Ranking the Robin Hood Adaptations — Which Tales Fly Truest?

Like King Arthur, Robin Hood is one of those legendary figures who has inspired countless songs and poems and classic animated films starring anthropomorphic animal versions of him and his equally iconic friends and enemies: Maid Marian, Prince John, Will Scarlett and the rest of the Merry Men. With the archetype of the green felt-hatted archer who robs from the rich and gives to the poor so entrenched in pop culture—and having gone through reimaginings ranging from high school to grimdark—we realized our mission: to rank ten of the great (and not-so-great) Robin Hood movies.

We should mention that it is fairly impossible to include every Robin Hood movie on account of there being so many, and the fact that plenty of them are relatively inaccessible. So we have assembled a basic master list that includes films that are easy to find and watch. We have ranked them worst to best and included some helpful points of interest:

As with our King Arthur list, we focus on a few iconic symbols (ranked on a scale of 1-3 for how much consideration they get) to represent the common tenets of a good Robin Hood story:

  • Arrows (🏹): How much the retelling takes into account Robin’s legendary skill as an archer.
  • Money (💰): The story’s take on robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, and the role of the Merry Men.
  • Marians (🙅): How much the adaptation focuses on Robin and Marian’s love story, plus how much of a part she plays in the resistance.
  • Crucifixes (✝): To what extent the Crusades play into the plot.

Enjoy!

 

11. Robin of Locksley (1996)

Natalie: It’s Robin Hood, but updated for the cool kids of the 1990s: Robin is rich! At Locksley boarding school! And good with arrows! But also a computer hacker! I watched this for the amusement of baby Devon Sawa, Joshua Jackson, and Sarah Chalke, but I should have known the cast wouldn’t make it actually worthwhile.

Arrows 🏹🏹
Sawa’s perpetually squinty Robin seems to be good at archery only because the plot dictates it, but the movie ramps that up to unbelievable extents—like, say, the giant bulls-eye painted on the double doors of his lavish bedroom. He never wants for fancy bows, which make for good flirting opportunities with his new neighbor Marian (Chalke). But what this kid really wants, instead of practicing on his own, is to join the school Archery Club overrun by rich popular kid John Prince (Jackson) and his cronies. That the movie’s climax takes place at Locksley boarding school’s annual Renaissance Faire just feels like the filmmakers wanted a sly moment of Sawa dressed up in his best jerkin and hat; that he splits Prince’s arrow is an afterthought when the movie’s main plot is on money laundering over mid-’90s Internet.

Money 💰💰💰
Robin may be a good shot, but he’s great with computers and the World Wide Web. In fact, he doesn’t even break a sweat hacking John Prince Senior’s company and transferring $5,000 at a time to the local charity run by Father Tuck. Robin can’t stop John Prince from stalking the Locksley halls, demanding kids “pay the tax,” but he can help the less fortunate Locksley students with medical bills and other financial woes. At least, until bumbling Agent Walter Nottingham of the FBI (!) gets wind of Robin’s scheme and starts following the trail. An interesting dimension to Robin’s character in this retelling is that the only reason he’s at Locksley is because his parents struck big in the lottery: $20 million, prompting a move from sleepy Kansas City, MO, to this Seattle, WA, boarding school. Robin’s guilt over their windfall, not to mention everyone assuming his parents stole the money, plays into his need to throw money at other people who lack his family’s good fortune.

Marians 🙅
The movie sets up Chalke’s Marian as a sort of girl-next-door: Her father runs the horse stables that Robin’s parents have just sunk some of their lottery money into. But one wonders why she puts up with Robin, who nearly throws her off her horse twice and who doesn’t listen when she suggests that maybe he should stop stealing money from Fortune 500 companies. Yet she keeps flirting with him and asking him out, only for him to affect a cool-guy “oh, maybe.” The love plot is very secondary to the money stuff; ditto Marian showing up in full medieval garb at the Ren Faire, for no point other than to look period appropriate for one scene.

