Will (Heath Ledger) is but a squire when his knight Sir Ulreich falls dead. He must join the tournament in his place, lest he and his fellow squires starve to death, but also for his own dreams of glory--greatness--and love.
The film is a sure crowd pleaser, and has been since its release in 2001. Entirely rewatchable, the film has all the gallantry, wits, and fun of a solid family film. At its center is the honest knight in shining armor, William, played by the tragically deceased Ledger, then cast after his breakout role in teen flick Ten Things I Hate About You (1999). Like Ten Things’ high school telling of The Taming of the Shrew, A Knight’s Tale has a distinctly modern edge--rock music blasts from trumpeteers, and the lovely Lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) sports spiked hair that surely exceeds its medieval context--allowing for thrilling, if not-entirely-historically-accurate showdowns of wit, character, and adventure; and what it means to be a knight.
Will begins his journey with two wingmen, Roland (Mark Addy, Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones) and Wat (Alan Tudyk, K-2SO from Rogue One). They help him from the first, and train him hilariously in the fine arts of sword and lance. Joining them is then little known author Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who always seems to end up naked, gambled out of his clothes, and hard-working blacksmith Kate (Laura Fraser), struggling to succeed in a man’s world. They’re his team, they’re his people; and buoy him to the front of every tournament, as Will begins to win. There’s also the lovely Lady Jocelyn, for whom Will falls head over heels for, and she for him. Their courtship, under his borrowed name of Ulreich, is a match of wit and beauty (and sarcasm). That love, which is threatened by the one and only Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), a masterful jouster who is against everything Will stands for. Dark, conniving, he will stop at nothing to get what he wants, no matter the rules of the game.
It’s an underdog’s tale, for Will lacks noble blood, and must fake his way into tournaments he does so well in. He must also find his way home to his father, John Thatcher, who apprenticed him to Sir Ulreich years ago, in hopes of a better future for his son. Now, grown, Will is desperate to change his peasant’s fate, to “change his stars,” and on that note, the film is immensely likable, triumphant to the end. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of thrilling jousts, festivals and face-offs, as A Knight’s Tale will fight for your heart. And he will, he will rock you.