Requiring legendary levels of bravery, artistry, and intellect, being knighted by the British monarchy is no laughing matter. Some of the 20th century’s finest British talents of film, television, and stage have been honored as a Knight Bachelor for their contributions to the arts, but don’t you just love it when the good knights go bad? Their chivalry aside, many have proven keen to royally misbehaving now and again.
Look no further than Sir Patrick Stewart’s latest leading man gig: Walter Blunt in the Seth MacFarlane-produced Starz series, Blunt Talk. The trailer alone shows the British newsman indulging in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, so the sky’s truly the limit for where this bad boy’s antics will take him upon the series’ August 22 premiere.
Below, we break down 10 knights who’ve taken a walk on the wild side as womanizers, mutants, dictators, and more.
Knight: Sir Patrick Stewart
Year Knighted: Stewart was first honored by the British monarchy in 2001 when appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He was again honored at the 2010 New Year Honours when made a Knight Bachelor for his services to drama.
Royal Misbehavior: While Stewart’s 50-year stage and film career has seen him play any number of roles, he’s become best known for playing the virtuous leader (hat tip to Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Professor Xavier). That’s what makes his most recent outing as Walter Blunt on Blunt Talk such a thrill. As an English newscaster fresh to L.A., he plays a Brit-out-of-water with a penchant for booze, cocaine, and ladies of the night. It’s our fearless leader like we’ve never seen him before.
Where to see him next: Blunt Talk premieres on Starz this Saturday, August 22, at 9 p.m.
Knight: Sir Michael Caine
Year Knighted: Queen Elizabeth II appointed Caine a Knight Bachelor in 2000 for his services to drama.
Royal Misbehavior: You can’t just go around ripping women’s hearts out like that! As the title character and unapologetic womanizer in Alfie, Caine jumps from one relationship — and bed — to the next, fathering children and ransacking the battlefield of love along the way. And when it all catches up to him and he decides to man-up and settle down, the good-looking Brit gets a dose of his own cold-hearted medicine. It doesn’t go down easy.
Where to see him next: The latter half of Caine’s career has seen him become a mainstay in Christopher Nolan’s epics, but he stars next in Youth, an aged buddy dramedy costarring Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda.
Knight: Sir Sean Connery
Year Knighted: After being nominated and then vetoed for knighthood in both 1997 and 1998, Connery was appointed Knight Bachelor in 2000 for his services to drama. He also holds to his name such distinctions as “Sexiest Man Alive” and “The Greatest Living Scot.”
Royal Misbehavior: Connery is criminally sexy as the historic James Bond, but in director Michael Bay’s 1996 blockbuster, The Rock, he plays a convicted baddie who’s turning over a new leaf. His character, John Mason, is the only prisoner to ever escape Alcatraz, and the FBI — led by Nicolas Cage’s Dr. Stanley Goodspeed — needs his help to infiltrate and terminate rogue Marines who’ve taken over the island.
Where to see him next: Connery, who turned 85 this week, has been largely inactive in Hollywood since his starring role in 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Might be time for a Bond marathon when Spectre hits this fall.
Knight: Sir Daniel Day-Lewis
Year Knighted: The three-time Academy Award winner was officially knighted by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in 2014 — one year after Dame Helen Mirren jokingly bestowed the honor at the 2013 Oscars.
Royal Misbehavior: As sociopathic antihero Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece, There Will Be Blood, Day-Lewis is utterly unforgettable. Inspired by Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, Plainview is a soulless oil man warped by greed, rage, and lust. And Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning turn is an undeniable tour de force. You’ll never look at milkshakes (or bowling pins) the same way again.
Where to see him next: Day-Lewis has been on hiatus since snagging his third Oscar for portraying Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s 2012 release, Lincoln. Another of his Oscar performances, My Left Foot, is currently streaming on Netflix.
Knight: Sir Anthony Hopkins
Year Knighted: Queen Elizabeth II appointed Hopkins as a Knight Bachelor in 1993 for his contributions to the arts.
Royal Misbehavior: Few villains are as immediately memorable — or quotable — as Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins took home the 1991 Oscar for his Silence of the Lambs role. To this day, he sends chills down our spine with his master intellect and observational prowess — and, of course, his unyielding insistence on snacking on human flesh. No matter how decadent the wine and accompanying hors d’oeuvres, when he says he’s having a friend for dinner, run for it.
Where to see him next: Hopkins has a pair of action-thrillers in the wings: Collide with costars Nicholas Hoult and Felicity Jones, and Solace with Colin Farrell — and will star in the upcoming HBO series Westworld, premiering in 2016.
