Who Were The Best Actors To Play Robin Hood?

Robin HoodRobin Hood was always one of my greatest heroes when I was growing up.  I read everything I could on the tales of Robert of Loxley, who was also known as Robin Longstride, and Robin Hood.  I knew all of the tales of Robin and his band of Merry Men, which included: Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and Allan A’Dayle.  Over the years, many people have played the character of Robin Hood.  These people have varied in age and the way they envision Robin Hood.  These are my favorites….


myfivebest -1Errol Flynn In “The Adventures Of Robin Hood” (1938)
This is the first person to portray Robin Hood that I remember.  In fact, the earliest memory I have of Errol Flynn in the part of Robin Hood is from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon where they slip in a live action clip from the movie.  In this movie, which has an all-star cast including: Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains, uses some of the famous stories of Sherwood Forest. James Cagney was originally cast as Robin Hood, but walked out on his contract with Warner brothers, paving the way for Flynn, and holding off the film for three years.  At the time of the movie, it was the most expensive film ever produced ($2 million).  Padded stunt men and extras were paid $150 per arrow for being shot by professional archer Howard Hill, who was cast as Owen the Welshman, an archer defeated in the tournament by Robin. To win the tournament, Robin split the arrow of Philip of Arass, a captain of the guard under Gisbourne, who had struck the bullseye. A third-season episode of the television show MythBusters tried to reproduce the feat, but failed.  An examination of the images in slow motion led to speculation that the arrow split in the movie may have been made of bamboo. The movie brought home three Oscars.  Errol Flynn would forever go on to be identified with the character of Robin Hood.



myfivebest - 2Russell Crowe In “Robin Hood” (2010)
This movie has taken a lot of criticism since its release last year.  I didn’t like it, either, the first time I saw it.  However, after watching it a second time, I gained a lot of respect for this movie, and for Russell Crowe’s portrayal.  It isn’t your typical swashbuckling-Robin-Hood-in-green-tights affair.  It is more of a pre-outlaw, realistic Robin Hood. Ridley Scott, who directed the film, explains that Robin Hood, is in fact, Robin Longstride, a yeoman returning from the crusades.  He finds himself in a struggle for the people of England, which makes him an outlaw.  This is not your typical Robin Hood and some people may find it not to their tastes.  I recommend this movie, though.



myfivebest - 3Cary Elwes In “Robin Hood: Men In Tights” (1993)
This is Mel Brooks’s parody of every Robin Hood movie ever made.  The film’s favorite target is Kevin Costner’s politically correct “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves” (which is not on this list), which champions the civil rights of serfs, feminism, and racial understanding.  This movie, however, is blessed with the always-present Brook’s chutzpah.  The cast of the film was superb.  Cary Elwes is a reminder of Errol Flynn in the role and delivered his lines with the comedy and skill as he did as the Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride.  Amy Yasbeck plays Maid Marian and a young Dave Chappelle makes his movie debut in the film as the character, Ahchoo.  While this film is not the typical Robin Hood of swords and swashbuckling, it makes up for it with zany humor.  A must see!



myfivebest - 4Douglas Fairbanks In Robin Hood (1922)
Did you ever wonder where we got the stories of Robin Hood from?  It was the first production to present many of the elements of the legend that became familiar to movie audiences throughout the years.  They took the stories from the ancient Medieval texts on the romantic hero of Robin Hood.  The film cost $1 million to make (back in the early 1920s) and had an actual castle and village built by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  In this movie, originally titled as Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood, Fairbanks plays The Earl of Huntingdon, aka Robin Hood.  It is a silent film, so don’t expect too much witty dialogue, but the action scenes are great.  There is jousting, sword fighting, and of course, arrow shooting.  As an interesting sidenote, Alan Hale, Sr. (the father of the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island) made such an impression as Little John in this film that he reprised the role sixteen years later in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) opposite Errol Flynn, then played the character again in Rogues of Sherwood Forest in 1950, 28 years after his initial performance in the original Fairbanks film, which is notable for probably being the longest period for any actor to appear in the same major role in film history.



myfivebest - 5Sean Connery In Robin And Marian (1976)
In this movie (which you may not remember) involves an aging Robin Hood coming back from years in the Crusades to find a middle-aged Marian, played by Audrey Hepburn.  I think I like this film because it shows a different aspect to the whole Robin Hood legend.  They are in the autumn of life and have tried to forget the tragedies of war and go back to the days of their youth.  Once again, the Sheriff of Nottingham emerges to be the enemy in Robin Hood and Marian’s lives and it is up to Robin and Little John to thwart his evil plans.  Robert Shaw (of Jaws’ Captain Quint fame) plays the Sheriff.  The movie is a classic tragedy and received great reviews at the time.  It was an interesting look at the Robin Hood legend with an equally unique ending.


If you are interested in the tales of Robin Hood, you should really look into getting these movies.