Film: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

"I've seen knights in armour panic at the first hymns of battle. And I've seen the loneliest unarmed squire pull a spear from his own body, to defend a dying horse. Nobility is not a birthright; it's defined by one's actions."
Robin of Locksley

A 1991 movie based on the Robin Hood legends, starring Kevin Costner in the title role. The story is familiar; Robin, a crusader, escapes Jerusalem alongside a Muslim named Azeem (Morgan Freeman), and they return to England. They discover that Robin's father (BRIAN BLESSED) has been killed by the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman), who is also now apparently a devil worshipper. They become outlaws, and steal from the rich and give to the poor. Men are made merry, buckles are swashed and they all live Happily Ever After. (Except the Sheriff, obviously.)

The movie opened to decent reviews and was nominated for quite a few awards, including an Oscar. Noted for Kevin Costner Not Even Bothering with the Accent and Alan Rickman's gloriously hamtastic performance.

The Mel Brooks 1993 parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights largely lampoons this movie, although it acknowledges other elements of the legend.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie excises Prince John entirely so as to give Robin a single, more direct nemesis in the Sheriff of Nottingham. It also pares down what are, in some versions of the myth, Loads and Loads of Characters from the Merry Men.
  • Adaptation Expansion: At the same time, the movie strives to give Robin and those Merry Men a much more thorough background, pulling aspects from various other adaptations and adding a few new ones of its own.
  • Against My Religion: Azeem, a Muslim, is forbidden by his faith from drinking alcohol. Friar Tuck doesn't have this limitation.
    Friar Tuck: Let us open a bottle and do our best to save each other's souls.
    Azeem: Alas, I am not permitted.
    Friar Tuck: Fine, then; you talk, I'll drink.
  • Altar the Speed: The Sheriff rushes Marian up to the Bishop's chambers and orders him to marry them. He keeps telling him to go faster and faster as Robin is pounding down the door.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: The Sheriff blackmails Marian in to marrying him by threatening the lives of the children he captured in the raid on the Merry Men's camp.
  • Arc Words: "I would die for [you/her]." Also shows up in the song "Everything I Do I Do For You."
  • Arrow Cam
  • Arrows on Fire: It's a Robin Hood movie, after all.
    • The Sheriff's men also use flaming arrows (and flaming catapults) when trying to kill the outlaws in the forest. Robin and and the other Merry Men are appropriately horrified.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Robin and Azeem somehow get off a boat in the south, wander all the way to the north of England and Hadrian's Wall, then double back to Nottingham in less than a day.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The opening credits feature the Bayeux Tapestry, which dates from the 11th century and depicts the recent Norman conquest of England. The film is set in the 12th century, during the Third Crusade. This is akin to showing images from The American Revolution in the opening to a movie about The American Civil War.
    • When Richard the Lionheart shows up at the end, Robin greets him as "Your Majesty." The English sovereign wasn't called "Majesty" until the reign of Henry VIII, three centuries later.
    • They also seemed to forget that Richard only spent about six months of his entire reign in England. He also forgave John and instead focused on regaining territory in France. Though this last bit is absent from pretty much every single version of the Robin Hood legend.
    • There is also no way in hell that Marian, even as King Richard's cousin, would address him so familiarly as "Richard!", or not at least curtsy in his presence.
    • Not to mention that Richard was only 42 when he died, much younger than Sean Connery was the time of filming.
    • The song Will Scarlet sings to mock Robin when Robin and the Merry Men first meet is set to the melody of "Pop Goes the Weasel," the first recorded mention of which is found in the mid-19th century. Granted, it probably originates from an earlier time, but not five hundred years earlier.
    • Barbarian Celts, more befitting Roman times, during the era of the Crusades.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In the audio commentary, Morgan Freeman admits to not having done enough research to know that Muslims do not pray with hands clasped, as Christians do.
  • Attempted Rape: As soon as the bishop declares them man and wife, the Sheriff proceeds to force himself on Marian.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: In the middle of the Celts' raid on the Merry Men's camp, Robin starts dumping chestfuls of gold coins on the bloodthirsty marauders. And they stop right in their tracks to pick up said booty, every last one of them, seeming to completely forget about the raging battle surrounding them that they initiated.
  • Audience Surrogate: Guy of Gisborne. After Nottingham delivers his "I'll cut your heart out with a spoon!" line, the scene switches to some undefined time later, with Guy asking the question that is now on every audience member's mind.
