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The story takes place in a fantasy medieval setting and starts with a young thief named Phillippe the Mouse escaping from an inescapable prison through its sewers. Said prison and the lands around it are controlled by a Corrupt Church led by a Bishop who is none too pleased to hear of Phillipe's escape, since the prison is supposed to be inescapable, after all. The Bishop sends his soldiers out to kill Phillipe, but just as they catch up with him Phillippe is rescued by the mysterious Navarre, who is accompanied everywhere by his Cool Horse and hawk.

Navarre turns out to have been the former Captain of the Bishop's guards, and he has a score of his own to settle with the Bishop. See, the Bishop was lusting mightily over a young woman named Isabeau, but Navarre and Isabeau fell in love and when it looked like they would escape the Bishop, he cursed them so that by day Navarre would be human and Isabeau a hawk, while by night Isabeau would be human, and Navarre a wolf. As a result, while the two lovers may be together, they are always separated. Now Navarre is looking to get revenge, and to use Phillippe's knowledge of the sewers that lead into the Bishop's fortress to his advantage.

The film contains a number of both veteran actors (such as John Wood, Rutger Hauer, and Leo McKern) and young actors who would go on to become household names (Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer) so despite the times that it veers into camp it is often well acted.

Tropes used in Ladyhawke include:
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer
  • Action Survivor: Phillipe
  • The Alcatraz
  • Ancestral Weapon: Navarre's sword.
  • Animal Stereotypes: The guy who turns into a wolf is a fierce, loyal Badass who can be absolutely vicious when riled up, and the guy called "the Mouse" is a cowardly Action Survivor thief who prefers to hide and be sneaky whenever possible. Isabeau is fairly feirce and graceful herself. It's also observed in The Movie that hawks and wolves mate for life (though not with each other) signifying the couple's enduring faithfulness.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted.
  • Artistic License Astronomy: There is a scene under a full moon. Two days later, there is what seems to be a solar eclipse
  • Artistic License Religion: A minor one that just requires a Hand Wave to fix -- Imperious is described as a monk. A monk has not taken Holy Orders and thus cannot take confessions -- he would need to be a priest to be able to hear confession and give absolution. (It is possible to be both a monk and a priest but you would be more likely to refer to yourself as a priest in the same way that someone with credentials as both a paralegal and a lawyer would probably not mention the paralegal part). The handwave: Imperious may have been a priest in the backstory then renounced his priestly vows after his crime of betraying secrets of the confessional.
  • The Atoner: Imperius, the monk who helps Navarre and Isabeau. He feels at responsible for their curse because he accidentally revealed their love to the Bishop.
  • Automatic Crossbow: Badass people strap two crossbows together.
  • Badass Cape: Navarre's is awesome. He is, naturally, incredibly Badass.
  • Badass Preacher: Imperius.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The curse turns Isabeau into a hawk; Navarre, a wolf.
  • Bow and Sword In Accord: Navarre uses a crossbow and a Cool Sword.
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes Phillipe. With reason, admittedly.

 Imperius: Thank you for trying, and for standing up for the truth.

Phillipe: I should have known better. Every moment of happiness in my life has come from lying.

    • Also:

  Phillipe: I told the truth, Lord! How can I learn any moral lessons when you keep confusing me this way?

    • At the end of Phillipe's and Isabeau's near-capture at the monastery:

 Guard: Where's the woman?

Phillipe: She flew away.

Guard: WHERE IS SHE?

Phillipe: God's truth, she flew away!

Guard: YOU L-AAAGH!!! (Guard is shot by Navarre and falls.)

Phillipe: (beat)... It pays to tell the truth, Lord. Thank you. I see that now.

  • Celestial Deadline: A couple is cursed so that she's a hawk by day and human by night, and he is human by day and a wolf by night. They only get to see each other in the moments of sunrise and sunset then were saved by Rules Lawyering.
  • Chew Toy: Mouse.
  • Cool Horse: Goliath, a huge black Friesian. Just don't call him a her.
  • Cool Sword: It is even used to chop wood.

 Navarre: This sword has been in my family for five generations. It has never known defeat, until now.

  • Corrupt Church: In the movie it shows that the entire region of Aquila in the Middle Ages is ruled by this trope. Unusually, the movie averts the trope's implicit Take That qualities in that the protagonists are all depicted as genuinely faithful and God-fearing.
  • Curse: On the two Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • Curse Escape Clause: A solar eclipse allows Navarre and Isabeau to meet each other in human forms at the same time, dispelling the curse.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Phillipe, and how.

 Phillipe: (to Imperius) When you kneel before the altar, how do you get up again?

 Phillipe: I believe he was heading south, toward Aquila.

Guard: Then we ride north, sir!

Phillipe: It's impolite to assume someone is a liar when you've only just met them!

Guard Leader: And yet you knew we would... we ride south.

  • If I Can't Have You: "...then no man shall!"
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The ending, twice.
  • Improvised Weapon: In addition to swords, weapons used include a bunch of horseshoes, an iron bar, rocks, the opponent's helmet, and a huge candelabra.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Averted. The captain of the guards is anything but badass when it's on fire.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: The curse upon Navarre and Isabeau forces them to transform between human and animal forms every dawn and dusk.
  • I Will Find You: Etienne Navarre: "And know this - if you fail, I will follow you the length of my days. And I will find you."
  • Karmic Death: The Bishop is killed in the process of trying to stab Isabeau in the back.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Navarre
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Phillipe regularly directly addresses God (but effectively the audience) as his personal confidante. None of the other characters notice, but he does go out of his way to put distance between himself and the other characters before talking to the camera.

  Phillippe (to Navarre): No offense, sir, but I talk to God all the time, and He never mentioned you.

 Imperius: Remember-

SPLASH!

Imperius: Walk on the left side.