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Set in the Middle Ages, our protagonist is a tormented blacksmith grieving after his wife's suicide. A baron from the holy lands rides by and asks him to go on a Crusade. He says no. Then, after being antagonized by a local priest whilst in the depths of his misery, he lashes out in rage and kills him, leaving him with the options of staying to face charges, or joining the baron to live in relative freedom.
This film is loosely based on Balian of Ibelin during the Fall of Jersualem.
The movie has two versions, the theatrical version, and the substantially better received Director's Cut.
- Action Film Quiet Drama Scene: Many, especially one-on-one scenes between Balian and, variously, Godfrey, the Hospitaller, King Baldwin, Sybilla, and Imad.
- Actor Allusion: Liam Neeson as a knight? Where have we seen that before?
- Angel Unaware: The Hospitaller is implied, especially by Word of God, to be this, though we do see his severed head later on.
- Annoying Arrows: Subverted, in that Balian's father Godfrey is wounded by an arrow in the side. He shrugs off the wound, but it gradually poisons him to death. One warrior is able to fight competently with an arrow through his neck but dies shortly after.
- Then there's this...
Godfrey: I once fought for three days with an arrow through my testicle."
- Armor Is Useless: Averted. During the Siege of Jerusalem, Balian gets cut on arm and gets a nasty scar, but without the mail he was wearing his whole arm would've been cut off.
- Balian and his knights avert this hard at the Battle of Kerak where their heavy chain mail and shields lead to them killing far more in a dozens-to-one battle than they would have any right to (and in Balian's case, surviving several blows well enough to fight at Jerusalem later).
- Artistic License: The liberties the film takes with history are all done in service to the film's central message, but given that this message boils down to "Can't we all just get along?", it's a shame.
- Both religions are trashed pretty thoroughly in the process.
- While the agnostic protagonist ends up as a hero.
- Both religions are trashed pretty thoroughly in the process.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: When Balian knights everyone willing and able to hold a sword in Jerusalem before the siege, complete with Crowning Music of Awesome. There's also an actual crowning ceremony.
- Badass: Godfrey of Ibelin.
- "I once fought for three days with an arrow through my left testicle..."
- Saladin. "I am not those men. I am Salah ad-Din. Salah ad-Din."
- Bittersweet Ending: Balian returns to his old home with the Queen of Jerusalem as his wife. Richard the Lion Heart starts another crusade that is doomed to fail, but Balian is able to stay home this time. The ending text reminds us that It Got Worse.
- In Real Life, al Qaeda regard this as a war that has never stopped since the first western invasion of the arab lands. They have a point.
- Big Damn Heroes: The Cavalry Battle outside Kerak, twice. Balian and his knights hold back the Saracen cavalry long enough for the remaining peasants to get inside the castle, then after they're defeated, Baldwin arrives with the Jerusalem army and persuades Saladin to withdraw, rescuing Balian and his men in the process.
- The Blacksmith: Balian of Ibelin.
- Break the Haughty: King Guy de Lusignan, after he is defeated by Saladin and paraded naked on a donkey.
- It's shown to not work in the director's cut. He tries to kill Balian while they're getting ready to leave Jerusalem, and Balian beats him in a duel, then spares his life.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted, since the hideous leper King Baldwin is a good guy and a competent ruler (and has a Cool Mask).
- California Doubling: Huesca, Spain stands for France, Seville stands for Jerusalem, and Morocco stands for any exterior shot in the Holy Land.
- Cherubic Choir
- Chess Motifs: King Baldwin's introductory scene, with an echo by Balian later.
- Corrupt Church: Practically every member of the Catholic hierarchy is a villain.
- And if they're not an outright villain, they're kind of a jerk.
- The Bishop at the start of the Director's Cut seems fairly sympathetic, a shame he is only in one scene. Then again, he actually flat-out says "Much is done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable."
- Did Not Do the Research: Yes, that's right. Always hold your sword in high guard where it can't block most strokes, plus a few other inaccuracies that made historians of the crusades cringe.
- Balian is told never to use a low guard. This is despite the fact that the "Fool's Guard" is an excellent starting position for countering techniques. In this guard, not only is your sword low, it is also pointed down.
