Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is the 1991 blockbuster movie in which Kevin Costner plays the mythical medieval hero known for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
Bryan Adams was at the top of the charts for what seemed like a decade with the schmaltzy “Everything I do, I do it for you.” The groover from Vancouver’s ballad was in the top spot for 16 weeks, which for a kid was virtually forever. As you know, the song was the theme from this film, which tells us that Robin Hood was in fact American, had a mullet, and that hairspray was around in the 15 century.
Most things about Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves are not so good. Kevin Costner’s and Christian Slater’s attempts at English accents are terrible. But is still a classic and it is much better in comparison to the two big attempts to reboot the character – one directed by Ridley Scott in 2010, and a recent entry in 2018 that had Robin firing arrows in slow-motion while jumping off rooftops. Both of those films were a bust.
It was directed by Kevin Reynolds and stars Kevin Costner as Robin Hood, Morgan Freeman as Azeem, Christian Slater as Will Scarlett, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Marian, and Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham. The screenplay was written by Pen Densham and John Watson.
Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) has been fighting the Crusades for the last few years and we find him in danger of having his hand chopped off while imprisoned in Jerusalem as soon as the opening credits end. Robin manages to escape with help of another prisoner, a Moor named Azeem (Morgan Freeman).
Together, the two travel to England, where Robin finds his father murdered and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) in control. Robin joins up with Little John and the latter’s band of outsiders in a safe enclave in Sherwood Forest.
It goes without saying that Rickman is the best part of the whole movie. Alan Rickman plays a wicked sheriff, droll, sly, witty master of the put-down and one-liners. Most people can agree that Costner is upstaged by Rickman. The truth, though, is that he’s upstaged by nearly every actor who shares a scene with him.
Robin in Prince of Thieves is a sort of a populist guerrilla, a Che Guevera with bow and arrow who lives with his followers in Sherwood Forest and intercepts the king’s mail by using tunnels and camouflaged hiding places under the forest floor, Viet Cong-style.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio does what she can with Marian, but must have been confused when the screenplay gave her a thoughtful, independent woman in the earlier scenes, and then turned her into a cliched damsel in distress at the end. The romance between Robin and Maid Marian seems inspired more by necessity than by desire as if both of them had read the book and knew they were required to fall in love.
The film’s love ballad—Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”—was massively overplayed in its time. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fine song on its own merits.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves didn’t exactly wow critics, and to this day, the reaction to the 1991 film seems to be a bit mixed. But it was also a mammoth hit back then, and while its flaws are more glaring than ever, they’re not enough to sink the film. There is a grand, sweeping embrace of adventure here that modern blockbusters can’t beat.
What Prince of Thieves did to try to set it apart from previous Robin Hood movies was create a realistic-looking 13th Century England. There aren’t any green tights here. And the film did an excellent job in that regard. The look, from the costumes to the sets, is fantastic. Disney’s Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves is a fun popcorn flick take on the centuries-old legend.
We had a couple of attempts to repeat the success of Prince of Thieves, as in 1993, we had Stephen Herek’s The Three Musketeers, which brazenly followed Reynold’s formula, casting Michael Wincott (who played Guy of Gisborne in Prince of Thieves) as an evil henchman and also boasted a theme song sung by Bryan Adams (aided by Sting and Rod Stewart). We also had the funny Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights that took the piss out of Reynolds’s opus with Cary Elwes (of Princess Bride fame) as Robin and Larry David’s best buddy Richard Lewis playing Prince John. Then, two years later, came Mel Gibson’s ode to William Wallace which somewhat stretched historical accuracy and a memorable theme song.