SNARK WEEK: A Knight’s Tale of Woe or 5 Reasons Why A Knight’s Tale Sucks

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A long time ago, on an Internet far away, I was writing a feature about a really awesome website called Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blogge. Through a series of emails, I’d been interviewing the site’s author — Chaucer, as he maintained himself to be. My ever-dubious editor insisted we needed a photo of this guy for the story. Well, Chaucer told me he didn’t have any ‘portraits,’ but there was something which captured his image rather closely, and he pointed me to this:

A Knight's Tale (2001)

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote — Nope.

I was crushed. The amazing, smart, and hilarious writer who I’d been conversing with and had championed to my bosses for this piece — Chaucer was pimpin’ himself as that dude in this shitty movie? UGH.

TL;DR, I didn’t run this article, and it doesn’t matter, because eventually that website I wrote for (the name rhymes with “Achoo!”) killed off those kinds of quirky features. So I’m writing here, ‘natch. And Chaucer’s Blogge continues, with the only reference to A Knight’s Tale being the soundtrack on Chaucer’s iPod. Which is fine, I guess, since I totally dig those songs too even if I highly disapprove of them in a movie purportedly set in the 14th century.

If A Knight’s Tale (2001) was a good ol’ comedy a la Monty Python or Mel Brooks (or Galavant even), yeah, I’d get it. The modern music and dumb costumes might work. But as an adventure-romance-buddy-movie, the anachronisms just add to the feeling that no-one has a clue what this movie is supposed to be. It makes for one hot mess that is neither funny nor fun to look at.

Don’t believe me? Here are five examples of why A Knight’s Tale sucks…

 

1. Lame-Ass Tunics

So, I take it the costuming isn’t supposed to be a big deal? The clothes should fade into the background and let the stellar acting and brilliant wit shine forth? Still waiting…

Knights Tale (2001)

Are you mocking my only shirt?

Knights Tale (2001)

Chillaxing, listening to the Dead, smokin’ out.

Knights Tale (2001)

Because jousting without armor is always a good idea.

Knights Tale (2001)

This is supposed to be my fancy outfit? I don’t see it either.

Knights Tale (2001)

I feel compelled to point out how totally wrong this tunic is constructed for the period – the raglan sleeves & wide body, the short length. Also, Chaucer’s wearing khakis, & you can see the knight’s jeans under the chaps. Puh-leeze.

 

2. Weird Women’s Dresses

Tunics, fine, you’re lazy. But WTFrock are these dresses supposed to be? They’re not medieval, they’re not sexy modern clothes. They’re just weird. Or meh.

Knights Tale (2001)

Is the face-painting too much?

Knights Tale (2001)

I SWEAR THEY SAID THIS MOVIE WAS SET IN 14TH-CENTURY ENGLAND.

Knights Tale (2001)

The bodice doesn’t even fit, FFS.

Knights Tale (2001)

Go home movie, you’re drunk.

Knights Tale (2001)

 

3. Totally Modern Hair

If the soundtrack was late ’90s techno, I might understand this hair. There’s a raver urban tribal thing going on among the cast. So why the classic rock?

Knights Tale (2001)

Dude, where’s my car?

Knights Tale (2001)

Was this really necessary?

Knights Tale (2001)

Is that purple hair chalk? Was that a thing back in 2001?

Knights Tale (2001)

We get it, she’s edgy, ok, shut up about it.

 

4. Completely Dumb Hats

From unfortunate bigginses to 1950s saucer hats, nothing these people wear on their heads makes sense. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS MOVIE?!??!?

Knights Tale (2001)

Nope, still no idea what they’re doing.

Knights Tale (2001)

Maybe they’re trying for a 16th-c. structured coif here. But as we’ve discussed, you can’t wear one like this without it becoming an unfortunate biggins. Even the chick in the back knows that, duh.

Knights Tale (2001)

I can’t get over this white outfit & hat. The funny thing is, underneath the WTF brim, there’s a tiny black loop that could be part of a 14th-c. women’s headdress. But hey, one loop does not a historically accurate headdress make.

 

5. The Music Doesn’t Fit

From Queen’s “We Will Rock You” before a big joust to David Bowie’s “Golden Years” during a formal dance ball, the soundtrack is all about the classic 1970s rock. Which I love as much as the next chick, but UGH it doesn’t work here. I’m sure the director thought they were being really clever with this shit. And again, if it were a Mel Brooks type movie, maybe it could have worked. But this movie cannot commit to being a balls-out comedy — it flops back and forth, trying to take itself seriously, trying to be a romance, trying to be a rousing adventure, hell, trying to be a road picture. So no. Just no. Quit fucking around with otherwise good music. You’re not good enough for it.

Knights Tale (2001)

Shaking thy olde groove thing.

 

If you agree on why A Knight’s Tale sucks, vote for it in Your Daily Snark! And share what was the worst part of A Knight’s Tale for you! Or *gasp* did you enjoy the anachronisms? Don’t be shy — you can tell us!

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

33 Responses

  1. Aurelia

    This movie makes me laugh, cringe and wriggle with snarky delight. I despise the women’s costumes, and have been known to have a glass of wine and scream at the screen with snarky delight. My favorite part is snarking and rocking out with the movie. It is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, but mostly because I get to yell at it.

    Reply
    • The_L1985

      I will admit that, other than a fun game of “Count the anachronisms,” the main thing I like about this movie is the fact that it has Heath Ledger in it, and the man was GORGEOUS.

      Reply
  2. Stephani

    Hideous, horrible, horrifying, heinous, awful. I ran out of h words. Maddeningly bad costuming. Meh story. Scary-thin lead actress. Some really good actors is the best that can be said. Although they really should expunge this piece of crap from their “l did this” lists. But hey, everyone has to earn a living. Just a head-shaker all around.

    Reply
  3. Richard

    I just can’t even, and have never been able to, with this film. Despite my best efforts, it was sprung upon me by some well-meaning friends and I actually had to watch it. I lost a part of my transverse colon that day which I don’t believe I’ve ever recovered.

    Reply
  4. Katy

    Yeah but you get to see Paul Bettany’s butt soooo…..

    I was actually working on a snarky watchalong of this movie in conjunction with the blog Got Medieval and had all kinds of Thoughts to share on the costumes, but it never ended up happening and that blog has been defunct for a while now. Sad day!

    Reply
  5. Joanne Renaud

    It’s so great to meet someone else who hates this movie as much as I do. This was actually the only film that pissed me off so much I ended up walking out of the movie theater (it was the scene where Blacksmith Girl proudly shows off the Nike swoosh– YAY CORPORATIONS RULE, or something). The tonal shifts were jarring, and it seems, as you said, they didn’t know what they were going for. I love REIGN and GALAVANT so it’s not like I can’t deal with goofy costumes when I feel it works with the material.

    Man, even now the female lead’s costumes make me want to stab my eyeball with a fork…

    Reply
    • Trystan

      I’ve been loving Galavant because it is mostly genuinely funny, & Reign, while I snark on it too, it straight up admits it’s not trying to be anything other than a teenage soap opera. These 2 set the bar appropriately. A Knight’s Tale is *such* a mishmash, silly at one minute, trying to be serious the next. Also, gawd-awful on the eyes all around!

      Reply
  6. unawicca

    Oddly enough, the hat with the loop is the bastard offspring of a real 14th century hat- specifically, a hennin. However, in the original the “gauze” was 100 EPI 5 Momme silk, worth a leading role in a King’s ransom. How the designer got from that to this should, in any reasonable world, have involved at least a Lost Weekend and some primo LSD.

    Reply
  7. clara

    I think I really lost it after the Nike swoosh thing. At first I was just confused, after that I was between NOPE and howling with laughter.

    Also, sort of unrelated, but now that I know of the existence of the Unfortunate Biggingses, I realise, much to my horror, I made one for a play I took part in Uni. Strangely enough, the Unfortunate Biggings was the only piece that was not recovered. I think it was a message from the Costume gods.

    Reply
  8. Pink leader

    OMD, I (not so) secretly LOVE this movie! It’s crazy, and insane, and not even trying to be period. And yet the tournaments are scored completely accurately. I felt that they were trying to show how the jousters were considered rock stars of their time. Instead of choosing modern rock music that might have flopped, they went with 70’s Rock that everyone knows and can enjoy. The tunics were like grunge.
    And how can you not love the Wat and his apoplectic rage and frustration?
    To me, it’s so terrible it’s great! But I can’t hold it against the haters. I mean, my best description of First Knight was a giant waste of fabric. To each their own. :)

    Reply
    • Trystan

      Michael Hirst, creator of Showtime’s “The Tudors,” said he wanted to portray Henry VIII as a rockstar so a younger audience could understand the king’s influence & importance. And “Reign” is obviously dressing Mary Queen of Scots & her court in modern designer clothes so that the CW’s young female demographic identifies with the characters. Does this work? Is it ok? Is it bastardizing history? Those are bigger questions, which we’re happy to engage in (& are planning more in-depth essays about).

      No matter what, doing this kind of modern take on history opens up a movie/TV show for SNARK all the live-long day :)

      FWIW, I was raised on Monty Python, & I totally dig watching “Reign.” But “A Knight’s Tale” made me hurl things at the screen bec., as I said above, I didn’t find it either funny OR fun to look at.

      Reply
      • Pink Leader

        Both, and more, are totally worthy of snark, and snark is worthy of being indulged in.

        I recoil from the Tudors and Reign, but I guess it may be the difference between a nod to classic rockstar themes vs. contemporary rockstar ideals. I was gonna say that maybe the fictional characters were more fun than bastardized versions of real people, except the whole Black Prince thing. Anyway, hate and snark away, and enjoy. Just try not to think less of those who love it as a guilty pleasure. :)

        Reply
  9. Lady Black

    I HATE Reign, the first time I saw Megan Follows in that, well I don’t really understand what the dress was supposed to be, I turned it off. Then again, I am 30 and out of the demographic. I love period dramas, I want to see historical costumes, that are as accurate as the can be. But when I have run out of good movies, and finish Willow, Princess Bride and the 13th Warrior, I try to watch A Knights Tale, because hey, it has sword fighting. And as bad as this movie is, it can’t be as bad as The Eagle.

