3 Movies to Help You Get Over Game of Thrones
With Game of Thrones out for the next five hundred days or so (!), you now have an hour-long void in your lives. Remember movies, TV’s more mature cousin that was kind of raised in Europe? Now's the time to fill that GOT-shaped hole in your heart with these movies that have been cut from the same bloody fantasy cloth.
Dir. Roman Polanski
Starring Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, Martin Shaw
While each iteration of Macbeth has its own merits, Polanski’s version possesses the same raw sexuality that made GOT an international hit. Cast as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were 29 year old Jon Finch and 26 year old Francesca Annis, respectively, as Polanski and co-writer Kenneth Tynan decided that a younger, more handsome couple would be more believably ambitious and relatable to contemporary audiences.
Though GOT’s debt to Macbeth goes far deeper than the peripherals, the visual similarities are striking indeed. Macbeth’s Inverness castle bears strong resemblance to Winterfell, and the wet, dreary, mountainscape hints that winter is also coming to Scotland. The production was in fact plagued by bad weather and nearly shut down, which led to Polanski almost being replaced until he agreed to cut his salary and producer Hugh Hefner pledged an extra $500,000.
The costumes too, are woven with a subtle Westerosian sense of royalty, and the king’s chosen crest and colors, albeit common, should look very familiar. The film doesn’t slouch on intensity either, with graphic scenes of sex and gore almost earning the film an X classification from the British Board of Film Censor. Much like in Thrones, dirty realism dominates romantic splendor, with tortures, executions and murders all presented with such intimacy that it borders on sexual. Reframing Macbeth’s ruthless, paranoid ambition as angsty, narcissistic anxiety, the film serves as a very sexy cure to your GOT hangover.
Valhalla Rising (2009)
Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Maarten Stevenson, Alexander Morton
Those looking for their fix of gory, disturbing medieval violence however should look no further than Valhalla Rising, a surreal trip through Dark Age Norway. The film follows Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, an unreasonably badass mute warrior slave, as he traverses a hauntingly ambient Norway, ending up on an expedition to find the biblical Holy Land. Winding Refn finesses the usual GOT gore, with the sort of cinematic hyper stylization prevalent in his other films (Drive, Only God Forgives) but is unsuited for television. A bloody medieval pitfight and a mushroom trip gone wrong serve as brutal highlights and are far more disturbing than anything GOT’s ever served. The film also one ups GOT’s more psychedelic scenes, with almost no talking or music to accompany the ghostly, almost sci-fi atmosphere Winding Refn conjures. Winding Refn went so far as to call the film “science fiction,” and “an acid trip,” and claims the original ending somehow involved aliens. Think of Valhalla Rising as an acidified Sandor Clegane, with some Bran Stark zen crossing a hallucinatory post apocalyptic wasteland. Light on dialogue but heavy on symbolism, the film tackles head-on the weirder existential ideas and tones that GOT has been extremely, almost to a fault, careful with. While opinions on the film are mixed (it is decidedly not for everyone), Valhalla Rising will undoubtedly satisfy the more adventurous, surrealist Thrones fans.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Dir. Rob Bowman
Starring Matthew McConnaughey, Christian Bale, Izabella Scorupco
Good dragon movies are far and few between, and while I can’t speak to Reign in Fire’s cinematic value, I can say it features decent dragon action and a very rare Bale-McCounaghey combo. For anyone who wasn’t satisfied with the Loot Train Battle in episode 4 ("Spoils of War"), Reign of Fire could be worth checking out for the epic fight scenes alone.
Bonus: According to Matt Shakman, director of the episode "Spoils of War," the acclaimed battle scene pays cinematic homage to other iconic movie battles. That goosebump-inducing Dothraki charge recalls many American Westerns, including the 1939 John Wayne classic Stagecoach; while cinematographer Robert McLachlan has also called attention to the way his lighting is reminiscent of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Shakman also says that the epic Drogon fly-by is a direct homage to the Vietnam War classic Apocalypse Now and its helicopter scenes, while the characterization of Jaime as he looks on at the battle is modeled after the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan.