Posted on 30th May 2018

Best Robin Hoods in Film: The Experts Decide

There have been many, many Robin Hood films and TV series over the years, with the latest blockbuster set for release in November. Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, and with stars including Taron Egerton (as Robin Hood), Jamie Foxx, Jamie Dornan and Ben Mendelsohn, the trailer has already generated a lot of opinion among Nottingham folk. But who portrayed the famous outlaw the best – and worst? Could Taron Egerton be the most inspiring we’ve seen to date? We’ve asked a panel of local Robin Hood experts to join in the debate and share their thoughts. They are:

Who was the best Robin Hood?

Who do you think was the best Robin Hood and why? 

Ade: “Errol Flynn is the definitive Robin Hood, stepping straight out of the pages of the Victorian story books. These themselves were inspired by Ivanhoe which gives us the story we all know today. And let’s face it, there are not many men who could be macho, running round the forest in green tights and with hands on hips, but Errol does it! Have to say that Michael Praed was my era and he did a fantastic job.”

Adam: “To me, the best Robin Hood will always be Michael Praed in the 80s TV show Robin of Sherwood as I feel he embodied all different facets of the character – the romantic hero, the swashbuckling adventurer, the noble-spirited freedom fighter and the puckish trickster. Most adaptations focus on one aspect of the character. If the answer has to be limited to movies, however, then I would vote for Sean Connery in Robin and Marian as he plays Robin as a flawed but good-hearted man who desperately wants to be a hero but who sometimes gets it wrong. This makes Robin a very human character in contrast to the almost super-heroic versions that came before. While Errol Flynn’s movie is enjoyable and no doubt set the standard for what was to come after, I think he is far from the best cinematic Robin Hood.”

Bob: “Errol Flynn’s classic performance set the benchmark for a Robin Hood who typically embraced the action, adventure and romance of the Sherwood Forest hero but Sean Connery’s portrayal of the ageing outlaw in Robin and Marian has a greater sense of realism. However, for me personally, Michael Praed, in the 1980’s HTV television series, Robin of Sherwood, was definitively the ideal Robin Hood! He had the look and screen presence and the benefit of good scripts that cleverly blended the traditional tales with a hint of mystery and magic.”

Tony: “It has to be Sean Connery in Robin and Marian. As well as the first class costumes, he was the right age, a bit of a trouble-maker and a bit arrogant too, just like he was in the early stories! He plays Robin Hood very well.”

Chris: “Can you count an animated fox? I think choosing an actor is hard because Robin Hood is so mythical, so you are almost watching the actor rather than the performance, whereas the animated version leaves you to enjoy the character.”

Simon: “The legend has been retold in countless ways; people are bound to have different ideas as to who played the role best. My vote has to go to Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood – the film is a classic with Robin portrayed as a highly energetic, witty, fun-loving, romantic-type. It’s really not hard to see why there’s a Facebook page dedicated to him being ‘the best Robin Hood ever’.”

Who do you think was the worst Robin Hood and why?

Ade: “Russell Crowe’s ‘Gladiator in medieval England’ has to rank as one of the worst depictions of Robin Hood. The film has great battle scenes and cinematography thanks to Ridley Scott but it’s let down by Crowe’s thick set presence and morose, humourless character. The public deserved more.”

Adam: “Are we allowed to talk about straight-to-DVD “Mockbusters” here? Hmm, better stick to well-known movies… Sadly, I have to say Russell Crowe. I say “sadly” as there is a lot to love about this movie but Russell, while a very competent actor and action hero, simply does not embody the spirit of Robin Hood. He is not helped by the fact that, despite being written specifically for him, the script portrays Robin as a much younger man, little more than 20. This just makes the whole movie a little strange and jarring.”

Bob: “In my opinion, American actor, Al Hedison, was without doubt the worst Robin, in the 1959 film The Son of Robin Hood. He later openly admitted that the movie had definitely blighted his career and prompted his decision to change his name to David Hedison – which resulted in a prominent role in the popular television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. However, Barrie Ingham in Hammer Films 1967 production A Challenge for Robin Hood was also a very close contender for my worst Robin Hood title!”

Tony: “Sadly there are quite a lot of bad Robin Hood films, but the worst portrayal of the outlaw is Robin Dunne in Robin Hood Beyond Sherwood Forest. You’ve got dragons and an alternative universe in it – what’s that all about? The performance was wooden, with a weak script and bad fighting.”

Chris: “Russell Crowe gets a lot of stick, but that accent…”

Simon: “Russell Crowe was by far the worst Robin Hood. Despite him being a good actor, his performance in this film was subdued – and what was that accent? It received a lot of flak and it’s not hard to understand why.”

What do you make of the new film trailer? 

Ade: “It seems like they’ve taken a few liberties with the characters but the legend has to develop with new ideas etc. It certainly looks action packed but then that might be a problem. The balance needs to be right.”

Adam: “The new movie looks like fun. I don’t think it will be a classic or be remembered nostalgically by future generations the way movies such as Prince of Thieves are but I think it will be enjoyable and perform reasonably well as a summer blockbuster. Hopefully it will also spark a wider interest in Robin Hood the way the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie made pirates fashionable and “in” again!”

Bob: “The film appears to have adopted a similar approach to Sky Television’s Arrow series based on the futuristic DC Comics ‘Green Arrow’ character – with a blockbuster style mix of CGI action and some dark undertones. It probably ticks all the boxes for current family action movies.”