    Reply
  10. Nick Friend

    My friends- the hennin with the forehead loop is a 15th century style, not 14th. So even when this film accidentally gets it right, it’s off by a century.
    Those who know me know I’m primarily an armor nerd and a lover of all things medieval, but only to a point. I’ve seen the trailer and bits of this film on TV by accident, but never watched the entire film on purpose. By the same token, I’ve never intentionally cut myself with a serrated knife and poured hot salsa into the wound, even though I love hot salsa. The thing that sealed its fate in my eyes was a brief shot of a 16th-century close-helm–the kind that locks in place around the wearer’s chin and neck so IT CAN’T COME OFF–flying through the air in slow motion after a jousting impact. This is on par with Ted telling Bill, “I fell out of my armor when I hit the ground!” Run away screaming.

    Reply
  11. Manny

    Woh, it took me so long to scroll down here that I almost lost the will to live, let alone post a comment, but rest assured oh loyal Internet pals, I made it. I’m here and ready to spot put some sarcasm-loaded opinions.

    I actually really like this movie. It appeals to the Add, easily distracted, 80’s punk-rocking historian within. I love the movie for all those reasons you just listed. I like is split direction and varying level of feels I love the slapdash way the movie is portrayed, I adore the acting (and the often lack there of) and I honestly felt like this movie accomplished everything it set out to. It was entertaining and thought provoking, it brought up curiosity and intrigue.
    I get why you don’t like it, as a history major I will agree there are many cringe worthy moments, but the way I figure it, I’d rather watch a movie that’s blatant about how unrealistic it is, then stare at a bunch of stuffy actors covertly destroying my mental projections of historical events.

    Welp, that’s all for me,
    Night!

    Reply
  12. Fogbraider

    While agreeing with every negative comment, I confess to enjoying this film enough to watch it more than once. The anachronisms of music, hats and celebrity contribute to the general tone of insane desperation.

    Reply
  13. Laura

    I always liked to think of this movie was set in an Alternative universe medieval England. That is the only thing that made the costumes make any sense to me.

    Reply
  14. Peter Molnár

    The man in armour (a knight ?) behind Bettany!Chaucer is also wearing a burgonet helmet. If this is the 14th century, that’s out of place, as burgonets are a 16th and 17th century thing.

    Reply
  15. lottyna

    I believe the problem may be the movie is NOT trying to be historically accurate in the least. We’re supposed to laugh at the modern day references, such as the Nike brand, the Mexican wave, or Jocelyn’s hat. It’s a comedy that someone loves and someone hates, but taking its costuming seriously is just completely out of place, IMO. I saw it when I was ten and already back then I asked my mother if Nike existed during the Middle Ages. Of course not! You don’t have to study history to know that. This movie is not trying to fool anybody.

    Reply
  16. Adam Lid

    Pretty much nailed it- the time I wasted watching that thing is time I’ll never get back. Personally, I hate modern/historical mashups as a general rule.

    Reply
  17. Roxana

    Every single thing you say is true. And I don’t care! The minute I saw that medieval tournament audience rocking to ‘We Will Rock You’ I knew I was watching fantasy and enjoyed it as such.

    Reply
  18. Ben Underhill

    You’re all a bunch of faggots! This movie was fun and interesting and really enjoyable! Don’t be a douchecanoe!

    Reply
  19. Berengaria

    Being a mad medieval history nut I love anything that can help me escape the horrors of my modern hell. Yes, I know, poverty, medicine, reality bla bla bla, I know the benefits of living now so no more lectures please. Anyway, I digress.
    As soon as I saw the awful clothes, modern makeup and hair and heard the music I was so disappointed.
    A good idea ruined by someone thinking this mismatch of ages and eras would be a good thing.
    Whoever had this monstrosity of a vision should never be let near anything with an historical script or idea ever again.
    Ruined, murdered, destroyed, killed, and shat upon from a great height.
    Who are you and why did you do this? What possessed you to do this? Why, where, when, how did you ever think that this would be a good idea, a good thing to do?
    Shame on you.
    You murdered this film.

    Reply
  20. Enrico Kanapi

    I feel that one must understand the social attitudes of the time the movie came out before mocking old films.It was 2001, people were more fun and movies regardless of period added that modern rave/punk/edgy style to some degree and it was FUN. Being so meticulous and expecting absolute historical accuracy in movie costumery is such fussy old attitude to take with movies. Sure, if a film was based on a true story then historical accuracy should take precedence over creativity but a knights tale is a fantasy. Think back to the early 2000s and try and remember a more adventurous and more creative approach to movie costumes and even your own style back then, you’ll find its much more nostalgic and interesting than nitpicking at old movie costumes. Peace😎

    Reply

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