The odd – but still ultimate – action of George A. Romero’s ‘Knightriders’ (1981).

The close of the 1970s gave us a movie about a group of people borne out of their time. The time they would rather have existed in was Medieval Times full of knights and jousting and the lore of King Arthur. The movie imagines these individuals trying to live by an Arthurian code of chivalry in a modern world. The 1981 movie went by the name of Knightriders… aka George A Romero’s Knightriders.

From Zombies to Knights

Yes, that George A Romero, who single handedly created the Zombie Genre with a 1968 film called Night of the Living Dead. Knightriders stars American acting royalty Ed Harris in one of his first starring roles as Billy, who is the king known as William of a traveling mediaeval renaissance fair who joust on motorcycles. That’s right, on motorcycles! His rival to the throne is Morgan, who is played by Tom Savini. You may remember Savini as the splatter king of makeup for such movies as Dawn of the Dead, Friday the Thirteenth and Creepshow. In their kingdom, to become the king you have to beat the king. This is done when the king decides you are worthy and will come down off the throne to accept your challenge to a joust. Morgan is indeed finally worthy.

Into our mini Game of Thrones drama steps a talent agent who exploits the fissures in the kingdom and promises to book the troupe bigger and more profitable gigs. King William refuses this blood money offer in order to stay true to his values. Morgan and many of the troupe, who have been eking out an existence, accept his offer to go Hollywood.

Superb Action Sequences

The jousting on motorcycles must be seen to be believed. The stunt team looked like they did it for real as you feel every bone crushing crash. This movie is a true tribute to the non CGI stunt work of the day. A pair of action sequences see local motorcycle gangs show up to challenge the troupe. Needless to say it goes badly for them. But it is the finale where the troupe all reunite to determine who will be the one true king that gives this movie its emotional heft.

Let me warn you. This film is an acquired taste and will absolutely speak to some of you. So don’t blow up the comments if you don’t like it and kill it for those yet to discover it and may grow to love it. Even George A. Romero said that people didn’t get this movie back then and said it would meet the same fate today. Let’s prove him wrong! 

To Ultimate Action Thyself Be True

This movie is corny as hell but so noble of heart. Watch this modern retelling of a bygone era and tell me shows like Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead don’t owe a huge debt to this movie. It’s sad that movies like this or Billy Jack aren’t made anymore. This film addressed racism, homosexuality, commercialism and living by a code long before it was hip to do so. But the message to be true to thyself lives on.

My apologies that I did not write this review in iambic pentameter.

This author wishes to maintain his secret identity goes by the name of his favorite comic book hero Iron Fist. When he’s not collecting comics from his childhood, watching action movies or raising his three kids, he works a a police officer, trains Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Kali and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Needless to say, he takes poor martial arts or sloppy gun handling skills personally. And he lives and trains in Chicago.

Let us know your thoughts on Knightriders!


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