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Film / Ladyhawke

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A 1985 fantasy/adventure film directed by Richard Donner, with a cast featuring both a number of veteran actors (such as John Wood, Rutger Hauer, and Leo McKern) and young actors who would go on to become household names (Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer).

The story takes place in a medieval France setting and starts with a young thief named Philippe the Mouse (Broderick) escaping from an inescapable prison through its sewers. Said prison and the lands around it are controlled by a Corrupt Church led by a Bishop (Wood) who is none too pleased to hear of Philippe's escape (the prison is supposed to be inescapable, after all). The Bishop sends his soldiers out to kill Philippe, but just as they catch up with him Philippe is rescued by the mysterious Etienne of Navarre (Hauer), who is accompanied everywhere by his Cool Horse and hawk.


Navarre turns out to have been the former Captain of the Bishop's guards, and he has a score of his own to settle with the Bishop. See, the Bishop was lusting mightily over a young woman named Isabeau (Pfeiffer), but Navarre and Isabeau fell in love and when it looked like they would escape the Bishop, he cursed them so that by day Navarre would be human and Isabeau a hawk, while by night Isabeau would be human, and Navarre a wolf. As a result, while the two lovers may be together, they are always separated. Now Navarre is looking to get revenge, and to use Philippe's knowledge of the sewers that lead into the Bishop's fortress to his advantage.


This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Philippe climbs through it to get in and out. Though it's a very tight squeeze, even for a skinny teenager.
  • Action Survivor: Philippe escapes from prison and then runs from the Bishop's guards. He'd like to get away clean but he has to help the leading man and lady.
  • The Alcatraz: The prison Philippe was sent to. It's supposed to be inescapable you know.
  • Anachronism Stew: Navarre claims his massive two-handed sword has been in his family for five generations. With the film being set around the 13th Century, this means the sword would have been forged in either the second half of the 11th or first half of the 12th Centuries. However the design is of a type that wouldn't appear until the 16th.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Navarre's sword. It's been around for a few generations and went with his father to the Crusades.
  • Animal Eyes: Used in the lovers' face-to-face transformation scene.
  • Animal Stereotypes: The guy who turns into a wolf is a fierce, loyal badass who can be absolutely vicious when riled up, and the guy called "the Mouse" is a cowardly Action Survivor thief who prefers to hide and be sneaky whenever possible. Isabeau is fairly fierce and graceful herself. It's observed in The Movie that hawks and wolves mate for life (though not with each other, of course) signifying the couple's enduring faithfulness. Both species will eat mice when given the chance, though they also hunt and eat other predators who eat mice, so make of that what you will.
  • Annoying Arrows: Played with. Arrow injuries are deadly when Isabeau is shot in hawk form and still injured in human but Navarre just shrugs off one arrow because he's wearing armor.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Bishop to both Navarre and Isabeau.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: There is a scene under a full moon. Two days later, there is what seems to be a solar eclipse (which requires a new moon). Possibly Hand Waved as a result of divine intervention, and explains why Navarre would be skeptical of Imperius' prediction, thinking he's gone mad.
  • Artistic License – Religion: Imperius is described as a monk, but his background reveals he used to take confessions. In real life, a monk has not taken Holy Orders and thus cannot take confessions - he would need to be a priest to be able to hear confession and give absolution (of course, it is possible to be both a monk and a priest, but you would be more likely to refer to yourself as a priest in the same way that someone with credentials as both a paralegal and a lawyer would probably not mention the paralegal part). However, this might be intentional, as Imperius is revealed to have become The Atoner for committing the crime of betraying secrets of the confessional (or so he thinks) - which hints he may have previously been a priest, only that he renounced his priestly vows and became a monk to repent, as it was done in the time and setting.
  • The Atoner: Imperius, the monk who helps Navarre and Isabeau. He feels responsible for their curse because he accidentally revealed their love to the Bishop. He didn't.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!: 1980s synthesizer rock by The Alan Parsons Project.
  • Automatic Crossbow: Badass people strap two crossbows together.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted, for the most part. Navarre will take breaks in order to rest and care for his horse Goliath, even having Philippe get food for him, and Marquet seems to make use of way stations of some sort in order to swap tired horses for fresh ones, as he gallops back to the Bishop after his encounter with Navarre.
  • Backstab Backfire: How the Bishop ultimately meets his end - after trying to kill Isabeau with his crosier, he ends up pinned by Navarre's longsword, thrown at him.
