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A24’s Most Underrated Fantasy Film Is the Trippiest Epic You Haven’t Seen

Remember, it is only a game.

Dev Patel as Gawain in The Green Knight
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2021 was a tough year for movies. With a global pandemic effectively rewiring the world as we knew it, theaters struggled more than they ever had. Huge tentpole franchises did what they could to get audiences back into the theater, but a lot of smaller projects were still unfortunately underseen.

The Green Knight is one such hidden gem. The film, produced by A24 and directed by David Lowery, should have been a hit with the arthouse crowd — and though the studio put a lot of faith in its success, it only just barely recouped its $15 million budget at the box office. The Green Knight garnered a wide theatrical release in the heat of blockbuster season, despite being the antithesis of the word. It’s as epic as Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, and just as esoteric... but that tends to happen when adapting a centuries-old chivalric romance for the big screen.

Despite its eccentricity, The Green Knight might just be Lowery’s magnum opus. It holds up well as a retelling of an old Arthurian legend, tied together with an immaculate cast, haunting design, and a sprinkle of creepy arcana as a finishing touch. It’s not usually the kind of film that draws a massive crowd, but redefines our idea of spectacle all the same. While it’s a bit too late to catch the film on the big screen (unless A24 wants to follow Disney’s lead and bring their pandemic-era films back to theaters), The Green Knight could get a second life through streaming.

Dev Patel stars as Sir Gawain, an aspiring knight who longs to win a seat at King Arthur’s round table. The fabled ruler (Mission: Impossible’s Sean Harris) also just so happens to be Gawain’s uncle, and though he’s fond of him in a distant, paternal way, Gawain is too debauched and hotheaded to prove his mettle just yet.

Gawain might finally have his chance at glory when, one fateful Christmas, an ancient green giant (voiced by Ralph Ineson) appears at King Arthur’s court. He offers an impossible challenge, daring anyone brave enough to land a blow on him. Of course, said offer comes with a catch: whatever blow the knight takes now, he will return in equal measure in one year’s time.

Only Gawain is naive enough to accept the challenge. Armed with Arthur’s mystical sword, he lops off the Green Knight’s head with one swing. It’s only in the aftermath, when the knight stands up to pick his head up off the ground, that Gawain realizes he’ll have to get as good as he’s given next Christmas.

The Green Knight issues his challenge to King Arthur’s court.


One year after their fateful encounter, Gawain sets off to find the Green Knight and collect his just reward. His quest is heady, hallucinatory, and surprisingly morbid — but it’s not without its beauty, either. Through Patel’s upstart adventurer, Lowery delivers a breathtaking meditation on death, honor, and desire, weaving feverish dream sequences and startling imagery throughout a humbling hero’s journey. As Gawain, Patel delivers some of his best work, and his supporting cast (featuring Alicia Vikander, Barry Keoghan, and Sarita Choudhury) are equally in their element.

The Green Knight has been quietly streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video for a while now, but an exclusive deal between Warner Bros. Discovery and A24 will bring the film to its new home on Max. Despite WB’s dubious attitude toward streaming, Max is a fitting home for hidden gems like The Green Knight. It’s hard not to compare the film to HBO’s most popular fantasy projects, but at the end of the day, Lowery’s take on Arthurian legend stands alone. Films like this are few and far between, even from studios like A24. Hopefully, a new audience can bring The Green Knight the visibility it deserves.

The Green Knight is now streaming on Max.

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