The genre that has spawned many a cosplay fantasy, medieval comedy gives us laughter while also allowing us to step into a time when long flowing gowns and archery, knights and fairies and all manner of whimsy are the standard, and boring, buttoned-up desk jobs are non-existent. These films let us be the hero/ine, or the one in need of saving, without giving us the anxiety that accompanies those feelings with typical tales of dragon-slaying because we’re too busy chuckling at the complete silliness we’re enjoying.
People who speak in movie quotes no doubt have any number of lines from these movies circling their stream of consciousness at any given moment, ready to inject hilarity into their everyday conversations. Here are 10 of the funniest medieval comedies ever made.
10 Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
Producer Mel Brooks’ parody of two well-known Robin Hood incarnations, 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn, and 1991’s Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner, Robin Hood: Men in Tights gives us Cary Elwes as the esteemed Robin of Loxley, returned from having been captured during the Crusades and imprisoned, only to find his home and all of his possessions have been repossessed by the nefarious and greedy Prince John while his brother, King Richard is still consumed by the holy war. Brooks’ take on the archer’s tale is a levity filled romp through the forest, complete with musical numbers and ridiculous names for characters and places replacing the traditional ones, such as Rottingham instead of Nottingham, men named Asneeze and Achoo, and a blind servant named Blinkin. In this spin on the original, Maid Marian’s virginity is protected by an actual metal chastity belt with the modern-day brand name Everlast emblazoned across the front, for which Robin is given the key at the start of the film. Additionally, Prince John’s facial mole relocates every few frames, and the Sheriff of Rottingham flits about constantly inverting his consonants, or speaking in spoonerisms.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights is a lighthearted, goofball comedy that will have you hearing “Tight tights!” in your head for years to come.
9 Your Highness (2011)
In the vein of “stupid on purpose” comedy, Your Highness explores the trope of the slacker who is forced by special circumstances to step up and shed his lazy ways. Danny McBride’s Thadeous is the ultimate couch potato who at one time was disheartened by living in his brother, played by James Franco, Fabious’ shadow, but is now content to wallow in his own lacking, bedding maidens and drinking mead without a second thought for the present or the future. It isn’t until Fabious’ fiancée Belladonna, played by Zooey Deschanel, is kidnapped that he is forced to rise to the occasion assisting in her rescue (albeit under threat of banishment).
This film mixes technology of the Middle Ages with modern day trappings, such as a mechanical bird that functions as a carrier pigeon. The film’s plot is ridiculous in that the main antagonist, Wizard Leezar, played by Justin Theroux, has kidnapped Belladonna in order to fulfill a prophecy of impregnating her with a dragon. If you enjoy the utterly absurd and entirely impossible kind of chuckles, this film is for you.
8 The Princess Bride (1987)
INCONCEIVABLE! If you heard that loudly and in Wallace Shawn’s unmistakable voice, you might be a fan of The Princess Bride. This film has gained a cult following in the years since its release and is highly endeared to its followers. And if you ever hear someone quoting “as you wish”, you can count on them being sentimental about this movie. The film begins as Peter Faulk’s Grandpa is reading a story to his sick grandson, played by Fred Savage. The story follows stable boy Westley, played by Cary Elwes, and his love for Buttercup, played by Robin Wright. Westley is a hand on the farm owned by Buttercup’s family. “As you wish” is his response anytime Buttercup makes a demand, no matter how menial. In time, they grow to love one another deeply and Westley sets off to make his fortune in an effort to be considered good enough to ask for Buttercup’s hand in marriage. As Westley is considered dead, Buttercup is forced into engagement with the kingdom’s repugnant Prince Humperdink. As is usually the case, chaos and adventure ensue in Westley’s bid to rescue Buttercup and reestablish their bond after so many years apart. It’s the dialogue and the preposterous circumstances that make this film one of the funniest medieval masterpieces.
7 Black Knight (2001)
2001’s Black Knight sees Martin Lawrence as Jamal, an employee at a medieval era amusement park get bumped on the head and wake up in the real 14th century in England. We get to watch Jamal’s hilarious interactions with people of this time while he himself is a member of modern-day America having come from the year 2001. Jamal embarks on a quest to help the townsfolk overthrow the wicked King Leo, who ousted the previous Queen unlawfully. Jamal teaches them tactics from American football and wrestling, with the Queen’s former knight, Knolte, teaching Jamal how to wield a sword in turn.
Being a stand-up comedian outside of filmmaking, Lawrence’s personality shines as the consummate funny man wearing a jersey amid brogans and kirtles as far as the eye can see. Jamal’s adventure changes him for the better, and he becomes less disgruntled and more enthusiastic about making Medieval World the go-to attraction in his corner of the world.
