The Three Musketeers Media Comparison

There are so many movie and television versions of this classic series of novels that I can’t even list them all. (I am working on it.) I will, however, provide brief reviews on a good many of the ones I’ve seen – ones that should be easy for you to find. I will rate both the faithfulness to the novels (which I adore) and entertainment as its own entity on a scale of zero to five, five being the highest. Then I will give you some brief thoughts on each.

The Iron Mask (1929)

Faithfulness to Novels: 2

Entertainment Value: 3

Douglas Fairbanks is probably the epitome of a swashbuckling actor. In this silent film, as is par for his course, he bounces around, stops to pose, and defeats evil. The film is at times silly and at times serious. It takes on a lot of plot at once and manages to do it decently.

The Three Musketeers (1948)

Faithfulness to Novels: 4

Entertainment Value: 4

This is an old film with some very good points. For starters, there are the beautiful costumes and color palette. The female cast is also unusually strong, with Angela Lansbury, June Allyson, and Lana Turner as Queen Anne, Constance, and Lady D’Winter, respectively. The three musketeers themselves are pretty bland. Gene Kelly’s D’Artagnan has more character, though of an irreverent nature. This actor gets some points for his spry fight choreography, which makes full use of his dance skills.

3 Musketeer candy commercials (c.1960-present)

Faithfulness to Novels: 1

Entertainment Value: 2

Essentially, the three musketeers serve as mascots for a candy bar. Athos and Porthos are there, but D’Artagnan takes the place of Aramis. Also, the Mars company has updated its commercials in several ways. For example, the cast is now diverse and politically correct (including the musketeers themselves). And the storylines have them performing odd tasks such as fighting zombies.

The Three Musketeers (1966)

Faithfulness to Novels: 5

Entertainment Value: 3

This series is the most accurate version of the book I’ve ever seen; even Richelieu is more than a simple villain. And Jeremy Brett might just be the best D’Artagnan (which is interesting, considering he’s famous for his portrayal of another iconic character – Sherlock Holmes). Since “best” is a vague word, I’ll elaborate by saying that he has the character down pat and the youth that many D’Artagnans lack.

Banana Splits: The Three Musketeers (1968)

Faithfulness to Novels: 3

Entertainment Value: 4

The plot may have nothing to do with the books, but this collection of shorts definitely has merit in the world of 3M. This is because of the characters – the musketeers, I mean. The original character Tooly, Constance’s nephew, is a complete brat. But this is one of the few works I’ve seen where the musketeers haven’t been complete caricatures of themselves. The animation is fine for the era: it’s typical of Hanna-Barbera.

The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers (1974), & The Return of the Musketeers (1989)

Faithfulness to Novels: 4

Entertainment Value: 3

The first two movies collectively make up one of the most famous versions of Dumas’s 3M. Then follows one of the few filmed versions of Twenty Years After. They start off true to the books but rapidly digresses. The whole saga is filled with slapstick comedy, some of it actually funny. Athos (Oliver Reed) is a slight disappointment. His character is far too rough for the noble Athos; for one thing, he uses his fists more readily than his sword. Other Athos and the slapstick, there’s nothing really to complain of here. Yes, some of the costumes look cheap, especially those of Rochefort (Christopher Lee). And the members of the royal house are completely obnoxious. But these points aren’t too significant. The three musketeers besides Athos are actually good: Richard Chamberlain as Aramis, Michael York as D’Artagnan, and Frank Finlay as Porthos all deliver spirited performances.

D'Artanyan i Tri Mushketyora (1978)

Faithfulness to Novels: 5

Entertainment Value: 4

The cast was almost perfect, though Mikhail Boyarsky was too old for D’Artagnan. The costumes and sets were equally appropriate. This is a musical movie; the songs are old Russian funk of inconsistent quality. Some are bland, like D’Artagnan’s song mourning Constance; some are catchy, like “The Musketeers’ Song,” which is occasionally reprised, I’m happy to report.

Aramis no Bouken (1989)

Faithfulness to Novels: 2

Entertainment Value: 4

I never saw the Anime Sanjushi series this OAV was based on.  The movie, however, was okay. There was nothing particularly original about the concept – a woman disguised as a musketeer – but it gets points for style. That’s the big draw here.

The Three Musketeers (1992)

Faithfulness to Novels: 3

Entertainment Value: 2

The animation is clean, but the acting is over the top. As for the plot… I doubt the creators of this cartoon ever read the 3M. Or a history book. (To give an example of inaccuracies, Milady is old and decrepit. The Duke of Buckingham survives and turns out to be the queen’s brother.) The opening song is upbeat, but cliché, with predictable rhymes.

The Three Musketeers (1993)

Faithfulness to Novels: 3

Entertainment Value: 5

This is the movie I’d use to introduce just about anyone to 3M. It’s basically a swashbuckling romp with fluttering costumes, appealing (Austrian) scenery, and just the right plot-to-action ratio. It also boasts the talents of Kiefer Sutherland (Athos), Charlie Sheen (Aramis), and Tim Curry (Richelieu), who is over-the-top as usual.

Albert the Fifth Musketeer (1994)

Faithfulness to Novels: 2

Entertainment Value: 2

Perhaps I need the mentality of a child to appreciate this series, but I know I’ve definitely seen other musketeer movies and series for children that I didn’t mind watching. Albert, the character and the series, is unappealing. The premise of this series – a musketeer inventor – is incorporated much better in Young Blades with Siroc, who has one ongoing subplot. Here, Albert’s inventions make up the entire plot.

