A Knight's Tale is a 2001 Genre-Busting medieval sports romantic comedy film written and directed by Brian Helgeland. It stars Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, and Shannyn Sossamon, with a supporting cast including Alan Tudyk, Mark Addy, James Purefoy, Laura Fraser, and Paul Bettany as the author Geoffrey Chaucer.
The film plays like a combination sports movie and romantic comedy, except that the sport is jousting and the setting is The Late Middle Ages (specifically The Hundred Years War). Our hero William is simple squire who, with the help of some lowborn buddies, attempts to make his mark by posing as a noble knight, becoming Europe's finest jousting sensation and winning the heart of a fair maiden.
This film contains examples of:
- Achievements in Ignorance: William never raises his head to prevent splinters from the lances penetrating his visor, since he has never received any proper training in jousting, and so does not know of these subtle techniques by other knights. It does, however, mean he keeps his eyes on his target at all times, and is implied as to be one of the key reasons why he's so effective.
- Act of True Love: Having gotten so many declarations of how a suitor will win the tournament for her, Jocelyn gives Will an ultimatum when he does the same in Paris - that he should lose to prove his love for her. After he goes through about half the tournament just taking the strikes, she sends word that he's proven himself, and should now fight to win.Chaucer: There she is, the embodiment of love. Your Venus.
Will: And how I hate her.
- Later played seriously when William's friends stand by his side against the mob after his true identity has been revealed and he's being pilloried.
- 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.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees:
- Widows of blacksmiths and other tradesmen really did take up the job — not just the Politically Correct History you may have thought (not that it would have been out of place). Blacksmiths paid their taxes to the local feudal lord in arrowheads instead of gold, so nearly all blacksmiths' wives were trained in basic smithing so they could make arrowheads and free up their husband to do the earning jobs.
- 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.
- Anachronism Stew:
- Modern music is played at frequent intervals in order to convey the feeling that medieval people would have felt the same way about their music as modern people do.
- Other anachronisms are put in for Rule of Funny and Rule of Cool. Kate puts her brand on Will's armour - the Nike logo. Jocelyn has a lot of hairstyles that are inspired by punk-rock and there's even a wooden version of the London Eye visible at one point. Some of the costumes are anachronistic because the designer thought they looked neat.
- At one point, Watt insults a Frenchman by calling him "Quasimodo." Not only was The Hunchback of Notre Dame published 500 years after the movie takes place, but it takes place a solid century after the movie is set. Without that reference, calling someone Quasimodo as an insult doesn't make sense.
- While Anjou (of which the villain is supposed to be the Count of) had once been an English possession (in fact, it was originally the seat of the Plantagenet family, of which the Black Prince was a member), by the time this movie is set, Anjou was a French possession held by the then current King of France John II, who the Black Prince defeated in battle at Poitiers, which is depicted in this movie.
- Angrish: Wat is prone to this.
- Answer Cut: A variation — after Adhemar compares Ulrich to an anvil, the movie cuts to William, who's remarking that Adhemar hits like a hammer.
- Appeal to Force: When William introduces himself to Chaucer as "Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein from Gelderland", Chaucer derisively replies, "I'm Richard the Lionheart, pleased to meet you." William promptly pulls a knife on him and Chaucer goes, "Now that, I do believe, Sir Ulrich."
- Arc Words: "A man can change his stars."
- 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.
- Arranged Marriage: Adhemar reveals at the opening ceremonies for the London tournament that he's started negotiating with Jocelyn's father to marry her.
- Ascended Fanboy: William, obviously.
- As the Good Book Says...: Adhemar's "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting", which is later reiterated by Wat, Roland, Kate, and Chaucer, is taken from Daniel 5:27 in the Bible: "Tekel: Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." [King James Version]
- 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 an annoyed Watt cuts him off with, "We're English, Geoff, we know who he is!"
- 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 after Chaucer gave his speech. But, as most of them didn't understand English, the crowd hadn't actually understood their instructions, and were confused about when Chaucer was finished. 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.
- Authority Equals Ass Kicking: Edward, Prince of Wales.
- Badass Longcoat: Chaucer and Prince Edward love wearing these.
- The Bard: Chaucer is a variant.
- Battle Cry: WILLIIIIAAAAAAAM
- Because You Were Nice to Me: William twice jousts against a Sir Thomas Colville. The first time Colville is injured on the second lance, and William agrees to have them both tilt and then not strike each other to maintain Colville's honor. The second time, William learns right before the bout that Colville is really Prince Edward incognito, and before the others can withdraw for him William tilts at him. Edward is both impressed by William's willingness to face him as a Worthy Opponent, as well as grateful for the earlier honorable draw; and repays the kindness after William is revealed as a commoner by knighting him. Moreover, he fakes evidence that William is descended from an Impoverished Patrician and warns anyone that to question him is treason.
