The 10 Greatest Archers In TV And Film

Meet the greatest heroes and villains ever to draw back a bow-string...

With CW’s new show Arrow hitting TV screens and a summer filled with the straining bows of The Avengers , The Hunger Games and the London Olympics, we are, quite frankly, all a-quiver. Fortunately, SFX work experience girl Nicole Smith coaches archery on the side. She sets her sights on fantasy's finest archers to see who hits gold and who is way off…


WHO: Neytiri te Tskaha Mo’at’ite ( Avatar )

HISTORY: Neytiri is the princess of the Omaticaya Tribe on Pandora (the world of the Na’vi). When human Jake Sully is put into an avatar she believes he is an intruder and almost kills him – however, after being persuaded of his good intentions she saves him from a viperwolf attack in the forest. The two fall in love, and fight to save the Tree of Souls from the attentions of humans hoping to mine the fuel Unobtanium.

WHY SHE HITS THE BULLSEYE: Even without her gift for appearing at the perfect moment, Neytiri has a particular affinity for firing mid-air - after taking huge leaps that would put the Olympic handball team to shame.

WHY SHE MISSES THE TARGET: In all the drama of rushing around and saving the day at the last moment, Neytiri seems to forego little inconveniences like aiming. Na’vi health and safety need to have words!


WHO: Susan Pevensie ( The Chronicles of Narnia )

HISTORY: Susan and her three siblings enter the wardrobe in the house they have been evacuated to, and from there discover the magical land of Narnia where the four are destined to be kings and queens. Susan is given a bow and arrows when they meet Father Christmas in Narnia and returns time and again with her siblings to defend their kingdom.

WHY SHE HITS THE BULLSEYE: During a sadly deleted scene in Prince Caspian , Susan (Anna Popplewell) goads the Prince into shooting a pine cone with his crossbow and when he misses (believing it impossible), Susan shoots it herself.

WHY SHE MISSES THE TARGET: Prince Caspian ultimately still has to save her. And whilst Susan shows her military prowess commanding archers in the movies, that’s about all we’re shown. In later books she falls out of love with Narnia and becomes more interested in lipstick and boys. This led to Neil Gaiman’s short story “The Problem With Susan”, in which a literature student interviews a professor ( remarkably like an adult version of Susan) on the subject of Susan Pevensie.


WHO: Abigail Whistler ( Blade: Trinity )

HISTORY: In 2004’s Blade: Trinity we are introduced to Abigail, the illegitimate daughter of Blade’s mentor and tech man Whistler. Together with Hannibal King and friends, she forms the vampire-hunting Nightstalkers. They rescue Blade and collaborate to take on the vampires’ new (or rather extremely old) leader, Drake.

WHY SHE HITS THE BULLSEYE: Alongside her bow, Jessica Biel has a small arsenal of awesome weaponry and kicks some serious vampire arse. She definitely keeps up with the boys!


Hannibal King: “I can’t shoot round corners.”

Abigail: “I can.”

No, you can’t, Abigail. And bows don’t work that way! When archery is done right, Hollywood doesn’t need to make it look more epic. Unfolding bows are sadly an invention of cinema - and bouncing arrows off corners is a fairly inaccurate enterprise. Later we also see a highly upset Abigail practising shooting whilst a computer records her arrows travelling at ever increasing speeds. For this to happen she would need to grow increasingly more powerful and anger doesn’t have that effect – unless you’re the Hulk. Hollywood strikes again!


WHO: Princess Merida of Clan DunBroch ( Brave )

HISTORY: Pixar’s flame-haired heroine Merida is a Scottish princess whose father gives her a bow for her birthday. Naturally she becomes a talented archer. Her parents hold the Highland Games to decide which first born son from another clan will win her hand but Merida enters herself, as her family’s first born, and shows off her bowmanship skills, to the fury of her mother. Merida ends up having to reverse a spell cast on her mum (fair enough, considering it was her fault in the first place).

WHY SHE HITS THE BULLSEYE: Merida is inspiring a whole new generation of kids to fall in love with the sport - and severely shows up the boys.

WHY SHE MISSES THE TARGET: Alright, so she’s a cartoon, but when winning the Highland Games Merida shoots through another arrow, splitting it on the bullseye. Fine - its unlikely but it can happen. But not only does it split the arrow it goes further through the target and impales the target stand. This too is entirely possible - but it didn’t happen on the previous shots! If anything splitting an arrow should slow her down, not provide more power.


WHO: Merlyn AKA Arthur King (DC comics)

HISTORY: Before becoming Green Arrow, Oliver Queen was inspired by the stories of Merlyn, a master archer. Once Green Arrow became famous, however, Merlyn appeared, challenged and defeated him. After that he disappeared, reappearing as a member of Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Shadows. Though he was not named as such in Smallville , there are great similarities between him and the character of Vordigan AKA Dark Archer, Queen’s mentor who turns on him in season nine. Merlyn was retconned in DC’s The New 52 as Queen’s friend Tommy Merlyn, a character we can see in CW’s Arrow , played by Colin Donnell.

WHY HE HITS THE BULLSEYE: It is suggested that he is the greatest archer in the DC universe until Green Arrow, Speedy (GA’s sidekick later known as Red Arrow) and Connor Hawke (Green Arrow’s son) come along. If the new series intends the same fate for Tommy Merlyn, he could be on course to create some brilliant tension between the former best buds.

