The legends of King Arthur have been around since at least the 10th century. The best known version is Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, published in 1485. Malory took all of the existing traditions and combined them into one continuous narrative. In doing so, Sir Thomas established the version which still exists in the popular imagination. The Englishman was in prison (for deeply unchivalrous behavior) when he wrote his magnum opus, but when it comes to the world of King Arthur, it's the "knight prisoner's" world and everyone else is living in it.
There have been Arthurian movies since the dawn of cinema. It's a story everyone knows and it's in the public domain. Every audience member comes to a telling with their own understanding of how the tale should be told. And so, for the historian of Dark Age Britain, King Arthur (2004) will go down easier than First Knight (1995). Fans of romantic spectacle will enjoy Camelot (1967).
The story of King Arthur is one that everyone knows but not everyone remembers what happens. So, it makes sense that directors, writers, and studios continuously try and mine it for box office gold, successfully or otherwise.
Here, then, are the 12 most notable King Arthur movies, ranked from worst to best.
12. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
For over a decade, the answer to "What's the worst King Arthur movie?" was probably the previous entry. Luckily for Antoine Fuqua, the answer now is definitely this 2017 effort from Guy Ritchie.
Having successfully (and surprisingly) pulled off a steampunk martial arts version of Sherlock Holmes, the idea that Guy Ritchie would be directing an adaptation of the Arthurian legend made sense. Fantasy was popular thanks to Game of Thrones and, with centuries of source material, a King Arthur cinematic universe could thrive for decades. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword would be the first in a six-film series. Well, fate had other plans in store.
Legend of the Sword has all of Guy Ritchie's most irritating tics and none of his mildly endearing tricks. The sheer strangeness of the world he opted to create can't even be enjoyed, ironically or otherwise, because the film is so frenetically paced and edited. No moment is ever given any time to make an impression and so the overall experience feels like a poorly-told dream. Even if any of those six sequels came to fruition, this first film would still fail as an introduction. Skip the film, listen to the score.