Archery in Movies and TV Shows

Katniss Everdene shooting her bow

Archery has been around in the public eye for many decades through movies and TV shows. Big Hollywood and Disney titles spring to mind when anyone mentions archery. Titles such as Robin Hood, The Lord of the Rings, Hawkeye, The Hunger Games and Brave, but what are they actually about? Can they help archery skills for real life, everyday people? Let’s find out!

Archery scenes in movies and TV shows can either be really great, or really poor. It depends if the Hollywood filmmakers and producers have put in the time and effort to head down to the local range, watch an Olympic archer or bowhunter, and understand how to properly shoot a bow. Low budget TV shows might not necessarily be able to hit the top level archery technique, and therefore butcher the great sport and give it a false vision to the viewers.

In this article, we will learn about how movies and TV shows show archery, great examples to watch to help hook you on archery, and how to look cool with a compound bow, recurve bow or crossbow!

Whenever there is a big movie franchise, or TV franchise, participation in the sport rises across the World. As it is not a big big sport, having awareness on the big screen, publicity and promotion reminds people how cool and interesting archery is.

A look at archery in movies

Archery has been prevalent in movies for a good number of decades, with the most notorious being Robin Hood, and more recently, The Hunger Games. Archery is almost always associated with violence and killing in the movies, however, it is a lot tamer in real life. Some of the representations of the sport in movies are spot on, some are educational, but some are just crazy.

The sport is used around the world for competition, hunting, therapy and beauty. It is depicted in many different ways, and technical issues arise when it is not taught properly. We will do a run down of whether archery is depicted well in specific movies, whether it teaches anything, and if we recommend watching the movies, specific for archery.

The Hunger Games

Let’s begin with our review, starting with The Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire and the Mockingjay. In recent years, this movie franchise has helped bring a lot of people into the sport. In movies, a lot of the sports that are done, especially this one, are usually by men or boys. So having a role model like Katniss Everdeen/Jennifer Lawrence shooting a bow, doing archery, is great for the sport. She gives young girls a reason to try the sport.

Katniss Everdeen, The Mockingjay shooting her bow

When the franchise hit the big screens, there is proof of a surge in memberships in archery across the US and UK in 2012. Young women and girls wanted to look like Katniss, be like the heroine.

The best thing about Jennifer Lawrence shooting a bow is, she put the time and effort in to learn how to. She was taught by multi Olympic archer and Olympic Medalist Khatuna Lorig. While some hardcore archers would critique her technique, she puts a finger over the arrow while aiming, gets to full draw too quickly, but, she took time and effort to learn the actual technique. How to make it look good as well. For a unique and male dominated sport like archery, Lawrence has done wonders for the sport on the Hollywood stage.

However, in the poster for Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen’s technique is not the one. She has his finger over the top of the arrow, which would cause damage to her finger if shot like this. While this is clearly posed for the poster, it is important to note that it is not the right way to shoot a bow.

Catching Fire Hunger Games

The movies themselves, however, showcase archery in a great way. They make it a staple weapon for the characters, making it look cool and blowing things up with arrows. However, while bowhunting humans is pretty frowned upon in real life, Katniss Everdeen still makes it look appealing (note: we do not condone this behavior.).

Overall, this movie is a must see, archery is such a major part of the movies that it is very enjoyable. It also has an interesting story line, and has all of the essentials, action, drama, romance.

Brave

Disney and Pixar’s Brave is one of the most well known cartoons that promotes archery at a very high level. With a fairytale twist and another strong female lead succeeding in sport, what’s not to love? The quality of the sport that is shown in this film is incredible. One of the first scenes in the movie shows how an arrow flies when it is shot out of a bow.

A lot can be learnt just from this first scene, in regards to the sport. Firstly, The Archers’ Paradox. This is where the arrow bends when it is shot out of the bow essentially. As the string is released, the power sent into the arrow makes it bend in one direction, then it reacts in the opposite direction as it flies down range. Have a read of our article about arrow spinning to your bow, to make sure you are shooting the correct spine arrow for your bow.