  • Award Bait Song: "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You"
  • Badass Preacher: Friar Tuck is just as good a fighter as any of the other Merry Men. When he's sober, anyway.
  • Berserk Button: Many characters have them. Most notable is Friar Tuck, who is righteously angry at the corrupt Bishop.
  • Big Brother Worship: Her reaction to his death suggests that Marian loved her brother Peter dearly.
  • Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word: Marian reluctantly accepts the Sheriff's marriage proposal when he implies that he will execute her handmaiden and the children captured in the raid on Robin's camp otherwise.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Happily averted; Azeem is still standing by the time credits roll.
  • Blown Across the Room: By a thrown sword, no less.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: While he's actually addressing Marian and Robin, Friar Tuck looks right at the camera and appears to be speaking to the audience with the last line of the movie.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Sheriff of Nottingham embodies pretty much any and all indicators of cartoonish supervillainy, up to and including Satan worship.
    • In his defense, it more seemed to be Mortianna involved in those things; she raised him, so she naturally had an influence on his belief system. The Sheriff goes to her for advice and (somewhat reluctantly) goes along with certain things, but there's little to show he actively practices any of it himself.
      • Case in point, he does insist on a Christian priest performing his wedding to Marian. Heck, the fact alone that he waits to be officially married before forcing himself on her shows that he does have some standards.
      • However, in the extended cut of the film, there is a scene where Mortianna advises him to seek aid "from those who share our god." It should also be noted that said Christian priest is a willing stooge of the Sheriff, albeit more out of cowardice than conviction. Make of it what you will.
  • Cat Scare: When Marian is trying to locate the source of a sound, a hissing cat leaps onto the table before her, just before a soldier throws her down onto it.
  • Catapult to Glory: Robin and Azeem are thrown over the castle wall by catapult after the Sheriff orders the gate closed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The knife Nottingham gave to Marian.
    • Similarly, the statue that the Sheriff had made of himself, which gets used as a battering ram in the climax. Also counts as a Chekhov's Gag as various characters pause to look at the scar that someone added to the statue after Robin and the Sheriff's first fight.
    • The portrait of a young Robin (seen hanging in Locksley Hall early in the film) looks an awful lot like Will Scarlet, who is secretly his illegitimate half-brother.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Firing an arrow amidst distractions.
  • Child by Rape: What Mortianna wants the Sheriff to beget by Marian. When he drags her into the chapel for the forced marriage, Mortianna declares that Marian is "ripe" and will produce a son.
  • Close-Call Haircut: Robin cuts off a lock of the Sheriff's hair during the final fight.
  • Composite Character: The Sheriff has a similar personality and appearance to the Sheriff from Robin of Sherwood, but adds the black magic activities of the TV series's other villain Baron de Belleme.
  • Corrupt Clergyman: The Bishop of Hereford is a textbook example. He willingly works with the Satan-worshipping Mortianna and the Sheriff of Nottingham to sanction marital rape; previously, he had helped to accuse their enemies (like Robin's father) of witchcraft so they could be justifiably murdered. He did it all for money. After Robin and Azeem interrupt the ceremony, the Bishop flees into another room and starts trying to pack up as much treasure as he can before fleeing. Of course, that's when Friar Tuck comes in...
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: The Trope Namer. Guy of Gisborne eventually works up the nerve to ask the Sheriff why he wouldn't just use a knife...
    Nottingham: Because it's dull, you twit! It'll hurt more!
  • The Crusades: Where Robin and Marian's brother Peter have been for the last few years, and where Richard the Lionheart still is during most of the movie.
  • Death by Childbirth: Averted, but Fanny comes awfully close until Azeem steps in.
  • Defiant to the End: Robin's father finds that he is alone against a few dozen men loyal to the Sheriff, who give him one last chance to join them.
  • Destination Defenestration / Disney Villain Death: How Friar Tuck deals with the corrupt Bishop.
  • Disney Death: Robin swings from a burning rope. It breaks; he falls; everyone assumes he's dead. Guess what.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • When Robin gets home and finds out what's become of his father in his absence, his first action (after he gets over his very understandable freak-out) is to give his father a proper burial.
    • Later, the same care is given to those who lose their lives during the woodland invasion.
    • Robin keeping his promise to Peter, to deliver his ring to Marian and offer her his protection, may also count as this trope.
