Swashbuckler film

Swashbuckler films are a subgenre of the action film genre, often characterised by swordfighting and adventurous heroic characters, known as swashbucklers. Real historical events often feature prominently in the plot, morality is often clear-cut, heroic characters are clearly heroic and even villains tend to have a code of honour (although this is not always the case). There is often a damsel in distress and a romantic element.

Fairbanks Robin Hood standing by wall w sword
Douglas Fairbanks as Robin Hood, 1922


Right from the advent of cinema, the silent era was packed with swashbucklers. The most famous of those were the films of Douglas Fairbanks, such as The Mark of Zorro (1920), which defined the genre. The stories came from romantic costume novels, particularly those of Alexandre Dumas and Rafael Sabatini. Triumphant, thrilling music was also an important part of the formula.[1] There were three great cycles of swashbuckler films: the Douglas Fairbanks period from 1920 to 1929; the Errol Flynn period from 1935 to 1941; and a period in the 1950s heralded by films, including Ivanhoe (1952) and The Master of Ballantrae (1953), and the popularity of the British television series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955–1959).[2] Richard Lester's Dumas adaptations revived the genre in the 1970s.[3]


The term "swashbuckler" originates from boisterous fighters who carried a sword and buckler (a buckler being a small shield).[4] "Swashbuckler" was a putdown, used to indicate a poor swordsman who covered his lack of skill with noise, bragging, and clamour. Novels, and then Hollywood, altered the word's connotation to make swashbuckler mean a loudmouthed but good braggart, and the hero of the plotline.[1]

Jeffrey Richards describes the genre as very stylized. The hero is one who "maintains a decent standard of behavior, fights for King and Country, believes in truth and justice, defends the honour of lady".[5] The values are those of a knight and therefore the setting is generally the eleventh to nineteenth century.


Fencing was always a mainstay of this genre, and a dramatic duel was often a pivotal part of the storyline. Nowhere else is swordplay more apparent than in the swashbuckler film. Famous fencing instructors included Henry Uyttenhove, Fred Cavens, Jean Heremans and Ralph Faulkner. They all had additional long careers in sport fencing.[6]

Musical scores

  • Erich Wolfgang Korngold won the 1938 Academy Award for his score to The Adventures of Robin Hood. The 1935 Captain Blood was nominated for Music (Scoring); in 1940 The Sea Hawk was nominated for best Original Score. Korngold was known for his late Romantic compositional style and assigning each character his or her own leitmotif.
  • Alfred Newman wrote the scores for: The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), the 1940 version of The Mark of Zorro, and the 1942 The Black Swan (nominated for Best Original Score). The 1940 film of The Mark of Zorro was Nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Original Score.
  • Dimitri Tiomkin scored Cyrano de Bergerac (1950). According to film historian David Wallace, "His trademarks, huge, noisy cues, propulsive adventure themes that seemingly employed every brass instrument ever invented, and melting, emotionally wrought melodies accompanying romantic scenes also became the stock-in trade of just about every film composer since."[7]
  • Hans Zimmer scored the Pirates of the Caribbean series, reinventing the swashbuckler musical style.


Television followed the films, and the British television series The Adventures of Robin Hood had produced 143 episodes by 1959 and became an outstanding success both in United Kingdom and the United States.

British television production in the genre was prolific, and includes The Buccaneers (1956–1957), The Adventures of Sir Lancelot (1956–1957), Sword of Freedom (1958), The Adventures of William Tell (1958), The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel (ITV, 1956), ITC's The Count of Monte Cristo (ITV, 1956) and George King's Gay Cavalier (ITV, 1957), Quentin Durward (Studio Canal, 1971) and Sharpe (ITV, since 1993).

American television produced two series of Zorro (1957 and 1990). Following the film The Mask of Zorro (1998), a television series about a female swashbuckler, the Queen of Swords, aired in 2000.[8]

Notable films

Notable actors and actresses

See also


  1. ^ a b Foster on Film.
  2. ^ Screen Online.
  3. ^ "Hoad, Phil. "Making Waves: In Praise of the Swashbuckler", The Guardian, 1 August 2003
  4. ^ Embleton, Gerry A.; Howe, John (1994). The Medieval Soldier – 15th Century Campaign Life Recreated in Colour Photographs. London: Windrow and Green. ISBN 978-1-859-15036-8.
  5. ^ Richards, Jeffrey. Swordsmen of the Screen, Routledge, 2014 ISBN 9781317928638
  6. ^ Classical Fencing.
  7. ^ Wallace, David; Miller, Ann. Hollywoodland, Macmillan, (2002) pp. 193-194
  8. ^ "Swashbuckling Women of Movies, TV, Theatre, etc". Retrieved May 10, 2011.