  • Backup Bluff: When Philippe is hearing noises in the woods, he tries to fool his potential attackers by talking to two imaginary friends, saying things like, "You'd better draw your sword, Pierre!" and, "Ah, Louis, you brought your crossbow!" He also uses different voices to make it sound like they are there.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Marquet, who replaced Navarre as the Captain of the Guards, throws one of his underlings on Navarre's sword and getting him killed just for addressing Navarre as "captain".
    • The Bishop constantly berates Marquet for his failures and at some point he even threatens to have him executed if Isabeau should be hurted while in her hawk form.
  • Badass Cape: Navarre's is awesome. He is, naturally, incredibly badass.
  • Badass in Distress: Navarre is surprisingly vulnerable in wolf form, having nearly fallen prey to a hunter, nearly drowned in an icy lake after falling through thin ice, and was nearly stabbed by a random guard for fun.
  • Badass Preacher: Imperius is technically a monk, not a priest, but he's still a formidable man of God.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The curse turns Isabeau into a hawk by day; Navarre, a wolf by night. While they are humans the rest of the time, they are never in their proper forms at the same time.
  • BFS: Navarre's sword is a Zweihander.
  • Black Knight: Etienne Navarre is a literal one, clad in black armor, as he's been cast out from service to Aquila and has no lord or master. Subverted in that he's The Hero and a noble man.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite countless Mooks being killed throughout the movie, you would be hard pressed to find any blood. In fact, the only time when blood is present is when minor wounds are inflicted.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The climax takes place in a gothic cathedral, with the bishop celebrating the mass. Navarre rides in on horseback, cutting down the guards like grass. Then Marquet faces him, also on horseback.
  • Book-Ends: The movie begins with Philippe escaping the dungeons of Aquila through the moat. By the climax, he's returned to that same moat to sneak into the cathedral. Even Philippe is aware of how the whole thing has come full circle.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: Navarre uses a crossbow and a Cool Sword.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Philippe, admittedly with reason.
    Imperius: Thank you for trying, and for standing up for the truth.
    Philippe: I should have known better. Every moment of happiness in my life has come from lying.
    • Also, he tells the truth to some evil guards and is still in trouble:
      Philippe: I told the truth, Lord! How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me this way?
    • At the end of Philippe's and Isabeau's near-capture at the monastery:
      Guard: Where's the woman?
      Philippe: She flew away.
      Guard: WHERE IS SHE?
      Philippe: God's truth, she flew away!
      Guard: YOU L-AAAGH!!! (Guard is shot by Navarre and falls.)
      Philippe: (beat)... It pays to tell the truth, Lord. Thank you. I see that now.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Navarre scared Philippe into helping him by throwing his sword like a spear into a tree. He uses the skill again to kill the Bishop when he was about to kill Isabeau in his breakdown.
  • Chew Toy: Mouse spends a lot of time in peril, and even gets bitten by Navarre in wolf form while saving his life.
  • Clothing-Concealed Injury: Phillipe hides the injuries from Navarre mauling him in wolf form from Navarre with his sweater.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Navarre doesn't mind kicking and punching during a swordfight, just like throwing knives or opening a skirmish with a crossbow bolt to thin the crowd.
  • Cool Helmet: So cool, Guts had to get one for himself!
  • Cool Horse: Navarre rides Goliath, a huge black Friesian. Marquet's white horse in the climax counts too.
  • Cool Sword: It is even used to chop wood.
    Navarre: This sword has been in my family for five generations. It has never known defeat, until now.
  • Corrupt Church: The entire region of Aquila in the Middle Ages is ruled by this trope. Unusually, however, the movie averts the trope's implicit Take That! qualities in that the protagonists are all depicted as genuinely devout, faithful and God-fearing. At the end, it's possibly only the Bishop and Marquet who are corrupt, but they have the authority to pervert the Church's influence in the region.
  • Curse: On the two Star-Crossed Lovers. They can never be human at the same time and so they can never be a conventional couple.
  • Curse Escape Clause: A solar eclipse allows Navarre and Isabeau to meet each other in human forms at the same time, dispelling the curse.
  • Darkest Hour: Happens when Navarre is sure Isabeau is dead and Marquet manages to disarm him, closing with a sword to finish him off.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Philippe.
    Philippe: (to Imperius) When you kneel before the altar, how do you get up again?
  • Deal with the Devil: The Bishop asked the Devil to curse the lovers.
  • Death Glare: Isabeau gives an epic one to Bishop after being cured, showing him the hawk jesses, and letting it drop before him.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Navarre is right on the edge of it when he thinks Isabeau is dead. This terrifies the Bishop, who realizes that his foe has no further reason to restrain himself.