  • Exact Words: When Friar Tuck confronts the corrupt bishop, he promises not to "strike a fellow man of the cloth." He then loads him up with his ill-gotten gold and defenestrates him.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: After all the horrible things he's done, the Sheriff is outraged at the notion of forcing himself on Marian before they are properly married. He seemed to have no problem with forcing her after they were married though.
    • He also balks at recruiting the Celts, describing them as "eaters of their dead".
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Michael Wincott as Guy of Gisborne.
  • Eye Scream: Duncan, Lord Locksley's retainer, had his eyes cut out because he refused to believe the accusations leveled at his master. The fact that he's the only servant left on the Locksley estate when Robin arrives suggests he might have been the only one who resisted.
    • Robin kills the executioner by shooting him in the eye with a flaming arrow to keep him from executing the outlaws.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Robin stabs the Sheriff in the heart, using the dagger that Marian had given him - which the Sheriff had previously given her.
  • Fanfare: The opening music.
  • Fatal Flaw: The Sheriff's is his arrogance. Rather than kill Robin immediately once he's cornered, he takes a moment to gloat, looking at Marian. That moment is all Robin needs to turn the tables.
  • Faux Affably Evil: For all his Large Ham and Laughably Evil tendencies, the Sheriff of Nottingham is WORSE here than he is almost ever portrayed. He is not only a murderous asshole, he is a devil worshipper.
  • Follow the Leader: The film duplicates so much from the immortal series Robin of Sherwood that the creators of the latter actually briefly wondered whether they should sue. They quickly decided against the inevitable hassle and stresses, and just waved it all off.
  • Friend to All Children: Friar Tuck. When the Sheriff's men infiltrate the forest dwelling, he rounds up several of the kids and herds them to safety.
    Friar Tuck: This way, my lambs.
  • Funny Background Event: When Sheriff invites the Celtic chieftain to the council with his allies, one of them questions his abilities. The chieftain takes a burning log out of the fireplace and calmly presses it against his own palm. Others are impressed and the council continues, while, in the background, the chieftain is visibly stifling a scream, even biting his hand.
  • God Help Us All: As the Celts prepare to attack the village, Azeem gasps, "Allah be merciful."
  • Groin Attack: This is how the brief fight between Robin and an armored Lady Marian ends.
    • Also, part of how Robin defeats Little John in their fight is to sneak up on him and hit him in the crotch with the staff.
  • Heroic Bastard: Will Scarlet, who is Robin's illegitimate half-brother.
  • Holier Than Thou: The Bishop.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: A rather amusing use of this, as the recently-blinded Duncan curses the Moors and Saracens, with Azeem sitting right next to him.
    Duncan: Curse those Moors and Saracens. Were it not for their ungodly ways, Master Robin would never have left. [beat] What manner of name is "Azeem?" Irish? Cornish?
    Azeem: Moorish.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Both played straight and subverted. The subversion is in Robin actually missing a shot. Sure, he was Distracted by the Sexy (so to speak), but come on. He's Robin Hood.
  • Invulnerable Knuckles: The Sheriff of Nottingham punches out an unfortunate henchman who's wearing a helmet and a chain mail coif, and doesn't even flinch.
  • I Owe You My Life: Azeem's whole reason for being in England.
  • Join or Die: The Sheriff of Nottingham gives Lord Locksley the choice to join up or die. Cue Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Kick the Dog: The Sheriff of Nottingham embraces his role as the bad guy:
    Sheriff of Nottingham: Wait a minute. Robin Hood steals money from my pocket, forcing me to hurt the public, and they love him for it?
    [Scribe nods]
    Sheriff: That's it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans. No more merciful beheadings. And call off Christmas!
  • Large Ham: Alan Rickman, so very much. He only took the part on the condition that he got to play it however he wanted.
  • Licensed Game: Received a video game adaptation for the NES. Spoony reviews it here.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: As mentioned under Re Cut, below. The Sheriff grew up thinking Mortianna raised him after he was orphaned, but she reveals that she's actually his birth mother. She's a Bride of Satan, and her master plot is to have the Sheriff wed Marian, steal the kingdom from Richard, and father the next King of England - putting her bloodline on the throne.
  • Mama Bear and Papa Wolf: Fanny and Little John, who are this way about each other as well as their kids.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Wulf, the eldest son of Fanny and Little John, has seven younger brothers and sisters (the youngest of whom is born midway through the film). Wulf is the only one whose name is ever mentioned.