Crucifixes ✝
In this version, it’s Robin’s parents who are gone all the time—vacationing, though, no holy wars. And I was very disappointed that the screenwriter named Marian’s horse Sir Richard of the Lionhearted, only for the horse to not swoop in and save the day.

 

10. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Leah: Ooof.

Arrows 🏹
We don’t see ANY archery until the 1-hour mark! It’s super annoying. Then when Robin does finally start archer-ing, it’s with ridiculous flaming arrows. The climactic battle is a swordfight with the Sheriff of Nottingham (Prince John doesn’t exist in this universe) which Robin doesn’t technically win—Marian distracts the Sheriff just long enough for Robin to sucker punch him in the gut…with a dagger. The Merry Men do use arrows to send warnings, though.

Money 💰
Kevin Costner-Hood hoards an insane amount of treasure. At a certain point his loot pile looks like One-Eye Willie’s pirate ship—gold coins, treasure chests, swords, grails… it’s more gold than there probably even was in England in 1194. We never see him redistribute it, but assorted oppressed people come to live in the treehouse village after the Sheriff starts cracking down on the peasantry. For the most part, Robin’s outlawry is much more based in his desire to avenge his father than altruism.

Marians 🙅
Marian claims to be protecting people from the Sheriff, but mostly seems to be keeping her head down and waiting for Richard’s return. She is actively antagonistic to Robin until she sees how much loot he’s gathered for the poor. The Sheriff tries to marry her (because somehow that’s a path to the throne because she’s King Richard’s cousin?) and while this movie doesn’t give us a jolly medieval archery tournament, it does give us a protracted slapstick near-rape scene! WOOOOO!

Crucifixes ✝✝✝
Here is the one place where Prince of Thieves does something interesting: rather than just hearing about the crusade, we go there. And after seeing an absurdly stereotypical depiction of an Arabic prison, where people’s hands are literally being lopped off for stealing (NB: while technically this is a punishment for theft under shariah law, it was almost never carried out before the 20th Century, and certainly not in the assembly-line fashion the film shows) we abruptly pivot into a pro-Muslim film. Morgan Freeman provides the only real fun in the movie as the snarky Moor Azeem. After Robin saves him from prison Azeem decides to come to England to repay his life-debt. Azeem introduces Robin to telescopes and gunpowder, and performed a medieval C-section that saves the life of Little John’s wife and baby son (dubbed “Even Littler John” by Natalie). And in possibly the only totally good line in the movie, a small child approaches Azeem and asks “Did God paint you?” and Azeem replies, “Assuredly. Allah loves wondrous variety” which, I mean that’s just a nice sentiment to throw into the middle of a Medieval would-be epic, and it’s way more accurate, since England was never the pasty white country many think it was. Most interesting, Robin talks about how his father scoffed at the holy wars—“He called the Crusades a foolish quest. He said it was vanity to force other men to our religion”—possibly the most historically-inaccurate thing in the movie, is also  a nice piece of cultural sensitivity from Locksley Senior.

How Drunk is Friar Tuck? Extremely! Mike McShane’s Tuck is a brewer first and a holy man second, and uses fermentation as an example of God’s love for humanity.

 

9. Robin Hood (2006-2009)

BBC Robin Hood

Emily: Despite the caliber of some of its cast (how did Richard Armitage get here again?), this version of Robin Hood was made with kids in mind and it shows a little too much.

Arrows 🏹🏹  
Archery is pretty central to the show, even if the equipment itself is off for the period. (Think plastic nocks on the arrows and a “Saracen” bow that is definitely a Hunnish bow, etc.) So it looks pretty hokey half the time, but the presence of archery and the skills many of the characters have in that regard are still important to the story.

Money 💰💰
While fighting for the good of England and the right of their fellow citizens is central to the plot of this show, the Merry Men are a goofy lot who are often reduced to catchphrases. Repeated phrases like “Get a grip!” or “Him I don’t like,” bog the series down in silly vaudeville patter that has no place in modern television. It makes it hard to take the show seriously, family entertainment or not. The plot revolves entirely around making sure the people of Nottingham and the surrounding areas have help against the awful Sheriff and Sir Guy, though, so at least their heart is in the right place. And the Saracen in this group is notably a woman, a girl named Djaq, who uses the name of her fallen brother. So there’s a Merry Woman among the Merry Men!

Marians 🙅🙅🙅
One of the more interesting aspects of the show is Marian’s role and her relationship to Robin. While there’s a bit of romance in the air, Marian is less interested in the outlaw of Sherwood Forest because she thinks he’s going about helping the people of Nottingham incorrectly. She believes that he should be using his name and privilege to change the system from the inside, and frequently works to do the same herself… but she’s also trapped by Sir Guy if she wants to make certain that her father (the former Sheriff of Nottingham) stays safe. She has an alter ego known as the Night Watchman, a figure who is known for skill with a bow and arrow, and works to give the people food and supplies. This Marian perhaps does more than any other version to visibly help the citizens of England, and she has her own way of doing it.

Crucifixes ✝✝✝
The show begins on Robin’s return after fighting five years in the Crusades. He’s clearly traumatized by it and refuses to kill anyone as a result. Later on, Robin learns that Guy of Gisborne secretly went to the Holy Land to attempt to assassinate the king, and that this attempt led to a new round of fighting, which infuriates him. Richard’s absence in the Crusades leads to plotting between Sir Guy and the Sheriff of Nottingham, who are trying to place Prince John on the throne.

 

8. Robin and Marian (1976)

Leah: I know, I know, some of you are howling. This is a classic. This is Richard Lester’s well-made, gritty, uncompromising, darkly hilarious look at Robin Hood and Maid Marian twenty years after their original adventures. But it’s also a hard watch, and, as a deconstruction of the Robin Hood mythos, not exactly a great take on Robin Hood. Robin himself is scarred by his time in The Crusades, Marian has devoted herself to religion, and Richard…well, Richard the Lionheart is a psychopath. His younger brother John is played by Ian Holm, so if you’ve ever wanted to see the Once and Future Bilbo Baggins curse the Pope while flirting with an underage Victoria Abril, this is your movie. It’s brilliant, but it’s a hard watch.

Arrows 🏹🏹  
While we don’t see any archery until the one hour mark, and we don’t get the tournament, Robin’s love of the bow and arrow is central to the film’s last scene, which I will not spoil.

Money 💰
Have I mentioned that this Robin Hood is kind of a bastard? While Sean Connery sometimes gives him a roguish sense of fun, he steals from ordinary citizens, and most certainly does not distribute money to the poor. When the peasants of Nottingham flock to him, he feeds them, but he also trains them for a fight they cannot possibly win. This Robin just wants to be left alone to live in Sherwood Forest with Marian, and his vendetta against the Sheriff is for his own glory, not for the rights of the people.

Marians 🙅🙅🙅
Audrey Hepburn is an older, wiser Marian, and she’s fantastic. But this dark retelling of the story certainly can’t celebrate romance, so she’s also scarred by her life with Robin. After he left her to join the Crusades, she tried to make a new life for herself as a nun, becoming an Abbess and learning how to heal people. When Robin shows up at the Abbey, she finds herself drawn to him and life in Sherwood all over again, even though she knows it can’t end well. Hepburn’s performance is a perfect balance of anger, sorrow at her lost youth, sparks of love for Robin, resignation, regret, determination…and it’s all the better against Sean Connery’s blustery manchild of a Robin.

Crucifixes ✝✝✝
The film begins with Robin in France, disobeying a direct order from Richard to murder a castle full of women and children. Over the course of the film we learn that Robin followed Richard for 20 years, witnessing, and sometimes perpetrating, horrific violence in his name. The Crusades were only part of a roving war. When he recounts one particular battle to Marian, describing how Richard’s troops slaughtered a Muslim city—children first, then their mothers, searching the bodies for swallowed gold and jewels—she asks why he didn’t come home to her then.

“He was my king,” Robin replies.

Again, a fascinating piece of dark 1970s cinema, but not much fun.

 

7. Robin Hood (2010)

ranking Robin Hood Russell Crowe Ridley Scott

Natalie: Ridley Scott’s gritty reimagining draws more from real-life events, which works as a new interpretation on the legend but won’t cement it as a classic addition to the canon.

Arrows 🏹🏹🏹
You know how some men live and die by the sword? Robin Longstride lives and dies by the arrow. This is clear enough in archery being his defining identity rather than just a hobby that happens to affect the plot, and yet the movie uses it sparingly. After countless scenes in which Robin uses a notched arrow as defense or a negotiation tactic, he lets it fly after Godfrey (Mark Strong), evil French conspirator, is racing away from the climactic battle. The arrow spears him right through the neck and he starts grinning all bloodily like I ain’t even mad, that was a great shot.

Money 💰
Ridley Scott was clearly trying to set up a franchise here, so perhaps later installments would have featured Robin and his men (“the more, the merrier”) picking King John’s pockets. Which is not to say this movie doesn’t lay the groundwork for that: Robin and co. must steal back the grain that was taken from Marian while pushing for John to sign a charter ensuring the rights of every Englishman. When the capricious king goes back on his word and burns the charter, it sets up the rich-versus-poor dynamic with which we’re all familiar.

Marians 🙅🙅
In most Robin Hood tales, I can’t tell you anything about Marian outside of her relationship to Robin. Say what you will about the shakiness of this adaptation, but at least Blanchett’s version of the character is living an entire life before Robin Longstride swoops in: As an “old maid,” she’s married off to Robert Locksley, only for him to leave for the Crusades a week later. In the intervening years, she runs Nottingham, which includes fending off a pack of wild boys stealing grain and lecherous landowners who want to step into her husband’s role, and develops a decent enough relationship with her father-in-law Walter. He doesn’t give her as much credit as he should, as he devises a plan to have Longstride impersonate his dead son to legitimize Marian’s continued claim over Nottingham. The premise is all solid, but as the movie goes on she becomes less of a person and more of an archetype, from slowly  melting ice queen to “I’m gonna put on this armor and join you in battle!” I was going to give this three points, but had to subtract one for the multiple instances in which Marian is almost raped by leering men.

Crucifixes ✝✝✝
God help me, I was actually somewhat charmed by this movie. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who gave us the delightful A Knight’s Tale, swaps key details the way that Robin runs his shell game, making for a more inspired reimagining than Robin of Locksley. Instead of being Sir Robin of Locksley, Russell Crowe’s take is Robin Longstride, a humble archer caught up in Richard’s crusade. When the king is killed, Robin assumes the identity of a dying knight, Robert Locksley, and returns Richard’s crown to England and Locksley’s sword to his father and widow, Lady Marian (Cate Blanchett). Had Richard not gone on his ill-fated crusade, neither Robin’s nor King John’s (baby Oscar Isaac!) stories would have been set into motion.

 

6. The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)

Leah: This live-action, fox-free Disney retelling clocks in at a breezy 84 minutes, but hits all the high points of the story while giving us possibly the best Maid Marian I’ve ever seen.

Arrows 🏹 🏹 
We meet Robin at archery practice, but we don’t get to see his talent because Maid Marian keeps messing with his target. In this adaptation the big archery competition isn’t a trap—it’s an exhibition meant to test archers to join the Sheriff of Nottingham’s army of tax collectors. Robin easily defeats the Sheriff’s best man, but in a lovely twist, it’s Robin’s father who splits Robin’s arrow down the middle. The pair refuse to join the Sheriff, and are later ambushed by a band of villains who shoot Robin’s dad in the back! Robin remains in Sherwood Forest, forms his band of Merrie Men, and begins avenging himself on the Sheriff through the usual robbing the rich to feed the poor scheme. The Merrie Men use coded arrows to send each other messages and warnings, but there are no more grand displays of archery.

