Classic medieval adventure comedy (and you don’t get many of those) A Knight’s Tale turns 15-years old this month, so we’ve been digging out the VHS and getting ourselves back into one of Heath Ledger‘s finest movies.
Here are 15 reasons why A Knight’s Tale still rocks. From linguine to howitzers and back again.
1. It has an amazing soundtrack
Director Brian Helgeland made a considered choice when selecting the music for the film, using contemporary tunes instead of an expected classical score.
He said this was to show modern audiences what people then felt about their entertainment, and that Renaissance music fails to convey the response people back then had. Cue Queen sing-along!
2. It kept the bloopers in
The first scene of the movie involves two knights jousting, and is actually Heath Ledger’s stunt double in an accident.
The rider was unintentionally hit in the head by a lance, thus knocking him unconscious. But the footage was used in full for the introduction.
3. It used pasta in a spectacular way
The lancing scenes in the film look spectacular to this day; a lot of effort went in to creating lances that would splinter in a realistic manner without harming the stunt riders.
The secret? Uncooked linguine, which filled each hollowed-out lance to make for convincing splinters.
4. Paul Bettany really gave it his all
We were pretty sure A Knight’s Tale was going to rocket Bettany to stardom 15 years ago, but – Vision in the Marvel movies aside – he’s kept a classic ‘character actor’ profile since.
But what a performance here; the Brit actor actually gave himself laryngitis because of all the yelling he had to do as William’s herald.
5. It was quite a safe shoot
Ledger manged to knock out one of Brian Helgeland’s teeth with a broomstick when the pair were practicing a jousting move, and it was several months before the director’s mouth had healed enough to be repaired.
Still, that was the only jousting injury during the whole production, which considering how authentic some of the scenes look, is quite impressive.
6. It helped the homeless
For scenes shot in Prague and other such places, the film’s producers actually hired local homeless people as extras, giving back to the community.
7. Some things were lost in translation
When “Sir Ulrich” was first introduced , the crowd didn’t react because the Czech extras didn’t understand the speech.
A prompt tipped them off to start cheering, but the awkward moment beforehand was left in because it made the scene funnier.
8. There was painstaking attention to detail
Towards the end of the film there is an overhead shot of medieval London, which also includes an old timey version of the London Eye. Contrary to what you might think, this was actually a model, not CGI, and cost $500,000 dollars to complete.
Just one example of the eye on detail this film had.
9. It’s one of Heath Ledger’s best performances
Of course, Heath Ledger will always be remembered for his gloriously insane turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight, but before his untimely death, the Australian wunderkind had been putting in strong performances left and right.
A Knight’s Tale is one of his early best, and really put the actor on the map, channeling both a boyish charm and a fish-out-of-water uncertainty.
10. It made ingenious use of sound
The sound department really stepped up their game for the film; part of the reason the jousting shots look so convincing is the sound that accompanies them.
Tthe lance crunching effect was achieved by slowing down the noise of a firing howitzer by 50%.
11. It has one foot in historical fact
Paul Bettany plays Geoffrey Chaucer in the film, as a kind of Lothario who serves as William Thatcher’s hype man for the majority of the movie.
But of course, Chaucer was a real historical figure; a writer who is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, and whose best known work (The Canterbury Tales) begins with a chapter called ‘The Knight’s Tale’.
At one point in the film, Chaucer notes that he’ll “write this down”, alluding that the film tells the story of how that chapter came to be. While not strictly true, there are certainly a lot of crossovers between fiction and historical fact.
12. It’s full of in-jokes and references
Particularly to The Beatles (presumably Brian Helgerland was a fan).
When Wat explains to Chaucer that if he betrays them he will ‘fong’ him until “… your insides are out and your outsides are in”, he’s technically quoting the Fab Four song ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except for Me and My Monkey’ from The White Album. Yep.
13. It’s full of funny hidden touches
Of course, it’s fairly obvious that the film makers weren’t going for a 100% historically authentic representation of the middle ages.
But perhaps most tellingly, the film still manages to include product placements; the blacksmith’s mark that Kate puts on William’s armor is the logo for Nike.
14. It features strong female characters
Not only is Jocelyn a non-white royal woman in the middle ages (how often do you see that in films?) but Kate the blacksmith, who the team enlists to help with creating William’s armour (because she has the ability to make armor better and lighter than anyone else in the world) is treated as equally as any of the guys.
Modern Hollywood films, take note!
15. It’s the perfect family film
It’s not everyday you sing the praises of a pretty inoffensive film like A Knight’s Tale, but the film really is a modern day classic for family viewing, perfectly balancing adventure, comedy and romance in to a package that everyone can enjoy.
It’s got jokes for the older viewers, and laughs for the younger ones. What could be better?