- 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 in his heart, even if he isn't one on paper. His companions agree this may be so but the judges only care for paper.William: "No! I will not run! I am a knight!"
- The earliest hint of this is when he and his companions compose a love letter to Jocelyn, and he says "With all the love that I possess, William." Chaucer reminds him that he's Ulrich.
- 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!
- The Big Damn Kiss: The movie of course ends with one between William and Jocelyn after the tournament is won. Prince Edward even plants a big kiss on his wife after the win.
- Big Game: The world championships. At which William and Adhemar are finally to have a rematch.
- The Blacksmith: A female one, no less, acting as a farrier and armoursmith.
- Blasphemous Praise: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:
- Will introduces himself to Chaucer, having blatantly just made up his "Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein" alias. Chaucer sarcastically replies, "I'm Richard the Lionheart, pleased to meet you."
- 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."
- Blond, Brunette, Redhead: Male example. The trio of friends at the beginning has William as the blond, Roland as the brunet and Wat as the redhead. Geoff gives them another blond and then Kate's black hair. This is averted with the female characters, who are all dark-haired.
- Boom Head Shot: Or the jousting equivalent. As Adhemar explains to Jocelyn, breaking your lance on your opponent's helmet is worth more points because it's more difficult.
- Boring, but Practical: Adhemar and his herald's assessment of William's jousting: "His technique, rudimentary. His style, nonexistent".
- Brick Joke: When Geoffrey first joins the gang, Wat warns him that betraying them will result in "pain, lots of pain". They, Roland and Kate engage in gambling before the Paris tournament, unaware that Will will force himself to lose it. When Geoff tells Wat that loss is just part of gambling, Wat follows through on the "Lots of pain!" He is even implied to give Geoff a wedgie.
- Bring It: William to Adhemar at the final, do-or-die joust.William: Let's dance, you and I.
- Buxom Is Better: Discussed when writing the letter to Jocelyn - they spend rather a lot of time discussing whether or not William should mention her breasts. Kate, at least, has an opinion on Jocelyn's.Geoff: You could... I would tend to look above her breasts.
William: I miss her throat?
Geoff: Still higher, a little towards the heavens.
Kate: The moon at least. Her breasts were not that impressive.
- 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 stands in the pillory the same boy runs up to him and slaps him in the face.
- The Champion: Inverted and lampshaded when Jocelyn calls William out on this trope, telling him that the more impressive feat to her would be if he intentionally lost as "proof of his love". No points for guessing how this turns out.
- 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 (annoyed at being humiliated by Count Adhemar) and he never picks another sword up for the rest of the film.
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: "Oh, but this leak won't do, Father. Not in the chamber of a Thatcher." His father answers that for a blind thatcher, it's actually rather fitting.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Adhemar is almost always wearing black. And looking good! He's also literally the Green-Eyed Monster, motivated mostly by his jealousy of William.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- Adhemar's aide shows signs of this. When Adhemar asks how he would defeat "Ulric", the man suggests ambushing him in his sleep and beating him with a stick.
- 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.
- Come to Gawk: People do this to those in the pillory.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Sir Ector has a heart attack while taking a dump between bouts, so William puts on Sir Ector's armor to take his place in the tournament (and hopefully win because they've been completely out of food money for days). He's ebullient about getting to joust for the first time.William: I've waited my whole life for this moment.
Roland: You waited you whole life for Sir Ector to shite himself to death?
- Wat's usual state of mind. For just one example, his response to Jocelyn's disparaging description of William as "a silly boy with a horse and a stick" after a fight.Wat: It's called a lance, helloooooo!
- Sir Ector has a heart attack while taking a dump between bouts, so William puts on Sir Ector's armor to take his place in the tournament (and hopefully win because they've been completely out of food money for days). He's ebullient about getting to joust for the first time.
- Costume Porn: Practically every scene Jocelyn appears in has her sport an entirely new outfit and hairdo.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Adhemar. If he cannot woo Jocelyn, he will simply work out a deal with her father to marry her.
- Crippling the Competition:
- Discussed, then played with, and finally played straight:Count Adhemar: How would you beat [Ulrich]?
Advisor: With a stick. While he slept. But on a horse, with a lance? That man is unbeatable.
- Following this, Adhemar plays with the trope by striking at Will politically, exposing him as a false-knight so he can't compete. When that doesn't work (because Will actually gets knighted), Adhemar resorts to straight up cheating by using actual pointed lances disguised as the tournament-legal blunted ones. The stabbing injury he inflicts on Will with one forces him to shed his armor and risk death to continue competing.
- Discussed, then played with, and finally played straight:
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Will after getting told by Jocelyn to win, after previously being told to lose, crushes his remaining opponents.
