“Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England.” This was the inscription on a mystical stone that had a sword lodged within it, from Thomas Malory’s classic Le Morte d’Arthur, the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

And on one fateful day, a man came and pulled that sword out of the stone – King Arthur himself. He’s Britain’s most famous king, and his name is synonymous with his signature weapon, Excalibur, as well as his signature team of heroes, the Knights of the Round Table. He’s usually portrayed as this heroic, upright, mythical figure – although his exact age may sometimes vary, like in The Kid Who Would Be King.

Wait, usually a heroic, upright, mythical figure? That’s right. Sometimes King Arthur is reimagined as a slightly… different sort of character. He might be a bit less impressive, a vainpot, or even the villain of the tale. That’s when it gets really interesting, because your perception of Arthur gets subverted and you sit up and take note of the character. They’re usually the most intriguing versions of King Arthur, because they portray him in a much less stereotypical way. Here are the five best interpretations of King Arthur we’ve seen on screen.


1. Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)

Liam Garrigan played King Arthur in the fifth Transformers film, who was a desperate leader fighting a losing battle against overwhelming odds. What’s interesting is that he didn’t possess any of the fabled magical weapons, nor did his court wizard, Merlin (Stanley Tucci). Instead, the source of King Arthur and Merlin’s “magic” was, you guessed it, the Transformers.

And in their darkest hour, the Guardian Knights combined to form the giant Transformer dragon Dragonstorm, who saved the day by decimating hordes of soldiers with fire from the sky. When Dragonstorm came, the runes on King Arthur’s armour glowed – showing that the magic he believed in was actually incredibly advanced alien technology (i.e Transformers technology).


2. Once Upon A Time (2011)

If you’re a fan of Disney fairy tales, you’re probably a Once Upon A Time fan, a television series that focused on fairy tale characters living in the real world. In the first arc of Season 5, King Arthur was the main villain, played by Liam Garrigan (again).

Yes, it’s the same actor who also played King Arthur in Transformers: The Last Knight, mentioned above. However, his version of Arthur here is that of an evil, manipulative king who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. He first appears as an ally to the heroes of Once Upon A Time, but reveals his true colours later in the series.


3. Merlin (2008)

Merlin was a British series that focused on Merlin (Colin Morgan) in his teenage years, and his bromance with Arthur (Bradley James). There was just one hitch though –  Arthur didn’t know that Merlin had magical powers, and he only revealed that he had been using his sorcery to help Arthur in the series finale (after five seasons!).

If it sounds like teenage angst mixed with fantasy, you’re absolutely right. Merlin was described as “the Smallville version of the King Arthur” story, with plenty of drama in the turbulent lives of the main characters. Fortunately, Arthur was a good guy – except that he absolutely detested magic, thinking that it could only bring harm. The only way Merlin could help him fight the forces of evil was by secretly using magic.

It wasn’t completely emo, tough. Arthur was notoriously vain in the series, and a running joke was his ever-present concern that he was getting fat.


4. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Charlie Hunnam played the titular king in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which was a gritty retelling of the Arthurian legend. While Arthur was the hero in this movie, the focus was a lot more on his fighting skills, and a lot less on the heroic deeds that he did.

Ultimately, he did save the day and defeat the villain. But the movie spent a little too much time trying to set up plot hooks for future sequels, so it didn’t do quite that well at the box office.


5. The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)

And the latest person to portray King Arthur is Louis Ashbourne Serkis – the son of actor Andy Serkis. In The Kid Who Would Be King his character’s name is Alex, not Arthur – but he pulls a magical sword out of a stone and does everything Arthur usually does in screen portrayals. He’s Arthur in all but name.

And the best part is – Patrick Stewart plays Merlin! Only the older version of him though – the younger version is played by Angus Imrie.

The Kid Who Would Be King. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

The Kid Who Would Be King. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Can a kid really live up to the legend of King Arthur? That’s the premise of The Kid Who Would Be King, which presents Arthur as an insecure nobody until he pulls forth Excalibur. That’s when the film kicks into high gear, and he starts doing everything that Arthur does – meeting Merlin, forming a band of knights… and even battling the wicked Morgana!

King Arthur’s may just be a kid in The Kid Who Would Be King – but together with his knights and Excalibur, he might just be able to gain the upperhand on Morgana.

Besides, Louis Ashbourne Serkis could always call on daddy Andy Serkis (Gollum/Snoke/King Kong/Caesar) for help if things get hairy.


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Credit: Golden Village Cinemas


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