Knight: Sir Derek Jacobi
Year Knighted: Jacobi’s royally representing more than just the United Kingdom as a Knight of the arts. He was appointed as Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1985, and a Knight Bachelor for services to drama in 1994. Between these distinctions, however, Denmark scooped him up to honor him as a Knight First Class of the Order of Dannebrog in 1989.
Royal Misbehavior: His role as Alexander Corvinus in Underworld: Evolution may have him fraternizing with the undead, but as Stuart Bixby in the British sitcom Vicious, Jacobi goes for Ian McKellen’s throat with the practiced grace of a vampire. Witnessing these two long-time partners get catty and queeny with each other is a schadenfreude-fueled delight, but we’d never want to get caught in the crossfire.
Where to see him next: Season two of Vicious premieres this Sunday on PBS. Also, see Sir Jacobi’s kingly turn in the Certified Fresh film Cinderella when it comes to DVD on September 15.
Knight: Sir Christopher Lee
Year Knighted: Lee was made a Knight Bachelor in 2009 for his services to drama and charity. Thoughtfully enough, Prince Charles allowed Lee to remain standing when knighted due to the difficulty the 87-year-old had kneeling.
Royal Misbehavior: The late, great Lee made a livelihood out of playing the villain — he is perhaps the most famous Count Dracula ever, bringing him to the big screen a whopping nine times. But audiences today will likely recognize him for his work later on in both the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings franchises. As Saruman in the latter, he aligned himself with Sauron and waged war on Middle Earth, betraying his old friend, Gandalf, and eventually paying the ultimate price.
Where to see him next: Sir Christopher Lee died at age 93 on June 7, 2015. Look for his final film, the U.K. indie Angels in Notting Hill, coming soon to a film festival near you.
Knight: Sir John Hurt
Year Knighted: Surprisingly, the longtime actor was just appointed a Bachelor Knight this year in the 2015 New Year Honours for his service to drama. In 2004, he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
Royal Misbehavior: No stranger to futuristic dystopias, Hurt played protagonist Winston Smith in the 1984 adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. In tackling the genre again in 2005, he opted for the dark side. As Adam Sutler in James McTeigue’s adaptation of V for Vendetta, he played a Hitler-inspired fascist dictator and the direct antagonist to our unlikely heroes, Evey and V.
Where to see him next: You can catch Hurt later this year as Tom, the boss-man in Sky Atlantic’s The Last Panthers, a TV biopic of famed heist masters The Pink Panthers.
Knight: Sir Ben Kingsley
Year Knighted: Kingsley was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 2002. Rumor has it, he insists on “Sir” preceding his name ever since.
Royal Misbehavior: Kingsley has proven over the years that he can dabble with both the good and the bad (performances don’t get more benevolent than his Academy Award-winning take on Mohandas Gandhi). But as Dr. Cawley in Martin Scorsese’s 2010 psychological thriller, Shutter Island, he oozes malice. Cawley’s icy demeanor with his patients is less about professional boundaries and more indicative of his heartlessness towards their well-being. It’s a calculated, slow-burning performance, and one that stands out in this Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer.
Where to see him next: Kingsley always has a stacked slate of projects. He just starred as Ay in Tut, a new miniseries on Spike TV, and can be seen in the film Learning to Drive, which opens in limited release this weekend.
Knight: Sir Ian McKellen
Year Knighted: The list of British honors for McKellen have been stacking up for the better part of three decades. In 1979, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1991, he was appointed a Knight Bachelor for services to the performing arts. And McKellen followed that up with an appointment as Companion of Honour for services to drama in 2008.
Royal Misbehavior: Sure, he’s famed for bringing J. R. R. Tolkien’s beloved Gandalf to life in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, but the indomitable voice and presence needed for Gandalf also served McKellen well when tackling Erik Lehnsherr (A.K.A. Magneto) for the live-action X-Men franchise. His ability to wreck havoc with the wave of his hand — remember that bridge scene in X-Men: The Last Stand? — is simply terrifying. And that Mystique-assisted prison break from X2 is still bait to make any fanboy geek-out.
Where to see him next: McKellen can be caught in theaters now as Sherlock Holmes in Bill Condon’s Mr. Holmes. He also plays the comically snide Freddie Thornhill alongside another knight, Sir Derek Jacobi (who once played Hitler, no less), in showrunner Gary Janetti’s Vicious, which returns for a second season on PBS this Sunday.