  • Determinator:
    • Navarre and Isabeau have been cursed for two years but neither has yet to give up hope.
    • Philippe. He promises to get into Heaven even if he has to pick the lock to the pearly gates.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Isabeau is barefoot quite a lot, even in instances where it doesn't make much sense like her final confrontation with the Bishop.
  • The Dreaded: Imperious describes the Bishop as "An evil man, a powerful man, hated and feared; rejected even by Rome itself."
  • The Dragon: The Captain of the Guard, Marquet, for the Bishop.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Bishop's real name is never revealed, and he is simply referred to as "the Bishop".
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Bishop cast a curse on the lovers so he must be one.
  • Evil Plan: The Bishop seeks to capture Isabeau.
  • Fade to Black: The final scene has an interesting case of it — the scene gradually gets darker, until only Navarre and Isabeau are in the middle of now completely dark cathedral, with a beam of light coming through the broken window on them... and then it fades to black too.
  • Famous Last Words:
    Bishop: ... then no man shall! (cue Impaled with Extreme Prejudice) ... Isabeau!
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Be careful who you offer to buy a drink for when celebrating your prison break. They might be soldiers in disguise.
  • Flynning: The sword technique is rough around the edges, featuring big windups, wide misses, and loud clanging. Despite this, it is high quality by eighties standards, especially with energetic grappling and some neat moves that stand out. For example, at the end where Navarre rolls towards Marquet to avoid the coup de grace, immediately rolls back on top of the blade to strip it from his enemy's grasp, and then uses it to inflict inertial impalement.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The Bishop was so overcome with jealousy that he turned to the infernal to satisfy it. And when even that fails, he simply tries to kill the object of his envy.
  • Guile Hero: Phillipe the Mouse escapes from an unescapable prison, steals food and clothes, and is constantly trying, and often failing, to talk his way out of trouble. But when push comes to shove, he helps people in need and doesn't run from danger.
  • Hero Exit Stage Left: An inversion of the normal trope. After the curse is broken, Imperius and Mouse try to exit quietly without being seen. Navarre doesn't let them.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Navarre. Nearly every scene with him in human form, his leather crackles loudly.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: When Navarre and Marquet fight each other on in the church on horseback, they're both wearing helmets. Marquet rips off his helmet when unhorsed and actually throws it at Navarre, but misses and breaks the rose window of the church. Navarre initially leaves his on even after Marquet drags him off his horse, but then rips it off in order to see better when he sees the eclipse beginning.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Philippe and Imperius become a pair.
    Imperius: I fully expect to meet you at the Pearly Gates, little thief, and don't you dare disappoint me.
    Phillipe: I'll meet you there, Father... even if I have to pick the lock.
  • He Went That Way: Zig-zagged. Philippe directs the guards after Navarre knowing they will expect him to lie. It works at first until one of them figures it out.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The wolf hunter who dies falling headfirst into a jaw trap.
    • Marquet, who pushed one of his own men onto Navarre's sword for referring to Navarre as 'Captain', ultimately dies by falling on Navarre's sword.
  • Hollywood Costuming: The costume department seems to have used their imaginations more than historical references. For example, the bishop's soldiers wear some fanciful form of scale armor instead of chain mail.
  • Home Field Advantage: Imperius is living in a ruins of a keep. Despite being a fat, old monk, he still manages to easily get better against anyone trying to barge into his home. He also lectures Mouse early on to only step on the left side of a bridge, but doesn't explain why. When the Bishop's men storm the place, one of them starts across the bridge only to fall through, as the boards are rotting and the bridge is only solid along its left side.
  • Humiliation Conga: The ending, for the Bishop. His trusted Captain of the Guard is killed, the curse is broken and Isabeau personally comes to mock him. Everyone knows now what he did. Then he gets killed.
  • Hunter Trapper: The wolf hunter is a legitimate huntsman on Bishop's payroll.
  • I Know You Know I Know:
    Philippe: I believe he was heading south, toward Aquila.
    Guard: Then we ride north, sir!
    Philippe: It's impolite to assume someone is a liar when you've only just met them!
    Guard Leader: And yet you knew we would... we ride south.
  • If I Can't Have You...: "...then no man shall!" Thus the hawk curse. And when the curse is broken, the Bishop simply tries to kill Isabeau.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The ending. Twice. First Marquet with his own sword, then Navarre impales the Bishop by throwing his sword like a javelin.
