Ladyhawke (film)

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Ladyhawke ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Donner
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byEdward Khmara
Music byAndrew Powell
CinematographyVittorio Storaro
Edited byStuart Baird
Distributed byWarner Bros.
(USA & Canada)
20th Century Fox
Release date
April 12, 1985
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$18.4 million

Ladyhawke is a 1985 American fantasy film directed and produced by Richard Donner and starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer.


In 13th century Europe, the thief Philippe "The Mouse" Gaston faces execution. He manages to escape from the dungeon of Aquila via the sewers, fleeing to the countryside. The corrupt Bishop of Aquila, furious because no one has ever escaped from his prison, sends his Captain of the Guard, Marquet, to hunt down Philippe. At a country tavern, Philippe offers to buy a drink for anyone who will celebrate with him, for he is the only man to have seen the inside of Aquila's prisons and lived. Marquet and his men, also in the tavern and drinking in disguise, try to apprehend Philippe but are foiled by a mysterious black knight who reveals himself as their former Captain, Etienne of Navarre. Marquet rides back to Aquila to warn the Bishop of Etienne's return.

Etienne, traveling with a well-trained hawk, saved Philippe because of his boast about escaping from Aquila's dungeon and needs Philippe's unique knowledge to get him inside Aquila. That night, Philippe is saved from a murderer, this time by an enormous black wolf. He also encounters a beautiful woman, who mysteriously greets the wolf as though they are old companions.

Etienne and the hawk are wounded by crossbows in another encounter with the Bishop's men; Etienne gives the hawk to Philippe and tasks him with getting her to an old monk, Imperius, to heal her. Philippe finds Imperius and his ruined castle and places the wounded hawk on a table. Later that night, he finds not a hawk, but the same beautiful woman, now with a crossbow quarrel in her chest. As Imperius mends her wounds, he reveals that she is Isabeau d'Anjou, who came to live in Aquila after her father, the Count of Anjou, died fighting in the Crusades. The Bishop fell in love with her, but Isabeau was already in love with Etienne, with whom she had secretly exchanged vows. After Imperius accidentally revealed their paring to the Bishop, they fled. In his insane jealousy, he made a demonic pact to ensure that they would be "Always together; eternally apart". By day Isabeau becomes a hawk, and by night Etienne becomes a wolf. Neither has any memory of their half-life in animal form. Only at dusk and dawn of each day can they see each other in human form for one fleeting moment, but they can never touch.

Imperius tells Etienne that the curse can be broken in two days at the castle, if both Etienne and Isabeau appear before the Bishop in their human form. Etienne believes this is impossible, but Imperius insists that there will be a day without night and a night without day when the Bishop is taking the clergy's confessions in the cathedral. Etienne dismisses Imperius as an old drunk and is intent on simply murdering the Bishop, even knowing that this will make the curse irrevocable. Philippe, convinced by Imperius, helps convince Isabeau; with all three ranged against him, Etienne reluctantly agrees to the plan.

The next night, Imperius and Isabeau smuggle Etienne (in wolf form) into Aquila through the main gate while Philippe reenters by retracing his escape route. In the morning, Etienne orders Imperius to euthanize the hawk if he hears the church bells ring, because that will mean Etienne has failed and is dead. Philippe infiltrates the clergy confession and unlocks the cathedral doors, allowing Etienne to ride into the church and duel with Marquet. As they fight, Etienne sees a solar eclipse through a window, reminding him of Imperius' plan to break the curse. During the bout, a guard prematurely rings the bells, causing Etienne to believe that Imperius has killed the hawk. Enraged, he kills Marquet and is just about to kill the Bishop when Isabeau, in human form, appears in the cathedral. Together, they stand before the Bishop and break the curse. They turn to leave, but the Bishop attempts to kill Isabeau; Etienne throws his sword through the Bishop's chest, killing him. Isabeau and Etienne then embrace in the cathedral.



Richard Donner had attempted to get the film financed for a number of years and came close to making it twice, once in England and once in Czechoslovakia. He eventually got the project up at Warners and Fox, where it was green-lit by Alan Ladd Jr. Originally, Kurt Russell was cast as the male lead alongside Michelle Pfeiffer. The role of the pickpocket was offered to Sean Penn and then Dustin Hoffman, before Donner decided to go with Matthew Broderick. Eventually, Russell pulled out during rehearsals, and Rutger Hauer was chosen to replace him.[1]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars link

The film's score was composed by Andrew Powell and produced by Alan Parsons. Richard Donner stated that he was listening to The Alan Parsons Project (on which Powell collaborated) while scouting for locations, and became unable to separate his visual ideas from the music. Powell combined traditional orchestral music and Gregorian chants with contemporary progressive rock-infused material. It has been cited[who?] as the most memorable example of the growing trend among 1980s fantasy films of abandoning the lush orchestral scores of composers such as John Williams and James Horner in favor of a modern pop/rock sound.[2] The soundtrack album was released in 1985 and re-released with additional tracks in 1995. On February 10, 2015 a 2-disc set was released from La-La Land Records; it includes previously unreleased music and bonus tracks, and is limited to 3,000 units.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Ladyhawke has a rating of 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 critics' reviews.[4]

Vincent Canby in The New York Times called the film "divided against itself," and went on to say that "scenes of high adventure or of visual splendor... are spliced between other scenes with dialogue of a banality that recalls the famous Tony Curtis line, 'Yondah lies my faddah's castle.'"[5] Time Out called it "all rather facile sword-and-sorcery stuff, of course, but at times very funny... and always beautifully photographed."[6] Variety described the film as a "very likeable, very well-made fairytale... worthwhile for its extremely authentic look alone."[7]

The New York Times singled out Matthew Broderick's skill in coming "very close to transforming contemporary wisecracks – particularly, his asides to God – into a more ageless kind of comedy," and said of Michelle Pfeiffer that her "presence, both ethereal and erotic, is so vivid that even when she's represented as a hawk, she still seems to be on the screen." Variety praised the casting of the lead actors, considering Pfeiffer "perfect as the enchanting beauty." Time Out called Rutger Hauer "camp" and Pfeiffer "decorative."

Awards and nominations[edit]

Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing (Robert G. Henderson) and Best Sound (Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore and Bud Alper), winning neither.[8] It won a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, and was nominated in the categories of Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Music (Andrew Powell).[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom Mankiewicz, My Life as a Mankiewicz p 260-265
  2. ^ "Ladyhawke - Soundtrack".
  3. ^ "film music - movie music- film score - Ladyhawke - Andrew Powell - Limited Edition". Retrieved 8 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985) at Rotten Tomatoes".
  5. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Vincent Canby". April 12, 1985.
  6. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Time Out".
  7. ^ "Ladyhawke (1985), Review by Variety". January 1, 1985.
  8. ^ "The 58th Academy Awards (1986) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  9. ^ "Ladyhawke - Awards".

External links[edit]