Back to Brave! The animation of the movie is spectacular, which helps showcase archery in a very good light. Having a strong female lead, Princess Merida, competing in archery, using the sport and succeeding in a male dominated sport is incredible.

Princess Merida shooting her bow

The movie shows that archery can be used as a great outlet for getting away from life. It is a sport that can be done by anyone and everyone. You can be old or young, male or female, strong or weak. There is always a way that you can participate in the sport. Make sure to get in touch with your local ArcheryUP instructor to get started in the great sport and become your own hero or heroine in your story!

This is one of our favorite archery movies, personally. Purely because of how well they execute the elements of the sport. This is definitely worth a watch, for all ages, despite it being a cartoon. The sport is showcased really well, and while it is a cartoon with a lot of fantasy, it is a great watch!

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Yet another great and incredibly well known franchise, The Lord of the Rings. Starting with the Fellowship of the Ring, Legolas hit our screens with his long flowing blonde hair and bow in late 2001. While shooting is less realistic in these movies, they did kick start a trend of participation within the sport.

Along with the Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings was a big catalyst for participation in the sport, across the world. As explained above, having the sport on the big screen, promoted and published raises awareness and reminds viewers that archery is there. A lot of people try it due to seeing their on screen heroes, or actors and actresses they like partaking in the sport.

Legolas shooting his bow

Legolas is not the only character that uses a bow and arrow in the movies, including The Hobbit franchise. Shooting bows and arrows was very prevalent, making appearances in pretty much all of the battle scenes. In the newer franchise, The Hobbit, there is a female archer who uses a bow as her chosen weapon. While they are supposedly the best Elves who shoot a bow, their actual technique could have done with a few more lessons.

We understand that the movies are definitely fictional and fantasy, but with such a big budget, and the sport being such an important aspect, surely more time and money could have gone into the lessons.

While it is an ‘older’ movie, it is clear that the technical side of archery took a bit of a back seat for the filmmakers. Orlando Bloom did, however, take lessons before acting as Legolas for two months prior to filming. During 2021, Bloom posted a video on social media, showing how cool you can look shooting a bow, saying that he still had it. Just going to show that even after 21 years, it is like riding a bike!

Robin Hood

Someone says bow and arrow, you think of the kids stories about one guy, Robin Hood. Across the years, there have been many different adaptations of the man, the myth and the legend. Robin Hood comes in different forms and a few of the most recognisable and renowned versions are, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Adventures of Robin Hood. All of which, obviously, showcase archery in different levels of accuracy, which also depends on the age of the movie.

The oldest of the movies, The Adventures of Robin Hood featuring Errol Flynn was released in 1938. Considering the age of the movie, the sport is captured in a great way. The typical Robin Hood kind of way, but it gives an insight into how archery was done in that day and age. Using a longbow and wooden arrows, Robin goes about his Robin-business, stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938

The next Robin Hood we have is Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, that came out in 1991. A very well known classic movie. A fun fact about the movie is, during the first few days Kevin Costner was challenged about whether he can actually shot a bow or not. He shot a fake rabbit from 30 metres away to prove that he actually can. There is also the famous flaming arrow shot that Kevin shoots at the executioner. Costner’s technique did not come from lessons as such, but from shooting the bow all of the time on set.

The newest version of the myth is the 2018 movie, with Taron Egerton. While there are big names in the movie, it does not get good reviews. The cast were, however, taught how to shoot from YouTube sensation Lars Anderson. Anderson creates YouTube videos with trick shots, such as shooting things out of the air. Taron took guidance and lessons from Lars Anderson, which can be seen in the movie. Lars Anderson uses ancient techniques to shoot arrows faster, which was useful on the Robin Hood set. The movie itself does not get good reviews, but it is good enough to have on in the background in an evening if you want an archery movie.