- Curtain Clothing: When asked what William will wear to a banquet, Roland's inspiration, and description comes from the cloth tent he is staring at. In his own words "Eh... green. Um... trimmed in a kind of... pale... green... uh, wi-with, uh... wooden toggles."
- However, when we later see William wearing the tent-turned-tunic, there isn't a toggle to be seen.
- David Versus Goliath: A plucky peasant with an antique suit of armour versus the combined nobility of Europe and, more specifically, the undefeated champion of Europe.
- Dance Sensation: Both in the opening song and the ballroom scene.
- Dark Is Evil: Adhemar; dark hair, dark armor, dark horse, dark heart.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Played with Prince Edward, called the Black Prince. As mentioned in Historical Hero Upgrade, against his enemies, he is a scourge and bringer of death and terror. However, if one has gained his respect, then he is this idea. Seen best when he knights William because of his valor and his friend's love for him.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Sir Ector dies before the final stage of the last tournament he entered. William impersonates him during that stage and that's what inspires him into making up a nobility status so he can enter more tournaments.
- 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.
- Death-or-Glory Attack: The movie ends with William doing this to Adhemar. In their first two tilts, Adhemar struck William hard enough to dent his armor, forcing William to take it off. In their third tilt, William charges against Adhemar completely unarmored, ensuring that either he would unhorse Adhemar or he would take a fatal stab from Adhemar's lance.
- 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 armour; 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.
- Discriminate and Switch: How Will convinces Kate to fix his armour.William: It's just as well, they told me I was daft for even asking.
William: The other armourers.
Kate: Did they say I couldn't do it because I'm a woman?
William: No, they said you were great with horseshoes, but shite with armour. The fact that you were a woman wasn't even mentioned.
- Disqualification-Induced Victory:
- William wins the second tournament in part because his strongest opponent, Count Adhemar, forfeited his semifinal joust when he learned his opponent Sir Thomas Colville was really Prince Edward of England incognito. William proceeds to tilt at Edward anyway, winning the tournament and the prince's respect.
- During the Paris 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.
- Distracted by the Sexy: So distracted that William accidentally rides his horse straight into a church after Jocelyn, getting shouted at by the priest for desecrating it by doing so.
- Double Standard: Jocelyn gets annoyed when, during their argument in the church, the priest tries to shush her and not William.
- Drop the Hammer: When William is arrested and put in the pillory and his True Companions arrive to support him, Kate brings her blacksmith's hammer. From her body language, it's quite clear she's prepared to use it to defend Will if necessary.
- The Dulcinea Effect: Jocelyn merely passed by William.William: I cant. Love has given me wings, so I must fly. I cant explain it. She makes me feel like a poet.
Roland: You may feel like a poet... but you sound like an idiot. You dont even know her name.
William: Her name? Her name is Aphrodite. Calypso. Venus. Take your pick.
- Ensemble Dark Horse: Chaucer becomes one In-Universe. When stalling for time during the last tilt, Chaucer says he missed his introduction and draws a huge applause.
- Establishing Character Moment: Sir Adhemar at first seems like just another suitor pursuing Jocelyn, but his gleeful humiliation of Will when he approaches shows that he's extremely petty. And when Will allows Sir Colville to withdraw gracefully, Jocelyn remarks upon his mercy.Adhemar: Then he shows his weakness. That's all mercy is.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Whilst not evil, per se, merely being on the side of the antagonist, Adhemar's herald nonetheless looks on, ashamed and disgusted, as Adhemar has Will arrested, instead of facing him fairly in the lists.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: William's long dreadlocks get cut short offscreen, and he shaves his beard, to look more like a knight.
- 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.
- Fiery Red Head: Wat, who is prone to violent outbursts.
- Five-Man Band:
- The Leader - William assumes this role once he starts posing as a knight.
- The Lancer - Roland offers guidance and is the one who frequently calls William out for any idiocy.
- The Big Guy - Wat has a fiery temper and is prone to violent outbursts. He is, however, the smallest guy on the team, and looks like a piece of wet noodle. Hes surprisingly effective with his fists, though.
- The Smart Guy - Geoffrey of course is the one who can forge the papers to pass William as a noble, not to mention being a writer. As William's herald, he also doubles as The Face.
- The Chick: Kate is the only woman in the group, but also a blacksmith and One of the Boys.
- 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.
- Gendered Insult: Chaucer and Roland to Wat while they're teaching William to dance.Chaucer: And one and two and three and four, you can hit me all day 'cause you punch like a what?
Roland: [while sewing William's dress] A girl!
- Genre-Busting: It's a sports movie with a romantic comedy subplot... except the sport is jousting.
- Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Jocelyn's hand-maiden Christiana is often clad in light purple dresses. She is just as delicate and feminine as her mistress.
- Graceful Loser: Definitely not Adhemar, but his herald counts. He seemingly holds no particular animosity towards William and is seen smiling and sincerely applauding the latter's victory over his own liege in the climactic joust.
- 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.
- Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Jocelyn is outwardly feminine and a proper noblewoman who also happens to visibly enjoy watching men clobber each other in jousting, wears very "Punk Rock" looking hairstyles, and is not at all shy about voicing her own opinions or standing up for herself.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: William's blond hair marks him as a Wide-Eyed Idealist and a kind soul.
- Hammy Herald: Geoffrey for William.
- The Heart: For all Wat's goofiness, when William is at last jousting under his own name, and his father is in the crowd, Wat brings home the whole point of the final joust:Wat: That's your name. Sir William Thatcher. Your father heard that.
- HeelFace Turn: While not exactly a villainous character, Adhemar's herald is seen clearly shocked at William walking to his arrest with his head held high, and ultimately cheers him on when he wins the tournament.
- 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 armor, saying he "can't breathe with it on," because the chest plate 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 face plates, to shots of the stunt men.
- And in the first joust, William used the damage to his face plate 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.
- Heroes Prefer Swords: Before he gets the hang of tilting, swordplay is easily William's best skill. Then subverted: William abandons the sword tournaments because jousting is far more prestigious and heroic.
- Historical Beauty Upgrade: Paul Bettany is considerably better looking, not to mention taller and thinner, than the actual Geoffrey Chaucer was.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Edward the Black Prince is portrayed as a likable individual who values William's courage and the bond of companionship he has with his friends. 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-Centered 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.
- Hollywood History: Not unusually for Medieval period pieces, the film is ostensibly set during the 1300s but all the knights wear styles of armor that wouldn't be developed until the following century.
- Huddle Shot: At the end, spoken by the main characters, in turn:Watt: You have been weighed...
Roland: ... You have been measured...
Kate: ... And you absolutely...
Chaucer: ... Have been found wanting. note
William: Welcome to the new world. And may God save you, if it is right that He should do so.
- It also doubles as an Ironic Echo, as Adhemar used those very words against William; first, after he had beaten William in the joust on the first tournament they share, the second is after William's been ousted as a peasant.
- Hypocritical Humor: In the church, the priest says that Jocelyn should pray that her beauty fade swiftly, as she's So Beautiful It's a Curse, and offers up his ring for her to kiss. Her calling it lovely makes him quickly move on to other matters.
- I Can't Dance: Will, who subsequently gets lessons from Geoff and Kate.
- I Just Want to Be Special: William wants to "change his stars" to become a knight even though he's only a peasant.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: In contrast Prince Edward just wants to opportunity to joust like a 'normal' nobleman, but everyone who knows or finds out who he is withdraws. Thus is born the identity of 'Thomas Colville'.
- I'll Kill You!: One of the things Wat screams as he's kicking Sir Ector's corpse at the beginning. "If you're dead, I'll kill you!"
- Inevitable Tournament: The movie is a series of inevitable tournaments.
- In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous:
- Chaucer. It's averted In-Universe, as William, Wat, and Roland have no clue who he is when he introduces himself.
- The Black Prince, too, but that's slightly more back up by the plot.
- Ironic Echo:
- "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting." First from Adhemar to Ulrich, then from William and his crew to Adhemar.
- Adhemar does it to himself. Early, he derides Ulrich as having "no style." Later, after tilting against him, Adhemar remarks that Ulrich still has no style... but then, neither does an anvil.
- I Should Write a Book About This: Chaucer says he'll write a story about the events in the film, an allusion to The Canterbury Tales.
- It Will Never Catch On:
- Kate invents the Bessemer Process for heating steel 400-500 years before it happened. When William first walks out in his thin, lightweight new armor, he's meet with guffaws of ridicule... until he easily swings himself up onto horseback unassisted (in contrast to an earlier shot of servants laboring to heft a heavily-armored knight into the saddle). The laughter dies off in a hurry then.
- Kate etching "the mark of [her] trade" (the Nike logo) into her armour 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 unlikeable.
- Knighting: William's eventual reward, thanks to Prince Edward.
- King Incognito: The Black Prince has his reasons.
- He wants to joust without people knowing its him and treat him like any other competitor. He certainly doesn't want to win by virtue of being royalty and people surrendering rather than risk striking him. He respects William for riding against him despite knowing who he truly is.
- Later he dons a robe to hide in a crowd so he can watch William in the pillory, and witnesses his friends going up to protect him from the crowd.
- Kneel Before Frodo: Happens when the King Incognito gets cognito.
- Knight In Shining Armour: Duh. Just to be really old-fashioned, Adhemar wears black armour. And a scowl.