Money 💰
Honestly, this part of the film is a little fuzzy. While Prince John and the Sheriff start scheming to raise the tax on the peasantry before King Richard’s Crusading army is even over the horizon line, we don’t learn that they plan to use the money to fund a coup until more than halfway through the film. Robin Hood becomes a folk hero thanks to the balladeering of Alan-a-Dale, but at first people just seem to love him for being a thorn in the Sheriff’s side. We never see him redistributing the money, either, and he demands payment from everyone who comes through the forest. But in the end, he nicks the Sheriff’s entire coup-fund to pay the King’s ransom, and proves himself a loyal subject.

Marians 🙅🙅🙅
This Marian is a childhood friend of Robin’s. She teases him during archery practice, and generally acts like a tomboy until she goes to live with the Queen. Later, she cross-dresses as a page and sneaks into Sherwood Forest to clear Robin’s name, but immediately gets into a fistfight with Robin when she thinks he’s mistreating a miller. By the end of the film she’s openly living with the Merrie Men, dressed in the same Lincoln Green outfit as the rest of them, and assisting Friar Tuck as a sort of outlaw nurse. She’s great.

Crucifixes ✝✝
King Richard is leaving for Crusade, Robin wishes he could go, then Richard is taken prisoner in Austria (???). The Crusade itself is presented as a good thing, and when Richard Lionheart returns he seems unscathed and happy.

How Drunk is Friar Tuck? Robin Meets Tuck when the good friar is performing an inebriated duet between a lord and a maid…and playing both parts himself.

 

5. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)

ranking Robin Hood movies Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Natalie: Mel Brooks’ brilliant parody holds up for the most part, despite some decidedly non-PC jokes. Still, it put Cary Elwes in his second-best role and gave us a very catchy ditty.

Arrows 🏹🏹
Having watched Men in Tights a dozen times before I ever saw Prince of Thieves, I didn’t realize until this rewatch how much Brooks parodies the Costner film, from the fiery arrows in the title sequence to the ridiculous plot to assassinate Robin (Cary Elwes) at the spring archery tournament. But this spoof diverges from the script of a typical Robin Hood tale by having someone else split Robin’s arrow in ‘twain, prompting Robin to pull out his copy of this movie’s script and demand his second chance. It’s the kind of meta moment you see in many a Brooks film, and allows Robin to pull out the big guns—that is, a Patriot arrow-slash-missile and just blow up the bulls-eye altogether.

Money 💰
Surprisingly, there are no robbery antics in this movie, unless you want to count Robin and the Sheriff of Rottingham “stealing” from one another “the greatest treasure in all the land”…

Marians 🙅
…that is, Marian’s virginity. Amy Yasbeck has fun with an overblown accent and her ridiculous Everlast chastity belt, but her character is one-note: She’s waiting for the man with the key to her… heart… to usher her into love and womanhood and bodily autonomy (just kidding on that last one). If anything, the plotline is worth dealing with for Marian’s fierce lady-in-waiting Broomhilde.

Crucifixes ✝✝
Thanks to fighting in the Crusades, Robin consistently must catch up to the goings-on in Sherwood Forest in his absence: His entire family is dead (down to the beloved goldfish), Loxley Hall has been repossessed, and no one has any patience for his long, rambling vows. However, that quest (with a detour in a Jerusalem prison) is what helps him find Ahchoo (Dave Chapelle), who is instrumental in rallying the Merry Men to save Robin when it counts. And who could forget the deus ex machina of King Richard conveniently returning from his own quest in the Crusades to oversee Robin and Marian’s fated marriage?

 

4. Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

Robin of Sherwood

Emily: Arguably the most influential of the modern Robin Hood tellings, this television series was responsible for the addition of several elements that were cribbed almost wholesale by Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and other versions following. Robin of Sherwood attempted to make the period setting a bit more realistic, and also contained lost family members coming to the fore, as well as the first appearance of a Saracen amongst the Merry Men’s number.

