the adventures of robin hood (1938) VS. robin hood (1973) VS. bbc robin hood

Olivia from Meanwhile, in Rivendell… is hosting a Robin Hood week and, naturally, I had to join in the fun.  I’m an ardent fan of Robin Hood – the character, the books, the movies, and the TV shows (yes, there is more than one).  It was a bit difficult to decide on what I should write about, as my options were almost limitless, but since movie (and TV show in this case) comparison posts are so much fun, I thought I’d do another one.


The Adventures of Robin Hood: I think many people view this re-telling of the Robin Hood story as the definitive version, and it’s quite easy to see why.  Many of the plot points from the original legends are brought to the screen in glowing Technicolor – from Robin and Littlejohn’s battle over the bridge to the archery tournament to the return of King Richard.  While the film can be episodic at times, it flows together well.  Two thumbs up!

Robin Hood: This adaption is more a series of entertaining, swashbuckling vignettes than a cohesive whole – and I’m fine with that.  It’s good, solid, entertaining fun.  Not until Prince John calls in all the taxes and Friar Tuck is put in jail does any real plot come together (besides the thread of Robin + Marian throughout).  Still, like I said, it’s good fun and a great interpretation of the Robin Hood legend.

BBC Robin Hood: How do I go about describing the story?  It’s a three-season TV show, so there’s lots of plots and subplots and romances and drama and all that good stuff.  I will say, however, that in terms of accuracy to the original Robin Hood stories, BBC’s adaption falls short.  Very, very short.  Don’t get me wrong; the episodes are still awesome.  They just don’t stick close to all those thrilling tales of old.

-Robin Hood-

The Adventures of Robin Hood: Errol Flynn seems born to play the role of Robin Hood and he makes the part his own with his customary swagger, feats of derring do, and more than a few glimpses of Robin’s romantic nature (in his scenes with Maid Marian, of course).  Flynn’s delivery of Robin Hood’s speeches stirs the heart and he never misses a beat in the entirety of his performance. (Those sword fights…)

Robin Hood: In many ways, this Robin Hood (appropriately enough, a fox) differs little from Errol Flynn’s portrayal (nothing wrong with that). After all, Robin is supposed to be the brave, bold, daring leader with a dash of cheekiness and plenty of heart.  This Robin has all of that, and more, and there’s something about either Brian Bedford’s voice acting or the animator’s skills (or my own mushy, gushy feels – or all three) that makes me love this Robin Hood the most of any portrayal I’ve seen.  I mean, seriously, when he says “Keep your chin up.  Someday there’ll be happiness in Nottingham again.  You’ll see.” I get this close to crying.  Every. Single. Time.

BBC Robin Hood: For whatever reason, a lot of the show’s fans don’t much care for Robin himself.  I guess I can kind of get that, ’cause he can be a jerk and all, but Gisborne is a murderer and everyone loves him, so… Anyway, Jonas Armstrong’s Robin Hood is much darker than either Errol Flynn’s or Brian Bedford’s.  He’s also a deeper character, more nuanced, more interesting, which only makes sense – it is a TV show, after all, with much time to develop its characters.  I don’t wholeheartedly like this Robin Hood, but I sympathize with him and I can respect him.


The Adventures of Robin Hood: You’ve got most of the classics here: Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Guy, Maid Marian, Littlejohn, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck, Much, King Richard…these are staple Robin Hood characters, and each is portrayed about as perfectly as you can get ’em.  Love it.

Robin Hood: There aren’t as many classic characters in this one – and all of them are talking animals (there’s nothing wrong with that, but I feel like it should be pointed out). Skippy & Co. take up a relatively large chunk of the movie, and the only member of Robin’s band that makes it into animation is Littlejohn. (Mayyyybe Friar Tuck.)  There is Allan a Dale, though, which is nice.  And Maid Marian and Prince John and the Sheriff.  And King Richard.  You could say Sir Hiss is a counterpart of Sir Guy, but I don’t see much resemblance.  Overall, in terms of accuracy-to-the-originals, it’s not as good as The Adventures of Robin Hood, but not quite as bad as…

BBC Robin Hood: Okay, sure, a lot of the characters have the same name as their legendary templates, but that’s about where any similarities end.  Marian is a feisty action girl.  Friar Tuck is a warrior priest.  Allan is a trickster.  Much is Robin’s former manservant.  Will Scarlett is a carpenter.  The Sheriff, Sir Guy, and Prince John are appropriately villainous, but BBC gave them each a life of their own.  King Richard is a jerkface (well, at least that’s accurate) and there’s lots of new characters, too.  Like Edward and Djaq and Kate and Isabella.  I do adore most of the characters, though.