- Ladies and Germs: One of Chaucer's introductions.Chaucer: My lords... my ladies... (Chaucer bows then turns to the audience) ... and everybody else here not sitting on a cushion!
- The Lady's Favour: Jocelyn sends one of her scarves to William before his first match with Adhemar, which is also how he finds out her name. He ends up losing both the match and the scarf which falls to the arena floor. Adhemar scoops it up with his lance and returns it to Jocelyn. She takes the scarf but coldly walks away without speaking to him.
- Large Ham:
- Geoffrey Chaucer is this when announcing William. For a herald, it's practically in the job description.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.
- Geoffrey Chaucer is this when announcing William. For a herald, it's practically in the job description.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Chaucer nearly gives away William's real name:Chaucer: Please, Will— Please will you help me, Sir Ulrich.
- Letting Her Hair Down: We see Jocelyn with her hair down as she is preparing for bed. It's no coincidence that this is when she admits that she loves William - to the audience at least.
- Lightning Bruiser: Will goes from effective but clumsy to nimble and maneuverable with Kate's armor upgrade.
- The Lost Lenore: A rare male example of this trope being blacksmith Kate's dead husband.
- Love at First Sight: William for Jocelyn.
- Love Is Like Religion:
- After being invited to a banquet by Jocelyn, William tells her that her beauty reminds him of the Bible.Jocelyn: Sir Ulrich, you look fantastic.
William: Jocelyn, you look... Uh, you... You remind me of the Bible. When God stopped the Sun to give Joshua more time to defeat the Amorites.
Jocelyn: I don't understand.
William: If I could ask God one thing, it would be to stop the Moon. Stop the Moon and make this night, and your beauty, last forever.
- Again, after Jocelyn commands him to throw his jousts to prove his love for her:Wat: And your love? Have you proven that yet?
William: Wat, you remember church as a boy. The fear, the passion. Thats what she makes me feel. And for that, I say my rosary to Jocelyn and no one else.
Wat: William, thats blasphemous.
William: Then may I burn in hell.
- After being invited to a banquet by Jocelyn, William tells her that her beauty reminds him of the Bible.
- 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!
- Loved I Not Honor More: Sort of implied in the scene where Chaucer brings the news that Will is going to be arrested. All his friends think he should run. Jocelyn explicitly begs him to run, adding, "Do it for love." He still refuses, and his justification is simply, "I am a knight."
- Magnetic Hero: Will has the charisma to convince Wat and Roland to support his frankly insane plan. He soon rounds up Chaucer, Kate, Jocelyn and the Prince.
- Marquee Alter Ego: The most likely explanation for William removing his armour in the final battle is so we can see Heath Ledger's face.
- Meaningful Echo: When Will first talks Wat and Roland into his insane plan, the after Will has been arrested.Roland: (exasperated) God love you, William—
Will: I know, I know, "no one else will."
Roland: God love you, William. . . so do I.
- Wat uses the threats "I will fong you" and "Pain, lots of pain" twice in the movie with different sets of words and Angrish spoken in-between the two. The first time is when he warns Chaucer not to betray him, William, and Roland. The second time occurs much later, when he helps defend William (who is in the pillory) from the angry crowd.
- A variant with both instances carrying the same sentiment. Geoffrey twice makes My Friends... and Zoidberg comments about a situation, the Zoidberg being Wat who is standing next to him. The first time it's about women always understanding the simplicity of men and Wat just grumbles at him. The second time it's at the end of the movie after William defeats Adhemar in the final tournament. He states that he will write about the entire story and everyone in it, except Wat, who looks like he wants to fong him but instead laughs and side-hugs him.
- 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. William's father is indeed a thatcher by profession, and William knows enough of the job to repair a leaky roof.
- Meaningful Rename: Sir William Thatcher, indicating that William has indeed changed his stars and elevated his position.
- Motivational Lie: At the second tournament, Roland tells William that his opponent is cruel to his peasants. Wat gives a sotto "It's probably true" out of Will's earshot.
- At the first tournament, Will uses this to trick Kate into mend his breastplate without paying first, telling her that the other smiths had called him daft for asking her.Kate: Did they say I couldn't do it because I'm a woman?
Will: No, they said you're great with horseshoes but shite with armor. The fact that you're a woman wasn't even mentioned.
- At the first tournament, Will uses this to trick Kate into mend his breastplate without paying first, telling her that the other smiths had called him daft for asking her.
- Multicolored Hair: If you look closely, you'll see that Kate's hair has dyed green tips. Jocelyn has the occasional highlights in her hair as well.
- Naked People Are Funny:
- Chaucer just strolls into the film stark naked, completely okay with that. It's something of a Running Gag for him to have gambled his clothes away.