- Not to mention that the name of the aforementioned high guard, "Poste dei falcone", is a term that wont even appear until the Italian fighting manual of Fillipo Vadi which date to the 1480s; MUCH later than the time period the film takes place in. Granted, the fighting style and its terminology may very well have been the same 300 years earlier, but there is no evidence to support such a claim.
- Arguable either way. Chances are that the basic guards and techniques were in use since the early medieval period, with the combat manuals codifying such techniques and contributing more advanced techniques.
- Dramatic Unmask: When Sibylla takes off her brother's mask after he dies.
- Dull Surprise: Orlando Bloom as Balian. Even when murdering a priest in the heat of the moment, his facial expression is best described as "mild curiosity". It works, however, since Balian was so beaten down at that point that he just didn't give a damn anymore.
- Epic Movie: Cast of thousands, enormous siege, Crusader epic...
- Mr. Fanservice: While there are a fair number of fairly attractive male examples from the mostly male cast who run the gambit of young to old, Balian who appears shirtless in at least one scene is a shoe-in as an example because after all he is Legolas.
- Actually, in this movie he looks more like Will Turner.
- Executive Meddling: The reason the theatrical cut was so much shorter than the Director's Cut. The theater-released version was panned, yet the Director's Cut was critically acclaimed as one of the best movies of the year.
- The Faceless: A good guy, King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem.
- Feel No Pain: King Baldwin IV, as well as his nephew. (Director's Cut only)
- Fisher King: Baldwin IV. The kingdom of Jerusalem did not outlast his death.
- Freakier Than Fiction: Reynauld de Chatillon's barbarism and exploits were actually toned down for the movie. See Reality Is Unrealistic, below.
- Gorgeous Period Dress: as indicated by the box art.
- Grapes of Luxury: With pomegranate seeds.
- Growing the Beard: Invoked quite literally for Orlando Bloom.
- Handicapped Badass: Baldwin IV certainly qualifies. As a leper, he defeated Saladin in battle at 16.
- Hero of Another Story: Godfrey went from being a minor French Lord to a Baron in the Holy Land, gathering such a reputation that his son's mere existence merits an audience with kings. He also somehow somehow gathers a party including a German, a Hospitaller, and a Moor. All we ever hear of how he achieved this is that he almost killed Saladin in Damscus.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Like most of the other characters, the historical Balian of Ibelin wasn't above political maneuvering for power (also, he wasn't a bastard whose father happened to be important, but rather a prominent nobleman of the time). Baldwin of Jerusalem is portrayed as a peace-loving king in reality he was, despite his handicap, a strong warrior not afraid to go lead his forces into battle when the opportunity arose.
- With Baldwin this side of his personality is mentioned in the movie; he fondly remembers defeating Saladin's forces as a teenager. His interest for peace probably goes hand in hand with his increasing physical frailty.
- Hollywood History: Depends on what version you see: The Crusades were a cynical land grab by European second sons dressed up in religious sophistries, and the film makes a pretty good case of communicating that through the contempt of the main characters for the fanatics and glory seekers. The real situation was of course more complex, as both societies were feudal and had their own internal strife and cross-alliances, as suggested here.
- Only a few characters actually view it as a religious war at all, and the major characters (except Guy and Reynold) on both sides clearly have little respect for this outlook. And Guy is mostly an ambitious noble and Raynald is mostly a psycopathic maniac, so their professed religious commitment is...questionable.
- Hollywood Tactics: A strong aversion - characters that advocate a simple outlook on battle are criticized and easily defeated. Saladin even spells it out when one of his advisors asks why he withdrew from a battle where he had superior numbers but a weak position.
- The aversion manages to get Anvilicious, when immediately after Guy's forces depart against Balian's advice about not going off to war away from water, they start to slump down and die of thirst. Which is basically what happened historically with a forced march during the day in armor with a battle at the end of it. Yeah...
- Honor Before Reason: "You go to certain death!" "All death is certain."
- Also Balian gave up a chance to marry his love interest, become leader of the army, and so in effect defeat the evil Guy de Lusignan and stop the war from occurring. However since the only way to bring this about would be a coup that's just "not honorable" according to Balian's limited world view, he doesn't take the offer and so the rest of the movie is constant warfare bringing about the suffering of everybody. Nice job.
- The expectation of nobles is that you go all out to brutally kill each other, dirty fighting and ambushing included, right until someone is captured, at which point they get hospitality and ransom. Godfrey of Ibelin and Saladin have their limits with this.
