Top 5 Robin Hood Films

Robin Hood is a cool character. He steals from the rich to give to the poor, all while swinging through trees, leading a merry gang of outlaws, and evading the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham. For such a neat character with a fantastic legacy, Hollywood manages to make a lot, A LOT, of disappointing movies based on Hood’s legend. In honor of the new Robin Hood movie coming out this November, here is a list of the best Robin Hood movies to date.

Disney’s Robin Hood (1973)

  • Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
  • Rating: G
  • Starring: Brian Bedford, Phil Harris, Roger Miller
  • Screenplay by: Larry Clemmons
  • Story Sequences by: Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Frank Thomas, Eric Cleworth, Julius Svendsen, & David Michener
  • Music by: George Bruns        
  • Art Direction by: Don Griffith
  • Film Editing by: Tom Acosta & James Melton        
  • Running Time: 83 Minutes
  • Premiered: November 8, 1973 (USA)

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Synopsis: The story of the legendary outlaw is portrayed with the characters as humanoid animals. (From IMDb)

Review: Regardless of who plays Robin in any live action film, in my mind Robin will always look like a cheeky fox. Walt Disney’s animated Robin Hood recounts the story of the famous outlaw and Little John, here depicted as a fox and a bear respectfully. Robin Hood and Little John are uninhibited, mischievous pranksters that “rob the rich to feed the poor” and make Prince John’s life incredibly complicated. Dressed as rather unconvincing female fortunetellers, they pilfer Prince John’s money, jewels, hubcaps and even the royal robes off his back.

Robin counter balances his outlaw antics with his compassion for the impoverished peasants of Nottingham, whom he tries to help. His romance with Marian resembles school-age infatuation instead of “grown up” love. Given that this is a kid’s movie, the romance angle is age appropriate. In a nice touch, Maid Marian keeps a cherished picture of Robin in her tower room-his wanted poster. True love indeed.

I watched this movie so many times as a kid that I had all the songs memorized. A good Robin Hood movie needs to toe the line between drama and comedy because the premise of the story is slightly fantastical. This version works because the narrative is not overly serious but interjects enough comedy to counterbalance the darker elements. In my opinion, none of the live action versions have quite managed to capture the absurdity of the story amongst the social commentary.

Robin Hood (2010)

  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Macfadyen
  • Screenplay by: Brian Helgeland, Ethan Reiff, & Cyrus Voris
  • Music by: Marc Streitenfeld  
  • Cinematography by: John Mathieson
  • Running Time: 140 Minutes/ 156 min (director’s cut)
  • Premiered: May 14, 2010 (USA)

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Synopsis: In 12th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. (From IMDb)

Review: I actually enjoyed the angle this movie took with the Hood story. Robin does not know the meaning of the word merry. Try misery instead. He has lived on his own since he was six years old and found a pseudo family in King Richard’s army. After Richard dies, Robin finds army life rather unbearable. Robin masquerades as a Knight by the name of Robert Loxley and rides to Nottingham, where he keeps up the facade, leads the Loxley household, and plays husband to a feisty Marion. This story combines elements from Robin Hood, Braveheart, and every stolen identity movie ever made.

After playing several paunchy characters who walk and talk a lot, it was fun to see Russell Crowe return to form as a flag carrying, battle hardened knight. In this version, Robin becomes a revolutionary theorist and the narrative implies that he invented the Magna Carta. Robin is a lionhearted patriot and opposes French aggression with a passion. He does not steal from the rich and give to the poor but demands that all the people of the land, rich or poor, deserve to have a say in creating the laws that bind them. The movie could have been better, but I still enjoyed it a lot. One thing I wish the movie focused more on was the tension between Robin and the Sheriff. If you blink, you will miss the Sheriff’s appearance in the narrative. 

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

  • Director: Michael Curtiz & William Keighley
  • Rating: PG
  • Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone
  • Screenplay By: Norman Reilly Raine & Seton I. Miller
  • Music by: Erich Wolfgang Korngold
  • Cinematography by: Tony Gaudio & Sol Polito
  • Running Time: 102 Minutes
  • Premiered: May 14, 1938 (USA)

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Synopsis: When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard’s absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army. (From IMDb)

Review: No list about Robin Hood could be complete without including Errol Flynn. The original action hero, Flynn paved the way for all the action stars of today. He swung through trees, saved countless women, and dominated the screens with masculine vitality. This version of Robin Hood follows Howard Pyle’s Merry Adventures of Robin Hood narrative.

