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‘The Green Knight’ Exit Survey

Critics are calling it one of the best movies of the year. Is that really true? Is the fox Good or Bad? And is this actually a Christmas film? The Ringer staff has answers.

A24/Ringer illustration

The latest Arthurian adaptation is here, and it hails from none other than acclaimed indie studio A24. The Green Knight follows the tale of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), a newly minted knight on King Arthur’s Round Table, as he undergoes a long and arduous journey to prove his valor. What begins as a straightforward quest morphs into a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of honor and bravery. Below, The Ringer staff weighs in on the film’s notable insights, visual splendor, and more.

1. What is your tweet-length review of The Green Knight?

Rob Mahoney: When the end credits rolled, all I wanted to do was watch it again.

Arjuna Ramgopal: It’s the epic, Arthurian legend we deserve, and it’s the one we need right now. It’s awesome.

Alison Herman: I’d happily watch Dev Patel stroll the English countryside for two hours straight—and I basically did!

Aric Jenkins: To quote the guy I overheard walking out of the theater at the same time as me: “I don’t get it.” To be more specific, I do get the point of the film, but maybe not all the hype surrounding it?

Andrew Gruttadaro:

Julianna Ress: They really made Groot a lot scarier since the last Marvel movie I saw.

2. What was the best moment of the film?

Herman: Not since High Life’s fuckbox has there been a more artful use of jizz in a feature film.

Gruttadaro: The Last Temptation of Christ–style “what if” meditation at the end—and the subsequent snap back to reality. The whole thing has a sublimely ethereal quality to it, yet it’s also devastating in the way it culminates the themes the movie has been exploring to that point.

Ress: So much of the imagery has stuck with me since seeing it, but I’ll be thinking about the retrieval of Winifred’s head for a while. Plus, I’ll be borrowing her incredulous “Why would you ever ask me that?” response any time someone asks me for something in return for a favor from now on.

Mahoney: Maybe this is just my climate anxiety talking, but I found Alicia Vikander’s monologue in reverence of green—the way it sprouts up through the cracks of civilization and ultimately outlasts us all—to be quite resonant.

Ramgopal: Tough to choose just one, but the opening Christmas festivities cut between the Mother’s ritual was a true visual masterpiece and a master class in suspense building. Shouts to all the Joel Edgerton scenes and the giant people too.

Jenkins: The closing montage showing Gawain’s fate had he indeed decided to flee from the Green Knight justified a fairly unrewarding hour and 50 minutes up to that point. It wasn’t until the scene in which Gawain watches his son, the young prince, die in the battlefield hospital that I felt any sort of emotional reaction to this movie. But the sequence was worth the wait; it profoundly asks viewers to take stock of the choices they make and how they might affect future outcomes.

3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?

Ramgopal: When Gawain yells at the fox. How you gonna do your best friend like that?!

Gruttadaro: This movie includes an unkillable knight made out of tree bark, the ghost of a girl who got her head cut off, and Barry Keoghan as a terrifying drifter—yet the scariest part of it is Alicia Vikander’s haircut as Essel.

Jenkins: I know the ghost of Winifred played her part in returning Gawain’s axe to him, but generally this was the least exciting part of his quest. Not to mention it was creepy as hell! Beautiful cinematography with the red water diving scene, though.

Mahoney: Days after watching this movie, I still have no clue what was going on with those giants.

Ress: When Gawain was captured in the woods and sliced himself using the sword behind his back to break free from the rope around his wrists. I swear my hands are still tingling from watching that.

Herman: Squinting to read that impossibly ornate font. Either chill out on the calligraphy or give us a minute to figure out what it says!

4. What is this movie about?

Ress: Honor and heroism can’t be scheduled. Gawain knew his quest would come in a calendar year and assumed the grandeur of nobility would automatically wash over him sometime in between. There’s a sense of dread throughout The Green Knight, for both Gawain’s seemingly inevitable beheading and the realization that the bravery he was hoping for wouldn’t come on its own.

Mahoney: I feel like The Green Knight actively resists this question. Beneath its meditations on honor and goodness, this is a movie preoccupied with the complications of stories and the ways they’re told—which men get to become myths, how songs of valor get sanded down (or improved upon) in the retelling, and what it really means to be changed by the journey. What it’s about is the distance between a humbled Gawain sharing a feast with a room of legendary knights and eventually coming to see for himself just how messily those legends are made.

Gruttadaro: [Puts on serious-guy hat.] In a specific sense, it’s about man’s constant attempts to fashion things like virtue, bravery, and honor through shortcuts rather than actually earning them. In a much larger sense, it’s about the undeniable, immovable truth that nature and this earth will ultimately outlive and outlast humanity—no matter how much power we attest to having. [Takes off serious-guy hat.] I guess you could say it’s a cosmic gumbo.

Herman: Uh, toxic masculinity? I gotta be honest: I stopped asking questions when the mood lighting (and the edible) kicked in.

