Michelle Pfeiffer Stars In The Best Fantasy Movie Of The ’80s

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Updated


The 80s was Hollywood’s golden age for fantasy movies. Some of the best fantasy films ever dreamed up came from this decade, which saw movies like The Never Ending Story, Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and Willow — all visually stunning films that transported audiences to magical worlds filled with unforgettable characters. Michelle Pfeiffer, one of Tinseltown’s favorite actresses, got her start from one of these iconic 80s fantasy classics by playing Isabeau in Ladyhawke.

Michelle Pfeiffer started to break out in Hollywood as Isabeau in the 80s fantasy classic Ladyhawke.

Many of the fantasy classics from the 80s have stood the test of time, continuing to enchant audiences decades after they were released. While Ladyhawke might not be the most famous of these films, it is still one of the most enchanting.  Directed and produced by Richard Donner, this medieval fantasy masterpiece stars Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer. 

Set in medieval France, the story revolves around Phillipe Gaston (Matthew Broderick), a nimble thief known as “The Mouse,” who becomes entangled in the fates of two star-crossed lovers, Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer) and Isabeau of Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer). The Bishop of Aquila, driven by an obsession over Isabeau, has cursed the couple so they can never be together. By day, Isabeau is transformed into a hawk, while by night, Navarre becomes a wolf.

Rutger Haur and Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke

As the film unfolds, Phillipe aids Rutger Hauer’s Navarre and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Isabeau in their quest to confront the Bishop and break the curse. This perilous journey takes them through breathtaking landscapes and into the heart of danger as they strive to reunite as humans once more.

Ladyhawke involves one of the most inventive curses in fantasy; Isabeau is a hawk by day, while her love, Navarre, is a wolf during the night.

While Matthew Broderick had already begun to make a name for himself in his career after starring in the commercially successful WarGames, he had yet to play what would become his most iconic role as the titular character in Ferris Bueler when he joined the ranks of Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer in Ladyhawke. Still, Broderick shines as young Phillipe, the main protagonist stuck in the middle of a star-crossed adventure. 

Meanwhile, Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of the cursed warrior Navarre is both rugged and compelling, capturing the character’s determination and inner turmoil. Hauer had already had a long and iconic career by the time he played Michelle Pfeiffer’s lover in Ladyhawke, including having faced off against Harrison Ford as Batty in 1982’s Blade Runner.


Like Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer’s career was just beginning when she starred as the beautiful Lady Hawk, Isabeau. She had already starred in Grease 2 and Scarface but had yet to play her breakout role of Sukie in The Witches of Eastwick. Her acting added an ethereal presence to Ladyhawke, and her captivating beauty made her a perfect fit for the role of Isabeau, the woman trapped in the form of a hawk.

Despite its now iconic status, it was a challenge bringing Ladyhawke to life. Richard Donner struggled for years to secure financing for the film, and it went through several casting changes before landing its iconic trio of leads. Originally, Kurt Russell was set to star alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, with Sean Penn and Dustin Hoffman considered for the role of Phillipe. Ultimately, Rutger Hauer stepped in as the male lead, bringing his own unique intensity to the character of Navarre.

Michelle Pfeiffer would go on from Ladyhawke to star in The Witches of Eastwick, which cemented her as a rising star in Hollywood.

Luckily, the film got it together in the end, with Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rutger Hauer ending up being the perfect trio for the adventure. Their acting, in combination with the film’s stunning backdrops filmed in picturesque locations in Italy — including the Apennine meadow of Campo Imperatore and the ruins of Rocca Calascio — and the film’s now iconic soundtrack are what turned this fantasy movie into a classic tale. The soundtrack was composed by Andrew Powell, who combined traditional orchestral music with Gregorian chants and contemporary progressive rock elements.

Despite its box office struggles, Ladyhawke received two Academy Award nominations in the categories of Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing, though it did not win in either category. However, the film did win a Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and received nominations for Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Best Music (Andrew Powell).

Now, decades after its release, Ladyhawke is a time capsule that transports its audience back to the 80s golden age of fantasy movies. Its mystical premise, captivating performances by Michelle Pfeiffer and the others, and memorable soundtrack have secured its place as a beloved classic. Whether you’re revisiting this ’80s gem or discovering it for the first time, Ladyhawke is a fantasy adventure that will take you on a daring journey of love, adventure, curses, and redemption — just as a good fantasy movie should do.