  • Improvised Weapon: In addition to swords, weapons used include a bunch of horseshoes, an iron bar, rocks, the opponent's helmet, and a huge candelabrum.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Averted. The captain of the guards is anything but badass when it's on fire.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: The curse upon Navarre and Isabeau forces them to transform between human and animal forms every dawn and dusk.
  • Ironic Echo: When Isabeau runs off towards danger, Philippe mutters "He's going to kill me!" referring to Navarre. When Philippe talks Isabeau into releasing him from where Navarre tied him up, she says the same thing.
  • I Will Find You: Etienne Navarre: "And know this — if you fail, I will follow you the length of my days. And I will find you."
  • Karmic Death: The Bishop is killed in the process of trying to stab Isabeau in the back.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Navarre has this down to the time period; a heroic and pious man who uses a sword to fight evil.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: A mild example, but there are times when the regular guards, despite their orders from the Bishop, will decide to not fight Navarre. In some cases it's because Navarre was once their Captain. However he's also a supreme badass and most know their chances against him aren't exactly good.
  • Lady and Knight: Navarre and Isabeau, though due to the curse, they don't appear as the lady and the knight at the same time.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Philippe regularly directly addresses God (but effectively the audience) as his personal confidant. None of the other characters notice, but he does go out of his way to put distance between himself and the other characters before talking to the camera.
    Philippe (to Navarre): No offense, sir, but I talk to God all the time, and He never mentioned you.
  • Light Is Not Good/Dark Is Not Evil: The Bishop and the Captain of the Guard wear white and gold, and Navarre is The Hero and wears black and red, rides a black horse and becomes a black wolf.
  • Living MacGuffin: The bishop really wants Isabeau back.
  • Magic Pants: There seems to be little consistency as to whether or not clothes transform. Both are naked upon resuming human form, so it could be argued that there is just no need to see an empty dress falling off a little hawk.
  • Magic Realism: Apart from the curse, the setting is mundane medieval France.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Imperius's castle has two bridges designed to drop you in the moat.
    Imperius: Remember—
    Imperius: Walk on the left side.
  • Manly Tears: Tears stream down Phillipe's cheeks as he watches Navarre and Isabeau look upon each other during the dual transformation scene. One can surmise it is at this point, Phillipe is fully committed to helping them.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Watch the priests in the background react in horror when the Bishop is killed, and start praying effusively to God.
  • Mercy Kill: Navarre tells Imperius to kill the hawk if he's dead, because he doesn't want to doom her to a half-life.
  • The Middle Ages: The location and time period; medieval France.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: According to Imperius's description of the curse, neither Navarre or Isabeau are aware of their human selves while in animal form; Navarre in particular is quite vicious. However, even in animal form each of the pair is quick to attack anyone who threatens the other.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Isabeau's hawk form is a red-tailed hawk, which are not native to France. Could be handwaved, seeing as the curse was spat up by Hell itself.
  • Mundane Utility: The ancestral longsword is used for various tasks at a pinch, including wood-chopping, rope tethering or as a javelin.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Though it saved Navarre, the only reason Isabeau was shot was because Philippe threw a rock at the guard, causing him to accidentally fire into the air.
    • Philippe wrecks his own escape from prison by bragging about it in a local town. If he had kept his mouth shut til he was far away in another country, he might have gotten away effortlessly. Marquet even lampshades it to his face.
  • Night and Day Duo: The film contains a literal example. Lovers Navarre and Isabeau were cursed so that Navarre is human during the day and a wolf at night while Isabeau is human at night and a hawk during the day.
  • Nighttime Transformation: The shift between day and night is the trigger for Navarre's and Isabeau's transformations.
  • No Man of Woman Born: The transformation curse may not be broken until there is "a day without a night; a night without a day". As it turns out, the lovers meet during a solar eclipse.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Isabeau in hawk form.
  • Noble Wolf: Navarre's wolf form is fierce and loyal.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Both Navarre and Isabeau are this to each other depending on the time of day.
  • Not So Stoic: Navarre is composed for most of the movie, but when the curse is broken, and he confronts the Bishop, he can barely contain his rage and relief.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A weird variation. When Philippe stretches and yawns, the hawk lands on his arm, not Navarre's. The former is embarrassed and the latter is in shock.
