Posted on January 27 2024 by Judy Calder
When it comes to The Legend of Zelda, the topic of a series-inspired movie has always been a hot one. In the past, the fanbase would get quite passionate should any type of discussion arise, and although many opinions were completely valid, the debate could get rather heated. Obvious questions would lead the conversation, like whether Link should speak or not. After all, he’s a silent hero for the most part. The issue of which Zelda game such a movie should reflect would also incite enthusiastic responses, with huge numbers insisting that one movie couldn’t effectively tell the story. On the other hand, gamers would counter that specific installments were short enough to adapt to the silver screen. One thing that the majority of Zelda fans could agree on, however, is that, if a movie ever did come to fruition, it should not be live-action.
Of course, 2023 was the year to prove that dreams do come true (but perhaps in the most unexpected way), and an official live-action Zelda movie was announced. The fanbase was in uproar, with many taking to social media to share their thoughts on what would and could be in store. All of the possibilities that had been debated over the years suddenly felt more serious than ever before, and talks got even more in-depth about just what direction the Zelda movie would and should take. Naturally, the staff at Zelda Dungeon felt just as ardent about this scenario unfolding as anybody else, and being the creative bunch that we are, we got our movie pitches together for your reading pleasure.
A Heroine’s Quest Makes Movie Magic
Sean Gadus (Senior Editor) wants to turn the world of Hyrule on its axis by making Princess Zelda the main protagonist. He envisages Zelda’s Legend, where our favorite monarch finally gets her own chance to be the hero. Who here wouldn’t love the chance to play the heroine, at least once?
While the last two Zelda games have side-lined Princess Zelda in frustrating ways, there is no better time to let Zelda shine than by making her the protagonist of the upcoming film (and any potential sequels). I envision a film that would take place in a version of Hyrule that has recently been conquered by Ganondorf. The Gerudo is in the opening year of his new regime, having recently stormed Hyrule Castle and killed the King and Queen of Hyrule. With the help of Link, Zelda was able to escape Ganondorf, but the Great King of Evil’s forces are searching far and wide for the only heir to the throne of Hyrule. The movie would be built around Zelda’s quest to locate and reunite with Link. Interwoven with Zelda’s quest in the present would be flashbacks that explore Link and Zelda relationship (whether romantic, platonic, or something in between) as well the events that lead to their separation.
Overall, I think putting Link as the object of Zelda’s quest would be an interesting twist on the series’ mythology. For the first Zelda film, I would like to have a film with personal stakes built on a grand scale. Regardless of how good the set pieces and cinematography of a film are, if the audience does not connect with the characters and their emotions, then the film will ultimately not be as effective as it could be. With that in mind, I would invest a lot of the film’s run time in showcasing and exploring Zelda as a character. Given the recent paradigm shift in her life, Zelda would be dealing with a complex mix of doubt, grief, rage, and resolve that would make her an interesting protagonist.
The film would be about Zelda’s dangerous journey across the beautiful and haunting world of Hyrule, and it would take our heroine across several different regions or areas of Hyrule. There would be a series of smaller-scale battles and some encounters with monsters to make the film exciting. Zelda could be traveling with a small group of loyal followers (pick your choice of cool companions/side characters), and she would be a competent swordswoman (flashbacks would show her being trained by Link). The film would feature a lieutenant of Ganondorf in charge of hunting Zelda (my choice would be a version of Ghirahim). The character’s role in Ganondorf’s regime (or their life) would depend on finding Zelda, so they would have their own desperate reasons to capture Zelda. Ganondorf would only be featured in a few scenes including a flashback that establishes his power and gravitas as the overarching villain. The film would conclude with Zelda rescuing Link from his imprisonment, setting the stage for the two characters to take back Hyrule in a sequel.
In closing, I would be happy to discard or throw out a lot of the established mythology of the Zelda series (Secret Stones, the Triforce, Sages, dungeons, puzzles) if it meant the audience would get a well-written, well-paced, beautiful film with Princess Zelda as its protagonist.
