How to build a catapult part 3 – Hollywood inspirations

Bill Gurstelle is your MAKEcation counselor for the make-a-trebuchet Family Challenge. Build a trebuchet and post pictures tagged “MAKEcation” in the MAKE Flickr pool to enter to win a $100 Maker Shed gift certificate!

Has anyone else noticed a lot of movies with trebuchets and other catapults in them? I sure have. For instance, they were the special-effects stars in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, particularly, the Return of the King. They’ve been on TV as well: Fox Sports, the Simpsons, Northern Exposure, PBS Nova, Warner Brother’s cartoons and probably many others.


I built a fairly large and historically accurate trebuchet a couple of years ago. I named it Ludgar, the Warwolf, after the huge trebuchet built by Edward I of England in 1304. Ludgar was really big, accounts say that Edward cut down an entire forest to obtain enough wood.

Here’s my list, admittedly incomplete. If you’ve got more, send ’em to me.

  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Night at the Museum
  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • Alexander
  • King Arthur
  • LOTR Return of the King
  • Gladiator
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (I especially like the part of this movie where John Cleese says “Fetchez la vaca” in a cheesy French accent.)
  • Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
  • Robin and Marian
  • Robin Hood Men in Tights
  • The Scorpion King
  • Flesh and Blood (the Rose)
  • Jabberwocky
  • Army of Darkness
  • Timeline
  • Young Einstein
  • Willow
  • Star Wars #6
  • Richie Rich
  • The Messenger
  • Excalibur
  • Joan of Arc
  • Troy
  • El Cid

Timeline was a so so movie but the trebuchet is wonderful. Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator have excellent battle sequences with catapults. The LOTR movies have well done CGI trebuchets.



William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, ReMaking History: Early Makers is now available.

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