The infamous and often tragic character Merlin has been the subject of stories since the 1100's. In modern times, writers and actors have also brought his character to life on the silver screen. These six movies Merlin has been in each put their own twist on the wizard’s life and personality:
In this musical, Laurence Naismith plays Merlyn as an old, wise wizard, who has mentored King Arthur since he was a child. Naismith’s Merlin is the first person to speak in "Camelot." He urges King Arthur to think back to when he met Queen Guinevere–where the story of Camelot begins. "Camelot" may be the most well-known movie that Merlin has been in.
Another classic movie that Merlin has been in is "Excalibur." In "Excalibur," Nicol Williamson plays a more powerful Merlin, who acts not as a simple conscience for Arthur, but as a guide and often even a master. It is he who plots out many of Arthur's actions. Meanwhile, his spells are often the forces behind Arthur's power.
In "Merlin," Sam Neill plays a younger, more kind-hearted Merlin. His Merlin is more human and sympathetic than the Merlins in Excalibur and Camelot. Neill's Merlin fights and suffers and falls in love like a normal man. This film tells the tale of two of Merlin's relationships–his deep friendship with King Arthur and his great love for the lady Nimue. Both are tragic affairs, yet Merlin's story eventually has a happy ending.
One of the most interesting movies Merlin is in is the 2004 film "King Arthur." Here, Stephen Dillane plays Merlin, not as a wizard, but instead as the leader of a band of rebels. In this film, Merlin is rough, scruffy and powerful. He and Arthur start out as enemies, with Arthur vowing to kill Merlin the next time he seems him–but they become allies. The fact that Merlin is also Guinivere's father in this film adds to its originality.
"Merlin and the War of the Dragons"
Another film that Merlin is in is the low-budget indie film "Merlin and the War of the Dragons." This film is set before the reign of King Arthur. Merlin is the hero of the story. He aids Britain's finest warriors in defeating a pack of dragons who are terrorizing the land and its people. While the acting and special effects of this film are not on par with those in Camelot, King Arthur or Merlin, the story line is original and, perhaps in some ways, more in keeping with the pre-Arthurian tales of Geoffrey of Monmouth.
"The Last Legion"
This film is set during the fall of the Roman Empire. Ben Kingsley plays a priest called Ambrosinius (later Merlin), who also serves as tutor to Romulus, the son of the last Roman emperor. Ambrosinius, with help from the warrior Aurelius (Colin Firth) and a warrioress named Mira, helps Romulus escape from prison and flee to Britain upon the death of his parents. The performances of award winning actors Firth and Kingsley make this one of the most entertaining and believable films that Merlin is in.