King Arthur 2004 movie review - Sarah Woodbury

King Arthur 2004 movie review

The King Arthur 2004 movie is … uh … bad. I watched the whole thing and was entertained, but don’t think a single thing about it is historically accurate.

King Arthur has been fodder for a hundred movies and will undoubtedly continue to be so. I truly wish that someone would come up with one where the history isn’t appalling. Ridley Scott is famous for acting as if there are no actual historical facts (see my review of Robin Hood), but the absurdity of the history Jerry Bruckheimer puts in this movie made me glad that my workout was only 30 minutes so I didn’t have to watch the whole thing at once.

The Good:

Is there anything good about this movie? Actually, the visuals are spectacular, and they obviously put a lot of money into making it. The acting is good, in fact, and if I didn’t know anything about British history, warfare, Christianity, or the Roman empire, maybe the plot even makes sense. I will grant that the Romans conscripted the people it conquered into the army, requiring it of subsequent generations too, but …

The Bad:

Did I mention that the history was bad? Just a head’s up: Gawain and Tristan are not names from Sarmatia. Even if I grant you the Celtic past of those areas, which Wikipedia doesn’t, to put all of Arthur’s knights (and did Rome have knights? I think not!) as originating in Asia ignores the background of Arthur himself. In the movie, Arthur is supposed to have a Roman hereditary position ‘Artorius’, but just so you know, ‘Arth’ in Welsh means ‘bear’, and ‘Arthur’ was the name of several early post-Roman kings. You don’t have to go Roman to find it. The first mentions of Arthur are in Welsh poetry where he is a Welsh warrior. For all about Arthur, see:

The movie also places the Battle of Badon Hill way too early in history. In the Welsh/Saxon chronicles, it takes place in 500. This movie sets it before the Romans left Britain, so before 401.


The Ugly:
History aside, the plot makes no sense. Arthur and his ‘knights’, instead of being freed of their 15 year obligation to the Roman army, are sent on one last mission to rescue the pope’s favorite godchild and his family north of Hadrian’s Wall.

Everybody knows Rome is leaving, folks! The movie claims that the Saxons are already invading in the north, which they weren’t, FYI (sorry, getting back to bad history again, see the map below).  So what on earth was a famous and rich Roman family doing north of the wall? EVER! The whole point of the wall was that Romans didn’t settle north of it!

The whole plot is then driven by utter stupidity and a Saxon invasion that didn’t exist. I’m all for entertainment, but it hurts me when Wales is slighted in this way in favor of Roman mythology.




7 Replies to “King Arthur 2004 movie review”

  1. Movies are for entertainment, an escape into a world, historically correct or not, where good overcomes evil. Evil so bad that even sworn enemies call a truce and fight against that evil. To destroy a myth that woman cannot be vicious fighters and still have romantic interests. Movies are for escape mostly for the watcher. We are not all critics, and most of us do not care about the accuracy of movies to history, given that some of the characters in the movie conjure up images in our minds of knights, and bold leaders we have possibly heard of in fantasy stories. Stop being so critical of the escapes all of us need to maintain our sanity in the crumbling world of ours.

  2. I’ve been complaining about the stupidity of a high ranking Roman family settling north of Hadrian’s Wall since the movie came out. Good to find a film critic who finally points this out.

  3. Just a minor note: the Romans did have heavy cavalry known as equites, which is usually translated ‘knights’. Later it became a noble rank one up from commoners and one down from senators.

  4. What, no mention of Kiera Knightly’s oh-so-practical leather bikini that she wears into battle? 😉 That is this movie, or am I mixing up my horribly inaccurate Arthurian retellings?

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