Jenkins: Bravery, like “natural” talent or NBA height, is often viewed as an inherited trait, but really it’s a deliberate choice you have to make over and over again . . . which is why that assumed valor makes Gryffindors the most pompous people on the planet.

Ramgopal: There’s so many answers to choose here, but to me this movie is about the journey. It’s about experiencing and living and getting outside of your comfy castle. Gawain hadn’t really experienced much in his life prior to this journey. By the end, he’s a completely different guy, maybe even a decent one.

5. Before we go any further, it’s time to talk about the fox.

Jenkins: I think we can all agree it was better when it wasn’t speaking.

Ress: The fox was adorable until he started speaking.

Ramgopal: The fox is the true MVP. Aside from Disney, A24 really knows how to do animal sidekicks. Once Gawain abandoned my guy, I was actively rooting for his demise.

Herman: It would be off-brand of me not to note that Fleabag did it first.

Mahoney: A welcome presence and well executed, but why the hell did they tip the fox’s only dialogue in the trailer??

Gruttadaro: The Green Knight is incredibly drab, gray, and onerous (these are all admirable qualities, IMO), which makes the one moment of levity—when the fox howls at the giants—feel so beautiful and transcendent.

6. If you had to choose out of everyone Gawain meets on his journey, who would be the best hang?

Mahoney: Sign me up for a stay with The Lord at his castle B&B. Who knew Joel Edgerton could bring this much mirth? Great food, lively conversation, a warm fire, and while I appreciate the offer, I’m gonna go ahead and pass on that climactic bit of virtue-testing turndown service.

Herman: Winifred seems like a lady who knows what she’s worth. If he’s the chivalrous knight he says he is, he won’t need any incentive to fetch your severed head from the bottom of a pond! A lesson for medieval ghosts and modern Hinge users alike.

Gruttadaro: Barry Keoghan’s out—way too scary and chaotic. The ghost girl seemed pretty nice, but she’s also a ghost, so she’s out too. And there’s no WAY I’m spending any time with the old lady in the blindfold—way too freaky. I think you’re left with two choices: burly Joel Edgerton or the giants. I’m going with the former—the way he’d dance around your relations with his wife would obviously be off-putting, but the man can hunt, and he definitely seems like he could put a few back. Also, you might get a kiss at the end of the night!

Ress: Everyone on the actual journey is pretty un-chill so I’m going to cheat a bit and go with Essel. If I were ever to embark on a days-long quest to meet my decapitation by a tree-person, I’d love to have her support.

Jenkins: I don’t trust anyone who would willingly spend time with those Attack on Titan–ass giants. The choice is clearly Joel Edgerton. The Lord is a gracious host, serves you exquisite cuts of game, and has a tremendous sense of interior design. What’s not to like?

Ramgopal: It’s gotta be Winifred. She’s got wit and she’s a ghost. Her house might be a little creepy, but she’s got powers!

7. How do you read/feel about the ending?

Gruttadaro: Living honorably is the only way to attain honor. It’s not like you can outrun death, so really, what’s the point in living cowardly?

Ress: I think Gawain gets to keep his head, and the whole thing was a ruse being recorded for a “MEDIEVAL PRANK (GONE WRONG)” YouTube video.

Ramgopal: Gawain asks Winifred at one point in the movie if she’s real or if she’s a spirit. She responds by saying, “Does it matter?” That’s how I see the ending. It all does and doesn’t happen.

Jenkins: I’ve already offered my read on the ending; I feel that older Gawain solemnly sitting on his throne in grim acceptance as Camelot was about to fall under siege will remain one of the most badass movie scenes of the year. And though maybe it felt a bit obvious that he would remove the green girdle once it was revealed to all be a vision, the payoff was executed perfectly.

Mahoney: Still processing what happened (or didn’t) and what it all means, all in a way I find immensely satisfying.

Herman: Hey, you got Jungian psychology in my Arthurian legend! (It’s a metaphor for ego death.)

8. Is The Green Knight a Christmas movie?

Jenkins: No, because even if you live in Southern California or the edge of the Sahara Desert, you simply cannot have a Christmas movie without snow. Where was all the snow?! It was looking like early October out there and this is well before fossil-fuel-driven climate change.

Mahoney: Absolutely. The true Christmas spirit is agreeing to play some game, only half-listening to the rules, and then botching it so badly you think you’ve won.

Herman: More than Die Hard, less than Carol.

Ramgopal: 100 percent. Christmas begins and ends the movie!

Ress: No, it belongs in the related-but-different genre “set at Christmastime for storytelling purposes but not actually about Christmas,” accompanied by Tangerine, Joni Mitchell’s “River,” and Lost’s “The Constant” episode.

Gruttadaro: Let me pop this on at the Christmas Eve get-together and let you know. Nothing like having a big family dinner after watching Dev Patel get a creepy hand job.