Welcome to Beat the Algorithm — a recurring column dedicated to providing you with relevant and diverse streaming recommendations based on your favorite movies. Today, we’re recommending must-see classics as well as recent favorites to watch if you’re enchanted by the Arthurian legend of The Green Knight.
After going far too long without seeing movies in theaters, to say we’re hyped for David Lowery’s The Green Knight is putting it mildly. The sword and sorcery adventure is exactly what we want from a big-screen romp: a grand sense of scale, awe-inspiring visuals, and a classic tale of magic and mythology.
We think we speak for all fantasy fans, former English majors, and mythology nerds when we say that the film industry is long overdue for an Arthurian adaptation that truly captures the hearts of moviegoers. The film follows Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), a Knight of the Round Table, on his quest to confront the titular supernatural adversary. Wrapped up in chivalry and folklore, the original tale is a cornerstone of the English literary canon and well-primed for a cinematic treatment.
So if A24’s latest big-screen wonder strikes your fantastical fancy, read on for the best streaming recommendations for fans of The Green Knight.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
When it comes to classic adventures, Jason and the Argonauts is untouchable. The 1963 swords and sandals flick follows the titular hero through his various mythological adventures. The film is a Saturday matinee staple. It’s sweeping and charming, with performances packed to the gills with heart, and special effects that, if you like movies, you have to find endearing. Though it may be tempting to read films from five-plus decades ago as valuable for their influence more than their modern enjoyment, Jason and the Argonauts spits in the face of that sentiment. The film is richly entertaining and we would be damn lucky to get anything similar to it released regularly today.
Available on Crackle and Plex
There have been lots of adaptations of Arthurian legends over the years. But trust us when we say that Excalibur set the gold standard. The John Boorman epic chronicles Arthur’s life with grandeur, grit, and glitter. It’s a dazzling and surreal work that captures the vastness of the character’s mythology and the wonder of his experiences. With an incredible cast and a sprawling scope, Excalibur can often be overwhelming in just how much it delivers. But the upside is there’s something new to be found in every turn and a wide range of appeal that will satiate any adventure fan. It’s also a truly balls to the wall movie that is as audacious and confident as, well, pretty much every other John Boorman movie. The filmmaking legend is unparalleled in his command of craft and willingness to push where others won’t. We recommend buckling up when watching Excalibur; you’re in for a wild ride.
Available to rent on Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu, Microsoft Store, Redbox, AMC Theaters on Demand, and Spectrum on Demand.
Like many an honor-bound tale before it, The Green Knight is a coming-of-age story. And you can’t talk about sword and sorcery coming-of-age stories without mentioning 1981’s Dragonslayer, which is what happens when hardcore Arthurian vibes and teen rom-coms get in a fender bender. Directed by notable American New-Wave writer-director Matthew Robbins, Dragonslayer does what it says on the tin with a couple of notable, genre-defying twists. The film tells of Galen, a young and often foolish sorcerer’s apprentice, who finds himself charged with the daunting task of slaying a four-hundred-year-old dragon named Vermithrax Pejorative. Unsure of his abilities, but burdened with glorious purpose, Galen must navigate local politics, his own teenage ego, and the horrifying realities of dragon-slaying.
With terrifying scenes brought to life by the wizards of Industrial Light and Magic and harrowing performances by the likes of Peter Eyre and Chloe Salaman, Dragonslayer is a balancing act between whimsy and horror. Which is to say: the perfect sweet spot of high fantasy.
Available on Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Paramount+ Amazon Channel, Kanopy, Pluto TV
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Hey, here’s a thought: if you chain a boy to the Wheel of Pain, don’t be surprised when said boy grows up to be wildly jacked thanks to an entire life spent pushing said Wheel of Pain. Directed by screenwriter/madman John Milius and co-written by Oliver Stone, 1982’s Conan the Barbarian brings to life pulp-writer Robert E. Howard’s Weird Tales character of the same name. The film tells the epic tale of its titular hunk (a career-making performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger). A veritable kitchen sink of sword and sorcery shenanigans, Conan the Barbarian doesn’t so much dabble in various tonal spaces as barrel forward as it sees fit. At times terrifying, at times comic, Conan’s serial-narrative roots are well-preserved and make for a glorious buffet of fantastical elements. Evil sorcerer-king played by James Earl Jones? Check. Mystical spiritual trials? Check. Fantastical creatures existing alongside a fuzzy, anachronistic vision of the past? Check, check. What’s better than this? Guys being extremely muscle-bound dudes?
Available on FuboTV, Peacock, Showtime, Showtime Amazon Channel, DirectTV, Spectrum on Demand
Now, look. We’re as surprised as you are that a film by Lucio Fulci is on this list, but hear us out: Conquest is the wildest, wackiest time you can have in the sword and sorcery genre. Just look at that poster. That’s the 1983 equivalent of a hype-courting A24 trailer drop. Conquest is a vaseline-covered fever dream that is wildly gory but also features helpful dolphin friends. We’re not quite sure what that Venn Diagram is but somehow The Green Knight with its fox pal and decapitation shenanigans fits the bill.
Conquest, an iridescent cinematic nightmare that likely fell out of another astral plane, tells of a young man named Mace (Jorge Rivero) who is tasked with ridding the forces of evil from his home. Armed with a magical bow made of light, Mace must join forces with unlikely allies to take down an evil and inconveniently sexy witch. Conquest is out of control and cheesier than the state of Wisconsin. It slaps. Helpful animal friends? A young man burdened with glorious purpose? An episodic quest that’s really about the monstrous/sexy friends you made along the way? Sounds like our kind of double bill.
Available on Tubi and VRV
If you’ve found yourself in The Green Knight’s thrall, chances are you’re a fan of sword and sorcery films but don’t consider yourself a historical purist. “Get weird with it!” you shout hoarsely from the sidelines, encouraging more cowardly creatives to throw caution to the wind and swan dive-headlong into atmosphere. If this all rings true, dear reader, and you haven’t been exposed to the campy delights of 1986’s Highlander, finish this article, then hightail it to your nearest streaming service.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy (the same man behind the glorious Oz-ploitation flic Razorback), Highlander dunks its viewers in the deep end of a world where immortal, lightning-charged swordsmen duke it out until only one of their number remains. Highlander’s got it all: a Tommy Wiseau-accented protagonist with two brain cells; fancy dandy Sean Connery; original songs by the band Queen, and one of the most immaculate pieces of tongue-acting ever put to celluloid courtesy of one Clancy Brown. Every scene transition feels like a guitar riff. The concept art for this film was probably just the album cover of Toto’s Hydra. Bring a lozenge, you’re going to be hooting and hollering a whole bunch.
Available on Amazon Prime, Peacock, FuboTV, Vudu Free, Tubi, Plex, Popcornflix