King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – In a time of myths and legend, King Uther Pendragon is betrayed by his ambitious brother but Uther’s young son, Arthur, escapes to be raised as a pauper in a brothel. Learning to survive and growing into a confident and able young man, Arthur is forced to face his destiny when he pulls a mysterious sword out of a large block of stone and unwittingly reveals his royal lineage to both allies, and enemies.

King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (2017) – Guy Ritchie

Is King Arthur: Legend of the sword appropriate for kids?

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

Rating: 12

Running Length: 126 mins

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law

Genre: Fantasy, Action,


If there is one director you can rely on to provide a signature flair for style, fun, snappy editing, heart driving sound and lots of masculine banter, it is Guy Ritchie. This time he has turned his hand to a re-telling of the King Arthur and Excalibur old English folklore tales, and he has delivered a distilled ‘Guy Ritchie’ experience that doesn’t disappoint.

‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’ does just that: focus on the beginning of the legend of King Arthur and the forging and wielding of the mighty Excalibur sword. The sword can only be wielded by direct heirs from the Uther Pendragon bloodline – neatly excluding brother Vortigern, of course – which allows for a classic three Act structure of, “Who am I?”, “I’ve found out who I am but I don’t want to be him,” and “Ok, I’ll be him then and conquer my fears”.

Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) oozes manly swagger in a very ‘Tom Hardy’ kind of way. Battling with nightmares of the terror he faced as a child, he gives just enough pain behind the cockiness to give his character some connection, but despite the film dangling an attractive female mage in front of him (Bergès-Frisbey – who, unfortunately, delivers her lines with the grace of a lead pipe) this is clearly a film about the friendships of men and Arthur, as alpha man, having his journey. But his back up cast put in excellent performances also, with a dignified irritability in Bedivere (the always reliable Djimon Hounsou) and strong emoting of Backlack (Neil Maskell showing both sly charm and raw fear). And even though Vortigern (Jude Law) is pretty standard ‘ambitious jealous brother’ material, Law pulls off enough weakness and insecurity to give him a tone of character.

The plot itself is engaging enough, if predictable, and deep characterisation is not Richie’s forte. But what he excels at is fusing a high energy modernity and a pulse pumping score to kinetically edited edge-of-the-seat action, which he has refined to perfection here. Be it an inspired 3 minute montage showing the development of scared child to confident man for Arthur, or a truly tense and exciting chase sequence through the streets of ancient Londinium, Ritchie’s flair for direction imbues what could have been a standard ‘swords-and-magic’ affair with such an endearing cocky swagger that you’ll leave the movie theatre feeling like your eyes and ears have been treated superbly. Perhaps not your brain, but sometimes it can have a break, you know?


The movie opens with a large-scale battle with an army attacking a castle. Part of the attacking army is huge magical elephants. These stamp around the battle field. The elephants carry attackers inside large wooden barracks and inside one there are magical people chanting. They launch magical attacks on the defenders who ignite on fire and then explode. The exploding has no blood or suffering shown and is over quickly. It is more of a ‘pixilation effect’. Some attackers fall off the elephants and plunge to their deaths, screaming. King Uther attacks someone and slashes his sword across the camera. He holds up the skull headpiece of the person he slashed and then drops it, implying that the person was decapitated (although neither the decapitation nor the severed head are actually shown). This opening sequence is dramatic and intense and goes on for about 5 minutes.

One character leads his wife down to an underground cave filled with deep water at the bottom. He embraces her before drawing a knife and stabbing her fatally. There is no blood and the stabbing itself is not shown but the sound effect is heard and her surprise and pain is focused on shortly. Near the end of the end of the movie another character is killed in this way.

King Uther wakes his wife and son, who is approximately 3 years old, and desperately tries to smuggle them out of the castle. The castle is under attack, and when the family get to the dock a sound effect is heard. The camera shifts to one character and lingers before that character falls back into the water, dead. The son is bundled onto a small boat and pushed away and we see him witness another character being attacked by a large devilish figure that appears to be partially covered in magical fire. This moment is revisited several times throughout the film in the form of nightmares and visions, with each revisiting revealing more detail. Later scenes show the devilish figure turning round and has a close up of a skull and horn like face. In each case, the son has no visible reaction to what he has seen but the older version of the boy who is having the visions and nightmares is obviously deeply disturbed by the memory.

The boy floats down the river in the boat before being found by some women and taken in. There then follows a montage which last a few minutes showing the boy growing up to adulthood and all the experiences that he had to endure. It is apparent he has been rescued by prostitutes and is being raised in a brothel. There are several moments of him walking into a bedroom and witnessing a man punch or roughly backhand one of the women. The women are usually wearing very little in these moments although the shots are quick and no direct nudity is seen. There are several moments of him being punched, kicked, forced underwater, and generally attacked. He learns to pickpocket and we see several thefts. As he grows older he learns how to fight and he gets increasingly better at it. By the end of the montage he is shown successfully defending the women from aggressive men and becoming in charge of his situation.