- What little bit of honor Guy possesses compels him to challenge Balain to a revenge duel instead of literally backstabbing him. He pokes Balain with the hilt of a broadsword to make the challenge.
- I Banged Your Mom: A medieval variant.
Guy: "If I had fought you when you were still capable of making bastards..."
- I Owe You My Life: Nasir to Balian. Balian doesn't accept it.
- Ill Boy: King Baldwin, whose face is disfigured due to leprosy. His nephew, as well.
- Improbable Age: Truth in Television, modern expectations aside. While the real Balain was much older, it's not at all implausible for someone in their mid-twenties to be highly experienced and competent in war in the the 12th Century. Baldwin IV did assume the throne at the age of 13 - and almost immediately went off to raid around Damascus and otherwise fight Saladin.
- Ironic Echo: "God wills it!"
- ~It's Up To You~: There were only three knights left in the city, hence it fell to Balian to defend Jerusalem.
- This part is true, apparently, hence the mass knighting.
- Knight in Shining Armor: Balian's crew. "These people are defenseless..." "We cannot attack that and live." "Are you with me?"
- Knight in Sour Armor: Tiberias, literally.
- Knighting Ceremony: When the bishop complains that they have no knights to defend Jerusalem, Balian knights every soldier in the walls. This incident happened in real life, too.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Magic Feather: The mass knighting.
Patriarch: Will you alter the world!? Does... making a man a knight... make him a better fighter?
- It's possible to see in the movie as well: watch as Balian declares them knights, and they all stand up a little straighter, raise their heads a little higher. It goes unsaid, but what Balian does is give them pride in the coming battle: they have something to fight for, other than fighting for someone else's reason.
- Mask Power: Nice metal mask, King Baldwin.
- Meaningful Echo: Godfrey's knighting speech to Balian, and "Your quality will be known among your enemies, before ever you meet them."
- Balian quotes back King Baldwin's chess speech.
- Meaningful Name: Reynaud is old French name for "Fox" (via memetic mutation from a popular folklore character).
- Mighty Whitey: To some, the scene where Balian, fresh from Europe, has to teach a bunch of lifelong desert-dwellers how to dig a well.
- They were notably already set up with an agricultural style that required it. It seems his like contribution was a better distribution system in the Directors Cut.
- Necessarily Evil: Raynald seems to think of himself this way. "I am what I am. Someone has to be."
- Never Accepted in His Hometown: Saladin had recognition problems at home, not to mention unhappy nobles to contend with, and died a pauper after giving all his wealth to charity.
- Nightmare Face: The King of Jerusalem, with his mask off.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Balian is a skilled blacksmith, siege engineer and silversmith, and also an experienced soldier. He is somewhere in his late 20s.
- Peasants didn't live very long in the Middle Ages; some married as young as fourteen. Balian is highly skilled, but his age isn't that ridiculous.
- It's possible, if he was apprenticed as a blacksmith for most of his youth, fought in feudal battles as a young man and picked up siegecraft there before returning. Of course, the historical Balian wasn't a blacksmith in the first place, but...
- Being competent is one thing, but being superior to these lifelong soldiers is far more questionable. This was not like today when you learn to fight with a rifle in 15 weeks, people trained since boyhood to master sword fighting in order to be capable of fighting other nobles.
- The film also starts in 1183/1184 (not that this is immediately obvious) and Jerusalem fell in mid 1187, meaning he almost certainly had some practice in between.
- Reynauld commanded a pirate fleet in real life in addition to his other exploits.
- No Name Given: Hospitaller. The Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem is never named in the film, but historically his name is known to be Heraclius.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The Battle of Hattin is one of the most dramatic and often-studied battles of the Crusades (far more than the siege of Jerusalem), but all we see is the aftermath.
- One-Scene Wonder: Edward Norton aka King Baldwin, despite his very limited screen time, is arguably the best thing in the film. Double points for wearing a mask his entire part, limiting acting instruments to voice and gestures.
- One-Woman Wail: Although the Cherubic Choir is more prominent.
- Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The crusader armies during the truce.
- Politically-Correct History: The good guy westerners had world views closer to modern day secular humanism than anything period correct (though they are recognizably Christian) and the clergy all belong to a Corrupt Church. The Muslims are mostly ambiguous on this regard.
