First up is The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn as the title character. This is a movie from 1938. Captain Blood made Errol Flynn a star and this one sealed the deal. Flynn is the ultimate swashbuckler. He's sexy, athletic, sympathetic, heroic...and did I mention sexy?
The film is an oversimplified depiction of the Norman/Saxon clash. When William the Conqueror came to England in 1066 and took the throne, he routed out the Saxon overlords and put in his Norman lords in place over them. For centuries, anyone who was anyone spoke Norman French and the rest were peasants. By Richard the Lionheart's reign--that is, Richard I--this was starting to wane. Though Richard was a fighter, not a lover, especially not a lover of England, and in his ten year reign, he spent a total of maybe six months in England.
But the movie is set when Richard was off fighting again, leaving his brother Prince John in charge, somewhere around 1192-93. Richard is kidnapped abroad and taxes are levied in England for a ransom to secure his release, but the scheming Prince John (played with oily elegance by Claude Rains), along with the brown-nosing Sheriff of Nottingham (played with comic relief by Melville Cooper) plot to let the kidnappers have the king, keep the ransom/taxes for themselves, and Prince John is to become King John. The taxes come down hard on the Saxon citizenry. Oh who will come to their aid?
Cue Robin of Loxley, poacher of the king's forests and humanitarian extraordinaire.
Who can forget the moment when Flynn makes his appearance by breaking into the great hall where Prince John is dining with his cohorts. Flynn has a dead deer slung over his shoulders and deposits the meat onto Prince John's table. He proceeds to sit down and accuse John of, well, all the things he's doing. And then a wonderful fight proceeds with some really outrageous sword flinging.
Maid Marian is not impressed by his hijinks, but he sure gets a rise out of Guy of Gisborne (played by Basil Rathbone, and a wonderful villain he is). Later he hijacks Gisborne and his company, including Olivia de Havilland as Marian in her most beautiful role, and sways her to his cause.
They fall in love, and in one of the most romantic and sexiest scene with all the actors clothes firmly in place, he convinces Marian that she is the one for him!
It all culminates in Robin foiling the plans, rescuing the girl, and fighting the villain to the death in a Hollywood-style sword fight (because you simply do not fight with broadswords that way).
The pomp, the pageantry (let us not forget the archery contest), the humor of Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Little John, and the Merry Man Much whom Mildred Natwick (Marian's handmaiden) falls for, the romance, the Hollywood pre-Raphaelite imagery of the Middle Ages--it's just so enjoyable. You always catch new little things every time; the arrow that kills the soldier and snuffs the candle as it goes, the sword-fighting shadows...so much.
Take it for the era in which it was created. (Remember, we are only 38 years into 1900). And it was a romance in the sense of a sweeping heroic saga in the days of yore. Probably wouldn't have been a favorite of the nobility.