Arrows 🏹🏹🏹
Archery is about as present as you’d expect in a good Robin Hood narrative, but since the story is stretched out over many episodes, they don’t feel the need to dazzle the audience with trick archery shots every fifteen minutes. There is a plot surrounding a silver arrow tournament at the start of this rendition, but this time Robin enters the tournament knowing it’s a bad idea because he basically had a fancy vision telling him he had to do it. Because the arrow is a symbol of England? So having the arrow makes him extra special. The archery is essentially part of his chosen-one thingamajig.

Money💰💰💰
Merry Men times galore, as well as plenty of helping the poor and downtrodden. And disguises! Friar Tuck and Little John are great pals in this one, but their Will Scarlet is played by an exceedingly bitter Ray Winstone. Most of the action of the series revolves around Robin and his band working toward justice for the people of England. The first Robin takes up the charge from Herne the Hunter to become a prophesied figure called “The Hooded Man,” who is meant to be the champion of the oppressed. The first Robin eventually dies, and his successor is Robert of Huntingdon, who isn’t sure about becoming the next Robin Hood, but eventually takes the job after bringing the Merry Men back together to save Marion.

Marians 🙅🙅
Spelled with an ‘o’ in this version, poor Marion is first kept by an Abbot who wants her inheritance, and then by a satanist Baron who wants to marry her and then sacrifice her to demons. (Yes, this is clearly where Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham plot line came from.) She eventually makes it into the woods permanently, falling in love with Robin and then marrying him. And then he dies. The fight for justice continues and Robert of Huntington rescues her from another weird guy, but her love story comes to an end. It’s not easy for her to contribute to the fight because she’s so weighed down by all these weird creepy dudes, but she’s amazing all the same when she finally gets to join up.

Crucifixes ✝
The Crusades are a part of this show, but more of a background element that explain the comings and goings of several characters. More interestingly, this version of Richard the Lionheart (played by John Rhys-Davies) is not an all around great guy either. He tries to draft Robin into his army, and when Robin refuses, he tries to have him killed.

 

3. Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (1922)

Leah: The official, copyrighted title of this one was Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, it cost about a million dollars, was the first movie to get a real premiere (At Grauman’s Egyptian Theater) and it was a giant hit.

Arrows 🏹 🏹
The Earl of Huntingdon (Mr. Fairbanks) is established as England’s greatest jouster; it’s not until after he becomes an outlaw that archery overtakes swordplay as his chief skill. He and his men use arrows to send coded messages to the people, Robin occasionally shoots people’s hats off for fun, and when he’s captured by John, he is nearly put to death by a firing squad of crossbows….which is somehow even worse than a regular firing squad?

Money 💰💰
We get one scene of Robin’s radical wealth redistribution plan, with more focus on the idea that he’s inviting the citizenry to join him in a long-range resistance. Toward the end of the film, he arms the people of Nottingham Town and they forcibly take it back from the Sheriff’s troop, before the Merry Men stage a guerilla assault on John’s castle.

Marians 🙅🙅
Marian loves the Earl of Huntingdon from afar, but keeps her distance until he saves her from an attempted rape by Prince John. She’s the one who risks her life to send a message to Huntingdon to warn him of John’s coup, and she fakes her own death and goes into hiding in a convent while she waits for Richard to return. This Marian doesn’t get to fight, but she doesn’t hesitate to attempt suicide (twice!) when it looks like John is going to prevail.

Crucifixes ✝✝✝
Huntingdon accompanies Richard on Crusade until he learns of John’s nefarious plot, and decides to hide the truth from his King specifically so the Crusade will continue. Richard makes it to Palestine, wins the Crusade (!!!) and then comes back, nbd.

How Drunk is Friar Tuck? Not even slightly! In this version, Tuck seems to be more Robin’s right hand man that Scarlet or Little John. When a disguised King Richard comes to join the Merry Men, it’s Tuck who makes him prove his mettle in a staff fight.

 

2. Robin Hood (1973)

Disney Robin Hood

Emily: The Disney one! Everyone is in love with this fox and you cannot deny it! That smooth bastard.

