Beowulf is a 2007 performance capture fantasy film based on the Anglo-Saxon English epic poem of the same name. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film was created through a motion capture process similar to the technique used in The Polar Express. It was released in the United Kingdom and United States on November 16, 2007, and was available to view in IMAX 3D, Real D and standard 2D format.
Set in Denmark, the film opens with King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) celebrating the construction of his new mead hall, Heorot. The noise of the celebration echoes into Grendel's (Crispin Glover) cave and torments him. In a mad fury, Grendel breaks into the hall and kills many people. After being challenged by Hrothgar, Grendel runs off into the night. Back at his lair, Grendel is admonished by his unseen mother for attacking the humans and possibly inviting retribution. She calms down after Grendel tells her that he did not harm Hrothgar.
Meanwhile, Hrothgar closes Heorot and proclaims that he will give half of his kingdom in gold to any man who can defeat Grendel. Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his men arrive by ship from Geatland and convince Hrothgar to reopen Heorot. Beowulf's credibility is challenged by Unferth (John Malkovich), the King's most trusted advisor. Beowulf proceeds to tell a tall tale of how he slew several sea serpents in a past adventure to convince the people of Heorot that he is capable of killing Grendel. Hrothgar offers Beowulf his Golden drinking horn, a trophy taken after a battle with the dragon Fáfnir, in the event that Grendel is destroyed.
That evening, Queen Wealtheow performs a song for Beowulf, which entices him.. As Beowulf's men lock up the mead hall, Beowulf strips naked to fight Grendel and orders his men to sing loudly, to attract the monster. Grendel is agitated once again and attacks the hall with a fury and kills several of Beowulf's men. Beowulf leaps on Grendel's back and starts pummeling him with his fists but Grendel appears to be impervious to all attacks. Beowulf then discovers an external eardrum sensitive to loud noises (the source of Grendel's pain), and begins to attack it directly. This disorients Grendel, who attempts to escape. Beowulf and Wiglaf snare him with chains and slams the door on his arm, breaking it off. As Grendel retreats, Beowulf loudly boasts of his victory and is proclaimed a hero. Grendel's arm is nailed above the door of Heorot signifying his defeat.
Later Hrothgar and Queen Wealtheow (Robin Wright Penn) argue. Hrothgar states that he needs an heir. Wealtheow refuses to comply due to Hrothgar's earlier involvement with Grendel's mother (thus conceiving Grendel). After Grendel returns to the cave to die, Grendel's mother shrieks out in an unearthly fashion in grief over the loss of her son. Determined to avenge his death, she flies to Heorot in a murderous rage. She initially appears to Beowulf in a dream disguised as Wealtheow. When Beowulf wakes from the dream, he finds that all of his men are dead except for Wiglaf, who (stricken with grief at the deaths of some of the other men in Beowulf's band) had elected to forego the festivities and tend to the ship. Beowulf confronts Hrothgar, whose evasive answers imply that he knows more of Grendel's past than he will state openly, tells Beowulf how he can find Grendel's mother. Unferth appears before Beowulf and apologizes to him for his previous behavior, offering him the use of his ancestral sword Hrunting, which Beowulf accepts.
Beowulf and Wiglaf find the cave. Beowulf enters it alone, eventually confronting Grendel's mother (Angelina Jolie). She appears to him as a beautiful nude woman with golden liquid dripping from her skin. She promises him fame and power if he gives her a son. She also demands the Horn of Hrothgar with the promise that as long as it is in her safekeeping, Heorot will be safe. As she entices Beowulf, she melts Hrunting with her bare hands. Beowulf gives in to her temptations.
Beowulf returns to Heorot with Grendel's severed head and tells a disbelieving Hrothgar that he killed Grendel's mother. Hrothgar, realising Beowulf has succumbed to the same temptation as him, states that his curse has been lifted (implying that it has passed to Beowulf) and then publicly proclaims Beowulf heir to his kingdom — and its queen. Hrothgar then proceeds to throw himself from the balcony and falls to his death; Wealtheow looks over the balcony in time to see Grendel's mother steal away Hrothgar's corpse. Stunned, Beowulf is duly crowned king and marries Wealtheow.
Many years pass. King Beowulf is now old and disillusioned, a shadow of his former glorious self. One day, Unferth's servant, Cain, now grown up, finds the Horn of Hrothgar upon a stretch of moors. Unferth proceeds to present it to the king. Beowulf is furious to see it and realizes Grendel's mother has reneged on their bargain (it is heavily implied that this is done because of his adulterous/amourous nature sense becoming king). That evening Beowulf dreams of a man in gold threatening both the old Queen Wealtheow and Beowulf's young mistress, Ursula. The next day, a fierce dragon attacks a village outside Heorot. The dragon slays Unferth's wife and children before his eyes, and leaves a message with Unferth for Beowulf. Unferth, badly burned and mad with rage from seeing his family burned alive, gives Beowulf the dragon's simple message: 'The sins of the fathers!'
Beowulf and the dragon fall to the shores far below. The dragon reverts to the golden man of Beowulf's dream, whom Beowulf realizes is his son, and his dying body is swept away by the tide as Beowulf reaches out for him. Beowulf then dies in Wiglaf's arms. The latter, still refusing to believe his friend is anything but a hero, finally listens to Beowulf's confession.
Beowulf is given a Viking Funeral and Wiglaf is made king. As he watches Beowulf's coffin burn out at sea, Grendel's mother appears before Wiglaf possibly intending to continue the curse....