The Adventures of Robin Hood: Erich Wolfgang Korngold captured the essence of the story of Robin Hood with his incredible score.  It’s bold and daring and instantly recognizable.  Plus #nostalgia for me, especially the bits of scoring when Robin and his men attack the treasure/taxes procession and also when Robin and Littlejohn fight on the bridge.  It’s an awesome score.

Robin Hood: This being an animated Disney film, there are songs.  My favorite is ‘Love’ (I’m still going to do a BBC Robin Hood fan-vid to it someday) – it beautifully encapsulates Robin and Marian’s relationship.  And all the other ones are great, too.

BBC Robin Hood: Okay, so there’s the main theme (this being a TV show) that just is Robin Hood to me.  Plus a great soundtrack throughout the show, plus two songs that are first sung aloud and then used for the duration of the series in their instrumental forms and it tugs on the heartstrings, y’all.  First the song that Alice sings to little Littlejohn, and then the one that Eve sings to Much.  Music is my thing and I love how the show reuses its musical themes to great – and often emotional – effect.

-Love Story-

The Adventures of Robin Hood: The traditional Robin + Marian romance.  Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviland were paired in a bunch of movies, most of which I haven’t seen, but I doubt anything could match the chemistry they have in this film.  At first, Marian doesn’t care much for Robin (an understatement) but after seeing his true motivation, she quickly falls for him (after all, it’s an under-two-hours-long movie).  A sweet, gentle love story.

Robin Hood: Another lovely romance.  Robin and Marian get a love song, fight side by side at the archery tournament, and get married.  No tragedy, no heartbreak (well, except when Robin’s about to get executed – my heart!), and plenty of shippable moments.  The only complaint I have is that Marian disappears after ‘Phony King of England’ and doesn’t return until the last scene.  Apparently, there was an alternate ending in which Marian found the wounded Robin and hid him/nursed him back to health, which would’ve been EPIC, but anyway…

BBC Robin Hood: *bawls* Sure, they’re annoying in the first season, but adorable in the second.  AND THEN SHE UP AND DIES.  It’s so unfair.  Still, I wholeheartedly ship BBC Robin and Marian.  They’re wonderful together. (And I love all the other ships, too, like Will + Djaq, Much + Eve, and Guy + Meg.)


The Adventures of Robin Hood: King Richard comes back and squelches Prince John, Sir Guy, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.  Everyone else gets pardoned and lives happily ever after.

Robin Hood: King Richard comes back and squelches Prince John, Sir Hiss, and the Sheriff of Nottingham (+ Trigger + Nutsy).  Everyone else gets pardoned, Robin and Marian marry, and “that’s the way it really happened”. (I refuse to believe differently.)

BBC Robin Hood: King Richard gets captured and imprisoned (I HATE HISTORY), almost everyone dies, and nobody lives happily ever after.  Ugggggh.


It’s a tough choice because each of these versions of Robin Hood is so different.  One is a 1938 Technicolor show-stopper, one is a little-known Disney flick, and one is a uniquely modern BBC production.  It’s difficult to chose!  I think that The Adventures of Robin Hood is closest to the spirit of the original legends.  Disney’s animated adaption is the most fun (definitely) and has the added attraction (for me, at least) of being hugely nostalgic.  And BBC’s Robin Hood is, in turn, enormously awesome and frustrating.

However, I’m going with Robin Hood (1973) as my favorite of the three.  Because I love, love, love it (even more than BBC Robin Hood).




29 thoughts on “the adventures of robin hood (1938) VS. robin hood (1973) VS. bbc robin hood

  1. Love your commentary and I’m pretty much on point with it all! I watched the first season of the BBC version and while I enjoyed it it was SO FRUSTRATING sometimes! I need to watch the rest of it I know. But seriously! Why does everyone love Sir Guy????? He’s a murderer? Minor detail? No!
    I just love the 1938 version so much you made me want to rewatch it.


    1. In Season 3, Guy changes quite a bit (for the better) and I don’t mind him in any of the seasons, but seriously, Girls Who Are In Love With Him? What are you thinking? (Actually, I have a kinda serious crush on a murdering villain myself, so I can’t really point fingers.)

      The 1938 version is FUN. Love it.


  2. Ashley Perham

    I’ve seen the Errol Flynn one a while ago, and I think I really liked it. I need to watch it again! Disney’s Robin Hood may be my favorite Disney animated movie. I just love it so much!!! The songs are so happy and catchy, Robin is amazing, and just AHH it’s so happy!!! Loved this!!


  3. John Smith

    I think I liked the cartoon as a kid, but I’m not sure I’d find it the height of Disney today. There’s no bettering Errol Flynn!!


  4. Awesome post, Eva! ‘coughs’ I personally REALLY liked Guy and disliked Robin – but in either case I hated that they killed everybody in the end – what in tarnation was that about?