Lastly on the live action Robin Hood movies is a slightly different version, Men in Tights. If you are looking for a light hearted, funny version of the normal fantasy story, this is right up your street. While the archery is not factually correct, it is a good feel movie to watch and enjoy. Who wouldn’t want to watch a guy in tight tights shoot an arrow down another one to get the best bullseye? It is a top watch for laughs, but not for any factual archery content.

Did you think we would forget about the iconic Disney cartoon version of the story? Absolutely not. Even though it is old, it is a classic Disney movie. Robin Hood as a fox, why not? Although archery is not great, it is a typical old school Disney, and would be recommended to have on a Sunday afternoon for a bit of light hearted archery content when there is nothing else to watch.

Avatar

With the new Avatar movie announced earlier this month to be premiering in December in 2022, how could we not discuss it. It has been 13 years since Avatar hit the big screens, and this year, they are bringing the second one to us. Will it include more archery? We sure hope so!

While the technique is questionable, to say the least, it is still important to embrace the fact that bows and arrows are being showcased to a major scale. The characters are seen to be shooting their bow holding the string with just two fingers, and the hand the wrong way round.

Na'vi archery technique

As the movie is very much sci-fi and fantasy, it makes sense that the technique is not the ‘norm’. It gives a feel, to archers, that it is very much in fantasy land and not an exact replica of the sport. Like a lot of movies with the sport, the characters are seen holding the arrow at the front of the bow with their index finger, which would, as we keep saying, result in injury (make sure you do not copy them!).

One of the main reasons for the technique and equipment being wrong is to make it more ‘alien’ to the viewer, which it definitely does.

It is definitely a must watch movie, due to the incredible CGI graphics and the fact the very long awaited second one is due out later this year.

A look at archery in TV Shows

There are two key contenders that spring to mind here, Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. (We will get onto Marvel shortly). Archery does make appearances in TV shows now and then, randomly and sporadically. The majority do not show the sport in a good light, so we will stick with these two.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead might not be the first TV show you think of when thinking about bows and arrows. However, it is present in most episodes, thanks for Daryl and his crossbow. This brings a totally different element to the viewers for the sport, as crossbows are not usually shown or used in the archery world.

Due to the world being taken over by zombies, there is little reason to believe bullets and ammunition would continue to be made, therefore bows and arrows enter the scene. Bows and arrows can be made from sticks in the woods, reuse arrows that are shot into zombies or missed, etc. Arrows are able to be used more than once, unlike bullets and ammunition. Therefore it explains better why archery is used rather than guns, mostly.

A bow will also last longer than a gun, and does not require cleaning. There are different types of bows used in the show, crossbow, compound bows, even self made bows. However, the shooting of the bows and arrows itself is not all factually correct. It does make for a gory watch, but does not really do the sport justice. However, when you are being chased by a flesh eating zombie, technique is probably the last thing you are going to think of.

The Walking Dead showcased different types of archery

In terms of recommending this show, it is very full of blood and gore. If that is your thing, then there are a lot of episodes to get through just to watch some archery in it. If you have a lot of time, want to dedicate yourself to a new show, then go for it! There are a lot of storylines to follow, so make sure to keep concentrated!

Game of Thrones

Even though the last season was not what we asked for, the show showcased archery very well. From Bran learning to shoot with his brothers in the opening episode, to Arya pretending to kill all of her enemies in season 3. The sport grows with the show, much like the actors and actresses.

Arya Stark was a strong shot throughout the series

One of the first scenes in the whole franchise is younger brother Bran Stark learning to shoot, being taught by older brother Jon Snow. He could not quite get the hang of it. However, Arya, their sister, comes up and shoots a bullseye straight away. This was, of course, for a deeper meaning that she was lining up to be a great fighter, warrior and will achieve. A quote during that scene is “no one in his family was born a great archer”, from Eddard Stark. Reinforcing that practice is needed in order to get better and achieve.

