current music. No such excuse for the clothes, though; the costume designer simply thought they looked neat.
The costume designer did make all the outfits from period accurate materials and using medieval techniques.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Adhemar, the evil rival, is Count of Anjou. On the other hand, the prince is a good guy, and the hero's friends are seen making up stories about how evil his aristocratic opponents are in order to encourage him to beat them. It works a little too well.
A count of Anjou is a pretty good choice for an evil aristocratic antagonist!
Audience Participation Failure: At one point during the filming, the Czech extras hired to play a crowd watching one of the tournaments (very few of whom actually understood English) were supposed to cheer wildly when Heath Ledger defeated his opponent. But, as most of them didn't understand Englsh, the crowd hadn't actually understood their instructions, and when the fight was over they stood there silently for almost a minute, staring at each other in confusion. When actor Mark Addy abruptly broke into wild cheering, the crowd finally got it and began to cheer as well. Director Brian Helgeland thought this was so funny he actually kept it in the film and reshot some sequences before and after to make their reaction more appropriate to the story.
As You Know: When they first realize Sir Thomas is Edward, Prince of Wales, Chaucer goes on about his ruthlessness and skill in battle at some length before Watt goes, "We're English, Geoff, we know who he is!"
Becoming the Mask: When the truth comes out, Will refuses to run even knowing it could spare him his life. He believes himself to be a knight, if not in paper then by deed and honor. His companions agree this may be so but the judges only care for the paper.
William: "No! I will not run! I AM A KNIGHT!"
Berserk Button: Roland is initially unwilling to gamble all of their money on the Paris tournament, ignoring the taunts of the Frenchmen, until they go too far:
Frenchman: And most importantly, because the Pope himself is French. Roland: ... Well the Pope may be French, but Jesus is English. You're on!
Wat: And your love? Have you proven that yet? William: Wat, you remember church as a boy. The fear, the passion. That's what she makes me feel. And for that, I say my rosary to Jocelyn and no one else. Wat: William, that's blasphemous. William: Then may I burn in hell.
Blatant Lies: Prince Edward justifies knighting William by announcing that he's discovered Will is descended from nobility, then basically dares anyone to call him on it: "This is my word, and as such is beyond contestation."Justified in that the Crown Prince could grant knighthood to anyone he wanted to without having to explain why they were granted knighthood.
Bring It: William to Adhemar at the final, do-or-die joust.
William: Let's dance, you and I.
Broken Aesop: The main moral of the film is that a noble spirit and strength of will can turn anyone into a hero, regardless of birth. This is broken in that the hero only gets what he wants by first pretending to be a knight, and then being (falsely) proclaimed to be of noble blood by royal decree. So you don't need to be born into the elite class to be successful, but you do need to be in the elite class, and there's still no way for the average commoner to get there.
Cerebus Callback: In the scene where William first arrives in London, he imagines that a young boy cheering him on is himself as a child. Later on as he sits in the stocks the same boy runs up to him and slaps him in the face.
Chekhov's Skill: Subverted with William's swordsmanship—he's shown early on to be very good in the sword, and wins a tournament in the sport in his first go...then declares that it's Tournament Champion or nothing and he never picks another sword up for the rest of the film.
Adhemar's aide shows signs of this. When Adhemar asks how he would defeat "Ulric", the man replied by taking him out in his sleep.
Taking this idea, Adhemar followed "Ulrich" looking for some scandal or fact he can use against him. He gets more than he could wish when he finds him returning to his home and meeting his real father.
Death Glare: Adhemar has a nice one that he fixes on his herald (who looks ready to wet himself) when he discovers that Will has been winning so many tournaments while he's been busy warring. In the commentary they mentioned how they timed the music to match his expression.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: Played straight, then subverted. William is stripped of everything, put into the pillory, and humiliated for daring to rise above being a peasant squire. Then the Prince knights him anyway.
Dirt Forcefield: Mostly averted, as characters appear just as dusty and dirty as they ought (and the Black Prince has a bad case of Helmet Hair when William reveals him), most of the time. Played straight, though, when Kate is shown working on the below mentioned Nike armor; a blacksmith working in her forge ought to be covered in soot, while she's just got a little bit of dust on her forehead.
Disqualification-Induced Victory: During the second tournament, William starts losing on purpose because the Love Interest told him to to prove that he loved her. This would have been a problem, except that none of the other competitors did particularly well, either, so after the Love Interest relents William is able to win despite losing his first round of jousts.
