Knightriders, also known as George A. Romero's Knightriders, is a 1981 American drama film written and directed by George A. Romero and starring Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini, Amy Ingersoll, Patricia Tallman and Ken Foree. It was filmed entirely on location in the Pittsburgh metro area, with major scenes in suburban Fawn Township and Natrona.
The film represents a change of pace for Romero, known primarily for his horror films; it is a personal drama about a travelling renaissance fair troupe.
Billy (Ed Harris) leads a traveling troupe that jousts on motorcycles. "King William", as he styles himself, tries to lead the troupe according to his Arthurian ideals. However, the constant pressure of balancing those ideals against the modern day realities and financial pressures of running the organization are beginning to strain the group. Billy is also plagued by a recurring dream of a black bird. Tensions are exacerbated by Billy's constantly pushing himself despite being injured and the arrival of a promoter named Bontempi (Martin Ferrero), who wants to represent the troupe.
After Billy spends a night in jail watching a member of his troupe beaten because Billy has refused a payoff to a corrupt local cop, Billy returns to the fairground where the troupe is next to perform and is shocked that some members want to join with the promoter. His sense of betrayal is heightened when his queen, Linet (Amy Ingersoll), admits that her feelings for him may not be the reason she remains with the troupe.
Things come to a head after Morgan (Tom Savini), leader of the dissident faction who believes he should be king, wins the day's tournament and a melee breaks out between the troupe and rowdy members of the crowd. Billy faces an Indian rider (Albert Amerson) with a black eagle crest on his breast plate, the black bird of his dreams. Billy defeats the Indian but aggravates his injury. Morgan and several other riders leave the troupe to follow Bontempi. Billy's loyal supporter Alan (Gary Lahti) also departs with his new lady friend Julie (Patricia Tallman) and friend Bors (Harold Wayne Jones) to try to sort out his emotions. Billy and the remainder of the troupe settle at the fairground to await the dissidents' return.
A minor subplot deals with troupe member Pippin (Warner Shook) coming to terms with his homosexuality and finding love with Punch (Randy Kovitz). Another subplot deals with Alan's girlfriend, Julie, who runs away from home to escape her alcoholic and abusive father and her weak-willed mother. While Alan is soul searching, he realizes Julie is using him as an escape and that he really desires Billy's Queen Linet. Alan takes a confused and hurt Julie home to her parents.
Meanwhile, Morgan's riders succumb to infighting. Alan finds Morgan and helps him realize that there can only be one king and that he cannot simply leave and establish his own kingdom. Morgan and his riders return to challenge for the crown. In a pitched battle between Morgan's forces and Billy's, led by Alan, Morgan is victorious. Billy crowns him king and Morgan crowns the woman he now realizes he loves, Angie (Christine Forrest), a grease monkey young woman who works as the head mechanic for the troupe, as his queen. Morgan tells the promoter to tear up the contracts. Linet finds succor, with Billy's blessing, with Alan.
Billy leaves the troupe, accompanied by the silent eagle-crested knight, and returns to thrash the crooked cop as he had earlier vowed revenge on. While riding again, Billy, weak and hallucinatory from loss of blood from his injury, is struck and killed by a truck. The entire troupe gathers at Billy's funeral to say farewell to its fallen friend and king.Ed Harris as Billy
Gary Lahti as Alan
Tom Savini as Morgan
Amy Ingersoll as Linet
Patricia Tallman as Julie
Brother Blue as Merlin
Ken Foree as Little John
Scott Reiniger as Marhalt
Martin Ferrero as Bontempi
Warner Shook as Pippin
Randy Kovitz as Punch
Harold Wayne Jones as Bors
Albert Amerson as Indian
Christine Forrest as Angie
Cynthia Adler as Rocky
John Hostetter as Tuck
Amanda Davies as Sheila
Michael P. Moran as Cook
Don Berry as Bagman
David Early as Bleoboris
Bingo O'Malley as Sheriff Rilly
Ronald Carrier as Hector
Marty Schiff as Ban
Ken Hixon as Steve
Joseph Pilato as Disgruntled Fair Worker
Stephen King as Hoagie Man
Anthony Dileo Jr. as Corncook
John Amplas as Whiteface
Tabitha King as Hoagie Man's Wife
The film was received by positive reviews earning 75% from Rotten Tomatoes according to 12 reviews and earned an average score of 6.1.
The film score by Donald Rubinstein was released on Perseverance Records in 2008.