Establish an Epic Saga With Some Character Chemistry
Heather Beard (Art Director) wants the Zelda movie to utilize its in-game history to establish a saga of epic proportions. It’s clear she believes the series has everything it needs to make it big on the silver screen, especially if characters are given the space to grow and develop relationships. There’s no denying that fans are invested in certain personalities coming together!
I try to keep my expectations fairly low when it comes to movie adaptations of my favorite books or series. I’m doing the same with the Zelda movie because I feel like there’s a chance that I’ll be disappointed if I set the bar too high. That being said, video game movies like Sonic the Hedgehog and The Super Mario Bros. Movie exceeded my expectations and they, in my opinion, were amazing. I can only hope that the Legend of Zelda movie follows the same patterns of success as its recent predecessors have, and I hope that its success paves the way for an epic saga.
The legend as we know it spans the entire history of Hyrule, and I would love to see the Zelda movie in an established world where the deeper parts of the legend as we know it come to life. It would be great to see Link as a boy in Ocarina of Time, or even his humble village beginnings from Twilight Princess. I’d love to see the knight and Princess’ relationship grow and blossom to something more, like in Breath of the Wild. I would love to see some deep character building set against a growing threat like Ganondorf. I can’t think of anything specific though, because I don’t want to be disappointed. I just want to see what we already know and love about the Zelda series come to life on the big screen.
When I think about The Legend of Zelda as a movie, I cannot help but think about epic sagas like The Lord of the Rings, and how each entry is a good movie in its own right, while telling one giant story. I hope the Zelda movie sets up like that. I want to see a giant story that cannot be told in one film — a great epic to introduce those that might not have heard of The Legend of Zelda and encourage them to pick up a controller and explore more. And hopefully, if we’re lucky, the movie will tell a single story, and not keep milking the franchise when we’re at the end of the series’ big-screen run.
Utilize the Official Timeline, Lore, and More
Josh Wittmershaus (Junior Editor) has titled his pitch The Legend of Zelda: Schism of Loyalty. He wants to see the movie explore elements only touched upon in more recent games, and likely quench that thirst that many Zelda historians have for answers. Wouldn’t you just love to know what happened off screen in your favorite franchise?
A live-action Zelda movie is a bold move by Nintendo, and one that can pay off in dividends. Unlike The Super Mario Bros. Movie, the presence of real faces creates a chance for new faces. I think a Zelda movie would benefit best from having little-to-no “A List” actors, as it might take away from the magic of the movie when you’re constantly reminded of what an actor had done before. While much of the musical score would be original to the film, it would be vastly covered with motifs from Zelda games spanning the entire series
I envision a story that takes recent events and characters from the “Era of the Wild,” fills in the empty holes in the official timeline, and sprinkles homage to games of the past. This film might provide lore context regarding the creation of the Yiga, the absence of the Triforce in “Wild Era” games, and the mystery behind certain locations in current-day Hyrule.
My pitch, set thousands of years before the Calamity, would showcase the friction between the Hyrule Royal Family and the Sheikah Tribe described in Breath of the Wild, causing the split from the latter that would eventually become the Yiga Clan. Ganondorf would be notably absent from this story, leaving the opportunity for the return and reimagining of old villains, as well as an introduction to new ones.
The movie would have Link and whoever is in his party exploring thoughtful dungeons in a linear fashion similar to the “traditional” Zelda model. Link wouldn’t speak, but would have a new companion akin to Navi or Fi who does the talking on his behalf. Meanwhile, the Princess Zelda of this time period would look feverishly for trust and understanding in a world turned on its head, hoping to keep the “Power Vacuum” from being filled by malevolent forces. She would be actively involved across almost the entire story, abandoning the “damsel in distress” we’ve seen her portrayed as in many of the franchise’s titles.
Fan-Favorite Call-Backs and a Fantastical Setting for the Win
Alexis Anderson (Senior Editor) is a fan of Easter eggs and thinks the Zelda movie should depict our favorite hero as both a child and an adult. In her pitch, she also wants him to retain that sense of mystical upbringing we’ve seen in certain games. If that isn’t one giant Zelda Easter egg, then what else could be?!