External links

At Sword's Edge

At Sword's Edge or A fil di spada is a 1952 Italian swashbuckler film directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia.

Barbary Pirate (film)

Barbary Pirate is a 1949 American swashbuckler film starring Donald Woods and Trudy Marshall, directed by Lew Landers.

Crossed Swords (1954 film)

Crossed Swords is a 1954 Italian made swashbuckler film starring Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida.

It was also known as Il Maestro di Don Giovanni ("The Teacher of Don Juan") and The Golden Blade.


Devta may refer to:

Devta (novel), an Urdu serialized fantasy thriller novel

Devta (1956 film), a 1956 Hindi partly coloured swashbuckler film

Devta (1998 film), a 1998 Hindi-language Indian feature film

Neerum Neruppum

Neerum Neruppum (lit. Water and Fire) is a 1971 Indian Tamil language swashbuckler film directed by Pa.Neelakandhan, starring M. G. Ramachandran in the lead role and J. Jayalalitha, R. S. Manohar, Cho Ramaswamy among others. The storyline is based on the French novel The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas. The film was remade in Hindi as Gora Aur Kala.

Pirates of Tortuga

Pirates of Tortuga is a 1961 DeLuxe Color American swashbuckler film which invented an alternate history for the actual Welsh privateer Henry Morgan. It was released in October 1961 in the United States in CinemaScope.

Pirates of Tripoli

Pirates of Tripoli is a 1955 American swashbuckler film starring Paul Henreid and Patricia Medina.

Prince of Pirates

Prince of Pirates is a 1953 swashbuckler film directed by Sidney Salkow.

Raiders of the Seven Seas

Raiders of the Seven Seas is a 1953 swashbuckler film.

Swashbuckler (film)

Swashbuckler is a romantic adventure film produced in the U.S. by Universal Studios and released in 1976. The film is based on the story “The Scarlet Buccaneer”, written by Paul Wheeler and adapted for the screen by Jeffrey Bloom. It was directed by James Goldstone and was rated PG.

The film was released in the UK as The Scarlet Buccaneer.

The Flame and the Arrow

The Flame and the Arrow is a 1950 American swashbuckler film made by Warner Bros. and starring Burt Lancaster, Virginia Mayo and Nick Cravat. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur and produced by Harold Hecht and Frank Ross from a screenplay by Waldo Salt. The music score was by Max Steiner and the cinematography by Ernest Haller. The film was shot in Technicolor.

The Moonraker

The Moonraker is a British swashbuckler film made in 1957 and released in 1958 and set in the English Civil War. It was directed by David MacDonald and starred George Baker, Sylvia Syms, Marius Goring, Gary Raymond, Peter Arne, John Le Mesurier and Patrick Troughton.The film depicts a fictionalised account of the escape of Charles II, arranged by a foppish royalist nobleman, the Earl of Dawlish, who leads a double life as a roundhead-baiting highwayman called The Moonraker, who already has helped more than thirty royalists to escape to France.The film was one of the last productions made by the Robert Clarke regime at Associated British-Pathe.

The Pirates of Capri

The Pirates of Capri (Italian: I pirati di Capri), released in the United Kingdom as The Masked Pirate, is a 1949 Italian/American international co-production swashbuckler film directed by Edgar G. Ulmer starring Louis Hayward. It was filmed on location in Italy.

The Pride of Jennico (film)

The Pride of Jennico is a lost 1914 silent swashbuckler film directed by J. Searle Dawley. It was produced by Adolph Zukor and released on a State Rights basis. On the Broadway stage, the play starred James K. Hackett, Bertha Galland and Arthur Hoops.

The Prince Who Was a Thief

The Prince Who Was a Thief is a 1951 swashbuckler film starring Tony Curtis. It was his first film as a star.

The Purple Mask

The Purple Mask is a 1955 American swashbuckler film directed by H. Bruce Humberstone starring Tony Curtis and set in 1803 France.

The Return of Monte Cristo (1946 film)

The Return of Monte Cristo is a 1946 swashbuckler film which is a

The Scalawag Bunch

The Scalawag Bunch (Italian: L'arciere di fuoco, also known as Long Live Robin Hood) is a 1971 Italian-Spanish-French swashbuckler film directed by Giorgio Ferroni. It is based on the Robin Hood legend.It also has been known as Archer of Fire.

The Swordsman (1948 film)

The Swordsman is a 1948 American swashbuckler film directed by Joseph H. Lewis and starring Larry Parks.

By style
By theme
By movement
or period
By demographic groups
By format,
or production

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.