Set in medieval France, Ladyhawke 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.
- 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 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?
- 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?
- Deal with the Devil: The Bishop asked the Devil to curse the lovers.
- Navarre, and how.
- Philippe. He promises to get into Heaven even if he has to pick the lock to the pearly gates.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Isabeau is barefoot quite a lot, even in instances where it doesn't make much sense like her final confrontation with the Bishop.
- The Dragon: The Captain of the Guard, Marquet.
- Evil Sorcerer: The Bishop.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas: Be careful who you offer to buy a drink for when celebrating your prison break.
- Five-Man Band:
- Green-Eyed Monster
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Philippe and Imperius become a pair.
- He Went That Way!: Zig-zagged. Philippe directs the guards after Navarre knowing they will expect him to lie. It works at first until one of them works it out.
- Hoist by His Own Petard:
- The wolf hunter who dies falling headfirst into a jaw trap.
- Marquet, who pushed one of his own men onto Nevarre's sword for referring to Nevarre as 'Captain', ultimately died by falling on Nevarre's sword.
- Humiliation Conga: The ending, for the Big Bad.
- I Know You Know I Know
Phillipe: I believe he was heading south, toward Aquila.
- 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.
- Light Is Not Good/Dark Is Not Evil: Not a perfect example, but the Bishop and the Captain of the Guard wear white and gold, and Navarre is The Hero and wears black and red.
- Living MacGuffin: The bishop really wants Isabeau back.
- Magic Pants: There seems to be little consistency as to whether or not clothes transform. Both are naked on resuming human form so it could be argued that there is just no need to see an empty dress falling off a little hawk.
- Malevolent Architecture: Imperius's castle has two bridges designed to drop you in the moat.
- Mercy Kill: Ultimately subverted.
- The Middle Ages
- Non-Human Sidekick: Both Navarre and Isabeau are this to each other.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Matthew Broderick does an alright job for the first fifteen minutes, then we're basically just watching Ferris Bueller swanning about Medieval France.
- Our Werebeasts Are Different: As the result of a Curse, Navarre turns into a wolf at night, and his lady turns into a hawk during the day.
- The Queen's Latin: If we infer from the names we can guess the film is set in France, yet everyone speaks with received pronunciation, or ...tries to.
- The Reveal: Imperius didn't betray the lovers. Marquet did - to replace Navarre as the Captain of the Guard.
- Scenery Porn
- Shape Shifter: Navarre and Isabeau.
- Sinister Minister: the Bishop.
- Slow Motion Fall
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Medieval setting with Alan Parsons' Progressive Rock music. Kind of a Base Breaker.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Invoked by the Bishop on Navarre and Isabeau.
- Stepping Stone Sword: A sword is at one point used to anchor a rope for people to cross thin ice.
- Sword Fight: Surprisingly realistic ones, at that.
- Sword Plant: Several times, for different reasons.
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: If you're Navarre.
- Title Drop
- Unexplained Accent: Rutger Hauer, a Dutch actor, acting in a film set in Medieval France, adopts an American accent.
- What the Hell, Hero?: At one point, Navarre flips out at Philippe for supposedly losing his sword. He gets called out first by Mouse, who tells him he's being selfish with his fixation on revenge, but doesn't really snap out of it until he sees the cuts all over Philippe's chest-- which he inflicted, in wolf form, when Philippe saved his life.
- Yandere: The Bishop. He puts a cruel curse on the two lovers so they can never see each other. All because the woman doesn't want him.