William: I canít. Love has given me wings, so I must fly. I canít explain it. She makes me feel like a poet. Roland: You may feel like a poet... but you sound like an idiot. You donít even know her name. William: Her name? Her name is Aphrodite. Calypso. Venus. Take your pick.
Failure Montage: William's first attempt to get to grips with the skills of jousting.
Fake Aristocrat: William pretending to be Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein, which provides most of the drama of the movie.
The Fashionista: Jocelyn likes wearing different clothes and dressing to match her knight because a flower is only as good as its petals.
Forging Scene: Kate notices that Will wears armour that wasn't made for him. She volunteers to make him some that's so light-weight he wouldn't know he was wearing it. After she is finished the knight is presented with a suit of shiny new armour.
Grand Romantic Gesture: Will purposefully loses a tilting match to prove his love (getting beat up in the process); to paraphrase Jocelyn, when Will tells her he'll win the tournament for her, "You would win the tournament anyway; if you want to prove your love, you will lose." Then, once he's taken his lumps, she sends her handmaiden to tell him if he loves her, he'll win the tournament. This does not go over well with William, or his friends.
Chaucer: There she is, William. The embodiment of love. Your Venus. William: And how I hate her.
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Will is injured just before the final lance, which will determine who wins the world championships. Not only does he opt not to wear his helmet, he takes off all his armour, saying he "can't breathe with it on," because the chestplate was damaged enough that it was pushing at the wound and compressing his chest.
Averted in most of the earlier jousts. In commentary, the director noted the convenience of being able to cut from shots of the actors, ending when they pulled down their faceplates, to shots of the stunt men.
And in the first joust, William used the damage to his faceplate to justify not showing his face — even after the combat.
Heroic BSOD: William shows signs of this after his arrest, and doesn't really snap out of it until after he's knighted.
Hero's Muse: Jocelyn is the noblewoman who has never been unhorsed.
William: Your name, lady. I still need to hear it.
Jocelyn: Sir Hunter, you persist.
William: Perhaps angels have no names. Only beautiful faces.
Historical Hero Upgrade: Edward the Black Prince is portrayed as a likeable individual who values William's courage and knights him despite his common birth. The historical Black Prince was well-known for conducting brutal scorched-earth campaigns that ravaged the French countryside, and to have despised and scorned the lower classes. Partly this can be seen as Protagonist Centred Morality — the characters do mention his pillaging and burning of villages, and Edward's fondness of William despite him being lower class is motivated by William doing him two big favours earlier in the movie when he had no reason to do so, and willingly letting himself be arrested instead of fleeing.
Hollywood Healing: William gets a piece of his opponent's lance stuck in his shoulder, and he cannot hold his own lance. As soon as William wins the championship, he can move his arm normally, and there's no indication of injury. And there's no mention of removing the piece of lance stuck in his shoulder, which would be very risky surgery in that age.
Watt: You have been weighed... Roland: ...you have been measured... Kate: ...and you absolutely... Chaucer: ...have been found wanting. William: Welcome to the new world. And may God save you, if it is right that He should do so.
I Can't Dance: Will, who subsequently gets lessons from Geoff and Kate
Kate invents the Bessemer Process for heating steel 400-500 years before it happened. William is initially ridiculed for wearing thin, light armor. At least until he nimbly leaps onto his horse.
Her etching "the mark of [her] trade" (the Nike logo) into her armour, which is also received with ridicule.
Jerkass: Adhemar, upon first meeting William, immediately insults him several times and he just gets worse from there. They seem to have even gone out of their way to make him completely utterly dislikeable.
Knighting: William's eventual reward, thanks to Prince Edward.
King Incognito: The Black Prince has his reasons. Twice, if you count the crowd scene.
Chaucer: SIR ULLLLLLLLLLLLLRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICH VON LICHENSTEIN! (Beat, to wild applause) God I'm good!
A small, but really fun element, is when Adhemar's herald (who up until this point had been doing the usual staid and boring introductions) starts to ham it up himself on the part of Adhemar, and suddenly starts to get more applause for Adhemar from the crowd. Seems being a Large Ham is the wave of the future when it comes to heraldry.
Wat: And your love? Have you proven that yet? William: Wat, you remember church as a boy. The fear, the passion. Thatís what she makes me feel. And for that, I say my rosary to Jocelyn and no one else. Wat: William, thatís blasphemous. William: Then may I burn in hell.
The Lost Lenore: A rare male example of this trope being blacksmith Kate's dead husband.
