Uther Pendragon is given the magical sword Excalibur by the wizard Merlyn. Upon his death, he casts the sword in a stone, saying that the one who draws it will be king after him. That proves to be the boy Arthur, who draws the sword and rules the country with his queen Guinevere. But his sorceress sister Morgana may bring about his downfall.
This John Boorman film sees him also at two extremes - helming both the age-old yarn of Arthurian legend, and a cast (including Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart and Gabriel Byrne) who, although now well-established, were then distinctly new to the scene.
Indeed, it's a dichotomy that makes for a terrific end result, full of energy but also mysticism. All the elements (sword in stone, Holy Grail and cuckolding Guinevere) are present and correct, and even if it does descend into the confusingly symbolic towards its breathtaking climax, the combination of glorious photography and epic drama more than makes up the deficit.
Shorn of much of the sentimentality of many Arthurian adaptations - First Knight, we mean you - this emphasises the blood, guts and magic of England's greatest ever monarch.