Film / El Cid

The movie El Cid is an adaptation of the medieval legend of Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, a.k.a. El Cid. The real Rodrigo Diaz seems to have been a very successful soldier of fortune who served both Christian and Muslim kings without distinction in eleventh century Spain, eventually leveraging his military skill into a fiefdom in the then-mostly Arab/Berber city of Valencia. After centuries of multiple authors retelling the tale he became the Muslim slaying hero of the Reconquista. In this version Rodrigo is a multi-culturalist, working for a union of Christians and Spanish Moors against an invasion by ferocious Berbers.

As per the source material Rodrigo Diaz's (Charlton Heston) life gets complicated after he kills his girlfriend's father in an informal duel. Needless to say Jimena (Sophia Loren) takes this badly. In accordance with the best medieval ideals of vendetta she makes an earnest effort to have Rodrigo killed. As Rodrigo is now the King's champion, replacing Jimena's dad, his majesty takes exception to this and thinks its a fine idea to make the couple marry after all.

Jimena chooses the wedding night to confess that she was party to an underhanded attempt to murder Rodrigo. Hurt but understanding he makes no attempt to consummate the marriage. This does nothing to help Jimena's state of mind as she is deeply in love with her husband, father killer or no.

Meanwhile King Ferdinand dies leaving his kingdom to be divided between his two sons. The elder, Sancho (Gary Raymond), says to hell with that and attacks his younger sibling Alfonso (John Fraser), who is supported by their slinky blond sister Princess Urracca (Genevieve Page). Rodrigo sides with Sancho, because he is his friend. But Sancho is murdered at the behest of Urracca and the King's Champion publicly forces Alfonso to swear he had NOTHING to do with it. Needless to say this goes over like a ton of bricks with Alfonso and Urracca who promptly exile Rodrigo.

This prompts Jimena to resolve her conflict (to hell with vengeance, Dad- it was a fair fight, and you started it!) and follow Rodrigo. They are dreaming happily of a humble life together in some remote valley when the appearance of his entire fief and just about every officer who ever served with him puts an end to that. The lot of them then set out to fight the Berber horde on behalf of Rodrigo's friend the Emir Moutamin (Douglas Wilmer).

Alfonso, back in Castille, busies himself by doing everything possible to make Rodrigo's life harder, including capturing and imprisoning Jimena and their twin daughters. Ordonez (Raf Vallone), Jimena's old admirer and Rodrigo's bitter enemy and attempted murderer, atones by helping Jimena and her children escape. Alfonso sees the light and throws off Urracca's evil influence and rides to join the Cid, dying of his wounds, for the final battle against the Berbers.

The movie ends with a Crowning Moment of Awesome in which Rodrigo's dead body, tied onto his horse, leads the victorious charge and then gallops off into the sunset (literally).

Tropes in El Cid: