A Knight's Tale

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A Knight's Tale
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Helgeland
Written byBrian Helgeland
Based on"The Knight's Tale"
by Geoffrey Chaucer
Produced by
CinematographyRichard Greatrex
Edited byKevin Stitt[1]
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing[1]
Release date
  • May 11, 2001 (2001-05-11)
Running time
132 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$65 million[4]
Box office$117.5 million

A Knight's Tale is a 2001 American medieval action comedy film[5][6] written, co-produced and directed by Brian Helgeland. The film stars Heath Ledger as William Thatcher, a peasant squire who poses as a knight and competes in tournaments, winning accolades and acquiring friendships with such historical figures as Edward the Black Prince (James Purefoy) and Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany). Its 14th-century story is intentionally anachronistic, with many modern pop culture references and a soundtrack featuring 1970s music.[7] The film takes its name from Chaucer's The Knight's Tale, part of The Canterbury Tales, and also draws several plot points from Chaucer's work.

A Knight's Tale was released by Columbia Pictures in the United States on May 11, 2001. It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed $117.5 million against a budget of $65 million.


At a jousting tournament in 14th-century Europe, squires William Thatcher, Roland, and Wat discover that their master, Sir Ector, has died. With one more pass, he could have won the tournament. Destitute, William wears Sir Ector's armour to impersonate him, taking the prize.

Although only nobles are allowed in tournaments, William is inspired to compete and win more prizes. Roland and Wat would rather take their winnings and leave, but William convinces them to stay and help him train. While traveling, they encounter a young Geoffrey Chaucer, who is also destitute and agrees to forge a patent of nobility so William can enter, assuming the name of "Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein" from Gelderland. But William is brought before Simon the Summoner and Peter the Pardoner: Chaucer has a gambling problem and is in their debt. William demands Chaucer be released and promises payment.

During the competition, William's armour is badly damaged; he goads Kate, a female blacksmith, into repairing it without payment. He wins the tournament's sword event, enabling him to pay Chaucer's debt. In the joust, he faces Sir Thomas Colville, who withdraws from the tournament after being injured by William, though they exchange a ceremonial pass so that Colville can retain the honour of never having failed to complete a match. The proceedings are observed by Jocelyn, a noblewoman with whom William has become infatuated, and Count Adhemar of Anjou, a rival both in the joust and for Jocelyn's heart. In the final joust, Adhemar defeats William. William vows revenge, but Adhemar taunts him, "You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting."

Kate joins William's party and forges new lightweight armour. In the following tournament, Adhemar and William are both assigned to tilt against Sir Thomas Colville, but they learn that he is actually Prince Edward, the heir apparent to the English throne. Unwilling to risk harming him, Adhemar withdraws; but William chooses to joust against Edward anyway and then addresses him by name, further earning his respect.

Adhemar is called away to the Battle of Poitiers, and William achieves several victories in his absence. William proves his love for Jocelyn by complying when she first asks him to deliberately lose (in contrast to knights who promise to win "in her name"), and then, just before he would be eliminated, to win the tournament after all.

The group travels to London for the World Championship. William recalls leaving his father to squire for Sir Ector and learn to become a knight, hoping to "change his stars". Adhemar has also arrived in London and announces that he is in negotiations with Jocelyn's father for her hand in marriage. William dominates at the tournament, but is seen visiting his now-blind father. Adhemar alerts the authorities to William's true identity.

William is arrested and placed in the pillory, but is defended from the hostile crowd by his friends. Just as the mob reaches its frenzy, Prince Edward reveals himself. He acknowledges William's honour and an ability to inspire his friends' dedication that is in the best traditions of knighthood. Edward then announces that William is in fact descended from an ancient noble family, and knights him "Sir William". He asserts that as Prince-royal, his declaration is "beyond contestation".

William returns to the tournament to face Adhemar in the final match, but Adhemar cheats with an illegally sharpened lance, seriously injuring William. Entering the final pass, William is losing by two lances and must unhorse Adhemar to win. He demands to be stripped of his armour while Chaucer buys time by performing the introduction of William that he omitted earlier. William, unable to hold the lance due to his injuries, asks Wat to strap it to his arm. Finally, he tilts against Adhemar, with his father and Jocelyn in attendance. Bellowing his true name as he charges, he knocks Adhemar to the ground with a crushing blow; Adhemar experiences a vision of William and his friends mockingly telling him that he has been "weighed, measured, and found wanting". With this final blow, William wins the world championship. In the ensuing celebration, as Jocelyn and William embrace, Chaucer remarks that he should write an account of these events.


