Medieval films imagine and portray the Middle Ages through the visual, audio and thematic forms of cinema.
The 20th century is not the first to create images of life during medieval times. The Middle Ages ended over five centuries ago and each century has imagined, portrayed and depicted the Middle Ages through painting, architecture, poetry, music and novel. In the 20th century, film has defined Medieval history perhaps more so than any other medium. While the conclusions of academic research and findings of archeology have advanced knowledge of the Middle Ages, nothing has had more widespread influence on more people than the images created by film. Just as most people's perceptions of the American Wild West were drawn from cinema, versus source material or academic research, so too most peoples perceptions of the Middle Ages were influenced by the powerful narratives and images of film.
If film was the most influential medium, Hollywood was the most influential image maker. Hollywood films reached a global audience through big budget productions, and equally big distribution and advertising channels. Hollywood adapted works of the Romanticism movement to the screen, seamlessly forging a bridge between Romanticized historical novels, operas, paintings, and music of the 19th century onto film in the 20th. The ideals of the Romantics were fully realized on the screen in such influential works as Ivanhoe (1952) and El Cid (1961) which belong to the same late Romantic culture in their music, imagery and themes.
Strong cinematic images of the Middle Ages can be found in European films. Influential European films included Fritz Lang's two-film series Die Nibelungen: Siegfrieds Tod and Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache (1924), Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), while in France there were many versions of the story of Joan of Arc.
The first Medieval film was also one of the earliest films ever made, Jeanne d'Arc released in 1900. The first Robin Hood film dates to 1907 and was called Robin Hood and His Merry Men .
The historiography and historiophoty of medieval film is a new field of study. Historiophoty, the study of history through film, was coined by noted historiographer Hayden White in Historiography and Historiophoty (1988) in which he theorized that one of the main sources of friction between History and Film is the problem of translating from a written discourse (hence the -graphy) to a visual one (-photy).  The French historian Marc Ferro had already devoted his seminal work Cinéma et Histoire (1977) to precisely this question, he asks in Chapter 16, "Can a filmic writing of History exist?" 
Although in general terms the relationship between film and history has been a subject of interest since as long as films have been made, it was only in the last decade of the 20th century that medievalists paid attention to film as a serious means of learning about the Middle Ages. As Arthur Lindley said in 1998 "One could note the absence of books by medievalists as well as books of any kind devoted to medieval film," however he prophetically observed "The situation may be beginning to change". This change took place in part by the recognition of the complex relationship between historiography and cinematic history, since the publication of works such as Norman Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages in 1991 demonstrated the extent of the influence of historiography on Medieval History. Harnessing the work of the earlier New Historicism, this emergent field of historiography began to challenge the hegemony of Medieval historians over the history which they narrate, and opens the door for new modes of thinking by the proposition that "we cannot interpret medieval culture, or any historical culture, except through the prism of the dominant concepts of our own thought worlds." 
Until the publication of Kevin J. Harty's book The Reel Middle Ages (1999) there had been no comprehensive survey of medieval films, and John Aberth's book A Knight at the Movies (2003) can probably be called the first book in English dedicated solely to the subject of history and medieval history on film. One year later, in 2004, the eminent French historian François Amy de la Bretèque published his L'Imaginaire médiéval dans le cinéma occidental, in which he proposes a number of useful theories to finally break out of the circle of historiography vs historiophoty. One of the most pervasive of these, and one picked up in Robert Rosenstone's History on Film/Film on History (2006) is that both History and Film are ways of narrating the past, both equally susceptible in theory (though not in practice) to perversion. As Rosenstone observes, "we always violate the past, even as we attempt to preserve its memory in whatever medium we use... Yet this violation is inevitable, part of the price of our attempts at understanding the vanished world of our forebears." 
These ideas were picked up by later authors and incorporated into criticism of medieval films, most notably by Nickolas Haydock and Andrew B.R. Elliott, in order to establish a starting position which accepts the inevitable falsification of the period in film, and instead focuses on what these changes reveal about modern attitudes to the period. Haydock achieves this by arguing for a "medieval imaginary", a Lacanian idea which suggests that there exists a collected body of ideas about the Middle Ages to which filmmakers (and perhaps historians themselves) refer. Elliott, on the other hand, suggests that modern images of the period are based on semiotics, in which both images and paradigms are signifiers of an earlier medieval referent. Both of these ideas connect back to the theory of historiophoty, in that they rely on a kind of history which is written in images, and not in words.