When King Richard the Lionheart is captured, his scheming brother Prince John plots to reach the throne. This outrages Sir Robin of Locksley (Errol Flynn), the bandit king of Sherwood Forest. Rounding up his band of merry men and winning the support of the lovely Maid Marian, Robin accuses Prince John of treachery. When the escaped Richard returns covertly to England, Robin joins forces with him to prevent Prince John from taking the crown. As an older film, the narrative focuses mostly on dialogue than action sequences. The film contains the hallmarks of a 1930’s movie: rapid-fire, rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, the aristocratic accents, and “formal” stage acting that can feel stilted. If you enjoy movie history and the evolution of swashbuckling action sequences, I would recommend watching at least one Errol Flynn action adventure. At 28 years old, both Errol and Taron Egerton are the two youngest actors to portray Robin Hood in a Hollywood movie.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

  • Director: Kevin Reynolds
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Starring: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Alan Rickman
  • Screenplay By: Pen Densham and John Watson       
  • Music by: Michael Kamen
  • Cinematography by: Douglas Milsome
  • Running Time: 143 Minutes/ 155 Min extended
  • Premiered: June 14, 1991 (USA)

Costner

Synopsis: When Robin and his Moorish companion come to England and the tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham, he decides to fight back as an outlaw. (From IMDb)

Review: In his heyday, Kevin Costner dominated the silver screen. This version of Robin Hood tells a decent story and would rank higher if Costner had nailed down a consistent accent. His accent varies between lower class English, pseudo-Australian, and some weird American-British hybrid, sometimes all three occur in one sentence. Apparently, the accent proved a point of contention between Costner and the director.

After being captured by the Turks during the Crusades, Robin of Locksley and Azeem, a Moor, escape back to England. Azeem vows to remain until he repays Robin for saving his life. The Sheriff of Nottingham murdered Robins’ father. Then the Sheriff helped install Prince John as king while Richard is overseas fighting the Crusades. Robin returns home, vows to avenge his father’s death, and win Richard’s throne back. Maid Marian, Robin’s childhood friend, cannot help him, so he escapes to Sherwood Forest, joins a band of exiled villagers and becomes their leader. With the help of this merry band, Robin seeks to cleanse the land of the Sheriff’s nefarious intentions.  Costner does a decent job with the role.

The one redeeming feature of this narrative is Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff’s use of the “dark” arts demonstrates his evil core. At the same time, the Sheriff gets the best one-liners in the film and Rickman definitely out acts the rest of the cast. Rickman portrayed creepy exceedingly well and breathed some great, malevolent life into the role. With some tighter editing and a better accent for Costner, this film could have been significantly better.

Ivanhoe (1952)

  • Director: Richard Thorpe
  • Rating: Approved/ TV-G
  • Starring: Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine
  • Screenplay By: Noel Langley, Æneas MacKenzie, & Marguerite Roberts
  • Based on the Novel By: Walter Scott
  • Music By: Miklós Rózsa
  • Cinematography by: Freddie Young
  • Running Time: 106 Minutes
  • Premiered: February 20, 1953 (USA)

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Synopsis: A knight seeks to free the captive King Richard and put him back on the throne. (From IMDb)

Review: While not a traditional Robin Hood movie, Ivanhoe still tells a great “Hood-esque” tale. Ivanhoe, a worthy and noble knight, the champion of justice returns to England after the holy wars. He finds England under the reign of Prince John and his henchmen and finds himself being involved in the power-struggle for the throne of England. Will justice prevail and will all fair ladies in distress be rescued? A classic film, Ivanhoe contains everything you want out of a medieval tale: jousting, outlaws, betrayal, romance, a witch trial, and divisions between Jews and Christians.

Ivanhoe occurs in 12th century England and deals with jousting tournaments, outlaws, a witch trial and divisions between Jews and Christians. The book and movie increased interest in romance and medievalism and greatly influenced current perceptions of Richard the Lionheart, King John, and Robin Hood. (Do not expect historical accuracy, it is Hollywood after all)

The modern conception of Robin Hood as a cheerful, patriotic rebel/outlaw arose out of Ivanhoe.

“Locksley” became Hood’s title in the novel and stuck around ever since. This title came from an anonymous manuscript – dated to the 1600s – that used “Locksley” as an epithet for Robin. Ever since, Robin Hood from Locksley transformed into “Robin of Locksley”, aka Robin Hood. (There is a village called Loxley in Yorkshire.) Robin’s familiar feat of splitting his competitor’s arrow in an archery contest appears for the first time in Ivanhoe. Even though Robin does not play a major character in the film, Ivanhoe is worth watching due to its influence on the Hood legend. In addition, it is a great classic Hollywood epic, a win-win in my opinion.

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