Joan of Arc is probably better known across cultures than any other national hero. People may not know many of the historical details of her life, but anyone who has heard of her at all knows that she was a peasant girl who wore armor and was burned at the stake.
Joan's story has been popular since the very beginnings of motion pictures. According to the IMDb site, Alfred Clark produced a Joan of Arc film for Edison in 1895. French film pioneer Georges Méliès made a feature called Jeanne d'Arc in 1899. A hundred years later the last major movie about Joan was filmed by another Frenchman, Luc Besson.
Since films about Joan of Arc happen to be one of my specialties, I'll be writing several articles about the major ones.
Here are the titles I'll begin with:
Joan the Woman (1917): silent film directed by Cecil B. DeMille, written by Jeannie Macpherson and William C. DeMille, released January 1917 and intended to stir up enthusiasm for American involvement in World War I. Geraldine Farrar, popular opera singer, played Joan.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928): Filmed without sound not because it wasn't available, but because it was too expensive. Danish filmmaker Carl Theodore Dreyer made the movie in France. The master negative was lost in a fire, but a copy was discovered in 1981 in, of all places, a janitor's closet in a mental hospital in Oslo, Sweden. In 1994 composer Richard Einhorn wrote an oratorio based on this film. I'll be writing about it in the Soundtracks section. Renée Falconetti is Dreyer's Joan.
Joan of Arc (1948): For many viewers the performance by Ingrid Bergman is the definitive Joan. Victor Fleming, who gave us the Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, directed. This was José Ferrer's first film role. He plays the wishy-washy Dauphin for whom Joan gives her life.
Saint Joan (1957): Otto Preminger conducted a glitzy "talent search" for the woman who would play the title role. Jean Seberg won the part, but not much respect. I find it astounding that on the IMDb site about this film, Jean Seberg's name doesn't appear on the first page. Click "more" and you'll find her name and the part she plays at the very bottom of the cast list.
Joan of Arc (1999): Director Christian Duguay wanted to cast a sixteen-year-old as the Maid so he chose Lee Lee Sobieski. The movie was filmed on a very small budget in the Czech Republic. Lee Lee gets more respect than Jean Seberg. Her name heads the cast list at IMDb.
The Messenger (1999): Luc Besson, known for such violent and strange films as Léon (The Professional) and The Fifth Element, cast his then lover Milla Jovovich as Joan of Arc in this wild, blood-soaked version of the Maid's story.