  • Novelization: A novel was published based on the film, which included screenshots from the film illustrating scenes and an alternate ending where, once the curse is broken, the Bishop is turned into a wolf as punishment.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Bishop remains calm and stoic for the entire rampage of Navarre, knowing he can't be killed, or the curse will be impossible to break. When Navarre explains to him that Isabeau is dead and his insurance is useless, his face turns chalk white within seconds. And then he sees Isabeau, alive and well, behind Navarre, unintentionally lifting the curse, making his insurance completely moot.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Matthew Broderick does an all-right job for the first 15 minutes, then we're basically watching Ferris Bueller swanning about Medieval France.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: As the result of a curse, Navarre turns into a wolf at night, and his lady turns into a hawk during the day.
  • P.O.V. Cam: When Navarre approaches the altar where the Bishop stands, we get a shot from his perspective through the bars of his helmet as a swats aside another guard.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: A prophecy states that the curse will be broken if Navarre and Isabeau can confront the Bishop as humans when there is "day without night, and night without day". It actually happens near the end of the film. The prophecy refers to a solar eclipse. Modern audiences with even a basic grasp of science probably saw it coming a mile away, but it was still awesome.
  • The Queen's Latin: If we infer from the names we can guess the film is set in France, yet everyone speaks with Received Pronunciation, or... tries to. Since characters in medieval France wouldn't speak anything even remotely resembling modern English, it's probably best to just file it under Translation Convention. (Then again, neither would those speaking "English" in that day and age. England and France were more alike than not during those days, one country occupying the other so much there wasn't much demarcation between the two.)
  • The Reveal: Imperius didn't betray the lovers. Marquet did — to replace Navarre as the Captain of the Guard.
  • Rule of Cool: The armour and especially the helmet worn by Navarre look great, but would be highly impractical.
  • Scenery Porn: The movie has some beautiful shots at times.
  • Secret Stab Wound: Phillipe hides from Navarre the fact that he mauled him while he was in wolf form.
  • Skyward Scream: Navarre's howl of frustration after being unable to touch Isabeau before she becomes a hawk.
  • Sinister Minister: The Bishop is a jealous and lustful man who called on the devil himself to curse a pair of lovers.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Isabeau from the tower at Imperius' home. She falls just slow enough for the sun to rise and turn her into a hawk to save her from certain death.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Medieval setting with Alan Parsons-produced Progressive Rock music (Andrew Powell actually wrote the music). It sounds even more unusual decades later, now that synthesizers have become very dated.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Invoked by the Bishop on Navarre and Isabeau.
  • Stepping-Stone Sword: A sword is at one point used to anchor a rope for people to cross thin ice.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Philippe may be the protagonist, but the story centers around Navarre and Isabeau.
  • Sword Fight: The main form of combat in the movie, apart from crossbows. It happens throughout, both on horseback and on foot, culminating in intense final combat between Navarre and Marquet. All choreographed by the great William Hobbs.
  • Sword Plant: Several times, for different reasons.
    • When Isabeau gets shot with an arrow while in Hawk form, Navarre leaves his sword stuck in the grass as he goes to her side.
    • When Navarre in wolf form falls through the ice, Philippe sticks Navarre's sword in the ice and ties a rope to it as a lifeline.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: If you're Navarre it does.
  • Title Drop: Philippe dubs Isabeau's animal form the "lady hawk". Navarre is amused by this sobriquet.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Isabeau and Navarre finally meet during an eclipse.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Navarre goes after the bishop in the final, he just calmly and methodically cuts down every guard on his path, without any emotions or remorse, just walking forward, and yet being fuelled by pure rage.
  • Translation Convention: Characters in medieval France wouldn't speak anything even remotely understandable to a modern English speaker.
  • Unexplained Accent: Rutger Hauer, a Dutch actor, acting in a film set in Medieval France, adopts an American accent.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Bishop has one during the climax. After the curse is broken he furiously tries to kill Isabeau by stabbing her with his spiked crosier.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: While Navarre has no issues killing the guards when he must, but, when possible, he tries to avoid doing so. In one case, he actually mourns the death of one, Francesco, after Captain Marquet shoved said guard onto Navarre's sword, for calling him "Captain Navarre". Justifiable, in that Navarre was once their Captain and there is still some bond between him and the men left.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: At one point, Navarre flips out at Philippe for supposedly losing his sword. He gets called out first by Mouse, who tells him he's being selfish with his fixation on revenge, but doesn't really snap out of it until he sees the cuts all over Philippe's chest— which he inflicted, in wolf form, when Philippe saved his life.
  • Yandere: The Bishop. He puts a cruel curse on the two lovers so they can never see each other, all because the woman doesn't want him and he can't have her either.


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