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The Green Knight: 5 films that inspired the new fantasy epic

David Lowery’s The Green Knight premieres in theaters this weekend and, by many accounts, it’s one of the best films of the year. Inspired by the 14th-century Welsh legend Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the film stars Dev Patel as King Arthur’s novice nephew who, after accepting the challenge of the terrifying tree-bearded Knight himself, ventures forth into a dark and mythical world on a chivalric quest for honor and glory.

Aside from the film’s obvious Arthurian roots, the inspirations behind The Green Knight run deep into the heart of the Lowery’s love of film history and fantasy, as the director shares in an interview with Alamo Drafthouse.

Lowery cites several films as influences behind The Green Knight’s production, from Francis Ford Coppola’s romance-horror film Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Sofia Coppola’s anachronistic historical drama Marie Antoinette. “I use this movie not so much as a point of inspiration on an aesthetic level, but as a reminder that […] when you are dealing with the largesse of history, that more importantly than being historically accurate is being emotionally true,” Lowery says of the latter’s connection to his own film.

David Lowery, Dev Patel, and Joel Edgerton on the set of The Green Knight
Photo: A24

From the close up shots of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc to the tactility of The Dark Crystal’s costumes and set design, Lowery elaborates on the many ways the movies of which he grew up on and fell in love with in his youth would go on to inform the signature of his own in The Green Knight. But of all the films Lowery cites as essential in the production of his latest epic, none seems more quintessential than Ron Howard’s Willow.

While discussing the film, Lowery reveals that the original impetus behind The Green Knight’s creation was discovering a box filled with his Willow action figures from childhood in a closet. “I pulled them out and thought to myself that it’d be fun to make a fantasy film like Willow, and here I am three years later having made one. The Green Knight is not exactly like Willow, but it’s got some of the same DNA there and I’d like to think there’s a little bit of kinship between the two.”

Here’s where you can watch each of the films Lowery cites as inspirations for The Green Knight:

1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is available to stream on HBO Max.

2. The Dark Crystal is available to stream on Starz.

3. The Passion of Joan of Arc is available to stream on HBO Max.

4. Marie Antoinette is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max.

5. Willow is available to stream on Disney Plus.

The Green Knight opens in theaters this Friday.

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