If you’re like me, you probably have a weak spot for fencing movies. Growing up in Russia, I was always fascinated by films about heroes and swordfights and musketeers. Watching Mikhail Boyarksy play d’Artagnan in the Russian adaptation of Three Musketeers had me dreaming of being a dashing swordsman. And of course, as soon as I started fencing, I continued to imagine myself as him! To this day, any movie with a good fencing scene remains dear to my heart, and will usually even get an extra star from me on Netflix.
A few weeks ago, Campbell Chamber of Commerce invited us to their monthly luncheon to talk about fencing. After lunch and a demo we had a discussion, and there was a man who told us that he would modify our presentation. Why, we asked? And he replied– there are so many movies with fencing scenes that everyone has seen and loved that they will make an instant connection between fencing and the movie. The most famous of all is certainly The Princess Bride. The truth is, it is all culturally dependent.
Any Russian (or I would rather say ex-Soviet since this includes a broader category of not only nation but country and culture) will immediately think of Three Musketeers (the Russian version) and Naval Cadets, Charge!, another historical movie with beautiful songs.
I personally believe, for every person, their most beloved movie with fencing scenes is one from their childhood or early adolescence. During those times, romance, courage and love are the dominant motives of life, regardless of where you’re from. While we grew up on musketeers and gardemarines (naval cadets), many Westerners grew up on pirates and masked heroes. If you google “fencing movies,” you will find most lists cover the same greats:
The Princess Bride
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You kill my father. Prepare to die.”
If you grew up in America you’ve probably seen The Princess Bride. And maybe more than a few times. This wonderful movie tops almost everyone’s list because of the epic duel between Wesley and the Spaniard. But even if you don’t like fencing, this movie has something for everyone.
The Three Musketeers
While most people will think of the American version, the musketeers will always bring back memories of Russia for me. When this movie came out, it was the most talked about film in Russia and was loved by all. I believe there is no Russian person, male or female, that does not like this movie and will not sing at least one song from it in any karaoke! Full of romance, charm, beautiful acting and fantastic songs, this movie is among the most beloved by Russians. It even inspired some to take up fencing. I am not sure what non-Russian speaking people will think of this film, but for me it was, is, and probably always will be the fencing movie number one. If you want to learn that behind a tough exterior there is a gentle and romantic side of Russian culture, check out this movie with English subtitles from your public library. Meanwhile, here is a sample of one of the most famous and beloved songs from the movie:
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic tale of long-term revenge written by Alexandre Dumas in 1844. He really loved a good meeting of swords in his stories! It has been adapted to film and television countless times over the years. But the 2002 movie easily takes the cake for the best fencing scenes. My personal favorite is the very last fight between Dantes and Mondego.
Though often passed over for Braveheart in terms of epic Scottish revenge movies where men wear kilts, Rob Roy has something that Braveheart doesn’t: superb fencing scenes. The final fight scene is one of the most nail-biting duels (and greatest comebacks) in movie-going history.
While every list differs slightly, most tend to overlap quite a bit. Some of these movies are really great. Many I didn’t get to see until adulthood as they were not shown in the old Soviet Union when I was growing up. By that time a sense of fencing and romanticism had taken a different dimension for me, but these are still great movies to watch at any age.
In addition to historical fencing scenes, there are some other movies that set the stage with modern fencing bouts including all the gear, which then transition into fights with real weapons. I think the most famous is James Bond’s Die Another Day, where they start with electrical epee fencing on a fencing strip and continue the fighting with broad swords, which looks so cool on screen:
Part 1 –
Part 2 –
In modern times, if you like fencing scenes, in my opinion nothing can beat “Game of Thrones.”
While some of these movies are not for kids, there is one fantastic family movie that we love to watch with the kids (well, additionally given our sentiment to all things twin-related). This film is called The Parent Trap. This is not a fencing movie per se, but a “modern” fencing scene opens the movie which develops into the story of a wonderful friendship. Order it on Netflix and watch it with your fencing kid.
In all these fencing movies please refrain from judging the fencing from your standpoint as a fencer. Trust me, you will not do any justice to the fencing, the movie, or yourself. So enjoy them as is, for the story, the mood and the fantasy.
Which movies provoked your sense of fantasy as a child? Did you grow up outside of America and have a unique perspective to share? Did you love martial arts movies instead of fencing? Or maybe you grew up watching boxing and wrestling movies instead. Please share your favorites from your own culture in the comments below! I’d love to hear the different films everyone loved growing up from around the world!
Photo credit: three-musketeers-movie-trailer.blogspot.com