EXPLORING ARCHERY IN MOVIES part 1

Updated: Oct 12

by Andrew Wayland



frame from Robin Hood, 1912.


My two favourite things archery and movies, well okay, there is also music, gardening, walking, hiking, exploring, travelling, football, reading, drawing, painting, writing, researching, astronomy, creating, making, and even airsoft. My favourite places are mountain tops and woodlands. My star sign is Sagittarius – the archer, my nickname from my school days Archie, my full initials can be made to look like Arrow, according to recently returned dna records, I have a relation with the surname Hood. and my heritage is also linked (if only in name) to an ancient site “Wayland Smithy” in Oxfordshire England where there is a connection to Norse mythology, weapon making and even Gods. Interesting to me at least but it is fitting that I eventually found archery which turned into my dominant hobby, although I do remember often making basic selfbows as a child, - a springy sycamore or ash stick for the bow, strained into a D and tied with twine from a straw bale, and willow, bamboo or sally branches (whatever i could find) for arrows. A piece of cut tin, alluminium, steel, glass or slate for arrow heads (never were successful) I did see myself as a Robinhood back then or maybe one of his crew- Will Scarlet for example.


So anyway, back to my two favourite things! I have always been fascinated by history and grew up (still debatable if this has yet happened and certainly not in height) watching all those swashbuckling, medieval and gladiator adventure movies. Many of these movies depicted archery, even if in a silly - flawed or exaggerated sense like Cary Elwes shooting six arrows at the one time. In many cases I doubt the actors or director ever handled a bow before filming commenced! And many still didn’t “handle” a bow during either!


So a number of years back I started to compile a list of movies that featured archery in one sense or another. I was gob-smacked by just how many “archery movies” or movies with archery there are out there. In my days as Dunbrody Public Relations Officer, I published my archery movie lists in the club newsletter. I know there are the obvious films, - Robin hood with its many interpretations and iterations, and yet another version on the way, Marvels Avengers movies with Hawkeye, Brave with fiery heroine Merida, Ben Hur starring Charlton Heston, The Hunger Games saga, The Lord of the Rings epics, Gladiator with Russel Crowe, Rambo of course with Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Apocalypto, Avatar with another big budget installment due out late this year, Spartacus with Kirk Douglas, and a certain cult survival movie featuring a banjo duel, I could go on...


Okay okay you’ve twisted my arm. As just mentioned, Deliverance is that disturbing survival movie with Burt Reynolds and Jon Voigt for those trying to rack their brains. When compiling my archery movie list which to my recollection numbered near 400 movies at the time of last updating, I admit I did stretch it out as even the briefest glimpse of a bow and arrow qualified it for a mention. I know one movie title I added back then but cannot recall now was a world war flick with a single brief scene showing a photo in the background of a cast members ancestor holding a bow. Another such brief example is Sleepy Hollow where there is an image of an archer at full draw on an old stone tablet. Then there is Gremlins 2 when our hero Gizmo fashions a bow using a paper clip and an elastic band. There is also Stuart Little another diminutive hero who takes a miniature bow and a single arrow to do battle with the nasty Falcon.


But almost all of the movies on my list did have a stronger claim to be there. Movies like Dances with Wolves, Mulan, The Great Wall, The Weatherman, Kundo, Throne of blood, The Lost boys, but how many of you have watched Wind River or even The Osterman Weekend? As for the latter I have never heard anyone else mention it, but I have seen it myself starring Rutger Hauer and it is about a couples retreat that really gets out of control, the gaff ends up getting wrecked... and people die!


Hero is an amazing spectacle when it comes to flying arrows. So too the epics 47 Ronin, Kingdom of Heaven, Seven Samurai, Alexander and Troy. The Hobbit although very closely linked with The Lord of The Rings saga has its own series of movies and is another grand spectacle to watch. The Last Samurai, Lara Croft -Tomb Raider, Snow White and the huntsman, Ran, and The Revenant, all feature the bow and arrow prominently too. Some movies may be foreign, dubbed or subtitled but I will still watch for the all-important archery scenes.


I refrained from adding tv series to my list, that would involve another compilation at another time so for example those from The Iron throne, Winterfell and Westeros will have to wait a while longer. So too will Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen.


Back to the movies. King Arthur, like Robin hood has its several movie versions over the years. Many of us laughed at the arrow roulette scene in Grown ups or the Dukes of Hazzard movie bow scene.


Hanna with Saoirse Ronan is a good movie and one of her assassin weapons of choice is the bow. Another dangerous lady Elecktra can well handle a bow and arrow too. And staying with tough and determined people, The Punisher movie with the iconic skull symbol uses a compound bow as part of his revenge spree. Killing season is a recent movie that sees Robert De Niro also using a compound bow but I admit I haven’t yet seen all of this one, Another very recent (2021) western on my “to watch” list is Counting bullets.