Historiophoty today, therefore, is an ongoing process which recognises the inherent problems in bringing history in general- and medieval history in particular, given its vulnerability to be hijacked by the fantasy genre- to life on the screen. One of the major breakthroughs has been in finally overcoming the reluctance to accept film as history by the recognition that it is not a 'type' of history, but rather that cinema makes use of its own cinematic techniques in order to narrate its history, proposing not a challenge to historical records but simply an alternative way of narrating them.
At over 900 films listed by Harty in 1999, it is beyond the scope of this article to create a complete list. Listed here are some of the best and most significant films in both quality and historical accuracy as determined by a consensus poll of medieval students and teachers. 
|1928||1431||The Passion of Joan of Arc||France||Joan of Arc. The film was so powerful that it was initially banned in Britain.|
|1938||12th c.||The Adventures of Robin Hood||USA||Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.|
|1938||13th c.||Alexander Nevsky||USSR||Russians defend against invading German Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades of the 13th century.|
|1957||13th / 14th c.||The Seventh Seal||Sweden||About a knight returning from a crusade who plays a chess game with Death during the Black Plague.|
|1960||13th c.||The Virgin Spring||Sweden||Story of Christian medieval Swedish family whose daughter is raped by vagabonds. Directed by Ingmar Bergman.|
|1961||11th c.||El Cid||USA||Epic film of the legendary Spanish hero.|
|1964||12th c.||Becket||UK||Based on Jean Anouilh's play about Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket and King Henry II of England.|
|1965||11th c.||The War Lord||USA||Based on Leslie Stevens' The Lovers. Charlton Heston is a knight invoking the "right" to sleep with another man's bride on their wedding night.|
|1966||15th c.||Andrei Rublev||USSR||Life of Andrei Rublev the great 15th-century Russian icon painter (Andrey Tarkovsky).|
|1968||12th c.||The Lion in Winter||UK||King Henry II's three sons all want to inherit the throne. His sons and wife Eleanor of Aquitaine variously plot. Based ten years after the events of the Revolt of 1173-1174.|
|1976||7th c.||Mohammad, Messenger of God||UK/Lebanon||Also known as The Message . Tagline: The Story of Islam.|
|1986||14th c.||The Name of the Rose||France/Italy/Germany||Based on the novel by Umberto Eco.|
|1988||14th c.||The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey||New Zealand||Seeking relief from the Black Death, guided by a boy's vision, people dig a tunnel from 14th-century England to 20th-century New Zealand.|
King Arthur was a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of Welsh and English folklore and literary invention, and modern historians generally agree that he is unhistorical. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas. Arthur's name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.
Layamon or Laghamon – spelled Laȝamon or Laȝamonn in his time, occasionally written Lawman – was an English poet of the late 12th/early 13th century and author of the Brut, a notable work that was the first to present the legends of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in English poetry.
The Seventh Seal is a 1957 Swedish historical fantasy film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. Set in Sweden during the Black Death, it tells of the journey of a medieval knight and a game of chess he plays with the personification of Death, who has come to take his life. Bergman developed the film from his own play Wood Painting. The title refers to a passage from the Book of Revelation, used both at the very start of the film, and again towards the end, beginning with the words "And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour". Here, the motif of silence refers to the "silence of God", which is a major theme of the film.
A swashbuckler is a genre of European adventure literature that focuses on a heroic protagonist stock character who is skilled in swordplay, acrobatics, guile and possesses chivalrous ideals. A "swashbuckler" protagonist is heroic, daring, and idealistic: he rescues damsels in distress, protects the downtrodden, and uses duels to defend his honor or that of a lady or to avenge a comrade.
Medieval studies is the academic interdisciplinary study of the Middle Ages.
Sir Richard William Southern,, who published under the name R. W. Southern, was a noted English medieval historian, based at the University of Oxford.
Norman Frank Cantor was a Canadian-American historian who specialized in the medieval period. Known for his accessible writing and engaging narrative style, Cantor's books were among the most widely read treatments of medieval history in English. He estimated that his textbook The Civilization of the Middle Ages, first published in 1963, had a million copies in circulation.
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc is a 1999 English-language French epic historical drama film directed by Luc Besson and starring Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway and Dustin Hoffman. The screenplay was written by Besson and Andrew Birkin, and the original score was composed by Éric Serra.
Narrative film, fictional film or fiction film is a motion picture that tells a fictional or fictionalized story, event or narrative. Commercial narrative films with running times of over an hour are often referred to as feature films, or feature-length films. The earliest narrative films, around the turn of the 20th century, were essentially filmed stage plays and for the first three or four decades these commercial productions drew heavily upon the centuries-old theatrical tradition.
Medievalism is a system of belief and practice inspired by the Middle Ages of Europe, or by devotion to elements of that period, which have been expressed in areas such as architecture, literature, music, art, philosophy, scholarship, and various vehicles of popular culture. Since the 17th century, a variety of movements have used the medieval period as a model or inspiration for creative activity, including Romanticism, the Gothic revival, the pre-Raphaelite and arts and crafts movements, and neo-medievalism.
The Brut or Roman de Brut by the poet Wace is a loose and expanded translation in almost 15,000 lines of Norman-French verse of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Latin History of the Kings of Britain. It was formerly known as the Brut d'Engleterre or Roman des Rois d'Angleterre, though Wace's own name for it was the Geste des Bretons, or Deeds of the Britons. Its genre is equivocal, being more than a chronicle but not quite a fully-fledged romance. It narrates a largely fictional version of Britain's story from its settlement by Brutus, a refugee from Troy, who gives the poem its name, through a thousand years of pseudohistory, including the story of king Leir, up to the Roman conquest, the introduction of Christianity, and the legends of sub-Roman Britain, ending with the reign of the 7th-century king Cadwallader. Especially prominent is its account of the life of King Arthur, the first in any vernacular language, which instigated and influenced a whole school of French Arthurian romances dealing with the Round Table – here making its first appearance in literature – and with the adventures of its various knights.
Fire and Sword is a 1981 romantic drama film directed by Veith von Fürstenberg. It is based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde, played by Christoph Waltz and Antonia Preser. Leigh Lawson and Peter Firth also star. Set during a raging war between Cornwall and Ireland, the film explores themes on conflict between magic and religion, violence, and destruction.
American imperialism was a serious problem in the formation of Arab cinema in general and cinema of Kuwait in particular. This act caused the absence of the real personality and character of a Kuwaiti culture and history. However, Kuwaitis tried to preserve their national identity by producing and broadcasting local content in their television channels. Which was a balance between protecting and preserving their national identity while also satisfying other preferences. The domination of American films and other foreign produced films has the Kuwaiti cinema imitate and depend on it for so long. It was in 1971 that the young talent of Khalid Alsidiqq that emerged and directed the first Kuwaiti feature film that talks about its cultural heritage and history.
Joan the Woman is a 1916 American epic silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc. The film premiered on Christmas Day in 1916. This was DeMille's first historical drama. The screenplay is based on Friedrich Schiller's 1801 play Die Jungfrau von Orleans. This film was considered to be the "first cinematic spectacle about Joan of Arc."
Histoire(s) du cinéma is an 8-part video project begun by Jean-Luc Godard in the late 1980s and completed in 1998. The longest, at 266 minutes, and one of the most complex of Godard's films, Histoire(s) du cinéma is an examination of the history of the concept of cinema and how it relates to the 20th century; in this sense, it can also be considered a critique of the 20th century and how it perceives itself. The project is widely considered Godard's magnum opus.
Prince Valiant is a 1997 Irish-British independent sword and sorcery film directed by Anthony Hickox, written by Michael Frost Beckner, and starring Stephen Moyer, Katherine Heigl, Thomas Kretschmann, Joanna Lumley, Ron Perlman, and Edward Fox. It is a loose adaptation of the long-running Prince Valiant comic strip of Hal Foster, some panels of which were used in the movie. In it, Valiant must battle the Vikings and a scheming sorceress to save the kingdom.
The Mysterious Knight is an 1899 French short silent trick film directed by Georges Méliès.
Tony Thomas was a British-American film historian, author, writer, producer, and radio and television broadcaster. Considered one of Hollywood's preeminent film historians, he authored over thirty books, produced more than fifty albums of film music, and produced film documentaries for radio and television. Among his works are biographies of Errol Flynn, Burt Lancaster, Joel McCrea, Gregory Peck, and Dick Powell, and entries in Citadel Press's Films of series, including chronicles of the careers of Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, Gene Kelly, Ronald Reagan, and James Stewart.
Georges Alphonse Hatot was a theater manager and pioneering french filmmaker during the late 1890s and early twentieth century. He directed the first known film based on the story of Joan of Arc in 1898 as well as having made the first films to feature the Roman emperor Nero. Besides being a director he also wrote the 1908 serial Nick Carter, le roi des détectives which was a major success and spawned many detective series in the following years.