Arrows 🏹🏹🏹
Robin’s skill as an archer is front and center in this version. Aside from the ever-present archery contest, there are plenty of creative uses for his skills, including using his bow and arrow to create a clothesline between the castle and the jail in order to literally “launder” money out of the palace. While this Robin picks up a sword more than once, the archery is his most celebrated skill—unless you count his abilities as a master of disguise. Which you should.

Money 💰💰💰
Robbing from the rich and giving to the poor is incredibly literal in this film. The whole story starts with Robin and Little John posing as fortune tellers to rob the royal coach. Robin makes certain to head over to Skippy the bunny’s birthday with presents, making certain that the boy is able to have some fun on his special day. Friar Tuck attacks the Sheriff of Nottingham for taking the last coin from the church’s poor box, a coin that was given by the Sexton and his wife. Eventually, the citizens of Nottingham are so overtaxed that they all end up in prison, which is when Robin and Little John proceed to break everyone out of jail and steal every bit of gold from the castle. For Merry Men antics, look no farther than the superb “Phony King of England” folksong. Initially, more named Merry Men were to be added to the picture, but it was decided to keep it as more of a buddy film for Robin Hood and Little John due to the success of films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Marians 🙅🙅
This Robin’s journey is bolstered by Maid Marian, a childhood friend that he has long loved. Marian doesn’t do all that much to prop up the resistance aside from begging for Robin’s life, but she clearly has no love for Prince John and wants to get away from him. By the end, she and Robin are married, prompting King Richard to joke that he now has “an outlaw for an in-law.” *slow clap*

Crucifixes ✝
Not much talk of Crusades here at all. It’s mostly there to explain why King Richard has been gone such a long time, but that’s it.

 

1. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Emily: Easily marked the “classic” Robin Hood, a lot of the tropes for Robin Hood films originate with the Errol Flynn version. Populated by many of the greatest actors of the era, there’s nothing quite like watching Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains bring life to these characters.

Arrows 🏹🏹
The archery contest for the golden arrow makes an appearance here, and the event’s source material dates back to at least the 18th century ballads. Adventures uses this archery contest as a trap for Robin Hood that he unfortunately falls into (in other versions he knows it’s a trap and plans for it with varying amounts of success). While Robin is excellent with a bow and arrow, he’s also an able swordsman in this film, and uses that weapon more frequently. His skills as an archer are more showy, a part of the legend that grows up around him, and that one actually causes him a good deal of trouble—considering that he cannot resist “the challenge” of an archery contest and all the problems it causes thereafter.

Money 💰💰💰
To stop John’s awful plot to raise taxes and be generally awful to Saxons, Robin binds a group of fellows to him with an oath that they will fight together for a free England, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, and coming down on any nobleman who abuses his power (and also being nice to ladies, natch). Not only does this band of Merry Men stick to their oath, but at one point they manage to capture the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisbourne, giving them a lovely evening of entertainment after relieving them of their tax burden quite literally. All of Robin’s men are genial, but it’s hard to ignore Will Scarlet in particular, dressed as he is in an eye-catching shade of… well, scarlet.

Marians 🙅🙅🙅
Interestingly enough, Marian has to be convinced that Robin’s aims are noble in this version. It takes her time to recognize that the Normans are behaving abhorrently, and when she realizes this, she falls for Robin pretty quickly. Once she helps to free Robin after he’s imprisoned for the golden arrow archery tournament, the two confess their love, but she opts to stay behind and serve the cause by being a spy. So the love story matters here, but Marian’s role in the resistance in treated with equal importance, as without her help and the help of her nurse Bess, Robin and his men would never win the day.

Crucifixes ✝
The Crusades are only mentioned in passing in this film; while Robin does unknowingly scold Richard the Lionheart (he’s in disguise at the time) for leaving his country to fight elsewhere, the real turmoil is caused by the king’s kidnapping at the hands of the Duke of Austria when he’s on his way back to England. This allows Richard’s brother John the chance to seize power and consolidate his rule by oppressing the Saxon people of the nation. As Robin is a Saxon, he understandably takes issue with this.

 

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