Many movie scriptwriters make it easy for us to know that there will be archery involved in their works... War of the Arrows, Black Arrow, The Flame and the arrow, The Brave archer, The Archer, Broken arrow (1956), Arrow in the dust, Run of the arrow, The Sacred Arrow, The Green Archer...

Scores of American western and frontier movies have featured the bow since movies started to be made. Native tribes such as Navajo, Apache, Cheyenne, and Cherokee all portray bows and arrows and/ or a spear, knife, tomahawk or an acquired Winchester rifle. Some such films are mentioned above but She wore a yellow ribbon starring John Wayne is another prime example.


Then there are other old world and fantasy movies - Tristan and Isolde, Immortals, Wrath of the Titans, Ivanhoe, The Mongols, Joan of Arc, The 13th Warrior, culminating in the dark and extremely bloody epic 300 with Gerard Butler. There is also Centurion starring Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko and Hercules with Dwayne Johnson. For book lovers The Chronicles of Narnia movies also feature archery namely the Prince Caspian one. Already mentioned Ben Hur but another biblical movie with chariots and Charlton Heston - The Ten Commandments. And speaking of Charlton Heston, also look out for the 1971 version of Omega Man


Other movies worth a mention include Wonder woman 1984 , The Missing, Blade Trinity, Predator, The Monster Squad, The Scorpion king, even Back to the future 3 has an archery related scene when the Native American Indians gallop along on horseback and manage to pierce the DMC time machine with an arrow.


Another interesting movie title for you Cannibal Women in the Avocado jungle of death. Say no more!


Animation regularly depicts archery in movies, many are blockbusters and mentioned above... another major release we cannot forget - Frozen and then how about Epic, Tangled, Pocahontas, 10.000 BC, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Kuba and the two strings.


An older comedy movie which I still get a laugh out of... Hot Shots part Deux with the “piss take” archery scene. That poor chicken! Your Highness with Natalie Portman is another comedy with lots of archery. Then there is the wacky Charlies Angels. Epic movie from 2007 is the colourful parody movie that copies comedic versions of clips from well known movies with hilarious results.


Some movies have little archery such as Braven, sometimes this is a good thing given the poor archery skills and techniques depicted. Even Starwars cannot avoid a little archery as the Ewoks use bows amongst their other weapons in Return of the Jedi.


I love “Last of the Mohicans” with Daniel Day Lewis which I’ve noticed people mention online as containing archery, and I do love the music score as much as the storyline, but having watched it many times, I still didn’t see a single bow in it as other personal weapons were used instead, muskets, axes, knives, but I stand corrected here.


It is good to see how some actors actually took up the art of archery for a movie role or because the act of shooting arrows intrigued them... Geena Davis most notably took it up seriously for several years and almost made the U.S team for the Sydney Olympics. Legendry archer Fred Bear instructed the actors on the Deliverance set. Russell Crowe loved learning archery for his role as the hooded man. Taron Egerton the latest Robin Hood actor was taught by the renowned Lars Anderson, the world’s fastest archer, in order to prepare for complex action sequences. Jennifer Lawrence trained extensively with Olympic Archer Khatuna Lorig ahead of her role as Katniss. And Kevin Costner when asked in an interview a while back if he trained much for his Robin Hood "Prince of Thieves" role, he replied “ None, I didn’t train as an archer as such, I just shot the damn thing all of the time”. Costner’s story goes that he was challenged by the director Kevin Reynolds in the early days of filming, whether he could actually shoot a bow or not and a challenge ensued where Costner was asked to shoot a fake rabbit hanging on a strap 25 yards or so away which he did on his first attempt, with unsharpened arrows which went through the animal prop and into the door behind, a memory that will always stay with him especially as he knew it was a once off “lucky” shot. Think we archers can all identify with that.


I know as I conclude here with my talk of movies containing archery, you are thinking to yourself “Aha, he never mentioned that one”. Well, that’s true but with hundreds and hundreds out there and less than 90 mentioned here, unless I upload my full list which I might do on a later date, there’s always going to be a memorable movie that escapes this contribution.

But what I will say to end is that movies have a great and positive influence on people and when The Hunger Games, Brave, and The Lord of the Rings came out, it renewed people’s interest in archery around the world. People want to be like Legolas. With the exploits of Merida and Katniss, more and more ladies and girls have taken up a bow. Now with “Avatar The way of water “coming, it will renew archery interest further even if we don’t have to don blue skin tones in the process.


And Robinhood will continue to generate interest, Which actor do you prefer as Robin?, Kevin Costner, Taron Egerton, Errol Flynn, (Michael Praed - tv Series “Robin of Sherwood” which from my childhood is my personal favourite, but Costner as we are talking movies here ), Russell Crowe, the Disney animated Robin character lol, Cary Elwes, Sean Connery or someone else entirely?


From this piece, you will see just how much I like the flicks, so I hope you have enjoyed reading this as you reminisce on some of the movies mentioned above. Hope it brings you back to a good place and a good time.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew

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