Whatever the Zelda movie ends up being, I will love it. But I really hope it is steeped in Zelda lore and Easter eggs. My biggest problem with the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie was that it was a super generic “alien” storyline, and even the fantastical elements of it (Sonic being raised by a big owl) were not based in the lore of the games. In that case, it felt like no one who cared about the games was in the room making decisions and the character was just window dressing to ensnare a built-in audience — it was disrespectful! The second movie remedied that, thankfully, but my hope is the Zelda movie doesn’t need a mea culpa sequel.
In my mind, a great Zelda movie will depict Link both as a precocious, spirited young lad, and as a noble, compassionate adult. I hope it delves into some of the quirks of the various races in the games, (perhaps the Gorons!). I would particularly love to see the Zora, but given the recent rash of lukewarmly received water-focused movies (Avatar, Aquaman, Black Panther, The Little Mermaid), it is probably best to steer clear.
As for the plot, I think it should start with a mission from the Deku Tree recounting how the big bad struck down a Midna-like companion who Link then meets partway into the journey. Alternatively, that companion could be Zelda in disguise (I would lose it if Sheik were in this movie!). I do also hope there is a romance between Link and Zelda if they spend quality time together in the film. The duo as childhood friends who do not have a romance would also be nice, as that would establish how special they are to each other.
Speaking of childhood, I like Link as either a nephew or child of the forest, but would rather he not have a grandma and sister like in The Wind Waker. I feel like Link having a more unorthodox upbringing gives him a mystique that helps me believe in him as an extraordinary, unlikely hero— a diamond in the rough. This isn’t the most coherent film pitch, but there is just so much fantastic content to pull from that I am overwhelmed and delighted by the possibilities!
Mature Storytelling for a Movie With a Message
Brandon Schmitz (Senior Editor) wants more than another commercial and draws from recently released media to describe the direction he wants the Zelda movie to go. If you’ve seen, appreciated, and been affected by the gaming-inspired adaptations from 2023, you’re bound to agree with the points he makes.
Whenever any entertainment property is adapted for another medium, the main hope from the majority of the fanbase tends to be that the adaptation remains as faithful to the source material as possible. However, when adapting for film or television (without fun gameplay to rely on), good storytelling should be priority number one. No matter how much the piece adheres to the iconography of a particular series, it’s all just fluff to me if the pathos isn’t there.
Take this past year’s The Last of Us TV series and The Super Mario Bros. Movie, for example. Both are among the most faithful video game-to-film/TV adaptations to date, yet one worked for me significantly more than the other. Despite capturing the visual and musical identity of the mustached plumber’s adventures, the Mario movie seems more concerned with selling Nintendo Switch consoles and “expanding the brand” than telling a compelling story. Conversely, The Last of Us actively complements and, in some cases, improves upon the game that inspired it.
Now, maybe it’s unfair to compare something as heavy and narratively-driven as The Last of Us to the more light-hearted and gameplay-centric Mario, but even compared to many contemporary animated films, Nintendo’s modern-day Hollywood debut is mostly generic and uninspired. It’s neither as witty as Mario’s RPG outings nor as fun to watch as the mainline platformers are to play.
I suspect Nintendo will have as much, if not more, creative oversight over the Zelda movie, so I have no doubt that the film will, at the very least, nail the look and sound of Link’s adventures. But more than any specific premise, costume design, or the number of Easter eggs, I just want the film to help push the Zelda series forward as a vehicle for stronger, more mature storytelling. Give us memorable characters and a story with something to say; if they’re grounded in pre-existing Zelda mythology, all the better!
Nick Miller (Associate Editor) pitches a trilogy that calls upon popular names in the Zelda series. If that weren’t enough to draw you in, you’ll also recognize towns and villages to help you feel at home while watching this movie. In-world politics, powerful relics, and a plot that gives everything it’s got — this flick is an award winner!
