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Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) - Movie Review

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

The sad news last week that the iconic and beloved Sycamore Gap Tree in Northumberland had been senselessly cut down got me thinking about a film that it famously featured in.

As it happens Mrs Screen Room was on the same page, so on Sunday night we sat down, got cosy (not like that) and watched one of the best movies the 90s has to offer.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

I remember going to see this movie at my local cinema with my cousin when I was about 11. It’s one of my favourite memories of going to see a film.

If you’ve somehow never seen it (and I can’t see how that’s possible) it’s a great action/adventure/romance starring Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), Morgan Freeman (Seven), Alan Rickman (Die Hard), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss), Michael Wincott (The Crow) and Christian Slater (True Romance) among many others.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“Nobleman crusader Robin of Locksley (Costner) breaks out of a Jerusalem prison with the help of Moorish fellow prisoner Azeem (Freeman) and travels back home to England. But upon arrival he discovers his dead father in the ruins of his family estate, killed by the vicious sheriff of Nottingham (Rickman). Robin and Azeem join forces with outlaws Little John (Nick Brimble) and Will Scarlett (Slater) to save the kingdom from the sheriff's villainy.”

It’s funny, “adult me” doesn’t tend to go for these kinds of films anymore, but “young me” used to love them. It’s the reason I haven’t seen the 2010 Ridley Scott directed Robin Hood movie starring Russell Crowe, or even the more recent Robin Hood (2018) starring Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx. Maybe on a subconscious level I’ve just accepted that no other Robin Hood movie will ever be as good as this one so have therefore closed myself off to any new versions…

Whatever it is, films like this remind me how good movies used to be and how much of an experience going to the cinema was back then. I know I bang on about this a lot but it’s the truth! I remember when great films were being released literally back to back. Granted, at the time we didn’t realise so many of those films would become the classics they are today, but I don’t remember going to see one bad movie in the 90s (apart from maybe Evita, but I needed the toilet through the whole thing and I’ve since come to love the soundtrack). It was just such a great time to be a film fan!

Anyway, less of the nostalgia and back to the film at hand…

For all the praise I could (and no doubt shortly will) give this movie I have to jump straight to the music. The score by the late, great Michael Kamen (Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Highlander) is absolutely fantastic, and for me this film wouldn’t be half what it is without it.

In fact the overture that plays over the opening credits is one of my all time favourite pieces of film music.

Sadly, few movies these days have music in them that is as powerful and exciting as this score. It’s just superb, and totally sets the tone of the film before a single actor has even set foot on the screen.

The music is so good in fact that a small section of the overture was used as the fanfare for the Morgan Creek Productions logo that comes up at the start of films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) and True Romance (1993).

I think one of the things that makes this film so enduring is the story. It’s so simple, and you just can’t beat the age-old theme of good vs evil - It’s timeless and everyone can relate to it.

This movie has everything you could want from such a story: a protagonist that’s easy to root for, a villain we despise (but also secretly love because of Alan Rickman’s terrific performance), thrilling action, a damsel in destress, sword fights, a quest for revenge, romance, friendship, and a killer theme song that stayed at number one in the UK Singles Chart for 16 consecutive weeks! Put simply it’s just brilliant entertainment!

Ok so Kevin Costner barely even tries to do an English accent, so what?! He’s Kevin Costner! I can’t say that I’ve ever watched the movie and been the slightest bit upset that Robin Hood sounds American. Everything else about the film more than makes up for it. And that leads me on to Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham

Years ago when I used to do my Movie Villain Monday posts I featured him after so many of you suggested I do so in the comments. It’s no surprise he was nominated. Few movie villains are as beloved as Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham, and that’s all down to his performance. He’s superb! Not many actors could play a character that’s so wretched and vile, and at the same time manage to make you laugh and fall in love with them, but still want to see them get their comeuppance. Alan Rickman does it effortlessly.

Surprisingly Rickman turned down the role twice before finally accepting it. Apparently he didn’t want to play another villain so soon after playing Hans Gruber in Die Hard just a few years earlier. Eventually he was told that if he accepted the part he could more or less do whatever he wanted with it which no doubt resulted in his energetic, larger than life portrayal of the infamous character.

Supported by an excellent cast from both sides of the Atlantic including the legendary Morgan Freeman (in the first film I ever saw him in), Christian Slater (who was destined to take over the world back then but sadly derailed his own career with drink and drugs), Nick Brimble as Little John (whose West Country accent adds a nice authenticity to the proceedings) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (whose Maid Marion is both tough and vulnerable at the same time), this film is absolutely brimming with acting talent!

I also have to give a special mention to Michael McShane who’s brilliant as the beer loving Friar Tuck.

This film is such good fun and really does have something for everyone. It’s a good old fashioned heroes and villains story that is infinitely re-watchable and hugely quotable (with most of the best lines coming from Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham).

It’s also a reminder of a much simpler time when movies, and just about everything else was so much better than it is now.

Sadly though I feel like this movie wouldn’t be as appreciated by today’s audiences as it was my generation’s. These days it seems things have to have twists or be more complicated than necessary for people to be entertained (not to mention plastered in CGI). As much as I like a good twist I’m a big fan of less is more, and there are few films that demonstrate how effectively that can be done as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

If you’ve somehow never seen this movie I strongly urge you to give it a watch. It’s absolutely brilliant escapism that will whisk you away to a wonderful place for a full 2 hours and 23 minutes.

It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Seen it? Of course you have. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


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