One of the most notable characters who uses a bow is Ygritte the wildling. While it is great to see the sport in a mainstream TV show, it is not so great to watch her technique. The actress wraps her finger around the arrow, which simply is not a good idea. An ArcheryUP instructor would also be able to teach the actress that four fingers on the string would not end with a perfect spot on shot, unlike the show.

Game of Thrones was a disappointment in the last season, but it is definitely worth a watch up until then. Archery is used throughout from many different characters, so for the die hard fans, it is a must! Plus, there are multiple seasons, so it is great to binge.

Marvel TV shows and movies

Now comes the moment we have all been waiting for, Marvel. Bows and arrows are prevalent throughout their TV shows, Hawkeye specifically, and many of their movies.

The Avengers

Infinity War was the culmination of 18 Marvel movies and a decade of movies. The technique showcased in the Avenger movies is great. With the budget and filmmaking expertises that go into the production definitely pays off. While there is a lot of sci-fi and make believe, it is clear that the intentions are there and the work to showcase the sport in a great way.

Hawkeye is obviously the archer within the Avengers movies, so to see him popping up in the main movies is great promotion. Although not everything is believable, such as shooting a beast or villain from a good distance away without looking, actor Jeremy Renner’s technique is passable.

Hawkeye shot a Hoyt Buffalo bow

While he did have training, Renner claimed it hindered him slightly. He was trained in the ‘Olympic’ style and not bowhunter style. Which meant it was more rigid, less instinctive and war inspired, which is what superheroes need.

Hawkeye

Having a spin off show from the Avengers, with archery at the front at center, there is nothing better. While he does not have ‘superpowers’ as such, he is still part of an elite sci-fi superhero franchise. Having a spin TV show, Hawkeye, archery has been showcased at a high level again, and promoted heavily over the past couple of years.

The show brought in a new character, alongside Clint Barton, Kate Bishop, who is played by Hailee Steinfeld. A young girl sees Clint saving the world during the Battle of New York, where he saves her life whilst fighting with the Avengers. This sparks a love of archery for the young girl, who grows up to be an incredible archer in her own right.

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop shooting her bow

In order to be successful and look good on the big screen, Hailee Steinfeld took lessons, and watched countless videos of professional archers and actors before getting to the range. While the arrows on the show are CGI, Hailee did not want to disappoint fans, so put in a lot of effort to learn. This definitely shows on the big screen, with her technique looking great and rehearsed.

While Clint is supposed to be the best archer in the MCU, Kate Bishop is now a partner for him, and with the time and effort she put into the sport as a kid, she could potentially be better. Either way, seeing bows and arrows on such a big scale around the world is incredible. Two big Marvel characters showcasing the sport in a big way is great.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Without giving anything away (we will keep this bit short and sweet!), this MCU movie showcases archery in a sort of battle scene…make sure you watch out for it!

What can we take from all of this?

While we love to see all types of bows and arrows on the big screen, on Amazon Prime, Netflix, DisneyPlus, we need to remember a lot of the movies and shows are fictional. They are not going to be factually correct, but made more for enjoyment than anything else.

There are also a lot of other movies that are great to just have playing in the background or watch for some bows and arrows fun, like Rambo or Blade: Trinity. We highly recommend not learning archery from movies and TV shows, though. Make sure you find a safe range, a great ArcheryUP instructor and learn properly. If you want to watch videos to understand the sport, head over to World Archery YouTube for more in-depth knowledge around the sport.

Time to experience archery

Did reading about the ups and downs, pros and cons of Hollywood, Disney and Marvel productions about the sport give you the buzz? It is time for you to get in touch with your local ArcheryUP instructor and get started on your journey!

If you need more reasons to read about bows and arrows, learn more before starting, head over to our blog to read about history, best bows to buy, how to get started and much more!

Contact  us today to get started and you too can be an archery hero or heroine in your story!

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