In medieval Europe, Philippe Gaston (Matthew Broderick), a thief known as "The Mouse", escapes from the dungeons of Aquila via the sewers right before execution. The Bishop of Aquila (John Wood) sends his Captain of the Guard, Marquet (Ken Hutchison), to hunt Philippe down. At a country tavern, Philippe unknowingly reveals himself to Marquet and his men and is about to be killed. But the former Captain, Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer), shows up and defeats them. He rides off with Philippe while his hawk scatters the rest of the guards.
Navarre and Philippe stop at a woodsman's cottage and lodge in the barn. Later that evening Philippe is saved by an enormous black wolf when the woodsman sneaks up and tries to kill him. Philippe dashes back to the barn and sees a beautiful mysterious woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) there leaves to accompany the wolf.
Marquet rides back to Aquila and warns the Bishop of Navarre's return. The Bishop orders him to go after Navarre but warns him not to harm Navarre's spirited hawk. The Bishop then sends for Cezar.
Navarre reveals that he intends to kill the Bishop of Aquila and asks Philippe to help him get inside the city. Philippe refuses, so Navarre ties him up for the night. But Philippe tricks the mysterious woman into releasing him and escapes. However, he soon gets captured by the Bishop's guards.
At an ambush from the Bishop's guards, Navarre and his hawk are each struck by a crossbow bolt, yet he manages to defeat them and saves Philippe. The wounded Navarre makes Philippe take the impaled hawk to a ruined castle and ask an old monk Imperius (Leo McKern) for help. Imperius locks the hawk in a room and goes out to gather herbs. Philippe picks the lock and finds the mysterious woman inside the room, her chest also impaled by a crossbow bolt. Imperius returns, sends Philippe away, and tends to the woman's wound.
Later, Imperius tells Philippe that the woman is Isabeau d'Anjou. She came to live in Aquila and fell in love with Captain Navarre. But the Bishop was crazy about her and wooed her persistently. Imperius, who was the lovers' confessor, revealed their secret vows to the Bishop in a drunken confession. The Bishop went mad and made a demonic pact to curse the lovers. By day Isabeau becomes a hawk and by night Navarre a wolf so that even always together, they are eternally apart.
Cezar the wolf trapper (Alfred Molina) arrives to see the Bishop. The Bishop orders him to find Isabeau and kill the black wolf who loves her.
After dispatching some of the Bishop's guards at Imperius' ruined castle, Navarre learns from Imperius that the curse can be broken if he and Isabeau both face the Bishop in their human form on "a day without a night and a night without a day". Navarre dismisses Imperius as an old drunk, and continues his way to Aquila intent on simply killing the Bishop. Philippe decides to accompany Navarre and "Ladyhawke", and he starts to transfer messages, which he most likely makes up, between the star-crossed lovers to enliven their spirits.
Isabeau and Philippe encounter Cezar outside an inn after sunset. Isabeau sees Cezar's wolf pelts and gets hysterical. She rides after Cezar into the forest. Cezar triggers some of the traps there intentionally to terrify Isabeau in order to draw out her black wolf. When he examines a black wolf that has just got trapped, the black wolf that is Navarre shows up and surprises him. Isabeau kicks the crouching Cezar onto the trap which snaps his neck.
On the following night, Philippe convinces Isabeau that the curse can be broken. When the black wolf comes across the ice seeking Isabeau, the ice breaks and the wolf falls into the water. Philippe's chest gets severely ripped by the wolf's claws as he saves the wolf out of the freezing water. When Navarre sees Philippe's fresh wounds the next morning, Philippe is finally able to persuade Navarre to break the curse.
At night Imperius and Isabeau enter Aquila through the main gate, bringing the black wolf along in a cage, while Philippe dives into the sewers to get inside the city. The next day, the Bishop holds a mass to hear the clergy's confession. Navarre and Imperius wait on but do not see any sign to come. Navarre decides to attack as the mass is going to end. He asks Imperius to euthanize the hawk if he hears the cathedral bells ring, which would mean Navarre has failed.
Philippe infiltrates the clergy confession from the sewers and unlocks the cathedral doors. Navarre rides in and duels with Marquet. During their bout, Marquet throws his helmet at Navarre but instead breaks a window high in the cathedral. As the duel continues, Navarre sees a solar eclipse through the broken window and realizes the curse can be broken. He tries to get back to Imperius but fails at keeping the guards from ringing the cathedral bell. Believing Imperius is going to kill the hawk, he continues his fight and eventually kills Marquet.
Navarre is about to kill the Bishop, but Isabeau enters the cathedral and stops him. Together they face the Bishop and break the curse. Isabeau confronts the Bishop. The Bishop goes into a fit of madness and tries to kill her, only to get himself killed by Navarre instead. Isabeau and Navarre finally embrace in joy inside the cathedral.
- Rutger Hauer .... Etienne Navarre
- Michelle Pfeiffer .... Isabeau d'Anjou
- Matthew Broderick .... Philippe Gaston
- Leo McKern .... Father Imperius
- John Wood .... Bishop of Aquila
- Ken Hutchison .... Marquet
- Alfred Molina .... Cezar
- Omero Capanna .... Francesco
- Giancarlo Prete .... Fornac
- Loris Loddi .... Jehan
- Alessandro Serra .... Mr. Pitou
- Nicolina Papetti .... Mrs. Pitou
- Charles Borromel .... Insane Prisoner
- Massimo Sarchielli .... Innkeeper
- Russel Case .... Lieutenant
- Stefano Horowitzo .... Bishop's Bodyguard
- Venantino Venantini .... Bishop's Secretary
- Nanà Cecchi .... Bishop's Woman
- Gaetano Russo .... Guard in the Cell
- Rod Dana .... Guard at the City Gate
- Valerie O'Brian .... Peasant Girl
- Gregory Snegoff .... Cart Driver
- Donald Hodson .... Guard on Cart
- Marcus Beresford .... Acolyte
Key crew membersEdit
Background Information and NotesEdit
In publicity materials, Warner Bros. claimed that the script was based on an actual medieval tale. Edward Khmara contacted the Writer's Guild, who forced Warner's to pay a small fine and promise to discontinue making the "old myth" claim in their advertising.
Box office performanceEdit
The film was a commercial failure, failing to break even.