Good Movies with Swords

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Films Featuring Bladed Weapons

While I never tire of watching cinematic guys and gals beat each other to a pulp, it’s always nice to see a sword or knife fight thrown into the mix. The stakes immediately rise for the characters, because death is just one stroke of the blade away. If you‘re also a fan of lethal steel, be sure to check out this list of good movies with swords.

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Highlander (1986) – Christopher Lambert became a star by portraying Connor MacLeod, a 16th century Scottish warrior who learns that he’s actually a member of an immortal race waging a centuries-long contest to gain power over mankind. Of course, winning the contest requires cutting off the heads of the other competitors, something the film’s villain–the massive Kurgan (Clancy Brown)–is more than happy to do. Director Russell Mulcahy switches the action between present-day New York and ancient Europe , and there’s plenty of action to be had in both time periods. Sean Connery is his usual charismatic self as MacLeod’s charismatic mentor, the immortal Spaniard named Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez. A number of sequels and television shows would be made as a result of the film’s popularity, but the first installment remains the best.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – Thanks to the efforts of Errol Flynn (Robin Hood) and Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne), this swashbuckler film is still regarded as one of the greatest sword-fighting movies ever made. Nominated for Best Picture at the 1938 Academy Awards (and winning three others), this Technicolor success co-stars Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, and Patric Knowles. The third of eight pairings between Flynn and de Havilland.

The Sword of Doom (1966) – Utilizing an unorthodox sword technique and filled with a quite brand of insanity, samurai Ryunosuke Tsukue (Tatsuya Nakadai) spends the film’s entire 119-minute runtime bringing misery and death to those around him. A harrowing portrait of a man with a bottomless pit for a soul, The Sword of Doom features a climactic bloodbath in a burning geisha house and dozens of dead bodies. Look for Asian superstar Toshiro Mifune in a supporting role as a rival swordsman.

Rob Roy (1995) – Liam Neeson steps into the shoes of Robert Roy MacGregor, a real-life Scottish figure who feuded with a corrupt landowner (John Hurt) in the 18th century. Tim Roth co-stars as Archie Cunningham, a slimy bastard who engineers the sorry state of affairs and eventually meets our hero in a duel which emphasizes speed versus strength. Also starring Jessica Lange, Brian Cox, and Eric Stoltz.

The Duellists (1977) – Ridley Scott made his debut as a feature director with this film about two French officers (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) who engage in a series of duels while Napoleon’s ambitions of conquest play out in the background. There are a couple of strong sword dueling scenes, as well as a tense showdown in the forest utilizing flintlock pistols. A thrilling look at the timeless themes of honor, obsession, and class conflict.

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13 Assassins (2011) – Directed by controversial Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike, this bloody tale of 13 hired killers trying to eliminate a deranged noble is a remake of the 1963 film of the same name. There’s not a lot of action to begin with, but the film’s major battle (pitting our 13 heroes against hundreds of men) more than makes up for it. Once the killing starts, the rest of the film is literally one long fight filled with gallons of blood and the screams of the dying. Starring Koji Yakusho.

The Three Musketeers (1973) – A rollicking tale drawn straight from the famed adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas. Michael York stars as d’Artagnan, a young man who arrives in Paris with dreams of becoming a musketeer and gets drawn into a web of action and intrigue. Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, and Frank Finlay co-star as the sword-wielding heroes of the title, and other recognizable cast names include Charlton Heston, Faye Dunaway, Christopher Lee, Raquel Welch, and Spike Milligan.

Die Another Day (2002) – Most good movies with swords feature swashbucklers and samurai, but the famed James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) also makes the list. This time around, 007 must match wits with dangerous North Korean agents and a ruthless British tycoon (Toby Stephens), with the latter engaging him in a fast-paced fencing match. The lovely Bond Girls also get in on the action, with NSA agent Jinx Johnson (Halle Berry) taking on Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) in a sword fight as their plane hurtles to the ground.

Scaramouch (1952) – Based on the 1921 novel and the 1923 Hollywood adaptation, this George Sidney adventure stars Stewart Granger as a pre-French Revolution bastard who vows revenge on the nobleman duelist (Mel Ferrer) who slew his friend. Forced to join a troupe of actors in order to avoid capture, our hero engages in numerous duels to hone his skill and prepare for the film‘s climactic showdown. And what a showdown it is, as the battle clocks in at just under seven minutes and rages throughout a Parisian theater. If you’re looking to get lots of sword-fighting bang for your buck, give this adventure tale a try. Co-starring Eleanor Parker and Janet Leigh.

Hero (2002) – Based loosely on a real-life assassination attempt in 227 BC China, this Chinese actioner centers around a nameless warrior (Jet Li) who tells a king (Chen Daoming) stories of how he defeated some of the most notorious criminals (Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Donnie Yen) in the land. The message is deep, the sword action fast-paced and frequent, and the colors incredibly vivid. It also co-stars Asian beauty Zhang Ziyi, which is always a big plus. Of all the foreign films to ever play in America, Hero remains one of the most successful (both critically and financially).

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That wraps up our look at good movies with swords. If you’re a fan of elaborate choreography and physical feats of dexterity, give one or more of these films a try. You’ll be treated to puncture wounds, spraying arteries, and even men in tights.

And while none of his movies made the list, I would also suggest that you check out the on-screen work of Michael Wincott. Not only is the gravel-voiced character actor one of my favorite performers, but he’s displayed his skill with a sword in a number of feature films. These include: Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Three Musketeers (1993), and The Crow.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 16th, 2011 at 3:59 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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