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This article is about the film. For the New Zealand musician, see Ladyhawke (musician).
Ladyhawke ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Donner
Produced by Richard Donner
Harvey Bernhard
Lauren Shuler Donner
Screenplay by Edward Khmara
Michael Thomas
Tom Mankiewicz
David Peoples
Story by Edward Khmara
Starring Matthew Broderick
Rutger Hauer
Michelle Pfeiffer
Leo McKern
John Wood
Music by Andrew Powell
Cinematography Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Stuart Baird
Distributed by Warner Bros.
(USA & Canada)
20th Century Fox
Release date(s) April 12, 1985
Running time 121 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $18,432,000

Ladyhawke is a 1985 fantasy film directed by Richard Donner, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

A thief called "The Mouse" escapes the dungeons of medieval L'Aquila, setting in motion a chain of events that may save or destroy a beautiful woman and a brave captain. The two lovers are doomed to lifelong separation by a demonic curse invoked by the corrupt and jealous Bishop of Aquila: by day Isabeau is transformed into a hawk, while at night Navarre becomes a wolf. Imperius, the monk who betrayed them, has found a way to break the curse, but only if he and the Mouse can get them back into Aquila to face the Bishop.


In twelfth century Europe, Philippe Gaston, "The Mouse" (Broderick), is a thief facing execution who escapes the dungeons of Aquila, via the sewers, and flees to the countryside. The Bishop of Aquila (Wood) sends his Captain of the Guard Marquet (Hutchison) to hunt down Phillipe; he and his soldiers corner Philippe, but are foiled by a mysterious black knight who reveals himself to be their former Captain, Etienne of Navarre (Hauer), traveling with a beautiful and devoted hawk. Marquet warns the Bishop of Navarre's return, and the Bishop summons Cezar (Molina) the wolf trapper.

Navarre tells Philippe why he saved him: he needs Philippe's unique knowledge to lead him inside Aquila to kill the Bishop. As they travel Philippe becomes aware of mysterious events surrounding them, including the appearance at night of a black wolf and a beautiful woman (Pfeiffer), who is unafraid of the wolf.

Navarre and the hawk are wounded in another encounter with the Bishop's men; Navarre sends the hawk with Philippe to the old monk Imperius (McKern), to heal her. At a ruined castle Philippe finally realizes the truth, which Imperius confirms: the hawk is a woman named Isabeau d'Anjou, who came to live in Aquila after her father—the Count of Anjou—died. All who saw her fell in love with her, including the Bishop. But Isabeau was already in love with Etienne, with whom she secretly exchanged vows.

Accidentally betrayed by their confessor, Imperius, they fled. In his insane jealousy the Bishop made a demonic pact to ensure they would be "Always together; eternally apart": by day Isabeau becomes a hawk, by night Navarre becomes a wolf. Neither has any memory of their half-life in animal form; only at dusk and dawn of each day can they see each other in human form for one fleeting moment, but can never touch.

In despair Navarre plans to kill the Bishop or die in the attempt, making the curse irrevocable. But Imperius has discovered a way to break the curse; in three days, a solar eclipse will create "a day without a night and a night without a day": when the lovers stand together in human form before the Bishop, the curse will be broken.



Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link

The film's score was composed by Andrew Powell and produced by Alan Parsons. Richard Donner stated that he was listening to The Alan Parsons Project (on which Powell collaborated) while scouting for locations, and became unable to separate his visual ideas from the music. Powell combined traditional orchestral music and Gregorian chants with contemporary progressive rock-infused material, to controversial[citation needed] effect. It has been cited[who?] as the most memorable example of the growing trend among 1980s fantasy films of abandoning the lush orchestral scores of composers such as John Williams and James Horner in favour of a modern pop/rock sound.[1] The soundtrack album was released in 1985 and re-released with additional tracks in 1995.


The castle of Rocca Calascio in Abruzzi, where the priest hosts the protagonists to treat them

Richard Donner had attempted to get the film financed for a number of years and come close to making it twice, once in England and once in Czechoslovakia. He eventually got the project up at Warners and Fox, where it was greenlit by Alan Ladd Jr. Kurt Russell was originally cast as the male lead alongside Michelle Pfeiffer. The role of the pickpocket was offered to Sean Penn and then Dustin Hoffman, before Donner decided to go with Matthew Broderick. Kurt Russell pulled out during rehearsals and Rutger Hauer was chosen to replace him.[2]

Filming locations[edit]

Ladyhawke was filmed in Italy; the alpine meadow of Campo Imperatore-Abruzzo served as a prominent exterior location, while the monk scene was filmed at Rocca Calascio, a ruined fortress on top of a mountain. In the region of Emilia-Romagna, the village of Castell'Arquato in Piacenza and castle of Torrechiara in Parma (the castle of the movie) were also featured. Other Italian locations used include Soncino in the Lombardia region, Belluno in the Veneto region, and the Lazio region around Viterbo.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Ladyhawke has a rating of 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 critics' reviews, indicating a fairly positive critical reception.[4] Vincent Canby in the New York Times called the film "divided against itself," and went on to say that "scenes of high adventure or of visual splendor... are spliced between other scenes with dialogue of a banality that recalls the famous Tony Curtis line, 'Yondah lies my faddah's castle.'"[5] Time Out called it "all rather facile sword-and-sorcery stuff, of course, but at times very funny... and always beautifully photographed."[6] Variety described the film as a "very likeable, very well-made fairytale... worthwhile for its extremely authentic look alone."[7]

The New York Times singled out Matthew Broderick's skill in coming "very close to transforming contemporary wisecracks – particularly, his asides to God – into a more ageless kind of comedy," and said of Michelle Pfeiffer that her "presence, both ethereal and erotic, is so vivid that even when she's represented as a hawk, she still seems to be on the screen." Variety praised the casting of the lead actors, considering Pfeiffer "perfect as the enchanting beauty." Time Out called Rutger Hauer "camp" and Pfeiffer "decorative."

Andrew Powell's score has been widely criticised as "dated" in the years since the film's release; Rob Vaux of Flipside Movie Emporium described it as the "worst soundtrack ever composed."[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing (Robert G. Henderson) and Best Sound Mixing (Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore and Bud Alper), winning neither.[8] It won a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, and was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Music (Andrew Powell).[9]


  1. ^ "Ladyhawke - Soundtrack". 
  2. ^ Tom Mankiewicz, My Life as a Mankiewicz p 260-265
  3. ^ "Ladyhawke - Filming locations". 
  4. ^ a b "Ladyhawke (1985) at Rotten Tomatoes". 
  5. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Vincent Canby, April 12, 1985". April 12, 1985. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Time Out". 
  7. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Variety, January 1, 1985". January 1, 1985. 
  8. ^ "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-16. 
  9. ^ "Ladyhawke - Awards". 

External links[edit]