I'd give another vote for Excalibur. I have a fondness for the film. I don't even criticize the anachronistic armor anymore. Certainly the film has its moments of glory.
Though I don't know if Camelot is so terrible as to not even rent. Yeah, I remember it being pretty mediocre, but I don't recall being annoyed that I had rented it. Perhaps though it was because I was younger. First Knight was pretty banal. Hell, the more I think of it the less I want to. Merlin was all over the place not to mention a mini-series, and I haven't seen Mists of Avalon so I can't comment. Hmm, there was Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, another movie I'm trying to forget. I have not seen Sword in the Stone since I was but a wee little person, so I'm blank there.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail speaks for itself. But it's almost odd that such a central myth of western culture has never had a uncompromised telling in film. Perhaps it's just inherently difficult to tell. Though that does nothing to explain First Knight. Perhaps there has been too strong an urge to tinker with the mythology in really inane ways. I'm not exactly bursting with confidence regarding the new film, though I thought the sword on the poster was an interesting example.
I suspected this thread had been started to see if there was anything to compare the soon to be released King Arthur against. I saw a trailer for it in the cinema and it all looked to be going ok until Mr Deep Voiceover said something like -
"Before Guinivere was a queen she was a warrior" - cut to Guinivere in a bikini or something with a bow and arrow. At this point I had to restrain myself from rolling around the floor in fits of laughter, almost funnier than the quest for the holy grail (but not quite).
"I have not seen Sword in the Stone since I was but a wee little person, so I'm blank there."
Strong characters, and one marvelous scene (the Wizards Duel) -- but no story. The movie just ambles from sequence to sequence. Wart learns its good to use your head, Wart learns love is a powerful force -- but he never uses any of this knowledge later in the movie. He doesn't need to know how to outsmart his enemies or appreciate the power of love to pull the sword from the stone. He never uses this knowledge to overcome an obstacle in the last act. It's like watching the education of the Karate Kid, and then never seeing him use karate. The ending is particularly weak, as the movie simply stops. The last shot is supposed to be a parody of a then-current television commercial, but that factoid is lost on audiences 40 years later.
Sword in the Stone is perhaps the weakest Disney animated feature produced while Walt was still alive. The film has its supporters, but of the animated features Walt actually produced, I'd place this at the bottom.
I saw Camelot a few months ago. As far as I'm concerned, it was pretty bad. Even the songs were annoying. "GUENIVEEERE! GUENIVEEEEEEEEEERE! When will Lanc-el-ot cometosave GUENIVEEEEEEEEERE?!!!"
I was so disappointed that I thought to myself "Wouldn't it be great if they made a definitive King Arthur movie. Excalibur was good. But this could be a really cool retelling with all the action and magic of the tale. Kinda like Excalibur. The fight between Arthur and Mordred could be amazing! Kinda like in Excalibur....." Then I finally realized how much I actually liked Excalibur.
I'd also recommend Mists of Avalon as a pretty good King Arthur flick.
"As far as I'm concerned, it was pretty bad. Even the songs were annoying."
The stage musical is a lot of fun, and the Lerner and Lowe tunes are wonderful. One of my favorites, actually. The movie suffers from a rather drab look (at least, my old laserdisc did), and for some reason the direction reminds me more of Hair than a magical world of yore. The film version of My Fair Lady seems timeless, while the film version of Camelot seems stuck in the late 60's/early 70's. It deserved better.
It's yet another classic musical that deserves a big-screen remake.
Here's another King Arthur film no one has mentioned: the 1950s movie, "Knights of the Round Table" with Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, and one of the Ferrers. It is certainly not the best Arthur film, but it is worthwhile if you want to see an extremely sanitized, big budget 1950s version of the legend with Ava as the most beautiful movie Guinevere.
The best King Arthur film is "Excalibur", though. No doubt about it.