6 Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1975)
“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!” This is just one of the many unforgettable lines from the unmatched comedy gold that is Monty Python and The Holy Grail. A satire of the Arthurian legend, the movie begins with King Arthur, played by Graham Chapman, going in search of men to join his Knights of the Round Table. As he finds his men and they gallivant about in search of Camelot, the film mocks what is traditional knightly behavior and medieval culture, as is the entire point of the movie. The quote referenced is at a moment after God has appeared to Arthur and charged him with finding the Holy Grail, at which point the knights find themselves at a castle occupied by French soldiers. The French say this line to taunt Arthur and his men, at which point one of the knights, Bedevere, played by Terry Jones, hatches a scheme to deploy a Trojan rabbit, much like the Trojan horse in Greek history. This plan is of course foiled, to one of the more laughable moments in the film. The entirety of the plot is one mishap after another, up to and including manure spray repellent to prevent Arthur and Bedevere from breaching the perimeter of Castle Aarrgh.
Tiny killer rabbits, debates about swallows and coconuts, and silly named castles like Anthrax and Swamp are just a few of the tidbits about this film that make its ridiculous brand of humor worth several viewings.
5 Shrek (2001)
Mike Meyers, of Wayne’s World and Austin Powers fame, came in hard with the acerbically witty loner turned lovable giant that is Shrek. This cartoon is not just for kids. There are jokes within the dialogue that only an adult would pick up on; and there is, of course, fart humor for the kiddies. Shrek is a satirization of typical fairy tale themes.
It gives us princess Fiona, played by Cameron Diaz, locked in the tower, who is actually quite adept at taking care of herself, being skilled in martial arts; the “handsome” prince who is meant to rescue her who turns out to be an ogre; and the noble animal side-kick in Donkey, play by Eddie Murphy, who is more sensitive and sarcastic than would be expected from a best friend in the fairy tale genre. Shrek’s hero’s journey takes us along for a bumpy and comical ride as he and Fiona fall in love, and he ends up on more quests than he bargained for.
4 The Three Musketeers (1993)
Taking up the mantle of action-adventure comedy, 1993’s The Three Musketeers follows a young d’Artagnan, played by Chris O’Donnell, as he sets out to Paris, to join the personal guard of the King of France, the musketeers. The musketeers have been disbanded; three have refused to give up their charge: Athos, played by Kiefer Sutherland, Porthos, played by Oliver Platt, and Aramis, played by Charlie Sheen. Upon his involvement in a duel that ended the current Captain’s life, d’Artagnan is arrested and is privy to a clandestine meeting between Milady de Winter, played by Rebecca De Mornay, and Cardinal Richelieu, played by Tim Curry, in which it is made clear that the Cardinal is attempting to overthrow the King and is enlisting Milady’s help. This revelation is the spark that unites d’Artagnan with the remaining musketeers as they entreat themselves to prevent the Cardinal’s villainous plan from coming to fruition. Oliver Platt is particularly amusing, in his jovial take on wordplay and physical comedy. This film blends sword-fighting adventure and secret sub-plot with frolicking humor seamlessly.
3 A Knight’s Tale (2001)
2001’s A Knight’s Tale uses musical anachronism, or music that is more modern than the setting to which it belongs, to interrupt the traditional knight and lady plot device. In this rock and roll coming of age romp, our protagonist, William Thatcher, played by the sorely missed Heath Ledger, is born poor and wishes to alter his fate and earn the hand of the fair maiden of the tale, Jocelyn, played by Shannyn Sossamon. The film takes its cues from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; in fact, the end has the character Geoffrey Chaucer, played by Paul Bettany, remarking how he should document the events that have just unfolded. This jousting good time is an expectation violation, and a fun trip down the rabbit hole of finding your people and not relenting on a dream.
2 Army of Darkness (1992)
The third in a series by Sam Raimi centered around zombies and his lead character Ash, played by Bruce Campbell, as he tries to thwart the undead, here named Deadites, Army of Darkness takes our leading man to the Middle Ages and sees him battle the bloodthirsty reanimated corpses, one of which is his Deadite double “Evil Ash,” to return to his own time. Sarcasm is Campbell’s gift to this series as he greets the unimaginable with gruff snark and keeps going regardless of how many heads, living or otherwise, have to roll.
1 Brave (2012)
Pixar’s animated endearing mother-daughter, coming of age film Brave is definitely comedy while also being a touching reminder not to let our pride stand in the way of loving those we are blessed with in our lives. Set in Medieval Scotland, main character Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, is the princess of Dunbroch, at odds with her mother Queen Elinor, voiced by Emma Thompson, over her betrothal. Merida insists she is not ready for marriage while Elinor demands she bend to tradition. What results is Merida being led by the wisps to the witch in the woods whereby she receives a spell to change her mother. What Merida doesn’t count on is the witch’s trickery. Elinor is indeed changed-into a bear. Naturally, since her father is known as the Bear King, she can’t allow her mother to be seen. What ensues is a journey of playful reconnection, as well as mishaps that include her three mischievous brothers being turned into little bears too. Merida and Elinor must find a way to repair their bond or face permanent repercussions for them both.
This heartwarming, gentle comedy will have you chuckling fondly at the witty banter between Merida and her mother as the bear (“I don’t speak bear” is part of their repertoire), and is a delight for parents and their children alike.