One character revisits the cave where he stabbed his wife earlier in the film. He rings a large bell and a tentacle ‘sea witch’ slithers through the water. There are lots of octopus like tentacles and within them are three woman: one older and overweight, and two younger and thin. All three are naked and although the older one stays still and is completed covered by the surrounding tentacles, the younger two swim around and are more exposed. However, the tentacles keep them covered and no nudity detail is shown.

Arthur, as an adult, is living in (and apparently running) the brothel he was raised in. He describes going to talk to some Vikings. It is apparent that one of them visited the brothel earlier and punched one of the woman. The attack is not shown but she has a bruised eye. During his ‘talk’ with the Vikings, one person is shot in the leg with an arrow and another is threatened with a sword to the throat.

Arthur is taken to attempt to pull out the magical sword, Excaliber, from the stone. All men of his age are tested in this way and then branded with a hot iron to prove they have been tested, as King Vortigern is testing all males of the right age to try to find Uther’s son. One person is shown to have been freshly branded and is washing their burnt arm in water. As Arthur is led around he sees a large amount of children suspended in a net. One character says the kids are taken ‘when we don’t pay up’.

A woman who is close to a major character is held prisoner and used to force action upon someone. Her throat is cut by knife although the camera is positioned high enough that only the killer is seen and not her. Another character screams ‘NO!’ when this happens. The scene then shifts to a public execution where someone has their hands tied behind their back and neck tied over a executioner’s block. This tension lasts a few minutes before matters progress. During this process some large dogs become enraged and attack guards. No injury detail is shown but the dogs jump on to people and knock them over whilst they maul them. Several guards are shot and killed with arrows although again there is no blood or injury detail.

Arthur is being cocky when surrounded by ‘the resistance’ and tries to taunt them. He refers to one male character as ‘honey tits’.

In order to learn how to control the sword, Excalibur, Arthur has to visit the ‘darklands’. Once he is there, there is a montage of him being under constant attack from a variety of giant, aggressive animals including snakes, rats and bats. There is loud and dramatic music in this scene which is frightening and lasts for approximately 3 minutes.

When the full memory of the night Arthur’s family was killed returns to him we see more detail of their deaths. One has a large spear thrown right through them which leaves a hole. This is shown very briefly. The other fights but is hit several times with a large scythe like weapon.

The street with the brothel on earlier is shown to be forcibly emptied by guards who sets the buildings alight. No one is seen to be killed or suffer in this scene other than being roughly ejected from the buildings.

During an attempted assassination, one superior guard is hit by an arrow through the neck. He is confused for a few moments as to what has happened before touching his neck lightly, a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth, and him collapsing, dead. The actual contact and injury are not shown.

During a very dramatic chase scene where Arthur and co flee the guards there is a lot of sword fighting. Two sympathetic characters are stabbed and are shown to be in pain. They keep on fighting during this part but come to their ends later. One dies after some unshown torture, whereas the other tries to protect a young child. However, Vortigern threatens to cut his ear off and then does. This happens out of shot. The character then gets their throat cut in front of the young boy they were trying to protect. The boy is approximately 12 years old and screams in anguish when this happens. He is dragged away and the rest of the characters flee the scene.

Arthur is brought prisoner to Vortigern. A snake is sliced in half by sword, splattering blood over a character’s face and shortly after a giant snake crashes into the castle and eats many guards. This is dramatic but no suffering is shown. The battle climaxes into a spectacular fight between Arthur and the devil-like being that has been in his nightmares. There is lots of CGI fire and action but nothing more than has already been shown.


If you like Guy Ritchie films, you will love ‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’ without question. Ever since ‘Sherlock Holmes’ Ritchie has been honing his style of fun stylish action flick (see also the excellent ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’) and here he has it down to a T. But in terms of taking your children to see it, we would advise that due to a constant and strong level of violence and fear, together with some bad language and sexual content, that ‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’ be suitable for ages 12 and over only.

  • Violence: 4/5 (constant battles, death, and sword fighting but little to no blood or gore. A sword is thrown into the air and, in close-up, lands in the back of a character’s neck)
  • Emotional Distress: 4/5 (many characters are killed which have an emotional impact on others)
  • Fear Factor: 5/5 (the dark magic – which causes users eyes to darken – the darklands, and the evil demon attacker are all very scary individually and cumulatively)
  • Sexual Content: 3/5 (there are no love interest plots but as Arthur lives and works in a brothel then there are clearly connotations. Some mythical nudity in the sea witch. A tapestry is shown that has stylised bare breasts shown for a moment.
  • Bad Language: 4/5 (one strong usage, several instances of moderate bad language)
  • Dialogue: 5/5 (lots of violent language with threats and adult content. Arthur refers to himself as the ‘bastard son of a prostitute’. Several characters, including children, are threatened with having their hands being chopped off for stealing.
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of revenge, destiny, corruption, sacrifice, protecting children, banding together for the common good, balance of power, and rising to the occasion required of you.

Words by Michael Record


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