- A deleted scene (restored in the extended cut DVD) has Will and his group seeing Chaucer walking naked again in the middle of the night, and assuming he's yet again lost everything gambling. he was just grabbing an apple for his hungry wife, after they'd just finished having sex.
- Sadly, it didn't actually happen, but at one point Jocelyn asks Will (who's in a very bad mood) what he'll be wearing to this dance, to which he replies "Nothing." Her response is a humorous "Then we shall cause quite a stir, for I shall dress to match."
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: A minor example occurs at the ball, when Adhemar asks Will to demonstrate a dance from Gelderland. He's obviously trying to cause embarrassment, but what he accomplishes is to give Will a perfect opportunity to invent a dance and put up any peculiarities to cultural differences, instead of having to try to remember the dances he had hastily learned a few hours before. By contrast, based on his comments in a deleted scene, Adhemar can't dance at all.
- Adhemar also does this several other times before the ball. His public insulting of William/Ulrich elicts pained sympathy from Jocelyn towards Wiliam/Ulrich, and later on, when William refuses to finish off an injured Colville, Adhemar claims mercy is nothing but weakness, drawing further silent disapproval from Jocelyn and indirectly making William/Ulrich look like a better person.
- 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.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Done deliberately — Laura Fraser was apparently expecting to be asked to put on a generic English accent, as usual, and was delighted to be allowed to use her natural Scots accent.
- Not So Above It All: During the joust at the beginning of the film, there's a shot of a lord and two ladies looking rather dismissive of the commons loud (and anachronistic) singing. The next shot of them, however, shows the ladies clapping along and the lord actually joining in with the singing, perhaps caught up in the spirit of the thing.
- Not So Different:
- A rare complimentary fashion, Edward laments how alike he and William are.Edward: What a pair we make, huh? Both trying to hide who we are, both unable to do so.
- Subtly, Adhemar and William.Adhemar: No style at all... but neither has an anvil.
William: He hits like a hammer.
- A rare complimentary fashion, Edward laments how alike he and William are.
- The Obstructive Love Interest: Jocelyn. It's implied that she's sick of numerous knights vowing to win the tournament for her, so she asks William to do his worst to prove his love. When he does so - and proves his sincerity - she lets him off.
- The Oner: William and Jocelyn's long walk-and-talk scene in the cathedral. On the DVD commentary Brian Helgeland admits that he shot the scene this way to save money as filming one long take meant they were done sooner than if they'd had to film from different angles.
- One of the Boys: Kate. A credits scene has her winning a farting contest amongst them.
- Only One Name: Williamnote and Chaucer are the only characters whose full names have been revealed.
- Oop North: William's friend Roland is from Yorkshire- just like his actor, Mark Addy- and Wat is from the Midlands. And to his credit, Alan Tudyk does a pretty good accent.
- 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 an apple and walks in the opposite direction.
- Peerless Love Interest: The peasant William falls in love with the noble lady Jocelyn.William: Geoff, 'tis my lady.
Geoffrey: Oh, geez, William, you aim too high.
William: Oh, if there's another way to aim, I don't know it.
- Power Walk: William and company do one as they go to the London tournament, just before William gets arrested.
- Product Placement: Not that the movie got any money for it, but that trademark that Kate etches into her armor? A pair of upside down Nike swooshes. Though, Word of God states it was unintentional.
- Purely Aesthetic Era: A story set in the 14th century, but with 1970s rock music. Word of God claims that the music is a kind of audible Translation Convention. Authentic 14th century music would just sound odd to modern audiences, so updating the music to modern-day stuff allows the audience to understand what the music means to the characters. This decision makes a bit more sense when you realize that the "traditional" alternative, a classical soundtrack, is just as anachronistic as a rock one.
- Purple Prose: Geoffrey Chaucer's job.
- Rags to Riches: As William wins more tournaments, he and the others are shown to have gotten better clothing compared to the beginning.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Sir Adhemar runs afoul of this (though it's still a prestigious position in its own right) because of his refusal to joust against Prince Edward.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: William vs. Count Adhemar, though as he keeps winning tournaments, Will gets considerably less poor.
- Rousing Speech: Chaucer delivers one before the final joust between William and Adhemar, giving William the resolve to keep fighting despite his injury by reminding all present that William has gone from being a peasant to being officially knighted.
- Rule of Cool: Face it, this is pretty much the entire point of this movie. Not that we're complaining...
- Running Gag: Chaucer's line of "Well, maybe not you..." towards Wat.
- Satellite Love Interest: Jocelyn. For most of the film's story, 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 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 trope, 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, as this is an unfortunate side effect of having to watch the story primarily from William's POV - some characters who might have been more developed individuals had they had more narrative time dedicated to them come off as shallow and unexplored characters, as is the case with Jocelyn.
