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Excalibur (1981)

This vivid and passionate telling of the Arthurian legend from director John Boorman is a thoroughly convincing visualisation of the Knights of the Round Table myth within Dark Ages history.

The legendary tale of King Arthur (Nigel Terry) is seen through the eyes of the wizard Merlin (Nicol Williamson).

How the simple peasant Arthur drew the sword Excalibur from the stone and became King. How he built the kingdom of Camelot, married Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) and formed the order of the round table with Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), his true knight in shining armour.

All is well in Camelot until lust and greed get in the way . . .

Lancelot falls for Queen Guenevere, and both betray Arthur while Mordred (Robert Addie), Arthur’s illegitimate son, plans to kill him and claim the throne.

Masterfully intermingling fable and magic with a gritty reality, Boorman explores the cosmic duality of good versus evil, paganism versus Christianity, mighty Merlin versus malevolent sorceress Morgana (Helen Mirren), with eccentric élan.


The film is magnificently photographed and the battle scenes are always spectacular.

The search for the Holy Grail and the final battle are simply stunning sequences, and, while the dizzying pace leaves scant time for proper characterisation, Nicol Williamson, Nigel Terry and Helen Mirren (pictured) make their mark.

In the US, Excalibur opened to rave reviews and record-breaking box office takings and in Cannes, the film was shown to wild acclaim.

King Arthur
Nigel Terry
Helen Mirren
Nicol Williamson
Nicholas Clay
Cherie Lunghi
Paul Geoffrey
Robert Addie
Uther Pendragon
Gabriel Byrne
Keith Buckley
Katrine Boorman
Liam Neeson
Duke of Cornwall
Corin Redgrave
Niall O’Brien
Patrick Stewart

John Boorman