WHY HE MISSES THE TARGET: Closely matched in bowmanship ability, Green Arrow and Merlyn's conflicts frequently dissolve into hand to hand combat in which both lose their archery-based edge.


WHO: Katniss Everdeen from District 12 ( The Hunger Games )

HISTORY: 16 year old Katniss Everdeen is from one of the poorest coal districts (District 12) of Panem, where each District must provide two teenage ‘tributes’ to fight others to the death in the annual Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers after her younger sister Primrose is chosen at random.

WHY SHE HITS THE BULLSEYE: Katniss survives!

WHY SHE MISSES THE TARGET: Actually, Katniss pretty much convinces. Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence trained almost every day on set with four time USA Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig, apparently shooting 100 arrows a day at her peak. Admittedly the things young Katniss manages are pretty remarkable since she’s spent more time hunting for food in bins rather than woods, but the movie generally resists the urge to show her doing any absolutely impossible archery.


WHO: Legolas, son of Thranduil, of Mirkwood ( The Lord of The Rings )

HISTORY: There are few characters in Tolkien’s world (let alone Elves) that allow for a brief history but here we go - his father was King of the Woodland Realm of Northern Mirkwood and Legolas was first introduced at the Council of Elrond in Rivendell and thus became a member of The Fellowship of the Ring. Played by Orlando Bloom, Legolas provided plenty of entertainment in Peter Jackson’s Rings trilogy, which showcased a great deal more of his skills than Tolkien’s books.

WHY HE HITS THE BULLSEYE: Pssh! Does Legolas ever miss a target?!

WHY HE MISSES THE TARGET: Unfortunately everything Legolas does is also ridiculous. Sure he’s a good Elf to have on your side, but he demonstrates his gift for sheer impossible speed whilst riding a shield down some stairs mid-battle and still taking out a bunch of Orcs along the way. Then again, he has had a few thousand years to practise...


WHO: Robin of Loxley ( Robin of Sherwood )

HISTORY: Of course Robin Hood’s a top archer, that’s a given, but Robin of Sherwood is the only incarnation which really has the magic to grab SFX’s attention. The show ran from ’84-’86 and was the first to pit the Hooded Man against the forces of sorcery and demons. Orphaned in a failed rebellion against the oppressive Norman rule, Robin (Michael Praed) trains to be a master archer, guided by the shamanic Herne the Hunter to take on the corrupt Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham.

WHY HE HITS THE BULLSEYE: This is Robin Hood we’re talking about. He is THE iconic historical archer upon which characters like Green Arrow were based.

WHY HE MISSES THE TARGET: Okay, maybe he’s not too shabby but if the breeze wraps that mullet around his arrow string he’s in for a world of hurt.


WHO: Hawkeye AKA Clint Barton (Marvel Comics)

HISTORY: Unlike his DC predecessor Green Arrow, Hawkeye actually started out as a villain of humble beginnings. He was introduced in Tales of Suspense #57 in 1964. After losing his parents, he and his brother joined a travelling circus where he became a master archer. Though Whedon’s Avengers Assemble suggests Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) was sent by SHIELD to assassinate Black Widow, in the comics both were still villains but parted ways and Hawkeye joined the Avengers.

WHY HE HITS THE BULLSEYE: He’s one of the few fantasy archers who falls victim to actually running out of arrows - and fortunately he survives! Plus he blows Loki out of the sky.

WHY HE MISSES THE TARGET: The comics claim Hawkeye pulls back 250lbs on his bow string - just to put that in perspective, most Olympic male archers only use about 50lbs. Given Hawkeye’s supposed to have no superstrength, that’s quite a feat.


WHO: Green Arrow AKA Oliver Queen (DC Comics)

HISTORY: Introduced in 1941, the heroic Green Arrow was increasingly taken in grittier directions in the comic books, forced to deal with the loss of his fortune and his sidekick turning to drugs. Queen idolised Robin Hood as a child and lost his parents when he failed to shoot the animals mauling them. He later inherited the family fortune, Queen Enterprises and became a drunken playboy (like some other vigilantes we know). Falling from a boat he was washed ashore on an island with just his bow. He learnt to hunt to survive, destroyed a heroin operation and thus Green Arrow was born. His mantle was later taken by his son, Connor Hawke, but the original made a regular appearance on Smallville played by Justin Hartley. Stephen Amell is wearing the hood for CW’s Arrow .

WHY HE HITS THE BULLSEYE: Green Arrow has done some serious customizing in his time. His crimebusting arsenal includes incendiary arrows, smoke/flash bomb arrows and drill arrows.

WHY HE MISSES THE TARGET: Let us not forget the lunacy of the boxing glove arrow, nor his trusty boomerang arrow which just seems dangerous, quite frankly.

We suppose we should make an honorary mention of crossbows. So well done Daryl Dixon ( The Walking Dead ), the Scooby Gang ( Buffy the Vampire Slayer ), Poison Ivy and Huntress (DC). You just stood there and pulled a trigger. Nice work.

Nicole Smith

Arrow begins airing in the UK on Sky1 tonight.

Read all our Arrow reviews.


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