- Say My Name: WILLIIIIIIIIIIIAM! 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 pillory, even going so far as to personally knight William himself just to allow him to compete. He basically declares that William has noble 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 Sir 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 pillory. 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.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: As a male example, William cleans up twice; First in the scene after he trains with Wat and Roland, his long dreadlocks are gone, and he is clean shaven. Second, when he has his hair combed, and dresses up for the banquet.
- 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.
- Ship Tease: Roland is seen chatting to Jocelyn's handmaiden Christiana more than once, and in a deleted scene they go off together arm in arm.
- William's choice of nom-de-guerre has a certain appropriateness (see Aluminium Christmas Trees above).
- 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.
- Showy Invincible Hero: William. Count Adhemar is the only knight of similar ability in the entire tournament circuit, a point made painfully clear when he is forced to leave on campaign and "Sir Ulrich" wins every tournament in the progress. However, thanks to his statesman Geoffrey Chaucer acting as hype man and his fearless method of tilting, the crowds love every moment of it.
- 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.
- Skewed Priorities: After being Reassigned to Antarctica, Adhemar shows more concern with Sir Ulrich's winning streak than the war campaign he's in charge of.
- 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.
- Spanner in the Works:
- The Dead Person Impersonation is nearly uncovered before it properly begins when the noble officiating the first tournament commands "Sir Ector" to remove his helmet when receiving his prize. Luckily, William took his opponent's lance in his helmet visor and is able to use the damage as an excuse not to remove it, on the grounds that he physically can't.
- In Paris, Chaucer organizes a bet with a trio of French gentlemen that Ulrich and not a Frenchman will win the tournament. Unfortunately, at the same time, Jocelyn demands that William throw his matches to prove he loves her (on the logic that winning, even in her name, just glorifies him and doesn't really prove anything about how he feels about her). Fortunately for the boys' and Kate's pocketbooks, after the first day, Jocelyn agrees he's made his point and tells him not to lose another match.
- In London, Count Adhemar follows "Ulrich" hoping to find something he can use to beat him, and spots him with his lowborn father and blows the whistle to the authorities, wrecking the band's scheme and forcing him to forfeit. Then Prince Edward ruins that plan by knighting William (to repay him for being a Nice Guy when he jousted William as Sir Thomas Colville) and reinstating him in the tournament.
- Spoiled Sweet: Jocelyn is a noblewoman and is kind-hearted, disapproving of Adhemar's cruel tendencies. She's also more like a best friend than a mistress to her lady-in-waiting.
- Spotting the Thread: Defied in the deleted scenes, one of which has Will, Roland, and Wat agreeing to change "Ulrich's" coat of arms to three phoenixes (up from Will's proposal of one, since there's three of them) because somebody might recognize the deceased Sir Ector's white stag banner.
- The Stinger: The four non-Will members of the Five-Man Band are having a competition to see who pays for drinks.
- Stock Punishment: Several people are seen there. One even mockingly tells young William if he wants to be a Knight, he would change his stars.
- Take That!: Roland delivers one during a bet to a trio of bragging Frenchmen in a bar.Frenchman: And, most importantly, because the Pope, himself, is French!
Roland: ... Well the Pope may be French, but Jesus is English. You're on!
- Tap on the Head: In Adhemar's third tilt at William, he aims for "Ulrich's" helmet because his lance glanced off without breaking on the previous tilt. William is temporarily knocked senseless and barely stays on the horse.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Chaucer and Wat have this relationship to a violent degree, with both of them dedicated to Will's success and mostly working together to help him, but constantly getting on each other's nerves. Wat seems to resent Chaucer's insertion of himself into the group, particularly his tendency to get himself into trouble and put the group at risk. Chaucer on the other hand knows how useful his clerical skills are and apparently has some disdain for the other's less refined skillset and violent tendencies. Wat's Hair-Trigger Temper gives him little patience for Geoffrey's elaborate wordplay and sly comments, while the latter clearly gets a kick out of goading him, which means that most flare-ups between the two result in hurt feelings from Wat, and bruises or a bloody nose for Geoffrey.
- That Poor Cat: Heard in the background during a bar fight.
- This Is Gonna Suck: William, at one point in the movie, has to lose to all matches in the tournament to prove his love for Jocelyn, all the while taking loads and loads of punishment. See Love Makes You Dumb for more details.
- Throwing the Fight: How Jocelyn tells William to prove his love.
- Tired of Running: "I will not run! I am a knight!"
- Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Kate is One of the Boys and a blacksmith, but she also teaches William how to dance. And she finds his 'lose to prove his love for Jocelyn' move very romantic.Roland: Are you a woman or a blacksmith?
Kate: Sometimes I'm both.