The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

Faithfulness to Novels: 3

Entertainment Value: 3

This is the crassest version of the Musketeer saga I have ever seen. Language, obscenities, and even bathroom humor liberally pepper this movie. Besides this, John Malkovich’s wooden performance as Athos was difficult to watch, especially considering the complex role written for the character. I do have to give the movie some points. Admittedly, though I am not fond of this actor, Leonardo DiCaprio is surprisingly convincing in his dual role as King Louis XIV and his twin brother, Philippe. And Jeremy Irons (Aramis) completely steals the spotlight – at least until the end of the movie. At the climax, a musketeer charge dramatically fills the screen, in contrast to the faces of their reluctant opponents, accompanied by a rousing score.

The Three Musketeers (1999)

Faithfulness to Novels: 3

Entertainment Value: 3

There are several points of interest here. This version is a real caricature. The characters and plot are all exaggerated versions of themselves. Also, Milady makes magic fire, which is just weird. And the characters occasionally sing and frequently break the fourth wall to address the audience. Finally, I need to mention the animation. It’s mostly typical of this kind of cheap cartoon. However, the ballet in the fete where the queen shows off her jewels (which serves as an intermission between story arcs) is a trip. With classical music playing in the background, abstract sketches that look like they were done with colored pencil morph into almost-human shapes and flutter around. It is not to be viewed late at night after ingesting large amounts of caffeine.

The Musketeer (2001)

Faithfulness to Novels: 2

Entertainment Value: 4

As far as 3M goes, this movie is a travesty. The plot is forced; so is the acting… with the exception of Nick Moran, who plays Aramis, and the outstanding Tim Roth, who plays Febre. The entertainment value in this movie comes from the frequent, brilliant fight scenes, choreographed by Xin Xin Xiong. These are definitely worth seeing, but I recommend you lower your expectations whenever D’Artagnan, Francesca, and/or Planchet open their mouths. Also of note – and this is neither good nor bad – is the fact that this movie is much darker than most adaptations, both in terms of visuals and story.

Young Blades (2002)

Faithfulness to Novels: 4

Entertainment Value: 5

Once again, a woman musketeer is not new. But I like the characters – their back-stories and the way they’re portrayed. Big-name stars Bruce Boxleitner (Captain Duval) and Michael Ironside (Cardinal Mazarin) may seem like the obvious ones to mention, but the younger cast did well, too, as the scrappy musketeers and perky King Louis. The strange part about this series is the supernatural element that is occasionally present. I think it adds something unique, but that could be a matter of taste.

3 Musketiers- De Musical (2003)

Faithfulness to Novels: 4

Entertainment Value: 5

This is a Dutch musical filmed on stage. Before you watch this, you should know that the costumes, hair, props, etc. are made in an exaggerated style. It’s pretty well-done, so it’s not terribly distracting, with the possible exception of the aristocrat fat-suits. One prop that gets props is the movable ship that D’Artagnan uses to cross the channel. The swelling score is pretty sweet, too, especially the number the ensemble sings right before the intermission.

The Three Musketeers (2004)

Faithfulness to Novels: 2

Entertainment Value: 3

This is what happens when Mickey Mouse & co. take on a classic book. They start with some classic music, such as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, to prepare the children. They give that music lyrics relevant to the plot. They add cartoon animals with modern themes (being yourself, the power of friendship and so on). They stir in some slapstick comedy and let it stew for 68 minutes. By the end, the audience is pleasantly numb (and ready to buy Mickey merchandise) but they aren’t terribly stimulated.

Barbie and the Three Musketeers (2009)

Faithfulness to Novels: 3

Entertainment Value: 4

The animation was nearly flawless, though from what I hear, it didn’t particularly impress followers of the Barbie movies. Also, there are a few aspects of this movie that will irritate adults. The glittery-pink overload nearly made me cry. The voices grated on my ears – this was pretty much the whole cast, even the otherwise fabulous Tim Curry. There was too much girl power (and I say this as a woman myself). Barbie does the same mid-air summersault a few too many times. The romance was unrealistic. The entire movie was predictable. And yet, it’s not intended for adults. It has enough action and colors that kids should stay happy watching it.

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Comments 6 comments

satomko profile image

satomko 6 years ago from Macon, GA

I remember watching the ones with Michael York when I was younger and they remain my favorite because of the wit and humor, though I'll admit to laughing when Gerard Depardieu tries to hang himself in The Man in the Iron Mask.


Aramis 6 years ago

Looking forward to the 2011 movie. Will you update when it come out?


AJHargrove profile image

AJHargrove 5 years ago from USA Author

Aramis, I have definate plans to see it. In 3D, if possible. I guess I'll see how it goes, then.


Al 5 years ago

Very helpful! Thanks for the list, ratings, and reviews!


Jean-luc 5 years ago

Have you seen the french versions? the 1961 version with Gerard Barray and Mylene Demongeot is quite faithful to the book and is very entertaining as well...


AJHargrove profile image

AJHargrove 4 years ago from USA Author

I haven't seen that one, but I'd love to. Do you know of a site where I can find it? (Either DVD or VHS is okay.)

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