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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Donner
Produced by Richard Donner
Harvey Bernhard
Lauren Shuler Donner
Screenplay by Edward Khmara
Michael Thomas
Tom Mankiewicz
David Peoples
Story by Edward Khmara
Music by Andrew Powell
Cinematography Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Stuart Baird
Distributed by Warner Bros.
(USA & Canada)
20th Century Fox
Release dates
April 12, 1985
Running time
121 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $18.4 million

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


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
    • Filming locations 3.1
  • Soundtrack 4
  • Critical reception 5
  • Awards and nominations 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In medieval Europe, Philippe Gaston (Broderick), a thief facing execution who is known as "The Mouse", escapes from the dungeons of Aquila via the sewers. The Bishop of Aquila (Wood) sends his Captain of the Guard, Marquet (Hutchison), to hunt Philippe down. At a country tavern, Philippe unknowingly reveals himself to Marquet and his men, and is about to be killed. But the former captain, Etienne of Navarre (Hauer), intervenes and defeats Marquet and his men. He then takes Philippe away.

Navarre, who owns a beautiful hawk, and Philippe stop at a shed for lodging. Later that evening Philippe is saved by an enormous black wolf when the shed owner ambushes and tries to kill him. Philippe dashes back to the shed and sees a beautiful mysterious woman (Pfeiffer) there who leaves to accompany the wolf.

Marquet rides back to Aquila and warns the Bishop of Navarre's return. The Bishop orders him to go after Navarre, but warns him not to harm Navarre's spirited hawk. The Bishop then sends for Cezar.

Navarre reveals that he intends to kill the Bishop of Aquila, and asks Philippe to help him get inside the city. Philippe is reluctant, so Navarre ties him up for the night. But Philippe tricks the mysterious woman into releasing him and escapes. However, he soon gets captured by the Bishop's guards.

At an ambush from the Bishop's guards, Navarre and his hawk are each struck by a crossbow bolt. He manages to defeat the guards and saves Philippe. Navarre makes Philippe take the wounded hawk to the old monk, Imperius (McKern), for help. Imperius locks the hawk in a room and goes out to gather herbs, yet Philippe picks the lock and sees the mysterious woman inside the room, whose chest is also struck by a crossbow bolt. Imperius returns, sends Philippe away and tends to the woman's wound.

Imperius tells Philippe that the woman is Isabeau d'Anjou. She came to live in Aquila and fell in love with Captain Navarre. But the Bishop was crazy about her and had tried to woo her. Imperius, who was the lovers' confessor, revealed their secret vows to the Bishop in a drunken confession. The Bishop went mad and made a demonic pact to curse the lovers that by day Isabeau becomes a hawk and by night Navarre a wolf so that even though always together, they are eternally apart.

Cezar the wolf trapper (Molina) arrives to see the Bishop. The Bishop orders him to find Isabeau and kill the black wolf who loves her.

After defeating some of the Bishop's guards at Imperius' ruined castle, Navarre is told by Imperius that the curse can be broken if he and Isabeau face the Bishop in their human form on "a day without a night and a night without a day". Navarre dismisses Imperius as an old drunk, and continues his way to Aquila intent on simply killing the Bishop. Philippe decides to accompany Navarre and "Ladyhawke", and he starts to transfer messages, which he most likely makes up, between the star-crossed lovers to enliven their spirits.

Isabeau and Philippe encounter Cezar outside an inn after sunset. Isabeau sees Cezar's wolf pelts and gets hysterical. She rides after Cezar to the forest. Cezar triggers some of the traps there intentionally to terrify Isabeau in order to draw out her black wolf. When he examines a black wolf that has just got trapped, the black wolf that is Navarre shows up and surprises him. Isabeau kicks the crouching Cezar, and he falls down into a trap which snaps his neck.

On the following night, Philippe convinces Isabeau that the curse can be broken. When the black wolf comes across the ice seeking Isabeau, the ice breaks and the wolf falls into the water underneath. Philippe's chest gets severely ripped by the wolf's claws as he tries to save the wolf out of the ice water. When Navarre sees Philippe's fresh wounds the next morning, Philippe is finally able to persuade Navarre to break the curse.

View of Castel del Monte (Abruzzo): the village of the Bishop

At night Imperius and Isabeau enter Aquila through the main gate, bringing Navarre in his wolfen form along in a cage, while Philippe dives into the sewers, retracing his escape route, to get inside the city. The next day, the Bishop holds a mass to hear the clergy's confession. Navarre and Imperius wait on but do not see any sign to come. Navarre decides to attack as the mass is going to end. He asks Imperius to euthanize the hawk if he hears the cathedral bells ring, which would mean Navarre had failed.

Philippe infiltrates the clergy confession from the sewers and unlocks the cathedral doors. Navarre rides in and duels with Marquet. During their bout, Marquet throws his helmet at Navarre but instead breaks a window high in the cathedral. As the duel continues, Navarre sees a solar eclipse through the broken window and realizes the curse can be broken. Navarre tries to get back to Imperius but fails at keeping the guards from ringing the cathedral bell. Believing Imperius is going to kill the hawk, he continues his fight and eventually kills Marquet.

Navarre is about to kill the Bishop, but Isabeau enters the cathedral, calls out and stops him. Together they face the Bishop and break the curse. Isabeau confronts the Bishop. The Bishop goes into a fit of madness and tries to kill her, only to get himself killed by Navarre instead. Isabeau and Navarre finally embrace in joy inside the cathedral.



The castle of Rocca Calascio in Abruzzi, where the priest hosts the protagonists to treat them

Richard Donner had attempted to get the film financed for a number of years and come 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]

Filming locations

Ladyhawke was filmed in Italy; the alpine meadow of Campo Imperatore-Abruzzo served as a prominent exterior location, while the monk scene was filmed at Rocca Calascio, a ruined fortress on top of a mountain. In the region of Emilia-Romagna, the village of Castell'Arquato in Piacenza and castle of Torrechiara in Parma (the castle of the movie) were also featured. Other Italian locations used include Soncino in the Lombardia region, Belluno in the Veneto region, and the Lazio region around Viterbo.[2]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 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, to controversial effect. It has been cited 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.[3] 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.[4]

Critical reception

Ladyhawke has a rating of 65% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 critics' reviews.[5] 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.'"[6] Time Out called it "all rather facile sword-and-sorcery stuff, of course, but at times very funny... and always beautifully photographed."[7] Variety described the film as a "very likeable, very well-made fairytale... worthwhile for its extremely authentic look alone."[8]

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."

Andrew Powell's score has been widely criticized as "dated" in the years since the film's release; Rob Vaux of Flipside Movie Emporium described it as the "worst soundtrack ever composed."[5]

Awards and nominations

Ladyhawke was nominated for two Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Sound Editing (Robert G. Henderson) and Best Sound Mixing (Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander, Vern Poore and Bud Alper), winning neither.[9] 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).[10]


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

External links

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