10 Best Portrayals Of King Arthur & Merlin In TV & Movies
There have been many actors that have portrayed the King of Camelot and the greatest wizard of all. But which star would fans say is better?
The tale of King Arthur and his trusted wizard, Merlin, isn't new to the big and small screen. From the likes of Sean Connery's wise portrayal of the king in First Knight to the comical version of Stanley Tucci's Merlin in the Transformers franchise, the duo has been portrayed by actors. While some portrayals left fans with a displeased after-taste, there have been versions that are well-liked and often regarded as being better.
Over the years, the famous characters from the classic tale have gone through many renditions. Some movies focus on the more historically accurate versions while others amp up the fantasy and magical elements. Don't be surprised if the wizard Merlin isn't the same white-bearded and old man that he's commonly known as.
10 Charlie Hunnam/ Arthur (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword)
didn't do well when it came to rankings on IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes. Many fans didn't really like how the story of Arthur went down a darker path, with Guy Ritchie making the tone a lot grittier and more modern. However, they would agree that there was something unique about Charlie Hunnam's portrayal of Arthur Pendragon.
In this version, Arthur isn't aware of his royal lineage as he was sent away as a child to protect him from the wrath of his uncle. Arthur grew up to be a much more robust and hardened character, getting to know the people of his kingdom personally. Compared to other versions of Arthur, Hunnam's version can easily take down any competitor.
9 Elliot Knight/ Merlin (Once Upon A Time)
became well-known for taking beloved fairytales and developing a binge-worthy show. In season four, the character of Merlin, played by Elliot Knight, is introduced. The original story of Merlin is different from common folklore. Merlin was a foot soldier in an army before escaping with another soldier.
Merlin and his comrade find a grail full of water. Merlin asks the gods for permission to drink and is given magical abilities, is able to see the future, and immortality. He's alive for hundreds of years until falling in love with Nimue (Caroline Ford), who turns dark. In the show, Merlin is an emotional character who can't bear the thought of killing Nimue. In the end, he trapped in a tree by her until freed by Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and killed by Hook (Colin O'Donoghue).
8 Joseph Fiennes/ Merlin (Camelot)
In 2011, there was a short-lived series titled Camelot. The drama was centered around the legend of King Arthur and Merlin but in a more adult-themed show. While Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur deserves praise, Joseph Fiennes as Merlin deserves much more.
The character is a bit closed off and dedicated himself to helping Arthur become the best King of Camelot. He was the advisor to his father who made sure Arthur would become king after his death. From the very beginning, Merlin mentored Arthur to create a free and just Camelot. But unlike some versions of Merlin, this version often hides his abilities and personal life. This version also had a deep love for Igraine (Claire Forlani), Arthur's mother.
7 Sam Neill/ Merlin (Merlin)
In 1998 there was a three-part miniseries that told the legend of Arthur but from the perspective of Merlin. Merlin told a different story of the wizard portrayed by Sam Neill. In this version, Merlin was created to be a wizard in order to help the Queen bring back the "Old Ways."
Audiences will enjoy Merlin's good heart as he has little interest in helping the Queen in her journey for power and vows to not use magic after the death of his mother. As the story progresses, Merlin also vows to protect Arthur and train him to be good to one day defeat the Queen. This version of Merlin is much more complex to see unfold on the big screen.
6 Nigel Terry/ Arthur (Excalibur)
Excalibur was a 1981 British fantasy movie that brought to life the legend of Arthur Pendragon. Much like other versions, the story starts with Merlin vowing to protect Arthur after being born. Fans of the movie have come to love the rendition of Arthur played by Nigel Terry.
The character is the definition of a nobleman and many fans recall the knighting scene between Arthur and his enemy, Sir Uryens (Keith Buckley). Arthur had taken Excalibur from the stone and is the rightful king, but Sir Uryens and his followers hold siege of the castle. After defeating Sir Uryens, Arthur gives him the choice of knighting him and becoming king, or taking the throne by force. In an act of bravery and trust, Arthur gives Sir Uryens Excalbir to knight him.
5 Devon Terrell/ Arthur (Cursed)
The Netflix original series, Cursed, took a different route to the acclaimed folklore and its main characters. In this version, the main heroine is Nimue (Katherine Langford) while Arthur isn't the supposed royal king he's often known as. Devon Terrell portrayed Arthur as a skilled mercenary, who comes to aid Nimue in protecting the Fey.
Fans might appreciate this version of Arthur. He deviates from the common lore of a rightful king who's deserving of Excalibur. This version is a much more highly skilled mercenary, who still holds on to good judgment. In the show, Arthur doesn't believe Nimue's mission of return Excalibur to Merlin (Gustaf Skarsgård). But fans can appreciate that Arthur comes to the aid of the Fey and protects them against Nimue's enemies.
4 Gustaf Skarsgård/ Merlin (Cursed)
Gustaf Skarsgård's portrayal of Merlin in Cursed developed a frenzy amongst viewers. This version deviates from the commonly known character and portrays him as a much younger man, with a deeply broken heart and a moral character. Merlin was once a highly regarded sorcerer but since he abused the Sword of Power too much, he was stripped of his powers.
His past is also much darker than any other version. The use of the sword's power led him down a path of death and blood. Skarsgård's Merlin showed a new side of the character never before seen.
3 Graham Chapman/ Arthur (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
The 1975 British comedy movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is still talked about for being one of the best comedy movies about the Arthurian legend. Graham Chapman plays the lead role as Arthur, King of Britons. The movie has many jokes about the original tale, like Arthur and his men going into a dance number.
This version of Arthur isn't meant to be taken seriously. Arthur and his knights are given the task of finding the Holy Grail that doesn't go so well and only leads to my comical moments. The movie even has a fourth-wall break as Arthur is framed in a modern-day investigation.
2 Bradley James/ Arthur (Merlin)
When it came to a well-loved show that brought to life the tale of Arthur and Merlin, BBC's became a fan favorite. The 2008 drama lasted for five seasons and centered around the young wizard Merlin and Arthur as they try to understand their destinies.
Actor Bradley James portrayed the handsome and blue-eyed future king of Camelot. Fans came to love Arthur for his impressive character growth throughout the show. A once more fun-willed Arthur grows into his role as King with the aid of his trusted friend and servant, Merlin. Arthur starts to exhibit what it takes to become a rightful and just king for all, even for those with magic.
1 Colin Morgan/ Merlin (Merlin)
Colin Morgan's portrayal of a young Merlin in the BBC show has become one of the most well-recognized renditions of the folklore character. Fans got to see his impressive and heartfelt journey to finding his true destiny and helping establish a fair and just Camelot.
This version of Merlin had fans weeping, crying tears of joy, and sympathizing with the self-sacrificing character. Merlin must hide his magic as it's forbidden in Camelot and uses his magic only to stop evil forces, and any threat to Arthur and the kingdom. Merlin faced the deaths of his loyal friends and used his destiny to show that magic isn't only used for evil.
NEXT: Harry Potter Vs BBC's Merlin: 5 Ways Harry Is The Better Wizard (& 5 Ways Merlin Is)