Love Makes You Dumb: William fully understands this trope, as after making a faux pas to Jocelyn, she tells him that if he loves her, he'll lose. And so, at the beginning of the next tournament, after the flag for William's first tilt is dropped, and his opponent spurs on, the four members of the Five-Man Band cheering William on...
Roland: "What are you doing?" William: (sitting on his horse, going nowhere) "...Losing." Wat: "I don't understand." William: "...Neither do I." CRASH!
Marquee Alter Ego: The most likely explanation for William removing his armor in the final battle is so we can see Heath Ledger's face.
Meaningful Name: William Thatcher, a Thatcher being a tradesman who makes roofs for buildings out of straw mat, in other words, most definitely not a nobleman by birth.
A justified example - in that time period, a person's last name was based on their family's trade.
Motivational Lie: At one tournament, Roland tells William that his opponent is cruel to his peasants. After an irate Will has charged off to thrash the opponent, Roland remarks that it's probably true.
Nom de Guerre: Two of them, both due to the men in question trying to hide their identities for various reasons:
William Thatcher styles himself as Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein, to hide the fact that he is a peasant.
Edward, the Black Prince, goes as Sir Thomas Colville, as nobody would dare tilt with him if they knew who he really was. Notably, Edward is entirely unsuccessful in hiding his identity as word gets around quick who he is.
The Oner: William and Jocelyn's long walk-and-talk scene in the cathedral.
Pair the Spares: Roland often becomes a Beta Couple with Jocelyn's handmaiden Christiana in fan fics. There are several scenes in the movie in which one can see Roland and Christiana chatting happily in the background. Made explicit in a deleted scene where Chaucer's wife visits the tournament. Jocelyn and William go off together, Roland and Christiana go off together, and Wat attempts to go off with Kate but she just gives him a cookie and walks in the opposite direction. He's good. Food is his first love.
Running Gag: Chaucer's line of "Well, maybe not you..." towards Wat.
Satellite Love Interest: Jocelyn. She's beautiful, rich, likes clothes, loves William... and that's it. All the poor girl gets to do is stand on the sidelines and then have either a love scene or a fighting scene with Will. Though she's lucky enough to even get moments of witty lines and displays of spunk.
She also kind of lampshades this. Her initial rejection of Will is based on him treating her like this, as every knight who was smitten with her pretty face has done. She asks him to think of her as a person, not a prize, and when he does she falls for him. Not that the audience gets to know her very well, she still fits the trope for us.
Interestingly enough, William is the one who does it.
Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Edward, the Black Prince, pulls one of these while William is in the stocks, even going so far as to personally knight William himself just to allow him to compete. He basically declares that William has royal blood and then dares anybody to contradict the Crown Prince of England.
Self-Proclaimed Knight: There are two. One is the classic struggling underdog, William Thatcher, the peasant who's masquerading as the knight Ulrich Von Lichtenstein, and the other is Sir Thomas Colville - otherwise known as Edward, the Black Prince, jousting in disguise.
Shaming the Mob: Subverted in the theatrical cut; Chaucer, having previously demonstrated his ability to work a crowd, tries to shame the mob that gathers around William when he's in the stocks. He gets as far as three words in before the mob silences him with a volley of rotten vegetables. However, in the extended cut of the film, Chaucer succeeds in Shaming the Mob into chastened silence before Prince Edward steps in. This scene was cut to beef up Prince Edward's role.
Shields Are Useless: William's master's old suit of armor comes with a shield, which does little more than attract derision from the crowd. His new suit of armor does not come with a shield, nor does it need one. Truth in Television, as full plate armor did in fact make shields obsolete.
And the Black Prince and his companions shedding their disguising monks' robes is a clear homage to a similar scene in the Adventures of Robin Hood.
Sigil Spam: There's a deleted scene where the trio discuss their coat of arms and decide on three phoenixes. The phoenix can be seen emblazoned into various clothes and other items associated with them.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Mocked; Jocelyn, admonished for her beauty by a priest, laments it in a deadpan monotone to get him off her back.
Training Montage: To the tune of "Low Rider", featuring an array of increasingly-inventive lance training set-ups, with Roland and Wat taking most of the punishment from both William's initally terrible jousting skills and his all-too-good swordsmanship.
Worthy Opponent: Sir Thomas Colville to William. Colville is actually the Black Prince, Edward, jousting in disguise much like William is, and anyone who realizes Colville's true identity instantly withdraws rather than risk hurting the Prince. William does not withdraw - much to Edward's delight.