This week, we got our first look at Charlie Hunnam as Arthur in the upcoming epic movie Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur, and he looks good. In case you missed it, here's that tweet from Guy Ritchie again.
It's not much, but I am incredibly excited about this new film, primarily because I'm a huge fan of Arthurian legend, and with the potential to be a series of six films, this could mean I get to watch them brought to life for years to come. Add that to seeing Charlie Hunnam who will undoubtedly have his fair share of shirtless scenes (as he has reportedly been working out like crazy for the part). Ahhh, bliss!
The film is due to come out in the summer of 2016, but it's hardly the first time that the Legend of King Arthur has been brought to our screens. If you just can't wait that long for some knightly, sword-fightly action, check out some of these other movies, books and tv shows for some round-table goodness!
The first of two tv series of the same name, this 1998 series focuses on the legendary wizard and his battle with Queen Mab over the rule of England. This series covers some of the best known legends (although with the usual tv-style variants) and characters, and doesn't stray far from the central formation of Camelot.
Bonus reason to watch: The star-studded cast. Helena Bonham Carter, James Earl Jones, Sam Niell, and Lena Hedley feature in the mini-series.
This 2008 British tv series follows Merlin and Arthur as young men (and re-imagines them as the same age, rather than the more usual imagining of Merlin as much older than the future king), in the time of Uther Pendragon's rule. It ran for five seasons, and has a small but devoted fandom (many of whom are still waiting in hope for a spin-off series or a continuation!). It's definitely not the traditional take, but worth a watch for it's own sake.
Bonus reasons to watch: Anthony Head (aka Giles from Buffy) stars as Uther. Also, it's on Netflix, so you can happily binge-watch the entire show.
This short-lived series (only one season), covers the best-known period in Arthurian legend; the crowning of King Arthur and the formation of his Round Table. Look out for a very Tudors-esque adult take on the legend, centered around the battle between Arthur and Morgan for the throne.
Bonus reasons to watch: The inimitable Eva Green plays the faerie queen Morgan. She's stunning, as always, and practically made for the part.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Possibly the best known and least accurate adaptation of the Legend of King Arthur, the Flying Circus presents their usual madcap take on the famous quest that broke up the Knights of the Round Table. Even if you've never seen it, you probably know most of the skits - they have permeated the pop-culture consciousness, and everybody has heard about the Knights Who Say Ni, the doggedly persistent (if slightly useless) Black Knight, and the ridiculous insults of the French.
Bonus reason to watch: If you need reasons to watch Monty Python, I don't think we can be friends anymore. However, this was also turned into the Broadway musical Spamalot, which is absolutely deserving of a trip to the theater.
The Sword In The Stone (1963)
As a die-hard Disney-lover, how could I leave this animated film off the list? Released in 1963, this is one of the few Disney classics that lacks a princess, as it follows our unknowing future king of England as a young boy. The film is based on the first book of The Once And Future King, and follows Arthur (aka the Wart) as he meets his tutor Merlin, and together they embark on a series of magical adventures. They take on a shape-shifting witch, and do some shape-shifting of their own, becoming fish, birds, and squirrels (at which point we see one of the shortest and saddest Disney sub-stories, and the closest thing to a love-interest for Arthur).
Bonus reason to watch: Like all the best Disney, this charming adventure is set to some catchy tunes, which will promptly get stuck in your head and drive you nuts for a few days.
Probably the best-known film based around the legends, Excalibur doesn't try to do anything particularly out there, instead simply telling the best known elements of the legend in beautiful, almost Shakespearean, style. Covering the pulling of the sword from the stone, to the marriage to Guinevere and the formation of the Round Table, this covers all the bases for Arthurian mythology and is an absolute must-watch.
Bonus Reason to watch: Other than the Prince-of-Thieves-style 80s goodness, this needs watching for a young Liam Neeson as Gawaine.
No Screen (Books)
The Once And Future King, T H White
An absolute classic when it comes to the tale of King Arthur, The Once and Future King is a 1958 novel by T H White. It covers the story of Arthur from childhood; his time as an unknown, being tutored by Merlin, to his rise to kingship, romance with Guinevere (and much less romantic interlude with Morgan), and the Knights of the Round Table. It's not the shortest or fastest read, but it's simply written, beautifully detailed, and the perfect starting point for an exploration of Camelot.
Le Morte D'Arthur, Sir Thomas Mallory
Generally considered the source material for a majority of adaptations and further books, this collection from 1485 is a definitive collection of Arthurian legends and stories. Definitely not the easiest read, as it is several centuries old, it's still worth picking up a translation if you really want to get to know the legends behind the movies.
The Mists Of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
One of my favorite novels (and in fact, series, as there are five books within this world), The Mists Of Avalon turns the traditional legends on their heads, and takes the perspective of the women in the old tales. Told primarily from the viewpoint of Morgaine, these are historical fiction steeped in magic and legend. It's fascinating to read such a different take on the legends, and I personally love reading about an England and a Camelot where the women are neither evil sorceresses or damsels in distress.
The Mists of Avalon was also turned into a live-action TV miniseries by the same name.
King Arthur (2004)
The most recent live-action film adaptation of the tale of King Arthur claimed that it was more historically accurate than previous incarnations, a boast that was scoffed at by many, as the actual history behind the legends is almost unknown. Despite a phenomenal cast (Kiera Knightly, Clive Owen) and a decent budget, this film failed to impress viewers or critics. Without the magical element, Arthur just isn't the same, and there wasn't really enough of a plot to hold it together.
I have high hopes for this new film, and can only pray that it is a major success and the six-part film series is realized. After all, with the Hobbit finished, I need a new battle epic to get my sword-and-legend-loving fix!
Knights of the Round Table: King Arthur is released 22 July, 2016