The mysterious Yiga Clan has begun attacking outskirt villages searching for a Sage who knows the locations of three Spiritual Stones that endow the bearer with power. They want to use this power to rule over Hyrule. Meanwhile, the leader of the Gerudo, Ganondorf, travels to Hyrule Castle to pledge his allegiance to the King and promise Gerudo aid in snuffing out the Yiga threat. He takes a temporary position on the royal court and frequently butts heads with the outspoken Princess Zelda, which develops into a subplot where Ganondorf uses deceptive tactics to convince the King that the Sheikah have ties to the Yiga Clan, causing him to exile them and drive them into hiding. With the King’s secret service gone, this makes them more susceptible to attack, which will play a role in the movie’s climax.
Meanwhile, a teenage boy from Ordon Village, named Link, is delivering produce and Ordon goat cheese to Castle Town. After a fateful encounter with Princess Zelda in the town’s marketplace, Link recounts dreams he’s been having of the Yiga attacks, and Zelda, having had visions of her own, perceives Link to be the Hero of Destiny and sets him out to retrieve the Spiritual Stones to return them to the castle for safekeeping from the Yiga. His travels take him all across Hyrule, to the Gorons, Zora, and others.
The movie climaxes with the Yiga Clan attacking Hyrule Castle shortly after Link returns with the Spiritual Stones. Link is able to defeat Master Kohga but is ultimately overpowered by Ganondorf, who reveals himself as the true leader of the Yiga. Ganondorf then murders the King. Link and Zelda pursue Ganondorf as he uses the stones to open the door to the Spiritual Realm and obtain the Triforce. However, the Triforce fragments, leaving Ganondorf with only a fraction of the power. Link and Zelda narrowly escape to Kakariko Village where they regroup with the exiled Sheikah in the catacombs beneath the village.
The next movies in the trilogy will reveal that Link and Zelda obtained the other pieces of the Triforce. Link will travel across a monster-infested Hyrule, gathering the Sages and collecting the Master Sword. Zelda will travel under the guise of Sheik to rally the remaining factions of Hyrule as she discovers her own powers as a sage and as a descendent of the Goddess Hylia. These will include a subplot about Nabooru leading a Gerudo rebellion against Gandondorf. Koume and Kotake would play a significant role in that story, along with other classic Zelda baddies, like General Onox and Veran, who would be pursuing Link and Zelda respectively.
Classic Zelda Staples Can Forge a Path to Success
Chakell Herbert (Associate Editor) is as excited as anyone for the Zelda movie, and thinks Nintendo can learn from its own history to ensure a box office hit. She wants an original story steeped in lore, with all of the typical staples we’ve come to expect from our favorite games in the series. And importantly, she wants to focus on a certain ambiguous relationship that divides the fanbase. Do you think there’s room for true love in Zelda?
When it was announced that a Legend of Zelda movie was in the works, I died — for just a moment. But then my heart stopped again when I read that it was going to be live-action. I have dreamed of my favorite gaming franchise becoming a huge film ever since I can remember, but I always imagined it as an animated film, so this feature needs to be executed well or else I truly will perish for good.
Looking at successful gaming films like The Super Mario Bros. Movie or Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as disastrous video game adaptations like Warcraft, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, or the ever cringe-worthy Super Mario Bros. from 1993, I feel like Nintendo has plenty of examples of what direction to take for success. In my opinion, if they want to create a saga of movies, they would start with the basics of the Zelda formula that will bring old fans familiarity, and also provide lore explanations for new fans.
I would seriously just love to see an original story that gives Princess Zelda and Link ample screen time, and dives into their relationship with each other, as well as the significance of the curse that keeps them bound together throughout time. It doesn’t have to be Skyward Sword retold, but some mention of these two significant characters in Hyrule and their eternal roles to play as the Spirit of the Hero and Blood of the Goddess would be amazing (it would be even more amazing if we got mentions of previous incarnations of these two souls in the movie as well). I would love to see the Triforce included, Ganondorf as the main villain, and just a classic tale told with a new incarnation of all these characters we know and love.