Tony: “I thought the trailer was awful – they try and make them modern but there’s absolutely no need to. I’ll be watching it out of interest though!”

Chris: “I’m never one to set too much by a trailer, given film studios have a habit of making them show an entirely different proposition to the reality! But it looks dark and brooding and anything with Ben Mendelsohn is a winner with me.”

Simon: “Being produced by Lionsgate, and with some well-known names including Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx and Jamie Dornan, I’m sure we can expect good things. It does seem like there are mixed feelings about the trailer though, I know some local folk have criticised it for being ‘too modern’ and for the city looking nothing like Nottingham. I’m looking forward to its release and hope it will do the legend justice.”

Could Taron Egerton be the best Robin Hood to date?

Ade: “We’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t warm to the Kingsman but I am interested to see his interpretation of the Robin Hood character and so I’ll make up my mind after the film.”

Adam: “Umm, no. Honestly, it seems very strange casting but I will wait to see his Robin in the context of the movie before I judge too harshly. The great thing about Robin Hood is that there are so many different aspects to him and his story that writers can adapt him in any number of different ways. I just hope he will fit in his movie better than Russell Crowe did!”

Bob: “He might turn out to be the best one to date, but we’ll have to wait and see! Everyone has their own personal vision of what they think Robin Hood might have looked like and for each generation that has often been influenced by the Robin Hood related films and television versions that were screened in their era.”

Tony: “No, because he’ll be working to a script that won’t do Robin Hood justice at all. I’m waiting for a time when someone can make a film that will do the legend some good. There are about 9 Robin Hoods being made at the moment – Robin Hood: The Rebellion looks decent.”

Chris: “He’s a well-loved British actor playing a British icon so I think there’s every chance!”

Simon: “I think that Taron is a good actor and could bring something fresh to the role. It’ll be interesting to see the character traits he takes on as the new Robin Hood and definitely shouldn‘t be discounted before the film has even been released, purely based on the trailer.”

Do you think the film has the potential to be a success? Or will it flop?

Ade: “It might be a flash in the pan, successful initially and then die out rapidly like the Crowe film. It depends on the content and how close it is to the legend or whether they’ve taken too many liberties. We wait with baited breath.”

Adam: “I think the movie will do quite well, similar to Michael Bay’s Transformers movies. I am not sure it will do well enough to spawn the planned “shared universe” series they hope for. As a stand-alone novelty it has potential but I am not sure it is a b enough movie to build a franchise around. But, as I said above, I am happy to wait and see.”

Bob: “It stands as good a chance as any, but unfortunately, very few films get long runs in the cinema these days and if a film “bombs” it can often get withdrawn in less than a week and go straight to DVD.”

Tony: “It will be a success – they always are no matter how good or bad they are, even the Russell Crowe one was because it had a good actor in it.”

Chris: “The cast is full of a world-renowned Hollywood stars, which I’m sure will attract plenty of people to cinemas so I think it has every chance of success.”

Simon: “We all expect high budget blockbusters to do well in the cinema, but that isn’t always the case. I’d like to think it has the potential to be a success, and will be talked about for all the right reasons.”

What do you think the film’s release will do for Nottingham?

Ade: “When the Crowe film came out in 2010 it was a good year for Nottingham. Any spotlight like this has to be good for the city, putting us on the map and reaping the rewards that come as a result of that. Hopefully the new version will spark imaginations of youngsters and get them interested in the legend and raise a bit of pride amongst them. Robin Hood is not only about financial gains for the city, it’s about the cultural wealth and cultural health of the citizens of this great city. #RobinHoodLives!”

Adam: “A large-scale movie release such as this can only be good for Nottingham. It will re-ignite world-wide
interest in the Robin Hood legends and many of those new fans will want to visit Nottingham and Sherwood Forest. I imagine it will spark a raft of new books, documentaries and merchandise around the public domain stories too, meaning Robin Hood will be in the forefront of everyone’s minds for some time to come. I just hope the city makes the most of it!”

Bob: “It should help generate some publicity and awareness for Nottingham’s connections with the legend. However, we should always remember that Robin Hood doesn’t really need a new film to give his profile some status, as he’s already an iconic legend and around the world everyone has their own interpretation of the character and the story. But his traditional association with Nottingham, Sherwood Forest and Nottingham Castle are what tourists are looking for in a quality visitor attraction and the local authorities are currently struggling to provide that!”

Tony: “Nothing at all. Back in 1991 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a big thing because there hadn’t been a major Robin Hood film for a while, but there have been quite a few done since. There will be the initial impact of everyone wanting to see the new film but what Nottingham really needs is a standalone attraction that’s constantly updated because there’s always new information being brought to light about the legend! The Tales of Robin Hood was brilliant.”

Chris: “Robin Hood is one of the most iconic characters, not just in the UK but worldwide, and any time a new film is released it’s always a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on the region. With the new Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre almost completed by the RSPB it’s an opportune time to bring people to the region and see the legend first hand. Likewise, it also gives us the chance to show people all the other fantastic things the region has to offer visitors.

Simon: “Though there have been so many Robin Hood films and TV shows over the years, it’s always good revisit the story and remind ourselves what Nottingham is famous for. I hope it will encourage a new generation to take an interest in the legend, and further promote our city’s tourism.”

Here’s the trailer for the latest film, which will be released in the UK on November 21. We’re excited!