  • Heath Ledger as William Thatcher, a brave and loyal peasant who has dreamt of being a knight since childhood. Masqueraded as a knight under the alias 'Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein of Gelderland'
    • Leagh Conwell as Young William Thatcher
  • Rufus Sewell as Count Adhemar of Anjou, a wealthy, battle hardened knight. William offends Adhemar by intruding upon a conversation between Adhemar and Jocelyn, leading to their rivalry and antagonism. Adhemar believes Sir Ulrich (William) would be a "lesser" knight, "not worth more than a peasant", and starts taunting William in front of Jocelyn and the public.
  • Mark Addy as Roland, a squire to the late Sir Ector and a loyal friend of William.
  • Alan Tudyk as Wat, a violent, young squire who is obsessed with the greater things in life. He grows desperate but is a good friend of William.
  • Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer, who is portrayed as a big-headed writer and ring announcer. He believes he is very clever and more intelligent than others. He has a terrible gambling habit, losing everything, from his money to his clothes.
  • Shannyn Sossamon as Jocelyn, a lady of noble birth, bound to the church and encouraged to be faithful to God but enjoys the fun and tricks in life.
  • Laura Fraser as Kate, a hard-working widowed blacksmith who joins William to prove that her armor is as good, if not better, than her competitors. She pioneers a process for a lighter, stronger armor and also provides feminine insight for William's pursuit of Jocelyn.
  • Bérénice Bejo as Christiana, Jocelyn's loyal friend and lady-in-waiting.
  • James Purefoy as Sir Thomas Colville (Edward the Black Prince)
  • Christopher Cazenove as John Thatcher, William's father
  • Steven O'Donnell as Simon
  • Scott Handy as Germaine
  • Nick Brimble as Sir Ector, a noble knight whom Thatcher was a squire under, died at the beginning of the movie
  • Roger Ashton-Griffiths as Old Bishop
  • David Schneider as Relic Seller
  • Alice Connor as Lone Girl
  • Berwick Kaler as Man in Stocks
  • Jonathan Slinger as Peter the Pardoner


A Knight's Tale was filmed entirely on location in the Czech Republic at Barrandov Studios, Prague, during the summer of 2000.[8]

Lances were created that would convincingly explode upon impact without injuring the stunt riders. The body of each lance was scored so it would break easily, and the tips were made of balsa wood. Each was also hollowed out, with the holes filled with balsa splinters and uncooked linguine.[9]

Director Brian Helgeland says in the DVD Special Edition's commentary that he had intended to show what Geoffrey Chaucer might have been doing that inspired him to write The Canterbury Tales during the six months in which Chaucer seems to have gone missing in 1372.[7]

Heath Ledger's principal suit of armour was made in steel by UK-based Armordillo Ltd. They also created several stunt replicas of this armour, Count Adhemar's armour, and all the jousting armours for men and horses in lightweight, flexible, and nearly unbreakable polyurethane resin.


The film, which notionally took place during the Middle Ages, is notable for its deliberate use of classic rock songs in its soundtrack. The ten that were credited in the film are listed in order of appearance:[10]

In addition, the film's score makes use of the work of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, his composition Fratres (Brothers) being heard in the scene in which William is knighted by Prince Edward.

Year-end charts[edit]

Year-end chart performance for A Knight's Tale
Chart (2001) Peak
Canadian Albums (Nielsen SoundScan)[11] 127


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[12] Gold 500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Home media[edit]

A Knight's Tale was released on DVD on September 25, 2001. The VHS release was delayed by three days to September 28 because Sony took down a Spider-Man teaser trailer that was recalled due to the September 11 attacks.[13][14]