- The Tourney: Central to the plot.
- Town Girls: Tough blacksmith Kate is the Butch, graceful noblewoman Jocelyn is the Femme, and her soft-spoken handmaiden Christiana is the Neither.
- 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 initially terrible jousting skills and his all-too-good swordsmanship.
- Trapped by Gambling Debts: Geoffrey Chaucer.
- The boys at one point start shining a small mirror in Adhemar's herald's face to distract him and make him muck up his introduction. The result is worth a laugh:Herald: The Count Adhemar, son of Philippe de Vitry, son of Gilles... Master of the Free Companies, defender... of his enormous manhood... (Adhemar's face twitches) ...a shining example of chivalry, and champagne!
- Jocelyn also has a bit of a troll side to her - and she clearly enjoys making William jump through hoops to prove he's actually in love with her. There's also her hilarious interaction with an evidently rather Sarcasm-Blind priest who calls her So Beautiful It's a Curse.
- The boys at one point start shining a small mirror in Adhemar's herald's face to distract him and make him muck up his introduction. The result is worth a laugh:
- Trophy Wife: Adhemar aims to turn Jocelyn into one for himself, deciding that if he can't woo her with his skills, he'll simply negotiate with her father. He even goes as far as calling her "a real thoroughbred trophy" to William's face.
- True Companions:
- Will and his friends, who all stick together to the bitter end.
- As noted earlier, this is a factor in Prince Edward's decision to rescue him. "Your men love you. If I knew nothing else about you, that would be enough."
- Truth in Television: Blacksmiths' wives were taught smithing to produce arrowheads more often than not; a widow taking up her late husband's trade would not have been odd at that time.
- Unskilled, but Strong:
- Both Ademar and his herald are impressed with William's jousting technique, which exhibits no technical skill but hits like a megaton punch:Ademar: No style whatsoever... neither has an anvil.
- Earlier, they note that he has rudimentary style, nonexistent technique, but he's fearless. Adhemar goes on to explain to Jocelyn that while the visor of a knight's helmet is small, splinters can penetrate, and most knights raise their heads at the last second, losing sight of their target but protecting their eyes. "Ulrich" doesn't (chances are that William doesn't know to do so). Jocelyn is impressed, because he keeps his eyes on the target.
- Both Ademar and his herald are impressed with William's jousting technique, which exhibits no technical skill but hits like a megaton punch:
- Unusual Euphemism: Wat's use of "fong". It's apparently ye old slang for 'kick'.
- Uptown Girl: William tries to get his Blue Blooded love interest to face the realities of life with him, a destitute fugitive from the law.William: Where will we live? In my hovel, with the pigs inside during the winter so they won't freeze?
Jocelyn: [crying] Yes, William... with the pigs.
- Villain Forgot to Level Grind: When they first tilt, Count Adhemar beats William, because while William is talented, he's inexperienced, while Adhemar has been jousting for years. By the time they meet up again in the finale, William's had a lot of practice, refined his technique and improved his armor, while Adhemar is at the same level he started the movie.
- Villain Respect: While he spends the whole movie against Will, Adhemar has to admit that Will has done well in the joust, and in their first joust he remarks, "No style whatsoever... neither has an anvil." I.e., that Will's technique might not be the best, but he can deliver and take hits as well as anyone. All that respect is thrown out the window once he finds out William's true identity.
- The Watson: Jocelyn is the prime example, at one point asking the antagonist to explain the rules of jousting, which she doesn't understand.
- Wandering Minstrel: Geoff Chaucer fills this role.
- Warrior Prince: Prince Edward gets mentioned and his campaigns for England.
- We Win... Because You Didn't: Due to the way tournament jousts are scored, when William takes Sir Ector's place in the opening joust, his opponent has to completely unhorse him to win due to points Ector accrued in previous tilts. William completely misses him, but keeps his seat despite being hit in the face hard enough to crumple his helmet's faceshield (he takes advantage of this to avoid showing his face to the judge, which would have exposed the switch and landed them in prison).
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: William, to an extent - his father clearly loves him, he just wanted to prove he could "change his stars".
- What the Hell, Hero?: Subverted. After they find out Sir Thomas Colville is really Prince Edward, William tilts at him anyway before Chaucer can withdraw for him. Chaucer calls him out for "knowingly endangering royalty", to which William retorts, "He knowingly endangers himself." A moment later, Edward himself arrives to thank William for treating him like any other opponent.
- Widescreen Shot: Two riders coming at each other is just made for this.
- 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. And in their first matchup, Sir Colville admits that he wouldn't be able to do another full tilt, but wants to finish their joust - and Will obliges him, both men riding past with their lances raised in respect.
- You Know I'm Black, Right?: A brief one, when Roland remarks "Women, eh?" to Kate.