The legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table has attracted fans of all ages and backgrounds with its archetypal themes of chivalry, bravery, romance, and justice. It’s not surprising, then, to see its narrative used, transformed and parodied for a myriad of movies, TV shows, cartoons, musicals and opera.
Lerner and Loewe brought the idyllic realm to life as a musical masterpiece, but the Arthurian Legend is also a popular premise for opera plots. Henry Purcell wrote an opera in 1691 called King Arthur, though its plot focuses on the battles of the King and not his happy home. Wagner also embraced parts of the legend in three separate operas: Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal.
Away from the stage, the tale of Camelot can be seen in many varieties on movie and TV screens across the world. Here are some of our favorite versions:
This family-friendly favorite focuses on young Arthur’s rise to power alongside his tutor Merlin. Its story is adapted from the first installment of T.H. White’s fantasy novel series The Once and Future King. Camelot, the musical, is based on later books in the same series.
This irreverent film from 1975 has King Arthur passing on the Knights of the Round Table and their shenanigans. “Camelot…‘tis a silly place.”
This 2005 musical is a parody that takes its inspiration from Monty Python’s Holy Grail film. It received the Tony Award for Best Musical the year it debuted on Broadway, starring Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, Hank Azaria and John Cleese.
The BBC’s hit TV drama shows a young Merlin and his bond with Prince Arthur. Its two-part finale airs in the UK this Christmas.
The 2001 miniseries shows Camelot from the eyes of the priestess/sorceress Morgaine (commonly called Morgan Le Fay). King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table play only supporting characters in this version.
This 2004 Jerry Bruckheimer film has King Arthur as a Roman officer instead of a medieval knight, but otherwise claims to be the “true story behind the legend.”
Starz’ miniseries had a cult following and good intentions. Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said this about the series, “The story of Arthur isn't history, it’s mythology, and Camelot isn't a place but an idea of hope that has resonated at different times throughout history."
This 1989 satire novel by Mark Twain has a common engineer accidently time travel back to early medieval England during King Arthur’s reign, fooling the realm into thinking he’s a magician and can solve their problems with knowledge of the future. The story was later made into a movie featuring Bing Crosby.
Bugs Bunny tackles Mark Twain’s novel in the animated short Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court. The famed rabbit also starred in Knighty Knight Bugs—a 1958 cartoon where he is King Arthur’s court jester. This is the only Bugs Bunny cartoon to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Short.
Another animated version of this timeless legend, featuring a star-studded cast of voices including Cary Elwes, Gary Oldman, Eric Idle, Don Rickles, Pierce Brosnan, Celine Dion, Jane Seymour and Jaleel White.
Sean Connery as King Arthur? Richard Gere as Lancelot? Julia Ormond as Guenevere? Legend aside, we’re already sold!