    And I agree with you – over all – the animated one is the best – hands down!! My family and I quote that movie all the time.


    1. I don’t hate Guy. In fact, I feel sorry for him, and Robin isn’t my favorite character either. In Seasons 1 and 2, that honour goes to either Will or Marian, and in Season 3 it is sooooo Allan. Most definitely. (And all those deaths at the end? Hate ’em.)

      It’s such a quotable movie. ❤


  5. jessica prescott

    I seriously need to check out Disney’s Robin Hood.

    Rosie has (essentially) forbidden me from ever, ever watching the BBC miniseries 😛 She says I’ll just end up hating it and crying forever, and I have an inkling she’s right.


  6. This was great! I’ve yet to watch the BBC version, but I’ve seen (and loved) the other two. Errol Flynn is definitely the perfect Robin Hood, and Olivia de Haviland is a pretty good Maid Marian. And of course I looove the animated version. I’ve loved it even more since once of my friends, a singer, dedicated a version of “Love” to me (as I was the one, along with another friend, who asked her to sing it). I was just like, “YOU HAVE MADE ME SO HAPPY AAAH!!!”


  7. liviepearl

    I haven’t seen The Adventures of Robin Hood yet, and I refused to see season 3 of the BBC Robin Hood. I have to say, I thought the animated one excruciatingly boring although my sisters thought is was cute. The BBC version is sooo completely unrealistic that I don’t care about the accuracy (kind of like I think about Pride and Prejudice 05); when filmmakers aren’t even trying to be realistic, I think its fine. Allan is my fav, and I love Will and Djac. Marian was annoying in the first season but I really shipped them when she was less self-righteous. I love how Robin is always around and making faces in hiding at Marian whenever Guy thinks he is having a romantic interlude with Marian.


  8. Classic Girl

    I haven’t seen any of these- which is quite a shame but I want to see them! Is there any questionable stuff in the live action movie or the show that I should be warned of before hand? Also where is the bbc show available to watch?


    1. If you want a good idea of the minimal content in the 1938 adaption, just go right to the bottom of this post – 🙂

      As for the BBC series…there are a few innuendoes in different episodes and a couple sensual scenes in the Season 3 episode ‘The Enemy of My Enemy’. If you want a fuller content guide, just shoot me an email ( I think most of the episodes are available on Youtube for free – you could start there.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I must admit, of these three my favourite would have to be the Errol Flynn version. Like you said, for me it’s the definitive Robin Hood. He really is the perfect Hood. I must admit, though, that I didn’t watch the BBC series to the end. I seem to remember I only watched up to Marian’s death, which sucked, and kind of put me off watching a bit.

    I also really adore Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men in Tights, because it’s just unapologetically silly and draws a lot of inspiration from the 1930s movie. 😀


  10. Robin Hood 1973 for the win!!!!!!!! Totally my favorite too ❤ ❤ ❤ Though Flynne/de Havilland's is a fairly close second.

    Also, your shot of Olaf at the end there made me laugh out loud. Perfect.


    1. Words literally can’t express my love for the 1973 Robin Hood. It was such a huge part of my childhood. ❤ And I enjoy it even more now, I think.

      Haha! I've seen fans of other sad stuff do similar things, so I thought it'd work.


  11. Agreed on all of this. The animated Robin’s voice!! In the BBC though, got to admit I was team Guy. He might have been a murderer but Robin was so…smug. Haha, which obviously is a much worse crime!


  12. Ekaterina Yodis

    The 1973 version of Robin Hood sounds so good! I feel awkward that I have seen the 1938 movie and the BBC TV series but not that version.


  13. I love Robin Hood!!!!!!!! My all time favorite, hands down is The Adventures of Robin Hood. Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, I love ’em all. This is probably my favorite because it was the first time I had seen Robin Hood anything. Robin Hood (1973) is probably my second favorite because of so many reasons, the characters, the music (“Robin Hood and Little John walkin’ through the forest…”). Robin Hood BBC is probably third because even though I love it so much, it makes me cry too much. (WHY DID SHE HAVE TO DIE!? THEN MEG?) And the ending could have been so much better.

    I really enjoyed reading this post!!


  14. The case when I saw all three versions. I saw the version of the 38th year about three weeks ago – and it was amazing! Fights, actors, scenery, humor – all this gave me pleasure. The only thing – it seemed to me that the history lacks integrity, but for such films it is a normal thing. I saw the cartoon about 15 years ago, so I don’t really remember it, but it seemed to be fun. But the series …. it was found by my mother … and I only had enough for 4-5 episodes. Consider me a snob, but he was disgustingly removed and foolishly mounted. So I was not impressed by the acting game. As a result, the desire to watch quickly evaporated.


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