  • Medieval Morons: Most of the Merry Men.
  • Misblamed: A meta-example; the film is rather notorious for the fact that most of the cast, and Kevin Costner in particular, lack a British accent. What we consider a British accent today is a fairly recent innovation, and having characters speak with said accent doesn't make them any more or any less accurate to the time period.
  • Multishot: Robin fires two arrows at the same time.
    • There's even a nice nod to the improbability of this as a quick shot shows Robin biting some of the fletching off one of the arrows, presumably to make it go wide and hit a second target.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The Sheriff of Nottingham somehow makes the order to "close the gate" sound utterly badass.
  • Neutral Female: During the final fight between Robin and the Sheriff, Marian (who is unarmed) does her best to stay out of the way, though she doesn't hesitate to throw whatever she can get her hands on at the Sheriff when his back is to her. She even appears to be preparing to strangle him with her bare hands at one point, though he disrupts the attempt.
    • She also trips him up by kicking a bench at him and burns him with a candle. We can safely say this is in averted-territory.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Wulf recognizes Will in the crowd on his way to be hanged. Angry over his apparent betrayal, he attacks him. The Sheriff recognizes Will in the scuffle and, upon hearing of Will's "failure" to kill Robin, adds him to the condemned. When the hangman comes up short a noose due to the addition, he ties Will to the planted barrel of gun powder. Now Robin can't shoot the barrel to save them.
  • Nice Job Guiding Us, Hero: When the Sheriff's men apprehend Marian and turn her entire household upside down, they specifically let the elderly and blind Duncan escape so he can lead them back into Robin's encampment.
    Will Scarlet: (with more pity than malice) Poor old blind fool led 'em straight to us.
  • Nice to the Waiter: We know Marian's a good person because she treats her servants well and she brings purses full of money to church on Sunday to give to the poor. Conversely, we know the Sheriff's a jackass for many reasons, but among them are the way he treats his scribe and Guy of Gisborne (who is his own cousin in this).
  • Noodle Incident: We never learn what caused Azeem to be imprisoned, other than that it involved a woman named Jasmine.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent:
    • Costner's Robin Hood mostly sounds like he's from Nebraska.
    • Also Sean Connery, but that goes without saying.
    • Also Christian Slater.
    • Hence, Mel Brooks did the famous Take That when in Men in Tights, his Robin comments "Because, unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with a British accent". Then again, the language used in England in the 12th century was nothing like what we call British today (Received Pronunciation/Standard English being recent developments). It wasn't even English, but Anglo-Norman French.
  • Oh Crap!: Duncan's reaction to learning, belatedly, that Azeem is a Moor. A more serious one is after the Merry Men defend their forest home from hired thugs. Robin looks out towards the Nottingham soldiers in the distance, with flaming arrows and trebuchets, and says "My God" in sheer terror.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Gender reversed.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Fuck me, he cleared it!"
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Right before throwing the corrupt Bishop out of a window, Friar Tuck offers this beauty.
    Tuck: (adding one more pouch of coins to the bundles he's already shoved into the Bishop's arms) Here's thirty pieces of silver... to pay the devil... on your way to HELL!!
  • Produce Pelting: As the sentenced-to-hanging men are led out to the gallows, many of those watching throw assorted vegetation at them.
  • Re Cut: The extended version adds in 12 minutes of new footage, including an entire subplot with the Sheriff and Mortianna. She's his biological mother and uses him as a pawn in her Evil Plan to get Nottingham on the throne in King Richard's absence.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: Disney uses the main fanfare in the promotional clip that plays as soon as one of their DVDs is loaded.
  • Relative Button: Guy of Gisbourne intentionally pushes the button, mocking the death of Robin's father to make Robin attempt to fight him right then, when Guy is surrounded by mooks, and be duly slaughtered. Fortunately for Robin, Azeem was there to talk some sense into him.
    Guy: Your father died a coward, cursing your name and squealing like a stuck pig!
    Azeem: [grabs Robin as he starts to move toward Guy] You will bring no justice to your father by dying today!
  • The Resenter: Will Scarlet towards Robin. In the latter half of the movie, we find out why when Will reveals that he's Robin's illegitimate half-brother.
  • Rousing Speech: Azeem’s speech to the people of Nottingham, which doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Marian is King Richard's cousin, making her a member of the Plantagenet royal family. She refuses to leave her home and join her mother in London because "I am the King's cousin; it is my station to look after his people while he is away!" She gives refugees the freedom to camp on her estate and distributes money to the poor. She's also quite the Action Girl, as shown in her introductory scene.
  • Running Gag: Robin seems incapable of meeting anyone without getting in a fight.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Marian is introduced masked, and it's not until she lets out a high-pitched scream when Robin sticks her hand in a candle that her identity is revealed.
  • Say My Name: Marian's infamous "Robiiin!" and his slightly more restrained "Marian!". In the beginning, Lord Locksley uses this as a Battle Cry, screaming his loyalty to King Richard during his last fight.
  • Scary Black Man: Azeem to the British. Less so to audience, considering he's played by Morgan Freeman.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Kevin Costner in the movie poster.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The Sheriff and his conspirators.
  • Shoot the Rope: To save the kid! Played with in that Robin has to shoot it twice, as the first arrow only frays it.
  • Spiritual Successor: To both Robin of Sherwood and Robin and Marian in its own ways.
  • Stop Drowning and Stand Up: Robin and Little have this conversation after they're both knocked into the water after a quarterstaff battle;
    Robin of Locksley: Do you yield?
    John Little: I bloody can't swim!
    Robin of Locksley: Do you yield?
    John Little: Yes!
    Robin of Locksley: Good. Now put your feet down.
    John Little: [finds that he is standing in less than 2 feet of water] I'll be buggered.
  • Storming the Castle
  • Stout Strength: Brother Tuck is able to pull a horse cart full of wine barrels after Robin takes him hostage and makes him pull the cart back to the outlaws hideout.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Little John can't swim at all, and concedes defeat to Robin when he thinks he might drown. It turns out that the water in which he's floundering only comes up to his thighs.
  • Swashbuckler
  • Sword over Head
  • Sword Sparks: Mostly against stone pillars.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Azeem chucks his sword at Mortianna while she is in full sprint, and hits her square on. And she goes flying across the room and hits the wall! It's hinted there may be something mystical at work here, as Mortianna prophesies that Azeem will be the one to kill her, something he seems to feel as well. Averted a few minutes before this, when Robin's sword breaks a little above the hilt, and he throws the remainder at the Sheriff.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Well, they're not peaceful, and they're not villagers, but they're farmers who have no combat training.
  • Tricked Into Escaping: Duncan is allowed to escape so that he can be followed back to Robin's camp.
  • Tsundere: Marian at times.
  • The Unfavorite: Will Scarlet, who was the son of Robin's father and a woman he was involved with after the death of Robin's mother. Lord Locksley broke it off with the woman (and basically abandoned his second son) because the affair upset Robin.
  • Viewers Are Morons: As the Misblamed and Not Even Bothering with the Accent entries can attest, the jokes about this movie, and Kevin Costner by extension, not sporting British accents are so common that they're not even funny anymore, especially for people who know from the get-go that a modern British accent is no better than Costner's American one.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Friar Tuck's above-mentioned line about "thirty pieces of silver" is a Biblical reference; this was the amount of money that Judas Iscariot was paid to betray Jesus Christ. However, the way the line is delivered and the shocking defenestration which follows are both so incredibly badass that some viewers didn't really catch the reference.
  • Violent Glaswegian
    Mortianna: Recruit the beasts that share our god.
    Sheriff of Nottingham: Animals?
    Mortianna: From the North.
    Sheriff of Nottingham: You mean Celts. They drink the blood of their dead.
  • Waterfall Shower: Taken by Robin.
  • Wedding Day: The finale.
  • Wedding Deadline: The Sheriff actually gets married to Marian before Robin can stop it, but he dies pretty shortly thereafter. Happens again when King Richard interrupts Robin's and Marian's wedding.
  • World of Ham: To be expected with a cast like Alan Rickman and BRIAN BLESSED.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: Robin and Azeem.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Sheriff disembowels Guy of Gisborne after stating "I can't allow a lieutenant to fail me." (At least he didn't use a spoon.) Made arguably worse by the fact that Guy is the Sheriff's cousin, and only seconds before the killing, the Sheriff had been embracing and consoling him over the failure.
  • You Killed My Father: The Sheriff did this to Lord Locksley, which he makes clear to Robin when they confront each other for the big climax.
    • More in the sense of You Stole My Father, Will Scarlet blames Robin for their father leaving his mother. In the end, the two reconcile.

Alternative Title(s):

Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves