Film: First Knight

Arthurian Love Triangle : The Poster.

A 1995 film that reinterprets Arthurian legend, directed by Jerry Zucker. The soundtrack is by Jerry Goldsmith.

King Arthur (Sean Connery) has spent his entire life bringing justice to the land and wants more than anything else to marry Guinevere and enjoy a peaceful retirement. Despite genuinely caring for him, Guinevere (Julia Ormond) feels it to be her duty to marry him, and its clear that she has a problem with letting obligation make her decisions for her, instead of her heart. Lancelot (Richard Gere) is a wandering swordsman, making as few ties as possible because his family and village were destroyed in the wars. When these three collide, will they save Camelot from its latest threat or doom it?


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Sir Agravaine is a good guy here, the most prominent of the other Round Table knights.
  • Adapted Out: Usual Arthurian villains Mordred and Morgan le Fay. The villain Prince Malagant is derived from Chrétien de Troyes' Maleagant.
  • Arrows on Fire: King Arthur's troops make use of these. Interestingly, the arrows appeared to use something like magnesium as the flammable agent, which, at least, looked cool.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. Malagant's mini-crossbows are quite fatal.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Arthur and Guinevere after she's rescued from Malagant and just before he dies and Lancelot and Guinevere as he prepares to leave Camelot.
  • Big "NO!": Lancelot when he sees the barricaded church and fears the inhabitants have been murdered, Guinevere as Arthur is fatally wounded during the battle with Malagant.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Arthur dies, but not before forgiving Lancelot and Guinevere and giving them his blessing, knowing that she and Camelot will be safe in his care.
  • Blatant Lies: Guinevere tells Lancelot, "I don't love you", while trying so hard to avoid making eye contact with him that she practically turns her back to him.
  • Broken Pedestal: The young man who befriends Lancelot, given the disgusted and angry look on his face during his public trial for treason. Arthur also, citing how he loved Lancelot like a son and was infinitely grateful to him for saving Guinevere's life, only to have it turn out he was pursuing her.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : Guinevere spends the entire film resisting her attraction to Lancelot. The moment she gives in to give him a passionate goodbye kiss, assuming that she'll never see him again, Arthur walks in on them and everything falls apart—they're arrested and tried for treason, Malagant stages an invasion, and Arthur is killed.
  • Caught in the Rain: Lancelot and Guinevere, after he rescues her from Malagant.
  • Character Development: Lancelot, as cited below. Goes from being a devil-may-care drifter to someone willing to give up the woman he loves rather than destroy her marriage in order to have her, then willing to give his life for her several times (rescuing her from kidnappers, taking the full blame for their betrayal of Arthur)
  • Chekhov's Skill: Lancelot's Blade Spam-and-disarm technique shown at the start of the film is seen again in the final battle. Though he grabbed Arthur's own sword the second time, so it might seem magical when it's really this trope.
  • Damsel in Distress: Guinevere, pretty much for the entirety of the film, though she does put up a good fight during both of her abductions, showing herself to be tougher than most examples of this trope.
  • Death by Irony: Malagant covets Arthur's throne and dies sitting on it.
  • Death Course: Lancelot runs through a gauntlet (without the provided protective gear) to win a kiss from Guinevere.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Arthur dies in the end, leaving Guinevere and Lancelot free to be together.
  • Demythtification: While it's still very much a medieval-style fantasy and no real-world places like Britain (or England) are ever mentioned, there is no Merlin, Morgan le Fay or any other magic elements from the legends. Arthur's sword, while shiny, is not said to be "Excalibur".
  • Dies Wide Open: Malagant and Arthur.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Malagant ripping off Guinevere's dress. He doesn't rape her—only seconds earlier, he was blasting one of his men for her disheveled state, saying, "I gave orders the lady was not to be harmed!"—but he clearly wants to degrade her and put the fear of that possibility into her.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: When Arthur proposes to make Lancelot a knight of the Round Table, the other knights are suspicious of him because he's a vagabond. They start respecting him after he proves himself in battle.
  • Follow the Leader: After Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves brought medieval epics back in a big way.
  • Freudian Excuse: Lancelot reveals that his parents were killed in a village attack, thus explaining (a) his Berserk Button-like reaction to such incidents, and (b) his devil-may-care attitude towards life—he's afraid to lose anyone he cares about, so he doesn't permit himself to care about anyone in the first place.
  • Give Me a Sword: From one of Arthur's knights to another during the final melee.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Camelot is so very blue while Malagant uses black.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Helmets are only widely worn in the penultimate battle scene, otherwise nobody does. After being knighted, Lancelot gets a helmet for that battle, but takes it off. Arthur and Malagant never wear helmets.
  • Heroic BSOD: Arthur after walking in on Lancelot and Guinevere kissing, which gets kicked Up to Eleven when he forces her to admit that she loves him. See My God, What Have I Done?, about the moment Arthur becomes aware he made a mistake to try Guinevere and Lancelot publicly. Even if it is only for a few seconds, he seems quite lost.
  • The High Middle Ages
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Arthur insists on trying Guinevere and Lancelot in public and inviting the entire city, leaving himself vulnerable to Malagant's invasion. On the other hand, Malagant relishes the chance to humiliate Arthur in front of the entire kingdom, only to have to contend with the infuriated populace when Arthur rallies them to fight back.
  • Honor Before Reason: After catching Lancelot and Guinevere in an embrace, Arthur bluntly declares, "As a man, I may forgive. As a king. . .", then declares that two will be tried for treason, in public, lest the people think that he is showing favoritism or leniency that he would never have extended to anyone else, though one can't help but wonder if he also wants to publicly humiliate them for their betrayal.
  • I Gave My Word: Her exact words as Guinevere tells Lancelot that she already promised to marry Arthur.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Rare heroic example; as Arthur gets down on one knee, he commands his city...to fight!
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Arthur offers to release Guinevere from their engagement, telling her that he will protect her kingdom regardless. She refuses and reaffirms her love for him. Later, Lancelot decides to stop pursuing Guinevere and leave Camelot so as not to undermine it or her marriage.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Malagant demands that Arthur kneel before him. Arthur does so, only to rise and order his people to fight to the end.
  • Love at First Sight: Guinevere has this reaction to Lancelot.
  • Match Cut: When Arthur discovers Guinevere's affair with Lancelot, the scene ends with Arthur's left eye dissolving into the fire of the next scene.
  • May-December Romance: Arthur is 35 years older than Guinevere, though such age differences were probably quite common in those days.
  • Meaningful Echo: Lancelot kisses Guinevere after rescuing her and swears that before she's married, she'll ask him to kiss her again. She doesn't before her wedding, but as he prepares to leave Camelot, states, "I'm asking you", essentially telling him that she returns his feelings.
    • The scar on Arthur's hand. As he and Guinevere discuss the injury (a hunting accident), it becomes obvious that this is the moment they fell in love. At his funeral, just before his body is set adrift, she kisses it, bidding him farewell.
    • In that same scene, Arthur talks about feeling "the sunlight across his face", representing true love. Just before he dies, he tells her that he feels it, letting her know that he forgives her and believes that she does love him.
  • Meaningful Name: The villain is named Prince Malagant. It's hard not to notice how similar that is to the word "malignant".
    • Although to be fair, "Maleagant" has appeared in Arthurian legend since the late 12th century.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: During the final public trial, Arthur understands he shouldn't have requested it, after Lancelot explains that he is ready for sacrifice, for the sake of Camelot and his King :
    Arthur: May God forgive me.
  • Nice to the Waiter: At the beginning of the film, as Guinevere greets the villagers routed from their homes during a attack, she refuses their attempt at kneeling to her in deference, citing the terrible ordeal they've been through. Later, during the first attempt at kidnapping her, she urges her maids to leave her behind, knowing that it's her the attackers want and not wanting to place them in danger. When she's rescued, her first query is as to their safety.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Should go without saying for Sean Connery, but this totally applies to Richard Gere.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: Malagant was said to have been the greatest of Arthur's knights before he rebelled against him.
  • Plummet Perspective: When the evil knight Malagant imprisons Guinevere above the oubliette, he tosses a torch in to hint at her fate should she try to escape. The light of the torch disappears into the gloom... but we never hear it hit the ground.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Guinevere
  • Recycled Trailer Music: The theatrical trailer uses "Riders of Doom" from Conan the Barbarian (1982).
  • Rejection Affection: Guinevere repeatedly rebuffs Lancelot's advances, which he dismisses. . .only for her to finally admit to her feelings just as he's preparing to leave.
  • Rescue Romance: Guinevere is clearly attracted to Lancelot the moment he first rescues her from would-be kidnappers. Him saving her the second time pretty much seals the deal on her feelings for him.
  • The Social Darwinist: Malagant constantly gives speeches about how "the strong rule the weak".
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Lancelot and Guinevere after he saves her for a second time.
  • Standard Hero Reward: The end has the mortally wounded King Arthur inexplicably hand over the royal sword and rulership of Camelot to Sir Lancelot who, before then, was a roving entertainer who fought people in town squares for money. Earlier on, Arthur had knighted Lancelot for rescuing Guinevere over Lancelot's (and the Round Table Knights') protestations. So he gives his Kingdom (and his soon-to-be widow) over to somebody who he barely knows, who had fallen in love with his wife, and who has no desire or ability to rule.
    • As the film progresses, we see Lancelot's development. Towards the end, after a major battle, he decides to leave Camelot because he finally understands what it means and does not wish to destroy it by continuing to pursue Arthur's wife. Additionally, his insistence on taking the blame and willingness to sacrifice himself for Guinevere's sake demonstrates to Arthur how much he genuinely loves and respects all three, despite his previous actions.
  • Take Up My Sword: As Arthur is mortally wounded, he drops his sword. Lancelot uses it to defeat Malagant at the climax of the final battle. Later Arthur does pass on his sword, Camelot and Guinevere to Lancelot.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: Malagant lowers a bridge, marches Guinevere over to a ledge, then raises the bridge, trapping her within "walls of air."
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: Guinevere leaves a strip of cloth from her dress as a clue for Lancelot to follow.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Arthur asks Guinevere "have you. . .given yourself to him?" regarding Lancelot. This was probably the term used in those days, but the long pause makes it seems as though he's using the words to substitute for something else.
  • Viking Funeral: Given to Arthur at the end, but his body is first set adrift as a nod to the traditional legend.
  • We Have Reserves: Malagant sacrifices a wave of soldiers just so Guinevere's guards are out of position when the second wave hits. Sir Agravaine is shocked and disturbed by the fact the second wave could just stand there and watch them die.
  • White Stallion: Guinevere, Lady of Leonesse and Queen of Camelot, is the only rider whose horse is white.
  • Wife Husbandry: Arthur and Guinevere. It's mentioned that he was a friend of her father's, which means he had to have known her since she was a child—and the way she talks about him makes it clear that she's loved him since then.