- Popcultural Osmosis: Salah-ad-Din's popularity was renewed through boomerang association from Western media and film, since Saladin was more famous in Europe for centuries than he was at home. Now, all sorts of people view him as an archetypal Muslim leader.
- Power Walk: Saladin.
- Pretext for War: The reason why Guy releases Reynald once Guy becomes King.
- Rape Discretion Shot: Reynald's rape and murder of Saladin's sister is presented this way. To wit: he approaches her from a distance. She asks him if he knows who she is, and he replies 'yes' before ripping the veil from her face before the scene cuts away.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Arguably, the Real Life version of events is more interesting and unusual than the version we see in the film. Some even criticized the movie for not telling the more-dramatic tale, such as when Reynald commanded a fleet of pirate ships that threatened to burn Mecca; or the prior relationship between Balian and Saladin when he was captured in the Battle of Hattin and then released.
- Saladin released him only on condition he would promise not go back and defend Jerusalem, whereupon seeing how defenseless the city was, Balian went back to Saladin and asked him to relieve him of his promise, and Saladin complied. Only three knights remained in the city, which is why the mass knighting took place.
- This trope certainly applies, however, by the sheer number of critics of the film who thought the whole tale was made up, and that the various characters did not exist! 
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Baldwin IV and Saladin.
- Re Cut: The Director's Cut is much longer and generally thought to raise the quality of the film greatly.
- Richard the Lion Heart: cameo scene.
- Say My Name: REYNALD DE CHATILLION!
- Save the Villain: Balian's attitude toward Guy.
- Scenery Porn: Ridley Scott had an admitted fetish for fluttering flags in this film. Thousands of them.
- Shields Are Useless: When the walls of Jerusalem are breached, Balian casts aside his shield and charges in.
- some might say this had something to do with the fact his ARM WAS BROKEN in the fight the previous day
- Shoot the Messenger: Or rather stab him, then behead him.
- The Siege: The climax of the movie, the siege of Jerusalem.
- Silence, You Fool: Tiberias.
- Smug Snake: Guy de Luisignan.
- So Proud of You: Godfrey to Balian. In his last confession, he says he is sorry for all of his sins but one, looking at him.
- Standardized Leader: Balian at least comes close to this.
- The Starscream: Reynauld and Guy.
- Stealth Hi Bye: The Hospitaller pulls one off in the middle of the desert. One of the hints that he's a Spirit Advisor.
- Stock Scream: You can hear a Wilhelm during the siege when one of the attackers falls from a siege tower.
- The Stoic: The nicer interpretation of Orlando Bloom's performance as Balian.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth : Balian's wife and king Baldwin.
- Translation Convention: Most of the European character should be speaking French, and the Muslims Arabic.
- 24-Hour Armor: Typical case. Knights variously treat their armor as normal streetwear, business suit, or evening attire. Tiberias even wears it during office hours.
- Warrior Poet: Saladin
- We Are Not Going Through That Again. "I am the blacksmith."
- To the credit of the real Sibylla and Balian, neither of them ran away to Europe but stayed to try to salvage what they could. Balian succeeded, Sibylla failed.
- The Wise Prince: King Baldwin IV.
Baldwin: When I was sixteen I won a great victory... now I know I shall not see thirty. None of us know our end really... A King may move a man... but remember that your soul is in your keeping alone. Even though those who move you be kings or men of power... When you stand before God, you cannot say "but I was told by others to do thus" or that "virtue was not convenient at the time." This will not suffice.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Queen Sybilla.
Sybilla: A woman in my place has two faces, one for the world and one which she wears in private. With you I'll be only Sybilla. Tiberias thinks me unpredictable; I am unpredictable.
- Worthy Opponent: Saladin, and Immad ad-Din with him.
- Saladin and Balian in Real Life.
- You Fail History Forever: Your Mileage May Vary For reasons too numerous to list here. See discussion page. Put briefly there was a man named Balian of Ibelin married to a Queen of Jerusalem and there was a King and Queen of Jerusalem named Guy de Lusignan and Sibylla but other than that....
- (They do, however, turn out to be the usual wealthy and conniving nobles, just like every other named figure who has survived mention from that era. Balian was not really an upwardly-mobile blacksmith. But the filmmakers got the politics right, for the most part.)