Honestly I’m not going to be too picky with the story points. I just want to see this movie emanate the emotions, charm, and adventurous vibes that the games provide for all of us who love them dearly, and I think it’s possible for Nintendo to execute that well. If we just see a story that involves our favorite princess and hero developing their relationship with each other, with a little bit of puzzle-solving and dungeon-diving added in — and of course, the Easter eggs that all of us fans will scream over — I will be satisfied. I think this movie is a fantastic opportunity to finally showcase Princess Zelda and Link working together as equals to take down a terrible evil (something I think Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom got close to, but still could have taken further)! All in all, I have high hopes for the big screen adventure, and I can’t wait to see it unfold.
A Twist on a Classic to Hit That Sweet Spot
Charles Xavier (Senior Editor) has accepted that the Zelda movie will be live-action, but that doesn’t stop him making a pitch for a flick with specific artistic direction. He also draws on story elements seen in one of the series’ most popular titles and puts his own spin on how things play out. If you’re of a creative disposition, you’re sure to visualize exactly what this writer is driving at!
When I think of legends as film adaptations, I don’t envision them being live-action. Instead I think of paintings, or ink illustrations that you might find inside a fantasy book. So, if I had full creative control of the Zelda movie, I would scrap the live-action approach and steer it towards an animated film. My sensibilities for the art direction of such a film would want me to go down a path where the aesthetic is very painterly. It would be 3D animated, but the textures would have a painted quality to them where you can visibly see brushstrokes, and the impression would be that of a moving painting. The best example I can give is Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. However, I’d want this style not only applied to backgrounds and things like clothing, but to the characters as well.
Besides making a bold art statement, I’d want the plot to be interesting too. I wouldn’t want a movie that is just an exact retelling of a game we’ve already played; what I’m visualizing is some sort of altered version of Ocarina of Time. I don’t really have a fleshed-out plot figured out, but I do have some major story moments in mind, and there are more ideas I can’t fit in this condensed version.
Unlike the games which never show Link’s real parents, I’d want the story to begin introducing Link growing up alongside them. These scenes would show them as a loving family living in Hyrule Castle Town. Link’s father is the highest ranking knight in the Royal Family and is considered a great swordsman. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Ganondorf leads his Gerudo army to attack Hyrule.
Link and his mother, along with the other townsfolk are ordered to flee. As they are escaping they witness Link’s father and Ganondorf locked in combat, watching on as Ganondorf slays him. Link’s mother also gets shot with arrow crossfire during the escape. With her dying breath, she urges Link to run to the Faron Woods and hide. In that moment Link vows to avenge them. While wandering deep into the forest, he finds the Master Sword and draws it from its pedestal, but falls into a catatonic state until he is old enough to wield the blade.
When Link awakes, he finds Ganondorf has taken over the kingdom. The royal family, including Princess Zelda, are all thought to be dead, and the land is overrun by monsters. Link joins a group of resistance members to Ganondorf’s rule, led by a warrior named Sheik. With the Master Sword found, stopping Ganondorf can finally become a reality. However, Link is grappling with internalized rage and hatred that at times can cloud his judgement, preventing the blade to shine with the power to repel evil.
Eventually this draws out Dark Link, prompting him to a duel for his life with the physical manifestation of all the bad parts of himself that he was repressing. After conquering Dark Link in this duel, Link can use the Master Sword to its full potential. At long last, Sheik launches the incursion of Ganondorf’s Tower, where Link and his comrades fight their way through a gauntlet of foes as they head up the tower. With each level members of the party end up staying behind to fight monster hordes until only Sheik and Link make it up to battle Ganondorf.
Before entering to face Ganondorf, Sheik reveals to Link that she is actually Princess Zelda. Going forward to fight Ganondorf, with these three together, the Triforce unites and Ganondorf tells a tale about long ago forcing open the Sacred Realm to use the Triforce to grant a wish, but his wish was rejected because his heart was not balanced. Everything he had done since that day was leading to this moment, where he knew the two that had the missing Triforce virtues would appear to face him. Of course, in the end Link and Zelda prevail, weakening Ganondorf enough to seal him away.
Indulge the Fanbase and the Box Office Will Follow
Alexandria Weber (Copy Editor) looks to cultivate a Zelda movie that indulges her own wants while also meeting the expectations of the fanbase at large (no easy feat, she acknowledges). The Legend of Zelda: Seeds of War would tell an origin story that takes artistic liberty to showcase parts of Zelda history that haven’t been played out on screen just yet. And don’t we all just love that type of cinematic content?
There are a lot of ways I don’t want to think about the Zelda movie. At a certain point, specific expectations of how things should be are a perfect recipe for disappointment when those marks are missed. Consistency within the timeline, a lack of extreme levity, and the franchise being taken seriously are all wants I need to set aside when waiting for the truth of how this movie will be executed. I won’t get the things I want. There will certainly be something that irks me, and no Zelda fan will be 100% satisfied, or even completely dissatisfied. It is a murky margin of error that developers are surely operating in as I type this out. However, for the sake of this article, I’ll indulge myself in the plot that makes the most sense for me, for the industry, and for the fan base.
The Zelda franchise is one that is already steeped heavily in lore, so I don’t see any reason why that wouldn’t be taken advantage of. The Zelda timeline, although often argued to be convoluted and thus without value, has some gaps that I think would be most appropriately explored on the silver screen. Large franchise-dependent events such as the creation of the land of Hyrule, the establishment of the kingdom, or the Hyrulean Civil War are perfect as adventures that do not require a single-player experience. Because of how popular Ocarina of Time is, I think the Hyrulean Civil War that precedes the events of Ocarina of Time would be absolutely perfect. It’s enough of a grey area where there can be artistic liberties but not as obscure as, say, the backstory of The Adventure of Link (the evil brother of Princess Zelda and the Triforce that was hidden from his grasp).
A loose pitch would be that the movie would follow both Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf’s origins. It would be a triangular view of Hyrule. Zelda’s parents, the King and Queen of Hyrule, know about the Sacred Realm and would be trying to protect it from the revolting Hylians. Ganondorf, likely already born, would be shown growing up in Gerudo, amongst the winds of ruin as discussed in The Wind Waker. We would see how he came to resent the Kingdom of Hyrule. Lastly, we would also have interconnected within the tale Link’s parents, the father who we know nothing of yet (who perhaps is part of the revolt) and the mother who would eventually give her life to get the child to safety in Kokiri Forest. In fact, the movie would end with that iconic imagery of the Deku Tree, connecting the vast tale to that of fan-favorite Ocarina of Time. The movie would grey the lines between good and evil, as well as showing the cost of peace and highlighting the stakes of Ocarina of Time.
When it comes to a movie pitch for our favorite video game series, the Zelda Dungeon writing team sure do have some really cool suggestions. Fans have been crying out to play as Princess Zelda in a mainline game for a while, so Sean Gadus’ idea for a heroine ought to be a thrilling one. Heather Beard’s desire for an epic saga is one I’m all for, personally! As a lover of the official timeline, I also know Zelda lore-masters would just love to see the history of the Yiga Clan come to life on the big screen, like Josh Wittmershaus suggests. And just like Alexis Anderson, this community loves an Easter egg!
Brandon Schmitz has got the right idea when it comes to mature storytelling because most Zelda fans look for the meaning behind their beloved characters’ actions, and on that same note, Chakell Herbert looks for meaning in the form of Zelda staples we know and love. The trilogy that Nick Miller discusses sounds like it will ensure fans get everything they want and more, especially when it comes to a political Hyrule. I think Charles Xavier’s pitch to explore facets of a story we already know is super interesting, and Alexandria Weber’s desire to give the fanbase something indulgent tops things off perfectly. If Nintendo and anybody else involved in the making of the Zelda movie were to take their thoughts into consideration, I’d say this flick would shape up well!
What do you think of the team’s Zelda movie pitches? Would you like to see any of our ideas brought to life? And what does your own movie pitch entail? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image: Heather Beard (Zelda Dungeon Art Director)
Judy Ann Calder is the Managing Editor at Zelda Dungeon. She joined the ranks back in 2018, bringing some good old British charm to the table.