Critical reception[edit]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 59% based on reviews from 153 critics, with an average rating of 5.90/10. The website's critical consensus says, "Once you get past the anachronism, A Knight's Tale becomes a predictable, if spirited, Rocky on horseback."[15] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 56 out of 100, sampled from 36 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B+” on an A+ to F scale.[17]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and argued that the anachronisms made little difference, writing that the director himself "pointed out that an orchestral score would be equally anachronistic, since orchestras hadn't been invented in the 1400s."[18][19] In an obituary for David Bowie, culture critic Anthony Lane referred to the film's use of the song "Golden Years" as "the best and most honest use of anachronism that I know of."[20]

Newsweek revealed in June 2001 that print ads contained glowing comments from a film reviewer who did not exist for at least four films released by Columbia Pictures, including A Knight's Tale and The Animal (2001).[21] The fake critic was named David Manning and was created by a Columbia employee who worked in the advertising department.[21] "Manning" was fraudulently presented as a reviewer for The Ridgefield Press, a small Connecticut weekly.[21]

Box office[edit]

A Knight's Tale made $16.5 million during its opening weekend, ranking in second place behind The Mummy Returns.[22] The film earned $56.6 million at the North American box office and an additional $60.9 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $117.5 million.[4]


The film was nominated for three awards at the 2002 MTV Movie Awards. Shannyn Sossamon was nominated for Breakthrough Female performance, losing to Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember.[23] The film was also nominated for Best Kiss, and Best Musical Sequence, losing to American Pie 2 and Moulin Rouge!, respectively.[24]


In 2012, a TV series adaptation was reported to be in development by American Broadcasting Company, written by Ronald D. Moore.[25]

In April 2024, it was revealed that director Brian Helgeland had pitched a sequel to Netflix who passed on the project.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "A Knight's Tale". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  2. ^ McCarthy, Todd (19 April 2001). "A Knight's Tale". Variety (film review). Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  3. ^ "A Knight's Tale (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 27 April 2001. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b "A Knight's Tale". Box Office Mojo. rl2270987777. Archived from the original on 25 November 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  5. ^ Baker-Whitelaw, Gavia (1 August 2020). "In praise of 'A Knight's Tale,' now streaming on Prime—on its 20th anniversary". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  6. ^ Taylor, Robert (13 May 2021). "'A Knight's Tale' 20th Anniversary: Why This Bizarrely Anachronistic Action Comedy Still Holds Up". Collider. Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  7. ^ a b "20 Crazy Behind-The-Scenes Details About A Knight's Tale". screenrant.com. 27 July 2018.
  8. ^ "A Knight's Tale". Sony Movie Channel. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  9. ^ Mapes, Marty (6 May 2001). "Interview with Brian Helgeland". moviehabit.com.
  10. ^ "A Knight's Tale (2001)". soundtrack. IMDb. tt0183790.
  11. ^ "Top 200 Albums of 2001 (based on sales)". Jam!. Archived from the original on 6 November 2003. Retrieved 26 March 2022.
  12. ^ "American album certifications – Soundtrack – A Knight's Tale". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 21 December 2022.
  13. ^ "Companies postponing, redoing ad campaigns in wake of attacks". The Odessa American. 17 September 2001. p. 31. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  14. ^ "Spider-Man Gets Cut". Hartford Courant. 19 September 2001. p. 42. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  15. ^ "A Knight's Tale (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  16. ^ "A Knight's Tale (2001)". Metacritic. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  17. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger. "A Knight's Tale (2001)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  19. ^ "A Knight's Tale". Reel McCoy. 2001 movies. Archived from the original on 14 November 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2009.
  20. ^ Lane, Anthony (13 January 2016). "David Bowie in the Movies". The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  21. ^ a b c Horn, John (2 June 2001). "The reviewer who wasn't there". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 9 June 2001. Retrieved 3 October 2014 – via MSNBC.
  22. ^ "'Mummy' still rules box office". The Berkshire Eagle. 16 May 2001. p. 32. Archived from the original on 14 November 2022. Retrieved 14 November 2022 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  23. ^ "Lord of the Rings, Fast and the Furious top MTV movie award nominees". 2002 MTV Movie Awards. MTV.
  24. ^ "Lord of the Rings, Nicole Kidman on-top at MTV movie awards". 2002 MTV Movie Awards. MTV.
  25. ^ Jeffery, Morgan (24 September 2012). "'A Knight's Tale' TV series in the works at ABC". Digital Spy. Hearst Magazines UK. Retrieved 15 July 2023.

External links[edit]