Excalibur (1981)

119m (USA – cut version), 135m (Argentina), 140m (UK; USA – uncut version)
35mm film, “colour by Technicolor”, 1.85:1
mono, English

A British film directed by John Boorman.

Plot Summary

The wizard Merlin gives the legendary sword to Uthur Pendragon in the hope that he will be able to unite the warring tribes of England. He fails and the sword is driven into a stone where it will remain until the rightful ruler of the land comes along to remove it. That man is Pendragon's illegitimate son Arthur and, years later, he claims his right to rule England. Guided (even manipulated) by Merlin, he begins the task of uniting the land with his of the Round Table at the castle – but an affair between his wife Guenevere and trusted knight Lancelot, and the machinations of Arthur's evil half-sister Morgana and their -born son threaten to shatter the dream…


Directed by: John Boorman
© MCMLXXXI [1981] Orion Pictures Company
An Orion Pictures release thru Warner Bros a Warner Communications company
Executive Producers: Edgar F. Gross, Robert A. Eisenstein
Produced by: John Boorman
Associate Producer: Michael Dryhurst
Screenplay: Rospo Pallenberg and John Boorman
Adapted from “Le Morte d'Arthur” [by Thomas Malory] by: Rospo Pallenberg
Director of Photography: Alex Thomson
Film Editors: John Merritt; Donn Cambern [uncredited],
Original Music Composed and Conducted by: Trevor Jones
Sound Recordist: Tom Curran
Costume Designer: Bob Ringwood
Make-Up: Anna Dryhurst, Basil Newall
Hair Stylist: Anne McFadyen
Hairdresser: Anne Dunne
Special Effects: Peter Hutchinson, Alan Whibley; Gerry Johnston, Michael Doyle
Special Photographic Effects: Oxford Scientific Films Ltd.
Production Designer: Anthony Pratt
Filmed in the Republic of Ireland in Wicklow,Kerry, Tipperary and at The National Film Studios

Nigel Terry (King Arthur)
Helen Mirren (Morgana)
Nicholas Clay (Lancelot)
Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere)
Paul Geoffrey (Perceval)
Nicol Williamson (Merlin)
Robert Addie (Mordred)
Gabriel Byrne (Uther [Pendragon])
Keith Buckley (Uryens)
Katrine Boorman (Igrayne)
Liam Neeson (Gawain)
Corin Redgrave (Cornwall)
Niall O'Brien (Kay)
Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance)
Clive Swift (Ector)
Ciarin Hinds (Lot)
Liam O'Callaghan (Sadok)
Michael Muldoon (Astamor)
Charley Boorman (boy Mordred)
Mannix Flynn (Mordred's lieutenant)

Alternative Titles

Ekskalibur – Serbian title
Excalibor – Das Schwert des Königs – East German title
Excalibur – kongernes sværd – Danish title
Excalibur – Mec kralja Arthurja – Slovenian title
Excalibur – sankarin miekka – Finnish title
Excàlibur – Catalan Spanish title
Excalibur – Vér és mágia – Hungarian DVD title
John Boorman's Merlin Film – shooting title
Knights – shooting title
Krallar savasiyor – Turkish title
Merlin – shooting title
Merlin and the Knights of King Arthur – early title
Sankarin miekka – Finnish title

Production Notes

The film was originally announced as Merlin and the Knights of King Arthur.

During production, it was retitled Knights.

Producers Orion had suggested that the film be shot in either Bulgaria or England, particularly Cornwall, but Boorman chose instead to shoot in Ireland, with production based at the National Film Studios. Locations included Wicklow, Tipperary and Kerry.

Shooting took 18 weeks.



  • 24 Images no.10 (September 1981) pp.71-72
  • American Film vol.6 no.5 (March 1981) pp.30-37
  • Cahiers du Cinéma no.326 (Jul/Aug 1981) pp.61-62
  • Cinefantastique vol.11 no.2 (Autumn 1981) p.47
  • Cinema Papers no.34 (Sep/Oct 1981) pp.399-401
  • Ciné-Revue vol.61 no.20 (14 May 1981) p.5
  • L'Écran Fantastique no.18 (1981) pp.42-43
  • L'Écran Fantastique no.19 (1981) pp.6-8, 66-67
  • Empire no.133 (July 2000) p.124 – DVD review (DVD by MD)
  • Field of Vision no.13 (Spring 1985) p.2-3
  • Film and History vol.29 no.3/4 (1999) pp.54-65 – illustrated article (Merlin goes to the movies: The changing role of Merlin in cinema Arthuriana by Michael Torregrossa)
  • Film Directions vol.4 no.15 (1981) pp.16-19
  • Film Ireland no.110 (May/June 2006) pp.16-18 – illustrated article (Living by the sword)
  • Films vol.1 no.7 (June 1981) p.26-30
  • Films vol.1 no.8 (July 1981) pp.36-37
  • Flesh and Blood no.5 (September 1995) p.12 – illustrated article (Video by Peter Lynch)
  • Jeune Cinéma no.136 (Jul/Aug 1981) pp.41-44
  • The Listener vol.106 no.2719 (9 Jul 1981) p.61
  • The Listener vol.115 no.2949 (27 Feb 1986) p.30
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.48 no.569 (June 1981) p.112
  • Motion Picture Product Digest vol.8 no.22 (15 Apr 1981) p.87
  • Photoplay vol.31 no.11 (November 1980) p.40-41
  • Positif no.242 (May 1981) p.16-17
  • Positif no.247 (October 1981) pp.29-43
  • Post Script vol.4 no.1 (Autumn 1984) pp.35-48
  • Prevue no.44 (February/March 1981) pp.34-37
  • Radio Times vol.297 no.3879 (13 Jun 1998) p.55 – illustrated article (The maverick still making film by Barry Norman)
  • Screen International no.224 (19-26 January 1980) p.12 – note (1980 UK production preview)
  • Screen International no.228 (16-23 February 1980) p.27 – note (Boorman's ‘Merlin' crew)
  • Screen International no.232 (15-22 March 1980) p.13 – note
  • Screen International no.235 (5 April 1980) p.14 – credits
  • Screen International no.252 (2 August 1980) p.15
  • Screen International no.300 (11 Jul 1981) p.15
  • Shivers no.78 (June 2000) p.43 – illustrated video review (Video reviews by Stephen Foster)
  • Sight & Sound vol.49 no.3 (Summer 1980) pp.168-171
  • Sight & Sound vol.3 no.10 (October 1993) p.60
  • Sight & Sound vol.10 no.7 (July 2000) p.62 – note (DVDs)
  • Sight & Sound vol.11 no.1 (January 2001) pp.22-24 – illustrated article (Gone to earth by Philip Kemp)
  • Starburst vol.1 no.4 (November 1978) pp.28-29 – illustrated article (John Boorman's Merlin by Tony Crawley)
  • Starburst no.35 (1981) pp.16-19
  • Starburst no.38 (1981) pp.20-21
  • Trauma no.4 p.50 – review
  • Variety 8 April (1981) p.18


  • Expresso, Antena 17 July 1999 – review
  • The Guardian: The Guide 11-17 December 1999 p.56 – television listing


  • Film Review 1982-1983 by F. Maurice Speed (ed.) p.149 – credits, review
  • Hoffman's Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.126 – credits, review

Other Sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide March/April 2013 p.15 – illustrated listing